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House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was provisions.

Topics

6:20 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, of course, we are concerned about Canadians who are losing their jobs, and I am glad that my colleague has raised the EI entrance requirements. He has some explaining to do, because he has quoted a lot of people who disagree with the position he has taken. So I think he owes the House an explanation.

Let us be clear: Our government is absolutely committed to helping Canadians through this crisis, and we will continue to do so through our economic action plan.

The employment insurance program right now is working as it was designed to work by the previous Liberal government at a time when the unemployment rate in Canada was higher than it is today.

Of the 58 EI regions, 41 have easier access to EI than in October 2008. Fully 85% of Canadians have easier access to EI right now, compared to October. The system automatically adjusts. Interestingly, it is working as the previous Liberal government, of which this member was a member, designed it to work. In fact, it is working as my colleague for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour wants it to work, or at least how he wanted it to work last year.

He quoted a lot of people, but let me quote him, himself, in the human resources committee just a year ago. On April 1, 2008, he said the following:

When you reduce to a flat rate of 360 hours, the cost is pretty significant...keep the regional rates. This is to protect those people [in high unemployment areas].

He went on to say:

...it's a real concern that if you get rid of the regional rates of unemployment, and cuts have to be made, it'll be those areas that are hurt disproportionately, and we need to be very concerned about that.

That is his quote. That is contrary to the other quotes he was referring to. He was not in favour of the 45-day work year idea with the fixed benefit, like that proposed by his NDP cousins. He acknowledged the high cost. He said that we should keep the original rates because they help protect Canadians in areas that have historically or chronically high unemployment.

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I will just stop the hon. member there.

The hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague uses my words to validate my very point, which is that the Leader of the Opposition has indicated that this is not necessarily a change forever and for all time. This is a change in reaction to the crisis we face.

Last year, Premier Wall, Premier Stelmach, Premier Campbell and Premier McGuinty were not calling for changes to EI, but now they are because of the crisis we are in. I think we may have to structurally change EI permanently to have a national standard, but at the very least, we should have it at this time of economic crisis. That is what the Leader of the Opposition has said. That is what he has said consistently.

This is a specifically difficult time for Canadians in areas where they have not been hurt before, including my colleague's own province of Saskatchewan. His own premier is suggesting that they should change the rates.

As we are saying, let us have one standard eligibility rate for the country. Everybody seems to understand that except the Prime Minister of Canada and the parliamentary secretary, and the speaking notes that are given to the parliamentary secretary tonight indicate that they are not changing their view.

Canadians want fairness in EI—

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member can wax as eloquently as he wants to, but the fact remains, we have done billions of dollars of enhancements to the EI program, with an additional five weeks, work-sharing programs, and so on.

The Liberal 45-day work idea will not help a single Canadian keep his or her job. It will not help a single Canadian to get a new job. It will not help a single Canadian to get a single new skill. It will only burden Canadians with higher taxes.

What Canadians do not need right now and what employers and employees do not need is higher taxes during this critical time. What they need is a government that cares, a government that ensures they can be trained for the jobs of the future, a government that is prepared to stand behind them during these difficult times, and that is what we are doing.

Here is what the former Liberal government said:

...significantly reducing entrance requirements...is not likely to equate to substantially increased EI coverage, particularly for the long-term unemployed.

That is exactly the point, and the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour made this point on his own in committee some time ago.

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:26 p.m.)