Mr. Speaker, it is unbelievable indeed. It is not our generation that is going to pay. It is our kids, our grandkids and our great-grandkids who will pay.
We laboured and sacrificed in 1993, not on the backs of Canadians, but we put our house in order. Then what did we do? We returned it back to the system by providing EI premium relief, over $14 billion year after year after year. Those are the facts.
We have shown co-operation on other pieces of legislation. If the Conservatives want us to co-operate, we must deal with facts, not innuendoes. When they are asked a question, let them respond with the facts.
When the parliamentary secretary was asked a question, as the member for Cape Breton—Canso said, why did he not respond with the facts? He misled the House by saying that the employment insurance premiums supposedly went up. That was not accurate. That was not correct. That was false information. I think I can use that word. We are always trying to be very polite and professional in this environment.
I wanted to speak to the bill for various reasons. One was to set the record straight. I also wanted to speak as a former independent entrepreneur. My company was not a big company. I employed 23 or 24 people. We were there for 20-some years. We provided an environment where people could earn a living and provide for their families. We were more than happy to contribute to the system that provided the foundation for a strong safety net.
I am trying in my own way to understand this safety net. If there was going to be an undertaking to help the unemployed, and we were beginning to see what was happening in the United States of America several years ago, and the government literally did nothing, today we are bringing forth a system, for what? These people who are unemployed have already taken the hit.
It is shameful because once this individual who is unemployed, this woman, man or young person, gets a job as an independent entrepreneur, what is the individual going to do? First, the individual has to find a job as whatever, an accountant, a computer programmer, a painter, a plumber or whatever, and then the individual will pay EI premiums. Why? With the intent that he or she might be unemployed a year and a half down the road? I do not think that is the individual's intent.
Right now, I am of the opinion that it is too little too late. If this legislation is to work, and judgment is still out there for this piece of legislation, it should have been done three and a half years ago when the member for Edmonton—Sherwood Park said the Conservatives promised it. I do not dispute that they promised it. I do not remember, but I will take his word for it that they did promise it. But if they did promise it, why did they wait for three years to bring forth this legislation?
Preventive maintenance are words used in the computer industry, or let us take care of ourselves so that we do not get sick and need medication or surgery. We knew the tide was coming. We could see it. All the economists were telling us. The big question I have is, why did the government not undertake to bring in this legislation three years ago so that the people who are unemployed today, the people in small business, the entrepreneurs they are trying to protect would have some protection today? Today they have zero protection, nothing. Even on regular EI, we had to fight like crazy to get them to help these people now.
Had that $13.5 billion been there and had it been invested properly, as opposed to spending $100 million in advertising that we are seeing every day on billboards, et cetera, money that is being literally wasted--