Madam Speaker, from here on, all those speaking on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois will limit their speeches to 10 minutes.
Following on my colleague, the member for Gaspé, I would also like to add the voices of the constituents of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean to this debate. It is true that today is a sad day for all Canadians and Quebecers. It is also sad for the regions.
This is the last time we will be able to express our views about this plan to reform unemployment insurance. I am therefore speaking from the heart, but I do not expect to be any more successful than my colleagues, who worked tremendously hard on the human resources development committee, in getting the government to budge. I realize that our cries are falling on deaf ears.
I must simply say to you that there is no need to rush at this time. We could-and I implore the parliamentary secretary-we could take the time to review the whole issue of unemployment insurance.
For my region, it will mean approximately $25 million less in the economy annually. And yet, we still have the highest rate of unemployment in Canada, and have had for years. I must tell you that this reform is unfair towards a region such as mine.
This is not what we need in the region. We do not need a blow like this. What we need is help finding a solution. People from my region are proud people who are not afraid to work. We want to find a solution.
This reform is a direct hit on students, women, and seasonal workers. And yet, they made their opinions known, they were consulted, they even sent petitions here. What became of these consultations? All across Canada, these consultations were just a sham. No attention was paid to them, and why not? Because the reform was based on preconceived ideas, on false principles.
They said to themselves "Now then, we are going to reform the system, for too many people are taking unfair advantage. There are people who are cheating the system. We find it hard to understand, there are jobs out there but nobody to take them". Instead of looking at this situation, the decision was taken to try to get at everybody, yet it is not true that everyone is out to cheat the system.
Moreover, at no time in the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development, and even less so publicly, has the government laid its impact studies on the reform out on the table. They have been incapable of telling us what the effects of the reform would be on students, on young people. There has been nothing to show what the effect will be on seasonal workers.
It is only when the thing comes into effect that we will see that perhaps somebody has goofed, that this might not have been the way to go, but by then it will be too late. Far too many people will have had to pay, and to pay through the nose, for this unjust reform.
My colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois have said that, yes, reform was needed, a review was needed, but the review needed to be fair and honest and to allow everyone to benefit from it. That is why my colleagues in the Bloc have moved amendments, amendments which I am not even sure have been looked at properly.
I sat through six hours of the committee's meetings, and from what I saw, the folks across the way paid no attention to what my colleagues were saying. The apparent attitude was "No problem, we will just wait and see how it turns out. We have a plan, and that is the way we will go".
I think that they are on the wrong track, for this reform does nothing more than to encourage people to hold down more than one job, and the jobs involved are mainly precarious ones. This reform will also bring pressure to bear on wages, not upward pressure, but downward. This gives you an idea of what can happen.
Under the old system, seasonal workers, for example, had to try to accumulate the required number of weeks in order to become eligible. Under the new system, they will have to negotiate a number of hours of work with their employer in order to reach the required minimum. You can imagine easily what will happen in small industries, in small and medium size firms where there are no unions. This will cause serious problems between employers and employees. This will have a negative impact on the reform as a whole.
This piling on of salaries will inevitably lead to the creation of "McJobs" all over the place. They will say to someone: "I offer you ten hours of work this week, but do not come in next week. Then the week after that you will again work ten hours". This vicious circle will prevent many people from becoming eligible.
The result will be that people will hold simultaneously an increasing number of jobs. One "McJob" here, one "McJob" there, a better one in order to accumulate a sufficient number of hours. This situation will lead to family unrest, since there will be a social impact, because of irregular work schedules for instance. This new work pattern or work schedules will force people and families to adjust. Children and the mother are often the ones who have to bear the consequences of such changes.
Since you are telling me that my time is almost up, I will conclude by saying that this is a sad day, considering that we are going to vote on this bill tonight.
I would like to tell you about three workers from back home who recently explained their situation to a reporter.
These people said, and I will be very brief: "Instead of taking it out on the unemployed, the government could come up with much more effective decisions. It could take the surplus from the unemployment insurance fund and try to create jobs, provide better training and so on, by creating legislation prohibiting overtime for example. Workers at Alcan have shown the federal government that, with less overtime, jobs can be created. In this case, the government must get involved, because the system has to get started.
The workers at Alcan did it. More than 200 jobs were created, and that is not counting indirect jobs. Moonlighting as well must be monitored. The federal government missed the boat in failing to keep its promise to create jobs.