Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Parkdale—High Park.
There is nothing more clear than this debate right here, right now. The Liberals have introduced a motion about how to further use the money of workers and employers, just the same way the Conservatives have done.
The Liberals were on their feet a second ago talking about how this was all about creating jobs and surely the NDP was in favour of that. Yes, we are, but out of general revenues that every taxpayer pays into. I know the Liberals do not understand this, nor do the Conservatives, but this fund is for unemployed workers. It is for paying benefits and for supporting people through training and education.
In the 1990s and the early 2000s, the Liberals absconded with $54 billion of worker and employer money and put it into general revenues, so I can understand they are a little confused now. They want to continue to do what they have done forever. Not only did they do that, but they cut away at the eligibility requirements for EI. The Conservatives kept doing the same thing to the point now where not only have the two parties taken off with $57 billion worth of worker and employer money, but now only 36.8% of people who are unemployed are eligible. Sixty-seven per cent of unemployed Canadians get denied. The fund is not there for them.
What is the answer? The Conservatives' answer is to cut premiums. Do they want to cut them for employers and for workers? No, just for employers. They continue to run a surplus now. It is estimated to be another $3.5 billion. Have they thought about the fact that the people who are unemployed and their families in Atlantic Canada, or downtown Toronto, or throughout the country, need the support because they are unemployed through no fault of their own. They do not think of that. They think about how they can make political hay out of the fact that they have allowed the surplus to accumulate. That is what they are doing.
What have the Liberals done? What have the MPs from Prince Edward Island done? Have they said not to touch that money, that it is for workers and employers, that this is money they have paid into EI to ensure that when people are unemployed they have some support? Have they said that Prince Edward Island has a high level of unemployment in their seasonal industries and those people deserve some support? No.
It is the same thing with the Liberal MPs in Nova Scotia and across the country. They think they can do better than what the Conservatives have done. The Conservatives are estimating to take $550 million out of the EI fund as a result of a scheme they have come up with.
The Liberals, with their proposal, have suggested it is only going to be $275 million. However, they screwed that up too. They messed up with their calculations. No one is surprised by that whatsoever. What is it going to cost? What did they forget to do? They based their calculation on net employment rather than gross employment. What is the difference? It is $1.2 billion. The members over here suggest that it will take $1.5 billion more out of the EI fund, and the Liberals ask why we would not support that.
In 2011, the NDP came up with the small business hiring tax credit proposal. In other words, if small businesses could prove that they created new jobs, then they would get a tax credit. They would get money back from that straight-up.
The people of Canada thought this was a good idea. Businesses thought this was a good idea. The Conservatives decided to take it on and they introduced it, but they only kept it going for two years. I do not understand why they did that.
I would suggest that the Conservatives have been under some fire, so instead of messing around with their supposed balanced budget as a result of cutting millions of dollars out of services to Canadians, including seniors, scientists, people on disability and veterans, they decided to come up with a new tax credit.
Where are they getting the money from? They are digging into the pockets of working people. It is unfair. There are no links whatsoever to job creation. They are just hoping. They are going to sprinkle a bit of dust and hope that some jobs will pop out of that. There is no linkage whatsoever.
Not only is that the case, but the government is increasingly shifting the responsibility for paying for this. It is not the responsibility of employers or other businesses. The responsibility falls on working people who pay into the EI fund. How can that be fair in this day and age?
If the government were committed to the idea of providing a tax credit to businesses for creating jobs, and it should be committed because it saw that the idea worked, then it should come forward with that kind of proposal. We would support it. We came up with the idea in the first place. We thought it was a good idea when the government brought it in before. We thought it was a bad idea when it took it away. This is the wrong way to go.
This would not help the unemployed. What kind of money are talking about in terms of those 37% of unemployed Canadians who do get employment insurance benefits? We are talking about an average payout of $395 a week under EI. Under the Conservative government, not only is the number of people who are receiving that money going down, but that amount is increasingly going down.
The seasonal industries in Atlantic Canada play an important role in our economy. What makes me so upset is that the Conservatives have brought about changes to eligibility requirements that have affected communities throughout Atlantic Canada. My colleagues from Atlantic Canada and Quebec talked about this problem. Members of the Liberal Party spoke to their constituents and others in Atlantic Canada about this problem.
We now have an opportunity to speak clearly about the fact that what the government has done is wrong. It does not deal with the EI fund. It does not deal with criteria or eligibility. It does not deal with the amount that unemployed workers receive. Nor does it deal with the problems that small businesses and seasonal industries are experiencing as a result of people not being there and the need for training. The government does not deal with any of that whatsoever.
With this proposal, the Liberals are trying to out conservative the Conservative Party. They are trying to take the bad math out of it. They are abandoning unemployed workers in our country, and that is shameful. I will spend some time talking about this to people from one end of the country to the other.