Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House to join in the debate on Bill C-50. But before I start, I would like to take a few moments, if you will allow me, to congratulate some very deserving people.
I want to congratulate Mr. Gilles Vaillancourt, who was re-elected as mayor of Laval on Sunday, November 1. I also want to congratulate our former colleague, Mr. Réal Ménard, who was elected as mayor of the Hochelaga borough, in Montreal, and Ms. Caroline Saint-Hilaire, another former colleague, who was elected as mayor of Longueuil, one of Quebec's largest cities. I am very proud of our colleagues who decide to go elsewhere to fight other battles. When they win those battles, I am all the more proud because these people have very strong convictions that they showed here, in this House, and they were able to learn about politics and to bring this knowledge into a different level of the political sphere, that of municipal politics.
I am also rising because I listened to my colleague from Chambly—Borduas this morning. It struck me when he said that this bill was nothing but a smokescreen on the part of the Conservative government. I told myself that, once again, we have before us a bill that is just smoke and mirrors, that targets only certain people and the only objective of which is to satisfy the needs of certain people that the Conservatives would very much like to see vote for them.
Instead of meeting the needs of the whole population, the Conservative government is targeting certain groups, as is the case with many of the measures that it puts forward. The Conservatives are targeting specific groups, and wondering which group they will need next. For example, if they do not have enough votes in Ontario, in the north and also in the south, they try to figure out which riding they need. What are these people missing? Are they unemployed or do they want children? Do they need specific measures for their businesses? What exactly do they need? Make no mistake about it: the leader of that party is very crafty, to say the least. The measures are always very targeted and very specific so as to please a certain segment of the population and ensure that these people will vote for the Conservative government.
The only place where they are failing is in Quebec. Indeed, Quebeckers are not fooled by such measures. They are not fooled because they have seen this before. In 1995, the Liberal Party decided that the employment insurance account was no longer a fund created by workers to get benefits when they would find themselves out of work. From then on, that fund would belong to the government. So, Quebeckers have seen this before the previous Conservative Party, which promised them the moon, but did not deliver at all. They have also seen this with the current Conservative Party. And they are not fooled by the New Democratic Party, which barely managed to get one member elected in Quebec. Incidentally, the NDP is now losing ground because it changes its mind whenever the wind shifts direction, which is not normal.
The only party in this House that always stands up, that always has the same convictions, and that has always achieved success is the Bloc Québécois. Why? Because the top priority of Bloc Québécois members is to ensure that the people whom they represent are well represented, regardless of the riding and regardless of who may have voted for them. Once we are elected, we represent our whole population. All our fellow citizens can rest assured that we are going to fight tooth and nail for them in this House.
This is why, this morning, when the member said that this bill was nothing but a smokescreen, that immediately caught my attention. I thought that, indeed, this legislation is just a smokescreen. We are going through an economic period where people really need support. People really need their government to support them with true measures that will help them make it through the worst crisis ever, even worse than the Great Depression, in 1929.
The impact of this crisis is noticeable in my riding. At the Laval volunteer centre, where the Christmas basket campaign is getting underway, we help, year in and year out, 52 organizations and we distribute 540,000 kilos of food products, so that families can feed themselves. Increasingly, the people who need the food provided by the volunteer centre also rely on these other organizations. We are talking about people who work five days a week but who, unfortunately, have a spouse who has lost his job and was only able to find part-time work, at a much lower salary. These people cannot make ends meet anymore, and they do not have access to EI, because access is limited. Not all workers can qualify for EI, even though everyone pays premiums.
Because so few people can access it, many find themselves in awful situations, such as losing their house, their car, and the opportunity to send their children to school. Some people are having a hard time because they have to choose between paying the power bill and buying groceries.
These people have no choice but to take any job they can find. The problem is not that these people are lazy or do not want to work. The problem is that they cannot continue working where they used to work because there have been so many layoffs.
The hardest-hit sector after forestry and manufacturing is probably tourism. In Quebec, 30,000 businesses and 300,000 people work in the tourism industry. Most of the workers are women: 59% in food services and 71% to 72% in the travel sector.
The data suggest that these women are the ones who will suffer the most because of limited access to employment insurance. The Conservative Party introduced a bill, but it could have simply implemented a pilot project. If the Conservatives really wanted to help unemployed men and women, they would not have brought this measure in as a bill. They would have brought in a pilot project so that people could access it right away.
A lot of people might already have benefited if it were already in effect. The Bloc Québécois would have preferred to fast-track this. Unfortunately, I think that we are the only ones here who want to move things forward, who want the government to do something for unemployed workers and give them the help they need.
Unfortunately, but also fortunately, all of the stakeholders in Quebec and Canada agree with us, even Ken Lewensa, who says that these measures will not help unemployed workers, that they will only be good for a small group of people. It is now November 3 and well past October 29, when this bill should have been passed or received royal assent. People would have had the opportunity to collect employment insurance benefits for more weeks. As things stand, people who lost their jobs in January will not be eligible.
We know how many people have lost their jobs every month, every week, every day since January.
This government does not really want to bring in measures to facilitate access to employment insurance, as we have been calling for through the bills we have been introducing diligently and in good faith for some time now. We have been working closely with the people involved, with groups that represent the unemployed, and with groups of workers affected by employment insurance accessibility measures. We have been working diligently. In spite of that, the Conservative Party has always refused to vote with us on these bills. Yet when it was in opposition and we talked about the POWA, for instance, it agreed with us. But not any more.
It is always surprising that when a party moves from one side of the House to the other, it changes its ideology. It no longer believes in the same things, the same people, the same needs, but its needs change based on its political needs. It is surprising and upsetting for citizens who believe that by electing a government, they will be listened to, heard and defended.
At present, this government is not defending our citizens. Under the pretense of maintaining law and order, they are introducing all kinds of justice bills. Yes, some of them are beneficial and we are supporting them, but others are nothing more than smoke and mirrors, targeting only part of the population. This is exactly what they did with the child tax benefit. Instead of developing a network of child care centres like we have in Quebec, instead of making sure that mothers are able to work because they have reliable child care for their children, the government decided to give mothers $1,000 a month per child.
The mothers who unfortunately could not receive preventive withdrawal benefits if their lives were in danger were probably forced to turn to employment insurance benefits to use their 17 weeks of sick leave, although they were not sick, but pregnant. If they had two children in two years, they were able to benefit from those 17 weeks twice, for a total of 34 weeks. If they were laid off for one week, they are not even eligible for the program. Yet some of them have been working for a very long time.
This bill makes no sense. It is out of touch with reality. It does not take into account the fact that people who lose their jobs will look for news one right away and not wait 20 weeks, 45 weeks or 50 weeks. They will move quickly because they need to work. They need that financial contribution. People do not work these days to buy luxury items. Both spouses go to work these days because they need two incomes. It is not because they want to live in luxury. They want to ensure that their family, their children, have everything they need for their development and comfort.
It is very disappointing to have a government that promised so much transparency and so much support offer so little. However, when it comes to defence and the oil companies, it is ready to invest. It is ready to lose money, to give out unprecedented opportunities not to pay taxes, and to give tax credits the likes of which we will never get. This government is prepared to let people who have money in tax havens get away with not paying taxes.
We need all of our money in times of economic crisis. We need to have a government that supports the people instead of its party's supporters.
It is clear that we will vote against this bill. Like all bills we vote against, it does not adequately meet the needs of the people we represent.
In Quebec, as I was saying earlier, people are not fooled. They know that the Bloc Québécois is here to defend their interests and that we will always do so.