House of Commons Hansard #28 of the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was businesses.


Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

I will ask hon. members to mute their microphones to allow the member for Elmwood—Transcona to continue.

The hon. member can take up his speech from wherever he thinks is appropriate.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

3:20 p.m.


Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak in favour of Bill C-220. The bill would extend compassionate care leave provisions beyond the death of a loved for a family member who had taken a leave to care for a loved one. It would provide a bit of time to grieve, to begin funeral preparations and to wrap up an estate, all of which we know are important and take time to do and are particularly difficult to do in the context of losing somebody very important.

I thank the member for Edmonton Riverbend for his work on this issue. I was heartened in our exchange earlier in the House to hear that, even though this bill does not directly propose amendments to the Employment Insurance Act to also extend the compassionate care benefit under employment insurance, the member is aware of this issue and is open to working with others in the House, and may have even begun some work with the government, to ensure this leave is not just available to those who can afford to take it unpaid. Perhaps the employment insurance system can be modified for those who qualify to ensure that people who really need some income support to take that extra time would be able to receive it.

That is really important, because it does not matter how much money we make, whether it is a lot of money or a bit of money; family is important to us all. It is really important to be able to care for our loved ones. It is important to be able to grieve for our loved ones. If we are going to be extending the time people can take away from work for that purpose and ensuring their jobs are protected, it is also important we extend the means that would support their income.

Often a very high amount of the caregiving work in families is disproportionately done by women in the family. We know women typically make less income than men. They are therefore more likely to avail themselves of the leave and are less likely to be able to afford it. That is why it is very important to make these changes to employment insurance along with the changes to the leave provisions.

I want to speak briefly to an issue. There is a procedural obstacle to changing employment insurance benefits in this bill: It is a private member's bill. As members of the House will know, which Canadians at home may not realize, a member needs what is called a royal recommendation to make legal changes that would cause more spending on the part of the government.

As I understand from the member for Edmonton Riverbend, this is the reason those changes were not presented in the bill, and this speaks to the importance of the government. It should be willing to show leadership on employment insurance reform.

I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to mention that beyond compassionate care leave and the compassionate care benefit, other important changes to employment insurance have been proposed by the House.

On February 19, a motion was passed in the House of Commons that called for changes to the sick leave provisions, which currently only offer 15 weeks of benefits for people who have to leave work because of illness. The House of Commons has said that it believes benefits should be extended from 15 weeks to 50 weeks. I have a private member's bill, Bill C-212, that would do exactly that.

Today a motion passed unanimously in the House reaffirming this decision of the House of Commons. The government voted against it when it was presented as a normal motion on February 19, but today it passed unanimously. It reaffirmed the decision of the House to call on the government to move the sick benefit from 15 weeks to 50 weeks.

Why do I say this? Because it goes to show that there are serious deficiencies in how our employment insurance system treats people who have to take time off work, whether it is because they are ill or they are caring for a loved one who has become ill. While I commend the member for Edmonton Riverbend for taking this on in a private member's bill, as I have done on the question of sick leave, there really is no substitute for the government showing leadership on this.

We have seen sweeping changes to the employment insurance system as a result of the pandemic. The government has known there is a lot of support in the House for these other changes to the employment insurance system. It is very reasonable for the government to believe, and to have believed when those changes were being contemplated, that if it wanted to change the compassionate care benefit, certainly in the case of the sickness benefit where the House has pronounced on the issue, it could have made those changes at the same time.

That is why we really need the government to step up to the plate to make sure our employment system has the backs of Canadians who, as I say, are either sick or are caring for a loved one. The NDP will certainly support initiatives to do that, like the one that is before the House today, but I would be remiss if I did not mention that it would be better for these proposals to be put together in a bill and presented by the government so that the issue of whether doing the right thing is going to cost a certain amount of money does not prevent those changes from being made.

If we saw the package come forward from the government, we would be able to do it the right way the first time and ensure that Canadians had access to all of the things they genuinely needed, including income support to avail themselves of these things. It should not become one set of benefits for people who are in a certain income category and can afford things without the income support of employment insurance, and another for everybody else who has to go back work to deal with the very things that the House is saying it believes Canadians should not have to deal with without support or extra time.

I wanted to put those remarks on the record because it is important to note that, while this is a great initiative that New Democrats are happy to support, along with efforts to make the necessary changes to the employment insurance system, there really is no substitute for a government that is committed to these things and is willing to move forward with a careful plan in a fulsome way.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

November 6th, 2020 / 3:25 p.m.


Brad Vis Conservative Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking all of my parliamentary colleagues for their remarks today, and a special thanks to the member for Edmonton Riverbend for bringing forward this important piece of legislation, which I was honoured to jointly second.

It is clear this matter is close to the member's heart, and I truly appreciated hearing the personal story behind the bill's creation and the accomplishment of implementing a compassionate care leave program in Alberta.

I implore my colleagues, and I think what I am hearing today in the House is that we will be able, to pass Bill C-220 and bring it before committee for a fulsome examination to get this law right.

As the sponsoring member has indicated, this proposed legislation would extend compassionate care leave by up to three weeks after the passing of a loved one. Presently, the compassionate care leave program allows an employee in a federally regulated industry to take leave if a family member has a serious medical condition with a significant risk of death within 26 weeks from the day the medical certificate is issued or when the leave is granted.

It provides benefits for a maximum of 28 weeks during a 52-week qualifying period. The benefit period is broken down into 26 weeks of receiving benefits with an additional one to two weeks of unpaid leave. An employee with 600 or more insurable hours is able to seek compassionate care leave. The basic rate used to calculate these EI benefits is 55% of one's average insurable weekly earnings, up to a maximum amount of $573 per week.

This is a good program. It is one that the Conservatives promised to expand in 2015 from the original six weeks. The present government implemented that extension, with an additional 20 weeks, for a total of 26 weeks.

The issue this bill seeks to address is that the benefit ends once the family member passes away. The sad reality is that the now-grieving former caregiver still has many responsibilities to manage, funeral arrangements to make and emotions to process.

The bill from the member for Edmonton Riverbend will extend the leave period for up to three weeks if the employee has not yet reached the maximum threshold of 28 weeks.

COVID-19 has reminded all of us of the mortality of our loved ones and ourselves. When a death occurs, it is necessary to take the time to grieve and to attend to the practical tasks that accompany it. This legislative change will provide the breathing room needed without accompanying financial concerns.

The way this time period has been structured is well thought out, and takes into consideration the various circumstances people may find themselves in. Those who have taken close to the majority of their available compassionate care leave would receive another week following the passing of a loved one. Those who have taken between four and 20 weeks would receive two weeks beyond the death of their loved one. Lastly, those who took fewer than four weeks of compassionate care leave prior to their loved one's death would be eligible to receive an additional three weeks afterwards.

This bill accomplishes what is often difficult for government programs, in that it works to balance the real needs of employers with the very real, very personal needs of people suffering through what may be one of the most difficult periods in their lives.

The average duration of the compassionate care leave program presently used by an individual is between five and 12 weeks. Most would be able to take up to the additional three weeks off work without exceeding the benefit's threshold. Since this proposal operates within the existing 28-week period of the compassionate care leave program, it is not likely to pose an additional financial burden to the system.

That said, in 2018, 11,000 Canadians used this program. Sadly, that number is expected to continue rising in the coming years, further highlighting its necessity.

This bill has the support of many national organizations, including the Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association, the ALS Society of Canada, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and Parkinson Canada.

The Canadian Cancer Society shared:

Caregivers supporting a loved one with cancer often must grapple with the physical, emotional and financial strain of their caregiving responsibilities. With so many emotional and practical issues to manage in the wake of a loved one’s passing, returning to work should not have to be one of them. We support [the member's] proposed extension to the Compassionate Care Leave so that caregivers can be afforded the time off work to navigate such an incredibly difficult time in their life, and hope to see support for this legislative change from all political parties.

Dr. Pamela Valentine, the CEO of Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada, states:

The MS Society of Canada applauds [the member's] introduction of a Private Members’ Bill that focuses on expanding Compassionate Care Leave for all Canadians. The MS Society has long advocated for greater flexibility within EI sickness benefit policy, as many programs in Canada are designed like a binary switch: either you can work or you cannot work, which does not sufficiently address the realities of caregivers during the bereavement period. Expanding the compassionate care program will certainly benefit MS caregivers, and we encourage Parliamentarians to work together across party lines to ensure long-term support for caregivers and their families can become a reality.

I have a personal story that happened to me in 2008. It is what got me interested in the bill the first time. I was a graduate student at Carleton University. I was working full-time. My sister was living in Washington State and her husband suddenly passed away of swine flu during an earlier pandemic. I had to leave my work right away. My sister in Vancouver had to leave right away. Our parents both had to leave their jobs for an extended period of time to provide support to my sister and her four children.

At the time, it never even crossed my mind that there would be employment insurance or any funds available through the Labour Code that would assist me. Therefore, when the member for Edmonton Riverbend put forward this legislation, I thought it was a great addition to the types of programs we wanted to see governments provide to give Canadians flexibility when they really needed support and might not have that support otherwise.

In addition, in Canada right now, our labour market is changing at a very fast rate. Self-employed Canadians, for example, are able to get employment insurance now. I can imagine that legislation like this would be a real benefit to self-employed business owners who have to leave their operations for a number of weeks to take care of a sick loved one and to deal with the bereavement process. I encourage all members of Parliament to take a close look at this legislation, to look at the flexibility it would provide Canadians in a time of need and support it.

I would also like to point out that the member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne talked about the need for the legislation to address sudden death. In my situation, this is exactly what this legislation would have helped with back in 2018. Therefore, I encourage all members of Parliament and the members on HUMA, if the bill makes it that far, to look closely at that suggested amendment as well.

At the end of the day, though, it is about providing better quality and better flexibility for Canadians when they are in need. I commend my colleague for bringing forward the legislation to give Canadians options that will make their life better.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

3:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada and to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the private member's bill before us.

It is always encouraging when we see members from across the country, who solicit and receive ideas on issues that are important to them, afforded the opportunity, through Private Members' Business, to bring those thoughts and ideas to the House. Sadly, to a certain extent, it is a very small percentage of ideas that ultimately make it to the floor of the House of Commons, let alone pass. Some members have many resolutions, bills or motions. Some, such as parliamentary secretaries and others, are not afforded the same opportunity to bring forward initiatives such as this.

When I looked at the member's bill, the first thing that came across my mind was the issue I raised in the form of a question to the member, which was that, over many years, we have seen name changes, such as from unemployment insurance to employment insurance, but more importantly, we have seen an evolution of society that recognizes that government needs to be able to provide the necessary supports to our workers, to the people who make our economy and help our society continue to move forward in terms of employment and adding value to our GDP. I look at the bill before us as yet another example of how the employment insurance program is able to better facilitate our social responsibilities.

With the pandemic, I genuinely respect the fact that Canadians have really come together in terms of doing the very best we can to provide the type of care that is necessary. I think all of us are very much concerned with, for example, what is taking place in our long-term care homes. There is a great deal of sympathy for those individuals who are ending up having to be hospitalized. We think of our health care professionals, and there is an endless number of stories of people who are passing away and not able to have that last hug or to be in the presence of a mom or dad, or in many cases, a brother or sister, other family members or even dear friends. I believe this has heightened the level of interest in this particular issue.

I often hear comments in debates of this nature about how members of Parliament are in a position of having to provide care or are looking in the future at having to provide care. However, we are actually fairly well off in terms of our ability to meet that need, because of the position we hold and the flexibility that we have, but we are the minority and a very small minority. The public as a whole, particularly our workforce, does not have the same luxury. This is where it is important that we provide, through program development, opportunities for family and friends to be able to be around their loved ones at that very difficult time in their lives.

I would add to these comments by saying that, like many of us, at 58, I am in relatively good health but one never knows. I would like to think that if there was ever a time for me to need the type of support I would like to see, as much as I love our health care professionals and acknowledge the fantastic work the do, I would like to think that my family and friends, in particular my family, would be there for me. I think that all members of the House would want the same thing, and that very same principle applies to all of us.

Therefore, whether someone is at the receiving end of having to face these very difficult health issues, or having to provide the care, I think we need to look at ways in which we can continue to move forward, so that as a society we have the right emphasis on family and end-of-life situations, critical care situations and so forth.

I see I am going to have to continue on when the debate comes up next.

Canada Labour CodePrivate Members' Business

3:40 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Indeed, the hon. member for Winnipeg North will have four minutes remaining in his time when the House gets back to debate on the question at the next hour.

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business is now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

It being 3:43 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, November 16 at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 3:43 p.m.)