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House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was labour.

Topics

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, our priorities are economic growth and job creation to benefit the country. But there are Canadians who want to work and who do not have information about available jobs. We want to help these people identify these jobs, find jobs and keep those jobs.

That is what we are doing to help people work for themselves, their families and the country.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that Conservatives are targeting the businesses, communities and people who rely on seasonal industries. Fishing, tourism, arts, forestry, agriculture are all under attack by the Conservatives. Work is easy to come by if one is a failed Conservative candidate, but for businesses, workers and communities in Atlantic Canada and across Canada, times are tougher.

The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador has asked to meet with the Prime Minister over the proposed changes, which leads me to wonder why the minister did not consult with premiers before making these sweeping changes.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is misrepresenting the facts. In fact, we are helping people who are in seasonal jobs to work longer and work more for their families so that they and their families will be better off. We are going to help them identify jobs within their skill range—sometimes scarce jobs within their region—and help them get those jobs. We are doing that so that they and their families will be better off and so that employers will be better off, and so will the country.

Rail TransportationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, speaking of consultation and the government's back-to-work legislation, I would like to ask the minister very directly whether, instead of rushing the bill through the House, he would not finally see the wisdom of allowing the members of the unions involved as well as the company to have an opportunity to appear before a House committee.

Surely they have a right to explain to the House exactly what the impact of that legislation is going to be, what it is going to do to their bargaining power, what it is going to do to collective bargaining, what it is going to do their pensions and what it is going to do to their wages.

How can one take away pensions and wages without giving workers the opportunity to—

Rail TransportationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Labour.

Rail TransportationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Halton Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt ConservativeMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we set out the best way to make sure that the trains get rolling as quickly as possible. We are in day six of a work stoppage, and the economic effects are going to accumulate from here.

In 1995, the Liberal government at that point in time sent it to committee, and it got stuck there because of the opposition. The Liberals could not get it out and had to cut a deal with NDP in order for it to happen.

Rail TransportationOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

An hon. member

That was you at the time.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to go there.

Speaking of not consulting, I would like to ask this question very directly to the minister or to whoever is answering these questions today.

The changes in employment insurance will inevitably have a major impact on social assistance in all the provinces in the country, particularly those provinces with higher numbers of people who are currently covered by employment insurance. That is inevitable. That has been the impact since the 1990s. That has had the effect and had the impact.

I would like to ask the government this question: why did it not consult directly with the provinces and directly with the premiers whose costs are going to be directly affected?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, surely the member knows something about rising social assistance rates. When he was Premier of Ontario, it became the welfare capital of Canada.

Let me say this. What our initiatives are designed to do is assist unemployed Canadians in obtaining what they want: a job, a paycheque, the dignity of a job, the pride of being economically independent. That is exactly what these measures do. Rather than increasing the social assistance rate, what we hope will happen is that we will be able to move more people into the workforce, where they can contribute, pay taxes and help grow Canada's economy.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I feel as though I am being attacked by a wild sheep. This is serious.

He did not answer my question. He has to admit that there is a problem. It is not just the workers and the employers who will be affected by these changes. This is an issue that will also affect the provinces. This issue goes to the heart of what the federation is, to the essence of Canada.

Why increase costs for the provinces without even consulting them?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is our government that has helped the provinces and territories with the largest economic and fiscal transfers in order to help with social programs. We are very proud of that.

The purpose of our policy is to help the unemployed find jobs. That is why the bill is before the House and that is why we are taking action to help people find real jobs so that they can support their families.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, considering how this government is ravaging employment insurance, it appears to have declared war on the tourism industry in Quebec.

Just when restaurants, hotels and museums are completing preparations for the new summer tourism season, the government is slashing employment insurance, openly attacking the seasonal workers who keep the tourism industry running.

Can the minister explain why she insists on waging war against the tourism industry?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, across Canada, in the winter, in the summer, all year round, there is a labour shortage. That is a fact. At the same time, we have unemployed workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Yet employers need their talent and this labour source.

We are trying to get employers and unemployed workers to connect for the well-being of employers, unemployed workers and their families.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the truth is that the reforms the minister is introducing will result in lower wages for workers.

The Conservatives' obvious disdain for seasonal workers is unbelievable. They are making senseless, useless economic decisions. They have no compunction about picking and choosing winning industries and losing ones, penalizing millions of Canadians for their career choices, and attacking whole regions.

Will the government call off this irresponsible plan before it destroys whole sectors of the economy, yes or no?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, that is not at all the case.

What we are trying to do is connect people who have lost their jobs with available jobs in their local region that suit their qualifications. That is what we will try to do. We will ensure that if they work, they will earn more money than they do now, because they stand to lose money under the current employment insurance program.

We are introducing changes that will take effect on August 1.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives lack of empathy is astounding.

If individuals are lucky enough to never need EI or use it only once, then they may be okay, but if a community relies on seasonal industries such as tourism, fishing, forestry or agriculture, or if individuals have been laid off more than once, the government has its sights on them.

EI does not belong to the Conservatives to change on a minister's whim; it belongs to the workers who paid into it.

Why is the government forcing a job on out-of-work Canadians?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, my question is this: why does the NDP not want to help Canadians get back to work faster? That is exactly what we are trying to do.

We know there are work shortages and skills shortages right across this country. We want to connect those who are out of work with skills in their local area to the jobs that are available. It only makes sense to try to help Canadians into those jobs before we try to bring in people from offshore.

That is why we are making changes: to help make these individuals aware of jobs in their local area, to provide them with the supports they need to get them and to make sure that they are better off accepting that work than not.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, while running for the Conservatives may mean an individual never needs EI, other Canadians actually do have to look for jobs.

These short-sighted changes are an attack on the workers who own EI. Canadians who have paid into EI should have access to it. Even before these latest restrictions, fewer than 40% of unemployed Canadians qualified, an all-time low.

Is that the Conservatives' job plan—handing cushy jobs to their failed candidates while forcing skilled Canadian workers to take minimum-wage jobs?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to correct the record on that. Almost 85% of people who pay into the EI system, an insurance program, do have the hours eligible to collect should they lose their job due to no fault of their own. We are proud of that figure.

EI is there as a temporary income support for people who have lost their job through no fault of their own, to support them and their families while they are looking for a new job.

We are asking people, making sure and clarifying that people know what their responsibilities are in terms of looking for a new job, and we are providing support to help them find those new jobs. It will be good for them and their families.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, EI belongs to workers and employers who pay into it, not the government.

When a mill closes in New Brunswick, the Conservatives want to punish employees. When lobster quotas are full, they penalize the fishing communities. These industries deserve respect.

Why is the government refusing to consult the individuals, the communities and the provinces affected? Why is the government making changes that blame workers for losing their jobs? What a shame.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, quite the opposite is true. In fact, we are trying to help those people who lost their jobs when the mill closed. We are there with Service Canada to help them adjust and make sure they get the EI that is there to support them while they are looking for a new job.

We are also going to be sending notifications to people to let them be aware of jobs that are available in their area, something they did not receive much of in the past, something against which the NDP has already voted. We want to help Canadians get back to work as quickly as possible.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will send the information by F-35.

The Conservatives are not just going to limit access to employment insurance and lower wages. They are going to take things even further by replacing the employment insurance boards of referees with a new organization, but we do not know who will hear the appeals, how the process will work, or how long it will take. What we do know, however, is that there will be 10 times fewer people to hear appeals by the unemployed. Naturally, this is all concealed in the Conservatives' Trojan horse bill.

Why are the Conservatives trying to quietly pass this major reform of the appeal process?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, we should ask the following question: why does the NDP not want to help the unemployed find new jobs? Why?

We want to help them because it is better for them, their families, employers and the country if they are working.

Right now, we have a shortage of workers all across Canada. We want to help Canadians by connecting them to available jobs.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, 60% of unemployed people do not qualify for employment insurance. That is the real problem.

The Conservatives apparently decided that their biases and their irresponsible ideology would win out over reason.

They are now waging open war on seasonal workers, the Atlantic provinces, the Gaspé and millions of Canadians who need the employment insurance fund, their fund.

Meanwhile, the government is making changes to boards of referees to ensure that there will be no possibility of appeal.

Why is this government going after workers and targeting the economy of Atlantic Canada and the Gaspé? I might add that it cut $18 billion from ACOA—

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer