I am being truthful, Mr. Speaker. The member can read it if he would like to. I will get him the page number.
The truth is that the government has inserted in its economic stimulus package close to $15.5 billion in EI premium increases. When the current Prime Minister was in opposition, when he was actually just a member of Parliament before he became the leader of the Reform, the Alliance, and then the Conservative Party, he said that a tax, EI, is a job killer, that it destroys jobs. That is on record. It can be seen on video and can be researched today with the technology that we have.
What did the Liberals do? We listened to employers in 1993 who said that if we lowered EI premiums they would invest in hiring. That was one of the first things we did. It is in our red book and people can look that up.
Year after year the Liberals lowered EI premiums, as the member for Mississauga South and the member for Cape Breton—Canso pointed out earlier. For the record, that reduction totalled over $14 billion.
Prior to being elected in 1993, I ran my own company as an independent entrepreneur for almost 20 years. I went to work to build my company, employ people, pay their EI premiums, their OHIP premiums, and their Canada pension premiums. I felt it was my obligation as an employer to provide a platform whereby they had something to fall back on in case there were some difficult times such as layoffs, job losses, et cetera. Having been an employer, I do know first-hand.
Let me clarify this. As an officer of the company, I was not eligible to pay into EI. Quite frankly, I did not want to pay into EI, because that was a demotivating factor for me. It was as though I would have been paying into EI because I planned to be unemployed. It was a different story for my employees.
We are trying to change that today. What is strange here is that there has been no analysis done. Nobody knows. We do know that once the legislation would receive royal assent, people could apply. They would have to pay for one year prior to being eligible to receive benefits.
Unless this bill is really fine-tuned and all the bugs are clearly addressed, I am concerned that this legislation will be abused.
I am not picking on the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park, but he said that the Conservative government made a promise, and now it is doomed; it is keeping it.
I do not want to say it is too little too late, although it is too little too late.
Three and half to four years ago, when the Conservatives took over with their first minority government, we and all the economists said that we were headed for trouble and difficult times. The economists said to that administration and to this administration the second time around that it has to do certain things. But no, the Conservatives said, “Don't worry, be happy. Everything is fine. There is no recession. We are not going to go into deficit. Everything is hunky-dory. Everything is okay”.
Sure it was okay because when the Conservatives assumed government after the first election, the Liberals had left a surplus of $13.2 billion.