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House of Commons Hansard #120 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was chair.

Topics

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. At this time and in accordance with past precedence, as stated at page 571 of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice, I have no choice but to interrupt the bells since the motion that the debate be now adjourned has lapsed.

The House resumed from May 2 consideration of Bill C-304, An Act to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (protecting freedom), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, be concurred in.

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 5:30, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion to concur in Bill C-304 at report stage under private members' business.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #190

Canadian Human Rights ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from May 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code (pregnant or nursing employees), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-307 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #191

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

The House resumed from May 4 consideration of Motion M-331.

HousingPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on Motion M-331 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #192

HousingPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from May 8 consideration of the motion that Bill C-314, An Act respecting the awareness of screening among women with dense breast tissue, be read the third time and passed.

Breast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at third reading stage of Bill C-314 under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Vote #193

Breast Density Awareness ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the third time and passed)

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, on April 26, we introduced the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity bill and on the same day we indicated we would have the second reading vote on the bill on May 14. As part of the fair process we have set out for the bill, this vote will follow the longest debate on a budget implementation bill in at least the last two decades. We will keep our commitment.

Given the events of today, I would like to advise the House of a change in the designation for the next allotted day. It will now be Wednesday, May 16.

Mr. Speaker, I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to Question No. 549 on the order paper.

Business of the HousePrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

It being 6:40 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 15 consideration of Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration), as reported (with amendments) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas has five and a half minutes left for his remarks.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise to finish off my speech that I started some weeks ago.

We are again talking about the private member's bill brought forward by the member for Cariboo—Prince George which proposes to reform the EI system. It is a good idea to look at reforming the EI system, but unfortunately I do not agree with this legislation.

As I was saying weeks ago, when looking at a private member's bill we should be thinking about how it would affect the entire community rather than just one segment of the community. We have to think about whether it would make the entire community better or worse off. Unfortunately this legislation would make the community worse off.

I explained previously why I think that but I will reiterate it again here tonight. These changes would remove training opportunities from those who could really benefit from them, training opportunities that would prevent people from pursuing the wrong track of life, or training opportunities that would move them back into the mainstream where they can become productive. This legislation is not worth supporting at this point.

In case members are not following Hansard and paying attention to my every word, I will remind them of what I said in my speech a month ago.

Although I proudly represent beautiful Burnaby, British Columbia, I grew up in rural Nova Scotia in an area where there was really not much opportunity for folks and times were tough. I had a lot of friends. Some went down the right path but some went down the wrong path. After going down the right path myself, I found that no matter how hard I tried I could not get a job. I found myself on unemployment insurance, as it was called then.

At that time, job training was provided. People were placed in a workplace where they would receive training. That really changed my life. Working with a business and eventually a municipality, I became interested in local government and doing things for the community. I was able to gain some practical skills and knowledge about how a local government worked. That really piqued my interest in municipal government. All of that came from an unemployment insurance training program.

Through that process I met a number of people who took the wrong path and were incarcerated. They managed to receive EI and then get into the training programs--

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. There is too much noise in the chamber. We are in the middle of private members' business so I would ask all hon. members who wish to carry on conversations to please take their leave to their respective lobbies.

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, having followed the right track and gone through this training program myself, I saw how those who had taken the wrong track were exposed to new opportunities through these training programs. I am really worried that the changes in the bill to the Employment Insurance Act which would limit people from these programs would be problematic.

I was in a program where I gained skills. I had good mentorship from people in municipalities, and I became interested in local issues. Not to toot my own horn, but that prompted me to go back to university where I received a bachelor's degree then a master's degree and eventually a Ph.D. I became tenured.

I am not saying that these programs lead to those kind of career paths. However, they do give people a chance to do something different and a chance to look at life in a different way. If we take away that opportunity, as the bill would do for some, that would not contribute to the community as a whole.

There is a lot of value in communities looking at how they treat people. Some people who do bad things in a community should be kept away from the community. But the changes suggested in the legislation would punish people who have done minor things, people who have had some problems at home or were at loose ends and not sure what direction to take, often young people. They then go down the wrong path and are continually punished.

We heard today how those who are incarcerated may have to pay even more money. We should not be marginalizing people in the community. We should be bringing the community together. My grandfathers, one a gunsmith and the other an Anglican priest, taught me that lesson. They managed to get along and we should perhaps be doing the same. We should be bringing communities together. We should not be bringing forward punitive measures that would hurt and divide communities.

I do not support Bill C-316.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I adamantly oppose this bill, Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (incarceration).

This bill aims to amend EI qualifying provisions to deny those found guilty of an offence access to employment insurance. Current provisions already allow for the qualification period to be extended if the claimant has spent fewer than two years incarcerated. Those incarcerated for fewer than two years are not hardened criminals. These are people who can be rehabilitated. When they are released from incarceration, they have paid their debt to society. If one thinks about it, incarceration is the penalty levied by the court.

Now the government wants to make them pay twice. I find it is a bit of an overkill. It is a bit cruel and punitive. Many of those incarcerated for fewer than two years are often incarcerated for “poverty related crimes”. For instance, approximately 40,000 Canadians are in provincial corrections facilities at any given time for failure to pay a fine. Imposing fines under provincial acts does not take into account people's ability to pay, and often leads to reoffending and doing more time for the same crime. It becomes a vicious cycle. People cannot afford to pay, so they go into jail, they lose their job, they come back out and they cannot afford to pay fines again.

Three per cent of all people in custody in provincial or territorial institutions, in 2008-09, were incarcerated for failure to pay a fine, women and first nations in particular. According to the 2011 National Council of Welfare report, The Dollars and Sense of Solving Poverty, 80% of incarcerated Canadian women are there for poverty related crimes; 39% of those for failure to pay a fine.

Seventy per cent of incarcerated women are single mothers struggling with the high cost of living and trying to feed their families. As a result, crimes of desperation are often committed. Many of them have families for whom they are the sole breadwinner. Many have absolutely no choice because they do not have the skills and education to find well-paying jobs.

The United Way of Calgary, in a report in 2008, called Crimes of Desperation, said that,“Incarcerating a woman for a poverty-related crime does punish her”. The report points out that the punishment is for being poor and trying to cope “by using a socially inappropriate but readily available means”. Such means would include stealing or doing whatever she needs to do to get some food on the table. The report suggests that, “Given this, the rates of re-offence are significant and costly”.

The hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George noted in committee that he does not understand how people cannot afford to pay a fine. I think this really only underscores a fact about how out of touch the government and the hon. member are with people who actually live in poverty and who commit crimes of desperation.

It is likely that these individuals, who already have limited incomes before they went into prison, have a hard time getting a job when they come out because of the stigma attached to being in jail. That is a double whammy for these people. Again, researchers found that ex-prisoners who are able to find legitimate jobs are less likely to reoffend than ex-prisoners who do not find jobs.

Employment insurance is not a perk. It is there to assist in the transition to employment. It is not a handout. EI is something one has to pay into in order to be eligible. We are therefore only speaking of people who are eligible who should have access to EI when they get out of prison. Without this insurance, these individuals may end up on welfare. I want to stress this: EI benefits are currently only payable to ex-prisoners upon their release if they are eligible.

This bill is a penalty on top of a court-ordered penalty. Our correctional institutions are not, as the government thinks, the answer to housing, mental illness, homelessness and addiction. They are rehabilitation centres, particularly for those offenders who are incarcerated for fewer than two years. If one believes prisoners can and should be rehabilitated to become positive contributors to our society, then one will agree that support programs both inside and outside the prison system will help them be able to live meaningful lives again.

Finding a legitimate productive job is one of the best ways to ensure an ex-prisoner does not reoffend because of poverty. EI is that bridge that helps them to get there.

I want to say that I oppose this bill. I think it is punitive and unnecessary. I am really sorry to see that it is even being discussed here in the House.