Mr. Speaker, Bill C-12 is not just about modernizing an outdated unemployment insurance system. It is about jobs. It is about creating new opportunities and a climate for job creation. It is about helping
unemployed Canadians find jobs. It is about breaking through the status quo, helping young people, women, displaced workers across the country get back to work quickly and back in control of their lives. It is about the government's number one priority: investing in Canadians.
In the last four months, employment jumped by 91,000 jobs, the largest quarterly growth in two years. Since November 1993, more than half a million jobs, 596,000, have been created in the country. Our job strategy is working. Employment insurance is a key part of this strategy. The cornerstone of employment insurance is set out in part II of Bill C-12, the new employment benefits.
We are making active pro-employment measures an integral part of the insurance program. We are saying that employment insurance should not just be about passive income support for the unemployed. It should help break down the barriers that keep the unemployed from working. It should help to make sure that people who lose their jobs get the help they need as they try to adjust and adapt to a fast changing economy. It should make sure that as our economy grows and changes, people get the type of assistance they need to adjust.
Employment insurance will do this by focusing on what works, the things that really make a difference for people looking for work; by working together, building bridges between different levels of government, business, communities and service organizations; by clarifying the federal government's role in the labour market and creating new flexible arrangements with the provinces and territories to harmonize the delivery of the proposed employment benefits with provincial programs.
Let us look at how these points are addressed in Bill C-12. The bill defines in the clearest and simplest way possible the objective of active employment benefits: helping people find and keep employment.
Employment benefits are focused on results and they will be managed by results. Only one rule really matters: getting people back to work. This rule is enshrined right in the legislation in section 57(1)(f). We are simplifying the maze of federal employment programs into a much simpler, more flexible set of tools that have been tried, tested and proven to get results.
For example, wage subsidies work. They encourage employers to hire an individual who is likely to face long term unemployment or barriers to employment. Under past programs people who received these subsidies were able to get an average of 16 more weeks of work, increase average annual earnings by close to $5,000, eliminate almost four weeks of social assistance, and all this at a cost of just $3,000 per participant.
Targeted earnings supplements work. They help make work for unemployed workers who need help getting re-established in a job. Self-assistance employment works to help unemployed people create their own work and in the process create work for others as well.
Our experience to date shows that these new entrepreneurs earn $142 a week more than non-participants, claim 92 per cent less UI than comparable workers and are 30 per cent less likely to use social assistance. On average, each participant who starts up a new business for themselves also creates another job for someone else.
Job creation partnerships work. Under this benefit, unemployed workers are encouraged to earn income while developing new skills and acquiring valuable work experience. This type of employment benefit not only improves an individual's future job prospects but helps to develop and diversify local economies.
We also know that skills work. The best ticket to a job for any Canadian is having the skills required for today's economy. Where provinces agree, a fifth employment benefit, skill loans and grants, will be offered, allowing unemployed workers to pursue skills training. These grants and loans will be focused on individual choice and responsibility rather than government directed training.
We also recognize that training and education are provincial responsibilities. Therefore, skill loans and grants will only be implemented in a province with the agreement of that province. In fact, one of the strengths of Bill C-12 is that it clarifies, more than ever before, federal and provincial responsibilities in this area. It commits the federal government to working in concert with provinces to help workers find jobs.
The federal government through formal agreements with provinces will ensure that the needs of the unemployed are addressed and that the employment measures allow them to return quickly to the workforce. This is an unprecedented gesture of openness and flexibility that proves federalism is a dynamic, evolving system that can change to meet the needs of real people.
Ultimately Bill C-12 is about building bridges, breaking down the old barriers that stopped us from working together in the past, and breaking down the barriers which keep Canadians from working. Results are what really matter to Canadians, no matter what level of government delivers the employment benefits and measures. Flexibility, accountability, co-operation and partnerships are the key to getting results.
Employment insurance allows new partnerships to develop and evolve for the future. It will lead to more effective labour market programs, better matched to local labour market realities. It will focus all resources and energies on the real challenge at hand; helping Canadians find and keep employment.
We will be investing some $800 million of the savings we will achieve with this legislation into active employment benefits. With the current $1.9 billion already budgeted for employment services, this means a total of $2.7 billion to actively help unemployed people get back to work.
That investment will pay off by helping up to 400,000 Canadians each year and creating more than 100,000 new jobs. In addition a $300 million transitional jobs fund will create thousands more jobs in high unemployment areas. Those are the kinds of results we need. That is what employment insurance should be all about, helping people who lose their jobs get back to work as quickly as possible.
This is a top priority for the government and for all Canadians across this country. Working Canadians want more than rigid, bureaucratic programs and an outdated UI program designed to preserve the status quo. Canadians want jobs. They want a system that gets results, an employment insurance system for the 21st century. They need a modern, active, effective employment insurance system defined in this legislation and I recommend this bill to the House.