Madam Speaker, the “black hole”, or spring gap, problem still has not been fixed. Like a broken record, the Liberals keep assuring me that a pilot project is under way. However, this pilot project only involves 13 of the 62 regions. Such a measure is unacceptable.
Case in point, the people of Saint-Hyacinthe and Acton Vale do not have access to any such measure.
It frustrates me that the government has only half measures to offer, because seasonal workers need help right now, today, to deal with the EI spring gap. The government is suggesting training, qualifications, pilot projects, targeted economic regions, short-term measures and all kinds of other ideas, when all seasonal workers want is to be able to feed their families.
By choosing training over funding, the Liberals are deliberately failing to recognize the value of a sector that is actually a driver of our economy.
As the member representing the agrifood technopole of Saint-Hyacinthe, I understand how important these workers are to our regional economy.
I want to remind the Liberal government about one thing. Jobs may be seasonal, but workers are not. We need action, meaningful, definitive action, to help the thousands of workers who will be struggling to get by this winter, facing long stretches without a job or income.
Landscaping and lawn maintenance business owners in my riding are worried. If you can believe it, some of them have had to give their employees personal loans, while this government boasts about having solved the spring gap problem.
The eligibility threshold needs to be returned to 360 hours immediately and at least 35 weeks of benefits must be provided for all manufacturing workers in order to fix the EI spring gap.
Seasonal workers are taking action. In September workers from Quebec and Acadia came together to take a united stand against the EI “black hole”, or spring gap. Some 400 seasonal workers gathered in Inkerman on the Acadian peninsula.
Pierre Céré, a spokesperson for the Conseil national des chômeurs et chômeuses, or CNC, attended the meeting and called for seasonal workers be protected as well.
His call echoes our own. We in the NDP are calling for better eligibility and a minimum of 35 weeks of benefits, so that these workers do not have to face the spring gap year after year.
He also wants the regions affected by the spring gap to receive a special designation to help them get by.
Mr. Céré reminded the government that seasonal workers in the Gaspé, on the north shore and in Charlevoix, in Quebec, face the same realities as those in Acadia.
In August, following repeated calls from the NDP, the government announced a pilot project that will give workers an additional five weeks of benefits. However, this does not meet the needs of seasonal workers. Advocacy groups for the unemployed are saying that this government appears to be indifferent to the demands of workers.
On their behalf, I will ask the question once more. When will the government solve the problem of the EI spring gap once and for all?