Mr. Speaker, I do not say this often, but I would like to congratulate the government for bringing in a bill that is timely and important for Canadians.
On March 10 in the House, we adopted a motion on employment insurance that was proposed by the New Democrat member for Hamilton Mountain. Among other things, that motion called on the government to allow self-employed workers to participate in the EI plan. It does no violence to our cause here to say that we have long championed the extension of benefits to the self-employed, and I congratulate the government on recognizing that.
In this country there are 2.6 million Canadians who report some income from self-employment. For a large majority, it is the sole source of their income. The share of self-employed in the labour force has been stable over the past decade at 15%, and over 75% earn less than the maximum insurable income. This bill will help our country's artists, taxi drivers and truck drivers, tradespeople, small retailers and farmers, and it will disproportionately help women in this country. That is very important in these economic times and the New Democrats are very strongly in support of helping these people.
My question for the hon. member is, after being in power for 13 years with three successive majority governments, why did his government not extend benefits to self-employed workers?