Mr. Speaker, I certainly have done that and will continue to do that. I thank my two colleagues for their interventions. I found the latter one much more relevant and sensible.
We are talking about EI and how we fix EI. That is why we are looking at this two-week waiting period issue that members in our caucus, including the members for Madawaska—Restigouche, Beauséjour, Cape Breton—Canso, have talked about for a long time.
There is a view on the government side, as has been said directly by the minister herself, that EI was too generous. We heard that. My colleague from Madawaska—Restigouche mentioned in the fall how members of the government side started to pick and choose who should get the extra weeks based on who deserved it more, which is an affront to people who need EI and are unable to get any particular benefit from the government.
If this is indeed the case, what is Canada doing versus other countries? If, as the government believes, we are way too generous in our EI system, let us look at this waiting period of two weeks. Canada has a two-week waiting period; Denmark has no waiting period; Finland has seven days; France has eight days; Germany has no waiting period; and Sweden has five days. That is what some of our contemporary comparators are doing.
On benefit duration right now, it is 14-45 weeks in Canada before the extension. In Denmark benefits may last for up to 4 years; in Finland, it is 500 days; in Germany, it is 6-18 months; and in Sweden is 300 days with a possibility of an extra 150 days.
When we talk about social infrastructure, we cannot look at EI and say it is too generous. The minister has said it, but she is wrong. She tells us a lot about how she runs her department, and how the government looks at EI when it thinks it is too generous and does not want to risk making it even more generous.
Other countries that we should compare ourselves to are doing a whole lot more. If we look at and say that our social infrastructure is way better than the United States, it turns out that Obama had led the charge on EI to extend way beyond 5 weeks or even 15 weeks. In the United States the federal government actually took a leadership role on employment insurance and said this is where we need to go.
At the very beginning of this debate we need to understand that we do many things right in Canada, but we are not the leaders on things like employment insurance, just like we are not the leaders on issues of disability. I congratulate the government on finally ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, but we have a lot of work to do.
I want to congratulate my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for getting the bill here. I hope that we have a less close vote. I hope we do not have to rely on the common sense of the Speaker to send this back to our committee where we can have a look at it.
Employment insurance is a critical piece of our social infrastructure. It has evolved over the years and we can all argue about the reasons. We can all look at it and say that this should not have been done, that should not have been done. We have done that in committee and we have done that in this House, and we have done that outside of this House.
The point is that when employment insurance was most needed, when the country was in a tailspin, when manufacturing was going down, when provinces simply could not keep up with the social assistance payments because people were being offloaded from things like EI, when we needed help, when we talked about stimulus, the government did not respond in the way it should have. It just did not come close.
Employment insurance is as good a form of stimulus as is possible because people need it and they spend it. This bill is well worthy of consideration. I intend to vote for it and I hope all members of the House do likewise.