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House of Commons Hansard #103 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was very deliberate in providing the analogy of a Trojan horse. What we have here is a budget bill and normally in a budget we will have economic measures, no question, and we hopefully have measures that will help governments. This government likes to have tax cuts, particularly for large corporations, and it gave away the store, actually, before the budget, in the fiscal update.

However, in the tradition of our Parliament and responsible government, we would have major structural changes, at least consultation and debate. Then we would have implementation. My colleague from Winnipeg is quite correct. The government has taken this playbook from another jurisdiction. It has bundled these altogether and will try to get them through quickly.

I recall a paper called, “Cycling into Saigon: The Conservative transition in Ontario”. It was a policy paper about how the previous Conservative Ontario government of Michael Harris got its changes through. The philosophy was as follows: Do all the changes as quickly as possible, the quicker the better and the larger the better, because the public will not pay attention and the opposition will be in such disarray, it will not be able to oppose.

I think the Conservatives have been reading up on the playbook, and they certainly had a willing dancing partner, sadly. In one budget bill they propose to revamp our immigration system and our EI system so that we will not notice it.

The effects on my constituents are significant. You know my constituency fairly well, Mr. Speaker. I see you at events often in my constituency. It is very diverse with high needs. At times there are challenges with employment for many people, be it new Canadians or students. Recently, we had layoffs in the high tech sector.

As I said in my comments, these will bring irreversible damages at a time when we have more than $50 billion in the fund, and instead of changing it progressively, creatively, we are simply robbing the bank, getting out of Dodge, and creating a new structure called a crown corporation to clear up all the details so that there are no fingerprints.

Let it be known, the fingerprints will be analysed. The DNA evidence is right here and we will make sure that Canadians are able to see it, come the next election.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I think you should call the cops. I think you should ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to go and find the RCMP because there is a robbery in progress as we speak going on in the House of Commons while I am standing here and while we are sitting here. The robbery I am talking about is numerically the biggest robbery in Canadian history. It makes the great train robbery look like nothing. It makes the Grenkow boys who had the gold heist at the Winnipeg airport seem like peanuts. We are talking about $54 billion being swiped by legislative decree as we speak. If people in the country knew they would be horrified. I am not exaggerating.

The EI fund has been a cash cow for successive governments for as long as I have been a member of Parliament. They have been using this money for all the wrong purposes. A previous colleague of mine explained how fundamentally wrong it is to deduct money from people's paycheques for a specific purpose and tell them it is for income maintenance if they should happen to lose their jobs. Then, to use that money for something else completely is just fundamentally wrong. It is not the government's money. The government should start from that basic premise. That pool of money is not the government's.

It was the Mulroney Conservatives who withdrew from the EI fund. The unemployment insurance fund used to be made up of money from the employer, the employee and the Government of Canada. In 1986, the Mulroney Conservatives stopped doing that. The government no longer paid anything into it, so it was 100% funded by employer and employee contributions at a ratio of 1:1.4. It simply is not the government's money to use unless it passes a bill. It can do anything. The Government of Canada's Parliament can pass legislation to make this its money but it should not. Morally and ethically it would be fundamentally wrong.

It is fundamentally wrong to balance the books on the back of the unemployed. It is almost cowardly when we think about it, of all the places governments could look for additional revenue to fund their fiscal agenda is from the unemployed. Almost no one qualifies for EI any more, that is why it is showing such a great surplus. Fortunately, we are in buoyant economic times as fewer people are applying for employment insurance although that is about to change given the layoffs in the manufacturing sector.

Let me tell everyone how Liberals balanced the books and what is wrong with that, and then explain why it is wrong for the Conservatives to do the same. The Liberals came up with $100 billion worth of tax cuts and they brag about that. They say they cut more taxes than any government ever, $100 billion worth, but let us look at how they paid for it. They took $30 billion right out of the EI fund, so that is like an upside-down Robin Hood, robbing the poor to give tax cuts to the rich. Another $30 billion they took from the surplus in the public service pension plan.

Just before he left politics in late 1999 and early 2000, Marcel Masse, the former treasury board president, the last thing he did on his way out, knowing full well the hue and cry would be deafening, was to rob, and I deliberately use this term, the $30 billion surplus that was in the public service pension plan. The average beneficiary of the public service pension plan makes $9,000 a year and they are female. The government could have taken that $30 billion and doubled the annual pension of those beneficiaries currently, or improved the benefit package for future beneficiaries, or it could have shared it.

That is what is done in the private sector. When Bell Canada had a big surplus, union and management sat down and negotiated. Some went to benefits, some went to donation holidays and some went to the company. But no, the Government of Canada took it all. With the other $40 billion, the Liberals engaged in program spending, the most ruthless, cutting, hacking and slashing of social programs in this country's history. That is how they came up with their $100 billion in tax cuts.

Taking a page from the same book, the Conservatives find themselves wanting to spend money, trying to endear themselves by buying their way into the hearts of Canadians. Where do they look for money? They do not look at offshore tax havens. They do not look at perhaps having a tax on excess profits in the oil sector. They do not look at the tax fugitives who take $7 billion a year of tax revenue out of our country, something they promised they would do when they were in opposition. They have left those tax havens alone and they have left the very rich able to expatriate their family fortunes and family trusts offshore. Not only the millionaires themselves never pay taxes in Canada again, but none of their progeny ever pay taxes in Canada again. These things have been exposed in the newspaper this past couple of weeks by Diane Francis, a right-wing Conservative journalist. She has condemned the government, to which I presume she sends money, for not acting on these tax havens, these tax fugitives.

It really begs the question why, now that they are in a position to do so, the Conservatives would have three budgets and one economic update and never touch this atrocious situation, leaving $7 billion a year untouched? Instead, where do they look for revenue? They are taking it off of the backs of the unemployed. It is almost a cowardly thing to do.

I will tell members the impact the changes in employment insurance has had in my inner city riding of Winnipeg Centre, by some standards the lowest income riding in all of Canada.

When the government changed the system to the existing hour based system, it took $20.9 million a year out of my low income riding of Winnipeg Centre. That would be like taking the payroll of four pretty major companies, a $20.9 million payroll, from the poorest of the poor. It would be different if it took that from high income earners and they lost a couple of grand a year each.

However, the people who miss out on the income maintenance benefits of employment insurance are in desperate circumstances. They went from being marginalized and poor and getting by on EI, to abject poverty. The government has offloaded the income maintenance burden onto the province and these people on welfare.

That has been the experience with the brilliant social policy initiative of the management of the EI fund to day.

For years, we said EI should be a separate fund. I guess we have to be careful what we wish for because we were not specific enough as to what we wanted. The Conservatives are creating that separate fund. They are taking it out of consolidated revenue, as we have always maintained they should. They are putting it into this crown corporation. I do not disagree with that. However, they are taking $54 billion of surplus that exists now and using it for whatever general consolidated revenue spending they wish to spend it on. That is fundamentally wrong. It is morally and ethically wrong. I call it robbery, and I do not hesitate to put it in those terms.

We need a $15 billion operating surplus, according to the Auditor General, to be safe. Otherwise we will fall into deficit with that fund if we have any kind of an economic downturn. Judging from the job losses in Ontario in the last 18 months and what could happen elsewhere in the country, as we turn our back on the manufacturing sector, we will need a robust employment insurance fund to provide income maintenance and bridge training to retrain the workers affected by that. The $2 billion left in the fund would be gone in a minute.

The Conservatives are showing a surplus of $750 million a month and they are only going to leave a $2 billion surplus. They are taking the rest. That is not a per year surplus; it is a per month surplus. It is a cash cow. It is a licence to print money. It is a dream come true for a finance minister. It is like catnip for a finance minister. They cannot stay away from it, but they should because it is not their money. That is the most fundamental basic element the Conservatives seem to forget: it is not their money. They have no proprietary right to that fund. That is our money. It is not even the employers' money. It is all the workers' money because it is put in there for the benefit of the employees if they should be unfortunate to find themselves out of a job.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

June 2nd, 2008 / 5:30 p.m.

Conservative

John Williams Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my good friend speak about the employment insurance fund and what he perceives to be a dearth in the surplus. I thought it was rather cute when he said “send out the RCMP and the Sergeant-at-Arms to see if we can find this missing money”. He knows exactly where that money went, as we all do. It was spent by the Liberals.

Every year the Liberals used the money in general revenue, treated it as a tax revenue and spent it. It was spent on behalf of Canadians and now the money is gone and the coffers are empty. That is why we in the government have put forth a plan to kick-start this with a $2 billion fund.

As the member already admitted himself, a $750 million a month surplus is going into the fund. How much does he actually want to tax Canadians? Is this a notion that Canadians are a bottomless pit when it comes to paying tax so he can boast about having all this money sitting in a bank account? We would rather see the money in the pockets of Canadians. We want to see that the fund is protected and there for them should they ever find themselves unemployed.

I thought it was rather cute when he pleaded ignorance as to where the money had gone. Does he acknowledge that the money was spent by the Liberals, that it is gone now so therefore the fund has to be rebuilt?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, that money exists as a debt to Canadian workers and that debt is just as real as any other debt of the Government of Canada.

It was under the Conservatives in 1986 when the money was directed into the consolidated revenue fund. When workers were told the money would be deducted from their paycheques, there was an expectation, a promise made, that it was for the specific purpose of income maintenance should they become unemployed.

If the Conservatives were looking to roll back taxes, they could have rolled back some of the tax cuts they gave to corporate Canada, which does not need them by the way. The richest and most successful corporations in the country were the beneficiaries of most of the tax cuts. Why did the Conservatives not look there instead of unemployed workers? If the Conservatives wanted to harvest a few dollars out of the existing system, they could have asked Exxon or Shell for some of that money back. They were high-grading when they needed it the least.

I recognize that successive governments have used the EI fund as a cash cow since at least 1986. It has fallen into deficit and into arrears a couple of times over the years, but the cumulative total of deficit has been $11 billion and the cumulative total surplus has been $54 billion. No matter how we add it up, that is a lot of money owing to Canadian workers, either as improved benefits for when they are unemployed, or changing the eligibility rules so if someone becomes unemployed, they might actually qualify for some benefits, as most currently do not, or a premium holiday for both the employer and employee. That has been done. The government has ratcheted down the premiums a number of times.

The fact remains that over that period of time more money went into the fund than was paid out and it was not the government's money to use. It was morally and ethically wrong for the government to use it for anything else.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the auditor general is the one who directed the government of the day, Brian Mulroney's government, to incorporate the deficit at the time in the unemployment insurance fund into the consolidated revenue fund because the government had to be accountable for the operation of it.

Something went wrong somewhere, and maybe the member wants to comment on it. Premiums up until—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The member for Winnipeg Centre has 30 seconds.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wish I had more time to listen to what my colleague from Mississauga South had to say.

I understand that the premiums exceeded the need, but only because the benefits were ratcheted down so drastically. The guy that I beat, David Walker, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance at the time, devised a scheme where nobody qualified any more. It is not hard to show a surplus—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:35 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the more this government introduces legislative initiatives, the more I realize that it is incapable of proposing a really good measure for our people, our workers in particular. It is not capable of that because the only thing it considers to be a social measure is cutting income taxes and taxes in general. It is turning a long awaited measure that would be a step in the right direction into a real crime meant only to please businesses, in that contributions would be reduced.

For more than 10 years, people who are concerned about social justice have been calling for an independent employment insurance fund. For a long time now, the federal government has been collecting employment insurance contributions from employees and employers, restricting eligibility for benefits and using the money for other purposes.

In addition to causing endless frustration among the workers and a good number of colleagues here, such the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst and the hon. member for Chambly—Borduas, who are worried about this situation, this reprehensible behaviour by the government has created a double standard.

First, employees and employers pay far too much for what they get in return. Then their benefits are reduced.

Access to these benefits is also being limited more and more, especially for seasonal workers who work in necessary jobs that vary from season to season.

Year after year, the government has used the surplus created in this way to balance its budget and create astronomical surpluses that it then used to pay down the debt, as everyone knows.

The result is as follows: $54 billion that belongs to the people who contributed—not to pay down the debt—has been used for other purposes, while there are pressing needs in employment.

The Conservative government has finally reacted and decided to create a Canada employment insurance financing board. It was a good idea, but behind the terms healthy management and good governance lie intentions that will not really help workers.

Cutting EI contributions will not help workers. The government is obviously trying to convince us that it will—and this is not the first time—but does paying a dollar less every week matter to a worker who receives $100 less in benefits because of a bare-bones calculation? In reality, this calculation is of much more benefit to businesses and regions experiencing full employment, like Alberta. Is anyone here surprised?

The only way to help workers is to provide benefits that ensure a decent income for seasonal workers who are supporting families and for older workers who get laid off and have to make it to retirement with no hope of receiving any income other than employment insurance and, unfortunately, welfare.

The only way to help workers is to transfer funds for employment programs to Quebec—in our case—for workers in seasonal and precarious jobs.

Creating a Canada employment insurance financing board is a step in the right direction only because it will finally put an end to the theft of people's contributions. That being said, the government has no intention of reimbursing the $54 billion by applying it to employment programs or worker assistance, and that is unacceptable.

The new board will not be giving that money back to workers. In fact, should a recession or massive layoffs occur, it will have to borrow from the consolidated revenue fund. So there is that whole borrowing problem. What will happen? Who will have to pay when there is a liability? Unfortunately, once again, the workers are the ones who will pay.

This is what they are calling improved management and governance, which the government promised on page 6 of its Budget in Brief.

An actuary will determine the contributions to be paid. Only $2 billion will be kept in reserve, and employment programs will in the hands of the Minister of Human Resources and of businesses that will pay as little as possible.

This vision will be enshrined in legislation, and this crown corporation will not have to answer to Parliament.

As for Bill C-50 on the budget, I want to bring up a point that has to do with part 7, concerning the board's duties and restrictions, so to speak.

According to clause 36 of this part, “the Governor in Council [the cabinet], on the joint recommendation of the Minister and the Minister of Finance, may make regulations...respecting the investments...the limitations—” and other revenue. I would like to know how this clause 36 will work with subclause 4(c), which states that the object of the board is to manage any amounts paid to it. Who will do what?

We are talking about transparency and good management. Does this not strip the board of its essential role? Does this not strip it of the great transparency and also the great responsibility it is supposed to have? Is it an independent entity? I get the impression that sometimes it is, sometimes it is not.

Also, what about the auditor general's recommendation that there should be an adequate reserve, estimated at $15 billion, I believe?

In conclusion, as we can see, the Conservatives are trying to make it seem as though they are responding to a legitimate demand, and have concocted a bill that is unacceptable on at least two points, not to mention that they did not address all the demands for the redistribution of wealth. In particular—and this topic is close to my heart—they have not attempted to help poor seniors get out of poverty.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her intervention and particularly for the following phrase.

She said that the Conservatives “have concocted a bill that is unacceptable”. It is a good turn of phrase and I agree with her.

This is an unacceptable change to a program when we consider what the Canadian population expects of the government. In fact, if we take this out of the annals of governance in terms of public administration, if we were to posit this whole equation in the private sector, because I know that is something the government likes to do, would it be acceptable to have any successor to a previous plan benefit to the degree that this plan will benefit?

We wipe out, tabula rasa, all the benefits that have been paid in by the previous payers to an insurance system and hand over to the new corporation no liabilities, saying to the members of this plan that there is a new owner in town and they do not have to worry about it. I would appreciate receiving the member's comments. If this had been attempted in the private sector, what does she think would have happened?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. I said, and he understood, that for me as well as many other members in the House, this is completely unacceptable.

As to how this would go over in the private sector, I would say that in the private sector there would at least have been provisions under the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. At the very least, the organization would have declared bankruptcy, and it would have been done in a transparent and open manner. And in terms of solvency and the remaining assets, the creditors, in this case, the workers, could have decided to recoup as much as they were able. The process would have been extremely rigorous.

Here, however, everything is dismissed. Our colleague says that everything will be handed over from one entity to another and that it will be tabula rasa. They will create something new, and they are using this as an excuse to illegitimately, needlessly harm workers.

And that alone, along with the points raised by the member and his NDP colleagues and those I humbly raised myself, makes this absolutely unacceptable.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The member for Acadie—Bathurst.

There are two minutes left, one minute for the question and one minute for the response.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques.

I stated clearly in my speech that what is happening today is that the federal government is taking $2 billion from the $54 billion in the existing employment insurance fund or from general funds to transfer the $2 billion to the crown corporation it is creating.

Does my friend agree with me that this evening we are witnessing the biggest theft of workers' money in Canadian history?

What is more, when workers need money for the employment insurance fund because of economic problems, they are going to have to borrow their own money and pay interest.

That said, there is no difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives, especially considering that since this afternoon, we have been discussing the history—

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

There is one minute left for the member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, who has the floor.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend from Acadie—Bathurst for his question. As I said earlier, I listened carefully to what he said this afternoon, and I agree with him that this is completely unacceptable.

We are going to see two sad things today. We are going to see what my friend is referring to. I will be the first to celebrate if everyone in this House votes, but I believe that we are going to witness a sad sight, as legitimately elected members choose to abstain by being absent or remaining seated.

I believe that the least members could do is to rise in this House to vote for or against a bill that directly affects millions of people.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak in opposition to Bill C-50 and in favour of the amendments presented today in this House, especially those concerning employment insurance.

I would like to take a moment to talk about the work done by the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, as he has been working very hard ever since coming to the House on June 2, 1997. Today is the anniversary of that date. Since then, he has worked relentlessly for an employment insurance system that protects workers across the country. It is important to commend his work.

The question is, what do the Conservatives propose to do in Bill C-50?

We talked earlier today about the immigration provisions. That portion of the bill should be entitled the indentured servitude act. It essentially would bring foreign workers into Canada who would have no rights.

These provisions we are talking about now are the legalized theft provisions of Bill C-50. Let us go back a few years. We had the Liberals stealing from the unemployment insurance budget and basically taking billions of dollars of money from unemployment insurance.

That money could have gone to the unemployed workers, of which there are so many, an increasing number in this country. I will come back to that in a moment.

The Conservatives, of course, do not like this. They do not like being connected to criminal acts, but this is legalizing a theft that occurred under the Liberal regime and that the Conservatives have perpetuated. There is no doubt about this.

Essentially--

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer is rising on a point of order.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am usually very tolerant and can overlook many things, but the fact that the member is trying to directly or indirectly insult us is too much. I would ask that you call the member to order and that he be reminded to use more parliamentary language from now on.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if the Liberals cannot accept the word “steal”, perhaps we could say that they “took without asking”. This evening, it is the Conservatives who will vote on their side and take this $54 billion from workers.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer will see that, since the Speaker is standing at the moment, it would be a good time for him to sit down.

I heard the two points of order, which are in fact further subjects of debate rather than points of order.

I am sure that the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster is going to come to more parliamentary language, but I also noted that when he spoke he did not address any of the objectionable words to any individual member of the House. We will just leave it at that and I hope the hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster will understand the goodwill that I am offering him and take it as an invitation for improved parliamentary language.

The hon. member for Hull—Aylmer for a short remark.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that the Just for Laughs comedy festival is in Montreal.

Here in the House of Commons, there is language that can be used and language that cannot be used.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member. I have already reacted and I believe that will suffice.

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the Liberals do not like the characterization of what they did with employment insurance. However, it is not a laughing matter for the hundreds of thousands of working people who have been denied employment insurance benefits because of the Liberal government's actions and now the current Conservative government's actions.

I would think that everybody in this House, if they were in touch with their constituents on Main Street, would understand if we were to call this the false premises act. Essentially that money was collected under false premises in a fraudulent way. When we say that money will be redirected to support those who are unemployed and then we take that money and apply it to general revenues, that is a false premise. Hundreds of thousands of workers and working families have been impacted by that decision.

The Liberals do not like being reminded of their record, but in this corner of the House the NDP speaks the truth and we are bringing up that record, and we will not let them forget it. However, we also will not let the Conservatives get away with what is clearly contrary to the practices as even covered by the Auditor General.

The Auditor General says that the actions proposed in Bill C-50 are not appropriate, that there must be a larger reserve put aside for the money that was collected under the pretense that it would go to help working people in this country. We have a situation where only one-third of unemployed women can actually claim employment insurance. That is a devastating situation for people who are unemployed in this country. Who are these people? Let us talk about the facts.

We had a debate last Wednesday night with the Minister of Finance and he was unable to even acknowledge the reality that Statistics Canada tells us about working families in this country. Two-thirds of working families are earning less now than they were back in 1989. The wealthiest of Canadian families are doing better than ever. They now take half of all the income in this country and their income has skyrocketed over that same period.

When we talk about middle class families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 a year, they have lost a week's income each and every year since 1989. Lower middle class families earning between $20,000 and $40,000 a year have lost two weeks of income. Try getting by with no paycheques for two weeks. We have a profound understanding of what working families are living through.

The poorest of Canadians, including unemployed Canadians, have seen a devastating fall in income. They have lost a month and a half of income since 1989 for each and every year. We are talking about a catastrophic fall in income and the Conservatives are doing absolutely nothing to address this fundamental economic problem in this country.

What do they do? What is their solution? It is more and more corporate tax cuts. They just shovel the money off the back of a truck to the wealthy corporate sector, the most profitable corporations in the country. CEOs are doing well and that is all the Conservative government responds to, the agenda of corporate CEOs, not to the agenda of working families that are struggling to make ends meet, that are working longer and longer weeks and harder and harder, 200 hours on average. Canadian families are working more and more while at the same time earning less and less.

Perhaps the most insulting aspect of this is when the Minister of Finance stands in this House and says that jobs have been created in this country. We know what kind of jobs they are but the Minister of Finance could not even respond to that last week.

He and his government have kicked good manufacturing jobs out the door, family sustaining jobs paying over $20 an hour, on average $21 an hour, and they have created part time and temporary jobs that pay barely better than minimum wage.

The government, far from being proud of its economic record, should hang its head in shame for what it has done to the working people of this country. We have lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in a hemorrhaging of our manufacturing sector that is without precedence in Canadian history. What it has given us are temporary and part time service industry jobs that pay minimum wage. They do not come with pensions or any sort of benefits.

This hits younger Canadians particularly hard. Right now we have record levels of student debt that the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing about. Young Canadians see themselves going into a job market where there are low entry level wages and jobs that have no pension benefits. They can see, after working a 40 or 45 year career, retiring with no company pension.

What do the Conservatives offer? They offer the false pretense of taking $54 billion from the employment insurance fund and tucking it away, not putting it in any sort of debt reserve, not responding to the needs of Canadian working families, but tucking it away and putting $2 billion aside. That is less than 2¢ on the dollar that they are putting aside.

In this corner of the House we say, no, that is not appropriate accounting practices, which is what the Auditor General says, and it is not at all in the interests of working families who have struggled for 20 years while corporate executives have been given anything they want from the former Liberal government and the current Conservative government.

The Liberals and the Conservatives do not like their actions being characterized as a false premise. They do not like their actions being characterized as taking the money for one reason and then diverting it without consulting the public and without responding to the need in working communities from coast to coast to coast, but that is what has happened.

It is a false premise for the government to pretend it is doing something for working families when it essentially takes $52 billion away that came from hard-working families from coast to coast to coast. It is unfair and inappropriate and we are voting no.

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

6 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Independent Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question about a specific point.

The budget speech announced the establishment of a board that was to be an independent crown corporation. I would like to know if my colleague has concerns about this as I do. On the one hand, they are talking about an independent corporation. On the other, under clause 36, part 7 of the bill we are discussing and that would establish this board, “The Governor in Council, on the joint recommendation of the Minister [of Human Resources and Social Development] and the Minister of Finance, may make regulations...respecting the investments...the limitations...[and] prescribing anything—”

Although the powers of the board are specified at the beginning of this part, at the same time, the end indicates that these will be made upon the recommendation of these two ministers. These two ministers will readily make a recommendation.

According to my colleague, to what extent will they interfere with a board that is supposed to be independent? Does my colleague have serious doubts, as I do?

Budget Implementation Act, 2008Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree. The member has raised some very good questions.

Basically, that is what we think. We also pointed that out earlier today when we talked about immigration provisions. The minister is giving himself a lot of powers, the power to cross names off waiting lists, which are growing longer by the day. The minister will have the power to simply cross names off the list. The Conservatives would rather deal with management issues that way than bring in good management practices. “Good Conservative management practices” is something of an oxymoron. This plan will not work.

We are seeing exactly the same thing with these provisions in Bill C-50, that is, the concentration of powers in the hands of ministers who have already made it clear that they do not have the public interest at heart. They are taking money that honest Canadians contributed to an employment insurance system that no longer exists for two thirds of people who find themselves out of a job. Basically, this problem will not be solved by concentrating powers in the hands of ministers.

That is why the NDP is saying no to all of these measures. We will vote in favour of the amendments to Bill C-50 to fix these detrimental aspects.