House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was infrastructure.


Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Lawrence Cannon Conservative Pontiac, QC

You guys had the biggest scandal in the history of Canadian governments.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities wants to yell me down. Canadians should know that when a member is trying to speak and a minister is trying to yell him down, he must be on the right track. I know I am on the right track. The minister is now very animated. I am glad he is entertained.

The fact is the Conservatives promised, during the election campaign, to never tax income trusts. Then they turned around and levied a 31.5% tax on income trusts. This affected about 2.5 million Canadians, many of whom are seniors, and their retirement nest eggs were attacked. That is shameful of the government. Even the Prime Minister, when he circulated a piece of literature during the last election, said that by far the greatest fraud was a promise not kept.

Halloween was a scary night for seniors who did not know whether they would be able to survive on what was left of their hard-earned retirement savings. It was a scary night for those people who did not have anything but those income trusts and all of a sudden their equity was gone. It was a scary time for people who did not know they could not trust the government. They made decisions based on that trust.

The government interfered with the marketplace. It hurt Canadians, mostly seniors. It touched at the very core of integrity and credibility of government. Those are the things of which Canadians should be scared.

That government has a terrible record, whether it is on basic things like saying it actually reduced taxes when in fact it increased personal income taxes or other things. The Conservatives think that just because it was a budget implementation item or a mini budget that it is not law until that implementation bill actually passes.

I can tell them that if they want to apply those kinds of rules, we are presently talking about the 2007 budget implementation bill, and none of it is law in Canada until it passes. They should not take credit for something that is not law.

Budget and Economic Statement Implementation Act, 2007Government Orders

1:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order, please. It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

When we next return to the study of Bill C-28, there will be four and a half minutes left for the hon. member for Mississauga South.

The House resumed from October 17 consideration of the motion that Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system), be read the third time and passed.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am excited to get up and talk about Bill C-269 today, not so much for what the bill says, but just to talk about some of the things our government is doing and why we believe that Bill C-269 is not required at this time.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today at the third reading of Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act. I would also like to thank all my hon. colleagues in this House for their contributions on this very important issue.

I want to start by saying that this government is committed to providing opportunities for all Canadians to participate and succeed in Canada's growing economy.

The economy is booming. Canada's new government and the Minister of Finance have created the winning conditions so that more jobs, better wages and a brighter future can be delivered to all Canadians.

I want to point out for the sponsor of this bill, the member for Laurentides—Labelle, who I know feels this is a very important issue for her, her riding and Quebec, that in Quebec alone the employment growth so far this year has been above the national average at 2%, with the unemployment rate at its lowest point in 33 years at 6.9% in Quebec.

The figures for Canada on a whole are equally optimistic. During the first quarter of 2007, employment grew by an estimated 158,000 new jobs, more than 500,000 jobs since this government took power. Canada's unemployment rate fell to only 5.8% in October. The great news is that these new jobs are paying more. The average hourly wage rose by 6% between August 2006 and August 2007.

Despite these record employment statistics, the opposition has proposed fundamental and sweeping changes to the EI program. These changes include lower entrance requirements, large increases in the duration of benefits and increased benefit rates, changes that are simply not justified by these numbers.

It is estimated that these changes would have a combined cost to the EI program of $3.7 billion annually. The opposition has done this without providing the House or the HUMA committee any evidence to show that these changes are actually required or warranted.

The opposition spent a mere one hour studying this bill, an absolutely shocking amount of time to spend on a bill that proposes this level of spending of taxpayers' dollars. That amounts to more than $1 million per second of study for this bill. Although shocking, it is not surprising considering the opposition's record of proposing bills with billions of dollars in new spending with little or no study.

In addition, the opposition members on the HUMA committee refused to consult with business leaders and other stakeholders who will be affected most by these changes.

Michel Kelly-Gagnon, the president of the Conseil du patronat du Québec, stated that this additional $3.7 billion expenditure would return the EI system to a deficit and may result in higher premiums for both workers and employers. He further stated in no uncertain terms that these higher premiums are good for neither the working family nor business owners.

Certainly, one of the things I have heard as I have talked to business owners in my riding is that they would like to find a way for us to be able to cut EI premiums, not only for businesses but for individuals as well, so this bill would have us going in the opposite direction.

One would have thought that Mr. Kelly-Gagnon's opinion would have been of interest to the committee. However, the opposition decided that no employers should be consulted in the drafting, the debate or even the study of the bill. In fact, the opposition decided not to hear from any witnesses before committing to billions of dollars in new annual expenditures.

There are currently 19 bills at various stages before this House that propose changes to the EI program. The cost of these bills is expected to be well in excess of $11 billion annually. I think it is fair to say that some opposition members have proposed bills or advocate for changes to programs for political purposes without examining what the ramifications are for the taxpayer, without thorough study, and without an idea of what the true cost would be.

Another good example of this would be Bill C-257, which was handled in the same sort of fashion when we had the Bloc propose this bill as a private member's bill to issue sweeping changes to federal jurisdiction and federal legislation when it came to anti-replacement workers, when the Bloc suddenly had an interest in federal issues. I found it remarkably interesting that suddenly the Bloc had a new love for federal issues.

Once again, this was another bill that they tried to ram through committee. I can assure the House that if there had not been the time for thoughtful study on the bill and a chance to hear from witnesses, there would have been a problem that would have cost taxpayers millions in time as well as, probably, lost services.

Thankfully, we have a labour market in which more Canadians and certainly more Quebeckers are working than ever before, and the demand for labour is strong. We are at a great place in the economy. Opportunities are certainly abundant. We are currently experiencing labour shortages across the country. Certainly as we look to B.C., Alberta and Ontario, they are having a hard time not only with skilled labour but with unskilled labour as well.

Coupled with this strong labour market is evidence that the EI program is working well. It is meeting its objectives to help Canadian workers adjust to labour market changes.

I stated earlier that the evidence to support the proposed changes that Bill C-269 proposes was not presented at the HUMA committee. It was not presented because, I would have to say, it does not exist.

The evidence that does exist, though, indicates that the current EI program is meeting the needs of the unemployed Canadians for whom the program was intended. Eighty-three per cent of those who pay into the program and have a qualified job separation are eligible for benefits. This figure increases to over 90% in areas of high unemployment. Let me just repeat that fact again for those who may not be aware. For those who are in qualified job separations who are eligible for benefits, that figure is over 90% in areas of high unemployment. Those people are able to receive their EI benefits.

The evidence also indicates that both the amount and duration of EI benefits is meeting the needs of Canadians. On average, individuals use less than two-thirds of their EI entitlement before finding employment. Even in high unemployment regions, claimants rarely used more than 70% of their entitlement.

If all this evidence suggests that the current EI program is meeting the needs of individuals who use the program, why has the opposition proposed such wide, sweeping changes?

One of the EI program's chief goals is to encourage a return to the labour market. In other words, the program is designed to provide temporary income support while encouraging Canadians to seek and retain employment. We cannot and will not go back to the problems that existed with the EI under previous governments.

Our approach to EI reform will continue to be based on building on the strengths of Canada's economy and the growth in our labour market. That being said, Canada's new government has acted to make changes to the EI program where the evidence supports the need for change.

For example, our government has expanded the eligibility for compassionate care benefits, which is certainly something we heard about during the last campaign. It is something we have been able to put into place.

We have launched a pilot project to examine the effects of providing additional weeks of benefits for those in areas of high unemployment.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

That was ours.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

1:35 p.m.


Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Thank you very much. We listened. We made sure that happened. That has continued.

We have extended the EI transitional measures for two regions in Quebec and New Brunswick until we complete a national review of EI boundaries.

In addition, we have continued with three pilot projects currently under way in regions of high unemployment, those being the best 14 weeks project, the working while on claim pilot project, and the new entrant/re-entrant pilot project.

Our approach is broad based yet targeted. It is aimed at providing opportunities for all Canadians to participate in our healthy and growing economy.

The Advantage Canada plan has outlined the government's approach to moving forward. One key goal of the government is to create the best educated, most skilled and most flexible workforce in the world.

We have already taken action on this plan by creating the apprenticeship incentives grant, by working to improve foreign credential recognition, and by launching the targeted initiative for older workers. These changes provide real value to Canadians and address the labour issues of the 21st century.

Advantage Canada is about giving people the tools to succeed in a knowledge economy. This is what Canadians want from their government. Canadians want to be active participants in the labour market and in their communities. To do this they need the right tools, but they also want to know that EI will be there when they need it. The current system achieves that balance and the proposals in the bill put that system in jeopardy.

There are strong policy and evidence based arguments to suggest that the proposed changes in Bill C-269 are not in line with the needs of today's labour market and the economy as a whole.

We believe that our holistic approach to the labour market and our specific targeting of measures within the existing EI program is the best avenue to follow.

To make the changes that the member for Laurentides—Labelle has put forward in this bill, we would need to conduct an exhaustive study. We would need evidence. We would need to hear from effective witnesses. We would need answers to many other important questions. For these reasons, we are unable to support the proposals in Bill C-269.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having some time to talk on behalf of rural Canada and rural Newfoundland and Labrador. Certainly this is of great concern to my riding.

I would like to start by illustrating the theme I will bring forward in this debate. That theme is seasonal employment. We on this side of the House support Bill C-269. We think it will do a substantial amount for people who have invested over the past decades in seasonal work.

In my own riding I would like to talk about seasonal work in the fishery, forestry, construction work and many other areas. I would also like to talk about some of the arguments put forward by the other side. I will go back to when this debate first started and the comments by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, which were echoed by my hon. colleague from Niagara West—Glanbrook. They said that the evidence also shows that claimants in high unemployment regions rarely use more than 70% of the benefits. What they are doing is playing with the averages. There are people who slip through the cracks, especially those in seasonal work, and therein lies the problem.

The Conservatives keep using statistics on a national basis in saying that the job market is extremely hot right now. Yes, it is extremely hot in certain areas. I know that because it is not particularly hot in my area. Therefore, there is a huge amount of migration taking place. We call it outmigration from my riding to places farther west, such as Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and so on.

In coming up with certain amendments to the EI act illustrated in Bill C-269, we are giving some of the more vulnerable communities a chance to survive, a chance to make the effort to attract more investment, to be more diverse. That is why they look at this as something that is going to downplay the overall job market.

They are also saying that by doing this, they are picking on businesses by keeping rates at what they are, but we believe that this type of policy is a vanguard for local economic development in areas of higher unemployment. This is all about the pilot projects. I am glad my hon. colleague brought up the pilot projects, which the Liberals initiated back in 2003, but the Conservatives have yet to renew. The problem is that the deadline is approaching.

Let me give an example. Five weeks would be added at the end of a benefit period in areas of higher unemployment. Yes, my area is roughly around 20%. It hovers around that mark. In most cases it is a bit higher, depending on the community.

For those engaged in seasonal work, and the vast majority of them do engage in seasonal work, like the fishery, plant workers and people who work with particular crews in the fishery and forestry, this will add the five weeks at the end to allow them the increased benefit period to get them through what we call the black hole between the benefit period and when the season starts again. That program expires on December 9, which is not very far away, and yet we have not heard whether the government is going to renew it or not.

The other pilot program in areas of high unemployment such as my own deals with the best 14 weeks over the last 52. That allows people to claim the best weeks and get a higher benefit as a result.

There are a couple of other issues in this particular bill that interest me quite a bit. It increases the rate of weekly benefits to 60%. It also reduces the qualifying period by 70 hours, which we believe is just a modicum, a slight benefit, that will not really throw this program into disarray, like the government is pretending it will. It will not, but it will go a long way for the smaller communities with higher unemployment.

Interestingly enough, I am glad this debate came up today because tonight the Prime Minister will be in an area of high unemployment. There are beneficiaries of this pilot program in an area that exceeds 20% unemployment in the riding of Avalon. I hope it is put to the Prime Minister why he and his government and the member of Parliament for Avalon do not support Bill C-269 which means so much to the seasonal workers of that particular riding. I wish he were here to debate it; nonetheless, we will move on.

Here is another point about Bill C-269 that I think is a great idea. The bill eliminates the presumption that persons related to each other do not deal with each other at arm's length. This could go a long way toward benefiting smaller businesses in smaller communities. It becomes a family affair, a family endeavour, a family situation where they run the business and it allows them to collect EI at the same time. That helps to sustain communities. It is a good pilot project that allows employment to persevere in the smaller communities. It gives them a fighting chance. That is why I support that particular clause in Bill C-269.

Bill C-269 also increases the maximum yearly insurable earnings to $41,500 and introduces an indexing formula. This is also beneficial given the cost of living. Therefore, we support that as well.

I would encourage my hon. colleagues across the way to support the bill. We have received support from the majority of the members in this House, with the exception of course of the Conservative Party.

The government mentioned earlier about, I think it said, bringing it on the road, asking for consultation, taking it to the country. I would welcome that.

The government keeps talking about all the input it has received about premium rates from businesses across the country. I have no problem with a reduction in premium rates. However, the government never mentioned anything, not one iota, about receiving input or advice from the communities most affected.

What about the areas of higher unemployment? What about the areas that could greatly benefit from such small measures in Bill C-269? Yes, there are currently 19 private members' bills in the hopper. That alone should tell the government about how important it is for the most vulnerable communities.

This is about seasonal employment. This is about areas of high unemployment. It is about economic development. It is about sustaining our communities.

The migration patterns across this country for work are incredibly high. There is more migration now than we have ever seen in central Newfoundland and it is growing. I believe in my heart that if we go forward with only some of the provisions in this bill that allow workers the benefit of staying in their communities to help build their communities, the government could benefit greatly and our communities could benefit greatly.

Yes, there are 19 bills being discussed about EI reforms that provide greater benefits to seasonal workers. There is a reason. The demand is there in the most vulnerable of communities.

I would implore the government to stop abandoning the areas of higher unemployment. There are some key initiatives in Bill C-269 as well as other EI bills that will greatly benefit the country.

Again, I am disappointed the government does not support Bill C-269. I will always be in favour of greater initiatives for our most vulnerable communities in rural Canada, rural Newfoundland and Labrador, and for us as citizens dedicated to seasonal work.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle for bringing forward this very important piece of legislation.

The bill makes a number of important amendments to the Employment Insurance Act. It reduces each qualifying period by 70 hours. It increases the benefit period. It increases the rate of weekly benefits to 60%. It repeals the waiting period. It eliminates the presumption that persons related to each other do not deal with each other at arm's length. It increases the maximum yearly insurable earnings to $41,500. It also introduces an indexing formula.

We in the New Democratic Party certainly support this bill. Our whip, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, has introduced his own private member's bills along the same lines with the hope that we can bring some fairness to employment insurance and reduce the disparity out there.

I want to talk briefly about the national employment insurance program and provide a little bit of history, a thumbnail sketch. Canada has had a national program to provide financial support for the unemployed for about 70 years. It was seen as a very important step in regard to making sure that Canadians who were temporarily out of work or suffering because of plant closures were supported so that they could look after their families, so that communities could remain strong.

The program has gone through many changes over the years, most notably in 1971, when benefits were actually extended to those who were experiencing sickness and to women who wanted to take maternity leave. Maternity leave became part of the EI program and the ability to collect was put in place at that point.

Unfortunately, there followed a whole series of task forces and commissions which produced recommendations that changed EI not for the good, but actually sought to decrease its benefits. In 1994 the government of the day came up with proposals for a radical overhaul which led to the implementation of what is now known as the Employment Insurance Act of December 1995. Unemployment insurance was no more at that point in time.

These program changes were intended to shift the emphasis from providing income support when workers lost their jobs to making sure that they got back to work as quickly as possible. That is fine, if work exists, if the worker in question has the training and the background in order to find employment, but as has been pointed out in this House, that is not always the case. Very often in the case of plant closures the workers involved, some of whom have been at the plant for many years, are not able to secure employment.

That reality hit home in London this past spring when Beta Brands foods closed its doors. That plant, the former McCormicks plant, had been in London for over 100 years and provided good jobs and secure employment to families. Suddenly, in a matter of a few days, the announcement was made and those jobs were gone. A lot of the workers had been with the company for 30, 40, and 45 years. In some cases both a husband and wife were working in the plant. When those jobs went, those workers were left without a livelihood. Sometimes the entire family income was gone. In many cases those workers had been out of school for 30, 40, 45 years and lacked the skills and training opportunities in order to find other work.

This notion about getting people back to work quickly is very good but not always possible and not always the reality.

While 74% of unemployed workers were entitled to receive unemployment benefits in 1990 the new act that I was just speaking about, the 1995 act, reduced that number to 36% of those who found themselves to be unemployed. Of those workers, women had the greatest decrease in terms of support. They dropped from 69% in 1990 to 32% in 2004.

I want to speak a little about the effect that it has on a community. I am going to quote from a document that I received this week from Kairos which is an ecumenical partnership from the faith community. It is very concerned about the issues facing our communities and our society. It works very hard to try to alleviate suffering and to bring to the attention of government the things that need to happen, the realities that are out in our communities. It found, and I would say many of the members of the House are aware, that a significant contributor to poverty is the inability of insured workers to collect employment benefits.

It gives some statistics and these are shocking statistics: 788,000 children in Canada live in poverty. That is a 2005 number. We reckon that it is closer to about one million, the same percentage, about 12% as in 1989 when in this Parliament there was a resolve to end child poverty by the year 2000. We know that we did not do that. In fact, child poverty continues at an unacceptable level. There is the sense that it is in fact increasing.

Canada's homeless population is somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000. We are not exactly sure because it is very difficult sometimes to determine if someone is indeed homeless. Too many people, particularly young people, spend their time couch surfing. They go from home to home, from situation to situation, because there is no permanent place for them.

A lot of these young people are the victims of abuse, sometimes sexual abuse. They cannot go home and they are far too young to be able to secure their own home. They have been forgotten and unfortunately they are homeless.

About 1.7 million residents are struggling with housing affordability. Among those are aboriginal people in urban situations living in poverty, new immigrants, and single family homes headed by women.

About 750,000 Canadians rely on food banks in Canada. There are 650 food banks in this nation at a time when our economy is apparently booming and at a time when apparently there is a great wealth abroad. It is apparently for some and not others.

I want to speak about a question that I asked in the House last week of the minister responsible. When I told him that two-thirds of the women who pay into the employment insurance fund were unable to receive benefits, the minister's response was that I was wrong, that I was incorrect.

I would like to make reference to some information that I had. The minister said that 82% of women working full time were eligible to qualify. That does not mean that they will qualify. He was playing with words.

Since only 73% of women in the paid workforce are employed full time, 80% of this number would actually be 58% of all employed women who are eligible to qualify. In fact, less, since self-employed women are not eligible. So, I make my point once again that far too many people, particularly women, are unable to collect.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Order. I regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for London--Fanshawe. I had given her the two minute signal and the one minute signal.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Gatineau.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Richard Nadeau Bloc Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the House is well aware that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, since we introduced it. I am referring, of course, to Bill C-269, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (improvement of the employment insurance system).

This bill makes the following changes to the Employment Insurance Act. One, it reduces each qualifying period by 70 hours. Two, it increases the benefit period. Three, it increases the rate of weekly benefits to 60%. Four, it repeals the waiting period. Five, it eliminates the presumption that persons related to each other do not deal with other at arm's length. Six, it increases the maximum yearly insurable earnings to $41,500 and introduces an indexing formula. Lastly, the bill enables self-employed persons to receive employment insurance.

In rejecting Bill C-269, the Conservatives are defying the will of this House, of workers, of Quebeckers and of all Canadians.

However, this is typical of how they do things. We are talking about the Conservative government that decided not to include opposition members in the Canadian delegation to the upcoming Bali conference. We are talking about the Conservative government that decided not so long ago to block the work of the Standing Committee on Official Languages, which was working on something the government was not happy with. We are talking about the government that abolished the court challenges program, saying that it will not fund people who challenge its laws. We are talking about the Conservative government that changed the criteria of the women's program to prevent groups that defend women's rights from receiving funding. We are talking about the minority Conservative government—and I stress the word “minority”— that is doing everything it can to silence any form of opposition.

These Conservatives are not concerned about the living conditions of the unemployed, minorities and those who need help the most. They are only interested in the Americans, oil companies and big business. They do not care about the difficulties of older workers in the manufacturing and forestry sectors or the problems of women's groups. This is very sad. The Bloc Québécois will denounce this situation in order to bring this government back in line. This Conservative government lacks humanity. It is cold and heartless and the idea of it becoming a majority government one day is very frightening. We are going to do everything we can to make sure that does not happen.

Before the Conservatives formed the government, they supported the idea of an independent fund and wanted, as we do, to put an end to the plundering of the employment insurance fund. That money belongs to the unemployed and it is not to be used at the discretion of Canada's federal government to do whatever it wants. Those who contribute to it are not able to touch 100% of it, which is outrageous. The Conservatives agreed with us on this issue when they were in the opposition. Now that they are in power, there is no difference between a Conservative government and a Liberal government. It is six of one and a half dozen of the other.

Once in power, as I was saying, the Conservatives went back on their word, rejected our Bill C-357 on an independent fund and preferred to let the money that belongs to the unemployed accumulate in the coffers of the big banks. They are taking from the poor and giving to the rich. That is a very familiar story from medieval times: what we have here is the Sheriff of Nottingham's gang.

They are right here. Here they are, doing absolutely nothing to respond to this very scandalous situation.

Employment insurance is no longer an assistance program, but rather a hidden tax.

Under the Liberals, the employment insurance fund was used to balance the budget. Although the Conservatives voted in favour of an independent fund, the surpluses generated remain in the consolidated fund and are used for other purposes besides providing help to those who need it when they find themselves in the vulnerable position of having lost their jobs. They are most definitely entitled, since they paid into it.

The Auditor General's report of November 23, 2004, reported that the government continued to plunder the employment insurance fund, despite the will of parliamentarians—we keep doing the same thing—and that the powers of the Employment Insurance Commission, whose membership includes contributors, would apparently be suspended for yet another year—and that is still the case. How is it that a government, a political party, once in power, could become such a bully towards those who pay into a fund that should be theirs—it should belong to the workers—and that should not be used to serve the ideological ends of the party in power?

The Conservatives voted at second reading against the idea of improving the employment insurance system through Bill C-269 proposed by the Bloc Québécois, and that shows the true colours of this government.

The 2006 Employment Insurance Monitoring and Assessment Report indicates that 44.8% of the unemployed have access to the system even though 100% of them paid premiums. Not only did they pay into the fund, but so did the employers. The federal government did not contribute a single nickel and it does what it wants with this money. That is outrageous.

The Bloc Québécois tried to have the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities adopt a report in February 2005 on the reform of employment insurance and continues to call for its implementation.

The Bloc Québécois is speaking out again against the looting of the fund and proposes concrete action such as: creating an independent fund and employment insurance commission, making the government repay the misused funds, having the Employment Insurance Commission set the premiums, and improving the system's coverage for workers in vulnerable situations.

Over the past two years, the Bloc Québécois has worked tirelessly to improve the system.

Employment insurance contributions are currently being used as a tax, not a contribution. That is unacceptable. The Bloc Québécois believes that we must clear up this misunderstanding and return the system to its original purpose, which was to insure workers who lose their jobs, not to tax work.

We have to think of the different kinds of people who collect employment insurance. I am thinking of the workers in my riding, in the Gatineau region, in the greater Outaouais region. Right now, jobs are being lost in paper mills and in forestry. The Minister of Labour, who is from the Pontiac region, should understand these sectors. I understand the paper mill workers who suddenly find themselves jobless because of downsizing.

We do not have adequate programs to help older workers from these mills, especially if they live in the city, as is the case in my riding. We do not have specific programs to help them bridge the gap between their years of seniority and retirement, when retirement is just a few years away.

Right now, the government could not care less about workers in vulnerable sectors, such as manufacturing and forestry, not to mention Ontarians working in the auto sector and the economic slump they are about to face.

The government says that there are more jobs today and less unemployment. But look at how poorly the new jobs are paid compared to those that have been lost.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate.

Given that no members have risen to join the debate, pursuant to the Speaker's ruling of October 17, 2007, the Speaker will not put the question on the motion for third reading because the bill requires royal recommendation and royal recommendation has not been granted.

Accordingly, the order for third reading is discharged and the item is dropped from the order paper.

(Order discharged and bill withdrawn)

It being 2:12 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:12 p.m.)