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.