Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-86, budget implementation act, 2018, no. 2.
As we have heard a few times already, this is a mammoth bill, an 851-page omnibus bill. We have to wonder when this is going to stop. Under the Conservatives we became accustomed to 400-page bills and now the Liberals are introducing an 800-page omnibus bill. It never ends. This is just wrong.
If you combine the two budget implementation bills, they total 1,400 pages. It is just wrong. As MPs who represent our constituents, how can we do our jobs properly and diligently?
That said, the bill does contain a few good points. The government is finally going to move forward on pay equity.
However, it is once again telling women that they will have to wait another four years before they actually get pay equity. This matter is extremely important to the NDP. I personally have presented several petitions on behalf of the people of greater Drummond, who are absolutely beside themselves when I tell them that pay equity does not yet exist at the federal level. They cannot believe it.
This is still a reality. It is a regrettable and preposterous state of affairs. Unfortunately, the Liberal government is still making women in our great country wait for equity. There is no doubt that we must act quickly on this file.
What else is in this bill?
I will talk about what we do not like in this bill.
There is something extremely important that the people of greater Drummond and Canada have been waiting for. For three years they have been waiting for the budget implementation bill to finally amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. It is still not part of the budget. We have long been calling for measures to protect workers whose companies go bankrupt.
What does this legislation do? They go to the trouble of reopening the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, they protect commercial licence holders and corporations, but they do not protect workers. That is very bad news. We have been advocating for that for a long time. We have long been calling for action on this file. We are really disappointed.
Another thing we have long been calling for is EI sickness benefits. After three years, the Liberal government could have finally implemented EI reform that is worthy of its name. It certainly had the opportunity to do so.
Those notorious EI sickness benefits last just 15 weeks. It is mind-boggling. This policy is from 1971.
Since 1971, recipients have had just 15 weeks to recover. No one thought more time would be needed. Even though no one seems to have noticed, in 50 years, nothing has improved. The government needs to take action.
I want to acknowledge Marie-Hélène Dubé, who has been working very hard to make the public and also the Liberals and members of Parliament aware of this issue. She created the “15 weeks is not enough” campaign.
In 2009, she started a national petition calling on the government to extend EI sickness benefits beyond 15 weeks. She has collected 600,000 signatures so far, which is significant. This is a topic of concern to the people of Quebec and Canada. Marie-Hélène Dubé battled cancer three times in five years. She has had her share of problems. She experienced stress as a result of her illness. She had to deal with all of that on top of being a single mother.
The majority of people do not have insurance coverage. [Some people have private insurance, but that is not the case for everyone.] Women are often the most vulnerable. They sometimes earn less. And if they are single parents and have responsibilities, they can slip into poverty and never recover.
It makes no sense. The Liberal government needs to wake up. I have been receiving letters about this from the people of the greater Drummond area, such as Ms. Parent. Our EI system has not been reformed in many years. Ms. Parent told me that she underwent surgery on a cancerous brain tumour. She has to travel to Trois-Rivières for radiation treatment and chemotherapy. She has to say in a room that costs $30 a day. She says that she does not have much money. In addition to her treatment expenses, she has a house to pay for. It is impossible for her to recover from brain cancer in 15 weeks.
Could the Liberal government show some empathy and listen to Ms. Parent? Fifteen weeks is not enough to heal. That is why we must listen to people like Ms. Parent and increase benefits.
That is just one example, but I have others. It is shocking. I do not understand why this situation has not yet been resolved. Another constituent, Cynthia from Drummondville, said that, in 2016, her life was turned completely upside down. After a difficult pregnancy, she was diagnosed with spinal cord cancer. She had no choice but to claim EI sickness benefits, and 15 weeks later, she was left without any income. She was in physical therapy to relearn how to walk at the time.
That makes no sense. When will the government do something to help Cynthia from Drummondville get more sickness benefits? Fifteen weeks is not enough time to recover. More sickness benefits are needed.
These are just a few examples that show that the government could have done a lot more in this budget to achieve pay equity and defend workers. How is it that retirement pensions are not protected in the event of bankruptcy? Those contributions are paid by workers. They are the ones who made annual contributions toward their retirement. They forgo some of their wages so that their company will also contribute. Then, if the company goes bankrupt, they are told that they are last on the list. They may get little or none of their retirement savings back. That does not make any sense.
Getting back to the 15 weeks to recover, I can name other organizations, such as the Regroupement de défense des droits sociaux de Drummond, an advocacy group whose director, Joan Salvail, does excellent work defending people with employment insurance and income security issues. She says that nobody really understands employment insurance rules until they need EI. The fact is that 15 weeks of sickness benefits is nowhere near enough. The benefits people get are just a fraction of their usual pay, and those benefits run out before people have recovered. For many, it is the beginning of a long period of financial hardship.
What will the Liberal government do to address the needs Joan Salvail identified? It makes no sense. Fifteen weeks to recover is not enough.
The Liberal government took office almost three and a half years ago. Why has it not yet come up with solutions for this file? I do not understand. An 800-page omnibus bill with no solutions. Unbelievable. This 800-page bill does not even fix simple problems such as upping the number of sickness benefit weeks. We want those 15 weeks to go up to at least 50 weeks. Most serious illnesses take at least 50 weeks, nearly a year, to recover from. Let us hope the government will listen to Canadians and the people of Drummond and fix this problem before the election.