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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am honoured to add my voice in support of the new small business job credit, which builds on our government's commitment to lowering taxes and leaving more money in the pockets of hard-working Canadian families and job-creating businesses.

Our government has a proven track record of success when it comes to supporting families and communities. Regretfully, the high-tax NDP and Liberals do not believe that we are on the right track. They think that Canadians should pay more taxes. We have an obvious difference of opinion. Respectfully, that is a difference.

In the last federal election, we said that Canadians should pay less tax and that we would end up having more revenue for the government. That is exactly what has happened. In fact, our strong record in tax relief has seen savings of nearly $3,400 for a typical family of four in 2014. It has allowed people to invest those savings in important family matters that have benefited not only typical families but their communities.

Members should also be aware that this low-tax plan we have has produced the strongest middle class in the world. We have put over $30 billion back into the pockets of everyday Canadians in a number of different ways. It is a shame that the Liberals and the NDP, our opposition, have consistently voted against lower taxes.

Our economic action plan will play a key role in strengthening our economy, not just now but in the future, with positive measures that advance economic progress, and subsequently, the prosperity that runs along with it.

Today let me highlight just one small measure. It is our government's small business tax credit, which will lower EI premiums for small businesses by approximately 15%. Over the next two years, the premium reductions will save employers $550 million, money they can use to hire more Canadians.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business, of which I was a proud member for many years, estimates that the credit will create 25,000 person-years of employment over the next two to three years alone. The Minister of Finance also confirmed that in 2017, EI premiums will go from the current $1.88 per $100 of earnings down to $1.47. In 2017, we will definitely have moved to the point where we are in an accountable and completely structured program that at the point we might say is self-supporting.

This means that Canadians and employers will have more money to invest in other requirements, such as training and increased wages. Workers will have more money in their wallets at the end of the day.

Yes, it is a positive measure. That fact remains clear. It is something organizations across the country, those that understand small business, recognize will go a long way in helping the Canadian economy, given the importance of small business to the Canadian economy.

Let me quote the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. It said:

This will make it easier to hire new workers or invest in additional training to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.... This announcement is fantastic news for Canada’s entrepreneurs and their employees, and as such, can only be a positive for the Canadian economy.

It should be noted that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business represents a huge, broad percentage of small businesses in Canada.

Our government has a responsibility to create the right conditions for economic growth. Clearly, it is one that we do not take lightly. Since the downturn, we have had a steady increase in employment. Interest rates have been low, and we have experienced the kind of economic growth that has made us the envy of every other country. This has been documented by independent organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank.

We got here. How? It was by implementing concrete measures to ensure that Canadians have the skills they need for the jobs that are in demand.

My riding was very pleased to see that we were able to contribute to a new skills development building at Loyalist College, which certainly aids the local trades people in our area in gaining the skills that are necessary to not only compete but gain the jobs that are readily available.

By insuring that federal funding responds to the hiring needs of employers and by giving them the opportunity to participate meaningfully as partners in the skills training, the Canada jobs grant has and will continue to transform skills training in Canada. The Canada jobs grant provides up to $15,000 per person for training costs, including tuition and training materials, which includes up to $10,000 in federal contributions, with employers contributing an average of one-third of the total costs of training.

As important as this milestone is, economic action plan 2014 even went one step further by creating the Canada apprentice loan to help registered apprentices with the costs of their training. It will do so by expanding the Canada student loans program to provide apprentices registered in the Red Seal trades with access to over $100 million in interest-free loans each year. To further support apprentices, economic action plan 2014 takes steps to increase awareness of the existing financial supports available to apprentices through the employment insurance program while they are in technical training.

It also announced that our Conservative government would improve the youth employment strategy to align it with the evolving realities of the job market, and to ensure federal investments in youth employment would provide our young Canadians with real-life work experience in high-demand fields such as science, technology, engineering, mathematics and the skilled trades. There is an evolutionary change that we have taken to match skills to jobs to ensure our young people have a sustainable future.

Although Canada boasts high levels of post-secondary achievement, the transition, as we all know, to the first job in particular can be very challenging. That is why, through our economic action plan, our government dedicated over $40 million toward supporting up to 3,000 internships across the country in these high-demand fields. Lasting between six and twelve months, these internships will give participants the opportunity to gain real-life work experience and skills necessary to succeed in the workplace now and in the future.

All these measures stand in stark contrast to the Liberals' over $6-billion tax grab on Canadian businesses: money from the economy, money from employers, money from businesses and organizations, money they desperately need to compete with. This would lead to a massive increase in payroll taxes, EI premiums of nearly 50¢ and kill thousands of jobs. If we look at just one part of the Liberals' plan alone, the 45-day work week, its cost alone would be over $4 billion. It is abundantly clear that we do not need that measure and certainly not the one the Liberals propose, and continue to propose today.

We will remain focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs, economic growth and ensuring that Canada's economic advantage we have today will translate into the long-term prosperity of tomorrow. Our recent small-business job credit shows a commitment to Canadian employees and employers. They should not take our word for it; we are always standing up for small business. Again, they should take it from a source that we know has and will continue to support our government's actions in this regard, the CFIB, which stated, “Small businesses in Canada should be thrilled with this announcement because they are told time and time again that payroll taxes like EI are the biggest disincentive to hiring. So any relief that the government can provide will encourage them to be hiring more Canadians”.

Therefore, I urge all members to not support this job-killing motion from the Liberal Party, and remember that it is this government that has the best interests of small businesses and every Canadian who is looking, and will continue to look, for a job, albeit in the short term. We are providing a future of hope for all those people who do, can and get the job they need.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to my colleague's speech.

Did I miss something? It sounds like an election has been called, but no one told me about it. It seems to me that there has been more talk about the Conservatives' election platform than about the Liberal motion.

Since it is clear that today's debates are going to focus on the proposals made by our friends from those two parties, I feel quite comfortable asking my colleague a very specific question about that $550 million, which could be used to create new jobs.

I would remind the House that the money was originally taken from the employment insurance fund. The money reimbursed would be redistributed to employers, which would create new jobs.

Let us compare that to the tax breaks the Conservatives are offering to major corporations. I remember that one day, former finance minister Mr. Flaherty urged big business to reinject that dead money into the economy in order to create jobs. That was nothing but rhetoric. What guarantee do we have that jobs will actually be created?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, there appears to be a bit of a platform coming from the member, who gave what I consider to be some informative comments on EI and the economy. At some point, I certainly hope he could take counsel in those comments and not simply oppose the measures that have proven, and will continue to prove, to bring jobs for the Canadian public.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member and others keep mentioning this 45-day work week. I assume they mean a 45-day work year, given that the first part would probably be quite onerous.

I want to focus on that for just a moment. I have heard members use keep saying the term by way of disincentive or anything else. Yet in the first part of his speech, the member talked about the realities of the employment situation.

I know his area fairly well and a great deal of seasonal work exists in that region. In mine, the amount of seasonal work is tremendous. This is the reality of seasonal work, which is what Conservatives call the 45-day work year. These people would rather be working far greater than 45 days. The realities of the forestry and fishing industries, by way of just two examples, dictate that the employment insurance program must be there to allow these people to survive.

Remember that the people and businesses investing in these communities need these measures by way of seasonal work or, as he likes to call it, the 45-day work year. They need them for these places to survive. I think the hon. member misunderstands the concept of seasonal work in this debate.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Conservative Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, I recognize that I misspoke when I said “week”, and I thank my hon. colleague for the correction.

He has been relatively successful in politics and I relate that a bit to his spending some time in my riding, in which he attended Loyalist College and received an adequate education that, I suppose, enabled him to get a job.

There is seasonal employment in all of our ridings, and I recognize that in the hon. member's area seasonal employment is a significant problem. There is also seasonal employment in my riding, high in tourism and industries like that.

However, moving from that argument to the Liberal motion, the suggestion is that we need to spend more and more money simply to attract and/or create new jobs. The Liberal motion would simply reward employers that create jobs. There are a lot of businesses and a great proportion of businesses that simply would love to survive and maintain jobs. It does nothing for them, whereas the tax credit would accomplish that for businesses, albeit not large businesses but small ones, as well as those who try to maintain and keep the jobs they have.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, to begin, I must point out that we do not have enough time to debate a motion such as this one, and since equality and sharing are part of the NDP's DNA, I am happy to be sharing my time with the hon. member for Newton—North Delta. That way, we can hear as many points of view as possible on this issue.

Let us start with where I come from, Mauricie. In light of the many company closures, including Rio Tinto Alcan and Resolute Forest Products, I will be participating in a large-scale public demonstration on Saturday in Mauricie. Actually, it will be in Shawinigan, to be more precise. We are going to take to the streets to show how proud we are to live in the region. We will also be showing our solidarity with the many workers who have lost or will unfortunately be losing their jobs because of these closures.

It is therefore clear that when it comes to measures that would create jobs, I would love to hear the proposals and see how they could benefit my own region. However, when these measures are funded out of EI surpluses while most workers who have contributed to the plan do not receive benefits when they need them, my ears really perk up. Members will have to work hard to convince me that the Liberal or Conservative approach is a good thing.

Of course, as the NDP employment insurance critic, I wanted to take part in the debate since the Conservatives and the Liberals seem to have similar approaches in taking advantage once again of EI surpluses to fund a job creation policy that, in one case, offers no guarantee of job creation and, in the other case, is based on a mathematical and financial calculation that is flawed and would make people fear the worst if these same thinkers came to power some day. The only thing these two measures seem to have in common is that they are a reflection of the two old parties and a direct result of their ferocious appetite for EI surpluses. In addition, the Liberals and Conservatives always make policies at the expense of workers who make contributions and yet are receiving fewer and fewer services. Need I remind the House that the Liberals diverted over $50 billion from the premium surplus for purposes other than EI? Need I remind the House that the Conservatives followed suit when they came to power and took at least an extra $3 billion, in addition to eliminating the EI account and imposing their reform, which had no consequences other than reduced benefits and more and more unemployed people without access to the plan?

To quote Mr. Hassan Yussuff of the Canadian Labour Congress:

How is it acceptable to be accumulating annual surpluses in the EI account, when 63% of unemployed workers aren't receiving any benefits?

In fact, 63% of contributors do not receive benefits and the Conservatives and Liberals want to use the surplus to supposedly establish a job creation program.

Instead of addressing the issue, the Liberals and the Conservatives are wallowing in the surplus. They want to siphon it off and are only providing relief to employers or premium holidays in the hope that they will create new jobs. It is still to be defined what qualifies as a new job.

Before we go on to the crux of the matter, let us finish examining the execution. For the time being, all I see in the Conservative and the Liberal proposals on the table is the withdrawal of $550 million or so from the employment insurance program, which will be diverted for other purposes while, I repeat, only employers' contributions decrease.

If they really wanted to talk about a measure that could create new jobs, they would recognize that the only serious proposal that would pass the test and that is both fair and balanced is the NDP proposal. Allow me to cite just the fact that the hiring tax credit proposed by my party will be funded through the government's general revenues. In other words, it will be funded by all Canadians, businesses and corporations, rather than in large part by workers, as proposed by the Liberals and the Conservatives in their approach.

In fact, since the government blithely dips into the employment insurance fund, what exactly is insurance? Before going any further in my speech, I made sure to look up the definition of terms, and I went back to the dictionary definition of insurance, which is:

The act or an instance of insuring property, life, etc.; a sum paid for this; a premium; a sum paid out as compensation for theft, damage, loss, etc.

Our employment insurance requires employees and employers to pay a premium to an employment insurance plan, run by the government, in order to provide temporary benefits when the worst possible thing happens in the life of worker, who has to devote his or her time to looking for a new job.

Contrary to what some quite often suggest, on average an unemployed person receives less than 20 weeks of benefits before being placed in a job that matches his or her skills.

The problem right now is not that people are making a lifestyle out of going on EI, but rather that the benefits are not there when they need them. Currently, our employment insurance program allows less than 4 out of 10 workers who contribute to the plan to be eligible for benefits when they lose their jobs. Do hon. members know of any insurance company that would stay in business for long with that kind of record?

The NDP understands how important job creation is to economic growth. However, that growth must be done without undermining the social safety net we have had for so long.

We are proposing a hiring tax credit and my leader, the hon. member for Outremont, has clearly indicated our commitment to abolishing the Conservatives' employment insurance reform when the NDP forms the next government in 2015.

In June, the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour introduced a bill in the House that I had the honour of supporting. The bill lays out how an NDP government will protect the employment insurance fund to ensure that the contributions are used for their intended purpose.

Can Canada protect itself from the temptations of the Liberals and the Conservatives to misuse the fund?

Although the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of the successive Liberal and Conservative governments' actions, it did not comment on the legitimacy of this approach.

I believe, as do many Canadians, that the Liberal and Conservative proposals are nothing more than a new employment tax on workers. Workers are clearly being told that they will have a very difficult time getting employment insurance benefits when they fall on hard times, that their contributions will remain the same and that, in contrast, employers will get a tax break for rehiring them. That is quite the imbalance.

In other words, ordinary workers will have to pay for their benefits and for being rehired, since both the Liberal motion that was moved this morning and the position announced by the Liberal leader last week do not define what actually constitutes a new job.

Let us look at an example. An employee of an SME, factory, industry or some other employer is laid off because there are not enough orders coming in to keep the job open. A few months later, new clients are found and more orders start coming in, and the company is in a position to rehire the worker. Does that constitute a new job? God only knows. The Liberals may think so, but they are not admitting it.

Since I am almost out of time, I will end by saying that it is in the Liberals' and the Conservatives' DNA to come up with reverse Robin Hood measures. While workers continue to pay for services to which they no longer have access, many employers will be relieved of some of the burden of participating in the employment insurance program in exchange for a job creation dream that will not necessarily add new jobs to our economy.

The societal model that the NDP is proposing to all Canadians is based on the principle of strong solidarity. Canada is a rich country where no one should be left behind, a country where economic development and the solidarity that comes from developing our social safety net are not mutually exclusive.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières for the work he has done on this file. I have been so impressed with his thorough notes and his passion as he speaks up for those who are vulnerable, those who lose their jobs and are then abandoned by the government and denied access to EI.

I would like him to explain how, despite the rhetoric we are hearing from both the government and the other opposition, both have been party to stealing from EI and how both have reduced access to EI.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

It is often said that the past is an indication of the future, and this is particularly applicable to our Conservative Party and Liberal Party colleagues. The past has indicated, without a doubt, their ferocious appetite and their capacity to take the surpluses generated by the employment insurance fund and to spend those surpluses on other things.

The two job creation measures we heard about last week and this week propose the exact same thing. The NDP presented its own hiring credit proposal, since this is a valid measure. However, this time, it would be supported by all Canadians, without an imbalance between the EI premiums charged to employers and those paid by workers.

All the measures put in place with the Conservatives' reform have generated a significant surplus. If the premiums had been maintained at what they were before the Conservatives' announcement, the surplus would be around $2 billion a year, because services are not being provided at the other end, or at least so few services are being provided that the money is piling up. Now we have this swarm of Conservatives and Liberals buzzing around a pile of money. However, this money was contributed by employers and workers so that unemployed workers could receive services.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Emmanuel Dubourg Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my NDP colleague's speech. He said that he looked up the word “insurance” in the dictionary. However, I do not understand why he said that the Liberal Party's proposal was a new employment tax on workers.

I do not know whether the member has a dictionary there, but I would like him to explain his claim that this is a new employment tax on workers.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Bourassa for his question.

The principle is very simple. In terms of the employment insurance fund, there was a balance between the premiums paid by employers and the premiums paid by employees. Using the surplus in the employment insurance fund to lower employer premiums or to offer employers a credit, reduction or exemption, while the employees are left to contribute the same amount, creates an imbalance between what employers pay and what employees pay. Employees are paying more and more, but they are not receiving insurance services, although they are being told that everything is fine and that jobs may be created. In fact, they will have in part funded the tax break given to employers.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a delight to stand in the House today to speak on behalf of my constituents and other Canadians across this country who are probably listening to this debate and wondering what planet many of these parliamentarians live on, when they see the challenges they are facing.

We have a high unemployment rate, but we also have many workers who have to work two or three part-time jobs, with many working seasonal jobs. They have seen access to EI go down.

Let us remember that employment insurance is a shared insurance plan paid for by the employer and the employee so that employees can access the plan at times of unemployment. However, what we have seen happening, both under the Liberal government and now under the Conservatives, are more and more barriers placed in the way of people accessing an insurance plan they have paid into.

By the way, this is an insurance plan that was very well funded. The Liberals did not hesitate take over $50 billion—I'm not talking about millions here; I'm talking about billions—out of the EI plan in order to fund tax cuts for corporations and whatever other pet projects. The Liberals also reduced access to EI during their tenure from 80% of the unemployed getting EI to 45%. Working people were hit with a double whammy. This huge surplus was taken out instead of being paid to workers or used to train workers for other employment.

The Conservatives continued to raid the EI account as well. When too many questions were asked, they just shut that account. They had created even more barriers and challenges. I have talked to many constituents in Newton—North Delta who say that it is so difficult to get EI now that many do not even bother to fill out the forms. Now, under the current Conservative government, we have seen that only 36.5% of the unemployed will get access to the insurance plan that they paid into. I think that is shameful and something that needs to be addressed.

However, neither party has apologized for the stealing from the workers that took place. At the same time, once they did away with the discrete account and used the surplus, the Conservatives then raised the EI premiums.

Members will notice that this EI holiday, break, or tax credit, and I do not see why they call it a “tax credit”, is only being given to the employer. The employees will still be paying their insurance premiums, but there is no evidence and no guarantee that this will lead to greater job creation.

As a matter of fact, the Conservative government has given billions in tax cuts to huge corporations and we have seen very little job growth flowing out of that. Economists have studied this and have not seen the links. However, we see a history of companies that take our tax breaks and subsidies and then go over the border anyway, taking the jobs with them and leaving Canadians struggling.

Once again, I see that my colleagues in the Conservative and Liberal parties are trying to treat the EI contributions made by employees and employers as something that they own. I would say that the NDP is the only party that can be trusted to stick up for workers. The Liberals are always so full of rhetoric. They make promises galore, yet when it comes to real action, there is very little there.

I am proud of our leader, the leader of the official opposition, the NDP, because our party has tabled a motion to protect EI contributions so that no government and no political party, no matter what its colour—orange, red, blue, or whatever—when it is in government can raid the EI fund and use it as a slush fund. That money would be targeted to assisting those who are unemployed.

A lot of disillusionment has resulted from only 36.5% of people being able to access EI. There is a psychosis that sets in when people cannot get work. I can still remember today a young man who came to see me in my office. By “young”, I mean 55, because 55 is the new young. He had been out of work for over 12 months. I asked him if he had applied for EI, as he would have qualified. His response was “I went, and they were asking me these questions and they gave me all these forms, and you know what? I just couldn't get over those hurdles.”

Those are the kinds of hurdles that the government has put in the way of workers being able to access EI.

The government cannot keep doing the same things and expecting different results. We should use the EI fund for what it is meant for, but we should also look at real job creation ways. Let us take a look at real tax credits for small and medium-sized businesses to have job creation. There are many other ways that we could support our businesses.

I know that my colleagues across the way have very little respect for those who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. That happens because of the conditions that the Conservatives helped to create with a vast number of temporary foreign workers, which has led to a lot of instability. We have seen the government calling those who are unemployed “repeat offenders” over and over again. Is that not an offensive term? I can tell members that unemployed people who are unemployed through no fault of their own find that very offensive, and let us not forget the Conservative minister who stood and attacked the EI eligibility by saying, once again, the NDP is supporting the bad guys.

Surely this is the 21st century, and knowing today's reality, that is no way for our parliamentarians to speak.

I pointed out the very high number of people who are not qualifying. As a result, many Canadians end up having to appeal once they are turned down. With only 36% getting approval, we can imagine that the appeal rates are very high, but the government has broken the social security appeal system by creating the Social Security Tribunal, and the EI appeals under this new system that the Conservatives created have a dismissal rate of 80%. The government has made the system so dysfunctional that it is almost impossible for those who are denied EI to make a presentation except through written submissions. There were over 1,000 referees all over the country; the government has replaced them with 75 tribunal members.

This system is working exactly the way the Conservatives wanted it to work, and they are making sure they are denying the rightful access to EI that unemployed workers who paid into that system deserve.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the speech and the remarks from my colleague in the New Democratic Party.

Does the member agree with her party's finance critic, the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, who said last week in the House:

How about we offer tax breaks to businesses when they actually create new jobs, rather than this hope, wing and a prayer for long-term prosperity?

Does the member agree with her critic? We certainly do. If she agrees with the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley that we ought to offer tax breaks to businesses when they actually create jobs, can we count on her support for the Liberal policy that does exactly that?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate that question.

I am very proud of the work done by our finance critic. I absolutely agree with the finance critic that we need a real job creation plan that gives real tax breaks to businesses when they create jobs.

The focus there is on “when”. This, like other half-thought-out ideas, uses Kijiji math. I looked at the math and I read some of the stuff economists have put out. The math the Liberals are using is so way out there that I can only call it Kijiji math.

This kind of Kijiji math and this kind of a hope and a prayer that is in this proposal as well is not a job creation plan. This is another way of pretending to do something without actually taking real action, which is to offer real tax breaks when jobs are created.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague.

In fairness, I would like to acknowledge that at least the Liberals are bringing forward a policy, which is something they have not done in this session. In light of the fact that they have offered a suggestion, I would like to look at it.

The problem I see is that it looks as though they have hired Tim Hudak to crunch their numbers. The Liberals tell us that this great scheme of theirs is only going to cost $225 million, but they cannot seem to add. When we add it up, it actually costs $1.2 billion. We know how much ridicule Mr. Tim Hudak got for being unable to count by a factor of eight when he was running for premier of the Province of Ontario, yet the Liberal leader would like to run for leader of the country.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what she thinks is the point of debating a plan that is off by over $1 billion. Is it just incompetence? Do the Liberals actually care about the policy? Have they not done their homework? Perhaps they hired poor Mr. Tim Hudak, who I understand is now unemployed, to be another adviser to the Liberal leader.

How could the Liberals have gotten it so wrong as to be off by over $1 billion in the first proposal that this party has actually brought forward in this House?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, many of us have been wondering exactly the same thing, wondering where the math came from and why the proposal is before us. This is the first policy that the Liberal Party has put on the table, and it is badly flawed.

I find it very hard to trust anything the Liberals say on employment insurance when it was the Liberal Party that stole over $50 billion from the EI fund the Liberal Party that reduced accessibility from 80% right down to 45%. In light of those kinds of things, maybe the Liberals could not think of anything to debate on their opposition day, so they thought they could do a little bit of Hudak, a little bit of Kijiji math, and would try to bamboozle the public into thinking that they actually have a policy.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am indeed most pleased to second, and to speak on, the motion by my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, which reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Employment Insurance...plan announced by the government on September 11, 2014, and which will begin on January 1, 2015, will not create jobs and growth but will instead provide a financial incentive for employers to lay off workers; and therefore, the House urges the government to re-direct those resources by providing employers an EI premium exemption on newly-created jobs in 2015 and 2016.

The proposal that we are presenting today is a tangible response to the need to create jobs across Canada. We are seeing that need everywhere in the country. We know that the manufacturing sector is down in terms of job creation. We know that the middle class is suffering. We know that in many of the regions, my own in particular, there is a shortage of jobs, and that shortage is causing great difficulties for communities and families across the country.

The proposal is based on the proposition that there should be an incentive for those who create jobs, and that is what is seriously missing from the Conservative proposal.

The Conservatives recently announced the creation of what they call the small business job credit, which many economists have called a disincentive for companies to grow. This Liberal counter-proposal would reward companies that are growing and creating new jobs.

The Conservatives' small business tax credit has a design flaw that discourages job creation and economic growth. My colleague, the finance critic, has outlined that fairly extensively in his remarks. Simply put, under the Conservative scheme, only businesses with EI payroll taxes below $15,000 would get any money back. This creates a perverse incentive for businesses to fire workers in order to get below the $15,000 threshold. I know that earlier some colleagues disputed the fact that would happen, but in fact it does. That is the reality of the world.

The Conservative scheme offers up to $2,234.04 for firing a worker and only up to $190.52 for hiring a worker. Those are the extremes at both ends. The mix would be somewhere in between.

My colleague also outlined in detail the tragedy of the Conservative proposal. He used quite a number of quotes, but let me add a couple.

I will first quote from Stephen Gordon, who is an economics professor at the University of Laval. He was quoted in Maclean's magazine on September 11. He stated:

Reducing payroll taxes is usually a clear win-win situation, resulting in increased employment and higher wages. The Conservatives have passed up this opportunity by creating yet another targeted boutique tax credit.

Clearly, he does not see that this incentive is really a win-win solution that is going to work.

Mike Moffatt, an economics professor at the Ivey Business School, was also quoted in Maclean's on September 15. He stated:

...it is clear that firms under the $15,000 EI threshold have a big incentive to keep wage increases to a minimum so they do not lose their tax credits. Conversely, firms that are just over the $15,000 EI threshold have an incentive to cut the pay of their staff in order to gain the tax credit.

Mr. Moffatt's remarks make the point that there is also the perverse situation where, because of the $15,000 threshold, there is pressure on companies to either cut back a bit on wages or cut back on employees to stay within that $15,000 threshold.

Why would the Conservatives put forward this proposal? Why would they not go with the better proposal that we are proposing today? I would submit that to a great extent, it is all about spin, with a little Conservative manipulation thrown in.

The minister knows that the business community is incensed about the changes made to the temporary foreign worker program and the blanket treatment across the country. Those changes were made without any real consultation. All of us are hearing concerns from small businesses, from large businesses, from fish companies, from trucking companies, you name it, about the temporary foreign worker program. While changes need to be made, the way they have been made by the government, without consultation, could shut down some small businesses, some larger businesses, and some trucking companies and could hurt the economy.

The government has been told that in some instances, the temporary foreign worker program will shut down the economy and could cause small businesses to shut down, with a loss of jobs for Canadians. That is part of the reason a number of ministers are now concocting a scheme to throw a little bone to the business community. The problem is that the bone does not have much meat on it in terms of creating jobs.

Some of the statements made by the Minister of Finance himself indicate to us that this proposal is really a lot about spin. It is a lot about leaving Canadians with the impression that the government is doing something positive for small businesses with the EI insurance program, when it really is not doing that at all. It is all about leaving the impression it is doing something, when really it is not.

My colleague from Vancouver Quadra summed that up best last week when she asked a question of the Minister of National Defence. She said that what we have had from the Conservative government has been 10 years of deception. We know that it is not really 10 years. It is really eight years, but it certainly feels a lot longer than eight. The fact is that there have been years of deception by the government.

The deception in this policy is that it is support for small businesses for a limited period of time, when in reality, it could have the perverse reaction of costing some jobs in the small-business sector. The reality is that when we compare the Conservative proposal with what we are proposing here today, it is an opportunity lost. If the government does not support the proposal coming from my colleague, the Liberal finance critic, it is an opportunity missed for Canadians, for the small business sector, and for job creation in this country.

That is where the House of Commons comes in. This should be a place, and it has not been for some time, where proposals come forward from a member and are looked at seriously, rather than through the entrenched positions, without discussion, we get from the Government of Canada. We know that the Conservatives do not consult. They only consult with a few people, and they are usually their friends. It does not consult generally.

This is an opportunity for the government and the House of Commons to show that things can change in this chamber in the fall of 2014 to make better policy for Canadians. My colleague, the critic for finance for the Liberal Party of Canada, has put that proposal on the table. I encourage those backbench members who really do not have to take their direction from the cabinet to stand up in their own right and support this proposal. It would be quite a change on the government side.

While on the point of deception, we have seen it in a number of other areas. I talked to a lot of construction companies in my province this summer. I have talked to both the rural section of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the big city sector, and they are crying for infrastructure. If we raise the question in the House, the minister or a backbench government member gets up and says that they have announced the biggest infrastructure program in Canadian history. If we look at this over 10 years, it may look that way, but again, it is deception by the government. The Conservatives, in fact, cut the infrastructure program, from this year up to 2019, by somewhere around 87%, because the big numbers are only over a 10-year period, and the program does not really kick in until 2019. As a result, communities' infrastructure deteriorates. Construction companies are not creating the jobs that they could. I am making the point that it is another case of deception on the part of the government.

We have seen this deception in my area, in a serious way, with regular EI changes by the government in the last couple of years. It claimed there would be an incentive to work longer. It has had the opposite impact in my riding, and certainly in P.E.I. Worse, it has taken money directly out of Prince Edward Island's economy and right out of the back pockets of Prince Edward Island's seasonal workers. Between the clawback of 50¢ on the dollar the minister proudly announced and the loss of the five-week pilot project, it has cost Prince Edward Island workers and its economy about $18 million this year. That is a loss. As I said, it comes right out of workers' pockets. It is money that would have been spent, whether on heating oil or groceries or other things for businesses, in my community. That is what the minister took out of Prince Edward Island when he said that it was an incentive to work. That is so sad and so wrong.

Let me get back to the subject at hand. The results achieved by the government are failing to address a growing need for jobs across Canada, and the proposal being presented today by the Liberal Party would address that vacuum. I am surprised by some of the questions coming forward from government members. They should not see this proposal as divisive. They should see it as an opportunity for this chamber. Yes, we have our partisan differences, and that is fine, but we are talking about ways to do a better job of creating jobs for Canadians.

I look especially to the MPs in the Conservative Party and the backbench from Atlantic Canada. This is an opportunity for them to stand up and be counted, to create more jobs in this country, and to be seen to be allowing this place, this chamber, this House of Commons, to work as it should.

What is being proposed by the Liberal Party is an EI premium exemption for firms that actually hire new employees. That is the essence of what this proposal is all about. Our proposal would represent a benefit for every newly hired worker in 2015-16.

With the Conservative plan, only businesses with EI taxes below $15,000 would see savings, creating an incentive for businesses to either cut back on salaries or lay off workers.

The Conservatives have announced an annual $225-million measure that is unlikely to produce anywhere near the number of jobs that this proposal would produce. The plan we are putting forward would represent a benefit of up to $1,279.15 for every hire, which, for $225 million, could produce over 176,000 jobs. I heard New Democrats speak to the figures earlier. The fact of the matter is that not everyone would be at the maximum level. Some would be less and some would be more. Therefore, that estimate we believe to be pretty accurate.

The Liberal plan would grant every business that creates a new job, regardless of the size of the business, an EI premium exemption for the employee who fills that new position. Unlike the Conservative plan, the Liberal EI exemption would actually reward businesses that are growing their payrolls. It would not reward companies that reduce wages or staffing levels to make it under an arbitrary $15,000 threshold.

The Liberal plan would reward companies up to $1,280, the maximum annual employee contribution announced in 2014, for each new job they created. The employer would not have to pay EI premiums for the employee working in that new position. For the same cost as the Conservative proposal, the Liberal plan could create more than 176,000 new jobs.

To move a little further afield on the issue of employment insurance, the latest measures taken by the regional minister and the minister in charge of employment insurance have impacted my province really seriously. With respect to my home province of P.E.I. and my constituency of Malpeque, the damage the government has inflicted is having a devastating impact on a number of families. That relates to the new Charlottetown region and rural region. We are receiving endless numbers of calls from people confused about the new program and where it will leave employers and employees with respect to this new change.

When we call Service Canada to get answers, we cannot get any. We are getting confusion around the new zone in the rural area, where one needs more hours to work for less in benefits. Who is in the zone and who is out? Service Canada is saying that it could apply to the postal code or it could apply to the address.

Service Canada cannot give us the answer. Can the minister outline specifically these zones and whether it is the postal code or the address? Who is in and who is out of the zone, because it really matters to these folks in terms of how they survive the winter months, the off-season. If he cannot answer now, can he answer later?

The regional minister promised answers. It is time we had some.

To conclude, I ask for people's support of the Liberal plan to create jobs in this country.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague's message, and I was troubled many times during his speech when he used the word “deception”. I do not know whether the word deception is parliamentary language when a member is accusing another person of deception. To me, it is like he is accusing the government of lying.

It is appropriate in this chamber to have legitimate differences in terms of our political direction. However, I would urge the member not to use that term because the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and many people, see this as a credible plan. In fact, to suggest that companies will lay off staff or hold off on hiring just to stay under the threshold for receiving the credit is a ridiculous assertion. Even the Canadian Federation of Independent Business points that out.

I would like to ask a question, and it should have a very clear answer. It should not take the member long to reply, not as long as his speech, hopefully. Could the member identify where the $52 billion in EI funds are that were misappropriated during the Liberal administration? We could perhaps use that for the benefit of workers.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I have two points.

In terms of the member's question on the $52 billion, it is clear where that money went. When the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien took over the former Progressive Conservative government, not a right-wing government like this one, the EI fund was in an extreme deficit. As the Liberal government improved the balance sheet and got the books in order, that money, which was in effect from the EI fund, had to be returned to the public treasury, according to the Auditor General. That is what was done.

However, let me get to the point on “deception”. It is parliamentary. The government is not completely lying in terms of what it said about the biggest infrastructure program in Canadian history; it is just not telling the truth about the first four years of the program. It is an 87% cut in infrastructure for Canadian communities.

That is the reality. I call that deception; I do not know what you call it.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I want to remind the hon. members to make their comments to the Chair rather than directly to their colleagues.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will start by saying that if the Liberal Party had kept to condemning the Conservatives' plan during its opposition day, we would have gone along. However, I have serious problems with the Liberals putting forward their own plan, which makes no sense economically. This has been mentioned a number of times. I would like to point out two things. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about these two main criticisms.

First, they say that the plan put forward would create 176,000 net jobs, but based on the trend in recent years, creating 176,000 net new jobs would require $1.5 million. Considering only the average premiums paid by employers currently, this plan would cost from $1.1 billion to $1.2 billion, while they say it would only cost us $225 million.

Then, economists, such as Kevin Milligan, said that this measure would create only one additional job per eight other jobs that would have been created anyway. They would give companies a premium holiday, while eight jobs out of nine would be jobs that would have been created anyway. It is simply a gift at an extremely high cost that will in no way be constructive.

I would like to know how my colleague can justify the economic plan proposed that, to my mind, makes no sense at all.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member was not listening earlier when I dealt with that question. This is the same cost as the Conservative plan, and those are the same parameters that the finance critic for the Liberal Party decided to operate in.

How could we have a plan that would create new jobs through the EI system by giving this break in premiums for new hires? The numbers are there. Not everyone is at the maximum; not everyone is at the minimum. However, the numbers are certainly close to the reality, and they are for new hires.

There seems to be a little froth coming from the NDP lately, if I can put it that way. It is toward our leader. The NDP is playing politics on any issue that the Liberals put forward.

However, as I said earlier, this is an opportunity for the House of Commons to do good work. Whether it comes from the NDP, the Liberals, or a Conservative backbench member, this is an opportunity for this chamber to help create jobs for Canadians who are in dire need of them.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague, the member for Malpeque, for his comments and understanding of the economic challenges faced by businesses of all sizes in creating jobs in this environment. That is the flaw with the Conservative plan. It limits the capacity for businesses above a certain size to benefit from their policy and create jobs.

We recognize the importance of small business in Canada. They are an important segment of our economy. I would appreciate the member's thoughts on the comments from Dan Kelly, the president and CEO of the CFIB, who said this morning, “Love the [Liberal Party of Canada] plan to exempt small [business] from EI premiums for new hires over 2 years. Lots of job potential”.

Does my colleague from Malpeque agree with the CFIB that there is a lot of potential for jobs in this Liberal policy?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased. I did not recognize that the CFIB was so on its toes, in terms of watching the debate and hearing the motion put forward by the member for Kings—Hants, the Liberal critic for finance, and recognizing the wisdom of this proposal. I certainly congratulate the CFIB on listening to the debate, on looking at the proposal, and recognizing that it does indeed have merit.

Again, I come back to how this chamber can improve proposals. We have the government proposal. I would hope that the Minister of Finance comes in at question period and uses a point of order or a ministerial statement to say that they believe the Liberal proposal has merit, that the chamber is working the way it should, and that parliamentarians, as a collective, are proposing solutions that will create jobs for Canadians. That would be a good thing.

I would hope that the Minister of ESDC comes back and also perhaps makes a statement to clarify whether it is postal codes or regional boundaries in Prince Edward Island in the new EI rules.

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague rightly pointed out a few minutes ago that the Liberals do not know how to count because their math is all wrong on this one.

I would like to go back. The member also talked about deception, and I think a lot of people will remember that it was the Liberals who deceived the Canadian public by taking so much money out of the EI fund, making more and more people unable to claim EI when they so rightly deserved it.

My question for the member is this. Does he not agree that the EI fund was put in place as an insurance for people who lose their jobs so they have a little money to go out and look for a job? Does he believe that it should be there to protect workers when they lose their jobs? We looked at prior Liberal reforms, and the numbers of unemployed Canadians receiving unemployment benefits were reduced under the Liberal government. Therefore, could he please respond to that question, along with the fact that the premiums in the employment insurance fund belong to the workers?

Opposition Motion—Employment InsuranceBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it is clear, and this is one of the difficulties we have with some of the government proposals on EI. The employment insurance fund is not government money. It is employers' and employees' money. Government is charged with management of the program, and the government has clearly done a terrible job. It is believed that there is a $3.5 billion surplus in the EI fund at the moment, yet the Conservatives continue to cut benefits to workers. I see that vividly in my province.

On the point of deceiving the public, we are very proud of our record as a Liberal government. We turned a deficit into a surplus and turned over the biggest surplus to an incoming government in Canadian history. That is what we did.