Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Brome—Missisquoi for introducing Bill C-241 and framing his arguments so well in regard to its main purpose.
Our colleague from Sudbury was exactly right. He showed very well what this measure is good for when people lose their jobs. He gave the example of the employees at Vale Inco, who have been in a labour dispute for a number of months now. Previously, there were job losses that had a domino effect on companies in Sudbury and caused further layoffs. Often these people do not earn big salaries, especially those working in retail. They were deprived from the outset of two weeks income. My colleague from Brome—Missisquoi did a good job of describing the impact of such an income loss.
These families still have financial obligations at month’s end, but they have two weeks less income. People who lose their jobs do not have any time to make financial adjustments. They have to start looking for a job and do not receive an income right away.
It is incredible to hear what our Conservative friends have to say about this. The parliamentary secretary quoted David Dodge, who was the long-time governor of the Bank of Canada and earned between $1.5 and $3 million. I do not know how many millions he got when he left his position and received a huge separation allowance.
He went so far as to say that giving employment insurance benefits to people who have contributed to the system—it is their money—could well push Canada into bankruptcy. It is incredible to hear such things. There are shows like Just for Laughs where people imitate what happens in the House of Commons and say things like that. It makes me laugh, but they could make similar arguments. They quote rich people to say how little the poor deserve what belongs to them. But this is their insurance, to which they contributed the whole time they were working.
They say that the government cannot pay for it. Well it is not the government paying, because only employees and employers pay into employment insurance. The benefits are paid with that money. They also say that the fund will go into deficit, but that is not true.
My colleague the parliamentary secretary, talking about the budget, acknowledged that $57 billion in surplus over the last 14 years was taken from the fund and used for other purposes. Over the next three years, from 2012 to 2015, an additional $19 billion in surplus will also be used for other purposes. They tell workers who lose their jobs they are going to bankrupt Canada. It is wrong to mock people like that. That money belongs to the workers.
Yesterday, in committee, a witness was asked whether workers are going to agree to having their premiums raised. They do not have anything to say about it, because the government has already decided it will increase premiums by 15¢ per $100 in earnings each year for the next five years. There is a $19 billion surplus. Are workers going to agree to that increase? They have no choice because it has already been decided.
Is there enough money to pay for it? Of course, it is being used for something else. This is a serious economic crime, committed against workers who lose their jobs, against their families, against the regions and provinces affected. Those people find themselves with no income, and it is the province in question that has to cover the cost. It is the Quebec nation that covers the cost, even though there is money in the bank.
It has to be said. The issue has to be debated in its proper context.
The waiting period was set nearly 39 years ago, as my colleague said. It was set because there were jobs at that time. Employers could not find workers. There was a lot of work and you could change jobs virtually every week if you wanted.
They decided they were going to punish people who did not want to work by imposing a two-week penalty on them. That was the reason at the time. It no longer exists. When people who have the misfortune to lose their jobs do not find a job overnight in their region, it is because there are no jobs. That is the reason why.
That measure has become antiquated and regressive over time. It applies to a situation that existed 39 years ago but no longer exists. Let us get to 2010, and let the government join us in voting for this bill. To do that, let it stop invoking the royal recommendation. That is a ploy to fool people. This bill is not asking that charges be made on the consolidated revenue fund. It does not cost a penny. The yes-people on the other side, particularly from Quebec, are not standing up for the people in their ridings. Let them show some backbone for once in their lives. The member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean admitted it himself today. He said he was proud of the token role he was being asked to play. So let him stop—