Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to take the floor after my colleague to speak about employment insurance reform. What has been interesting since this debate began is the constant misinformation. It is amazing to hear all the outrageous remarks that have been made.
I come from a region. I have been the director general of several tourism organizations. I have spent my life on the ground, in Lac-Saint-Jean. I have known people working in forestry, in tourism and in other industries. Some people who have most certainly never set foot in such organizations now want to teach us a lesson. I find that particularly interesting.
How is the employment insurance fund managed today?
In 2008, our government created the Employment Insurance Financing Board, a totally independent organization whose people make decisions about costs and premiums. When there is a surplus, they decide how to manage it to reduce premiums.
I cannot believe the opposition party is saying that we are doing this to fund government operations. Our government spent $56 billion. We have been hearing those brazen lies for two weeks now. If they can tell lies about this, what can we expect from them regarding other matters? It is unbelievable.
Before we came to power, the Liberal Party basically emptied the employment insurance coffers, but that will never happen again because there is an organization managing the fund on behalf of all workers and business owners. The fund belongs to employers too.
The official opposition likes to say that the employment insurance fund belongs to workers, but for every dollar contributed by workers, employers pay $1.40. Employers pay even more than workers.
This fund is for everyone and it gives people access to income so they can support their families during periods of unemployment that are temporary, not permanent.
We are not the only ones calling for this change. The economy is suffering across Canada and in Quebec. There is a worker shortage in many areas that rely on tourism. In some regions of Quebec, restaurants are closing because there are no cooks or servers. That is the point we are at, and we have to deal with the situation, taking into account all of the variables.
Some members of the House have said over and over that seasonal workers will no longer be entitled to anything. They have also said that seasonal tourism and forestry workers in the regions will lose their jobs if there is no suitable job available in their region. Today they were talking about a one-hour commute. One hour is an average commute time because people in cities who live just 30 km from their workplace often take over an hour to get there.
Add to that personal circumstances: illness, family, lack of a car. But that is not what we are talking about. That being said, we want the Canadian economy to work well, to continue working well. That means we need workers to do jobs.
In January, the Prime Minister came with us to the regions to participate in round tables, and people from the tourism industry and the forestry sector in our regions told him that there was already a shortage of workers at that time. We are not creating the shortage; on the contrary, we have created 750,000 net new jobs in Canada.
The Leader of the Opposition said recently that 500,000 factory jobs have been lost in the industrial sector. These losses were caused by global market fluctuations. More jobs were lost in the United States. It is not the government's fault. Canada has had a net gain of 750,000 new jobs. Unfortunately, in regions like mine, where 70% of the economy depends on the forestry industry, jobs that have been lost are not coming back. The United States, which buys 50% of our products, has yet to recover enough demand to start building again.
What Canadians want is simply for the economy to continue moving forward in all regions of the country, with respect for all. And if there are no jobs in the regions where there is unfortunately no longer any work available for seasonal workers, they will have employment insurance benefits. I completely agree with that.
We are talking about 70%. But why can they not find a job that pays even more than the job they occupied during the summer or winter, depending on the sector in which they work? People who work for snowmobile clubs work in the winter. Their jobs are seasonal. They do not work in the summer. It depends where they live. We want to make Canada an even better place and we want to continue creating jobs for these people.
In 2008, all the parties were saying that artists would no longer travel, that it would be the end of the world, that young offenders would be put in prison and abused. None of that has happened. Quebec and Canadian artists continued travelling and have remained successful around the world. The opposition is still trying to scare people, as it often does. We will see. We are confident that we will be able to do things right and that we will meet all expectations in this area.
Let us talk about the 360 hours. The employment insurance fund is self-directed. The premiums paid by the employers and the employees are what pay for the employees' benefits. When we talk about 360 hours, we are working with productivity. We want businesses to operate. We do not want more businesses to close their doors. That is always the issue. People think that money grows on trees. That is wishful thinking. I find it rather interesting to hear.
For the past two weeks, I have been hearing that engineers are going to be pumping gas and doctors will be waiting tables in restaurants. The fearmongering has to stop. There is already a shortage of skilled labour in certain sectors.
There is already a shortage of skilled workers in certain sectors. Headhunters are competing for engineers. All we want is to continue our good work on this and to ensure that our economy runs smoothly. There are a number of measures. What is more, we have introduced a number of new measures to help the self-employed, who were not entitled to employment insurance in the past. Thanks to our government, they are now entitled to it provided that they meet certain criteria and standards.
Naturally, there must be accountability throughout a process like this. In 2009, we were able to help a number of sectors in addition to the self-employed, such as military families, who now have better access to parental leave benefits and employment insurance. The list could be very long.
The thing that matters today is that the goal is not to attack anyone, but to increase the number of jobs and to ensure that Canadians and Canada continue to have high-quality jobs. That is what will allow our businesses to flourish.
At the end of the day, when there are no jobs to offer people, they leave the regions. We have to offer them employment. Some people want to encourage people not to work and to do nothing, but that is not what we want. We want to find jobs for people. If seasonal workers have finished their jobs, they will be entitled to employment insurance, as usual.