Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the Conservative member for her question, because it allows me to further explain our position on this issue, with regard to reducing the premium rate for businesses.
The example she gave of businesses with 100 employees or less is increasingly less frequent in a number of our regions. I could explain what happened at home, where three major companies, namely Gaspésia in Chandler, Mines Noranda in Murdochville, and Stone in New-Richmond, had several hundred workers, that is 400, 500 or 600, depending on the location. However, these companies are no longer in existence.
Most of the companies that are in operation in regions such as ours are very small businesses. I do not like terms such as small, major or big, because they are businesses nonetheless. However, they may have one employee or 50 or 10. When these people see that the premium rate is set, but then goes down continuously, they ask themselves this question: Is the fact that their premium rate, as employers, is going down such a good thing, considering that their business employs 5, 10, 15 or 20 people? The entrepreneur realizes that there is the clientele on the other side. Unemployed people also buy products. In a way, this is also part of the economy.
They realize, through the principle of solidarity—and that is what you must understand in my explanation—that it is more important to make even a slight improvement to the employment insurance program than to make a minimal reduction in the premium rate. In some cases, the reduction does not have any effect. Real savings are realized by companies with 1,000, 5,000 or 10,000 employees. In these cases, the premium rate may come into play and provide the shareholders of these large companies with a little more money. However, whether we are dealing with a very small, small, medium-sized or large business, it thinks in terms of solidarity.
That is what I would like my colleagues, and particularly my colleague who asked the question, to think about with respect to creating an independent fund. Setting a premium rate solely out of political interest runs the risk of again being a complete mistake. For this reason, the creation of an independent fund, with an independent commission where employers, employees and the government would be represented, would perhaps make it possible to correct this type of injustice.