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House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was self-employed.

Topics

Rural Post OfficesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present the attached petition, which has been certified correct as to form and content, on behalf of the citizens of Sainte-Sabine-de-Bellechasse, a beautiful community in Etchemins.

Of course, the petitioners' concern has to do with keeping rural post offices open, considering the vital role they play within their communities. I am presenting this petition here today on their behalf.

Gasoline PricesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Liberal Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition on behalf of literally hundreds of constituents from the riding of Pickering—Scarborough East and even some outside of that area. They are calling on the government to finally acknowledge that the high price of fuel is damaging the Canadian economy.

They wish and petition Parliament to reinstate the office of petroleum price information, which was abolished by the government in 2006. Very similar to the U.S. energy information administration, it would report weekly on the Canadian energy supply, demand, inventory and storage picture.

They would also like to begin hearings in the energy sector to determine how the government can foster competition, provide transparency to the energy market, and eliminate the monopolistic efficiency defence clause of the Competition Act.

Child PornographyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is always a great honour to stand in the House and represent the wonderful people of my riding. Today, I am speaking on behalf of people in the Timiskaming regions of Englehart, Earleton, Belle Vallée and Thornloe, which just happened to have been the site of the recent international plowing match. It shows the great spirit of the people in the rural region of Timiskaming.

They are asking parliamentarians of all parties to come together for the protection of children. We in the House are all agreed on the threat posed by child pornography and the need to ensure that there are clear penalties in place to deal with child pornography. They want us to show leadership on this file to ensure that children are protected from sexual exploitation.

I am very proud of the efforts of the people in my region. I am proud to stand here and deliver this petition on their behalf.

Assisted SuicidePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to present two petitions from my residents on my riding.

The first petition is signed by residents of the city of Airdrie, mainly parishioners of the St. Paul's Catholic Church. The second petition is signed by residents throughout my riding, from places like Carstairs, Didsbury, Olds, Exshaw and Crossfield, as well as a number of other residents of Alberta and many other provinces.

The petitioners are quite concerned, as I am, about the bill presently before Parliament, which seeks to legalize assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to retain section 241 of the Criminal Code, without any changes, in order to ensure that Parliament not sanction or allow the counselling, aiding or abetting of suicide.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to present another petition from constituents in my riding of Mississauga South who are Nortel retirees, pensioners or those who receive benefits under that plan for a long-term disability. It is a very serious situation.

The petitioners would like to bring to the attention of Parliament that they wish to amend the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act and the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act to protect the rights of all Canadian employees to ensure that employees laid off by a company, who receive a pension or a long-term disability benefit during bankruptcy proceedings, obtain preferred creditor status over other secured creditors. They also ask that the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act be amended to ensure that employee-related claims are paid from the proceeds of Canadian asset sales before funds are permitted to leave the country.

It is a very serious situation. I hope the government will heed these petitioners.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to present a petition on behalf of the residents of Trinity—Spadina.

The petitioners ask the Canadian government to conduct an independent, impartial human rights impact study to consider the effect the trade agreement between Canada and Colombia will have, particularly, on vulnerable sectors of the population, like women, subsistence farmers, trade unionists, indigenous people and Afro-descendant communities. They also want the study to look at any negative impacts identified so they will be adequately addressed before proceeding with this free trade agreement.

They ask that no trade agreement be advanced without legislated enforceable provisions on corporate social responsibility and reporting mechanisms to monitor the implementation of universal human rights standards by Canadian corporations or other entities investing in Colombia.

The petitioners are concerned that the free trade agreement with Colombia will proceed despite a report from the parliamentary Standing Committee on International Trade, which calls for an independent human rights impact assessment because the human rights violations, including those against trade unionists and communities living in areas of economic interest, are widespread and serious according to Amnesty International.

This is why many citizens in both countries are extremely worried that a free trade deal may make human rights situations in Colombia much worse.

Air Passenger's Bill of RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, my petition is a call to adopt Canada's first air passenger bill of rights.

The petitioners support Bill C-310, which would include compensation for overbooked flights, cancelled flights and unreasonable tarmac delays. The legislation is inspired by a European Union law. In fact, Air Canada already operates under the European laws for its flights to Europe, so why should an Air Canada customer receive better treatment in Europe than in Canada?

The bill would ensure that passengers are kept informed of flight changes, whether they are delays or cancellations. The new rules would be posted at the airports and the airlines must inform passengers of their rights and the process to file for compensation. The bill deals with late and misplaced baggage. It deals with all-inclusive pricing by airline companies in their advertisements.

Bill C-310 is not meant to punish the airlines. If the airlines follow the rules, they would not have to pay a dime in compensation to passengers.

The petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to support Bill C-310, which would introduce Canada's first air passenger's bill of rights.

HousingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition signed by people from across Nova Scotia who support a national housing strategy, one that would ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for all Canadians.

The petitioners call for an increased federal role in housing through investments in not-for-profit housing, housing for the homeless, access to housing for those with different needs and sustainable and environmentally sound design standards for new housing.

I look forward to the minister's response.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

December 2nd, 2009 / 3:35 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motion for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

There being no motions at report stage, the House will now proceed without debate to the putting of the question on the motion to concur in the bill at report stage

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

moved that the bill, as amended, be concurred in.

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

When shall the bill be read a third time? By leave now?

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

moved that the bill be read a third time and passed.

Fairness for the Self-Employed ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it is pleasure to see the bill proceed to this stage.

I am glad to have the opportunity to rise to speak to this important milestone in bringing special benefits under employment insurance to self-employed Canadians. This is one of the most significant enhancements to the EI program in the last decade. It has been a long time coming for self-employed Canadians.

This fulfills a pledge by our Conservative government in 2008 to bring forward EI maternity and parental benefits to self-employed Canadians. A year ago, the Prime Minister said that self-employed Canadians and those who one day hoped to be should not have to choose between starting a family and starting a business because of government policy. They should be able to pursue their dreams both as entrepreneurs and as parents.

In fact, we have surpassed this commitment by also including EI sickness and compassionate care benefits. We do this because self-employed workers deserve to have access to these special benefits. We do this because extending access to special benefits is the fair and the right thing to do.

I think every member of the House recognizes the importance of the self-employment sector in the daily functioning of our economy and of our society.

In over 15% of our labour market self-employed entrepreneurs are a growing influence, not only because of their significant numbers but also because of the wealth of their ideas, innovation and jobs that they generate and create from time to time and year by year.

The self-employed form a diverse group, with widely varying situations and incomes. They include people with small businesses, farmers, construction workers, professionals, tradesmen, those in sales and those who own a home business among many others. Despite their importance, these entrepreneurs do not have the support they need when it comes to the important events of life, such as the birth of a child, adoption, illness and care of a gravely ill family members.

These sorts of events can have a significant impact on the self-employed who have little or no income protection. If they do not work, they do not make any money. Right now, they do not have any of the same EI support measures that Canadians employed by others do.

We are going to change that by implementing a voluntary system. We are following through on our commitment to self-employed Canadians.

It should come as no surprise that our self-employed have long asked for this support. In fact, a large majority of the self-employed want access to these benefits. Recent public opinion research shows that a majority of self-employed Canadians would like to gain access to EI maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits.

Eighty-six per cent of self-employed Canadians support access to sickness benefits, 84% support access to compassionate care benefits and 64% support access to maternity and parental benefits. The message from self-employed Canadians is clear.

Our Conservative government has listened and we are taking action. We recognize the challenges facing working Canadians as they deal with the dual pressure of holding down jobs and caring for their families. We recognize that nearly a third of all self-employed are women of child bearing age.

Our government knows that families are the foundation of our society. The bill is yet another example of how our government is providing support and choice to Canadian families and people recognize that.

Catherine Swift, president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, understands the benefits of this bill. On November 4, she said in the Montreal Gazette:

—the initiative fills a “glaring gap” for people running their own business, especially women....We have a lot of women members. They'd like to have a child and yet abandoning your business is not (an option).

We do not want the self-employed to become discouraged about starting families by ever present financial risks associated with running their own business. We certainly do not want their families to suffer because of unequal access to supports that are widely available to most other Canadians.

Given the strength of our country's economy, especially the strength it gets from our self-employed and their businesses as a country, we cannot afford to leave these people out in the cold. Stronger entrepreneurship means a stronger Canada. We need their skills, their experience and their energy and creativity to meet the challenges to come. This is why our government believes these entrepreneurs deserve to have access to EI special benefits.

We also recognize that there is an increasing number of self-employed Canadians who are taking care of elderly parents while also raising young children. The government believes that these entrepreneurs should not have to choose between their business and family responsibilities, whether those responsibilities are for newborns or parents, the young or the elderly.

By giving our self-employed the option for increased income protection, we are allowing individuals who might otherwise have to leave the workforce to stay fully engaged, to stay productive and to keep contributing to this great country of Canada. Not only does this benefit them but it also means that they can continue to make valuable contributions to their communities and the economy.

We are stimulating entrepreneurship and making self-employment more appealing to all Canadians. That is why we are extending access to EI special benefits for the self-employed and why we firmly believe that it is the fair, responsible and right thing to do.

These benefits are significant. They are as follows: 15 weeks of maternity benefits for a birth mother; 35 weeks of parental benefits for parents to care for their newborn or newly adopted child; up to 15 weeks of benefits for individuals who are unable to work because of sickness, injury or quarantine; and a maximum of six weeks to provide care or support to a terminally ill relative.

Under the proposed legislation, self-employed Canadians would voluntarily opt into the program and pay EI premiums on an ongoing basis for at least one year before receiving benefits. To access EI special benefits, they would need to have earned a minimum of $6,000 in self-employed earnings over the preceding calendar year.

The self-employed could opt out of the program at the end of any taxation year, as long as they have never claimed benefits. If they have claimed benefits, they would have to contribute from their self-employed earnings for as long as they are self-employed.

Self-employed Canadians who opt into the EI program would pay the same premium rate as salaried employees. They would not be required to pay the employer portion of premiums, in recognition of the fact that they would not have access to EI regular benefits.

In Quebec, self-employed residents already have access to maternity and parental benefits through the Quebec parental insurance plan. Now the federal government would provide the self-employed in Quebec with the opportunity to gain access to the sickness and compassionate care benefit under the EI program.

Should they choose to take advantage of the program, they would pay the same EI premium rates as employers in Quebec. Rates there have already been adjusted downward to take into account the existence of a provincial maternity and parental benefit plan.

I would like to bring to light an endorsement from an organization representing an important group of self-employed people, the realtors. Dale Ripplinger is the president of the Canadian Real Estate Association. On November 4 his organization issued a press release that it “applauds the government for taking action to address many of the inequities in the Employment Insurance program faced by self-employed REALTORS”.

The organization went on to say, “This is an important step to level the benefits playing field for self-employed Canadians. We look forward to working with the government to ensure access to EI benefits for REALTORS, which can help balance career and family life”.

I also have a quote from the executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada, Richard Phillips. In a news release on November 3, 2009, he said that the legislation is “very welcome. This has huge potential for quality of life in rural Canada”. He continued, “This could be the difference as whether one member of the family has to seek off farm employment because now families will have a choice. With over 200,000 farms in Canada, if even 10% of them choose to take advantage of these programs, this could help ensure another 20,000 more young families staying on the land”.

It is this kind of thing that allows those who are self-employed and who contribute to our economy to get some benefits that are important to them and their families and ensure that they can continue to pursue their careers and jobs.

This legislation is the most significant enhancement to the EI program in the last decade. It is in keeping with our Conservative government's commitment to make the EI program responsive to the needs of Canadian workers. It is just one of the many enhancements that we have already made to the EI program.

We added five extra weeks of EI regular benefits, helping over 365,000 Canadians while they search for new employment.

We enhanced the work sharing program, protecting the jobs of about 165,000 or more Canadians.

We made unprecedented investments in training to help Canadians receive the skills training they need to enter a new career.

Our government froze EI premiums for two years, which helped employers create more jobs and also kept more money in the pockets of employees.

We added a $60 million investment in the targeted initiative for older workers to help older workers, who obviously have invaluable knowledge and mentoring potential, to transition into a new job.

We also passed legislation recently to provide five to twenty weeks of additional EI support benefits for long-tenured workers, who have worked hard, have paid premiums and are looking to transition into a new job.

Most recently, of course, we have introduced this program, which has been very well received by many.

Our government is protecting jobs. We are helping people get trained and upgraded for jobs. Now we have made changes that allow more flexibility for employers' recovery plans.

We have had the career transition assistance initiative, which has been providing assistance to long-tenured workers who need training to transition to a new industry or occupation. The support under Bill C-50 for long-tenured workers was certainly something that was well received.

All of these ventures demonstrate that our Conservative government continues to make responsible choices to support Canadians now, to support Canadians when they need it, to support Canadians when they find themselves in a difficult time.

With Bill C-56, we are taking steps to respond quickly to the needs of self-employed workers, so that they will also be protected in times of need.

Our Conservative government knows that families are the foundation of our great country. We believe that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between their family and business responsibilities. They should not be forced to choose between one or the other.

Let us all support self-employed workers for their dynamism and their contribution to our economy. Let us create a stronger, more entrepreneur friendly and productive country in the process. Let us get behind our self-employed and do what is right. Let us do what they have been asking for for a long time.

I would urge all members in all parties to support this bill and to get it through the House at the earliest opportunity.