Mr. Speaker, I too would like to associate myself with the comments of the member for Acadie—Bathurst and say, yes, I am delighted that on December 3 Canada and Quebec are still partners in this great Confederation. I am sure that this is the way it will stay for many generations to come.
I want to congratulate the member for Laurentides for bringing in any piece of legislation, private members or otherwise, that tries to protect the rights of workers in this country. In this country, albeit we do have great difficulties on occasion, one of the difficulties we have is making sure our workers are treated fairly and properly in the workplace.
When we look at some of the things that are happening to the 1.3 million Canadians who are unemployed, it is a case where in many ways they are the forgotten members of Canadian society. There are 1.3 million Canadians unemployed every given day, December 3, December 4, January 3, January 4, the year 2000, the year 1999, the year 1998. It seems to make little or no difference that we have this stagnant high unemployment rate of 1.3 million Canadians, over 8% across the country. In Newfoundland, something like 17% of our workforce is unemployed. We will be more than happy to support any piece of legislation that will increase the chance of workers to earn a decent livelihood and be treated fairly in the workplace.
Being treated fairly in the workplace means that the government has to do a lot more than what it is doing now for the unemployed and the workers. If we are unemployed in Canada, we seem to be forgotten by the government. If we go work, we seem to get gouged by the government at every opportunity.
The EI fund is one example of where workers are abused and discriminated against in the country, where they are taxed above the norm and the tax goes into the employment insurance fund. The fund has a surplus in excess of $30 billion which is owned primarily by the workers and the employers of Canada. Whether people are unemployed or working in the country, they can be discriminated against in many different ways.
Our party thinks that the EI fund has to rectified. Workers' rights have to be preserved and enhanced in any way possible. Bill C-212 does some of that and we are more than happy to support it.
When people are or are not working in Newfoundland, they find that there are no training dollars. People do not realize it but the HRDC office in Atlantic Canada and in Newfoundland, in particular, continually flaunts the statistics which say that the better educated and better trained we are the more opportunities we will have to get a job.
In Newfoundland there is not one solitary cent of discretionary spending that can now be approved for training in January of this year. All of the training money that was allocated has been committed up to August. The new budget starts on April 1 and by August all the training money will be committed. This means that a large number of Newfoundlanders who are among the 17% unemployed and who would like to get into the workforce, pay taxes and contribute to Canada, have no opportunity to do so because the Government of Canada has not seen fit to put some of the money, that it is taking from the working public of Canada through the EI fund, back into the training and education programs.
Those are examples of discrimination against workers. This morning I asked some questions of the Minister of Transport, or his parliamentary secretary, about the InterCanadian employees. Today we have 900 employees whose lives are in a state of chaos because they do not know if they have a job. Of those employees, 700 in non-management have not received a paycheque this week because InterCanadian has had to cease business.
Why did it have to cease business? It had to cease business because the Minister of Transport said that the Canadian airline industry was in crisis. As a result, InterCanadian lost a significant share of the market and was not able to effectively conduct their business.
This was a crisis created by the Minister of Transport who said something and then did not get involved in finding a solution. Today there are 700 families with no paycheques coming in from InterCanadian in Quebec and in Atlantic Canada. It is a shame. This was caused by the Government of Canada saying one thing and not being willing to get involved to the same degree that it was in an earlier deal when some big shots, some very well-connected people, were going to use Onex, as a Canadian company, for a foreign-based takeover of Air Canada.
There is discrimination against workers in the workplace. We saw the same thing happen with Air Atlantic when it moved out of Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada without any warning. The Minister of Labour for the Government of Canada gave it relief from a 16 week severance package proviso that is in the labour code and had to be followed unless the Minister of Labour gave an agreement not to have it so done, which meant it took money out of the pockets of every worker who used to work for Air Atlantic.
When the member for Laurentides brings up Bill C-212, a bill that promotes equal treatment of employees within the workforce, allowing for the provisos of seniority, then we in our party are more than happy to support it. If it equalizes wages, benefits and opportunities for people in the workforce, then we are more than happy to do it.
We congratulate the member for bringing forward the bill. It is one more way to make the workplace somewhat more fair. It takes into account the concerns relating to seniority which are in all workplace agreements.
The Progressive Conservative caucus will be happy to support the legislation because it makes the workplace somewhat more fair for those who are lucky enough to be in it.