Before resuming debate on this bill, I would like to issue a ruling.
On May 7, prior to the second reading debate on Bill C-280, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits) standing in the name of the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, a point of order was raised by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons to the effect that this bill requires a royal recommendation.
The parliamentary secretary argued that Bill C-280 would result in significant new expenditures by lowering the threshold for eligibility for some claimants and changing the formula for the calculation of benefits.
He further noted that Bill C-280 was virtually identical to another private member's bill introduced in the last Parliament, Bill C-265, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (qualification for and entitlement to benefits), which had been found to require a royal recommendation.
In replying to the parliamentary secretary's point of order, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh expressed the opinion that a royal recommendation was not required since any new expenditure would be covered by contributions from workers and employers and not by the government.
I have examined the bills carefully and found that as the parliamentary secretary noted, Bill C-280 and Bill C-265 are indeed virtually identical. They both contain proposed changes to the employment insurance program that include lowering the threshold for becoming a major attachment claimant to 360 hours, setting benefits payable to 55% of the average weekly insurable earnings during the highest paid 12 weeks in the 12 month period preceding the interruption of earnings, and reducing the qualifying period before receiving benefits and removing the distinctions made in the qualifying period on the basis of the regional unemployment rate.
On March 23, 2007, in a ruling on Bill C-265, on page 7845 of the Debates, the Chair had concluded that:
It is abundantly clear to the Chair that such changes to the employment insurance program, notwithstanding the fact that workers and employers contribute to it, would have the effect of authorizing increased expenditures from the Consolidated Revenue Fund in a manner and for purposes not currently authorized.
Therefore, it appears to the Chair that those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing Employment Insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.
Having heard no new compelling argument to reach a conclusion that is different than the one concerning Bill C-265, I will decline to put the question on third reading of Bill C-280 in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.
However, today the debate is on the motion for second reading, and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.
Resuming debate. The hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook has seven minutes remaining in his time slot.