Now she is going to argue with me and we will talk about it later.
The problem is that in the years of the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney, the EI fund, which currently is in a surplus position, was actually in a deficit position of $12 billion.
I hope the parliamentary secretary will pay attention for a second. The Auditor General told the Government of Canada that this is a program for Canadians that has revenues coming in and expenses going out. It is inappropriate to have that accounted for outside of the consolidated revenue fund, the bank of the Government of Canada, because it is not a fair reflection of the economic condition of the country and the performance of the programs which the taxpayers' dollars support.
Accordingly, the Auditor General told the government that it must incorporate the financial activities of the employment insurance program into the consolidated revenue fund so that we have a fair reflection of the finances. That is how it happened.
The commission that was set up continued to keep track of money in and money out. When there is a surplus, interest is being earned by the fund. It is not money just sitting there for the use of the government.
The commission is charged to do certain things. One is to ensure that there always is at least two years of benefits available in the event that the country would enter into a deep recession. The commission is to assess the trend line of the economy and the projected benefits, et cetera coming in and out to determine how much it can reduce premiums, or if there is an introduction of new programs, take those into account. In any event, the activities recommended by the commission are to bring that EI account into the direction of getting it down closer to the level of the two years.
What has happened? Under the government of Brian Mulroney, EI premiums were scheduled to go up to $3. When the Liberals took office in 1993, we immediately reduced them and they in fact have been reduced each and every year since then by the Government of Canada.
Who would have thought when the U.S. went into a recession that Canada would not go into a recession? Who would have thought we would have the economic performance that we enjoy and the surpluses we have had, because we have had the lowest unemployment in 31 years because we have had a sound growth rate and good economic management? That is a reflection of why the EI surplus continues to grow. It is almost impossible to wipe it out too quickly.
There are ways to deal with this. Members could say that it is in the consolidated revenue fund. If we want to set up a separate account, first of all let us determine whether the Auditor General will be in favour for good accounting reasons and I think that is not the case, so that is not the option. The issue is how to bring it down in an orderly fashion so that it is fair to all.
Again, I thank the member for raising the issue. I think this is one that is clear from some of the statements I have heard from the parliamentary secretary that the government still does not understand from where we came, where we are, and where we are going.