Mr. Speaker, the municipalities of Quebec are united in their opposition to the government's employment insurance reform.
The UMQ sees the changes as, quite simply, an attack on regional economies that harms both workers and employers. Instead of tackling the problem of unemployment and recognizing the diversity of the Canadian economy, the Conservatives would rather attack unemployed workers and small businesses.
Here I am, once again, talking about something that is making a lot of people in the country unhappy, and that is employment insurance reform.
Over the past few months and weeks, the major unions in Quebec, groups that advocate on behalf of workers and citizens, and municipal and rural organizations have come together to protest the changes that have been made to employment insurance. This is a testament to broad consensus in Quebec against this reform, a consensus that is also found outside the province.
On February 15, the executive committee of the Union des municipalités du Québec, the UMQ, adopted a resolution calling on the federal government to suspend EI reforms until economic impact studies have been completed. We know full well, such studies were not conducted before the reform was implemented.
In short, we might as well say that the government is putting policies in place without having any idea about where it is going or about the potential consequences on the daily lives of Canadians.
All these Canadian organizations, which condemn the reform and now form a true coalition, are already trying to reason with the federal government so that it will suspend the implementation of this reform's ridiculous and arbitrary measures.
The government must immediately conduct impact studies on the changes it wants to bring about, it must release the results of those studies, and it must hold public consultations on the subject. These measures target workers and the most vulnerable sectors, and will most certainly have a negative impact on future generations.
According to Éric Forest, president of the UMQ and mayor of Rimouski, a beautiful region in the Gaspé Peninsula, this reform will affect the social and economic fabric of the regions. Seasonal workers and their families will have to move away from the regions to work. These regions will therefore lose skilled workers, and entire families will have to leave. Years of effort to boost the regions' vitality through policies and programs will be wasted.
The UMQ also pointed out that seasonal employment is part of the economic reality of many regions and contributes to the development of a number of sectors that are essential to the economy of Quebec, including agriculture, forestry, fishing, tourism and even film.
By impoverishing and emptying the regions of their skilled workers, employment insurance reform will lead to labour shortages for many businesses, which will have a devastating impact on all regions of Quebec.
The regions feel that these changes are a direct attack—pure and simple—on regional economies. It is bad for workers and employees. In what way is this reform positive? It is bad for the unemployed and their families. The government should address job creation issues and recognize the diversity of our country's economy instead of going after the unemployed and small businesses.
I will repeat my question. Why is the minister not listening to Canadians? Why is it not cancelling the devastating employment insurance reform?