Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to inform the House that I will be sharing my time with the member for Drummond.
On behalf of my constituents in LaSalle—Émard, I rise in the House to support my colleague's motion. I will be supporting the official opposition motion moved by my colleague from Trois-Rivières. The motion states the following:
That, in the opinion of the House, employment insurance premiums paid by employers and workers must be used exclusively to finance benefits, as defined by the Employment Insurance Act, for unemployed workers and their families and that, consequently, the government should: (a) protect workers'...premiums...; (b) improve program accessibility...; and (c) abandon its plan, as set out in Budget 2015, to set rates unilaterally...
When we are elected to the Parliament of Canada and form the government, it is important that we keep our promises. When we collect EI premiums from workers and employers, that money must be used for its intended purpose.
In other words, those premiums must be used to help workers who have had the misfortune of losing their jobs, so that those workers can make ends meet and provide for their families until they can find another job.
When we take office, that is a commitment we make. It is what is written, for example, in the contract of this employment insurance program, which is one of the commitments that Canada has made to Canadian society. These are the programs we have set up over the years to ensure that we have a society that is more just and more equitable.
In addition, for decades, Canada was rightly acknowledged as a fair, equitable and, I would even say, compassionate society. We introduced programs such as employment insurance, health insurance and the Canada Pension Plan. All of these programs are part of the social safety net that Canadians decided to establish and to which they contribute year after year through a variety of contributions and income tax.
It is a government’s responsibility to ensure that the contributions it receives from workers, from Canadian men and women, are used fairly and equitably for government programs.
However, over the past 20 years, we have noted that government after government has not kept the commitments it made or its promises, and this is why Canada is no longer the fair and just society that we used to know.
Over the past two decades, that is, since the major cuts made my Liberal governments and now those made by the Conservative government, the wage disparities between rich and poor as well as between men and women have continued to grow. I am not the one who is saying it, this is in the OECD reports: income inequality between rich and poor and between men and women in Canada is rising, and rising more and more quickly. This worries me.
This is the reason why we have programs such as employment insurance and others that I mentioned before that help reduce these inequalities.
I am lucky to represent the riding of Lasalle—Émard. It is a riding that experienced a golden age, at a time when the manufacturing sector was important. Over the years, manufacturing has declined somewhat and major companies that employed a large number of people have unfortunately closed down.
We have come to realize that there is a significant transition happening in the Canadian economy. First, a number of Canadian companies have been bought up by foreign interests. Then they just closed down, because it was decided to move production to somewhere else in the world. Other companies did not invest wisely in their employees or in the business itself to ensure its survival, and they too closed down. What happened to most of these workers? They lost their jobs. It is at this point that workers want to be able to rely on employment insurance.
I find it extremely sad to hear some of my Conservative colleagues talking about people who lose their jobs as if it were their own fault and as if the government were not required to help them. I know that Canadians are supportive and compassionate people. These are people who want to help each other. When I listen to Conservatives on the other side of the House, I do not recognize myself in them. Most Canadians would not recognize themselves in them, either.
As I mentioned, a number of large manufacturing companies in my riding have closed down. There has been a transition and, today, one of the fastest-growing sectors in my riding is the retail trade. What do we have now? We have precarious employment, part-time jobs, minimum-wage jobs and very difficult jobs. It is very hard for a family to make ends meet.
In addition, because of the type of jobs in retail, when the American giant Target closed its doors just a year after coming into Canada with great fanfare, between 60 and 70 jobs were lost in my riding. The same thing then happened with Best Buy. Because these jobs have such piecemeal schedules, it is really difficult to get a certain number of hours. In addition, who occupies most of these jobs? They are women.
We know that, with the cuts made by the Liberals and then by the Conservatives, and the fact that they have made access to employment insurance more and more difficult, these people often find themselves with nothing. It is not just the workers who suffer. Their families suffer, too. What we have noticed in the riding of Lasalle—Émard is that people are poorer because the cost of living is increasing and jobs are precarious. When someone loses a job, it is difficult for him or her to have access to employment insurance. The social safety net that we built generation after generation in this country has been ripped apart.
I think that those currently in government do not understand Canadian society at all or the values held by Canadians. In October 2015, I think it will be their turn to receive a pink slip that says they have been fired.