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House of Commons Hansard #51 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organizations.

Topics

Science and TechnologyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, those are not the facts. The Conservatives have been cutting funds to scientific research, in real terms, every year since they were elected, and our brightest minds are leaving the country.

So, I repeat the question. What is this government doing to prevent the exodus of all our brightest minds?

Science and TechnologyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology)

Mr. Speaker, the comment of the member is absolutely false. In fact, the last time this country faced a recession, in the mid-1990s, the Liberal government cut scientific research by $442 million.

We take a different approach. We have increased funding by $5.1 billion. Let me read what the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore has said:

I would look for program review within the government to pull as much savings as we can out.

Those are the Leader of the Opposition's own words.

Science and TechnologyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, that is the only government anywhere that does not seem to understand that investing in science, research and technology is the key to the jobs of tomorrow. President Obama is investing more. The Ontario government is investing more. The Conservative government cut $148 million from our research granting councils.

How does the government expect Canada to compete in the information age with policies derived from the stone age?

Science and TechnologyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Cambridge Ontario

Conservative

Gary Goodyear ConservativeMinister of State (Science and Technology)

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member was living in the United States during the cuts under the Liberal government.

Let me just inform the member that nobody on the Liberal side voted against the strategic reviews in 2006 when strategic reviews came up for a vote. None of the members opposite voted against that.

This government took the recommendations and put that money back into science and technology. Not only did we do that, but we added $5.1 billion. On Friday I was in the United States, and they wanted to hear the good news of what Canada—

Science and TechnologyOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

May 5th, 2009 / 2:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, EI access needs to be fixed. Who says that? Just about everybody: policy think tanks, poverty advocates, working people, the chamber of commerce, the TD Bank, the C.D. Howe Institute, provincial premiers. Even the finance minister's wife knows it.

The Conservative government stands alone in its mean-spirited isolation, unwilling to assist unemployed Canadians in their hour of need, unable to admit that they have failed workers, unable to put people ahead of politics.

Why will the Conservatives not apologize for their mistake, step up for Canadians and fix access for the victims of this Conservative recession?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what our government has done. We have expanded regular benefits by five weeks. We have increased the maximum period of benefits to 50 weeks. We have expanded work sharing and now 93,000 Canadians are having their jobs protected.

Yes, we did inherit a system from the Liberals. Yes, it was not quite right. That is why we fixed it. That is why we are addressing it. That is why we are trying to make sure that Canadians do get the benefits they need in a timely manner.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, excuses, denials and misleading statistics do not feed families and they do not pay the rent. The government has failed Canadians. The government has failed to manage the economy, failed to create jobs, and failed to extend EI to those who need it.

How can the government be so callous in turning its back on the people of Canada? Its arrogant refusal to step up and extend EI access is a national disgrace from coast to coast to coast.

When will it stop the excuses, give up the denials, accept responsibility and extend EI to the victims of this Conservative recession?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member is not aware, but access is up for EI. Benefits are up for those who are unfortunate enough to lose their jobs.

Let us take a look at Oshawa. In Oshawa, it is now two weeks easier to claim benefits and get them for four weeks longer than was the case a year ago under the plan that the Liberals had. We have increased it.

Let us realize that while we are increasing benefits and while we are increasing access, the Liberals are only increasing rhetoric and they want to increase taxes, too.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have no credibility when it comes to employment insurance. In 1993, on the eve of the general election, Jean Chrétien, who was then the opposition leader, promised a change of direction on employment insurance. Once elected, the Liberals made further cuts to EI. The Conservatives did the same thing in 2006, although they promised to restore the program for older worker adjustment, which they never did do.

If it wants to get some credibility back, why does the government not take a page from our assistance plan, which includes several proposals to improve employment insurance, including eliminating the waiting period?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, I want to remind this House that the members opposite, the Bloc Québécois members, have voted against all the measures we have introduced to try to support Canada's economy and help people who lose their jobs. We have provided $12 billion to support infrastructure and turn our country into one huge construction site starting this spring. In addition, we have introduced measures to extend the employment insurance benefit period by five weeks.

What has the Bloc Québécois done? It has voted against these measures. Every time we propose something positive, the Bloc does not even dare agree with us. They could at least take what we are offering and see what happens. But they always say no, no, no.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, fortunately, ridicule never killed anyone. With the economic situation getting worse every day, what the unemployed really need is an overall improvement in the employment insurance system. The Prime Minister asked for proposals and we made some. He has a copy of our assistance plan.

What is the government waiting for to show some leadership on this issue? It must act now so that people will have enough money to make ends meet and stimulate the economy at the same time.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, allow me to again mention four measures we have introduced to support people who lose their jobs and are in difficulty.

First, we are extending the employment insurance benefit period by five weeks. That is five weeks more than usual, because times are tough and we know that it can take people longer to find work.

Second, we are extending work-sharing agreements by 14 weeks, not one, not two, not three, but 14 weeks.

Third, there is workforce training. People can receive employment insurance while they take training. Those are three of the four examples.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the changes imposed by the Liberals in the 1990s and the Conservative government's complicity today, the employment insurance system is ineffective and unfair, in part because it treats unemployed workers like potential cheaters.

Will the government take a page from the Bloc Québécois assistance plan and reform employment insurance by taking an approach that assumes that claimants are acting in good faith?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois would like us to eliminate the waiting period. Their theory is that someone starting with 30 weeks of employment insurance would still stay at 30 weeks, just starting two weeks sooner. Our approach is that the same person with 30 weeks of employment insurance would receive 5 more. That is what we are offering. The Bloc voted against it.

We have also frozen the premium rate, something else that the Bloc voted against. We made a $1,350 credit available for home renovations as a way to support the economy, but the Bloc voted against that. The Bloc is always opposed.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the minister said is not correct. The present economic crisis is showing us, without a shadow of a doubt, that the current employment insurance program is not meeting the needs of either unemployed people or the economy. Abolishing the waiting period, for example, would improve employment insurance and would get household expenses moving again.

Will the Conservative government immediately undertake a massive reform so that the employment insurance program once more becomes accessible and generous?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Jonquière—Alma Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn ConservativeMinister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, why does the hon. member not want to see the complete set of measures that have been put in place to support the economy? When we are offering good things for the general public and for people who have lost their jobs so that they can be protected for longer, why does he vote against them?

As well, going back to the regional system, it was in 1977 that the Liberal government established the method that adjusts for regional unemployment rates. We think that the method has proved its worth; it has existed for 32 years. In a region that is in more difficulty, it is reasonable for people to have to work a little less in order to take advantage of employment insurance.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, 16 years ago when the Liberals were in office under Jean Chrétien, guess what the situation was? Over 75% of workers who needed help from EI could get it. but after the years of the Liberals and the Conservatives in government, less than 40% are able to get access to the help they need. Sixty per cent of workers get the door slammed in their face by the government.

The House adopted our proposals for change 56 days ago. When is the government going to take action--

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I do wish that the leader of the NDP would get his facts right for a change. Repeatedly we have told him that, according to Statistics Canada, over 82% of those who pay into EI can collect EI and do. That is according to Statistics Canada.

I do wish the hon. member would recognize this and stop trying to scare people. Getting laid off is a terrible enough emotion on the family. I know; I have been there. I wish he would learn to stop misrepresenting the facts and to try to help these Canadians as we are doing.

PensionsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, across this country we are hearing from the people who are getting the door slammed in their face by the government when they go looking for help when they have lost their jobs.

It is not only help for EI. What about their pensions? There is virtually no action here. Workers and retirees from GM, AbitibiBowater, Air Canada and others are worried about their pensions. In fact, back in 2005, the NDP forced the Liberals to cancel a corporate tax cut and put $100 million aside for a pension protection plan.

When is the government going to get serious about dealing with the pensions that need some protection right now?

PensionsOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite had been paying attention, he would know that there has been a consultation under way for several months, that it was announced in the budget, the budget he voted against without ever reading it. He apparently still has not read Canada's economic action plan, because it lays out the steps we are taking to resolve the pension issues that are of primary importance to Canadians.

PensionsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, as Gaétan Ménard of the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada put it so well this morning: “Money in pension plans is deferred pay that workers have set aside in order to retire with dignity.” The government must do more to protect pensions, especially in the face of all the potential bankruptcies.

Is the government at least prepared to consider the possibility of guaranteeing the pensions of our retirees?

PensionsOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty ConservativeMinister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, we have already doubled the time required for payments to 10 years for federally regulated pensions. This is very important. Of course, with the decline in some of the capital markets, the value of some of the pension plans has declined. This requires some additional capital payments by some employers.

I say to the member opposite that what is important is that the workers, some of them represented by unions, the pensioners and the employers work together toward solutions. We are certainly prepared to work with them.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the number of people unemployed is rising, eligibility criteria remain the same and more and more families find themselves in a very precarious financial situation.

Does the minister realize that her refusal to adopt a single eligibility criterion for all of Canada means that an increasing number of individuals will have to rely on social assistance?