Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you to everyone who's here.
Let me take the liberty of just quoting from a couple of the submissions you brought with you. The one I'm referencing first is from Ms. Lachance, who writes in the third paragraph:
Going back to work after 15 weeks is utterly unthinkable, unrealistic, but since the bills continue to pile up, you need an income in order to pay them.
In the other story, Ghislaine Fréchette says:
Did I go back to work? I tried. I would have liked things to be as they had been, but I didn't have the energy to complete a seven-hour day. I couldn’t go to work every day. The few days provided for this incident under my conditions of employment had long since been used up.
I hate to reference this in one sense because it feels almost crass, from my perspective. But it brings me to a sense of looking at the employer's productivity level, in the sense of having an employee come back so soon—in one case after 15 weeks of what ostensibly becomes a sick leave benefit from EI, and in the other case where an employee returns, knowing she's not able to complete 7.5-hour days or full work weeks. In my estimation and I think if we asked the employers, they would say their productivity level would diminish. So it doesn't seem appropriate to force an employee back who actually isn't really going to be a productive employee. And Mr. Provencher articulated, I thought, very clearly to us earlier that his employer recognized that, but he had a favourable employer. That's not to cast them all in a bad light; they simply run the rules of the system, whatever it happens to be. That's why I think this is important that we recognize the system. I'd like folks to think about that.
I have another sense of it, when it comes to costing. Again, I hate to put things in a dollar-and-cents fashion, but for me sometimes it's a way of saying why it's necessary to do things in a certain way. I have this sense, and I've always believed in what I call “a total cost”. What I mean by that is the total cost to society and indeed to the public purse. So when we look at the public purse, when we look at things like someone going off on an extended leave, as we were suggesting and as Madam Bonsant's bill suggests, with some form of remuneration that helps get them past this financial hurdle, do we then reduce the cost? Do we reduce the cost of folks ending up on social assistance or welfare, as we call it here in Ontario, or becoming a burden to the health care system because of addiction and homelessness issues, because they haven't had money to keep their home and they actually lose it, and the whole sense of lost productivity?
I recognize, Madame Gaudreault, that perhaps, as you said, this is a study that needs to be done. I would love for you to be able to point things out to me that show what those costs are. I think that's a great ask, to be honest, from me to suggest that you actually have that at your fingertips at the moment. But I think that's a study that needs to be completed, and I'd like you to comment on some of that. I'm quite happy to allow whoever wants to make a comment on that piece.
I have one last comment. I really appreciate, from a personal perspective, your raising the mental health issue. It's very close to me and my family, so I commend you and I thank you from our family for raising that as another piece of this, which I believe needs to be added too. It's immensely important for those of us who have family with mental health issues, that they be recognized for the illness it truly is and the impact it has on not only our immediate family but our extended family as well. So I congratulate you and I thank you for doing that.
I would allow those folks who want to make a comment to those bits and pieces I've kind of laid out there, if you would....