House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-11.


The House resumed from March 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (illness, injury or quarantine), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11 a.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I usually begin my speeches by saying that I am pleased to participate in the debate on a bill.

However, today, I have to say that I am really disappointed to be here once again debating a bill that, as we know, affects sick workers who need more than 15 weeks of special employment insurance sickness benefits.

During the previous Parliament, I had the privilege of introducing a bill that is similar to that of my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière. We are both concerned about people who worked and contributed their whole life and who did not choose to get sick, to get cancer, for example. They deserve more than 15 weeks of support.

It has been very well documented that, today, workers often need more than 15 weeks to recover. They need to fight the illness, receive treatment, heal and regain their strength before they can return to work. No one chooses to be sick.

As I was saying, I am always happy to debate, but I am incredibly disappointed today. I would even say that I am angry, because we are wasting time. As far back as at least 2011, all parties, including the Conservative Party, the Bloc Québécois, the NDP and even the Liberal Party when it was in opposition, agreed that it was time to amend the Employment Insurance Act and that these changes were needed to support workers through an illness.

I am disappointed because, as members know, I introduced Bill C‑265 in the previous Parliament, and this bill was passed at second reading. We worked on it in committee, which was an amazing experience for me. It was the first time that I had the opportunity to debate with parliamentarians from all parties and to hear witnesses speak to Bill C‑265. Today we are debating Bill C‑215, which is practically the same bill. I am sharing this story with my colleagues because committee stage is the right place and the most appropriate place to have in-depth debate and improve the bill.

We can all agree that Bill C‑215 is not a big bill. It seeks to amend just one section of the Employment Insurance Act. We are asking that benefits be extended from 15 weeks to 52 weeks. During the last Parliament, when we debated in committee, we heard from all sorts of witnesses. Quite honestly, I would say that we did not see any significant resistance to extending benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks.

What really caught my attention was the study from the Parliamentary Budget Officer. According to that study, we collectively have the means to provide the most vulnerable workers the support they need to return to work. The Parliamentary Budget Officer stated and documented the fact that a small increase in contributions, which does not amount to much in the lives of every employer, would financially help thousands of sick workers.

We all know someone in our lives who has gone through the process of recovering or fighting cancer. We know that some cancers can be healed in 15 weeks. However, we also know that if a person has the misfortune of being diagnosed with certain other cancers like colon cancer or rectal cancer, they will need 30 to 37 weeks of financial support to get through it. That is scientifically documented. Advanced technology and science are making it possible for more and more people with cancer to recover, but they still need to take the time to go through the treatment.

When it comes to honest workers who are among the most vulnerable, those who do not have group insurance or the necessary support from their employer, it is rather disgraceful that a rich country like ours is abandoning them.

I often joke that with a quick stroke of the pen, the government could decide, by ministerial order, to extend benefits from 15 weeks to 50 or 52.

It would be humane and compassionate of the government to say, after listening to the witnesses and the Parliamentary Budget Officer, that since bills have been introduced year after year for 10 years, enough is enough. It should quickly pass Bill C-215 or give it a royal recommendation in order to reassure the sick workers who are watching the debate today and who do not understand what is happening.

Personally, I wonder why the government is not taking action on this file. Members will recall that, last year, we passed Bill C-30, which contained a provision that would extend benefits from 15 weeks to 26 in 2022. Why wait so long? What is the justification?

Bill C‑30 received royal assent on June 29, 2021, which was almost a year ago, but I am still trying to convince my colleagues that this failure to move forward makes no sense. Mainly, I am trying to convince my colleagues across the way, because they are the ones who are not on board. I know the Liberal benches over there are full of compassionate MPs who care about sick people, so why on earth is cabinet so dead set against it?

I have my theories, but I wonder which lobby group has been quietly telling cabinet to put it off for as long as possible. Maybe insurance companies, maybe employers? I have no idea, but I do want to point out that employers said they were not opposed to extending the special EI benefit period.

That leaves me wondering who is behind this, because I just cannot understand why I am still here on June 13 giving a speech about a bill to protect and support our most vulnerable workers.

I want to thank my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière for not giving up and for reintroducing his bill, which will help put the spotlight on the government benches to make it clear to the Liberals that this is not a partisan issue. This bill is about humanity, compassion and understanding of the status of a worker who is seriously ill. Perhaps one day we will know who is preventing the government from moving forward more quickly.

It is supposed to come into force in the summer of 2022. According to my assistant, Charles, Quebec strawberries are in season, which means summer is here. If summer is here, why has the government not announced that it is giving royal recommendation to Bill C-215, so that we can give all our vulnerable and seriously ill workers all the support they need to fight their illness, recover and get back to work?

I appeal to the compassion and humanity of the Liberal members opposite.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, I am not happy to rise for this bill. The previous speaker highlighted the frustration over how long this has taken, and Bill C-215 is just another attempt to bring some economic justice to this file.

Ironically, I am speaking here today because somebody is sick. I have been asked to cover off, at the last minute, our position as the New Democrats with regard to this private member's bill, which is very important.

When I first arrived in 2002, Yvon Godin of the NDP, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, was known as a champion with regard to Atlantic Canadians being taken advantage of by the employment insurance program we have in place. We fail to recognize that all Canadians, at the end of the day, are paying into a program that some will never have access to, and I have seen this over a number of generations.

It is really despicable, quite frankly, when we think about it. We pay into a program that is basically manipulated enough, predominantly against women and transitional workers, that we pay an extra tax. Oftentimes, it is the lowest earners in the system who pay this tax, and if they cannot collect it at the end of the day, then that is all it is.

This is no different from a regular insurance program we have privately. We might have it for a car, a house or anything like that. People often get very frustrated when they make an insurance claim and there is a massive deductible or when they are not eligible for some reason, such as a technical problem. However, here, our own government has crafted legislation that works against the lowest earners, in particular, with regard to collecting benefits.

The bill would rectify a problem when it comes to sick benefits. The member for Elmwood—Transcona, from the NDP, had a bill just recently on this asking for 50 weeks. Bill C-215 asks for 52 weeks, and I commend the member for bringing it forward. Again, I wish we did not have to speak about this again, but we do.

Let us remind ourselves of some of the important factors here. There is an argument for the workers: It would be a strong provision for the economy if we moved to a 52-week employment insurance program. However, let me back up. For an individual who has to apply for employment insurance, the rules have been made more difficult than ever before to get get a claim in. Then, if the claim goes in, they are just getting a portion of their income, whether they have lost their job, there has been a layoff or, in this case, they are sick.

The Liberals are finally agreeing, although it has taken a long time, to extend this to 26 weeks, which ironically is the minimum threshold necessary for cancer treatment. However, we know now that for COVID-19 and other types of long-haul diseases, it is not sufficient. When a person is trying to recover, the anxiety, depression and not knowing whether they will get healthy during that process are very serious and affect the recovery rate.

One of the things that is missed in this debate is the fact that employers do better when they know that somebody will be off for a period of time. They can then train another worker and that worker will have stability. A worker could come in for a period of almost a year, and they would contribute much more effectively to a company affected by a person who is off the job. This is incredibly important because it is about investing in training and education and getting a return, especially since right now some sectors of the economy are understaffed and are looking for workers. This would provide a sense of stability for the worker coming in.

This is similar to maternity benefits. When we extended them, it was one of the biggest achievements of Parliament. However, one of the sad things is that we did not extend the amount of money. What we did was divide up the money over a longer period of time. That is another story of how the employment insurance system really is a rip-off for workers at the end of the day. Again, here is a system that should be there for Canadians. They pay into it, yet the rate of return is poor to start with, and on top of that there are all kinds of qualifications for getting the benefit.

Coming back to Bill C-215, there is no doubt that it would provide a real benefit, because companies would have the chance to train and attract employees who could turn into long-standing employees. Often, with maternity leave, when somebody comes into a company and it grows and is successful, that person can stay in the workforce, either in a similar job or a new job in the company. We have had all kinds of success stories.

Prior to being a member of Parliament, I used to work as an employment specialist for persons with disabilities. One of the challenges we often had was that, especially with someone in a new job in the workforce, depending upon the person's disability, this could create some temporary or unintended consequences at the work site, where the person may need accommodation or the person might have another injury. There would be a break or a pause to fix the situation, or the person might have to adjust. Paying into the system and having an employer know that the person will come back healthier or better trained and that this investment has not gone away was really important, and we had over 90% success rate.

Again, this is what we are talking about, providing some sense of stability in the employment sector. What is going to come out of the next number of years is the ability to fill a number of positions in the economy, and that stability would provide an opportunity. We see a lot of movement of workers. We even see workers being poached from Canada internationally, now more than ever before. We have heard this in a lot of the testimony we have had from different types of employers across Canada. One of the things we can do is provide these types of benefits and stability, so that workers know that if they get sick or have a health issue, the government has their backs.

This is money that the person has paid into. This is not reaching back into the pocketbook or the wallet of the nation. This is money that comes off people's cheques every single day when they work, which is then given back as benefits because they paid into it.

I come from the auto sector, where these types of benefits help at times with the economy or, alternatively, if there is a retooling or a change in manufacturing. It provides stability because the workers will be coming back. There can be layoffs. What we have found is that companies have much better workforces and capabilities, which leads to better productivity in Canada. We actually compete on a better footing that way, because the company knows that it is going to get a person back after a period of time, rather than having to search for other answers.

This is what the NDP has been calling for with regard to employment insurance, which would be a much more progressive approach to employment. Sick benefits are just one of its features. This is how we should be looking at our model for employment insurance. How do we use it as a way of augmenting not only the attractiveness of being in the Canadian workforce, but also the productivity?

Extending the weeks would actually produce a better net result and provide better stability for employers who are looking to compete internationally with different manufacturing and other employment bases, knowing that strong programs exist, including day care, pharmacare and dental care coming up. All of those things are part of a company's decision to invest in Canada. Companies will inventory all those costs and benefits. I can tell colleagues that this is more attractive than some of the shortcuts we have seen when competing against the United States or Mexico, which do not have the same types of supports in place. Sometimes companies pay a little bit more up front, knowing that they are going to get a stable workforce and stable programs from the government, which will reduce their overall costs. Especially now, as we are seeing again that skilled trades and other types of occupations are being challenged internationally in whether Canadians stay or go, this is one of the things that we can actually offer as an attractive element to invest in Canada. These types of programs are a bona fide addition to a stable workforce.

I do not see why it is taking this long. I do not see how this would undermine the economy. I do not see how there is a cost to this, which is actually the revenue coming in from paying into other benefits, especially right now when we have a growing economy again. Thank goodness, we are seeing some turnaround in industries like the auto industry in Windsor here, where we have had some downtime, especially with a number of issues related to supply and demand. Investments have been basically poached from us for years because we do not have a national auto strategy. We still do not. We had a couple of victories recently, which was good, but we still need to do better on that. We are going to have increased production and increased capabilities, especially coming out of this pandemic, when we know COVID-19 has challenged so many people.

I thank the member for bringing forward this bill. It is sad that we are speaking about it again.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the member from the Bloc, as well as from the NDP, because I feel this is the next segment to the speech, after listening to the member for Windsor West talk about the fact that we have to look at the economy. This has been going on too long, and we all know that.

I look at my years in the public service, especially as a constituency assistant working for Joe Preston in Elgin—Middlesex—London. Those 11 years of experience have given me the customer service that is so important for Canadians, especially when they are in need. One of the biggest gaps I saw was exactly what we are talking about today. It is when sickness benefits stop and people are expected to go back to work.

Building on what my colleagues previously spoke about, I want to talk about why this is important. This is something that I see everybody in the chamber does understand. I know there is compassion for workers. When they need to take time off, how can the Government of Canada be there to assist? How can we make sure that our choices in policy are going to be good economic policies for our future?

I want to turn to an evaluation that was done of the employment insurance sickness benefits. It is dated April 2022. This evaluation pulled out three key findings, and one of them was about the duration of benefits. I will quote from the results:

...the duration of the benefits is adequate for most claimants, but those with severe and/or long-term illnesses are more likely to use the full 15 weeks of sickness benefits and remain sick hereafter

there has been significant growth in claims for the EI Sickness benefits nationally since 2000....

These are things that we need to take into consideration. Yes, it may be something minor or perhaps somebody is sick. I know there is a benefit where, if people have a sick child, they can take up to 35 weeks. What can we do for that individual? Who is the employee who needs to take time off work as well?

Right now, employees can get only up to 15 weeks, but let us say it is someone like our wonderful Speaker who just had to take a few weeks off himself to get his heart looked at. We see the same things with many Canadians who, unfortunately, do not have that support. Employment insurance is the backup plan. There are about 45% of Canadians who have a backup plan. What happens when employment insurance is not there? Many Canadians have to use other insurance first before they go on EI sick benefits, but what happens to those Canadians who do not have those other benefits? Right now, if they are sick, they get 15 weeks. Let us think about a person who has cardiovascular disease, who has cancer, who has ongoing injuries or who is in a motor vehicle accident. We have seen some horrific things happen and there is so much repair that needs to be done there as well.

We have all noted how COVID caused a lot of problems when it comes to mental health. This is something that everybody in the chamber can agree on. As we are transitioning from the pandemic and being locked down for two years, we are seeing a lot of issues, so we need to be compassionate on this.

The history of sickness benefits goes back to 1971, when they were introduced. It has been 51 years and it is time to get this fixed, to come up to our standards in 2022. We have seen changes to the program. Back in 1990, we recognized that women who go on maternity leave sometimes require bed rest. The government responded to that by putting in a combination of both sickness and maternity benefits. I think of some other great things that were done for self-employed individuals who wanted to have these types of benefits and did not have private insurance. They can now get employment insurance sickness benefits through the Government of Canada. That is really important. We know that a number of years ago, there was a reduction in hours, from 700 hours down to 600 hours. We have seen, over the last 51 years, that the program has changed, but we need to continue to modify it to ensure that we get things done right.

I am really proud of the bill that my colleague has put forward to expand the sickness benefit from 15 weeks up to 52 weeks. This is a really great thing for people, like I said, who have cancer, who are perhaps having surgery this month, but next month may have to deal with chemotherapy and radiation. Perhaps after that, there will be different things that need to be done too. Therefore, the 15 weeks many times do not provide enough time.

Referring back to this evaluation done in April 2022, I want to talk about a statistic. Of the people who were surveyed, 45% did not return to work by the time they were supposed to, so there are issues here. About 55% of respondents who had exhausted their claims were able to return to work, but there is a whole gap of people who were not able to go back to work.

The average length of treatment for things such as breast and colon cancer, two of the most commonly diagnosed cancers, ranges anywhere from 26 weeks to 37 weeks. Currently, if we are looking at the benefits from the Government of Canada, one would be looking at a minimum of 11 weeks not paid. Members should think about that, think about the stress a person is already going through, as well as the stress on the family. One thing the Government of Canada can do is help take away some of that financial stress. We know this is not going to make people rich. This is not a program that makes people rich, but it does provide some benefits to help people during those difficult times. Taking that 55% of a person's earnings and increasing it over a time span of 52 weeks would be much more beneficial.

These are the things that I think it is really important to look at. One of the things we have to note is that we are asking this of the government, because this needs to come with a royal recommendation. We do need to spend money. We know from the last Parliament, from the discussions today and from the study that was just done, which I was just referring to, that the government knows there is a problem, so let us find the solution.

This is why I am saying to the government that all parties and experts are onside here. We know everybody is rowing in the same direction. We want to see the employment insurance benefits for sickness increased. We all want to see that. The population needs it. There is 55% of the population that does not have additional benefits, so we need to be there for them.

We have taken into consideration things that people may be concerned with, and there are ways of dealing with them. I know some people will say there are possibilities of fraud. Over the last number of years, we have not been requesting medical certificates through employment insurance. This is a simple solution that we can put back in to help take some of those concerns away. We could go back and ask for a medical note. People can work with their physicians to ensure they get the time off they need.

Both the Bloc and the NDP had bills like this, so we know they are in favour. We know that in the House of Commons, the majority of members are in favour. This is where we are looking for royal recommendation and this is where the support from the government is really needed. We need additional funds to increase this from 26 weeks to 52 weeks, the number of weeks in the Budget Implementation Act, 2021, No. 1, effective July 1, 2022. That is what we are asking for. This is about compassion. It is about helping Canadians when they really need it.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has spoken about this. Yes, this would be a cost to the government, but as the speaker previous to me from the NDP noted, this is good for the economy. We hear all Canadians, not only employees but also the employers, saying that this is something we should be doing.

I want to reflect on those people who come to the office to say they have exhausted their benefits but cannot go back to work. Many people do try to go back to work. There are a lot of financial concerns. As I indicated, people are receiving only 55% of their salary in the first place, so all of the bills can and will continue to pile up. Having the benefit available for a longer period of time is really positive, so let us do that.

As we are looking at this, we need to look at the families and individuals under financial stress. This is one way of helping them out during this very critical time. Increasing the employment insurance benefits to 52 weeks would give people hope. It would give them time to heal and repair. A lot of times, people are rushing back to work. In some cases, their jobs cannot be modified to welcome them back, so sometimes people cannot return to work.

We need to be compassionate and do what is right for Canadians. I am asking for everybody's support on this important bill, Bill C-215.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Madam Speaker, I would first like to thank my hon. colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière for his bill seeking to make changes to EI.

I am really happy to be speaking to this bill today, and I have enjoyed the debate because my colleagues from Salaberry—Suroît, Windsor West and Elgin—Middlesex—London have brought forward a lot of really good points. I think that speaks to the bill, that we have a lot of people speaking about the need for employment insurance reform and that members are bringing forward various examples.

What I would like to speak to, though, is what we have been doing in employment insurance reform and then speak to what I have heard today in debate.

On June 29, 2021, Bill C-30, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on April 19, 2021 and other measures, contained the provisions to amend the EI sickness benefit to bring it from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. It received royal assent back in June of last year and will go into effect this summer, when we will move from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. We did this because we recognized that the need for increased weeks of employment insurance is sometimes necessary for those who are sick.

Last summer, the minister joined the commissioners of the Canadian Employment Insurance Commission to launch the first phase of a two-year consultation on the future of the EI program. To reach as many Canadians as possible, the minister asked her department to launch a consultation portal, which included an online survey, where all interested Canadians could share their views. The survey was open from August 6 to November 19 last year and drew more than 1,900 responses. Approximately 60 written submissions came from a cross-section of labour, employer and other groups. The minister personally attended many of the 10 national and 11 regional round tables to hear feedback on how the EI program can better serve Canadians. Input was received from over 200 stakeholders across the country, including employer and employee organizations, unions, academics, self-employed worker and gig worker associations, parents and family associations and health organizations, to name a few.

The overarching goal is to bring forward a vision for a new and modern El system that is simpler and more responsive to the needs of workers and employers. The first round of the consultations focused on key priorities related to improving access to El, including how to address the temporary emergency measures that will expire this fall. We are also examining whether El meets the evolving and diverse needs of Canadian families. As we have heard today in some of the debate, it seems there are some areas that we still need to look at.

For example, how do we make maternity and parental benefits more flexible and more inclusive for adoptive parents? There are differing views, obviously, and I know that the minister has found unanimous commitment on the part of both employer and employee representatives to develop a modern El program that is resilient, accessible, adequate and financially sustainable. The government is planning a second phase of round table consultations by summer.

Aside from the information, advice and recommendations from the round tables and online consultation, there are several other reviews, evaluations and reports available. In particular, I want to highlight the excellent work done in 2021 by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, which included 20 recommendations on modernizing the El program.

As we have heard, the El program has been a crucial part of Canada's social safety net since 1940. As we also heard today, we obviously need to get this right. My colleagues talked a little about severe illnesses, for instance, the case of cancer. We never want someone to feel like they have to go back to work if they are ill.

When someone has cancer, we want them to focus on fighting the disease and getting better. We do not want them worrying about paying their rent or buying groceries, or what they are going to do if they do not have insurance.

I was told about some such cases in my riding, and that included friends of mine. I have a friend who is in the restaurant business and he had prostate cancer when he was 40 years old.

He did not have private insurance. He came to speak to us and was very frank. Instead of focusing on his treatments, he worried about losing his home and not being able to take care of his children. He spoke about what he called the business of cancer, something we never really think about. We think about the person receiving treatment, about them winning the fight against cancer, but we do not think about the human side and the financial aspects of this fight, or of its impact on the family.

Today, I listened to my colleagues from Salaberry—Suroît, Windsor West and Elgin—Middlesex—London, who talked about similar cases. Some people need more than 15 weeks, others more than 26 weeks. That is why we held consultations.

When we debate private members' bills, I always listen to the various positions and points being raised. We had a really good debate this morning, and I want to again commend my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière for his Bill C‑215.

I think, when we are debating legislation, what is really important is to listen to all of our colleagues across the way. This was a really good debate where examples clearly demonstrated that 26 weeks may not be enough and we might need more.

I know that a previous piece of legislation, very similar to this one, did require royal recommendation. I believe, in this case, it will require that as well. I believe this piece of legislation has the support of the Conservatives, the NDP and the Bloc at the moment. I do not know who on my side is supporting it because it is a private member's bill. I think members brought forward very interesting arguments as to why we need to take a look at this and see if 26 weeks is sufficient.

I have not made up my mind, and I am sure there are people behind me or in the lobby who are saying that I am at it again, but I have not made up my mind on whether I will support this bill at second reading to go to committee. I think some interesting arguments have definitely been presented today.

The bill will likely need to address specific cases, such as cancer or severe illness, that require more weeks of benefits for those who need them. I know that not all Canadians have access to private or employer-provided insurance.

I think that is something that must—

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I must interrupt and ask the hon. member for Lac-Saint-Louis to step outside the House to take his call.

I will remind members that they cannot be on the phone in the House. I encourage them to step out of the chamber if they need to use the phone, because we should not be hearing their conversations in here.

The hon. member for Longueuil—Charles‑LeMoyne.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

As I was saying, I think it would be a good idea to revisit our EI program. I know the minister has done research and held public consultations and will continue to do so.

Bill C‑215 needs royal assent to be implemented. When it comes up for voting this Wednesday, we will see what happens.

I would like to once again thank my colleague from Lévis—Lotbinière for his bill and all my colleagues who took part in the debates in the House. I think they raised some good points, very specific and useful points, to persuade all members to support Bill C‑215.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:40 a.m.


Denis Trudel Bloc Longueuil—Saint-Hubert, QC

Madam Speaker, since parliamentary life can be full of surprises, I rise somewhat unexpectedly to talk about Bill C-215.

I listened attentively to the speech by my colleague from Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, who presented a series of arguments in favour of the bill. The problem is that her government is currently resisting. We hope that the hon. member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne will be sort of a Trojan horse and make sure that the truth about this issue gets back to the caucus and the Prime Minister’s Office.

Bill C-215 amends the Employment Insurance Act to increase from 15 to 52 the maximum number of weeks for which benefits can be paid because of illness, injury or quarantine. This is our umpteenth attempt. For two decades, the Bloc Québécois has been working on this, and asking that the number of weeks of benefits be increased from 15 to 50. Our reasoning is still the same.

In December 2019, my leader, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, and my colleague from Thérèse-De Blainville spoke out publicly to support the request of two cancer survivors, Émilie Sansfaçon and Marie-Hélène Dubé, and their families, who have been fighting for years to get the federal government to make the necessary amendments to the special benefits program and increase the duration of benefits from 15 to 50 weeks.

Unfortunately, Émilie died on November 5, 2020, at the young age of 31, leaving behind her spouse, her two children, her mother, her mother-in-law and, of course, her father, Louis Sansfaçon. Louis Sansfaçon was a candidate for the Bloc Québécois in the last election, and I commend his courage and resilience in this ongoing, just struggle. Émilie did not live long enough to see the end of her fight to extend the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits from 15 to 50, despite a meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau. I would actually like to give a shout-out to the Prime Minister, since we just learned that he has COVID-19, and I wish him a speedy recovery.

Émilie met with the Prime Minister to discuss this motion. However, the government still has not increased the duration of EI sickness benefits. That is why my esteemed colleague from Salaberry—Suroît, who spoke earlier, dedicated this bill, which was introduced in the last Parliament, to Émilie Sansfaçon.

Let us be clear: From Johanne Deschamps, a former Bloc member for Laurentides—Labelle, to my colleagues from Salaberry—Suroît and Thérèse-De Blainville, the Bloc Québécois has always fought to improve the EI system, including creating an independent fund, eliminating the spring gap, improving access to regular benefits, ending the classification of unemployed workers based on the claims submitted to the program, and increasing all types of benefits.

The special EI benefit for serious illnesses is totally absurd when you think about it, or when you know a person with a serious illness such as cancer or ALS. Obviously, with the COVID-19 crisis, the public coffers are not as full as they could be. This is not an easy task, and there is little leeway. However, it is precisely this crisis that made many people understand the importance of having a good employment insurance program, since it is an economic stabilizer.

In fact, when he testified before the Standing Committee on Finance, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, Stephen S. Poloz, admitted, when questioned by the Bloc, that employment insurance was an important economic stabilizer and that Canada would stand up far better to the crisis if more people were covered. That is saying something. The Bloc asked, “Since employment insurance is an automatic stabilizer of the economy, in your opinion, wouldn’t the economy be more stable in a time of crisis if the system covered more workers?” Mr. Poloz replied, “Certainly.” What more do we need?

We know that the labour market has changed considerably since special sickness benefits were established in 1971. It has evolved significantly. Needs are now more urgent, especially when it comes to work-life balance. If a worker is laid off, they may be entitled to regular EI benefits. If they have a child, they may be entitled to maternity or parental leave. However, if they find out they have a serious illness that requires frequent or prolonged leave, they will get the same number of weeks of benefits as a worker who has to take leave for a broken bone. Something is wrong here. This makes no sense.

Illness involves the involuntary component of the purpose of the regular benefits program. Obviously, no one wants to get sick or be diagnosed with cancer. I say cancer, but it could be any long-term chronic illness. Cancer is a prime example because it affects almost everyone. I think that one out of three Canadians are at risk of getting cancer.

A person who receives news like that, which is already difficult psychologically, needs several weeks simply to realize what is happening and what it means. In fact, in an interview, our brave Émilie said that, when she was diagnosed for the second time, what first came to mind was her financial situation, not the fact that she would have to go back to chemotherapy. We can imagine how she felt. She immediately wondered how she would manage to survive during this long period of treatment.

We are not in the United States. In Canada, we want to help people and that is our mindset here in the House.

Marie-Hélène Dubé, the cancer survivor who fought alongside Ms. Sansfaçon, explained her difficult journey. She said, “I had to take out several mortgages on my house and postpone the surgery for my third cancer because I had not yet worked the 630 hours I needed to be entitled to 15 weeks of benefits. This had an impact on my remission. I was exhausted when I finally went in for surgery. I had several complications. Fortunately, I had the support of my boss, and I had a house. Someone who rents would find themselves out in the street”.

In addition to undergoing treatment, she had to take out another mortgage on her house. That is not easy. The financial stress had an impact on her illness. As my hon. colleague from Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne said earlier, someone who rents would end up in the street.

Another worker, William Morissette, had a medical certificate stating that he could return to work in a year, after undergoing an ostomy to treat his colon cancer. That is a typical case. Many people will heal or go into remission and be able to go back to work after a recovery period.

I also want to note that, according to the Supreme Court of Canada, the employment insurance power must be interpreted generously. This is what it said in a 2008 case: “Its objectives are not only to remedy the poverty caused by unemployment, but also to maintain the ties between unemployed persons and the labour market.”

As I mentioned earlier, I hope that my colleagues across the aisle will do the same so that, together, we can make this a non-partisan issue for Quebeckers and Canadians.

In conclusion, in honour of all viewers who are seriously ill or who know someone who is, the Bloc Québécois and I will continue this just and necessary fight and will vote in favour of this bill.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank all of my colleagues in the House who took part in the debate on Bill C-215 and whose sensitivity and unparalleled sense of duty enabled them to recognize the urgent need to take action and offer proper financial support to people who are recovering from a serious illness such as cancer. We are now at a crossroads with Bill C‑215.

All of the members in the House understand the importance of this bill and of the second reading vote that will allow a committee to study the technical aspect of the royal recommendation required under our parliamentary procedures for a bill that has financial implications for the government.

It is far too easy for a government to shelve a private member's bill. The current rules water down the impact of members' work, even if the House votes for positive initiatives that are necessary for Canadians.

I realize this is a whole other debate, but pointing it out will give us a chance to think about it and change things in the House for the collective good. The House must draft acts and regulations with a view to enhancing Canadians' lives and well-being.

It is our duty as members to fix this provision of the employment insurance program that has existed for decades. The members' will should lead to concrete results. That is the very basis of our Canadian democracy.

When our work bears fruit, it gives hope and dignity to those who are held back a serious illness. At this stage, I wonder whether my Liberal colleagues are aware that obtaining the royal recommendation and increasing the number of weeks of EI sickness benefits from 15 to 52 depends on their good faith.

A study in committee would surely yield the same conclusions as the last one, but that is not what I am asking for here, since illnesses such as cancer do not wait. I hope that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance will take responsibility and execute the will of the House by granting a royal recommendation to Bill C‑215.

Right now, millions of Canadians are struggling to make ends meet in the face of soaring prices on necessities like food, housing and transportation. Now more than ever, sick people receiving medical treatment or recovering from illness need to know that they can count on their government for support.

Against the expectations of my hon. colleagues, who already know that we need to act, I call upon the Prime Minister and his right-hand woman, the Minister of Finance, to show compassion by making a concrete gesture that will lead to the passage of this bill. We have a social responsibility to the people we hold dear, the people we love, the people who gave us life, in the case of our parents. They deserve our support so they can get well with guaranteed financial security at the low cost of one cup of coffee a month, as I have said in the House before.

Let us hope that this bill goes in the right direction.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes to request a recorded division or that the motion be adopted on division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

The hon. member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Employment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, November 25, 2021, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 15, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Sitting SuspendedEmployment Insurance ActPrivate Members' Business

11:50 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The House will now suspend to the call of the Chair.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:53 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders


Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, in relation to the consideration of Government Business No. 16, I move:

That debate be not further adjourned.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders



The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to Standing Order 67.1, there will now be a 30-minute question period. I invite hon. members who wish to ask questions to rise in their places or use the “raise hand” function so the Chair has some idea of the number of members who wish to participate in this question period.

Seeing the interest in asking questions, I will be notifying members when their time is coming up, so I would ask them to limit their questions and comments to one minute. That way, we can hopefully get everybody in on the debate.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Red Deer—Lacombe.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders



Blaine Calkins Conservative Red Deer—Lacombe, AB

Madam Speaker, I am going to be speaking directly to the camera and to Canadians at home so they can hear the question I am about to ask the government.

The motion that was just moved is a motion called “closure”. It is that the debate on Government Business No. 16 not be further adjourned, which means it is closure. What the government is doing through this motion and through Government Business No. 16, which we are debating today, is having a closure motion on a time allocation process, which means we will time-allocate time for Bill C-11 in committee to come to this House, time-allocate report stage in this House and then time-allocate third reading of that bill in this House. Anybody who is following Bill C-11 knows of and has great concerns about the censorship of the Internet in that bill, so what the government is doing today on a censorship bill is moving closure on a time allocation motion. They are censoring the censorship of their own censorship bill.

That is what is happening today. Why?

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders


Edmonton Centre Alberta


Randy Boissonnault LiberalMinister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, the hon. member knows very well that there has been extensive debate on this bill. There were more than 15 hours of debate at second reading, where we heard from 48 speakers, the overwhelming majority of whom were Conservative speakers, and there has been extensive debate at committee, 21 hours. The reason we are here today is that the Conservatives have been filibustering so much that they will not even let the bill get to clause-by-clause consideration, and they literally filibustered their own motion in committee.

They do not want to debate this bill; they just want to block it. They are fundraising off of fearmongering. We are going to make sure that broadcasters pay for great content in Canada. That is what this is about.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders



Peter Julian NDP New Westminster—Burnaby, BC

Madam Speaker, we have seen what has happened at committee. I have seen it first-hand. It is unbelievable. We had the witnesses selected; then the Conservatives started filibustering the witnesses, including the CRTC chair and the minister, refusing to let them come to committee. Then the Conservatives filibustered some more and basically stopped all the committee's functions.

As members know, the job of the committee is actually to improve the bill. There were a number of intervenors. The vast majority of those who came forward at committee were in support of the bill, but they wanted to see improvements, and Conservatives are refusing to allow those improvements to be adopted.

I want to ask my colleague why the Conservatives are blocking everything and why they do not do their job as official opposition and actually improve the bill. That is the reason we are here.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders



Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives have had dozens of hours to debate this bill, and so have other members. Conservatives have been filibustering and have been blocking, and they do not want to see this bill move forward.

Just one of the benefits of Bill C-11 is that we would be updating the mandate of the CRTC to include specific focus on supporting francophone, racialized, indigenous, LGBTQ+ and disabled creators in Canada, and this means a portion of the contributions from broadcasting and streaming platforms would be directly supporting the development of these creative platforms and of people in the ecosystem who have been shut out.

As such, it is up to the Conservatives to tell Canadians why they are blocking legislation that would help creators who have been disadvantaged since the Broadcasting Act was first in place in 1991. Why are they not doing their job and making the bill better, instead of blocking it at committee?

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I would ask the minister why his government is blocking the release of the policy directive that they will issue to the CRTC.

We are waiting to hearing how the Liberal government will force the CRTC to implement the measures contained in Bill C-11. I note that on Friday the minister said he would not rush this through the Senate in order to allow the Senate lots of time to debate it. The bill only came to the heritage committee on May 17. Now the government is rushing it through both the committee and the House.

Now that the government is not going to rush it through the Senate, would the minister at least commit to tabling, for all Canadians to see, the policy directive that it would issue to the CRTC?

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I sat with the hon. member at the heritage committee with years ago. He knows very well that policy directives are released after a bill passes.

What is dismaying for me is that the members opposite speak about democracy somehow being undermined. I have to say there is no greater threat to our democracy than when an opposition party attacks great institutions, great parts of the government and Canadian democracy, such as the CRTC, which is fully independent of government, and that is a good thing.

What the bill is trying to do is open up the creative sector to more people and make sure that streaming platforms and big tech pay into the Canada Media Fund. That is a good thing.

Delay tactics will not help Canadians. Passing this bill will.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Mike Morrice Green Kitchener Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I too am concerned with some of the delay tactics we are seeing from some other parliamentarians here. I believe our democracy is sacred, and the governing party does have a mandate from Canadians, so it should have a place here to move on that. As members know, I have supported some time allocation motions in the past for this reason.

That said, this Motion No. 16 does not even allow all parliamentarians to put forward their amendments at committee if they are not moved by a certain time. This is now closure on even having debate on a pretty substantial motion. I wonder if the minister could share more on why such seemingly extreme measures are needed when we are not expecting an election to be called this summer. Why is the government going at this pace, given how important it is to get this legislation right?

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Randy Boissonnault Liberal Edmonton Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, quite frankly, there has been debate at committee, and the Conservatives continue to block. They filibustered for seven hours in 29 hours of debate and 48 speakers. It has been a great amount of time.

While we are reluctant to be at this stage, this is critical legislation. Canadians asked us to pass it. They want us to move on this. This is going to help us shift from cable, which came to my town of Morinville in 1982. Here we are now in 2022, and we can now stream from our cars, backyards or apartments. It is a streaming world. The CRTC needs to catch up. It needs the legislation to do it. We have to get this out and we have to get this bill passed.

Motion That Debate Be Not Further AdjournedOnline Streaming ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, none of what the minister just said is accurate.

The Senate is not going to pass this bill before the end of June. We just heard that the committee has been considering this bill since the middle of May. I have been to that committee. What the cabinet is calling filibustering is what I call debate and raising the issues our constituents are raising.

Thousands of Canadians emailed us and said they did not want to see what was called Bill C-10. The government brought it back as Bill C-11. The bill has not been fixed. They have not fixed section 4.2, which does generate the ability of the government, through the CRTC, to moderate and censor the content uploaded by users.

This motion is truly a lack of confidence in the chair of the Canadian heritage committee. This is entirely of the government's making and entirely the government's fault. This legislation has not been reviewed or debated in 31 years. There is no reason to rush it through in the next few weeks. The government is being completely inaccurate in the way it is presenting it. It is a darn shame that we will not be able to review this bill as it deserves to be reviewed, because Canadians are interested to know if they will still be able to use the Internet, their YouTube channels, their Facebook and their TikTok in the ways that they have always been able to without the censorship of government and the CRTC.