moved that the third report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities presented on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, be concurred in.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek for seconding this important motion.
It is important that we have policies in government that are effective. Employment insurance is a very important part our support system within Canada. We need to have policies that work, that are effective, that are transparent, and that are accountable when people find themselves without employment.
It is wonderful that we live in a country where there is support, but things do not always work, and the previous government made sure that there were changes that would make the EI program more effective, more transparent, more accountable, more sustainable, and would truly take care of Canadians who needed that help and support. Those changes were made and were effective.
Unfortunately, the number one focus of the new Liberal government, though not so new or sunny anymore and a government that is not transparent, is to try to destroy everything from the past. Whether it was good or bad, the Liberals want to destroy it and to do so without being accountable.
In question period today we heard questions, but no answers. The Prime Minister stood in the House and refused time and time again to answer simple questions, such as how many times he met with the Ethics Commissioner. Those questions came from all opposition parties. Opposition parties are tasked with making sure the government is held to account, but the government does not want to be held to account and will not answer questions as simple as how many times the Prime Minister met with the Ethics Commissioner about his trip to billionaire island.
It is a question that Canadians want to know the answer to, but we see the same culture across the way, an entitlement culture, a culture of out-of-control spending and growing deficits that are going to be passed on to Canadians, particularly unemployed Canadians. Therefore, EI is very important.
That is the government that wants to tinker and make changes. It does a lot of consulting and discussing, and one of the most recent studies was on EI, not with the goal of making things better but with the goal of removing everything the previous government did that was effective. It is really the wrong motive, a motive of a government that is stubborn and unaccountable.
Then a report was done, and a lot of witnesses appeared at committee on that report. It was hoped that it would be a good report. Unfortunately, the motive and direction that came from the PMO was a dictatorial approach for a predetermined outcome. Maybe the question is how many times the PMO directed members of the committee on that report. I am sure we will not get an answer to that either, but opposition members on the committee, because of the report missing the mark and focusing on undoing accountability, were forced to do the right thing, which was to create a dissenting report.
I neglected to say that I will be sharing my time with the amazing member of Parliament for Perth—Wellington.
A dissenting report was presented, and I would like to share with the House the context of that report.
To summarize, the previous Parliament had created changes that brought in transparency, accountability, and an effective support system for those who need it through employment insurance. I will share some of the highlights of that dissenting report.
The dissenting report says that:
We participated in the study on the EI program with open minds. During the consideration of the report, we supported the recommendations that promoted the evaluation of EI program measures, that protected the most vulnerable, and that encouraged greater transparency and efficiency.
However, we rejected recommendations that did away with measures implemented by the previous government as part of its major EI reform in 2013. In our opinion, these measures should be kept, as they have had a positive impact on employment as well as on how citizens treat EI benefits. The primary objective of this reform was to make it easier for unemployed individuals to return to work by helping them find a job.
Is that not a wonderful idea? It is a concept that Canadians support: jobs, jobs, jobs, protecting the economy, the environment, providing a healthy future for Canadians, jobs, and helping them find jobs.
The report goes on to state:
The reform was designed to increase accountability for unemployed workers receiving benefits and we believe it was a step in the right direction. In fact, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation told the Committee that “We believe that a system that is too generous can create disincentives for people to seek or accept work when they otherwise might do so”, and we support their position.
Furthermore, we believe that the report adopted by the Committee was not objective in terms of the differing views about EI reform. Of the 80 quotes from witnesses included in the report, 42 were very critical of the measures implemented by the previous Conservative government, and only 15 were in favour of these measures. Of the 27 witnesses cited, a mere 7 witnesses made positive comments about the measures implemented by the former government. Some witnesses who expressed opinions that differed from the majority of the witnesses heard were not cited in the report at all, despite the relevance of their arguments. For example, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation appeared before the Committee in person, and yet it was not quoted in the report at all, while six briefs were cited whose authors did not appear before the Committee.
That is a prime example.
I serve on the HUMA committee, and I have seen a major change in this Parliament over previous Parliaments. The Prime Minister's Office gives direction and tinkers with committees, and committees are not able to do their work. Their work is being directed by the Prime Minister's Office. They end up with a report that is predetermined by what the Prime Minister wants that report to say. When the Canadian Taxpayers Federation provided good input, it was removed from this report. Why? It was because it did not create a report that the Prime Minister wanted.
When all of the different standing committees are being directed by the Prime Minister's Office, this is what we will have. In the same way, we see that the Prime Minister will not himself answer simple questions, such as how many times he has met with the Ethics Commissioner. We see the same example happening in committees. It is sad, and it requires dissenting reports to actually get to the truth.
The dissenting report went on to say:
One of the major failings of the report, in our opinion, is that it does not reflect the fact that “witnesses acknowledge that in practice, few individuals lost their EI benefits due to these new definitions.”
The following citations show that this statement is true:
According to Hans Marotte, representative of the Inter-Provincial EI Working Group, “it is true that I didn't handle a great many cases stemming from the Conservative reform.”
There are a number of quotes. The core point I want to make is that if we have a government that will not permit the truth, that tinkers and manipulates so that we do not have the truth, then how can Canadians trust it? I do not think Canadians do trust this government anymore.