On February 7, prior to the second reading debate on Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits) standing in the name of the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, a point of order was raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform to the effect that this bill would result in significant new expenditures by lowering the threshold for eligibility for some claimants and changing the formula for the calculation of benefits. The parliamentary secretary supported this interpretation by referring to three rulings where the Chair concluded that similar bills, which extended employment insurance benefits, required a royal recommendation.
In replying to the parliamentary secretary’s point of order, the member for Acadie—Bathurst expressed the opinion that a royal recommendation was not required since any new expenditure would be covered by contributions from workers and employers and not by the government.
I have examined the bill carefully and find that the changes to the employment insurance program envisioned by this bill include lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, setting benefits payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks of the 12 month period preceding the interruption of earnings, and removing the distinctions made to the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.
It is abundantly clear to the Chair that such changes to the employment insurance program, notwithstanding the fact that workers and employers contribute to it, would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures from the consolidated revenue fund in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.
Therefore, it appears to the Chair that those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing employment insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.
In its present form I will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill unless a royal recommendation is received. Today, however, the debate is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.