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House of Commons Hansard #83 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was unemployed.

Topics

Harmonized Sales TaxOral Questions

3 p.m.

Mégantic—L'Érable Québec

Conservative

Christian Paradis ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the federal government and the Government of Quebec made a commitment to negotiate in good faith on this issue. The Government of Quebec itself acknowledged that there were still some adjustments to be made. We are currently negotiating in good faith. If the member wants to ask the same question 15 more times, he will get the same answer every time, because negotiations are being conducted in good faith.

Harmonized Sales TaxOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives' sales job on their HST tax hike is completely collapsing. The claim that the HST will remove embedded taxes in B.C. is simply not true.

Property transfer taxes are charged at every stage of building a new home and now the HST will be charged on top of these. For a house on Vancouver Island, it will mean that taxes will make up 18% of the cost of a new home.

Why is the Conservative government shifting the tax burden to new homebuyers in British Columbia?

Harmonized Sales TaxOral Questions

3 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as was mentioned in the House yesterday, it is rather ironic that the NDP is talking about taxes. When we decided to reduce the GST from 7% to 6%, the NDP voted against it. When we reduced the GST from 6% to 5%, the NDP voted against that. Every tax cut that this government has proposed, the NDP has opposed.

The harmonized sales tax in British Columbia would be even higher if the NDP had its way.

Firefighters MonumentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently, our Conservative government announced the creation of a new national memorial to honour the sacrifices of Canada's firefighters who have died in the line of duty.

On Sunday, I attended an event on Parliament Hill with the Burlington bagpipe and drum band to pay tribute to over 940 Canadian firefighters who have made this supreme sacrifice.

Could the Minister of Canadian Heritage tell us more about this announcement that will honour the lives of those who keep our families, our friends and our communities safe?

Firefighters MonumentOral Questions

3 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam B.C.

Conservative

James Moore ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, no job is more important than protecting the safety of Canadians. The monument, which will be the first of its kind in Canada, will remind us that firefighters put their lives on the line for our safety every day.

Calgary's Bruce Burrell of the Association of Fire Chiefs said this regarding the new memorial:

There could be nothing more welcome at this time for the families, friends and comrades of the fallen than the news that there will soon be a permanent fallen firefighters monument in Ottawa.

All parties in the House are proud to honour the sacrifice. We salute all those brave firefighters who over the years have lost their lives serving Canadians.

Firefighters MonumentOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Order, please. It being Thursday, I believe the hon. member for Wascana has a question.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

September 17th, 2009 / 3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am sure all members of the House will be very anxious to know what the government House leader has in mind in terms of House business over the next number of days and weeks.

I have three specific items I would like to raise with him. As was mentioned in question period, certain amendments to the NAFO, potentially impinging upon Canadian sovereignty, have been proposed and there is a deadline for implementation which is rapidly approaching.

The minister, at an earlier stage when she tabled those amendments in June, indicated that there would be a full debate in the House. There are only days left to go before the deadline arrives. I wonder, as I asked the government House leader privately yesterday, whether he is in a position to allow a take note debate tonight on this urgent NAFO issue.

Second, with respect to Bill C-50, which is now under consideration in the House, we in the official opposition believe this legislation should be disposed of as rapidly as possible, so it does not get entangled in other issues. Earlier today we asked for unanimous consent for Bill C-50 to go through all stages speedily by the end of the day tomorrow. At that time this morning, unanimous consent was denied. I wonder if the government House leader has any progress to report with respect to that matter, so this legislation can be properly and quickly disposed of.

Third, having to do with the week after the constituency week when we come back, the week of September 28, I wonder if the government House leader is in a position to designate the day upon which the government will table its third probationary report with respect to the economy and the recession.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, as usual, my colleague across the way has chosen to get many questions into one.

Perhaps I could begin by expressing my disappointment, as I did this morning in a point of order, on the grandstanding that seems to now be commonplace from this particular member. There is a process. I have been in the House for some 16 years now. The member has been here longer than I have. He has been in positions such as the one he holds now.

He knows that we have a system of exchange and working productively among the four House leaders and the four whips. We work together. We have weekly meetings in which we raise things. In fact, on Tuesday afternoon, we had our regular weekly House leaders meeting. At that time I asked all my colleagues, both House leaders and whips, if they had any issues they wanted to raise. None of them raised any issues on Tuesday afternoon.

Now we find that he has to raise these types of issues on the floor of the House rather than try to negotiate them in good faith. I think that anybody who has worked with me over the years knows that I am always willing to sit down and talk about these things, discuss them, and try and work through compromises.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Gerry Byrne

Are we going to have a debate or not?

Business of the HouseOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

It would be nice if members would demonstrate a little bit of respect for me as we did for the hon. House leader from the official opposition when he was making his statement a few moments ago, if he would not mind.

Whether it is the issue of the NAFO deadline, which I am sure the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is seized with, as she is with all fisheries issues, or whether it is trying to negotiate a way forward to expedite the passage of Bill C-50, we need to ensure that we do it right. We need to ensure that that particular bill, which is so important to workers and their families, is passed. However, we need to ensure that the help we are all seeking to provide unemployed people across the country is done in a proper and expeditious manner.

I believe that we will be successful. I am certainly hopeful. I called a special meeting after the two motions from the two opposition parties that made motions this morning. I called a special meeting of the House leaders in my office some two hours ago. I was hopeful that we would have an agreement by now on how to proceed with Bill C-50. That has not happened. One of the parties is still taking a look at a compromise that I have suggested to wrap up debate by tomorrow on this bill and then see it sent off to the committee. I am hopeful that we can perhaps arrive at such a compromise.

That addresses my hon. colleague's issue with Bill C-50. Obviously, as he noted, the House is currently debating second reading of Bill C-50. That will continue after question period.

Tomorrow, pursuant to a special order adopted yesterday, the House will vote on ways and means Motion No. 9 that implements certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on January 27, 2009, and to implement other measures.

Following the vote, we will continue and hopefully complete second reading stage of Bill C-50, so that it can move on to committee as quickly as possible. Backup bills for tomorrow, should they be needed, are Bill C-37, the National Capital Act, and Bill C-44, the Canada Post Corporation Act.

When the House returns after the constituency break, I have planned to call, but not necessarily in this order, Bill C-37, the National Capital Act; Bill C-23, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement again; Bill C-44, the Canada Post Corporation Act; Bill C-13, the Canada Grain Act; and the Budget Implementation Act, No. 2, that flows from the ways and means motion that will hopefully be adopted tomorrow.

Standing Committee on IndustryPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As chair of the Standing Committee on Industry, I noted that during member statements, the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles said that Liberals and Conservatives on the committee had decided against holding another meeting on the matter concerning Nortel's disposition of its assets.

I note that those discussions took place in camera on August 7 and again yesterday. I am sure the member did so inadvertently, but I would ask that you look at the blues and rule on this matter. I think it is in the interests of all members of the House to respect the rules and procedures of committee. Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you take a look at the blues and ensure that those rules are upheld.

Standing Committee on IndustryPoints of OrderOral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

I thank the hon. member for his intervention. Needless to say, I do not know what happened in the committee, but I will look at the blues and then perhaps there will be some consultations with others concerning that.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-50, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to increase benefits, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

Prior to question period, the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton had the floor in the debate. There are seven and a half minutes remaining in the time allotted for her remarks.

The hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to continue my remarks on Bill C-50, this very important bill that we are proposing which will do even more for long-tenured workers under the EI program.

These Canadians deserve our continued support while the economy recovers. Bill C-50 will provide between 5 and 20 weeks of additional EI regular benefits to unemployed long-tenured workers. It will help Canadians who have worked hard and paid EI premiums for many years and who now find themselves in need of a hand up.

It does not represent permanent change in the duration of EI regular benefits. It is a temporary response to a temporary situation. We think that that is prudent.

What is unfortunate is that the opposition members continue to advocate for the 45-day work year scheme which is both irresponsible and unaffordable. What is worse is that they walked away from the table and away from efforts to help the unemployed.

Now they are playing political games here in the House today, again without taking proposals to the table where these things are usually worked out.

This side of the House is focused on Canada's economic recovery and on helping Canadians come through this rough time. Further to the help we are proposing for Canadians in Bill C-50, we have already taken other measures to help long-tenured workers.

Long-tenured workers who need a transition to a new industry can get help through the career transition assistance initiative introduced in Canada's economic action plan. Through this initiative our government is providing help to long-tenured workers who have been laid off to upgrade their skills. This initiative has two main parts.

First, we have extended the duration of EI regular income benefits for long-tenured workers who participate in long-term training. They can collect benefits for up to two years or 104 weeks. Second, it allows earlier access to EI for long-tenured workers who invest all or part of the money from their severance package in training. Thousands of long-tenured Canadians could benefit from these measures.

We are working with the provinces to help Canadians with this initiative. I would also like to remind the House that while all long-tenured workers are not necessarily older workers, for those who are we have other programs in place to help those older workers.

The targeted initiative for older workers, or TIOW, is not a new initiative. It has been around since 2006 when our government introduced it. It has done a lot to help older workers in this country, and now with the global economic downturn it is needed more than ever.

Through our economic action plan we are investing an additional $60 million over three years in the targeted initiative for older workers to enable people 55 to 64 years of age to get skills upgrading and work experience so they can make the transition to new jobs.

We are doing this because we believe in the skills and experiences of Canada's older workers. We believe they can be retrained and get back into the workforce if they want to continue working.

We are also building on this successful program to extend its reach and scope. The targeted initiative for older workers was designed to meet the needs of people in what we call vulnerable communities; that is, communities with a high rate of unemployment or a high reliance on one employer or industry affected by a significant downsizing or closure.

This year we expanded the number of communities that are eligible for the program to include more cities. Why did we do this? Well, because the recession has been difficult for everyone, but it has been particularly hard on people over 55. In fact, with this change an additional 250 communities could be eligible.

When older workers lose their jobs, we want to help them get back into the workforce as soon as possible. We know it is not easy for an older person to start a new career; however, through TIOW projects unemployed older workers can acquire the skills they need to find and keep new jobs or even start up their own new businesses.

These projects typically offer services such as skills assessment, job search strategies, work experience placements, skills upgrading and income support. This new federal-provincial joint investment will help older workers across the country build their skills and find work.

There are many other success stories from this program. They all involve older workers who had to face a major life change, a change that could have been devastating, but they were able to regroup and retrain for a new career. Thanks to the TIOW, they were able to do that in the company of people their own age. The new funding we are putting into the TIOW will enable more older workers to receive the specialized support they need to make the transition to new jobs. With practical help from the TIOW, older workers can continue to contribute to their communities and to the Canadian economy.

Our government is demonstrating its commitment to supporting all Canadians who are affected by the downturn but especially older workers and long-tenured workers. We do not want an unnecessary election. We want to continue to work to help Canadians. That is what the bill would do. I urge everyone in the House to support Bill C-50.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a simple question for the member regarding this important bill. The minister responsible for the Canada Revenue Agency described the bill as being one more way in which we can add to other things that have been done with EI. It is a very straightforward bill. There was a request for unanimous consent to complete this work by tomorrow. The Bloc recommended that we send the bill to committee immediately before second reading. This would allow for some latitude in terms of the scope of the bill to make substantive amendments at committee stage.

In both instances, the government denied unanimous consent and rejected those proposals. I wonder if the member could explain why.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this debate since we first introduced Bill C-50 and started the debate this morning. Certainly that question has been asked many times and it has been answered many times.

Bill C-50 is an extremely important bill. We, as the Conservative government, have been focusing on what matters to Canadians. We have been helping those who have been hardest hit. We know that the global recession has caused a great deal of concern to many Canadians and we are providing the support to Canadians when they need it.

Bill C-50 is just another part of the support we are providing for Canadians. We have introduced legislation today to provide extra support for long-tenured workers. Prior to that we had support for other Canadians who need it through the economic action plan. The best way to help the unemployed, their families and the economy is to get people back to work. We need the extra program to help those long-tenured workers who want to work, who have worked for years and now find themselves unemployed. This program will give them that extra time to find work. It will give the extra time for the economy to rebound and those workers who want to work will be back to work.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Roger Pomerleau Bloc Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the same question for the Conservative member, because it seems as though she did not at all understand the question asked by my Liberal colleague.

My question is: why did the government choose to proceed by vote in the House, by introducing a bill, when it could have done what it wanted to do for the unemployed, or what it claims to want to do for the unemployed, through a pilot project that would not even have had to go through the House, and that could have been approved in five minutes by the minister himself? Now, it will take one month, two months, or even three months of discussion to make it through the legislative process. Meanwhile, unemployed workers have nothing.

My colleague said that this bill is here to help the unemployed, but the best way to help them is to take immediate action and to put this in place right away. Why did they choose the legislative route over a ministerial decision?

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will repeat that we have been having this debate since this morning and this question has been asked many times and answered many times.

Certainly the Conservative government is focused on what matters to Canadians. We are helping those who are hardest hit. We are investing in training. We are creating jobs.

If there were another process the opposition parties wished to pursue, there is an avenue by which they could have pursued it. They chose not to.

We are bringing forward this bill in very good faith. We believe we need to benefit the Canadians who need it most and we will continue to do that.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Oshawa, it is with great pleasure that I extend my full support for Bill C-50.

This bill will provide further assistance through employment insurance to workers particularly affected by the economic downturn.

The new temporary measure we are introducing through the bill will help Canadian workers who have contributed to the economy for years and years and who, through no fault of their own, find themselves unemployed.

Bill C-50 offers the right and fair way to ensure that the EI program is responsive and responsible. It is responsive to the needs of those long-tenured workers, like the ones in Oshawa, who have contributed to the EI program for a long period of time and have made little if any use of it. It is responsible to all Canadian taxpayers.

Let me follow up on some of assertions made today by one of my hon. colleagues across the floor.

The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour stood in the House and with great flourish tried to assert once again the Liberal monopoly on compassion. He went on to say that the Liberal Party scheme to create a 45-day work year was sensible, adding that the government was playing political chess.

The only people playing political games in the House are the members of the opposition who are refusing to be forthright with the Canadian people. This government is taking action to help Canadians after the member opposite walked away from the unemployed. The member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour walked away from 190,000 long-tenured workers. That is shameful. He may call this nothing but this government finds that notion offensive.

I would like to remind the member that it was his party that implemented the failed EI policies of the 1970s that had a catastrophic effect on the Canadian economy. Thirty years later in a blatant political positioning manoeuvre, it was the Leader of the Opposition who proposed similar measures during a global economic downturn. I ask, who is playing political games?

This government is protecting unemployed workers. The Leader of the Official Opposition has shown once again he is in this for himself. Here is the action this government is taking with Bill C-50.

Long-tenured workers will now get the additional support of extended weeks of EI while they look for work. The proposed temporary measure would extend nationally regular benefits for long-tendered workers by between five and twenty weeks. Depending on the length of time claimants have paid EI premiums, the more weeks of benefits they will receive.

Our goal is to ensure that people get these extended weeks of benefits as soon as possible. Through this bill these workers who have contributed to the economy, many of them for decades, will have a longer time to seek alternative employment.

The temporary measure that we are introducing today shows that the EI program is able to provide support to those most in need when they need it most.

We have a record of making fair and timely improvements to EI. Through Canada's economic action plan alone we have provided longer EI benefits, more efficient service, support for training, and protection of jobs through work sharing agreements. We have also have introduced the career transition assistance initiative that provides two timely measures. One extends EI benefits to a maximum of two years while workers participate in longer term training. The other provides earlier access to EI to long-tenured workers who invest all or part of their severance packages in training.

Let us also remember that a key component to our action plan provides five additional weeks of EI benefits to regular beneficiaries. In areas of high unemployment, the maximum duration of benefits has been extended from 45 to 50 weeks.

The work sharing program is another way we are helping workers stay in the labour force. It does so by offering EI income support to workers who are willing to work a reduced work week.

Under Canada's economic action plan we have made changes to the program that allows more flexibility for employers' recovery plans. Agreements have also been extended by an additional 14 weeks to maximize benefits during this economic downturn. This measure allows employers to retain employees, therefore avoiding expensive rehiring and retraining costs. In turn, employees are able to continue working and keep their skills up to date. These are people who would rather work a shortened work week and get a little less income than to be laid off. Work sharing makes that possible. Right now there are close to 5,800 active work sharing agreements across this country benefiting more than 165,000 Canadians.

We know that good programs and service are especially important in difficult economic times. Our government has acted quickly on both counts.

Our government is also helping older workers make the transition to new careers. Through the targeted initiative for older workers the government is providing an additional $60 million over three years to help workers aged 55 to 64 years get the skills upgrading and the work experience necessary to make the transition to new employment.

We have also expanded this initiative's reach so that the communities with a population lower than 250,000 are now eligible for funding. With this change an additional 250 communities could be included in the program, depending on provincial and territorial participation. This is especially valuable for my area of Oshawa.

Under the economic action plan, workers will also benefit from an increase in funding for skills training. With our strategic training and transition fund, we will be investing to help individuals, whether or not they are eligible for employment insurance, get training and other support measures.

Our economic action plan offers an additional 2,000 apprenticeship completion grants to apprentices who successfully complete an apprenticeship program in a “red seal” trade. This builds on the existing apprenticeship incentive grant. An apprentice could now receive a total of $4,000 in grants through both these programs. Up to 20,000 Canadians could take advantage of this latest grant. This is great news from my community in Oshawa.

The Government of Canada is also protecting jobs and supporting businesses in key sectors of our economy that are in difficulty, such as forestry, farming and mining, and the automotive industry. To help them we are providing a two-year community adjustment fund that will support economic diversification in communities affected by the decline in their local industries.

This bill is another example of how we are taking action to help Canadians now. We are responding quickly with measures to meet current needs. I ask members to join me in supporting Bill C-50 and helping these workers.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are pleased that the Conservatives are bringing forward much needed changes to the EI system, but there is much more that needs to be done on this file.

The report commissioned by the Conservatives on EI recommended that severance pay should not be treated as earnings, moving assistance should be provided to help Canadians find new jobs, and wage assistance should top up low-paying jobs.

Can the member tell this House why these important measures were not included in this particular bill?

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, in my area of Oshawa a lot of workers have been affected through this economic downturn. We have different industries and different companies. What is important for this government is that we give workers choices.

The member mentioned severance. Some people who are laid off may choose to keep their severance and move on with that. What we are doing as a government is strategically offering workers choices. During this tough economic time, they are going to be able to move in a way that they see as appropriate. In my community we have a wonderful community college and a university. Some workers may choose to get retraining.

The purpose of this bill and all the other measures we have put forward is to help communities like mine in Oshawa that have been severely affected through this economic downturn and need choices for different people at different times in their life.

I would really encourage this member, and I hear that perhaps the NDP would be supporting this bill. We are hopeful that they do support this bill, because this bill and this type of reform are very important for people in my community of Oshawa.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, several days ago the finance minister came into our town of Victoria and proceeded to tell Victorians, indeed Canadians, in the furthest outposts of our country that the government has lost control over the public purse, and that the deficit that was originally not going to exist at the end of last year is now $59.5 billion.

I am asking this because at the heart of the responsibility of any federal government is the ability to control the public purse. The Conservatives have lost control of the public purse, and therefore the ability to pay for programs like EI.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague from the Conservative Party when his government is going to tell Canadians what the deficit reduction plan is going to be for our country.

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Madam Speaker, I do not know where the member has been. The minister has actually done that. He has outlined how the deficit will decrease over the next few years.

It is almost humourous, because anybody who has been paying attention in the House knows that the Liberal Party wants more spending. They want more unaccountable spending.

They are willing to take this government down or are proposing to. They would like to have a 45-day work year. Just imagine what would happen to the system if this actually happened. The cost to the public purse would be unsustainable.

I mentioned in my speech that back in the 1970s the Liberals proposed a similar change to the Unemployment Insurance Act and it took years for our economy to recover.

We are putting these temporary measures in so that once the economy is increasing and moving forward, we will be able to respond with balanced budgets, because that is what this government is all about, accountability and responsibility to the—

Employment Insurance ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

A very quick question from the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway.