This is an issue that concerns me for two reasons. First, when I was working in the film industry, I was very active in the union movement as a representative of the Association québécoise des techniciens et des techniciennes de l'image et du son and as an elected member of its board of directors.
Second, in my immediate family, we had to care for a sick loved one. I know the reality of families who are struggling to get by because they want to provide quality of life for their sick or dying loved ones. This Parliament has a duty to act for workers.
I just want to take a moment to thank the hon. member for Edmonton Riverbend. Going against some of his colleagues took some courage. I support the spirit of this bill, which I understand is intended to give caregivers more time before they have to return to work after the death of a family member. This would be done by amending the Canada Labour Code to allow people who take compassionate care leave to postpone their return to work by a few days after the death of a family member. The additional days would be provided based on the period between the start of the leave and the death of the family member.
The Bloc Québécois believes that it makes sense to let workers have a healthy employment relationship and not to have to choose between two bad situations. Taking care of a sick family member is already extremely hard. When that person dies, the caregiver may be torn between relief, guilt and sadness. It should never be acceptable in a country like Canada to be forced to choose between one's job and caring for a loved one who is ill.
This bill applies directly to caregivers providing end-of-life care for a loved one. The Bloc Québécois has always believed family caregivers play a central role both in the lives of the people they support and for society as a whole. Many groups are calling on the government to recognize the importance of their role. One of those groups is Quebec's L'Appui, which believes as we do that recognition of family caregivers results in better access to resources and improved quality of life.
In Quebec, more than a quarter of caregivers work and are therefore especially vulnerable because they have to make sure to bring in at least some income while caring for their loved one. According to a survey by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Canadians, and I would add Quebeckers, who help care for a loved one spend an average of $430 per month performing caregiving responsibilities. Three-quarters say they have no choice but to make financial sacrifices. According to the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec, caregivers spend an average of $7,600 per year on the person they care for, regardless of their initial income level, and 20% of caregivers are financially insecure.
According to L'Appui, in Quebec alone, 1.5 million people reported providing at least one hour of care a week, and 2.2 million people provided care or emotional support for a loved one or helped them go to medical appointments, shop for groceries, get around or fill out paperwork.
One of the main problems is that about one-third of caregivers who provide at least one hour of care a week do not recognize themselves as caregivers. The same is true for 20% of caregivers who provide more than 10 hours of care a week. Most Quebeckers and Canadians are not aware of the resources available to them. They are easing the burden on the health care system without even realizing it. It is only right that we take action to recognize that reality.
My colleagues will find all my figures a little annoying, but they are important, so here are some more. According to the Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec, no less than 85% of elder care is provided by family caregivers. This means that if a person needs 22 hours of care, the family caregiver will work 16.5 of those hours. Our neighbours, friends and constituents who give so much of themselves for their loved ones have to contend with a lack of resources for in-home services, wait times for residential spaces and fragmented care.
As a quick aside, I would like to point out that the only reason this problem exists in social services in Quebec and the provinces is the lack of resources. The lack of resources exists because one of the two levels of government responsible for the well-being of our constituents is not doing enough. No one will be surprised to learn that the problem is right here, in this very Parliament.
Right now, there is nothing more important than supporting the health care system. For the federal government, this means increasing health transfers. We are grappling with a health crisis, and the government must collaborate, as the House called on it to do in a motion moved by the Bloc Québécois last December. Health transfers also help provide effective and adequately funded services to improve the health and life expectancy of people who are ill, and to support the invaluable work of family caregivers.
I actually have some more figures to support that. To cover the hours worked by family caregivers would cost between $4 billion and $10 billion, and 1.2 million full-time professionals would have to be hired. Basically, these dedicated people are saving the health care systems of Quebec and the provinces astronomical amounts of money. That is the end of my little aside.
Getting back to the bill, I have noticed that, rather than improving the employment insurance program, federal governments prefer to lower premiums, which just diminishes any leeway that would have allowed for improvements.
These lower premiums do more good for big companies than for small businesses and workers. Should Bill C‑220 pass, we will have to monitor how it affects the fund. While generous social programs are always welcome, we as parliamentarians have a duty to future generations to ensure that these generous programs are sustainable. I am sure that the government will be able to make sure of this in due course.
I want to share a quote from a speech I made this past fall:
Millions of people expect us to do our utmost for them. They want us to do our job better than ever, and they do not expect us to give lessons to anyone. Doing our job means reforming EI to fix the flaws we have been criticizing for so long. Doing our job means encouraging people to go back to work while reassuring them about their financial future, giving seniors what they need to make ends meet, providing the promised aid to farmers, and giving Quebec and the provinces the health care money that is rightfully theirs. Doing our job means respecting the democracy that has brought us here and providing enough time to do our work.
I think this still rings true today.
As my time is almost up, I want to come back to one last point. It is the question I always come back to. The question we must ask ourselves is: Who do we work for?
That is what really matters. We work for the people who put their trust in us to represent them and to manage their hard-earned money. As members of Parliament, we must ensure that the treatment of vulnerable people and their caregivers constantly improves. That is part of the reason many people in the House went into politics.
I commend the sincere commitment of my colleague from Edmonton Riverbend, who, as we know, has been fighting this battle for many years. To all the caregivers, I hope that the House will make the right decision and move forward with the bill.