That the House (a) acknowledge that mounting job losses combined with a lack of access to Employment Insurance (EI) contribute to growing income inequality and a situation where too many Canadians are struggling to make ends meet; and (b) call on the government to honour its campaign promises and Throne Speech commitment to strengthen the EI system “to make sure that it best serves both the Canadian economy and all Canadians who need it,” by taking immediate action to: (i) create a universal qualifying threshold of 360 hours for EI, regardless of the regional rate of unemployment, (ii) immediately repeal the harmful reforms of the previous government, including those that force unemployed workers to move away from their communities, take lower-paying jobs and those that eliminated the Extended EI Benefits Pilot program to help seasonal workers, (iii) protect the EI account to ensure that funds are only spent on benefits for Canadians, including training, and never again used to boost the government’s bottom line.
She said: Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am very proud to table and move in the House our opposition motion on how important it is for Canadians to be able to access employment insurance. In Canada, we are lucky to have social safety nets that help people who are going through difficult times to provide for themselves until they get back on their feet. Unfortunately, those safety nets are unravelling.
A growing number of families are finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet in a struggling economy where good jobs are increasingly rare and many jobs are part-time and much more precarious. Entire sectors of our economy are in trouble or disappearing completely. I therefore hope that we will all agree that it is high time we began repairing our social safety nets and helping all Canadians improve their situation and live a better life.
Employment insurance is a very important safety net. It enables people who lose their jobs to pay their bills, put bread on the table, and help their children go to school. It benefits both workers and employers who need qualified seasonal employees to operate their business. It is no secret that many businesses such as golf courses need skilled workers. Because of the EI reform, these are seasonal workers. We can all agree that in northern regions such as Quebec there is no golf in the winter. Those golf courses need seasonal workers and those workers need to receive employment insurance benefits. The workers have the skills and training to cut the grass and maintain the course. That may not seem like a big deal, but that expertise is important to the golf courses. Unfortunately, with the changes that were made to employment insurance, the expertise goes away.
Over the past two decades, it has become harder to access employment insurance. Let us be frank, the previous governments really did a number on employment insurance. The biggest problem is that time and again governments use the employment insurance fund to balance the budget. That should be prohibited. Over the years, we have seen the government dip into the EI fund that belongs to workers. Those are the workers' contributions. The government balances the budget on the backs of the workers. It is unacceptable.
More than $57 billion in EI premiums were taken to pad the government's budget. Had they left the money in the fund, accessibility would not be an issue. Unfortunately, the result is that only 38.9% of unemployed Canadians received benefits last December, the month for which we have data. This does not mean that the remaining unemployed workers found jobs or that the economy was doing well. Often the unemployed feel discouraged. The reforms put in place by the previous government discourage workers.
I will talk about an example in my riding of Jonquière. The Service Canada office in Kénogami was closed. In addition to having a hard time accumulating hours and getting information, these people can no longer go to an office. It is no longer accessible because it was closed. Workers become discouraged, and now we have people living in poverty because they do not receive unemployment insurance.
This is also a vicious circle. In fact, Canadians with no access to employment insurance have more precarious jobs, which make it difficult for them to accumulate enough hours to qualify for benefits. I am not making this up. The parliamentary budget officer himself pointed out this problem.
I can provide you with many examples from my region and my riding of Jonquière. There are many seasonal workers in the area who are skilled and who really like the work they do.
These people have chosen to come to the region not only because we have a very nice quality of life in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, but also because they have a job for which they are qualified and of which they are proud.
Natural resource companies are having to lay off employees because the cost of raw materials is too low and the business is therefore not profitable. When an employer wants to rehire these workers, they are no longer available. They have had to leave the region because they cannot get EI. In my riding of Jonquière, a number of people have had to leave the region. I have met many of them who are leaving Quebec in search of work. They are leaving their families and selling their homes. We are seeing an exodus from our communities, municipalities, and region. Most importantly, we are losing skilled workers with good experience.
Some car dealership employees have been locked out for three years and have not been able to return to work. These are service jobs and things are slowly turning around, but as a result of the EI reform, the people affected by the conflict are no longer entitled to benefits. They cannot access their benefits under the act. These people are unfortunately waiting to return to the work that they studied for, that they are qualified for, that they believe in, and for which they want to stay in our region. Unfortunately, they will end up with no income, below the poverty line.
We need to protect the employment insurance fund once and for all, to ensure that it serves Canadians. I am not just talking about providing benefits, but also about providing training. When workers lose their jobs, they need money to access training and find new jobs in their communities, in their region.
Of course, we also have to repeal the harmful reforms of the previous government. During the election campaign, I was very happy to hear that we were not the only party wanting to repeal the employment insurance reform. We all know that was a very popular topic during the election campaign. Many people who are now members of the government advocated for abolishing the employment insurance reform and even said that the number of hours should be reduced to improve access.
Forcing workers to accept a job that pays up to 30% less than their previous job or risk losing their benefits is totally demeaning to them. There are a number of factors that affect employment insurance benefits, including hours worked and regional unemployment rates. For example, under the Conservatives' reform, a mom who decides to move to a particular municipality might have a hard time finding work. Yes, people choose to move, but we have to make sure there are places where those people can work. For seasonal workers in particular, it is not the workers' fault, it is the industry's fault they cannot work. For example, the brush cutters who work in our beautiful Canadian forests cannot work there in the winter. They cannot work as brush cutters during that season.
I could talk about this all day, but I will conclude by saying that this is why we think there should be a single 360-hour threshold for everyone, no matter where they live. I hope to get a lot of support from my colleagues in the House to make changes, bring in universal benefits, improve access by reducing the number of hours, and restore services. Most importantly, the government must never again take money from the employment insurance fund.
Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House to speak to the NDP motion today, essentially calling on the new Liberal government to act immediately to fix employment insurance for Canadians.
The NDP has always stood up for Canadian workers, workers who depend on a strong social safety net, a safety net they can rely on. That safety net has been under attack in the last few decades. The most vicious attacks were undertaken by past Liberal and Conservative governments, whose actions in the 1990s caused a great deal of harm, particularly to the employment insurance system.
In recent months, we have heard a great number of promises from the government benches on how they plan to fix the EI system, a system that many of their constituents rely on as well, but we have yet to see that kind of support in action. In fact, despite commitments that were made even in the election campaign by the governing party, one commitment that definitely was not made was to stop pillaging billions of dollars from the EI account.
I believe that members of Parliament always have to know their history, so let us look at that history. Let us go back to the 1990s. The Liberal prime minister at the time adopted a series of measures that led to a drastic drop in EI eligibility. The fundamentals of these changes were brought into place as well by the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. When the Liberal Party got back into power, it did not miss the opportunity to continue the work of dismantling the employment insurance system.
In 1994, then minister Axworthy proposed a reform of the employment insurance system and the adoption of a new bill in 1996 that radically changed how employment insurance, then called unemployment insurance, worked. It changed the system from an insurance mechanism to something that put more emphasis on individuals' responsibility to sort out their employment situations. The consequences of these measures were dire.
The proportion of unemployed Canadians who received benefits was nearly cut in half between 1990 and 1997. It is not just progressive economists and researchers, but many others, including the Conference Board of Canada, who have made a direct connection between the cuts to employment insurance and the rise of income inequality in our country. The Liberals of the 1990s continued to push forward with their changes and we are still living with the consequences today. Employment insurance is one of the strongest links in our social safety net and it should come as no surprise that its demise has led to skyrocketing inequalities.
Let us look at one of the most dramatic decisions to date when it comes to EI. Some $51 billion in the EI fund was pillaged by the Liberal government. This, as many know, was not government money, but the money of Canadian workers and employers that has been put into this fund. The money was taken from the premiums that employers and workers paid into the system, which should have remained to help workers on an ongoing basis.
Previous Conservative governments went full speed ahead with dangerous reforms that put a huge strain on Canadian workers. Even if only half of unemployed Canadian workers had access to EI in the midst of the Liberal reforms in the 1990s, the Conservatives doubled down on the challenges to create even more barriers to accessing employment insurance. Many of these changes were mean-spirited, forcing workers to take jobs that would be up to one hour away from where they lived, and taking lower-paid jobs at that. We often heard that the Conservatives wanted to match every job opening with Canadians able to do the work, but for seasonal workers in particular they created conditions that required many of them to give up their trades and leave their home communities.
Today, less than four Canadian workers out of 10 facing unemployment have access to EI. In terms of accessibility rates, the unprecedented historic low of 36.5% eligibility was reached while the Conservatives were at the helm.
How did we get here? We got here by repeatedly putting up barriers to accessing employment insurance.
The increase in work hours required to access employment insurance, now between 420 to 700 hours, depending on where one lives, is a considerable barrier to accessing the system. A Canadian living in western Canada might have to work much longer than a Canadian in the east in order to access employment insurance. Having inconsistent access rates between regions has the unintended consequence of the government not being able to take into account a rapidly changing economic situation in certain parts of the country. This has to be changed. That is why the NDP stands by its proposal, with many other advocates, in supporting the proposal to move to a universal 360 hours threshold for workers, regardless of where they live.
The Alberta government has requested an alleviation of the hours required and demands that the government take into account the rapidly degrading economic situation in its part of the country. Premier Notley said Albertans should be able to enjoy the same access to benefits. We hope that the federal government will act on their needs.
This dramatic shift in the economic situation for the people of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador, and other parts of the country is one of the reasons we feel it is a priority to present this motion in the House today. The creation of a universal qualifying threshold, regardless of the regional rate of unemployment, should be a priority for the government. The regional threshold never made any sense, but it has been shown in recent months to be an ill-advised approach to administering a critical program.
The bottom line is that employment insurance should be there for every worker who needs it, regardless of where he or she lives, and the system has to take into account the economic condition of various areas in the country so that things can shift quickly. A lower threshold would also allow more Canadians to have access to the regime. We hope the government will take this into account immediately.
We are also proud to introduce a proposal that would repeal other aspects of the harmful Conservative reforms, including the need for Canadians to uproot themselves to find employment. A one-hour commute should not be imposed on Canadians as an eligibility criterion to receive the benefits for which they have paid.
We are also proud to present measures to protect the EI account from political interference and to ensure that what workers and employers pay into the system will only be used for their benefit, and not to fund tax reductions for the richest Canadians or the biggest corporations.
Considering the timing of the motion, we hope that our colleagues in all parties will find that the federal government must take immediate action.
The motion moved by my colleague from is very timely. It bears repeating that the previous government's employment insurance reforms must be repealed, and this has the support of many people in Quebec and the Maritimes.
Anyone who has applied for EI knows that the barriers to program access have become insurmountable for too many workers.
In fact, more than six out of 10 Canadians who lose their jobs are deprived of their benefits. This means that a majority of Canadians who lose their jobs can find themselves without any income when their professional situation deteriorates.
As I mentioned, this is the result of a series of both Conservative and Liberal reforms that have dismantled this important component of our social security program.
This work must be carried out in a meaningful way, and we hope that, together with civil society and the unemployed, we will keep up pressure on the government so that it puts together a social safety net that meets workers' needs.
The motion in front of us today is fundamentally about justice, a principle that ought to guide all of us as Canadian parliamentarians, the need to achieve justice for Canadian workers and the need to achieve justice for Canadian families. Let us fix employment insurance.
Mr. Speaker, this opposition motion gives me an opportunity to discuss Canada's employment social safety net and the urgent changes that are needed as well as to explain why we will oppose the motion.
Any system wherein some regions of Canada 26% of workers are covered and in other areas 95% of workers are covered is a system that is not working. The state of unemployment and the rapid job losses in areas with a strong dependency on commodities is top of mind for this government.
In recent years, Canadian labour markets, demographic profile, family and community supports have continued to evolve rapidly, at times challenging an old model and unfortunately leaving workers outside the safety net that was created to help them, even though they are the ones paying for that protection. This is a real problem, and that was why the Liberals made a strong commitment to Canadians in the election.
We are working hard to strengthen employment insurance to ensure it serves both the Canadian economy and the Canadians who need it. Our goal is to modernize our worker insurance program to make it fair and flexible and respond to the needs of all Canadians.
Let me now tell the House what we have in the works.
We have committed and are prepared to eliminate the NERE provision, which means those who are newly entering or re-entering the workforce. This is a particularly offensive change that the previous government brought in. Unfortunately, this motion does not address that. I hope does not mean that the NDP is opposed to those changes.
First, the current rules put immigrants and youth at a disadvantage, a program which is ineffective and makes youth engagement in the workplace even more difficult. Canada's young people and immigrants deserve a fair chance. That is why we will do away with these mean-spirited Conservative government provisions. Our changes to NERE will ensure that all Canadians are treated equally under our EI system. These changes will allow many more Canadians access to the EI program.
Second, and here we agree with the opposition's motion, is about modifying the 2012 changes that forced workers to move away from their communities and take lower-paying jobs. This was, and is, totally unacceptable, and we are working to change the situation. This was a Liberal Party platform commitment and we intend to keep it.
We are also committed to helping young families, something the opposition motion does not address. Does this mean once again that the opposition supports the present system in terms of parental EI benefits? We understand the system is not meeting the needs of families and the middle class. We are committed to providing a more flexible parental benefit program.
To complement this, we plan to introduce a more flexible compassionate care benefit. Many Canadians find themselves looking after elderly parents or other sick family members and the system must be more inclusive. The Liberal plan is to make this available to caregivers who are providing care to seriously ill family members, again an area the opposition has chosen not to see as a priority.
When people lose their jobs, it is important when they collect their first cheque. Time is of the essence. Canadians expect to receive their benefits as quickly as possible. That is why our government will be reducing the waiting time or deductible from two weeks to one week.
We will improve service standards by improving service delivery, something the previous government chose to compromise. We will begin this process by streamlining program rules. The present rules are cumbersome, hurt workers, and actually cost the government in administrative wages.
We are also committed to reducing EI premium rates, which will help businesses, particularly small businesses, by reducing payroll costs. This initiative will help all payers, both the workers and the employers.
Some of the basic principles of EI are that claimants are entitled to employment insurance regular benefits if they were employed in an insurable employment; if they lost their job through no fault of their own; if they have been without work and without pay for at least 7 consecutive days in the last 52 weeks; if they have worked for the required number of insurable hours in the last 52 weeks or since the start of their last EI claim, whichever is shorter; and, if that they are ready, willing, and capable of working each day and are actively looking for work, keeping a written record of employers they have contacted, including when they contacted them.
The EI program is also there to help people balance work and life responsibilities through EI special benefits. For example, a worker could claim EI sickness benefits in the event of an illness, maternity benefits for pregnancy, parental benefits for the birth or adoption of a child, or compassionate care benefits or parents of critically ill children benefits for family caregiving needs.
The EI program is not just about charging premiums and paying out benefits. This is where the labour market development agreements come in. Each year, the government provides $2 billion to all provinces and territories for employment programs and services. These focus primarily on helping current and former EI claimants prepare for jobs and get those jobs.
Our government is committed to moving forward on investing even more in labour market development agreements to provinces and territories and to support training for those unemployed workers.
In addition, we are committed to expanding the Canada job fund agreements, which currently provide $500 million annually to provinces and territories. The Canada job fund is unique in that it provides employment services, and supports those who are unemployed and are not eligible for EI benefits.
We will also continue to strengthen existing tools and services. This includes the national job bank, which is intended to help unemployed Canadians return to work.
As members can see, we are tackling the issue of unemployment from all angles. Our government is also monitoring the level of employment and unemployment across the country, understanding that Canadians need support right now.
My cabinet colleague, the , took a positive step this week and offered support to Alberta at this time of need. Specifically, the federal government will provide Alberta with the advance of a fiscal stabilization payment of approximately $251 million.
Let me assure members that Canadians who need EI immediately are receiving it. Today, there are double the number of EI claimants in Alberta compared to a year ago. In recent months, the number of claimants in Saskatchewan has shot up by 30%, and also Newfoundland and Labrador has seen staggering numbers.
However, employment insurance requirements are flexible and they need to respond to economic changes as well as the specific needs of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Newfoundland and Labrador.
There is some flexibility built into the program that allows it to respond to deteriorating economic conditions and changes in local labour markets. We measure this by looking at regional unemployment rates. When a region's unemployment rate rises, the entrance requirement is reduced and the duration of benefits increases. We see those forces at work in regions affected by the decrease in commodity prices.
The EI system also tries to support Canadians through the work-sharing program, which is an adjustment program designed to help employers and employees avoid layoffs when there is a temporary downturn in business that is beyond the control of the employer, particularly in the downturn in commodities. It provides income support to eligible employees who agree to work a temporarily reduced work week, while their employer recovers. The goal is for all of the participating employees to return to normal levels of working hours by the end of the work-sharing agreement.
Work sharing allows employers to retain those valuable skilled employees and avoid the unnecessary rehiring and retraining costs when their business returns to normal levels. At the same time, the program helps employees keep their jobs and maintain their skills and connections to the labour market.
While the employment insurance program is designed to cope with varying economic conditions and shifting circumstances, it must also keep up with today's labour market, which is changing rapidly. We need to ensure that the program is better aligned with today's labour market realities and that it is responsive not just to the needs of Canadian workers but to the needs of Canadian employers as well.
We are also aware that service delivery is vital when it comes to EI. We want to make it as simple as possible for Canadians to get the benefits to which they are entitled. With that in mind, we will review the EI system with the goal of modernizing our system of income support for unemployed workers.
Service Canada, which is our front face of service delivery, is continuing to modernize its services to provide all Canadians with ongoing improvements to its business model. This includes increased online services for clients and employers. We are also committed to improving service standards and the speed of pay for the EI program. These modernization efforts will provide Canadians with greater access to an increased range of information and services no matter where they live.
The men and women at our Service Canada offices across the country are keen to serve Canadians better. Moving forward, Service Canada will continue to ensure that the implementation of the EI service transformation agenda is responsive and cost-effective.
The unemployment rate and the need to provide temporary income support is a pressing issue, and our government understands that. We have pinpointed a number of important changes. The upcoming budget will outline those steps that we have committed to Canadians and that Canadians have endorsed. We want to ensure that the needs of Canadians are reflected, that any program changes be founded on a sound analysis of the evidence, and that careful consideration be given to labour market impacts and the costs of individual measures.
Our government is working quickly and diligently to deliver support to Canadians when they need it most. We recognize the need for change, and we are taking action to change the employment insurance system for the better.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I will be sharing my time with the member for . This vibrant, young colleague represents the up-and-coming generation of young women we are very proud to have within our caucus, and we are proud of all the young men and women who joined our party and were voted in during the last election.
Today is an opportunity for us to reaffirm the importance of employment insurance. EI is an important tool for workers who unfortunately lose their jobs. Job loss is a reality of the job market, and we have a system to mitigate the damage of losing one's job. For example, I am thinking about young families dealing with job loss. Employment insurance is there in these situations.
Our government worked over the past decade to strengthen the system, especially for the most vulnerable. Extra benefits were added for people who experience health or legal problems, for example. We always worked to improve the EI system, and we are open to more improvements. I will add that I was an EI recipient more than 20 years ago, and I appreciated it at the time. We had young children, and EI helped us make ends meet.
The New Democrats are unfortunately on the wrong track today. They have moved a motion that contains falsehoods, but most importantly, these reforms would take us in the wrong direction. Reforms should aim to give the unemployed more opportunities to earn more income, not make them poorer. Unfortunately, that is what this New Democrat motion proposes. It proposes unproductive, ineffective, and costly measures, and it also contains some falsehoods, which I will talk about later.
Basically, what the New Democrats want is to let people work for two months and collect benefits for a year. We all know that employment insurance benefits amount to a fraction of the income recipients earned previously, so that could limit workers to a lower income for a longer period of time. The point of employment insurance is to give people a decent income while they are unemployed, but it is also to encourage people to get back into the job market.
I should also point out that these measures would be costly. As we all know, the money in the fund comes from employers and employees. This plan would put a lot of pressure on everyone. Some estimate that the New Democrats' unrealistic proposal could cost as much as an extra $4 billion. For one thing, companies need all of their resources to invest in productivity and compete on the international market. For another, employees would have to contribute more to pay for a costly, ineffective measure that would wind up making them poorer.
Benoît Bouchard, a former Conservative minister, clearly explained and defended this position some time ago, in 2009, on Le Club des Ex, a program I was on with my friend Simon Durivage. Benoît Bouchard said that we could not have a standard threshold of 360 hours for employment insurance eligibility. We would be paying for it for years because when the economy recovered we would return to a period of normal employment.
This measure was brought forward in the midst of an economic crisis. What happened 20 years ago will happen again. People will work nine weeks, go on unemployment, and receive benefits for 50 weeks.
Mr. Bouchard also said that is why Claude Forget, in his 1986 report, stated that the unemployment insurance program had to stop competing with employment.
Therefore, I will repeat that the EI program must stop competing with employment. I am privileged to come from a region where the entrepreneurial spirit is phenomenal.
We just came out of an election campaign. In Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, we have been dealing with a shortage of skilled labour for about 10 years now. I have met business owners who have had to make the difficult decision of investing south of the border sometimes because they cannot find skilled workers at home. This has happened in Sainte-Justine, for example. This slows economic growth and the growth of our communities.
This government seems unusually preoccupied with large urban centres, and yet the regions are the economic backbone of our country. The manufacturing and agricultural sectors are important, and they play a critical role in the regions. Those businesses could use a boost from the government. They are having a hard time finding skilled labour.
The measure proposed by the NDP here today would shrink the potential labour pool even further. Jobs in the regions are often very well paid. Those jobs pay people enough to raise a family and live decently. That is the reality in Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, the reality that I faced during the economic crisis and during the reform that our government brought in.
I want to come back to what the hon. member for said this morning. She said that seasonal workers, more specifically those who work at golf courses, do not have jobs in the winter. She suggested that the reform therefore had an impact. I attended meetings where the Lac-Etchemin golf club said it was hard to retain its skilled workers from one season to the next to maintain and develop the course. The general manager of the Mont-Orignal ski hill was in the room at the time. Needless to say, a logical connection was made between those two businesses. The workers can work for the golf course in the summer and the ski hill in the winter. Their earnings are therefore much higher than what they would have received in employment insurance benefits. It is a win-win situation for everyone. More money ends up in the workers' pockets. There is also more opportunity to create jobs to address the labour shortages in the region. This in turn leads to more economic activity. Obviously, Mont-Orignal would need a bit of snow, but this winter we are not so fortunate.
I am quickly running out of time, and I just barely touched on the first point that I wanted to raise, that of reform. Of course, it is important to point out that the money belongs to workers, to employees, and I hope that the government will confirm that. The government cannot dip into that fund.
I would like to remind members that our Conservative government paid off all the deficits and helped workers and employees. The government injected over $10 billion into the employment insurance fund to compensate for the economic crisis. It is because of our policies and the 1.3 million jobs that we created that there is now a surplus in the employment insurance fund. The best remedy for unemployment is job creation. We hope that the government will make that a priority.
I will end now by saying that improvements could be made. For example, I am thinking of the Institute for Research on Public Policy, an independent, bilingual, non-profit organization in Canada that makes recommendations. People like Michel Bédard and Pierre Fortin work with that organization. The NDP's recommendation is not consistent with those made by credible organizations that have shown what EI reforms should look like.
In closing, the best remedy for unemployment is job creation. Unfortunately, that is not what the NDP is proposing today. I therefore do not intend to support the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for for sharing his time. I know that his time in government provided him the opportunity to study, consult, and evaluate this very important program.
I respect his comments and his knowledge of the issues.
I will not be supporting this motion put forward by the NDP. As I have said several times in the House, I have worked with many Canadians during my time as an executive assistant to the member of Parliament for Elgin—Middlesex—London. From 2004 to 2010, I worked directly with constituents on their employment insurance claims, an experience that has given me invaluable knowledge that benefits me greatly in my new role.
This is definitely not a new debate in the House and many before us have spoken on this topic. Studies, debates, and consultations have already been done on this topic, and the bottom line is that this would cost up to $4 billion, according to a study in 2009.
I have heard many speak about how Canadians do not currently get employment insurance, but we need to look at the basic numbers in front of us. I am going to put this in common terms so that all Canadians watching today's debate will understand. I am citing these numbers from many years of my experience in sitting down and looking at what the numbers are, what people are contributing into the employment insurance plan, and how the benefits are paid out.
Currently, a new claimant must have 910 hours to be eligible for benefits. This is approximately 24 weeks of full-time work in a 52-week period for eligibility requirements. I do not want to confuse the topic, so I will not address the labour workforce attachment hours for returning claimants.
Currently, the maximum that a Canadian personally pays toward employment insurance is $930.60 in personal premiums. Currently, the maximum benefit received by an individual is $524 a week. The simple math shows that in less than two weeks, the personal premiums paid annually are recovered. It is really important when we are looking at this that we understand that it is highly subsidized by the Canadian government. Therefore, when we talk about people receiving their benefits, we must recognize that we are talking about $930 put in, and up to $45,000 recovered. We have to recognize that there is not a true one-on-one balance.
I will quote directly from the Service Canada website, which states:
You may receive [employment insurance] regular benefits for a period ranging from 14 to 45 weeks. The number of weeks you may receive benefits depends on the unemployment rate in your region and on the number of hours of insurable employment that you accumulated during your qualifying period, which is usually the last 52 weeks before the start date of your claim.
This is just one side to the EI benefits, as there are many other variables and numbers of hours required for special benefits, such as maternity and parental and sick benefits. Sticking with the average claim, we must recognize other factors that are used, including the best 14 weeks, a really great change that I am so proud the Conservative government put forward. As I said, I saw many Canadians benefit from this change. When calculating the benefits, we also have to recognize the family supplement for some low-income families making less than $25,000 and the re-entry requirements for new people or return claimants.
One thing I noticed and question in this motion is subclause (b)(ii) that indicates that the previous government forces unemployed workers to move away from their communities. I am not sure if the member who presented this motion has ever worked with an El claimant, but I have never seen this occur. Rather, when claimants complete their El claims, they are provided with a list of opportunities in their areas that might be suitable for them, an initiative that is called “connecting Canadians with available jobs”. To me, this is a fantastic tool. As we have heard so many times in the House, Canadians are looking for jobs, not for handouts, and this is a way of getting Canadians back into the workforce. I have personally seen, when people are putting in their claims, three or four jobs pop up right after their application is completed. It inspires people and also gives them the right to go out to try to find a new job if one is available to them.
Once again, I would like to share the following from the Service Canada website. What are the responsibilities of a claimant? Although I tried to reduce this list, I want to share the common-sense approach that is used when providing employment insurance details. I apologize for this being very lengthy, but we need to look at what a claimant is responsible for.
When one applies for regular benefits, including fishing benefits, which can be looked at as seasonal work as well, one must be capable and available for work.
One must actively be looking for and accept suitable employment. I must note that “suitable employment” is underlined here. Therefore, we are not asking people to do things they would not regularly do or are not skilled for.
One must also conduct job searches, prepare resumés and cover letters, register for job search tools, attend job workshops and fairs, network and connect with prospective employers, submit job applications, attend interviews, keep a detailed record of proof of job search efforts, let Service Canada know when a job is refused, record all periods when not available for work, keep appointments with the office, notify the office of any separation from other employment, report absences from Canada, and report all employment and earnings.
To me, this seems extremely reasonable. I say to my children that if they are looking for a job, these are the exact steps that any Canadian should be doing, whether unemployed or looking for their first job. It is very reasonable. If one is looking for a job in the community, then start knocking on the doors, or go on the Internet and look for those jobs. This is exactly what the Service Canada requirements are of an EI claimant.
I have looked high and low trying to find in section 2 of the motion, and nowhere is it to be found, that one must leave one's area. That is nowhere to be found, and hopefully someone can bring that to my attention, because I cannot find it in black and white whatsoever.
After reviewing the responsibilities of the claimant, can anyone share with me the unreasonable request of a claimant? Claimants are asked to look for employment, prepare resumés, and attend interviews.
We as the official opposition have stated many times in the House, when dealing with the current economic climate, that Canadians are not looking for a handout, they are looking for jobs. That is one of the key reasons that I will not support a motion like this. Canadians are looking for jobs, and we have discussed this many times. We need to build our economy and provide opportunities for people to work. I could come up with an easy remedy, like working with energy east. We have heard that many times in the House. However, we do not seem to have the target audience of the government on board.
Instead, we see motions put forward by the NDP, and perhaps just because those members too do not see the co-operation of the government as well. Unfortunately, I know this is untrue as in the NDP's previous platform, prior to any of the losses here in Canada, there was a reduced number of hours required. How can we have a sustainable program to help Canadians with loss of employment when claimants are required to have only 360 hours of work, just under 10 weeks, or in regular terms, 45 days out of 365 days a year? I think we really need to look at that and put it very simply.
I heard one of my colleagues from the other side talk about agriculture. I come from a farming community, and, yes, I do respect that there are times when farmers and their employees cannot get on the fields. The member referred to four months of freezing, but in the motion that was put forward to us it is 10 months of freezing land. Therefore, we really have to look at those things. Also, if we are talking about times of unemployment, we cannot use agriculture and golf courses as the reference.
I see this motion as a very short-term solution. It is important that we come up with long-term solutions, and job creation to me is just that.
Last night I was speaking to my husband. I always like to prepare my speeches on FaceTime and share with him what I am thinking. His thoughts were, “10 weeks of full-time employment over 52 weeks is all you need? Really?” Then I got a really blank stare, one a little different than usual. It is interesting to hear his perspective. He is not involved in Canadian government and politics. This is just my husband saying that. Imagine what all Canadians are saying. This is supposed to be a program, a social safety net, not a clear approach to sustainable long-term solutions.
Prior to October 2015, the Conservative government created well-thought-out plans to assist Canadians and made enhancements. When going through the economic downturn, the Conservative government made changes to help employees through programs like the work-sharing program, which is a very effective program to avoid layoffs when there is a temporary downturn. There was the best 14 weeks pilot program to allow employees to have benefits calculated using the best 14 weeks of earnings. Also, working while on claim is an initiative that gives Canadians the opportunity to earn more and keep more money in their pockets while on claim. The previous government also introduced the Fairness for the Self-Employed Act, which extended EI access to self-employed Canadians for maternity, parental, sickness, and compassionate care benefits.
A great introduction to the EI program was the EI support for parents of critically ill children, providing up to 35 weeks of special benefits. In unfortunate times, the previous government created a program to help parents of murdered and missing children as well.
I believe it is important to protect the employment insurance account to ensure that the funds are only spent on benefits to Canadians, including training as noted in this motion. I believe that we must continue to connect programs and opportunities for all Canadians with Service Canada initiatives.
In a perfect world, no one would need employment insurance, but this motion does not create better opportunities for employment or better options for Canadians, and overall it is fiscally irresponsible. If we moved forward on a plan to do this, it would not be a sustainable program. We need jobs, and we need a plan for jobs. This is the important piece of the puzzle that we are missing, and something that we should be striving for if we are looking for equality. Employment insurance does not equal equality; job creation equals equality.
I appreciate the time, and I look forward to this discussion.
Mr. Speaker, never have I been happier than I am today to have microphones in the House of Commons to carry my voice, because there was no way that I was going to stay silent on an issue as important as standing up for workers. In case my voice gives out, I would like to say right away that I will be sharing my time with the member for .
During the 41st Parliament, I was lucky enough to be our employment insurance critic and to learn from one of the greatest defenders of EI and workers' rights of all time, the former member for Acadie—Bathurst, Yvon Godin, whom I salute in passing and whom I thank for sharing his passion and above all his knowledge with me for so many years.
The issue before us this morning is extremely important. It is based on three main pillars, which have been neglected by both the Liberals and Conservatives in recent years.
This is evidenced by the fact that every time the EI system has been reformed since its creation, the same two things have happened: it has become harder for people to access the system and the benefit amount has been reduced.
We are talking about employment insurance. It is an insurance plan. That says it all. People contribute to it in order to draw benefits when they need them. In an insurance policy, the criteria are specific and well established.
Imagine if after choosing life insurance, car insurance, or property insurance, we were told how much it would cost and then we were told that there was a 64% chance that we would not be covered when the time came to make a claim. We would probably look for another insurance provider as quickly as possible.
The problem is that when it comes to employment insurance, there is only one plan in Canada, and the employers and employees who contribute to it and keep it going are the least entitled to it.
Oddly, since the beginning of this debate, we have heard all sorts of misleading statements about how the former Conservative government rescued the employment insurance plan by injecting $9 billion into it, but paid itself back afterward. The Conservatives put $9 billion into the plan because they had taken $52 billion out of it. If we take 52 and we subtract nine, then we can see that the plan absolutely had the means to be self-financing. That is the key to the plan.
I would like to recognize another former colleague, Robert Chisholm, who introduced a bill in the 41st Parliament to protect premiums paid by employers and employees into the employment insurance fund and to ensure that every single dollar paid into this fund is used only for the purposes stated in the Employment Insurance Act.
We know that a Supreme Court ruling more or less legalized the misappropriation and use of money from the employment insurance fund by a former Liberal government. Just because something is legal does not make it legitimate. That is why the NDP has been fighting for months and years to protect the fund. No government, regardless of its political stripe, can use this fund for anything other than to support workers.
I will now move on to the second most important point. Oddly enough, when I was the critic, there was a lot of talk about unemployment in Quebec and the Maritimes, whereas the economy was in high gear in western Canada, especially Alberta. I always maintained that it was an insurance program.
I hope that everyone has the good fortune of paying for insurance their whole life and never needing to collect a cent. However, insurance is insurance, and when disaster strikes we have to be able to do something about it.
Now disaster has struck in Alberta and the workers in that province are in exactly the same situation as all the workers in eastern Canada, Quebec, and Ontario, some of whom had to face this type of stress long before them.
The threshold of 360 hours is just the beginning. There is no reason in the world why the stress level of a person who loses a job would differ from one region to another, because job loss is one of the most stressful things that can happen in life. Health insurance would not be offered differentially from one region to another because the rate of health or illness is different. That is absurd. When people get sick, they need health insurance and they get the services they need. When people lose their jobs, they need employment insurance, and if they paid into it, they should have access to it at a set threshold of 360 hours.
For a while now, I have been hearing the same rather short-sighted reasoning from our Conservative friends who are going on and on about how people will only have to work two months to be eligible for EI, as though workers might make a way of life out of doing that. However, for people who work odd hours or who are in a precarious situation with fewer hours of work per week, it does not take two months to accumulate 360 hours of work. It may take six or eight months.
Take for example the closure of all the Target stores in Quebec just a few months ago. Most of the employees who worked there every week were ineligible for employment insurance benefits. Three hundred and sixty hours is not two months of work. It may be many months of work for those who are less wealthy and who really need this little boost.
It is also important to note that employment insurance is commensurate with income. People who work in precarious, part-time jobs earn a lot less than people who work 40 hours a week, as our Conservative friends calculated. It is completely unfair and out of touch with reality to paint these workers as people who only want to work two months out of the year and live off EI the rest of the time. That is completely ridiculous.
The last important point I wanted to make, since I said I had three points, has to do with the vile consequences of the Conservative reform, and yes, I mean vile. Unfortunately, I have too much to say and not enough time, but let us talk about the notion of suitable employment.
We have already heard a former finance minister in this House say that suitable employment is whatever job one can get. Let us imagine for example a teacher with a university education who has developed a particular expertise. In the first few years of his career, as is often the case, he gets laid off at the end of the school year, because there is no guarantee that there will be enough students the next year to guarantee him a job. If this worker were asked to go and pick strawberries, he would have to prove that he is incapable of picking strawberries. I do not know too many people who would not be able to pick strawberries, so that would be considered suitable employment.
It is completely ridiculous to suggest that a teacher, who has developed an expertise and special skill that society needs, will be deprived of his professional work only to be sent to do a job that he never intended to do. That is not the kind of contribution he wants to make to society. Worse still, because the teacher is taking that job in order to fill the gap months, when the time comes to leave the strawberry patch and return to teaching, if he is offered a contract, his departure will be identified as being voluntary and he will not be eligible for EI, should he lose his teaching job. This is the world upside down. There are many details like this that just do not make sense.
I need to stop getting worked up, even though I could go on and on about other topics. However, I am ready to take questions.
Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to talk about employment insurance. My colleagues may not know this, but I am from a rural region, a remote region with lots of seasonal industries. Employment insurance is therefore a reality for many of my constituents. They would like to have other options, but that is a fact of life in my region.
I think that one of the most important parts of the motion is the one that would protect the employment insurance fund for good. People need to understand that the employment insurance fund is like a nest egg for workers. It is money they have saved. Employers contribute too. Workers and employers pay for the employment insurance fund. The government does not put money into it. Logically, the fund should belong to workers. The government should not be able to take whatever it wants from the fund to balance the budget, but that is what previous governments have done, unfortunately.
From 1998 to 2008, the Liberal and Conservative governments stole $57 billion from the employment insurance fund. Workers built up that fund with their hard-earned money, and employers contributed to it as well. Governments stealing $57 billion from the employment insurance fund is like parents who are unable to pay their bills and balance their budget deciding to raid their children's piggy bank to steal their children's hard-earned babysitting money or lawn-cutting money. Everyone agrees that stealing money from children to balance the budget does not make sense.
Being forced to do so shows a lack of financial capacity. We must secure the employment insurance fund once and for all, precisely to stop governments from dipping into it every time they have to balance their budget. This habit is totally unacceptable.
The fund is profitable, especially when we consider that $57 billion was stolen from it. The fund would be perfectly healthy if the government had not stolen that money. In 2016, the fund had a $3.3 billion surplus. The fund belongs to workers. It is there to protect them when they lose their jobs, and the government has to stop dipping into it. We must secure the fund once and for all. This is a priority for many people and many organizations that advocate for the rights of workers and the unemployed.
Access to employment insurance is another big problem. Currently, less than 40% of workers have access to it. The country has many workers, and out of all those who lose their jobs, only 40% manage to get benefits when they need them. This is an insurance plan. Is it normal for an insurance plan that is meant to cover job losses to pay out benefits in only 40% of cases? This makes absolutely no sense, especially when it is the workers who are making the contributions. We must ensure that the employment insurance fund is used to pay benefits to workers and help people when they are especially vulnerable.
We also have to talk about the two-week waiting period. This creates a very difficult situation. In addition to the two-week waiting period, when no money is coming in, there are other countless delays.
The former Conservative government massacred the employment insurance program and made it practically inaccessible. Furthermore, the processing times are outrageous.
People called my office to tell me that they still had not received an answer after three months. When you earn very little, you cannot survive without any income for three months.
Therefore, while they wait to find out if they qualify for employment insurance, most people are forced to take on debt, mainly by obtaining credit at very high interest rates using credit cards. These situations are unacceptable for our workers. The waiting period must be eliminated in order to provide better access to our employment insurance program and ensure that workers' security is not jeopardized when they lose their jobs.
We must also lower the eligibility rate. This rate, expressed as a number of hours, varies by region, which makes it discriminatory. For example, it can be difficult for people just starting their career to accumulate these hours. That is why we want to reduce this rate to 360 hours. Someone who works full time may not really have difficulty accumulating 360 hours, but if a worker cannot get a full-time job, it is difficult to accumulate the number of hours required, which can be quite high, to be eligible for employment insurance.
Many times people have come to see me to tell me that they do not have enough hours and that they have no recourse. I know that these are people who worked hard and tried as hard as they could to accumulate the proper number of hours, but were unable to do so. Often, it is because of their job and the nature of their employment.
Employment insurance needs to take into account the reality of workers. It is not the workers who are seasonal. It is the industry. Take farmers for example. They would like to work 12 months a year, but there comes a point where the snow begins to fall and hay will no longer grow. That is the reality. We cannot do anything about it. That is the way it is.
The tourism industry also has a season. We would like tourists to visit all year round, but that is not the case. We need to understand that it is not the workers who are seasonal but the industries. That is why we need to be able to support these workers; if we do not, our seasonal industries will be completely unable to find workers.
We also need to understand the reality for people who work on call. For example, orderlies who work in major hospitals start their careers working on call, until they have enough seniority to obtain a better, full-time position. At the beginning of their career, they will work on call and fill in for others, during summer holidays, for example. They will have significant periods of downtime. If we require these on-call workers to accept a job elsewhere, they will never gain enough seniority to obtain a full-time job.
This is key. We need to ensure that people who work on call and have very irregular work hours for the first two or three years of their career are not forced to accept another job elsewhere. Otherwise, they will never succeed in finding a secure job.
We also have to make sure that employment insurance takes regional realities into account. Forcing a worker who lives in one RCM to travel long distances to work in another RCM causes all kinds of problems, such as transportation and housing problems. It costs money. If a worker is forced to travel 100 km from home to earn 70% of his or her pay, and if we factor in higher child care, transportation, and other costs, people could end up losing money because of this increase. It makes no sense at all. The government has to understand regional realities and stop displacing workers.
Some jobs do not fit the mould. Some self-employed workers choose to contribute. When we are talking about employment insurance, we need to understand regional realities and not come up with laws that make no sense and do not take different employment circumstances into account. I think it is important to have an employment insurance system that meets workers' needs. Let us come up with a really good program once and for all rather than take a piecemeal approach to fixing it.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I rise in the House today to speak to this motion and express my disagreement with it. Despite its good intentions, it does not adequately address the real problem experienced by Canadian workers who have lost their jobs recently, especially after the changes that the previous Conservative government made to the employment insurance system. This system is a very important asset not only for the well-being of our workforce, but also for the stability of our economy.
I remember when I made the transition from banking professional to social worker. My goal was to help Canadians better understand and manage their personal and public resources.
By organizing workshops on financial literacy, and as a social policy university lecturer, I often noticed that there was a lack of knowledge about the employment insurance program and even a stigma around its use as a key element of our social safety net, regardless of the socio-economic level of the people in my groups.
Our modern employment insurance system is the product of hard work since the 1930s, the Great Depression era, work done by the two main parties of the House, the Liberals and Conservatives, in collaboration with the Senate, the provinces, and the territories.
There were definitely differences of opinion about which jurisdiction should administer such a program, eligibility for the program, and the amount of benefits. The debates were very interesting. However, during those difficult years, it was recognized that workers were not in any way responsible for the economic crisis at that time and that it was neither appropriate nor prudent for a society to ignore the well-being of its workforce, the very backbone of society.
Naturally, when these workers joined the army in the 1940s, the need to provide them with an employment insurance program upon their return to the country seemed even more essential. It was the best way to manage the highs and lows of the labour market, which are normal consequences of the business cycles of an industrial economy.
The need for an employment insurance program with non-judgmental accessibility was proven when the program was opened up in the 1970s in order to protect more than 90% of workers, including seasonal workers, and to provide sick benefits and maternity benefits.
Although the program was funded by the contributions of employees and employers, the federal government was still responsible for covering the losses. It was vital that the solvency of the program be ensured, which required adjustments over the years. In general, the program was working well.
However, in 2012, the previous government, tightened the eligibility criteria for EI, in its obsession to cut spending at all costs, even at the expense of vulnerable Canadians. It got to the point that someone who had the misfortune of losing their job, even after many years of contributing to EI, was forced to accept a job more than 60 kilometres from home at a lower wage, after just a few months of searching for work.
Supply and demand are at the heart of the job market. However, workers' freedoms and bargaining relationships with their employers were seriously undermined as a result of the changes ordered by the previous government.
Other limits were imposed, such as the eligibility threshold of 910 hours and the two-week waiting period. The purpose of those limits was to punish workers who had the misfortune of losing their jobs. These limits did not in any way help these people make a dignified return to the job market.
The hon. member who moved this motion is calling on our government to honour the commitments made in the throne speech, namely that we would strengthen the employment insurance system to make sure that it best serves both the Canadian economy and all Canadians who need it.
I want to share a quote from the 's mandate letter, as published on the 's website:
As Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, your overarching goal will be to help Canadians get the skills they need for good quality jobs. You will be able to achieve this goal by working with provinces, territories, municipalities, the post-secondary education system, employers and labour to strengthen our training systems to build the human capital that Canadians and employers need. You will undertake this work in a collaborative way with provinces and territories.
In particular, I will expect you to work with your colleagues and through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities:
Improve our Employment Insurance (EI) system so that it is better aligned with the realities of today’s labour market and serves workers and employers. This would include:
repealing the recent changes made to the EI system that have been punitive to unemployed workers;
undertaking a broad review of the EI system with the goal of modernizing our system of income support for unemployed workers that leaves too many workers with no unemployment insurance safety net;
eliminating discrimination against immigrants, younger workers and parents re-entering the workforce so that they are treated the same as other workers in their region;
reducing the wait time for new recipients to one week from the existing two week waiting period;
working with the Minister of Finance to ensure that EI contributions are only used to fund EI programs; and
working with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement to set transparent service standards for the delivery of EI benefits so that Canadians get timely access to the benefits to which they are entitled.
The minister also must:
Improve workers’ access to good quality job training that provides Canadians with pathways to good careers.
That is how our government plans to respond to the very serious problem of economic inequality, which has gotten worse because of the many job losses across the country. With an effective new program, presented here in the House, our government will ensure that our society is fair and equitable and gives every Canadian the opportunity to reach his or her full potential, as described in the minister's mandate letter.
Mr. Speaker, Canadians have asked us to do things differently. They want to trust in a government that puts their best interests first, and they expect us to deliver on what matters most to them.
What does matter? For almost a decade, the top-of-mind issue for the majority of Canadians has been jobs and the economy. Because this has been a concern to so many for so long, it is our top priority.
We are aware of the escalating unemployment rate, and we know that the employment insurance system is not living up to its name. There are Canadians who need it and do not have access to it. In the 21st century living in Canada, there is absolutely no reason for families to wonder whether they can pay their bills by the end of each month.
As Canadians, we rate our country as one of the top five best countries to live in the world. It is about time that every Canadian not only hears about these statistics, but actually feels this is true. Our government is ready to make being in the top five a reality for all Canadians. We have made a solid commitment to grow the economy, create jobs, strengthen the middle class, and help those who are working so hard to join it.
Our government pledged to improve our employment insurance system so it reflected the current labour market: an EI system that works to benefit employers and employees, an EI system that works for modern Canadian families, a system that supports people if they lose their job, or are caring for a seriously ill family member, or simply need to get skills training to improve their future careers.
Our first order of business will be to work toward eliminating discrimination against Canada's most economically at-risk workers. This includes young workers and new Canadians.
The platform was crystal clear. No longer will new workers or those reapplying for EI have to acquire 910 hours of insured employment. To tie into this, we have also pledged to reduce the waiting period by one week and improve service standards and speed up the rate of payment. This will help Canadians receive the benefits they deserve as quickly as possible and when they need them. We are determined to beef up the program so even more Canadians can access benefits when needed.
We will also improve the compassionate care benefit so it will be more flexible, inclusive, and easier to access. It will lift the burden from those needing financial support when they are unexpectedly called on to care for a seriously ill family member.
Another one of our commitments is to reverse the 2012 changes that forced unemployed workers to move away from their families and their communities to take lower-paying jobs. Workers who have paid into the EI program deserve to be protected. They deserve the opportunity to take advantage of the safety net that they themselves have contributed to. What we really need and what we really are committed to doing is to build more flexibility into EI so it is fair and responsive.
We want to help Canadians attain jobs and work toward their long-term career goals, even if there is a time of unemployment along that journey. We know it is not simple, but our improvements will provide the protection that is needed to weather the storm.
Each work situation is different. Family situations are often complex, and training and education needs to evolve rapidly. This EI modernization embraces flexibility so it can meet today's realities. Keeping Canadians engaged in the workforce is good for families and it is good for our economy. At the same time, the government will continue to strengthen and promote existing tools and services to help them return to work.
For example, through the Canada job fund agreements, the government provides $500 million annually to all provinces and territories to support training for all Canadians regardless of employment status. Labour market development agreements with the provinces and territories also provide nearly $2 billion each year for employment programs and services.
Our government will continue investing in the future and prosperity of Canadians because we care and because we have initiatives in place to do so.
Finally, we will continue working with the Canada Employment Insurance Commission to set the annual premium rate according to the new seven-year break-even mechanism. We will ensure that premiums are set no higher than needed to cover the projected cost of the EI program. As mentioned in our platform, we are committed to reducing the EI premium rate next year to reduce payroll costs for workers and employers.
We know these commitments can be met, and I look forward to the day when we can proudly check them off our list of promises.
It is time to implement changes to the EI system to benefit working Canadians for the long term. We have a plan, and it will succeed. As of right now, we must act quickly to help workers who have been affected by our unstable economy. Let us do what we can to get money into the hands of Canadians who need it the most.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
I am proud to stand in the House to speak to this NDP motion, which calls on the government to urgently act on ensuring that benefits are available to help Canadians who have lost their jobs. Job losses are mounting and Canadians need immediate action on employment insurance.
Canadian workers pay for the program, but access to benefits has become harder over the years. Before the Liberals brought in austerity in the 1990s, around 80% of the unemployed received the benefits they were owed. Shortly after Liberal austerity, the EI coverage fell to less than 50% of workers who lost their jobs.
The Conservatives continued the Liberal austerity, and now we have a situation where only 39% of unemployed Canadians are receiving benefits. The Conservatives also destroyed the extended EI benefits pilot program, which was in place to help areas with very high unemployment. The program helped ensure that seasonal workers would not suffer from a gap in their EI benefits at the beginning of the employment season.
If I were an insurance sales person, and I had to sign people up on my policies and had a qualification rate of a 40% payout if something bad would happen, how well does everyone think I would do? I would have to explain to my potential clients that, yes, they would have to pay me every month out of their paycheques so if some tragedy befell them, I would help them cover it. The only problem is that less 40% of my clients would be successful at getting their claims approved. I know that I would never go to that sales person and I know that most Canadians would not either. Somehow the Conservatives thought they could do this to their people and still stay in power.
The Conservatives also made a change that allowed workers to keep 50% of their income received while working and receiving benefits. The problem with this change was the same problem the Conservatives faced while in power. This change largely benefited the wealthiest Canadians and penalized lower-income earners.
In the past, lower-income earners had the right to keep all their earnings below a certain threshold in order to help with the inequality. The NDP put pressure on the Conservatives to modify this unpopular change and they accepted and introduced a temporary measure that would have allowed those who had previously participated in the program to pick which method worked best for them on an individual basis. This is why we put the plan to allow workers to choose which formula would benefit them in our platform.
The New Democratic Party was the only political party that explicitly committed to reinstating the extended EI benefits pilot program. Of course, this does not stop us from working with the government to re-implement the program, and I know there are sympathetic ears on the government side.
I remember the press conference on Prince Edward Island, when the member for stated that he saw the human factor from the changes first-hand, and I can certainly empathize. He said:
When you have people who come into your office two months before the work season begins and they’ve got no money and they’re wondering how are they going to put food on the table and they’re in tears—we see that human factor first hand.
I know exactly how he feels. I have said it before and will say again. I spent seven years working as a case worker to a former member of Parliament, so I have the experience of meeting people in the constituency who have had problems with employment insurance. Rookie members will have to get very used to this. Case work is a huge part of the job that MPs do. I often meet people who are 20 hours short of qualifying for employment insurance. They talk about the onerous reporting conditions they have to go through. These are emotionally charged experiences. Oftentimes families are really struggling to put food on the table. When there is an employment insurance program that only meets 39% of needs, it is simply not good enough.
We can work with the Liberal government to make this program safe and secure for Canadians who lose their jobs and have the right to the benefits. The issue for a long time was that we asked Canadians to pay into the system, but then Liberal and Conservative governments set up elaborate hoops for people to jump through, even to access the programs they funded.
In order to qualify for EI benefits, there are many different requirements and hours worked as a qualifying period, depending on the individual's circumstance and what part of the country that individual lives in. The difference in hours worked is based on the regional rate of unemployment at a given time. Why do we continue with a system that discriminates between workers who need maternity or sickness benefits and new entrants and re-entrants to the workforce? This program should be simplified.
The NDP is proposing a streamlined system in which a worker must work 360 hours in the previous year to qualify, regardless of where that worker lives in the country. The 360-hour mark was proposed by the NDP after extensive consultations with women's groups, student groups, labour unions, and anti-poverty organizations.
This upgrade to the employment insurance program would cost money from the system, but we are lucky that the EI account has a major surplus and it would be more than enough to cover this change. That is only going to be true if we put in safeguards to put a firewall around the fund. A big reason why I am going to be supporting this motion is the importance of protecting the EI fund from governments that put their political ambition before the welfare of the Canadians they represent.
For years, Liberals and Conservatives have treated the EI account like a government slush fund. As I mentioned, they slashed EI benefits and then spent the money in other ways.
When the Liberals were in power before, they took $54 billion from workers and employers who paid into the EI fund, and they spent it on various programs, such as tax cuts and giveaways to corporations with absolutely no strings attached.
The Conservatives, who were recently in power, like to tout that they had a balanced budget, which was suspect for many reasons, as we have already debated in the House. They took from the EI fund in order to call it a balanced budget.
The employment insurance fund was paid into by workers and employers to fund employment insurance, not to put up smoke and mirrors to look as if a particular political party was keeping its election promises. The Liberals are now plunging us into deficit, and we cannot allow any government in that situation to be able to steal from Canadian workers to make its numbers look rosier for the media. We can work together in the House to make sure that never happens. The 360-hour streamlined proposal could be paid for with the money that is already in there for that purpose.
The government's ability to provide real change has been worrisome over these past months, however. Job losses are happening all over the country, and bureaucratic trials are set up to keep workers from accessing desperately needed help that they are owed.
The Liberals used their first bill in the House to help give the wealthy a tax break—to some of the highest-earning Canadians, including Liberal members of Parliament. They called it a middle-class tax break when it really benefited the top 90% to 95% of earners. Anyone earning between $100,000 and $200,000 is going to get the maximum tax cut. When we look at the details, we see it really was just a public relations ploy.
Time and time again, we blasted the Conservatives, when they were in power, over their insistence on putting in programs that were designed to help the wealthiest among us. So far the Liberals have been falling into that same trap of leaving regular, working Canadians behind. The issue is that the Liberals won a mandate to put Canada in a better direction than the Conservatives did. Canadians can count on New Democrats to make positive proposals and work with the government, so we do not continue down a road where the government is only there for the elite and the privileged.
This motion, which would act on recommendations from those working in the anti-poverty sector, as well as those working for women's rights, student groups, and labour unions, would allow an equal playing field to access employment insurance benefits. It would also stop the absolutely disgraceful act of robbing the insurance fund to pay for corporate tax breaks or for a short-term image that the budget is actually balanced.
We implore Liberals to act on their promises, reverse the Conservatives' damage to our EI program, and accept our motion so that Canadians can get some immediate relief in an economy where far too many are suffering.
Mr. Speaker, when the recession hit in late 2008, Ottawa enacted temporary measures to stabilize the economy and help households make ends meet. The most important of these was adding an extra five weeks to the EI benefits. When the economy is bad, it takes workers longer than usual to find new jobs. This would be especially true when one sector or region is at the centre of most job losses, which we have now with Alberta and the energy industry. Another five weeks of benefits would recognize this reality and give workers the time they need to find a good job. Increasing access to benefits would make the stimulus more effective and equitable.
The Liberals' EI election promises slated to take effect in January 2017 would seem to be straightforward, and there are some that must take place now. The nuances of these changes can be discussed meaningfully as time goes on, but we also have the so-called low-hanging fruit that our motion addresses here today.
First is the promise to eliminate the eligibility requirement of 910 hours of insured employment for new entrants and re-entrants to the labour market. If the federal government eliminated the higher requirement for this group immediately, it would make access to EI fairer, especially for those who are new to the workforce.
Second, unemployed workers are facing significant delays in getting benefits approved, receiving decisions on appeals, or even having their questions answered. Cuts to front-line services over the past few years have been devastating to the EI program. More staff must be hired to make sure the benefits flow without delay. It would also take little time to scrap the 2012 changes to EI, such as reversing the three tiers of workers, returning to the previous definition of suitable employment, and restoring the best 14 weeks pilot programs that created a single national standard for determining benefit levels.
Finally, existing skills training programs are important to help workers transition to new employment.
Another Liberal election promise was an increase of $200 million to fund provincial literacy and essential skills training aimed at those who do not qualify for EI. While it is not part of EI, it would help where it is needed most.
We believe these are changes that can be done quickly and painlessly. We salute the new government's commitments to make sizeable investments in infrastructure. The Liberals have promised to provide much-needed investments into the areas of affordable housing, public transit, and municipal water system upgrades over the next few years. All of these are necessary and will contribute to economic growth and the well-being of Canadians, but they will not give the economy the boost it needs now. Employment insurance can help fill the gap, and that is what we are here to do today.
In the Windsor-Essex area, within which we find my riding of Windsor—Tecumseh, the unemployment rate is 9.6%, which is significantly higher than the national rate of 7.2% now. These people, like the unemployed throughout the country, have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and are at the mercy of market forces, which they did not create and over which have no control.
We heard some numbers earlier today in the statements made by other hon. members. I wanted to know what some of these numbers about unemployment meant for my area, so I did some cursory number-crunching as well, the back-of-the-envelope type, just to illustrate my point. While it is not entirely scientific, it is close enough to paint a very poignant picture of the immediacy of the issues that are involved in the motion as it is articulated here today.
While the population of the Windsor area, which is Windsor and Essex County, is around 319,246 people, the percentage of those who are of working age is 67.5% or about 215,491 people.
With an unemployment rate at 9.6%, this would work out to 20,618 people. However, when I again look at the number of people who are currently utilizing EI benefits, according to the government's own figures the number is 5,640. That is 5,640 out of 20,618 people without work. That is how many are eligible to collect EI. That is pretty brutal.
One's thoughts go immediately to the over 16,000 people who are unemployed and yet, for whatever reason, do not have access to employment insurance. I know some of these 16,000 will be students. A small percentage of them will be unable to work. I provide these figures as a broad sense of how many people might be denied access to EI benefits in the Windsor—Essex area.
I know members agree these numbers are horrifying because we know that numbers are numbers and people are people.
I would also like to add that while the debate we are having may require a lot of numbers and statistics, we do not forget that unemployment figures are more than figures, a data table, or a spreadsheet. These are family members, friends, and neighbours. They are parents raising children, our future workforce. They are sons and daughters who are providing for their parents that important informal caregiving that we all need as we age.
As I alluded to earlier, a series of policy changes over the last two decades has made access to EI benefits increasingly difficult. Back in 1990, 83% of unemployed Canadians received benefits, but it took a dive to 42% in 1998, when the former Liberal government redesigned the program to make it far less generous. After further changes by the Harper government the beneficiaries to unemployed ratio fell below 40% in 2012, for the first time in almost 40 years. Further changes in 2013 drove down the eligibility rate to 37%, a new all-time low. It also became tied to absurd rules, like accepting any job the government deemed suitable even if entirely unrelated to one's career, it comes with a 30% pay cut, and requires an hour-long commute.
As job losses are mounting, Canadian families are struggling and they need immediate action from the government. After 20 years of Conservative and Liberal reforms, our employment insurance program is completely broken and is not providing the help that Canadian families need. The Liberals and Conservatives have dramatically slashed access to employment insurance benefits, leaving the majority of unemployed Canadians unprotected.
Over 80% of the unemployed received unemployment insurance benefits before the Liberals devastated the program with its reforms in the 1990s. After the Liberals' reforms, EI coverage fell to less than 50% of the unemployed. Under the Conservatives, access to EI benefits fell to historic lows, with fewer than 4 in 10 unemployed Canadians receiving regular EI benefits.
In December, the last month for which we have data, only 38.9% of unemployed Canadians received benefits. Both the total number and the proportion of unemployed Canadians went down compared to November, even though the number of unemployed Canadians increased.
Economic mismanagement has also contributed to the low number of Canadians receiving EI benefits. According to the parliamentary budget officer, many of the Canadians who are not receiving EI have been unemployed for more than a year, or were employed in precarious work where it made it difficult for them to accumulate enough hours. Currently, to qualify for EI regular benefits a worker needs to work between 420 and 700 hours in the preceding 52 weeks before they can make a claim.The number of hours is based on the regional rate of unemployment in the claimant's region. New entrants and re-entrants need 910 hours to qualify for EI regular benefits.
The NDP has long proposed a threshold of 360 hours for workers, regardless of where they live. The cost of this proposal, based on the NDP's calculations during the campaign, would be $1.2 billion, a cost the EI account can easily afford, given the current surplus and assuming that this pool paid for by workers and their employers is protected.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
I take this opportunity to provide a perspective of one of our government's significant economic successes, which is improving people's competencies in the workplace. Labour development is one of our key priorities as a government. If we wish to grow the economy, we need to be responsive to all sectors of the economy as well as regions of the country.
I know first-hand that in my riding of , there is 11% unemployment and underemployment. I am concerned about the issue and I like the fact that our government is taking a holistic approach to improve the conditions for those who are underemployed and unemployed. Our government is helping in a broad perspective to ensure that we develop strategies that are working. For employees, the acquisition of new skills and the development of existing skills means increased contribution to society and greater self-esteem and motivation. This leads directly to a more productive and a more competitive society and better quality of life.
It is one thing to provide monetary benefits to people while they are looking for work, but our actions need to go further. We need to offer the tools that will help Canadians get ahead in today's labour market. There are too many stories of people who no longer possess the skills that make them employable, and I am very familiar with these stories in my riding.
Our intention is to offer people a path that can lead them to new employment possibilities and work that is in line with the requirements of today's market. We believe that with the right preparation and the acquisition of the right skills, a very large percentage of unemployed people can reintegrate into the job market without having to move away from their community or accept low-paying employment.
Through the labour market development agreements, the Government of Canada provides over $2 billion each year to provinces and territories for employment programs and services. The primary focus is to help current and former EI claimants prepare for and obtain employment.
Our Liberal government will work closely with all provinces and territories to improve skills training. We will ensure that training is better aligned with the needs of the labour market, and we will enhance the tools available to help unemployed workers get back to work.
Our initiatives complement a large range of programs that are already provided to provinces and territories for this very purpose. As an example, the Canada job fund agreements provide $500 million in funding annually to provinces and territories. The purpose is to support training for all Canadians, regardless of their employment status, through the Canada job grant and other employer-sponsored training initiatives.
Under the employment supports and services, priority is given to unemployed persons not eligible for EI and low-skilled employed workers. Our government believes in the hard-working people of Canada, and as such, we will continue to strengthen and promote existing tools and services, such as the national job bank, to help the unemployed return to work. We will work with provincial colleagues to ensure that people get the services and training available to help them with labour market transitions.
We all know that the jobs of the future will require a highly trained workforce. We intend to make Canada's workforce among the most competitive in the world. For this to happen, we need to adapt to the new realities of the labour market.
We are working collaboratively and in partnership with all provinces and territories, and are ensuring that Canadians have access to the education and training programs they need to be successful in the workplace. The measures we are putting in place are designed to support both employees and employers in all regions of the country.
We are looking at the wide range of changes that would increase the fairness, as well as the effectiveness, of the program. For instance, we intend to eliminate discrimination toward people who are entering or re-entering the employment market. We are looking at reversing the Conservatives' 2012 changes to the employment insurance system that forced unemployed workers to move away from their communities and take lower-paying jobs. These rules have had negative consequences on a large number of workers, notably seasonal workers. In addition, we will provide more flexibility for parental leave under the employment insurance system to better meet the needs of families. As one more example, in our desire to help job seekers, we have committed to reducing the waiting period for EI claimants. This would help workers who lose their jobs to receive their benefits faster.
These are only a few of the improvements we are working on toward an improved employment insurance program, and this is the spirit that will drive modernization of our EI programs now and in the future. Our ultimate objective is to help Canadians find good jobs that are meaningful, well paying, and that strengthen our economy. The residents of Don Valley East will be very proud that this is what we are doing.
Throughout this important process of change, we will be focused on strengthening the EI program so that it reflects the needs of all Canadians. Employment insurance reaches millions of Canadians, either as beneficiaries or as employers. It is a crucial part of our social safety net, and this is why both EI and training and skills development are such important priorities for this government. I hope all members will work with us as we bring changes and consultation to this program.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity to speak to an issue that is key to what we want to achieve when it comes to employment and our communities throughout the Pontiac and the Gatineau valley.
I am talking about having an employment insurance plan based on justice and compassion, one that is in line with the needs of our job market and supports the Canadian economy, including our regional economies.
Our employment insurance plan is an important part of our social safety net and is generally fairly effective. It does what it was designed to do, providing support to people looking for a job or looking to enhance their skills.
Canadians know they can count on some financial support when they finish a job. They also know that they will get guidance in looking for a new job or acquiring new skills. The plan also helps them balance professional and personal responsibilities in the case of an illness or other family obligations, including the birth or adoption of a child or providing care to a loved one.
Our intention is clear. We will ensure that our system remains aligned with the realities of Canada's labour market and that it serves those who need it. To that end, it needs to remain current, which means that it must change with the times. Today's world of work is changing at an incredible rate. The skills required change with technological developments and consumer demands. We all know this. Jobs considered essential one day can become obsolete the next, and the people in those jobs can find themselves in a precarious situation very quickly. We just have to think of the falling commodity prices and the impact this is having on many regions of the country.
The EI system contains provisions designed to respond to economic changes. The system divides Canada into 62 economic regions. When a region's unemployment rate rises, the eligibility requirement for employment insurance is reduced and the duration of benefits increases. The system is flexible so that it can adjust to local economic conditions, which are constantly changing.
We must ensure that the system responds to today's realities and that it is aligned with the needs of workers and employers. To that end, our government is firmly committed to providing programs that reflect the values and needs of our communities. We recognize that there are currently components of the system that could be improved. That is why we intend to eliminate discrimination with respect to people who enter or re-enter the workforce.
We intend to put an end to regulations that penalize people who are just entering or re-entering the workforce and to ensure that they receive the same treatment as other workers in the region. Similarly, current regulations are very disrespectful of seasonal workers, a reality in the Pontiac, which is very frustrating. The seasonal worker is nevertheless a key player in our economy. Some sectors such as the market garden industry, tourist outfitters, seafood processors and the forestry industry rely on temporary labour. That is the nature of these industries. In this same spirit of fairness, we will reverse the changes made to employment insurance in 2012, which forced unemployed workers to leave their communities and accept jobs with lower wages.
The measures we will put in place are designed to support both employees and employers in every region across the country. Those are just a few of the improvements that we plan to make to the employment insurance system. We also plan to do more.
For example, we will work to reduce the waiting period for benefits by 2017, so that workers who lose their jobs can get their benefits more quickly.
What is more, we are going to make the parental leave provided for in the employment insurance system more flexible in order to better meet the needs of families. Our government is determined to support parents and family caregivers by providing them with more flexible, more comprehensive, and more easily accessible EI benefits. That is how we plan to manage the EI system in the future.
Our ultimate goal is to help Canadians, including those in the Pontiac region, to find good jobs that are rewarding and well paid and to strengthen the economy of our regions and Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time today with the member for .
I am pleased to speak in support of today's opposition day motion brought forward by the hon. member for . The motion calls on this place to acknowledge that Canadians need better access to employment insurance benefits. It also calls on the government to take immediate action. The motion is very relevant to the people I represent in Essex.
Over the past number of years and decades, southwestern Ontario has lost tens of thousands of good-paying manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing accounts for 11% of Canada's GDP and employs over 1.7 million Canadians, many of whom live in southwestern Ontario. However, over the past decade, under the Conservatives' watch, 400,000 good-paying manufacturing jobs have been lost. Those job losses have impacted communities across my riding, including Amherstburg, Belle River, Essex, Harrow, Kingsville, Lakeshore, and LaSalle.
According to Service Canada, the EI region of Windsor, which includes the riding I represent, has an unemployment rate of 9.6%. This is one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, much higher than the 7.2% national rate. In reality, we know the rate is probably much higher than the 9.6% at which Statistics Canada looks. Statistics Canada has a narrow measure of unemployment that really only looks at those who are actively looking for work.
In a region like the one I represent, which has experienced chronic underemployment over the years, people simply stop looking or they settle for lower-paying jobs, or part-time work, sometimes piecing together two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet. They may also seek retraining opportunities as I did in 2008 after being laid off from my auto manufacturing job.
When I started working on the assembly line at Ford, we had 6,700 people and 20 years later we are down to 1,500. People in my riding deserve fair and equitable access to employment insurance. When people lose their job through no fault of their own and there are not many opportunities in the area they can turn to, they need time to make the important decision about their future and the future of their families.
Yesterday, I published an editorial in the Windsor Star that talked about Neil from London. Canadians were introduced to Neil during the 's one-on-one interviews on CBC. Neil's interview embodied more than just a generation concerned about their financial retirement. He reminded me of all the people I had worked shoulder to shoulder with during my 19 years at Ford. It reminded me of the conversations I had at the doors of Essex voters. It reminded me why I am now working in Ottawa as the MP for Essex.
Thanks to Neil, the concerns he raised with the were brought to a national audience. His questions reflected the real anxiety that resides in manufacturing towns across southwestern Ontario. He became the face of tens of thousands of families. His questions were real and they were poignant. Sadly, they largely went unanswered by the Prime Minister.
Canadians from all corners of our country face anxiety about mounting job losses. We know the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan are facing an extraordinary period of slow economic growth and falling energy prices. This has led to tens of thousands of workers losing their jobs, which means tens of thousands of families concerned about how they will make ends meet while trying to secure quality jobs in this economic downturn.
When communities face mounting job losses, like Alberta over the past year or so, and southwestern Ontario over the past few decades, workers rely on fair access to the employment insurance benefits they paid into for so many years. The premier of Alberta, the Hon. Rachel Notley, knows EI is an important component supporting families in these tough economic times. She has said that they are looking for a fast-paced adjustment to EI so they can extend eligibility and eligibility for the length of claims, which are shorter in Alberta than in any other part of the country.
While the Liberals talked a lot about improving access to EI during the election campaign, many Canadians will remember that it was a Liberal government that created many of the problems with EI that we now are dealing with today. In fact, successive Liberal and Conservative governments have tightened eligibility criteria and have pillaged $57 billion from the EI fund. They have distorted the purpose of the EI program, which is to provide income to workers who have the misfortune of losing their job.
Looking back into the 1990s, the Liberal government of the day embarked on a devastating austerity program, reducing transfers to the provinces and cities and slashing services on which Canadians relied. Under the Liberals, employment insurance was radically overhauled to restrict eligibility requirements. In 1990, eight out of ten Canadians qualified for EI benefits, but after the Liberal government's changes, EI coverage fell to less than 50% of the unemployed.
Let us talk about what the Liberal government did to the EI account.
To provide a little background, when employers and workers pay into EI, the money goes into a consolidated specific purposes account. These specific purposes are very straightforward. EI premiums are intended to provide relief for workers who have lost their job. They are not meant for any other purpose, like funding reductions in the corporate tax rate, or giving subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. EI premiums are meant for unemployed workers.
What the Liberals did to the EI account was unconscionable. They raided the fund of about $50 billion. Rather than reducing premiums for small business owners and workers, the government took the money for its own purposes. Rather than increase access to EI for the unemployed, the government took the money for itself. Rather than provide greater retraining opportunities for unemployed workers, or address the serious skilled labour shortage that existed across Canada, the Liberal government took $50 billion out of the EI account and away from Canadian workers.
It is all well and good for the Liberals today to be talking about fixing some of the Conservatives' mess, but let us not forget the governing party's sordid history on this file.
Fast forwarding to the 2000s, let us take a look at what the Conservatives did with EI.
Faced with deepening recession in 2012, the Conservatives failed to address the economy and instead focused on attacking Canadian workers. They undertook a large series of reforms to EI that were designed to further restrict eligibility, especially for seasonal and lower-wage workers. The number of people qualifying for EI hit an all-time low. Let us remember, in 1990, eight of ten Canadians qualified for EI benefits. After the Liberals were done with their changes, this number dropped to about five in ten. After the Conservatives, just four out of ten Canadians qualified for the benefits they had paid into.
The Conservatives introduced new rules forcing workers to accept lower wage jobs that paid up to 30% less than their previous jobs, or accept jobs that were up to an hour's drive from home. Refusing such jobs meant workers risked losing their benefits.
The Conservatives also changed rules for the working while on claim pilot project, which penalized lower income earners, and they killed the extended EI benefits pilot program, which granted five extra weeks of benefits for workers in regions of high unemployment.
Stealing a page from the Liberal playbook, the Conservative government diverted another $3 billion from the EI account to cover budget holes left by its multi-billion dollars in corporate tax giveaways.
Hassan Yussuff, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, put it well, “How is it acceptable to be accumulating annual surpluses in the EI account, when 63% of unemployed workers aren't receiving any benefits?”
It is time for the federal government to stop raiding the EI account. Enough is enough. This money can never be recovered, and it is a grievous theft from Canadians who are at their most vulnerable.
Today's motion proposes a clear way forward.
First, it proposes to create a universal qualifying threshold of 360 hours, regardless of the regional rate of unemployment. Currently, the required hours range from 420 to 700 hours, which restricts EI eligibility for many Canadian workers. Levelling the playing field with a standard number of hours is good for workers. It is a proposal that has been endorsed by 80 Canadian groups, including anti-poverty, women's groups, labour unions, and student groups.
Second, the motion proposes to repeal some of the Conservative government's harmful EI reforms. Forcing workers to accept low-paying jobs far from their homes puts an undue strain on families and prevents workers from securing the right job for their future. Let us get rid of these unnecessary measures and restore the pilot program to help seasonal workers.
Third, the motion calls on Parliament to protect the EI account, to ensure that funds are only spent on benefits for Canadians, including training, and never again used to boost the government's bottom line. This is such a critical part of the motion.
I encourage my colleagues to acknowledge the wrongs of the past and support today's motion as a positive way forward that restores the EI program to its intended purpose.
I thank my hon. colleague from for bringing this motion before us today.
On behalf of the people I represent in , I will be voting yes to this motion.