Mr. Speaker, a month and a half ago or so the Minister of Finance circulated a letter to all members of the House asking for input on the upcoming budget.
In my correspondence to the minister, I identified two areas in particular. Certainly I know that we are not going to sway the government much on some of the hard-held ideological items such as child care, but I was hoping to at least bring to his attention two issues that I think would make a considerable amount of difference, especially in rural communities and in households in which families are struggling to make ends meet.
The first one I talked about was an income increase for seniors in this country. Many seniors are faced with the choice between trying to fill their prescriptions or fill their oil tanks or fill their cupboards, so certainly that money would make it right back into the economy if we were able to increase the incomes of the seniors in this country.
The other one was with regard to EI. For workers and for those in industries that are seasonal in nature, under a past Liberal government a pilot project was established. The best 14 weeks had been established, and I know that the current government has supported it and has rolled it over to June. There should be evidence within this that this program, this initiative, is worthwhile. It means a great deal to people who work in the industry. It means a great deal to those who run businesses and drive the economies of rural communities across the country. It is an important initiative.
Back on the day that I asked the Minister for Human Resources and Skills Development the question, in her response she said they will make a decision on this and will make the decision on what is best for Canadian workers and Canadian job creators.
It is the small business operators in this country who create the jobs--the guys who run the fish plants, the tourism operators who have a small window of opportunity to really make their season. If they do not have access to a pool of labour, then those industries just do not operate. If we take that pool of labour away, those businesses dry up, so it is important that we be able to support the workers in those communities. In doing so, we support those businesses, and that is good for everybody. As long as we continue to do this, it benefits the entire country.
My question for the parliamentary secretary is this: is the minister willing to make the commitment to go beyond the June deadline to ensure that the best-14-weeks pilot project is made permanent, so that we can give some degree of certainty to these industries and these workers?