House of Commons Hansard #211 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

February 14th, 2013 / 5:25 p.m.


Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-444, presented by the Conservative member for Red Deer. According to the bill, its enactment amends the Criminal Code to establish that impersonating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

From the outset, I want to reiterate the position put forth by the Liberal Party critic, the hon. member for Mount Royal, that this bill be sent to the justice committee for review. I would also suggest, as did my hon. colleague for Mount Royal, that the bill seems more declaratory than prescriptive. I say this not to in any way impugn the motives of the member, who raises an important issue, but rather to suggest that the effect of the bill, if passed, would be of little consequence. It is already an offence under the Criminal Code to impersonate a police or peace officer. However, I am pleased that the member resisted the temptation to constrain judicial discretion in the bill and that he further resisted the temptation to impose a mandatory minimum sentence. I want to say that the hon. member is providing an opportunity to draw the much needed attention of Parliament and the public to the fact that there are people out there who will impersonate a police officer.

The case that motivated the hon. member for Red Deer to introduce the bill relates to a very tragic and disturbing situation whereby an individual posing as a police officer pulled over a young women. He did so using police-style flashing lights and wearing what appeared to be a police uniform. I would note that this young woman of 16 reacted the way most of us would. Most of us would pull over if we saw flashing lights. The young woman regrettably placed her trust in the hands of someone who caused her great harm, both physically and emotionally. This type of event would naturally cause most of us to stop and wonder how this could happen and what we might do to remedy it in future. Therefore, I understand the motivation behind the bill and applaud the member for his effort.

As mentioned earlier, we should review this bill at committee. We should ensure that the justice committee hears from victims, law enforcement and the legal community. We need to do this to ensure that the bill meets the intended objective of the member and the House. The committee process would also provide an opportunity to highlight the issue of individuals impersonating police officers.

I took the opportunity to read previous interventions on this bill, including the speech given by the member for Mount Royal. In his speech, he correctly indicates the difficulty of deterring an individual intent on impersonating a police officer. For whatever reason, there are obviously troubled individuals who seek to become people they are not. As suggested, an individual impersonating a police officer is not likely to parse through the relevant sections of the Criminal Code to identify the sentencing regimes involved for such and such a crime. Therefore, a higher sentence in a circumstance such as this is unlikely to be a deterrent. What would be of some value is to explore the possibility of limiting or cutting off the ability of individuals to buy and sell paraphernalia that allows criminals to impersonate police officers. In particular, I speak of limiting the ability of individuals to obtain flashing lights and police-like uniforms.

I want to return to the point about public awareness, which to me is the value of the bill. It is important that governments and police at all levels work together and encourage public awareness. We need to tell Canadians that it is okay to ask questions when pulled over or when otherwise engaged by people presenting themselves as police officers. Canadians should know that it is okay to be cautious. It is okay to request a badge number or to call 911 if something seems to be seriously amiss.

I commend the initiative put forth by the hon. member for Red Deer. I would also suggest that in some respects, he is setting himself apart from his Conservative colleagues.

Time and time again, we have seen a right wing ideology emerge in the private members' bills of the Conservative back bench. These so-called tough on crime pet projects are approved by the Prime Minister's Office and the Minister of Justice. Most of them, except the measure before the House today, are rooted in ideology not in reality.

Conservatives have a very loose relationship with facts. They have an even more distant relationship with reality when it comes to crime. Far too often, Conservatives use the Criminal Code as a fundraising tool. Most of us would agree that we must deal with crime in our communities. We must continue to send the message to criminals that there are consequences to committing crime. However, Canadians want a justice system that is evidence-based, cost effective and focused on crime prevention. Therefore, while most members of the Conservative caucus have an approach to crime that lacks evidence and facts, Canadians want and deserve evidence-based policy.

Recent data provided by Statistics Canada tell us that crime rates are going down in Canada. Serious crime, in particular, is down across the board.

Justice must be firm, fair and proportionate. It cannot, however, be arbitrary and punitive. Nonetheless, the government continues to introduce bills that run contrary to evidence and facts. One of the more egregious aspects of their so-called crime agenda is their wilful failure to make a proper connection between addiction, mental health problems, generational poverty and resulting criminal activity. We can never excuse crime but we cannot ignore the role, for example, that poverty and addictions play as key factors in the commission of crime.

The real danger, it seems to me, with these one-off crime bills is the damage they cause to the coherence of the Criminal Code. It is simply not good public policy to cherry-pick the Criminal Code. Changes to the Criminal Code should never be made to satisfy the political interests of the Conservative caucus. Furthermore, the Criminal Code should never be used as a fundraising tool by Conservative operatives. Unfortunately, however, this is what is happening in Canada under the Conservative government.

I will close by saying to the hon. member for Red Deer that this bill is an exception in this regard. I believe that the issue he is raising in this legislation is worthy of review and study, and I salute him for his effort.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-444.

I will not keep you in suspense and I will tell you right off the bat that I will support this bill at second reading. As for the other stages, we will see, but there is a very good chance that I will continue to support this bill after it is examined in committee.

As my colleagues from all the parties have said, although this bill addresses very specific and relatively rare cases, it still proposes a positive amendment to the Criminal Code. The bill seeks to address a number of needs that have been expressed, particularly by my esteemed colleague from Red Deer. He has legitimate reasons for introducing this bill and I congratulate him for doing so. I congratulate him in particular for choosing to introduce a bill that adds a provision to section 130 of the Criminal Code.

The bill is somewhat based on the notion of making the offence an aggravating circumstance, instead of creating, as some of his colleagues tried to do, a mandatory minimum sentence. This took away the court's freedom to act and even undermined the desired objective of some of my Conservative colleagues.

I had the pleasure of working on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I will use the example of a bill that my Conservative colleague from Kootenay—Columbia introduced. That bill also had legitimate goals, but the effects were rather worrisome. There were even fears that the purpose intended by my colleague from Kootenay—Columbia would be overridden and that we could end up taking a step backwards because of how the bill was presented. Unfortunately, the bill passed and we hope that it will not have any devastating consequences.

I am pleased to reiterate that I will support Bill C-444. I am so pleased because I have a vested interest in this bill—I will not hide it and want to disclose it in the House. I have a loved one who is an active member of a police force.

I want to mention what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and member for Saint-Boniface said during another debate, regarding the public's view of and lack of trust in police forces. It is not true that the public no longer trusts police forces. What we are saying is that because of certain situations, this trust may be wavering, may be fragile, and as elected members of the House, we have a duty to protect it.

Of course, I feel a direct link to this, because I have a loved one who works for a police force. More than anything, I do not want him to become a victim, either of the misconduct of some of his colleagues on the force or another police force in the country, or of any perception, whether legitimate or false, on the part of the public because of problems related to the involvement of police forces.

Although I do not wish to dwell on the issue, I would quickly like to mention the unfortunate case of the now famous Robert Pickton. It is not something that we would have liked to achieve such notoriety. However, as they say, the damage is done. What is important is finding solutions, rather than just pointing the finger. That is what is most important, which is why I am very pleased to see that all members of the House plan to support this bill.

I wish to explore the importance of the authority enjoyed by anyone who wears a uniform or appears to be in a position of authority, that is, when someone steals an identity and takes it on as their own. This is an aggravating factor, so it is very important. Although things change completely whenever a firearm is involved, there is no denying that the authority held by someone in uniform or with a certain title can very easily intimidate and frighten some people who are sensitive to such authority. That is a fact.

The bill introduced by the hon. member for Red Deer sends a clear message to Canadians and builds some level of confidence. The 308 members of this House all have an opportunity to send this message. The level of trust will depend on the means that are developed.

My hon. colleague from Brome—Missisquoi was right to repeat some parts of the speech given by the member for Mount Royal. As the Romans used to say, “dura lex”. The law is strict, indeed—in its existence, in its form and in its message, as well as based on the means put in place to enforce it. These means can take various forms and avenues.

Our esteemed colleague from Mount Royal rightfully raised concerns about the availability of uniforms, for example, and the fact that although a tough law will be on the books, if we do not take certain measures, the law will come too late, which will defeat the purpose. That is very important to recognize.

I want to talk about section 130 of the Criminal Code. To begin, it states:

130. (1) Everyone commits an offence who

(a) falsely represents himself to be a peace officer or a public officer; or

(b) not being a peace officer or public officer, uses a badge or article of the case may be.

It goes on to say:

(2) Everyone who commits an offence under subsection (1)

(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years; or

(b) is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The bill proposes adding section 130.1, which states:

If a person is convicted of an offence under section 130, the court imposing the sentence on the person shall consider as an aggravating circumstance the fact that the accused personated a peace officer or a public officer, as the case may be, for the purpose of facilitating the commission of another offence.

I think it is a major step forward. Once the bill has passed, it will be interesting to see how the courts and the various stakeholders use it and apply it to different types of offences.

Obviously, the member for Red Deer introduced this bill in response to a truly appalling crime, an extreme case. However, the bill has some potential, and it will be fascinating to follow the work of my colleagues on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to see how it could be useful.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, this is a good bill. I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Red Deer, for tabling this piece of legislation. It is identical to Bill C-576, which he tabled in the 40th Parliament and at that time was supported unanimously at second reading. I will beg his forgiveness if I repeat a lot of the information that was already said, but when we are supporting a good bill, there is nothing wrong with repeating the good points about it.

It is my understanding that the bill is a response to a very tragic incident in Red Deer, where a young girl was sexually assaulted by a man disguised as a police officer. Our society should not have to tolerate this kind of abuse of trust. We need to ensure that our citizens can turn to police officers and other public officials when in need and feel safe in doing so. We see in other countries where criminals disguise themselves as police officers in order to commit crimes, many of them very violent crimes against unsuspecting citizens. We cannot allow this to take place in our country.

Bill C-444 amends section 130 of the Criminal Code to establish that personating a police officer or a public officer for the purpose of committing another offence must be considered by a court to be an aggravating circumstance for sentencing purposes.

This is not a very common offence, but the Criminal Code must be amended all the same. We recognize that this offence is not only an attack on its victims, but it also represents an abuse of the institutions in our society that Canadians must be able to trust. Considering false representation as an aggravating factor instead of proposing a minimum sentence allows us to support this bill, because it respects the victim and judicial independence, and punishes the offender appropriately.

We believe that justice for victims is important and we are pleased to have been able to work with the government on this bill. It is not often that we are able to work with the government so closely, and so I am pleased that we were able to do so on this.

As I already said, this bill comes as a result of an incident that happened in Red Deer when a poor young woman was sexually assaulted by a man who had disguised himself as a police officer and had put fake flashing lights on his car. The assailant is now in prison after being sentenced to 18 years, including an additional six months for impersonating a law enforcement officer. My colleague, the hon. member for Red Deer, described this as the equivalent of committing a crime with a weapon, because the victim is forced to submit to a false authority who is committing a violent act.

This bill says nothing about a minimum sentence. Allowing judges discretionary power is very important.

We will therefore support this bill at all stages, as we planned to do for its predecessor in the previous Parliament. We on this side of the House recognize that this type of crime is not only a horrible attack on the victim, but also an usurpation of the power of the forces of law and order, which is very serious. By pretending to represent institutions that Canadians trust and obey, criminals are attacking society as a whole.

This bill will formally codify this offence and achieve justice for those who have been victims of such crimes.

New Democrats are satisfied with this bill, which will fill a void in the Criminal Code. This bill will ensure justice for victims, respect for judicial independence and suitable punishment for offenders.

We agree with my colleague and his party on this bill. It models a logical and balanced approach to justice, and we are happy to support it. I think this is an excellent example for democracy.

Once again, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Red Deer for his hard work and for introducing this bill again.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, two days ago Canadians took to the airwaves for the Let's Talk initiative to help bring awareness of those struggling with mental health issues.

Today on this Valentine's Day we recognize the things that play to matters of the heart, and so to that end I would like to say Happy Valentine's Day to my wife. That said, it is fitting that we remember how important it is to talk, to listen and to act by supporting those who are so significant in our lives.

I am honoured to close second reading debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-444. I appreciate the fact that my colleagues from all sides of the House have shown that they too are prepared to talk, to listen and now to act as we take this very important step of moving this bill to committee. I thank everyone for their support.

My bill seeks to amend section 130 of the Criminal Code by adding a sentencing provision to the crime of impersonating peace officers or public officers. There are really three main components of this bill.

First, it is an acknowledgement to those who fall victim to this cowardly act of deceit that society views this crime seriously and that our trust in authority, which has been ingrained in our psyche since childhood, is not to be trifled with. We can do this by recognizing that the personation of an officer in the commission of another offence should be considered an aggravating circumstance at the sentencing of a criminal.

Second, since aggravating circumstances in this case are currently specific to those who abuse a position of trust or power, this bill would create clarity by recognizing that those who pretend to have this position of trust to overpower or disarm a victim should be treated similarly when sentencing occurs. Herein is the key aspect of my bill: the existing aggravating circumstance does not currently apply to offenders who are posing as police officers. I am calling on Parliament to recognize this gap in the law and to work with me to fill it by passing my private member's bill. My bill recognizes this gap in the law and would ensure that this kind of malicious deceit would be dealt with properly.

Third, by making this change to the Criminal Code, we would also show our support to the fine men and women who put their lives on the line and whose public trust is diminished by the actions of these unscrupulous criminals. Our police officers' jobs are difficult as they are, and by highlighting this type of criminal activity we would recognize the damage done by these illegal acts.

Here I will recap some of the issues germane to this bill. Within the maximum sentence for personating an officer, the appropriateness of a sentence would still rest with the sentencing court. Sentencing is a pillar of our justice system and it is up to us, as legislators, to establish sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code. When an offender personates a police officer to further victimize someone, this is a severe instance of personating an officer and can have serious and long-lasting effects on a victim. The sentence for this kind of malicious deceit must denounce this unlawful conduct and reflect the significant impact that the crime has on victims' lives. Victims must be assured that there will be serious consequences for the criminals who have hurt them.

As a further point, the way that section 130 now reads, the crime relates to the deception of the public about a person's status as a police officer. It does not differentiate whether it was for the specific purpose of facilitating another crime, or whether another crime is actually attempted or committed. However, in cases where the deception is intended to and in fact does facilitate the commission of another more serious crime, this is an extremely serious instance of the offence of personating an officer and therefore deserves an appropriately higher sentence. In 2009, we legislated a new maximum sentence for this crime and now we must give the courts this tool to exercise the new maximum in those most serious cases. Personating a police officer to force someone to do something is just as effective as pointing a firearm. It is no less aggravating than breaking and entering with the knowledge that a residence is occupied, nor many of the other situations that fall into the category of aggravating circumstances. Moreover, it is no different to a victim than having been abused by a person who really was in a position of authority.

By supporting this bill, we are also helping to preserve the trust and respect that citizens have for real bona fide police officers. When citizens see a police officer's uniform, they naturally trust and respect the authority that comes with it and our laws must reflect this reality. The bill brings to light the support that our police forces need to combat this type of crime.

I would like to once again thank my colleagues for their support. I appreciate that they, too, recognize the timeliness and the necessity of the bill. I look forward to working with the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights where we can further our discussion.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Accordingly the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Service CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, last November, the Parliamentary Budget Officer released a report on the Conservative government's proposed cuts.

Service CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Service CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

6 p.m.


Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it very much if my colleagues would take their conversations outside the House and if this were not deducted from my time.

I will continue.

Members will recall that the government promised that the $5.2 billion in cuts would not directly affect services provided to Canadians by Service Canada. The Parliamentary Budget Officer discovered that, on the contrary, most of the savings would be realized from program cuts.

In his report, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated that only 15% of the anticipated cuts over the next three years would be made to administration, for example communications or human resources. When the report was released, the government slammed the Parliamentary Budget Officer for supposedly overstepping his mandate by asking for details about the money Ottawa was not spending, in other words, the cuts. It claimed that the PBO was supposed to concentrate on the money that was being spent.

Do I need to remind the House that the position of Parliamentary Budget Officer was created by this same Conservative government out of a concern for transparency?

We realize today that the transparency the Conservatives talk so much about is deteriorating as the government's tenure increases.

The role of the PBO is critical. His analyses to date have shed light on a number of files and have even led to the elimination of some policies that were too expensive or unjustified.

Yesterday, the House voted on the NDP motion to reaffirm the essential role of the Parliamentary Budget Officer and to make the incumbent of the position a completely independent officer of Parliament. Unfortunately, the Conservative majority voted against our motion.

Last fall, I asked the minister whether she had read the Parliamentary Budget Officer's report and whether she realized that services to the public were being significantly affected. As usual, I received an empty response that did not really address my question.

So this time, I am asking why her government refused to heed the opinion of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who was just trying to do his job.

If the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an office created by the Conservative government, is an independent officer of Parliament, it would be a good idea to listen to what he has to say, would it not?

Service CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and for Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to add to this debate. It gives me a chance to discuss what we have achieved to create a leaner and more efficient government.

As one can imagine, there are many opportunities to find efficiencies in the operations of government. From consolidating internal services to introducing new productivity-enhancing technology solutions to replacing paper publications with online content, we have been tackling this issue from every single angle. In the process, we have put billions of dollars of direct program spending under the microscope. This has required all federal departments and agencies to examine every function and activity within their organizations to ensure value for money, including their operations systems and processes. It has led them to reduce unnecessary spending by focusing on providing programs that are consistent with federal roles and responsibilities. It has been a big job, but the effort was well worth it.

As outlined in economic action plan 2012, we have managed to find $5.2 billion in ongoing annual savings. We are now in a great position for the future. As the Minister of Finance said recently, “we remain on track to return to balanced budgets over the medium term”.

This is despite the ongoing global uncertainty in the European and American economies. This is an achievement we can all be proud of. I would like to recognize the hard work of everyone who played a part in helping the government meet its objectives during these challenging economic times. I would like to thank, in particular, public servants everywhere who continue to demonstrate the dedication and innovation needed to respond to the expectations of Canadians.

Let me be clear. We will continue to manage the employment reductions resulting from the reduction in departmental spending in a manner that treats federal employees fairly and minimizes disruptions to Canadians. We will also keep our promise to not reduce transfers to persons, including those for seniors, children and the unemployed, nor will we reduce transfers to other levels of government in support of health care and social services.

In fact, we have increased funding for health care to record levels, from $20 billion a year in 2006, to almost $29 billion this year. It will increase to about $38 billion by 2017-18. Funding to social programs, through the Canada social transfer, will increase to almost $12 billion this year. Funding for children's benefits, such as the universal child care benefit, will increase to about $13 billion this year.

We will continue to work hard to rein in spending and find efficiencies in government operations. A leaner and more affordable government is good for taxpayers. It will also help us return to balanced budgets. The actions we are taking reflect a determination to fundamentally rethink the role of government in how it serves Canadians. These actions will sustain economic growth, job creation and prosperity now and for the next generation.

Service CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's response.

When the Conservatives talk about optimizing the budget, I understand. I understand that sometimes cuts have to be made somewhere. That is normal. They are managing a country. However, when we see frivolous spending, such as when senators spend on extravagances and ministers pay $16 for orange juice at the expense of taxpayers, I think it is completely illogical to cut public services.

Right now, the provinces have their hands full as a result of the current government. They are drowning and so is the middle class. Never has the state of social programs in Canada ever been so critical. Things are not working at all.

The minister gave me a rhetorical answer and I do not believe him.

Service CanadaAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, allow me to say a few more words about the benefits of spending responsibly.

Our government understands that balancing the budget is not just an end in itself. The real end is to ensure that Canada is positioned to continue succeeding in today's global economy. By reducing debt, we can free up tax dollars that would otherwise be absorbed by interest costs. This money can then be reinvested in the things that matter most to Canadians. I am talking about things such as health care, public services or lower taxes. Reducing debt also helps us to strengthen the country's ability to respond to economic shocks, such as the recent global financial crisis, and challenges such as our aging population.

The bottom line is that it helps us to preserve the gains that Canada has made from our low-tax plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:05 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, my question of November 6 related to the fact that the Conservative government, without a minute of study, with no economic analysis, with absolutely no consultations and without so much as a discussion at committee, changed the employment insurance system such that the government is stealing five weeks of income from seasonal workers. I ask members in this place what would happen to them, with the good salaries of the people in here or the bureaucracy in this town, if all of a sudden, five weeks of that income were gone, cut, just like that, without any consultation. That is what happened here. Worse, these are people in seasonal industries who do not have the high salaries of people in this place.

Cutting employment insurance is a very serious matter, and it affects individuals who are hardworking and dedicated to their communities and their families. I would go so far as to suggest that to make a change of this magnitude without any economic analysis of the impact on families, on the communities and on the regional economies is absolutely cruel and unbecoming. This action is something we would expect to see in a third world dictatorship. It is certainly not one we would expect to see in an industrialized country like Canada.

Regardless of the government's spin, and we will get it in a moment, the government's decision will drive some seasonal workers onto provincial welfare rolls, will force some people to leave the region, will cause an increase in stress and will lead to family and social unrest.

For a government that likes to talk about the importance of the economy, this decision is, in fact, seriously undermining the regional economies. Seasonal industries contribute 17% to our GDP. They are important, and this attack on the EI system undermines their ability in the seasonal industries to maintain skilled workers.

As an example, Premier Alward of New Brunswick was given a briefing note on June 28, and it said this in part:

Forcing workers into alternative employment during off-seasons may create an unstable business environment if they are unavailable to seasonal enterprises on resumption of production.

It went on to say:

The resulting erosion of economic returns may induce a further exodus from rural areas.

The premier was advised that if seasonal workers are forced to leave their home communities to find work because of the EI changes, it could be even harder for the remaining companies to find workers. Quoting from the report further:

The potential loss of employees to other sectors or jurisdictions would pose a significant challenge for the long-term viability and growth of business and industries and disrupt supply chains.

Seriously, this is an attack on not only seasonal workers but on seasonal industries. The government talks about the importance of the economy. This is undermining seasonal industries that contribute 17% to GDP, that require the skilled workers who come back every year to those seasonal industries, and that are important to the country as a whole.

I ask the government to rethink what it has done, to consult with the communities and to reinstate those five weeks of employment insurance.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario


Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, Happy Valentine's Day to you and your wife.

I welcome the opportunity tonight to respond to the member for Malpeque regarding his concerns about seasonal workers.

The extra five-week pilot project was always intended to be a temporary measure brought in during Canada's economic action plan to help people during the recession. Thankfully, Canada has been leading the G7 in economic growth. Since the deepest days of the recession, we have seen over 900,000 net new jobs created. This is tangible proof of Canada's economic recovery.

As the hon. member already knows, our country faces ongoing skills and labour shortages. Therefore, it is important that we ensure that the employment insurance program is working effectively for Canada and Canadians.

Canadians want to earn a good living, support their families and be productive members in their communities. Our government is ensuring that the EI program supports them in achieving this goal and never acts as a disincentive to Canadians who really want to work.

That is why on October 5, our government announced its intention to amend the current working while on claim pilot project. This amendment would provide a new option for recent EI claimants who are on claim and had earnings between August 7, 2011 and August 4, 2012 and were eligible to benefit from the working while on claim provision. I would add that previous claimants have the option to use the previous pilot program if they feel the program was more advantageous.

We are also providing enhanced labour market information to claimants to support their job search efforts, including enhanced online job alerts. EI recipients can now get job postings up to twice a day for their chosen occupation within their communities, as well as postings for jobs in related occupations.

These job alerts will help them to make more enlightened decisions on how to direct their job search.

We will also be increasing the coordination between the temporary foreign worker program and the EI program. We want to ensure that Canadians who are available and have the right skills get first crack at the jobs.

The employment situation of all Canadians is of great concern to this government.

That is why our government's top priorities will continue to be focused on jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I really find it amazing that the parliamentary secretary could stand in her place and give us that crap and that spin. I say this because these are the real lives of people who are affected in the regions. They are seeing five weeks cut from their employment insurance without any economic analysis of it being done by the government.

The parliamentary secretary says that it is all about finding jobs. Well, in a lot of the regions, there are just no jobs available. A 50 or 55-year-old person cannot be trained overnight to be a welder on an oil line in Alberta.

The parliamentary secretary of all people should understand the impact this is having on people in the province. Worse yet, to the question I asked yesterday in the House, the Conservatives are not only doing away with the five weeks of employment insurance, they are now actually clawing back from EI fifty cents on the dollar from the Canada pension plan that seasonal workers paid into.

These are the changes that the Conservatives made and they are hurting seasonal workers and seasonal industries. I ask the government to rethink this drastic and ridiculous measure.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that his claim about the CPP and EI is completely false. There has been no change to that program. In fact, the extra five-week pilot project came to its intended end as a pilot project, as the member opposite knows.

Our government acknowledges that Canada is not immune to economic uncertainty and we are well aware that our recovery remains exceptionally fragile. That is why the economic action plan brought forward changes to employment insurance to help better connect Canadians with available jobs.

Our government's priorities are job creation, growth and long-term prosperity.

As I mentioned earlier, since July 2009, Canada has created over 900,000 net new jobs and our focus for the future will remain job creation, just like it has been. As well, employment insurance will continue to be there at all times for those who require it.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:18 p.m.)