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Conservative MP for Huron—Bruce (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 45% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act December 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to read a quote from the hon. member for Saint-Lambert. She said in March, “I think offering self-employed workers the opportunity to contribute to employment insurance on a voluntary basis is long overdue”. That is what this government did.

I wonder how the hon. member reconciles with her constituents, the people she represents, that that party has voted against all the measures that we have brought in on employment insurance? How is she able to go back to her constituents and say that she is trying to help those who are unemployed?

The member voted against the five extra weeks. She is voting against this bill. She is voting against up to 20 weeks for long-tenured workers who need the support the most and freezing EI rates at $1.73 for this year and next. All these measures the member has voted against but at the same time she is saying she is working for the interests of those who have lost their jobs. She voted against the infrastructure stimulus funds and all the community adjustment funding. Yet the member stands in the House and says that she is working for those who are unemployed.

Discover Canada Guide November 19th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I stand in the House today to pay tribute to Canada's new immigration study guide, launched by the hon. Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism last Thursday.

Titled “Discover Canada”, the new guide is a vast improvement over its predecessor. With its emphasis toward a greater understanding of Canada's history, values, symbols and important Canadian institutions, the new guide serves as a valuable resource, not only for prospective Canadians, but for current Canadians as well. The guide also highlights the sacrifices made by Canada's veterans and promotes a deeper understanding of Canada's identity.

This fall, Huron—Bruce was named one of the most patriotic ridings in Canada. Last week, the people of Huron—Bruce were once again proud to be Canadian with the launch of the new immigration guide.

Economic Recovery Act (Stimulus) November 16th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I heard a lot of criticisms in the member's speech. The one suggestion he did offer was around the gas tax funding. He did not specify any details beyond that, such as whether he recommends provincial and municipal support under the current system. All three levels are in the projects together. I wonder if he could comment on that.

The riding of Huron—Bruce, which I represent, is a rural riding. It is a very big, broad riding. There are over 22 arenas in my riding. There are over 10 municipalities. There is a lot of road to cover. I understand that the staff of one road paving company alone has increased to nearly 70 employees. It is a 50% increase.

First, I wonder if he could comment on his gas tax funding. Second, I wonder if he could comment about all of the jobs that have been created, just like the ones I have described, all across this country.

Employment Insurance Act November 16th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to debate the merits or demerits of Bill C-395 today.

Let me begin by acknowledging that labour disputes do affect Canadians, and sometimes Canadians do find themselves unemployed at the end of such disputes. My colleague from the Bloc obviously cares about these workers, as do all members of the House. I am sure of this, but we must go beyond good intentions. As the old saying goes, good intentions can lead us down a path on which we would be better not to go.

We must probe the potential policy and legal impacts of these proposed amendments on the Employment Insurance Act. We must ensure that any changes to the employment insurance system are based on hard evidence, and we must look at the practical facts on the ground. When we conduct this investigation, the implications of Bill C-395 become troubling on several levels. Let me discuss some of my concerns.

First, let us deal with the practical facts on the ground. In the history of law and legislation, we have seen that another old saying is also true, that often extreme cases make bad law. I recognize that this bill is intended to protect employees who are caught in a lengthy labour dispute that ends in a firm's closure. This result of course is regrettable and often difficult on the workers affected.

We should view this in context, however. Most labour disputes are relatively short and they rarely end in the closure of a firm. Between 2003 and 2009, for example, a little more than one per cent, only one per cent, of the total number of strikes ended in a firm's closure. Moreover, the average length of a strike that ended in a firm's closure was 110 days. For lockouts, the figure was 116 days. As the parliamentary secretary noted, these figures average out to 16 weeks. That leaves plenty of time for employees to qualify for benefits under the current 52-week requirement.

By these comments, I do not want to suggest that I am or our government is unsympathetic to the plight of the unemployed, far from it. Simply, we need to take account of the facts to inform our decision-making. Here are some of the facts.

The Employment Insurance Act does not preclude workers from accepting other employment during a labour dispute. The act allows employees to accumulate the work hours required to establish a claim for benefits. Specifically, through the variable entrance requirement, employees need between 420 and 700 insurable hours to qualify for regular benefits, depending upon the unemployment rate in the applicant's region.

In other words, using existing provisions of the act, employees in a labour dispute could qualify for benefits by building up their hours through work elsewhere. For this reason alone, the provisions in Bill C-395 are inadvisable.

Let us also recall that the employment insurance system is an insurance-based program. It is designed to provide benefits to workers if they are unable to work, whether because they are unemployed, sick, pregnant, caring for a newborn or adopted child, or caring for a gravely ill family member. This regime is supported by the premiums paid by both workers and employers.

When a worker meets the qualifying requirement, benefits kick in. It is that simple. The proposal before the House goes against the guiding principle that the EI program should remain neutral during a labour dispute.

My colleague from Souris—Moose Mountain pointed out correctly that allowing the provision of benefits to workers, paid for in part by employers, during a labour dispute would disrupt the system's balanced treatment, tilting the system in favour of workers in a situation where they are negotiating with management. This bill would make changes such that the negotiating position of unions and workers would be unfairly improved at the cost of employers, who pay 58% of employment insurance premiums. I simply do not think this change is something we should undertake.

There are other related aspects of this bill which I do not think are wise. Specifically, the bill proposes to change how the EI program calculates a qualifying period in the event of a labour dispute that leads to work stoppage. As members know, the qualifying period is the time in which a claimant must accumulate enough hours of insurable employment to establish a claim for benefits.

Currently it is generally the 52 weeks preceding the beginning of a claim. In some cases the period can be shorter when there was a prior claim. The bill would extend the qualifying period to be the same as the period of the labour dispute. This would allow employees to be eligible for employment insurance benefits if they are laid off after a lengthy labour dispute is resolved.

Existing provisions allow for the extension of a qualifying period to up to 104 weeks in certain situations. These exceptions include situations in which individuals are physically unable to work, such as quarantine and sickness. Labour disputes are not considered an exception, because individuals are not physically prevented from working. They could work somewhere else. The proposals in Bill C-395 would therefore deviate from the EI program's basic insurance principle, that there must be a reasonable proximity of timing and correlation of value between premiums paid and benefits disbursed.

These are the reasons I think this bill is not wise. I welcome the chance to speak a little bit about some actions that I do think are wise. Those are the actions of this Conservative government both recently and as part of Canada's economic action plan. Since coming to office and particularly since the beginning of the economic downturn, our government has acted decisively to support unemployed Canadians and help them get back to work, but we have done so based on sound evidence that the changes are in the best interests of all Canadians.

Through Canada's economic action plan, our government has introduced measures that support all unemployed Canadians. Specifically, we have temporarily extended the duration of EI benefits by five weeks. We have made it easier to take part in work-sharing agreements, which are helping to protect the jobs of almost 167,000 Canadians. We are also helping young people get certified in skilled trades, and helping long-tenured workers make the transition into new careers.

We have frozen the employment insurance premium rates for 2010 so they will be at the same rate as this year, which is the lowest level in a quarter of a century, and we are providing an additional $1.5 billion to the provinces and territories to help support skills training. Our government has also recently passed measures in Bill C-50 that will help long-tenured workers who lost their jobs because of the global recession. These measures will now start to help ensure that approximately 190,000 long-tenured workers who have paid into the EI system for years are provided between five and 20 extra weeks of EI while they search for new employment. Surely we can identify with likely one or two businesses in every riding throughout this House. This much-needed support is in addition to the five weeks of EI included in the economic action plan. This is an important step for Canadian workers who have worked hard, have paid taxes their whole lives and who find themselves in economic hardship.

Our government recognizes that the self-employed are an integral part of our economy. We believe that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between their family and business responsibilities. That is why in 2008 our government committed to extending maternity and paternity benefits to the self-employed. On November 3, 2009 we introduced Bill C-56, the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, which provides all EI special benefits, including maternity, parental, sickness and compassionate care benefits to self-employed Canadians on a voluntary basis.

We have not just met our commitment to these 2.6 million Canadians, we have exceeded it. Bill C-56 has received a very positive response from a variety of stakeholders: the Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Canadian Real Estate Association. I could go on and on.

The government has acted responsibly to enhance the employment insurance program, particularly since the global economic slowdown. For all these reasons, I cannot support the proposed amendments, and I urge all members of the House to join me in my opposition to the bill.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act November 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I thank the member for his comments, although I do not think his comments really reflect the Bloc's voting record when it comes to supporting people who are unemployed. Two examples would be the economic action plan which was tabled in the winter and which provided billions of dollars through a variety of different programs to support the unemployed and just recently, Bill C-50, which provided another $1 billion to help another 190,000 long-tenured workers.

The Bloc talk very much, but do very little when it comes to voting in support of the unemployed. How can the hon. member reconcile his words versus his and his party's actions in actually not supporting the unemployed on any issue so far in 2009? I am sure he must be disappointed with that.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act November 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of State for the Status of Women for the hard work that she has done. The work she is doing for financial literacy and for young women at risk is phenomenal, and I know it will yield great results in the future.

I would like the member to give us a contrast between the previous Liberal government and our current government. As far back as 1993, the previous Liberal government promised child care. In 2003, it promised parental benefits for the self-employed. That was the principal recommendation of the Liberal women on the Prime Minister's task force for women entrepreneurs. The member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine admitted the previous Liberal government completely ignored it.

Could she briefly tell the House about the great work this government has done in delivering for families and for businesses?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act November 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I have two questions for the member.

Huron—Bruce is a rural riding with many farmers, farm producers and farm families. It is a pleasure to hear the member speak today. As the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture, could he comment on the impact this will have for farmers and farm families across Canada?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act November 5th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her work on the human resources committee. She works very hard on behalf of her constituents on issues like this.

There was a briefing on the bill itself. I understand the member attended the briefing and it was quite clear how the calculation came to be about the $6,000 threshold, related to the number of dollars per hour earnings, as well as the threshold for special benefits. I wonder if the member had missed that in the briefing.

Perhaps the member would like to make a rebuttal to this comment. In 2003, the parental benefits for the self-employed was the principal recommendation of the Liberal women on the Prime Minister's task force on women entrepreneurs. Just recently, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine was asked about the success or failure of that on behalf of the previous Liberal government and she admitted on Power Play that the previous Liberal government completely ignored it.

I wonder if the member would be prepared to comment on either of those issues.

Employment Insurance Act November 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, this really speaks to the Bloc members being confused on employment insurance. Again I refer to Bill C-241. I think they are simply opposing to oppose and they are not really supporting workers.

The hon. member, with whom I serve on committee, voted for Bill C-241, which does nothing to address the issue she just mentioned. She supports a Bloc private member's bill which does nothing about what she mentioned but she votes against a bill that can affect people in her own riding. I do not know how the Bloc members reconcile this at the end of the day in their constituencies in saying that they stand up for their constituents but their voting records show that they do not.

I simply cannot understand how the Bloc members can ask questions about that when their voting records clearly show that they have voted to help no person who is currently unemployed.

Employment Insurance Act November 3rd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I would like to answer the member's question with a question.

I have always thought that five is better than two when talking about numbers. In fact, our government added on five weeks at the end of the time for employment insurance benefits. The Bloc supports two weeks. It voted against five weeks to support two.

The bill in question, as I mentioned, does nothing to change the time it takes to process an employment insurance claim. If the Bloc would like to introduce a private member's bill on that, it would be something to look at it. However, Bill C-241 does not do that.

I would also like to say that in the time I have been in the House, which is just over a year, the Bloc members speak very strongly about their support for workers and all the things they are passionate about, such as employment insurance. To date however, I do not believe they have ever voted for one thing to help unemployed people, not one. This government has provided a long list, in the short time I have been a member of Parliament, of people who are going to be on, or are on, employment insurance.

The member is shaking his head. I have a list of things. If he would like a copy, I will give him one and perhaps he could tell the House later about all the things he has just uncovered.