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House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is clearly not enough. AbitibiBowater, the world's largest newsprint producer, has until Wednesday evening to find a way to refinance its debt.

Once again, we see the Conservatives giving consent by remaining silent and putting off stopping the attacks on another Canadian industry.

Will the industry have to collapse to get the Conservatives' full attention?

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean Québec

Conservative

Denis Lebel ConservativeMinister of State (Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec)

Mr. Speaker, as my opposition friend knows, the major problem facing the forestry industry has to do with markets. Everyone knows that. For various reasons, the economic crisis and mortgage issues have seriously weakened our forestry industry. Everyone know that, except the people who want to play politics.

We have helped workers by introducing measures that will increase the maximum employment insurance benefit period from 45 to 50 weeks, for example. We have extended work-sharing agreements by 14 weeks. To target this industry, we have provided $500 million for the construction of new facilities—

Forestry IndustryOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the current economic crisis, the number of employment insurance recipients has risen 22.8% over last year. By doing away with the waiting period, which would be like giving the rising numbers of unemployed one extra cheque, the government would be helping all the unemployed and at the same time stimulating the economy.

Why does the Prime Minister not listen to reason and come promptly and effectively to the assistance of all those who are jobless, by doing away with the waiting period?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Bloc, as a member of the coalition, asked the government to add two weeks of benefits to help the unemployed. We added five, but the leader of the Bloc voted against that measure. The Bloc Québécois is a party with no serious economic policy. It is against everything, and for nothing.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the Prime Minister has just said is totally ridiculous. The five weeks affect 25% of people who have access to employment insurance, while abolition of the waiting period would affect everyone unfortunate enough to be on EI. This would put money into the economy immediately. It would stimulate the economy. Those people would not be buying stocks or investing money in the US, unlike the oil companies which have got more money out of this government.

Will he listen to reason?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, once again this morning there was an announcement of increased access to employment insurance through our economic action plan. We announced five more weeks of eligibility for work sharing. This was greeted with pleasure by Action chômage Haute-Côte-Nord. It means workers will have more support to keep them working in their community. This is action. Not just criticism.

What is more, as part of that same plan, we yesterday announced $200 million for the awarding of a contract in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, which will help out the textile industry. It represents 150 direct jobs and 4,900 spread over Canada and Quebec. Again action, not just criticism.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is trying to make piecemeal improvements to the employment insurance system, a system that has become too complex and unfair over the years and needs a complete overhaul. The Bloc Québécois' proposed bills would improve the system by establishing uniform minimum eligibility criteria—360 hours—and eliminating the two week waiting period.

If the minister really cares about what happens to the unemployed, she should vote for these two bills. What is she waiting for?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that we have an employment insurance system that adjusts automatically every month to changing conditions in each of Canada's 58 regions. When conditions get worse, the system adjusts so that the unemployed can collect employment insurance benefits much more easily after having spent fewer hours in the labour market. They will also receive benefits for a longer period of time.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to mention that the system excludes 55% of unemployed workers. She needs to acknowledge that the forestry crisis resulted in 40,000 job losses in Quebec alone. The minister is refusing to recognize that many of those older workers cannot be retrained.

The need is urgent. When will the minister announce a program that really supports older workers?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, it makes me sad to hear the gentleman say such a thing, to say that older workers cannot learn. My government and I believe in older workers. That is why we have expanded the targeted initiative for older workers and the program for long-tenured workers. We believe in workers. Why does he not believe in them as well?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, 129,000 more Canadians were thrown out of work last January and yet the number of EI recipients only went up by 23,000 in that month. That means that 100,000 Canadians who lost their jobs did not get any help from the government. Meanwhile, the government claims that there are no delays in processing the EI requests.

If that is the case, could the Prime Minister explain the huge discrepancy between the number of people thrown out of work and the number of people who cannot get help for their families when they need it most from the government?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, obviously, with an increase in unemployment we will see a rise in employment insurance benefits. That is why the system is there and why it is there to help, We have increased the benefits during this time of global recession to ensure more Canadians, particularly those who seek a long job search, will be able to access that, along with additional training.

What those people will be wondering is why the New Democratic Party voted against all of those benefits for them.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, 1,310,000 people in Canada were unemployed in January but only 560,000 of the total unemployed were receiving any help from EI.

Under the Prime Minister, 57% of those hard-working Canadians who live by the rules, paid into the insurance fund and needed help cannot get it. Why will he not fix it? He could reduce the minimum to qualify, drop the waiting period and increase the wage replacement rate. He could ensure that no matter where people live in Canada, they receive the same kind of help. That is what Parliament wants him to do. Why will he not do it?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the vast majority of people who have become unemployed are eligible for employment insurance but, of course, no thanks to the NDP. The NDP asked that we add two additional weeks of employment insurance and we added five weeks. The NDP voted against it.

I do not know which is worse, the Liberal Party that votes for something then criticizes it or the NDP that asks for something and then votes against it.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the majority of people who need help from EI cannot get it from the government. The Prime Minister should learn to count. We are talking about real people here.

People work hard. They follow the rules. They contribute to employment insurance, as do their employers. However, 60% of them do not qualify. This morning's announcement does nothing to address the fundamental problem. The minister is not offering anything new.

Is the Prime Minister aware that 60% of people do not qualify? Yes or no?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party asked for two additional weeks of employment insurance benefits. We offered five weeks, but the New Democratic Party voted against that.

The problem with members of the NDP is that they are anxious to be against everything and never have any responsibility for anything but they vote against everything. That is why, at times like this, the workers of Canada never entrust their future to the NDP.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, today's employment insurance numbers highlight very serious job losses in Canada. They are, indeed, sobering and Canadians are hurting.

Some 24,000 new EI recipients were processed in January but over 100,000 Canadians lost their jobs in January alone. That means tens of thousands of unemployed Canadians either do not qualify for EI or, if they do, are experiencing unacceptable delays in having their claims processed.

What does the minister have to say specifically to the many thousands of Canadians who have paid into EI for years but are unable to get it when they need it and when they deserve it?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, over 80% of those who pay into EI are able to collect the benefits. Our goal is to maintain the commitment we made in our economic action plan of ensuring that those individuals unfortunate enough to lose their jobs do receive their benefit in a timely manner.

I was pleased to announce this morning that we have committed over $60 million to decreasing the processing time, to dedicating more staff and to hiring new staff. We want to ensure Canadians in need get the supports they deserve from EI.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government has no sense of the urgency of this situation. Before Christmas, I raised this issue of unacceptable wait times with the minister. First, she ignored the problem. Then she denied it. Then she delayed it. Then she took baby steps. Now, the government is in full scramble mode.

If she takes months to address that single issue, what hope do those who are getting laid off now have? Excuses and promises do not feed families. They need action. How long will Canadians have to wait for the government to seriously address EI issues in our country?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that when we saw this global recession coming on, we immediately started bringing back retirees who specialized in EI. We recalled staff that had been on loan to other departments. We have been dedicating extra resources so we can meet our targets of delivering EI benefits to people on time. We have been doing that since last October.

Why have those members not even proposed any solutions? All they do is whine. We are delivering.

AfghanistanOral Questions

March 24th, 2009 / 2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, an important conference on Afghanistan is scheduled for next week.

I would like to ask the Minister of Foreign Affairs a very simple question. What new initiatives will the Government of Canada be proposing at that very important conference?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I can confirm that Canada was invited to attend that conference, to be held in The Hague next week, on March 31.

We are expecting the United States to unveil part of their revised strategy at that conference. Of course we intend to use the conference as an opportunity for Canada to confirm once again the position taken here in this House. We will also reiterate our priorities.

We will have to wait and see what happens as a result of the meeting, given its multi-regional dimension.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it sounds as if our country, which has sacrificed so much, is coming to this conference waiting for the United States to tell us where we are going to go. I think the people of Canada deserve better. They want a government that is going to lead, given the sacrifice that we have made as a country.

What are the new initiatives that Canada is going to be proposing, showing the kind of leadership and the kind of voice that we should have in the world?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Pontiac Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where my hon. colleague has been over the last couple of months, but Canada has played an extremely important role in Afghanistan. Yes, we have lost Canadians. We are all sorry about that. However, our Canadian troops as well as our Canadian civil workers are getting the job done.

He knows full well we have six priorities. He knows that, on a quarterly basis, we are reporting back to the House. In fact, we are viewed by a lot of countries in the world, including the United States, for doing one heck of a job in Afghanistan.