Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the report stage of Bill C-12 concerning employment insurance.
It is evident that a change is required to our unemployment insurance program. The old UI program is outdated and out of touch with today's working environment.
I have spoken with many of my constituents who are looking for employment. Some of my constituents have over 100 CVs floating around in the employment market. It is a very competitive market today.
Employers can pick and choose from an enormous number of candidates. It is not uncommon to hear that 200 or 300 people are applying for one job opening. That is incredible. It is why Canadians who are looking for work today need, require and deserve protection. It is why they require a safety net called employment insurance to help them during this critical time of job hunting.
A growing number of Canadians are holding down more than one job to make ends meet. In most cases, they are not permanent jobs. Chances are they are working just as many hours per week as the traditional full time single job worker. Their work is not insured under the old UI program. These jobs hold no benefits if employees are sick. They do not get maternity or other benefits. They do not qualify for many government employment programs if they find themselves out of work.
The reasons why this unfortunate situation occurs is because eligibility for UI benefits in any job is based on weeks of work, with a minimum requirement of 15 hours per week. One can work five different 10-hour per week jobs, totalling 50 hours per week, but as far as UI is concerned, it counts for nothing.
I am pleased that Bill C-12, employment insurance, will rectify the situation. Employment insurance eligibility is based on hours, and all hours count, whether one puts those hours in for one, two or five different employers.
Working counts with EI. Many people who work two or three part time jobs will get insurance protection for the first time. In fact, statistics show that some 500,000 more part time workers will be insured under the EI system than were under UI.
Another example of improvements under the new EI system is that a worker who holds down a full time job which pays $500 a week and also works at a part time job which pays $100 a week will now be better off. Under the previous program of UI only the first full time job is insured but under employment insurance both jobs will now be insured.
This will make a difference to a worker if he or she loses his or her full time job. In this situation the benefits under UI would be considerably lower than under the new employment insurance. That is because when UI calculates the insured weekly earnings, it ignores the part time job that pays $100 a week. That part time job is not insured.
The new employment insurance takes that extra $100 into account. When the calculations are done the worker ends up with $275 per week in benefits. Under the previous system the benefits would be reduced by $31, as a result of continuing to work while receiving UI benefits. Therefore the benefits would fall to $244 a week.
Under the new employment insurance system the worker will receive $330 and the benefits would be reduced by only $18. The worker would be able to earn up to $82 from a second job without reducing the worker's weekly benefits. Therefore the worker's cheque actually amounts to $68 more than under the old UI system.
Bill C-12, employment insurance, simply works better for all Canadian workers. I believe that this new EI system better protects working Canadians and addresses the problems that they face in a more realistic way.