Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
It's with a great deal of pleasure that I appear today to discuss our government's latest initiative to help Canadian workers and their families, Bill , the .
committed in 2008 to extend maternity and parental benefits to the self-employed. He said then:
||Self-employed Canadians--and those who one day hope to be--shouldn't have to choose between starting a family and starting a business because of government policy. They should be able to pursue their dreams--both as entrepreneurs and as parents.
After additional consultations and listening directly to self-employed Canadians, we recognize the need to go even further and extend access to all EI special benefits.
Currently, self-employed Canadians have little or no income protection to cope with major life events such as the birth or adoption of a child, a parent or a child falling gravely ill, or even falling ill themselves. The Fairness For the Self-Employed Act will provide all EI special benefits--maternity, parental, sickness, and compassionate care--to self-employed Canadians on a voluntary basis. We've not just met our commitment; we've exceeded it.
Public research reinforces that the majority of self-employed Canadians want access to EI special benefits. In fact, just the other week, I received a petition from almost 1,000 Canadians asking for access to EI special benefits.
Self-employed Canadians asked for this bill, and for the first time in Canadian history, we are giving them just that. It's the fair and right thing to do and it's also good family policy.
Self-employed Canadians total 2.6 million in Canada and form 15% of the total labour market, and this number is growing. They're an integral part of our economy and are key contributors to innovation, investment, and job creation. They are playing a vital role in our continued productivity and in our economic recovery.
The self-employed are a very diverse group. They include farmers, tradespeople, those who run home businesses, lawyers, architects, and people who run our corner stores, to name just a few.
Increasingly, the self-employed are women. The number of enterprises led by women is expected to top one million next year.
Access to these benefits is especially important for them: one-third of self-employed women in Canada are of child-bearing age. This bill will mean that women will no longer have to delay or forgo having children altogether for fear it would be impossible to handle both responsibilities at the same time. It will mean that self-employed Canadians will no longer have to miss their babies' first words or first steps.
And self-employed Canadians will now have the option to take care of an elderly parent or a child who has fallen gravely ill. Everyone in this room knows the importance of spending the last few weeks with a loved one and being able to care for them.
Our Conservative government knows that families are the foundation of this great country. And now self-employed Canadians will no longer have to choose between their family and work responsibilities. Like all workers, self-employed Canadians facing important life events need peace of mind regarding their financial security. This bill provides them with just that.
Madam Chair, let me briefly explain how the system would work.
Overall, special benefits for the self-employed would mirror those available to salaried employees under the EI system. Under the proposed legislation, self-employed Canadians who opt into the program would pay the same EI premium rate as salaried employees. For 2010, that premium rate would be $1.73 per $100 of insurable earnings. They would not be required to pay the employer portion of premiums as they would not have access to EI regular benefits. They would face similar benefit duration periods, income replacement rates, maximum insurable earnings, treatment of earnings, and waiting periods.
However, there would be some differences. Those who choose to take advantage of special benefits would be required to opt into the program at least one year prior to claiming benefits. They would also be responsible for making premium payments for the tax year in which they apply to the program. For example, someone registering in May 2010 would be able to claim benefits on May 1, 2011.
However, we are providing some room for the first year. Those who apply before April 1, 2010, would be able to collect benefits as early as January 1, 2011.
To access EI special benefits, self-employed individuals would need to earn a minimum of $6,000 during the preceding calendar year. As the self-employed do not report hours of work, this number has been arrived at by converting 600 hours on an earnings basis using a representative minimum wage of $10 an hour, since 600 hours is the number of hours required by salaried workers to access existing EI special benefits.
It's important to note that the self-employed could opt out of the program as long as they've never claimed benefits. If they've claimed benefits, however, they would need to continue to contribute on self-employed earnings for as long as they're self-employed. This treats the self-employed in the same way that the regular EI program treats paid employees. We think this is fair.
In the province of Quebec, our Conservative government is offering the self-employed that ability to take advantage of the sickness and compassionate care benefits for the first time in history. Currently, the only choice Quebeckers have if they need to take care of a gravely ill relative, or if they fall ill themselves, is private insurance which can be very expensive.
Our government is offering peace of mind with a more affordable option. This bill takes into account that, in Quebec, self-employed residents already have access to maternity and parental benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.
Rates in Quebec have been adjusted to take into account the provincial maternity and parental benefit plan. Self-employed workers in Quebec who choose to take advantage of the program would pay the same EI premiums as other employees in the province. The 2010 EI premium rate in Quebec will be $1.36 per $100 of insurable earnings.
I want to reinforce that the decision to opt into the EI program is entirely voluntary. There is no obligation for the self-employed to take advantage of these new benefits.
This bill is yet another example of how our government is providing support and choice to Canadian families. Our government believes that self-employed Canadians should not have to choose between their families and their business responsibilities, and this bill will have a significant impact on their lives and their families.
Don't just take it from me: the response to this bill has been overwhelmingly positive. The Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Coalition of BC Businesses, the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada, the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, and the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association are just some examples of organizations that represent self-employed Canadians and that support this important bill.
This is one of the most significant enhancements to the EI program in a decade. It is part of a series of timely enhancements that we've already made to ensure that the employment insurance program remains responsive to the needs of Canadians.
Our economic action plan is geared towards helping Canadian workers and their families get through this global economic downturn. We're providing a timely and unprecedented investment of $8.3 billion to strengthen EI benefits and enhance the availability of training, including outside EI.
In closing, Madam Chair, I'd like to thank the committee for its work on our last bill, Bill , which recently passed. It provides between five and 20 additional weeks of EI to long-tenured workers who've worked hard and paid premiums for years, but who now need a hand up.
I urge all members of this committee to support self-employed Canadians and their families by supporting Bill .
I'd now be pleased to answer your questions. Merci.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you, Madam Minister, and thanks to your hard-working officials, for coming here today.
As you know, we have indicated in the House and in this committee our support for this bill in principle; I think a lot of people are looking at it and saying that it looks like a good thing, but there are questions. A number of organizations that were pleased to see it have questions. I met this morning with the CGA association, the certified general accountants, and I've met with others who are saying they think this is good and want to see it go forward, but there are some questions.
The first question I would have is in terms of the sustainability of this program. Has the chief actuary done an evaluation of this bill?
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.
I also want to welcome the minister and her officials; discussions on this bill are starting to sound familiar to them I am sure.
First, I think that you will have understood that we are in favour of the principle underlying this bill because it is new to be able to open up employment insurance benefits to self-employed workers. This appears to be a good thing to us. How should we do it and what are the right measures? That is something else again, and I think that that is what today's discussion will focus on.
My first question will be about the choices you have made in terms of coverage. Why, Madam Minister, did you choose not to provide employment insurance benefit coverage to self-employed workers who are experiencing financial difficulties when they no longer have income from employment?
Thank you for your question. I will answer in English.
To some degree, we can isolate this into two separate programs. But for the rest of Canada you have to consider that people are potentially benefiting from the maternity/parental benefits and the sickness and compassionate benefits. You never know how that person will benefit or what kind of claim they'll make. In the case of Quebec, of course, they'll only have the sickness and compassionate available because they already have, through QPIP, the parental and maternity care.
So you cannot completely separate the two, but you can go through a conceptual exercise to say there'll be one group that primarily will want to benefit from this and the other will primarily benefit from that. Basically that's how we've done most of our calculations in terms of how we do the simulation.
We do have one group that is going to be primarily interested in the maternity/parental benefits. We estimate how many people we think will join for that and we have a very good sense of how many claims are going to be made. I think those numbers are driven primarily from the QPIP model already, so we've a very good sense of that.
So we know how many people will join, how many claims will be made, and the premiums. Then we have a second calculation for those people who will join primarily for the sickness and compassionate care benefits. Of course, that's their primary motivation, but they can benefit from all special benefits.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you for being here today.
We are indicating at the outset that as a caucus we'll support this. However, for us it's just a start. In fact, just to put it in context, it's something we've been talking about for quite some time.
I don't know if you're aware or not, but my colleague from Bathurst, , tabled a report in the House of Commons in 1999. He spoke about the changing labour market out there at that time, and talked about more and more people becoming self-employed. He suggested at that time that the government look at finding ways to have so-called self-employed workers contribute to and benefit from the EI system; of course, then it was the UI system.
This is the report that he tabled. I think it would be worth looking at and understanding some of the dynamic behind his thinking.
As well, when I was a member of a provincial parliament, recognizing the fragility of being a self-employed small business person, and looking at franchising at that time, I led a charge to actually regulate that industry so that they would have something to hang onto should they be dealt with unfairly.
Today, then, we're happy that we're here discussing this. We think it extends a benefit--which, actually, we believe should be broader and wider--to a group of people out there who are working very hard, trying to make a living, and finding themselves sometimes stuck in a place where life becomes very difficult.
What was the government's logic in limiting the coverage of self-employed to special benefits?
It was really quite simple. The 's original promise was simply to provide maternity and parental benefits. In talking with and listening to the self-employed, we realized that they wanted more. They were even more interested in the other special benefits. Actuarially it made sense, so that's the path we pursued.
As I was explaining to , it is very difficult to contemplate how to bring in regular EI benefits for the self-employed. How does one determine if the self-employed person has laid himself or herself off? How do you have an objective measurement that the business has indeed ceased to operate for a period of time, and it's not just that the operator wants to take some time off for an extended vacation?
The life events that are covered by the special benefits are readily documented--a birth, an adoption, a gravely ill family member, their own extended illness or work injury. These are all things that can be objectively documented.
We've looked around the world, and so far no one has been able to come up with a reliable mechanism of income supports in the event of a person laying themselves off, so to speak.
I appreciate that, and I know that this is a step in the right direction. Actually, it's an opportunity for us to explore the possibility of even extending it further.
I would suggest to you that if you look at the workplace out there now, and the nature of work, a lot of the self-employed are actually employed by, in some instances, the people who had laid them off in the first place. They bring them back as self-employed. Self-employed people often work for big corporations and other people, and they do, in fact, lose their jobs. In a time such as we're in now, with a difficult economy, they have a hard time finding work in the area that they specialize in.
Would that not give you some food for thought? Would there be any interest in going back and taking a look at this again, given the nature of the workplace now? As I indicated earlier, many self-employed people are in fact employed and do lose their jobs quite readily, because they're easily let go.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I'll be splitting my time with Mr. Anderson.
Thank you, Minister, for coming today. Your riding of Haldimand—Norfolk is very similar to my riding of Huron—Bruce. I believe that each year our two ridings are neck and neck for the largest gross receipts for agriculture.
Obviously the agriculture community has faced some hard times, and for many years, really, starting in 2003 with BSE all the way through to the struggles we've had in the pork industry. Also, an issue in the agriculture industry is the age of our farmers.
I wonder if you could comment on two particular items within this bill. One is young farm families—we know that we need more of them all the time—and some of their options or benefits through this bill. As well, we know that the average age of many of our farmers is approaching 60 and their parents, in turn, are facing an age when they need some care. I think the bill will address some of these issues. I wonder if you could comment on this for the committee.
I'd be pleased to do that. Farm families have long had to face challenges in terms of everybody participating, but there wasn't always time on the farm for the farmer to take care of an ailing parent, for example, or to take time out for the children, because there was an economic impact if the wife wasn't working.
Now obviously farms have many different corporate and financial structures, but in many cases now, the employees of the farm are eligible for these benefits and receive these benefits, but the farmers themselves haven't been because of their financial and corporate structure. We don't think that's fair.
We believe that young couples starting out on the farm should have the opportunity to have a family. We need to keep the farm family tradition going, and this is one way that will help that. Equally, as you point out, some of the older farmers need time away from working on the farm to take care of family or maybe themselves if they become ill. This is a safety net for them, if they choose to participate.
I know a lot of people, too, who are in that sandwich generation, where they have young families to look after, but also older parents who aren't that well. Sometimes they need that flexibility, and this is what we're offering them. Their employees have it and we think they should have the opportunity to have these benefits as well.
We listened to Canadians. We listened to the self-employed. We spoke with a number of agencies and associations that represent them. There is no one organization that speaks for all of the self-employed, but we listened to them. They said they wanted more. They were particularly interested in compassionate care and sickness benefits.
Let's face it, with regard to sickness, in some places the only sort of insurance the self-employed can get against sickness is through workers' compensation, but that only covers them if they're injured on the job or become ill because of the job. Those premiums can go as high as 20%. That's very unaffordable to the self-employed.
So we thought, wait a minute, let's take a look. This is what they want, actuarially it made sense, and it provides an affordable option to the self-employed, one that's already available to regular employees. It was really a question of fairness.
I actually have several pages of positive comments that have been made by a very wide range of groups.
I mentioned the Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association, the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, ACTRA, and the real estate association. I met with the Direct Sellers Association, which encompasses a lot of people, and they're all for it.
They really see this as just what we've said: fairness and giving their members the opportunity to pursue both their family dreams and their professional dreams without sacrificing one for the other. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
The only really negative thing we've heard is that some people misunderstood and thought we were offering the regular benefits. Interestingly enough, it was the self-employed themselves who were most opposed to us offering regular EI benefits to the self-employed. I found that fascinating, I really did.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Minister, there's no question that this is a direction that most Canadians appreciate and that we do as well. However, I just wanted to clarify some things with respect to this particular legislation.
The fact that the program is optional rather than mandatory means that the self-employed persons who are most likely to benefit from it--for example, self-employed persons who are planning to have children or have poor health--will most likely self-select to contribute to the scheme, as opposed to others who might be healthy and don't have family. In the case of employed persons, the program is mandatory for everyone and the costs of the program are spread among everyone whether they are likely to receive benefits or not. It's a wider spread. In this case, it's not, because it's self-identifying only if they need it.
Why is the program optional rather than mandatory? Do you not expect that there could be a disparate situation, with more people who need to receive actually applying while the rest don't, thus putting a heavier weight on the system? What proportion of the 2.6 million self-employed persons do you think would actually self-identify? This goes back to the actuarial...because since it's not mandatory, people who think they need it will probably be the ones most likely to apply, as opposed to those who don't think they do.
I understand that. I guess my concern is that you may end up with a lot more people applying for it who actually intend to use it, as opposed to those who don't expect to, and this could cause problems. That's why I think an actuarial or some modelling of the program would have been helpful to see in this case.
My next question goes to another area of the program. For the self-employed, the minimum income for them to receive benefits is $6,000, whereas for the employed it's 600 hours. What has eligibility for benefits been...? Why was eligibility converted from 600 hours to $6,000 for the self-employed?
My concern here is that somebody who earns $10 would probably have to work the 600 hours, but someone who has a much higher income could get to $6,000 very quickly and therefore collect without having spent 50 or 100 hours, if they're earning good money. I don't quite understand why there's that disparity and that departure from the hourly rates.
Thank you, Minister, for being here.
Earlier you mentioned some examples of organizations across the country that represent self-employed people who support this bill. I've been hearing from a lot of people well before this, and in fact, going back to the previous election and before that. There were different ones who were advocating--or agitating, if you will--for us to have a program like this. As a party, we indicated then that we would be supportive of such a move. That was part of the platform and all. So I've received some fairly good comments in my interactions here.
You're a very busy minister, I know, but you do get out of Ottawa. You get back into your riding and you get across the country a great deal more than I do, so could you expand a little on the reaction you've received from Canadians who are affected by the changes?
The second part of my question is about how we have made the program optional rather than mandatory. I assume there to be some good reasons for that, at least at this juncture. You may want to comment in respect of that as well.
But just the general reaction, I guess, that you've monitored and maybe got directly from your own constituency.... I know that's where you want to serve well, not only as a minister for the nation, but in regard to your own constituency. What has been the reaction? Does it reflect what others among us have been hearing with respect to a positive response in the country?
As Mr. Lobb mentioned, mine is a very rural riding, with a lot of farmers. In fact, over half of our economy comes from agriculture and agrifood. We have a lot of small businesses and people who are self-employed, and they are very pleased to see this coming.
I've been hearing from people right across the country. They're saying that this has been a long time coming and they've echoed the word that's in the title of this bill: it's about “fairness”. Many of them have been in a situation where they've been deemed to be self-employed, and they have a lot of employees who go off on maternity leave or who get paid time through EI while they are on an extended illness or due to injury. The owners, who are the ones creating the jobs, don't have that opportunity, so they've been very, very pleased.
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. I've been really quite pleasantly surprised by how well people are taking to this. I hope that's reflected in the take-up rates.
But it is voluntary. That was part of the commitment the Prime Minister made. He wasn't going to force people into it. It is voluntary and it's an opportunity.
Let's remember, too, that we really want to support the self-employed. Most of those people are classed as small businesses, and small and medium-sized businesses in this country create three out of every four new jobs. We want to make sure that the people who have that entrepreneurial spirit and who are willing to take some risks to grow their company and grow our economy get the supports they need, not just entrepreneurially, but on the family side as well.
I would just comment on that again. Whether you want to expand on this or not, the fact is, at least anecdotally, that in regard to whether it should be mandatory or optional, people have said, almost to a person, “Well, it's a good program and I have the option at some point of choosing to jump in”. They say that it's not closing the door if they choose not to at this point and that it's their call in view of their business and the various configurations there.
So while I haven't done any kind of systematic survey, if you will, it seems to me that business people, self-employed people, at least tend to appreciate the fact that it's optional, knowing that they can get in at whatever time they so choose, I take it, and knowing that it's not mandatory. There's no coercive element, which I guess is probably in line with where we are as a party. Small-c or big-c, conservatives generally don't want to be foisting this upon people or coercing them, against their own better judgment in some cases, and where it may not suit their own particular needs and interests at that time.
That's what I'm hearing, anecdotally at least, and I assume it was that kind of backdrop or background as to why we went down this road instead.
The other aspect, as you point out, is that it's a matter of choice. We expect that that lower- and middle-income self-employed people will be more likely to participate than higher-income people.
Those with higher incomes would receive a lesser benefit proportionately because of the maximum insurable earnings--in other words, the cap on how much they can collect. Those who have higher incomes also have more opportunity to set aside money for events like this.
We see a number of reasons. They may not want to participate, and that's fine, because it's their entrepreneurial spirit that is driving this. Some very small self-employed operations may not be able to afford it. They may say no to it. Or maybe it's a temporary thing for them. Maybe they're self-employed while they're looking for another job. That's fine.
But this provides flexibility. What we really don't want to do is hamstring the self-employed, because they are entrepreneurs and we want to encourage and foster that entrepreneurial spirit. That's what grows the country.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Again, welcome. I know what fine work you folks do for the people of Canada.
Frank, you and I got to spend some time together this summer that for me was sort of bonus time with the bureaucrats, along with Minister Finley and others.
I want to go back to this issue I raised, which is causing me trouble. We support the bill and we don't want to hold up the bill. This committee has agreed that we would try to finalize our study on this by next week, so we're not trying to be difficult, but I am increasingly perplexed at the economics and the analysis that have gone behind this.
On the one hand, the minister insists that there were surveys done and there was some rigorous examination of the uptake of people who are self-employed and who want to take advantage of these benefits, enough that a rate has been set, with some confidence. Also, you have these surveys that allege to have a great deal of accurate information as to who is going to take it up, yet you can't give us a cost on it because it's optional.
There are many things that are optional, but that's what actuaries and accountants and analysts do. They plug numbers in and say “this is our model”. It could be right, it could be wrong, but this is the model. Can you explain what's missing there for me? Because I don't get that.
Thank you very much for the question.
I think we have an extremely good handle on what we think the costs and the revenues will be on this. We've gone through it in a fairly rigorous way.
Why don't I provide you just a very brief explanation of what's involved in how we get these calculations? You'll see that it does kind of narrow the band of what types of revenue figures we're talking about.
I think that when we undertake the calculations, we basically divide this up into two groups. What is the primary interest of one group, that is, to get maternity and parental benefits? What is the primary interest of the second group to get sickness and compassionate benefits? As I said earlier, while a person is able to get the full suite of benefits, there is a primary interest.
So we start with that and we ask ourselves: how many people will want to sign up to get maternity and parental benefits? We have a very firm idea of that by looking at the QPIP experience, which is a mandatory system. When we look at the mandatory system, we look at how many claims were made. We go back to recent data for 2008 and we see that we have 7,300 people who made a claim.
Because it's a mandatory system, we know basically that all those who can claim will claim, because they have no incentive not to make the claim. They've already paid into the premiums.
From that, you can extrapolate fairly clearly what is the maximum amount of claims that could occur in the rest of Canada. So you take--
Of course, when you look at what's happening out there, the world of work is changing. My colleague Mr. Godin, from Bathurst, recognized this in his 1999 report, The human face: unemployment insurance
. He very clearly recommended that the UI system, as it was called at the time, be extended to cover the self-employed. His anticipation was that it would be for all benefits.
I guess I'm surprised that there wasn't any analysis done to try to determine whether.... You know, if you're going to do this, you might as well try to cover as many people as possible, and in a way that recognizes the changing world of work.
I know, and I'm sure you know, many people who are now given jobs where the nature of the job is such that they have to become self-employed. There's no choice in many workplaces. You go in there as a self-employed. It's a way that particularly big industries now are finding to get out of paying a whole lot of money for benefits and different things. Workers are finding themselves with little or no choice in that.
So I don't know why you wouldn't have done that analysis.
Yes. He'll probably take a couple of minutes.
I have a couple of questions.
First, I find it intriguing; I served with Mr. Savage on the finance committee during the 39th Parliament, and he certainly wasn't.... We got along pretty well there, I think, but I'm a little surprised to see how concerned he is about dollars today versus back then.
I'm sure the Liberal Party would have benefited from your efforts when there was $50 billion in the EI fund and it ended up not remaining there. I think, based on your efforts today, they would have listened to your sage advice on keeping the money there.
I do have a couple of questions with respect to implementation.
A number of the folks in my riding...and the Prime Minister was down, actually, prior to the 2008 election to talk to folks, to listen to what they had to say about this. A small business owner was asking the Prime Minister if this was something that he was going to be considering. She was running a small business--still does--and she was certainly excited to hear that this was actually going to be implemented.
One of the concerns at that round table, and one of the concerns that I have, is less to do with dollars and more to do with communications and understanding and promoting. One of the issues that we always face when we start a brand new program is folks' lack of understanding or lack of knowledge of the program.
I wonder if one of you could communicate to the committee how in fact this will be broadcast and how we will make sure that all of those who could benefit from the program, who could use the program, will be notified, or at least will have the understanding that the program exists and when it will start.
Thank you for your question.
First of all, we will have developed a package of frequently asked questions, a set of questions and responses, that will be posted on the Web. Self-employed workers will be able to access that information.
We will also create a client fact sheet and brochure on paper and electronically, in which we are going to provide a high-level description of eligibility criteria for those EI special benefits. We will also include information to provide in different types of publicity so that people have access to the information. We also want to work with the Canada Revenue Agency to be able to send mailings to the self-employed workers so that they have access to the information.
As you know, from an implementation standpoint, we will be registering the self-employed workers that voluntarily want to opt in. We will then collect the premiums through the Canada Revenue Agency. Because they have the information about the self-employed workers, we can provide the information via specific mailings.
We will also provide self-employed workers with access to My Service Canada accounts so that they can have access to their own account when they have registered and have access to their own information in terms of receiving something or paying premiums. We are looking at a comprehensive package.
I could certainly provide a few comments.
First of all, roughly one-third of those who are self-employed are females. There is certainly a large number of women out there who can potentially benefit from this, be it for the maternity and parental benefits or for the sickness and compassionate care.
If we turn to the claims made under the current system, what we see is that a large percentage of those claims are in fact made by women, so it gives you an indication of, potentially, the share of total claims that could come from women. We have 87% of parental claims, biological and adoptive, being made by women, and 59% of sickness claims and 74% of compassionate claims. You can see that women in general are very interested in these benefits.
If you turn to the self-employed, as I said, you have one million women, and about one-third of those are in the childbearing years. You certainly have a large number who could benefit from this. Our assumption is that it will be a very important benefit to allow people to raise families and to get that extra income security with respect to sickness and compassionate care.
I want to go back to what I was asking the minister earlier with respect to the $6,000 equating to 600 hours. At $10 an hour or that $6,000, if someone is earning a lot less, what that would be.... My question is that...yes, women are self-employed, but they also tend to earn less than the males. They are also the ones looking after family and so on so they would take longer and would need many more hours to qualify. Someone else could easily qualify within one or two months' work. Potentially, you could have the husband eligible to apply for parental leave and not the spouse, because she may not have her 600 hours.
I'm trying to understand how you are equating those two. Also, was there a proper gender analysis done on this particular piece of legislation?
I now want to add something else. Here we have 600 hours, but because it's not equated to dollars, someone potentially could qualify for a lot fewer hours. Meanwhile, we have part-time workers. Most of the part-time workers, unlike those in this category, are actually women who cannot apply for parental leave. Most of the female part-time workers today do not qualify for parental leave. Even though they pay into EI, they never qualify for any of the benefits, so in essence they are going to be subsidizing others.
Has a proper analysis been done at EI on how all of these programs that are coming piecemeal will impact on women? Has your department done that? That's what frustrates me as a member here. Has that work been done? And that's not just on this piece; it comes piecemeal and I have to try to figure out how women are impacted. It's really frustrating. Has there been a piece of work done on how EI programs are impacting on women and every time there is a piece done...to make sure it is inclusive?
I'm going to ask a question, but Mr. Lobb is doing such a great job that I'll probably give him the rest of my time.
One of the issues and, I guess, the complicated part of the employment insurance program is the fact that intermittently you can go back to work. You can then apply again for EI or you can actually go back to work and earn a little bit of money before it.... Well, I guess it does start to work against the employment cheque you receive from the federal government.
Is the same set-up going to work for self-employed individuals so that they in fact might be able to do a small bit of work without it having an impact on the benefit they'd be receiving while on leave?
I think the question you're asking is.... In the case of the current system and maternity and parental, we reduce Quebec's rate by equivalent to 90¢. Is that what you're saying? Or, we're compensating Quebec by a rate reduction of 90¢, so that, roughly, is an indication of how much it costs to provide maternity and parental benefits, that 90¢. I think what you're saying is “let's take that number and translate it for the rate for Quebec”.
I think you have to take into account that in the case of that rate reduction we're talking about a non-voluntary system. The rate reduction, the 35¢, which, if you do the math, works out to about 90¢, takes into account that this is a non-voluntary system where the risk and the clientele are very different.
I think there are two major differences when you look at the types of individuals making sickness and compassionate claims in the context of the voluntary system. First of all, you're going to have some self-selection. Those people who think they may benefit will be more inclined to join. That's true with any voluntary insurance system. The second thing is that in the case of the employees generally, in many cases when they go to make a claim when they are sick, they first turn to their employer, and their employer provides that type of benefit. So it's a claim more of last resort; that may be one way to articulate it.
So what you have is a very different cost structure when it's a mandatory system with a very different clientele, and so--
Mr. Lessard, that is why I stepped in a few moments ago to tell our witnesses that I would appreciate, that is, that the clerk of this committee would appreciate being informed if ever it is not possible to provide all the information that the members of this committee have asked for. At that point, we can follow up. At the moment, we have no reason to suppose that the information will not arrive. So let us wait and see. If that is not the case, we will be able to react accordingly. Anyway, it is recorded in the transcript of this meeting.
Ms. Binette, Mr. Vermaeten, Mr. Beauséjour, we would like to thank you. I am always impressed by number crunchers such as yourselves, and I include Mrs. Beaudin in that group.
Thank you very much, and we look forward to seeing you again.
Members, would you stay for two seconds just so I can give you the information for next week?
If you remember, Tuesday's meeting will be divided into two parts, with four witnesses for the first hour and four witnesses for the second hour, as will Thursday's meeting, with four and four. This leads us to a really major problem, because when do we do clause-by-clause?
I am awaiting the return of our chair so that we can discuss with him, possibly even on Monday, when we can add an extra session. We might be able to do the clause-by-clause on Thursday. We have to; we have no choice. We must table it by Friday. We have promised.
Thank you so much.
The meeting is adjourned.