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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was hunting.

Topics

Eliminating Entitlements for PrisonersPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

First, I have a petition from hundreds of residents of the Conservative ridings of Cariboo—Prince George, Kootenay—Columbia, Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission and Surrey North.

These petitioners call upon the House of Commons and the Government of Canada to pass my Motion No. 507, which requests that the government prohibit the payment of old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments to serial killers, and that those proceeds be allocated to a victims compensation program administered by the provinces.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade AgreementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from dozens of residents of the Kootenay area of British Columbia. They call upon Parliament to reject the Canada-Colombia trade deal until an independent human rights assessment is carried out. As we know, both Conservatives and Liberals have betrayed the public who have said, tens of thousands of times, not to say yes to this agreement. These petitioners say no.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am pleased to present a petition signed by students of the women's studies program of the University of Waterloo.

These students are mindful of the fact that violence against women is often motivated by gender-based hatred, that half of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence, that Canadians continue to be horrified by the hate that motivated the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre, and aghast that the glorification and incitement to similar acts of violence by misogynists is currently legal in Canada.

For these reasons, the petitioners urge the government to adopt my private member's bill, Bill C-380, which would add sex, the legal term for gender, to the list of identifiable groups in relation to hate propaganda provisions in the Criminal Code. Hatred and incitement to violence based on ethnicity, race and religion, and sexual orientation is proscribed by Canadian law. Why not misogyny and all gender-based hate crimes?

Use of Wood in Federal BuildingsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to present two petitions on the same subject signed by hundreds of people from my region and several other Quebec regions who are asking the House of Commons to ensure swift passage of Bill C-429 concerning the use of wood in the construction and renovation of federal government buildings.

The petitioners are asking the government to send a very clear message to the people and to government about considering wood as an option and a solution in construction projects. The petitioners want the bill to pass to meet the needs of thousands of workers, families and communities.

Firearms RegistryPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be very quick. I have four petitions.

The first one is calling on the House of Commons to have a free vote to pass legislation that would see the long gun registry cancelled and streamline the Firearms Act.

Skin CancerPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is on skin cancer. The petitioners are calling for a national skin cancer and melanoma initiative to provide much needed access to newer drug treatments, and funding for research and educational programs.

Protection of Human LifePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the next petition is on life. The petitioners are calling on Parliament to pass legislation to protect human life from the time of conception until natural death.

Employment InsurancePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley, BC

The fourth one, Mr. Speaker, is regarding medical benefits. The petitioners are calling on the House of Commons to adopt specific and precise legislation to provide additional medical EI benefits to at least equal maternity benefits for people who find themselves in situations with very serious medical problems.

Halifax Convention CentrePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to submit a number of petitions on behalf of hundreds of petitioners from Nova Scotia who are concerned about a proposed convention centre in downtown Halifax.

The petitioners note that 800,000 people annually enjoy the view of Georges Island from Halifax Citadel National Historic Park and that a development of two towers will block that view.

The petitioners ask that the government refuse to provide public funds for this or any development that would block the view of the centre harbour and Georges Island from the Citadel.

Jacques Cartier BridgePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by nearly 2,000 citizens who live in my riding in particular or in the greater metropolitan area, calling on the government to make the bike lane on the Jacques Cartier Bridge, which connects Longueuil and Montreal, accessible year round for pedestrians as well as cyclists.

At a time when citizens are being asked to pitch in to help reduce our carbon footprint, this would give the citizens of Montreal and the South Shore an extremely effective means of doing their part.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the Collectif vélo 365 cycling group, which initiated this petition, and particularly Francis Casaubon and Reynald Desharnais for their determination and their desire to improve the accessibility and safety of bike lanes.

Criminal Records ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to present several more petitions on a topic that is very important to me and to this government and that is the issue of pardons.

The petition was signed by well over 1,000 constituents and people from all across the country who are calling upon the government to make some changes with regard to pardons.

The petitioners were very happy when the government announced that it would be making those changes but they are also concerned that the opposition parties will not see those go forward.

The petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons and Parliament to change the Criminal Records Act to prohibit the granting of pardons to convicted sexual offenders.

Passenger Rail ServicePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today.

The first petition contains thousands of signatures of residents from Thunder Bay—Superior North who support the restoring of vital passenger rail service to the north shore that was cut in the early 1990s. It would be environmentally friendly, efficient and a big boost to the hard done communities of Marathon, Terrace Bay, Schreiber, Nipigon and Thunder Bay.

The petitioners are asking for parliamentarians to support Motion No. 291 to return passenger rail service to the north shore.

Food Security and SovereigntyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from many residents of northwestern Ontario on food security and food sovereignty. They are concerned that with millions of people struggling with hunger and poverty around the world, our current policies encouraging industrial agriculture and production of agri-fuels can do more harm than good.

Therefore, the petitioners argue that these policies will worsen population displacement and raise food prices around the world.

Caffeinated BeveragesPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition signed by dozens of Canadians who call upon the government to reverse Health Canada's decision of March 19, 2010, that beverage companies will be allowed to add up to 75% of the caffeine allowed in the most highly caffeinated colas to all soft drinks. Soft drinks have been designed and marketed toward children for generations. Canadians are very concerned about children drinking coffee in colas, as they acknowledge caffeine is an addictive stimulant.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I asked that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

moved that Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act, be read the third time and passed.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is always valuable, when we are discussing any legislation before the House of Commons, to inquire as to its origins. If I am permitted, I will expound upon the origins of the fairness for military families act.

Some time ago, I was knocking on doors in the south Ottawa village community of Osgoode. I ended up on the doorstep of a Canadian soldier, Mr. Duquette, who, along with his wife, was just heading out on a date, only to be interrupted by a visiting member of Parliament. He told me the story of his service to the Canadian Forces in the Golan Heights. He served there for roughly a year. When he went into service, he left behind a four-day-old child to whom his wife had just given birth. Only one day after they were able to bring their young boy home, he was sent by order into the field on our behalf.

One of the things that helped him get through this time away from his family was the notion that he would take advantage of his rightful benefits under employment insurance for parental benefits. He, like all members of the Canadian Forces, pay into the employment insurance system and, thus, have every expectation that they should be able to draw parental leave just like the rest of us.

When he returned, he was startled and deeply disappointed to learn that he would not be able to spend time with his son because the eligibility period, during which people can collect their parental benefits, had expired. It lasts only for the year immediately following the birth or adoption of the child. Given that this soldier had been serving us overseas for over a year, that entire period of eligibility had gone by and, sadly, he would not be afforded the benefit for which he had been paying for many years.

He opened up the act to find out if it could really be true and, not only did he learn that it was as bad as it sounded, he also learned that it was even worse. He found that criminals who are serving prison sentences are able to defer their benefits until after they get out of jail, but soldiers who are serving our country on order from their government cannot.

I told him that I would work hard with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources to fix the injustice and I have been doing that for some time now. I am very thankful that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources agreed with me and with the Duquette family and introduced in this House the fairness for military families act in order to redress this injustice and allow soldiers to defer their parental benefits until after they get home from service.

This bill would have an impact on countless soldiers who serve us and put themselves in harm's way even though they have small children waiting for them back at home. It is a sacrifice that not only the soldier makes, but a sacrifice made by the entire family. The fairness for military families act recognizes that sacrifice and would help soldiers to acquire the benefits for which they paid.

When the bill first came through the House of Commons it was passed rather quickly and then went to the human resources committee to be studied further. We invited the Duquette family to testify.

The one logistical problem that all members in the committee will recall vividly was that Mr. Duquette was and is still serving us in Kabul, Afghanistan, so he could not be at the committee in person. His wife, who is still here in Osgoode, came downtown and testified in person and he by teleconference from around the world. It was the first time they had seen each other in months and it was a real delight to see their faces light up when, via teleconference in a parliamentary committee room, they were able to connect.

I was also heartened, as a parliamentarian, to see members of all parties come together in a spirit of non-partisanship to do the right thing and support the Duquette family and the thousands of military families just like them. Not only did we have a great session hearing from the family, understanding their concerns and the trials and tribulations of families that sacrifice so much and do so much good, but we, as a parliamentary committee, unanimously passed the bill and sent it back to the House of Commons in just one meeting. That illustrates the power of all parliamentarians to work together and get things done for our citizens, our families and our soldiers.

On behalf of my constituents, I commend members of all parties who participated in making this happen. It has been a real honour to work on behalf of this family and to partner with parliamentarians of every colour in order to get the job done.

I understand that we are getting close to the day when this bill will pass through the House of Commons. I would encourage all members to keep up the very effective work they have been doing to move it forward. I will be encouraging our friends in the other place, the Senate, to move with equal haste so that this bill can become law and families can begin to benefit from the fairness that they deserve and for which they have paid.

We have a duty to all of our citizens but perhaps a special duty to ensure that the soldiers who are protecting all of us get the benefits that they deserve. It has been my honour to play a small role in making that happen.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-13 on the last part of its voyage through Parliament, the so-called fairness for military families act.

The proposed act will amend part I of the Employment Insurance Act to extend the period during which employment insurance parental benefits may be paid for Canadian Forces members whose start date of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave.

This act will help relatively few Canadians. We are told by the department that it would be about 50 to 60 people a year at a cost of about $600,000. Nonetheless it is important for those who it will assist, and it assists Canadians that we all agree are entirely worthy of that assistance.

As my colleague, the parliamentary secretary referred to, at committee we heard from Lieutenant-Colonel James Duquette, who was posted to the Golan Heights just four days after the birth of his first child. As such, he missed his opportunity to take parental leave. It was very nice to hear from him, from Kabul, and his wife, Anne, who testified as well. They made very compelling witnesses in support of the bill.

There is a curious factor, though, which is the timeline of the bill. On April 5, the government had a press release about Bill C-13, indicating it would introduce it. On April 12, the legislation was introduced and then it was almost a month before it was debated in the House. It was very quickly passed by the House and went to committee. It was not until May 26 when the human resources committee had this testimony, went through clause-by-clause and everything passed. It is now another month since it came back to the House. I do not know if it would have even come to the House this week if the Liberal Party had not inquired about its status.

As the parliamentary secretary suggested, all parties support it. Therefore, it makes sense to get this through. It has been kind of a case of hurry up and wait and hurry up and wait on the bill. It is important.

I can talk from a personal point of view. I come from a military area, Dartmouth—Cole Harbour. It is home to many serving members of the Canadian Forces and many more veterans. I think we have one of the highest populations of veterans in Canada.

It was not very long ago that I attended the funeral for Petty Officer Second Class Craig Blake, who was the 143rd Canadian killed in Afghanistan. He was killed in the Panjwai District in Afghanistan. He was a member of the Fleet Diving Unit Atlantic. He was diffusing IEDs when he lost his life. He has a wife and two sons. He was a hockey coach. He was remembered at his funeral for the wonderful community work he took part in and the great loss it was to his family.

I remember having a connection to one of the earliest deaths in Afghanistan, and that was Corporal Paul Davis who died in March 2006. I have spoken in the House before about flying home from Parliament on a Friday with a number of other parliamentarians. When we arrived in Halifax and turned on our Blackberrys, we heard the awful news that Corporal Paul Davis had been killed in Afghanistan. His father, Jim Davis, is a dear friend of mine and has been an eloquent and passionate spokesperson on behalf of military families who have lost loved ones.

I have many constituents who have served in Afghanistan and have come home. Even if they have come home relatively unscathed from their service in Afghanistan, their families have paid a very significant price. They make great sacrifices. To go months without seeing their family is a very difficult thing, even if they return home safely.

Most of us who sit in this place travel from somewhere else in Canada and we find it difficult, especially with young families as in my case. It is difficult to be away for chunks of life. It is very difficult for military families to be away for months at a time, as in the case with Lieutenant-Colonel Duquette and others, especially around the time of the birth of a child or shortly after. It makes no sense that we should compound the sacrifice of that family by not allowing those families to have parental leave.

The bill will make a difference for those families. I think it could have been stronger. We appreciate the amendment that the government promised us. I spoke to this when it first came to the House and indicated that we should ensure we covered as many military families as possible. The government, through the parliamentary secretary, indicated that the government would do that and it would ensure that amendment would be in place.

Others serving abroad could have been included in the bill. With the cost of the bill being only about half a million dollars a year, it would not have been very much to add others, for example, those in police forces who serve overseas.

When Lieutenant-Colonel Duquette appeared from Kabul via video conference at committee, he was asked a question by an opposition member about police and RCMP. The question was “Should we be amending this bill, in your view, to include those people as well?” In his answer, Lieutenant-Colonel Duquette said, “Yes, I definitely think that applying it to police serving internationally would be very important”.

Even departmental officials indicated at that same committee that this would not have been such a terrible hardship. I asked Mr. Louis Beauséjour, a fine bureaucrat in the Department of HRSDC, “How much of a problem would it be to have this bill apply to other personnel beyond serving members of the Canadian Forces?” His answer was, “There was no reason other than to determine what the underlying reason for the amendment was”.

We could have amended the bill. It could have been a much stronger bill, but nonetheless it is what it is. It will assist a certain number of military families. I want to indicate my appreciation to the parliamentary secretary and to the government for providing the amendment that is part of the bill today.

When we look at employment insurance, we need to look at the big picture. This has been a topic of much debate in the House and across Canada in the last couple of years.

Our social infrastructure is not suitably designed for the kind of recession that Canada has undergone in the last couple of years. After the economic update of 2008, there was an outcry from people across the country saying that we needed to provide support to people who needed help the most. Among the most vulnerable people were those who had lost their jobs and those who would lose their job. At that point in time, the recession was just taking hold and the government was very slow to act.

Then the issue of stimulus came up over Christmas and January 2009, and the new budget came in January 2009. Everybody assumed that the government would seriously address the issue of employment insurance, that it would look at, particularly, the issue of access to EI and the fact that many people simply did not have access depending on where they lived across the country. Access could be denied in a lot of cases. Quite often it is denied to women who have lost their job because they tend to work part-time hours and may not have enough hours to qualify.

When the government brought in its plans for employment insurance in the budget of early 2009, it did not address that issue at all. That brought cries of protest not only from who we might expect would be opposed to its inaction, such as labour unions and public policy people, but from people in just about every province, including provinces that were led by spokespeople like Premier Brad Wall, Premier Gordon Campbell and Premier Dalton McGuinty. All of them said that one of the gaps in the employment insurance system was the issue of access. Still we had no action from the government.

At one point in time, 1.6 million people were unemployed and almost half of those people had no access to employment insurance.

Changes have been made to the EI system over the years and some of those changes have been made by varying governments, but they have always reflected the fact that employment insurance should be there for those who most need it. A lot could have been done.

Bill C-13 to me is a very worthy improvement to EI. All parties have indicated their support for the bill. We need to do all we can to support military families, to recognize they have a particular burden, that those who serve and the families that serve those who serve make a special and significant sacrifice on a regular basis. The bill will do something to alleviate that. It is a limited bill and it could have been made better. It has been made a bit better but more could have been done. Nonetheless, I want to assure the Liberal Party's support for the bill. It is a worthy initiative and a recognition for those who serve our country valiantly.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to support Bill C-13, to create fairness for families with respect to parental leave. As my colleagues have already stated, this bill will extend the eligibility period for parental leave for members of the Canadian Forces who are called back to duty while on parental leave. They will be able to complete this leave when they return from duty.

The bill indicates that the period during which the member may benefit from this right shall be 50 weeks. We suggested that these 50 weeks be retroactive for members who have already been called back to duty while on parental leave. The government agreed to make this amendment to the bill. I note that it was done today and that is a very good thing.

I also share the opinion of the member who just spoke that this is another example of a piecemeal bill. It targets one set of improvements to be made to the employment insurance system, which should really be overhauled.

We will support Bill C-13. It is a question of fairness, especially since we are asking our Canadian Forces to risk their lives in situations that are not only difficult but dangerous. The Bloc has the greatest respect for members of the military and as parliamentarians, we have the responsibility to not impose additional risks on them.

Furthermore, we must provide the best possible accommodation between their career and their family life, and we must ensure that their return to the country is facilitated by measures that help with their integration in civil society.

I make this distinction because we believe this bill should have been more comprehensive in terms of the reality of the military. Although this measure is necessary, the Conservatives are continuing their bad habit of making piecemeal changes rather than undertaking genuine reform of employment insurance and real reform to support the military. A good number of members return home traumatized and suffering from post-traumatic stress, elements that have not been addressed by this bill.

I would also remind the House that members of the Canadian Forces pay employment insurance premiums just like any other worker. They are therefore insurable.

It is only fair that they be entitled since they already pay for this coverage. However, they did not have full access to it because of their job. That said, I think the point needs to be made that there is a whole other dimension of the reality faced by our military that is not covered.

The current government makes much of the contribution of Canadian armed forces to various military interventions, but what about its responsibilities when some members return damaged by their experiences, suffering from physical injuries and trauma?

They are less inclined to talk about the increased suicide rate among armed forces members who return to civilian life and the incredible lack of the psychological and financial support they need.

I would like to remind the House that the armed forces should provide adequate follow-up of its members who return from a mission such as that in Afghanistan, especially since we know that 4% of soldiers returning from Kandahar develop suicidal tendencies, 4.6% have symptoms of major depression, and more than 15% experience mental health problems.

In the course of its parliamentary work, the Bloc Québécois has always been concerned with support for veterans, all those who have proudly donned the uniform.

We circulated a petition that will be presented to the House of Commons. It is asking the House to change, among other things, the way military personnel are treated financially after leaving the armed forces.

In 2005, the House of Commons passed a Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly called the Veterans' Charter, which came into force on April 6, 2006.

Since then, National Defence no longer provides lifetime monthly pensions for its soldiers. Instead, it introduced a lump sum payment in 2006. For every injury, there is a corresponding indemnity, up to a maximum. The amount is paid once, and the armed forces member is left to figure out on his own how to handle the money.

In January 2010, the Canadian Forces veterans ombudsman was very critical of this new system for compensating soldiers injured in service. Since stopping lifetime pensions, the forces have been providing veterans with a lot less money and failing to meet their needs.

The ombudsman said that he was not a proponent of the lump sum payment because someone with psychological issues could spend it unwisely and not have a single cent to put towards their financial security. The ombudsman, a veteran of Bosnia and Afghanistan himself, added that veterans can quite easily become homeless, and this sometimes happens. Many of them lose their way because of mental health problems. He says the only way to force them to maintain a residence is to send their compensation in monthly installments by mail, as used to be the case.

We cannot remain indifferent to these observations of the Canadian Forces ombudsman.

This new way of compensating our soldiers causes them, and often their family, to quickly become financially disadvantaged for the reasons outlined by the ombudsman.

In closing, I want to reiterate that the Bloc is voting in favour of Bill C-13 with the amendment. We truly hope that when we return in the fall we can present legislative measures to help soldiers who return from combat with injuries by giving them better financial support.

Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) ActGovernment Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-13 on behalf of my party.

I want to say at the outset that the military looks for young people as recruits. It is not looking for older people my age. The military attracts and advertises to a younger group of people who are not really joining for the benefits and who do not necessarily understand what they are getting into, at the end of the day. They may think, perhaps wrongly, that they are going to be taken care of if they fulfill their mission and something befalls them in the process.

Therefore, I think it is a positive sign, unlike in World War I and World War II, when we had cases of post traumatic stress and suicide and these issues tended to be ignored, covered up, and downplayed as signs of weakness on the part of individuals.

In today's environment, certainly since the end of the gulf war, we are seeing more interest in post-traumatic stress disorder issues. It is definitely something we have to look at. The military personnel have to be made aware that we are prepared to look after them a little more than we have in the past.

I have a 23-year-old son in the reserves. As a matter of fact, he moved to Kingston on June 1, and he will be going to Afghanistan in November. He is not concerned about these issues, even though he is aware of the statistics and so on. People in his position are not necessarily preoccupied with what could possibly happen.

However, those of us who have been around for a while know historically that there is a certain percentage of people who will develop problems in a war environment. Therefore, we have to prepare ourselves to take care of those instances.

I know that the Bloc member who just spoke gave some statistics. About 4% of soldiers have suicidal tendencies when they come back from Kandahar, and 15% have mental health issues. The member wants us to look at perhaps a more comprehensive approach to the EI program.

Since the employment insurance system was set up in the 1940s, we have seen a positive progression of the system to the point where, in the 1970s, the system was very open, and many people were able to take advantage of it. However, it was curtailed and cut back somewhat in the last number of years. We saw for the first time, I believe it was the first time, a sitting government take money, take the surpluses from the EI system and use them to pay down the deficit. We saw that to the tune of $57 billion.

One might ask what is wrong with that. The answer is that the money does not belong to the government. It is money that is raised from the workers themselves and that is matched by the companies that employ them. Therefore, it is not right for the government to be using that money essentially as a source of revenue to pay down the debt of the country. It is essentially robbing the workers and the employers of these contributions.

Now that we have gone through a very large recession over the last year, it has become clear that there are some problems with employment insurance that need to be fixed. We have seen some measures on the part of the government. Last year, $1 billion, which was agreed to by the government and the NDP, funded measures for self-employed people under Bill C-56.

We have had several bills introduced in the House. The question is why we are doing this in a piecemeal fashion. It is not dissimilar to the crime agenda of the government. Rather than introducing those bills on a one-off basis, in a boutique sort of fashion, we asked why the government did not, as it did for the budget implementation bill, which by the way we did not agree with, simply put all these changes in an omnibus bill, bring it to Parliament, and make up for 100 years of inaction on much-needed reforms in the Criminal Code. The same approach should happen here.

We should deal with all these issues in one big bill. The bill is, of course, being supported unanimously in the House. However, my friend, the member for Winnipeg Centre, pointed out initially, when the bill was introduced, that this was something that probably could have been done simply through an administrative measure, perhaps through an order in council.

It affects perhaps 50 to 60 soldiers a year. The cost of the program is around $500,000 to $600,000 a year. Basically, it amends the Employment Insurance Act to extend the benefit period, the period of duration of parental benefits, for Canadian Forces members whose period of parental leave is deferred or who are directed to return to duty from parental leave. That was an oversight in our system in the past. The Conservative member who introduced the bill was certainly attentive to that missing part, so he introduced this bill. It is very positive from his point of view.

Our critic, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, brought in an amendment. We thought it was a good suggestion, and we still do, that would allow the bill to apply to the RCMP and police forces, because there are several members from the police forces and the RCMP who travel with our regular forces and our reserves when they go into theatre. There are also some who are in Haiti at the moment. We feel that they should be covered under the bill as well. The Liberal members also seem to be agreeable to that. For whatever reason, at committee, that particular amendment was not adopted. I am really not sure why that would have been a problem. Nevertheless, it was not adopted.

The fact of the matter is that it is time for us to sit back. We have to proceed, obviously, and pass the bill today, but we have to have the government, or a new government, at some point in time, do a comprehensive study. It should not be one that takes a decade, but at least do a comprehensive study of the EI program. Get input from all of the interested parties. Bring in a comprehensive approach to EI so that we can get away from this piecemeal approach to EI reform, which is basically predicated on the basis of what sort of press conference or press coverage we can get on a limited measure on a certain day. That is not what the public of the country sent us here to do. That is not the way they want us to approach the legislative agenda of the country. They want to see a comprehensive plan for EI. They want to see a comprehensive plan for other sectors of our country as well.