Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Motion No. 201, moved by our friend and colleague from Sydney—Victoria.
As members know, the motion seeks to direct the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to undertake a study with two specific goals in mind: one, to analyze the possibility and practicality of extending the maximum number of weeks of employment insurance sick benefits for those with long-term illnesses; and two, to present its report to the House no later than six months from the adoption of this motion.
Many Canadians have to deal with illness. For some, it lasts a week a or two, for others it can linger for weeks, months, even years.
Either way, it is very stressful for the sick and their families. Fighting an illness is hard enough without adding the extra stress of financial limitations.
In many cases, the person who is sick has to miss work to get treatment. In some cases, it goes even further and the person is simply unable to work. This leads to a significant drop in income and even a complete loss of income. It is important to improve the employment insurance sick leave benefits program so that the 35% of claimants who run out of benefits before they are able to return to work have the time to recover with greater peace of mind.
I battled cancer myself in 2012, and that fight lasted longer than 15 weeks, so I truly understand that, between the surgeries, chemotherapy or radiation treatments, recovery and doctors appointments, patients may not have the luxury of finding the strength to worry about their finances, let alone hold down a job.
I know what a difference increasing the maximum number of weeks of EI sick benefits can make to people dealing with a long-term illness and to their families. Not only would it help patients focus on getting better, but it would also help relieve some of the psychological stress they must face.
That is why I support the initiative of my colleague, the member for Sydney—Victoria, which calls on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to examine the possibility and practicality of extending the maximum number of weeks of employment insurance sick benefits for those with long term illnesses.
We can help Canadians who have to grapple with the financial stress associated with a medical condition they did not ask for. We can also make a difference for their families.