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Results: 1 - 15 of 185
View Scott Duvall Profile
View Scott Duvall Profile
2019-06-05 22:57 [p.28648]
Mr. Speaker, there was a chance to help people who are off sick from work. I have been getting a lot of complaints from my constituents, and I know we have been lobbied here in Ottawa about 15 weeks not being long enough, especially nowadays because of the long hospital waits. People might have hip injuries or need a new knee, but it takes a long time to get that surgery done, and until that is done, they cannot work because they are having a hard time performing their jobs.
Fifteen weeks does not cut it. Why did we miss the opportunity to increase those weeks when we have been pressured by society for many years to have this looked after?
View Terry Duguid Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Terry Duguid Profile
2019-06-05 22:58 [p.28648]
Mr. Speaker, we have made a number of improvements to the EI system since we were elected in 2015. I participated in some of those when I was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Families. We have increased flexibility, and maternity and parental leave benefits have been improved. I know that the EI system is constantly being looked at and that the question has been raised in the House many times. The minister certainly is aware of these questions and is always looking to improve the EI system in this country.
View Brigitte Sansoucy Profile
Mr. Speaker, William Morissette lives in New Brunswick and has a cancer that makes it impossible for him to work. He has used up his 15 weeks of sickness benefits and does not have access to disability benefits.
In addition to fighting cancer, William has to fight the Liberal government, even though there are 32 Liberal members in Atlantic Canada. William, like thousands of others, believed the Prime Minister and the minister responsible for this file when they promised to enhance the EI's unfair sickness benefits.
When will they keep this promise to William and thousands of other sick people who cannot work and do not have a dime?
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
2019-05-13 14:55 [p.27686]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for raising this issue, which is central to the mandate we received from Canadians to work for middle-class families and for those families who find it difficult to join the middle class for all sorts of reasons, including the loss of employment. Terrible health problems affect families' incomes and their confidence in the future.
We have made substantial improvements to the employment insurance regime. We enhanced the five special benefits that already existed in 2015. We added two other special benefits, but it is clear that there is still much work to be done.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is always wonderful to see you in the chair, especially when we are talking about issues that really matter to constituents, because I know how much you care about these issues.
Today I will be speaking to Motion No. 201. It is looking at an extension of employment insurance benefits for sickness. This is an important study, and I am very excited to see this motion put forward.
As a constituency consultant for 11 years, I dealt many times with constituents who, unfortunately, had exhausted their employment insurance sickness benefits. What I found many times was that there was a large gap between the time they applied for employment insurance and the Canada pension plan disability. The Canada pension plan, in many cases, would start at usually four months. However, many people did not understand that they might be off for that period of time.
Being able to have this study would be fantastic, because it would give us, as members of Parliament, time to look at some of these key issues. Today I will be discussing some of the things that are important, including why we need to study this as well as some of the costing. It needs to be looked at through two prongs.
I would like to thank the member for Sydney—Victoria for putting this forward. I know that this was debated in the House in 2011 and 2012, but since that period of time, we have seen a large increase in the number of people in Canada taking employment insurance sickness benefits. For 38.9% of people who have been on EI benefits for sickness, their benefits have been exhausted.
Over this time, I have also had the honour to serve as the Conservative shadow minister for families, children and social development. I have had the opportunity to meet with many different organizations, not-for-profits and health organizations that come to us to discuss the needs of their patients and the clients they are representing.
One that comes to mind is the MS Society. For a number of years, we have talked about some of the issues patients have had to consider. A lot of times, the symptoms are episodic. Although this employment insurance study may be looking at whether we should be extending the benefits, we also will have the opportunity to discuss more than that. This motion is looking at extending EI benefits to up to 50 weeks for sickness. Within this conversation, we would be able to discuss some of the things that are needed for people who have MS, who have cancer and who have hip replacements and knee replacements.
Because of that, last night I looked over some of the rehabilitation times. I was looking at what happens if someone has a hip replacement or a knee replacement. What is the opportunity to return to work? The average time is four to six weeks before people can return to a desk job, and sometimes it is much longer. We also have to understand that some people are not able to return to work at a desk job. For instance, for truck drivers who have to get in and out and people working on a farm or in food processing or anything that is physically straining, the opportunity to take more time off is not just a necessity but is doctor's orders. A lot of times patients are told that they have to take up to six months off. Within the first 15 weeks, people would only be able to receive sickness benefits. Unfortunately, at that time, there would be nothing else.
Many people would wonder at that time if they could apply for Canada pension plan disability. For Canada pension plan disability, people need to be deemed unable to work, and that has to be over a one-year period. If someone tells his or her employer that he or she is sick, has been hurt or has a broken bone and will not be able to return to work for eight months, the Canada pension plan is not going to be an option. Sometimes sick benefits would be the only option for those people.
There are many things we also need to look at. It cannot just be government benefits. We also have to recognize that there are short-term and long-term disability plans that are available through private planners. Through the workplace, there are also many other pensions available. A lot of the time these benefits will work in conjunction with each other.
It is very important that we look at why this needs to be studied. The last time this was changed from 15 weeks was in 1971, and I believe that is probably when it was introduced as EI benefits for sick benefits, so it has been 15 weeks since 1971. Being 48 and born in 1971 myself, I think there have been a lot of changes in 48 years, so this is a great time for the human resources and skills development committee to study these things.
I recognize that a lot of studies have been done and that there have been requests. Recently there was a response to the HUMA committee from the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. He indicated that the committee needs to explore impacts for employers and the cost implications relating to the increase in sickness benefits.
This discussion has already started at the HUMA committee, and we have heard from many different parties as to what we are looking at.
Let me go back to the MS Society. When people come to our office, many times they will tell us that they are able to work one day but not the next, so we need to have the opportunity to talk about what their needs are as well. They too need to have some sort of financial plan. Many of them are able to work, but it just may not be all the time.
When looking at issues like that, we need to make sure what the impacts will be on both the employer and the employee, as well as what the cost of the program will be. Luckily, earlier this spring we received a PBO report. Information was received by the PBO knowing that the study was going to be done. The report shows that the cost of this program would be $1.1 billion in 2020 and would be expected to grow by $1.3 billion by 2025.
I find those statistics really important. If we are going to extend this program, we have to look at what the cost will be to taxpayers and employers. We think it would probably be about $1.62 per every $100 earned through employment. We have to see at the end of the day if this is best for Canada's bottom line, and more importantly, if this is best for the bottom line of a family budget of somebody who is sick.
Let us compare benefits. There are many different benefits available through the employment insurance program.
The first one I can think of is the family caregiver benefit. The family caregiver benefit is available to parents or anyone who has a child under the age of 18. Parents are able to take some weeks off to care for their children if they are in critical or serious need.
There is also the caregiver for adults benefit. This benefit is for family members to assist other family members over the age of 18.
One benefit that I think is very important is the compassionate care benefit. I was really proud when our government expanded the number of weeks to receive this benefit. This benefit recognizes that 26 weeks is an appropriate amount of time when a loved one is going to pass away. This benefit allows that loved one to be provided with psychological and mental support from family members during a time of need.
Those 26 weeks were set by our former government, and I think it is fantastic to know that family can be there at the end of life and know that benefits are available. The family has to coordinate the benefits, however. The entire family cannot take 26 weeks each, but they can coordinate those 26 weeks so that each family member can care for a loved one.
I would like to see some changes made to this, but it needs to be a whole-of-government approach. We need to look at it. We need to know what all 338 members of Parliament think about it. We also need to hear from physicians. We need to know what they think when it comes to people going back to work. We have to look at stress loads. We need to look at what is best for a person who has just had a massive heart attack or open-heart surgery. We need to make sure that somebody looking to return to work is in good health and does not need to take time off because he or she returned to work too soon.
What are some of the things that we should be considering if somebody has had a knee replacement or a hip replacement? Is the person able to go back to full-time work? Is he or she able to go back to part-time work? Could he or she participate in a work-sharing project? There are lots of different opportunities to discuss.
It is important to have members come to the HUMA committee and discuss some of these issues. It is also great to have not-for-profit organizations and many health organizations come along as well. It is important to hear from members of the Cancer Society, the MS Society, the Diabetes Association and a variety of these organizations to find out what works best for Canadians and what families need. I fully support having this conversation. Everybody needs to be at the table.
We recognize that coming back from surgery can be very difficult. I had surgery in January and I wanted to come back to work immediately. Unfortunately, my body, my mind and my family said absolutely not, and when I did come back to work a little too soon, I paid the piper, as my father would say. I did not feel well. We need to make sure that everybody has the opportunity to make sure that their health is taken care of first.
I am really excited about the opportunity to study this at human resources and skills development committee. This is a great opportunity for all Canadians to ask what we have done in the last 48 years and what can we do to improve the system.
I thank the member for Sydney—Victoria for putting this motion forward.
View François Choquette Profile
View François Choquette Profile
2019-05-07 17:26 [p.27501]
Mr. Speaker, I am also honoured to rise to speak to this motion.
I am somewhat ambivalent. I am both happy and unhappy to talk about this motion. I am happy because it is important to talk about how the 15 weeks of sickness benefits offered by the EI program are not enough for people to recover. It does not make any sense. It does not make any sense for a person who is ill to have to return to work or be left penniless for weeks when that time is up.
I am also extremely disappointed to have to talk about this motion, which calls for an examination of the situation, when this government has been in office for four years and has still not done anything about this. It really bothers me because, behind this motion, there are people who are suffering. We are talking about people who have been diagnosed with cancer or a mental health problem or people who have to have knee or neck surgery, for example. They sometimes have to be off work for nearly a year. Employment insurance gives them 15 weeks of sickness benefits, but after that, they are left with nothing.
These are people who have sought help and done everything they can, but they are still left with nothing. They come to see us at our offices. Many people have come to ask me how this could be and where that bill came from. One woman by the name of Marie-Hélène Dubé has been working on this issue for a long time. She even worked with our late NDP leader, Jack Layton. She was in this situation herself, and she started a campaign called “15 Weeks to Heal is Not Enough!”. She has worked extremely hard. She has made people aware of this problem and collected 600,000 signatures in 10 years. This has been going on for a long time.
It bothers me that a motion was moved today to study this matter in committee. We do not need to move a motion to study the situation, we need to introduce a bill to resolve it. This problem dates back to 1971. This petition has been signed by 600,000 people.
I continued this fight with constituents. Some of them spoke to me about this problem. For example, Cynthia Lafontaine, a young mother from Drummond, had her life turned upside down when she was diagnosed with spinal cord cancer. She had to undergo surgery on her spinal cord and had to relearn just about everything. She had to learn how to talk and walk again. She had to work on regaining her fine motor skills. She had to do all this, and it took her much more than 15 weeks. After 15 weeks, she was no longer receiving EI sick benefits. She was getting nothing. In addition to being sick, she had no money and was financially stressed. When people are sick, they do not need financial stress on top of everything else.
This issue dates back to 1973, and she has been fighting for this for about a decade. It seems like this should have been resolved by now. It is not as though the Liberals are waking up today after four years and realizing that there is a problem. For years now, my colleagues from Churchill—Keewatinook Aski and Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot have been telling us loud and clear in the House and at committee that something has to be done to move this forward.
What we hear is that the committee is sweeping this under the rug and claiming that it will do it later. Four years later, with the election right around the corner, the government is saying that it is going to study this. That is really disappointing, especially when we think about people like Cynthia Lafontaine and Marie-Hélène Dubé.
I organized a talk on this subject a few months ago because I really wanted to remind people how important and inhumane this situation is. As I was saying earlier, we are not talking about EI sickness benefits, we are talking about human situations. We are talking about people who have experienced this, people who are living in completely unacceptable situations. We need to fix those situations. EI normally provides about 45 weeks of benefits. The same should be given in cases of serious illness.
On the ground, in Drummond, if anyone wants to speak with me or sign a petition, I invite them to come and see me. I really care about this matter, because this problem is affecting real people, and it needs to be fixed.
Speaking of Liberals waking up, I have to say that the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development has been aware of this for some time. In 2016, he told Radio-Canada that he was listening and was aware of the issue. He said the government would continue to ensure that the system serves those who need it most and that his department would be reviewing the cut-off.
That was in 2016. It is now 2019, but nothing has been done. The best the Liberals can do is move a motion to examine this in committee. Is that really the best they can do?
It is not like nothing has been done about this yet. A November 2017 report recommended that the Liberal government close the gaps in the social safety net for people coping with illness. That was a clear finding. The report recommended finding solutions quickly for those who exhaust their 15 weeks of sickness benefits. That study was done in 2017.
Another government survey found that 48% of EI recipients who claim federal sickness benefits are unable to go back to work at the end of the 15 weeks. Half of those who receive EI sickness benefits are unable to return to work.
The Senate Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology has already recommended increasing the maximum number of weeks of benefits to 50 weeks.
The 15-week EI program has been around since 1971. Over the past decade, Marie-Hélène Dubé has made the rounds of all the media outlets, from Tout le monde en parle to all the morning shows. She has toured Quebec. She has been to several ridings and met with many MPs. She even took photos with them. A study was done, and a report was tabled in 2017. That report noted that 15 weeks was not enough. Then there was another study in the Senate. After all that time, after four years of a Liberal government, all we are being offered is a committee study.
As I said, 15 weeks is not enough time to heal. People should be entitled to 50 weeks of benefits. Nearly half the people who use federal sickness benefits are unable to return to work when the benefits run out. Unfortunately, as we know, the incidence of cancer is on the rise. At some point in their lives, nearly one in two Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer, a disease that unfortunately requires treatment that takes around 52 weeks.
This motion is not enough, and I am calling on the Liberal government to introduce a bill so that this issue can be resolved before the election is called.
View Eva Nassif Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Eva Nassif Profile
2019-05-07 17:37 [p.27502]
I am pleased to rise today to speak to Motion No. 201 and its fundamental importance to Canadians. This motion is sponsored by my colleague, the hon. member for Sydney—Victoria. I would like to congratulate him and thank him for his work.
While Canada has always striven to promote health care and its progression, there is still a lot of work to be done in terms of the employment insurance to which all Canadian employees are entitled.
According to Statistics Canada, three out of five Canadians over the age of 20 have a chronic disease, and four out of five Canadians are at risk of developing one. These chronic diseases include cancer and heart disease in particular. The most striking thing about these diseases is that although we currently consider them to be incurable, they are certainly treatable.
This alarming finding would therefore suggest that measures are in place to treat sick people and promote their return to society once their treatment has ended. However, as the member for Sydney—Victoria has pointed out, EI sick benefits are only paid for 15 weeks to eligible claimants, and the fact is that 15 weeks is not enough in most cases.
I think the member for Sydney—Victoria has a vision for an even better Canada, and the answers are there. This motion reaffirms that vision by urging the government to act. Since 2009, there have been seven different bills seeking to extend these 15 weeks of benefits. Some of those bills got as far as second reading, but none were ever passed. I share the member’s vision and believe that we can make a difference by adopting this perspective.
Approving the motion on employment insurance will result in important and necessary changes that will allow Canadians to return to their workplaces and resume their activities after receiving treatment and having had enough time to recover, because most interventions to treat long-term illnesses can be invasive and require a longer recovery period.
I would like to add that before immigrating to Canada and completing my studies in translation, I worked as a registered nurse in Lebanon during the civil war. I witnessed horrific scenes. I treated many patients who, in addition to dealing with the common ills that afflict us in western countries, had to live in an environment where they were under constant threat of violence. I saw everything from the most debilitating infections to the unimaginable suffering of victims of physical and psychological violence.
These people had one thing in common: the time they needed to recover. Based on what I have seen and my personal experience, recovery is not about the time it takes for a wound to heal. Rather, it is about the time it takes for a person to regain enough physical and mental strength to return to the work they were doing before their diagnosis or treatment. Frankly, I do not think 15 weeks is enough time to recover from treatments such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, where patients may need several months or even a year to regain enough strength to carry out their daily activities. I can speak to that because I spent five years working in an oncology ward at the hospital in Lebanon.
While EI sick benefits provide adequate coverage for most claimants, about 35% exhaust their benefits before returning to work. This means that these claimants needed more than 15 weeks to recover, but simply could not afford it.
That is the sad reality of the EI sick benefit program. First of all, I believe that when they are not given the time they need to recover, people may relapse. For example, depression and psychological stress can significantly affect a patient's ability to recover from cardiovascular disease.
According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, about 25% to 50% of people with chronic conditions who do not receive specific support will also experience depression.
People who suffer from depression following a heart attack are at greater risk of having a second heart attack. Indeed, people with depression are more likely to develop poor lifestyle habits, such as excessive alcohol consumption, poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, which can affect their recovery from the original illness. Indeed, depression can undermine the motivation and determination that patients need to complete their treatment.
In addition, it is important to point out that these are not people on the cusp of retirement. Most of them are young adults who still have a lot to offer Canadian society in terms of its progress.
According to the HealthPartners’ Chronic Disease and Mental Health Report, 21.4% of Canada’s working population has a chronic illness, with our youth being the hardest hit.
One study found that in any given year, 28% of people aged 20 to 29 will experience a mental illness. One in two workers has a mental illness by the age of 40. In addition, 500,000 Canadians are absent from work every day due to depression. This absenteeism is a major problem because it costs our national economy more than $51 billion annually. Our government must invest in these young Canadians. They will give back to Canada by being active in the job market and thereby contributing to the country’s economy.
It is well known that most people living with chronic disease receive care outside of hospitals, relying on family and community for their medical needs. A Statistics Canada survey shows that 20% of caregivers looking after someone with a chronic illness reported depression as a result of their responsibilities.
Not all claimants will necessarily be eligible for the extended benefit period for their recovery and treatment. Since decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis, this will be a subjective procedure, and claimants will therefore only receive benefits for the number of weeks required for their recovery. As such, the government's duty will be to provide the necessary assistance to patients and their families by extending the benefit period to enable patients to fully recover from their illness and not develop additional ones.
In conclusion, I strongly support this motion because I recognize and understand the impact it can have on helping Canadians who may need a longer recovery period than the current 15 weeks and who will experience financial stress when they realize that there will be no more EI sick benefits if they take a longer period of leave.
Motion No. 201 calls on the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to examine the possibility and practicality of extending the maximum number of weeks of employment insurance sick benefits for those with long-term illnesses. It therefore seems obvious that Motion No. 201 must be allowed to continue.
Imagine the relief of all those families who can only watch helplessly as their loved ones slowly fade away. This is not an unattainable goal, and it could be achieved more quickly than we think. After all, we have an obligation to help Canadians so that they, in turn, can contribute to productivity growth in Canada.
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a real pleasure to stand up and speak once again on behalf of my constituents.
I would like to thank the member for Sydney—Victoria for bringing this motion before the House. I know that his heart is in the right place when I read the motion, but I have to express my frustration and indeed that of the New Democratic Party at another half measure by this Liberal government. When it comes to the issue of employment insurance sickness benefits, this is not a new issue. This has been debated for several years over several parliaments, and we know that enacting such a measure in legislation would have a very real and tangible benefit for some of the most vulnerable Canadians. That is simply a fact.
For the benefit of my constituents back home, I am going to take some time to read the motion. Motion No. 201 reads as follows:
That, in the opinion of the House, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities should examine the possibility and practicality of extending the maximum number of weeks of Employment Insurance sick benefits for those with long term illnesses; and that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than six months from the adoption of this motion.
Once again, even though the member for Sydney—Victoria has the right idea with this motion, instead of a practical action from the Liberal government, we are again left with a motion for study, which is problematic in two elements. The Liberals have had a majority government and are now three and a half years into this 42nd Parliament. They have had the time to enact this measure. They have the numbers and the votes necessary to pass such a measure in legislation.
However, the fact is that Motion No. 201 is coming before us in its final hour of debate right now, in this 42nd Parliament, which is rapidly running out of runway. Therefore, there is no realistic chance for the standing committee to do the proper study and have an adequate amount of time to report its findings back to the House.
I want to highlight why this is so important. We know that employment insurance sickness benefits currently have a maximum payable of 15 weeks. We also know that about four out of 10 applicants are maxing out those benefits. This is problematic, because the next federal benefits that could conceivably come into play if one's illness is of quite a long duration is CPP disability. However, with CPP disability, one has to meet two requirements: One's physical or mental disability or illness has to be severe, and it has to be prolonged. One has to hit those two things.
From my days working as a caseworker and intervening on behalf of constituents, I saw that “prolonged” usually means a year or more. What I saw when I was working as a constituency assistant, and indeed what my office continues to see, is that we have constituents who have an illness that may last in the range of 30 weeks or so. They max out on 15 weeks of sickness benefits, but they do not have the timeline necessary to go on to the next step.
This causes an incredible amount of stress and frustration on the part of those who are dealing with health issues, which we know is not good for their recovery. It is very problematic.
I got into politics because I was sick and tired of sitting across the table when I was doing casework, seeing people who were at their wits' end because either their benefits had run out or they could not find enough money to pay the rent or put good food on the table. I could link a lot of those issues straight back to this place and the policies and legislation enacted here in the House of Commons, or the lack thereof. If only Motion No. 201 had been a private member's bill, we could actually have done something.
We most certainly support extending EI benefits. If the member for Sydney—Victoria wants a template, he needs to look no further than my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam, who in this 42nd Parliament has Bill C-288 at first reading. It would amend the Employment Insurance Act to provide for up to 50 weeks of benefits for persons suffering from health issues.
Yes, that will probably add some cost, but the thing about health issues is that no one knows when they are going to get sick. No one knows when these kinds of health problems can arise, but boy, do people appreciate the safety nets that are there when they need them.
Not everyone is going to need the 50 weeks, but they would have the peace of mind of knowing that they could potentially go up to 50 weeks if they needed to. Of course, along the way they would need to submit the proper medical documentation to show that they were still eligible .
This is not just in this Parliament. We have Bill C-288 here in the 42nd Parliament, but my colleague from Port Moody—Coquitlam had a similar bill in the previous Parliament, the 41st.
Former member of parliament Dawn Black, of the NDP, had it in the 40th Parliament and in the 39th Parliament. There are numerous examples, and they are not only from New Democrats. I believe there were a number of Liberal and Bloc Québécois members of Parliament who all tackled this issue. There was a recent petition by Marie-Hélène Dubé that collected 600,000 signatures, so the will is there. The obvious sense of it is there, and we have numerous examples in previous Parliaments.
Again, all we have before us is a motion to direct this to a committee for further study, yet the government has all the tools at its disposal and a commanding presence in the legislature, and I would argue that amending this part of the EI Act is it is probably the lowest of the low-hanging fruit.
As I said in the beginning, think of the number of benefits we could extend to people and just do that one measure. Four out of 10 Canadians are already maxing it out.
I will be voting in favour of Motion No. 201, but I want it clearly understood that a golden opportunity was missed yet again, especially with a majority government, and I want to convey my frustration and that of my party to constituents back home.
They know I have been raising issues on employment insurance for quite some time. I have, as all MPs do, an active case file. There are constituents in my riding who are seeing their EI sickness benefits cut off at 15 weeks. Some of them have tried to go back to work, which has made them even sicker. When I see the stress and the strain of attempting to do that, I do not know why we have not taken the time to tackle this issue yet.
I want that frustration clearly underlined, and I certainly hope that the member for Sydney—Victoria and his colleagues are listening. We could have had this done, but we certainly do not have a lot of time left in this 42nd Parliament.
Again, I appreciate this time to rise in this place and give my thoughts on the matter.
With that, I will conclude.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2019-05-07 17:56 [p.27505]
Mr. Speaker, I thank all the MPs who have come into this chamber to speak to and support this very important motion, not only this evening but the previous times we have debated it in the House. As this may be my last time speaking to this motion, I would like to thank the different organizations that have helped us along the way to get where we are today. I speak of the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Cancer Society, the MS Society and many others that helped put this together and stuck with us all the way through. They showed us many examples of what they are facing with respect to the people they represent.
Also, I have to thank my staff. I have been elected for 19 years. I remember talking to one of my first staffers, Darlene Morrison. I asked her about the most disturbing thing she had seen in our office. She said it was people getting sick and not having enough EI to help them get through it. That is when our journey started, back when Darlene told me that. Along the way, over those 19 years, my staff and I have been keeping at this. We brought a private member's bill to the House on it before, and we are not giving up. I am glad our colleagues are moving this forward.
Since 2015, our government has done a lot with respect to EI changes, and we see it in our communities. We have made updates to the regular employment insurance benefits, and we now have parental benefits and the compassionate care benefits, all of which help the regular citizens in this country through tough times. The problem is that, thus far, sickness benefits have not been targeted for any major changes, making them the only benefits that have not received a makeover. Sickness benefits have remained at 15 weeks. That is all people are getting. As my colleague mentioned, this has not changed since 1971, when the EI system came into place.
In our region, the Atlantic region, people need 600 insurable hours to qualify for sickness benefits. However, people can work 420 hours and get employment insurance for 26 weeks. Therefore, that balance is not there.
There is another thing that is very important and has been recognized by my other colleagues. When people are diagnosed with an illness, such as prostate or breast cancer, the doctor will refer them for treatment. However, it could take 10 or 15 weeks before they even start their treatment. All of a sudden, they are 10 or 15 weeks in and just starting their treatment and, guess what, there is no money coming in. A lot of people are just a payment away from their cars and their homes, and their assets are in jeopardy. Not only that, but, as was mentioned by some of my colleagues, the stress on those people at that moment, when they are unable to make payments on their bills, really impedes their recovery, as doctors would tell us, on top of their bodies going through enough due to the treatments.
It seems that every person who is approved for EI sick benefits will get the full 15 weeks. This has to be looked at, because people get the same 15 weeks whether they have broken bones, stress or cancer. Therefore, there should be a real makeover of this, to look at how many weeks should apply to different illnesses. Perhaps the weeks approved could be tailored to a doctor's recommendation regarding the severity of the illness or injury. For example, a person with a broken leg may need only eight weeks, whereas a person with cancer may need 30 weeks. That all makes sense. However, many people are being forced to return to work when they are not well, which is causing increased stress and further contributing to their illness.
Many of my constituents, and those of my colleagues, have talked about this serious situation. Therefore, we have to make some changes. We have to look at this and study it. This was implemented in the 1970s, when most people who fell sick with cancer or had a stroke died. They are not dying now, because we have better medicines and a better medical system. Therefore, we can help them get through it so they can become productive citizens. Other countries are helping them do it. It is an economic benefit to get these people back into the workforce.
A healthy nation is a good working nation. I hope my colleagues in this House will support my motion this evening when it comes to the vote.
View Gord Johns Profile
View Gord Johns Profile
2019-04-30 12:16 [p.27162]
Mr. Speaker, I got a message from Gary Egli, who lives in Courtenay. He has worked his entire life and paid the maximum in EI contributions every year. Gary recently got sick with cancer. He went to apply for EI and was told that he would be eligible for 15 weeks, despite the fact that he has never collected EI in his entire life.
The NDP has been calling for an EI extension to 50 weeks for people who are sick long-term. I know the Liberal member for Sydney—Victoria has also been advocating to extend EI, yet it has still not been rectified in this budget. Half of Canadians get sick with cancer. We believe that when people are sick, they should be looked after, especially those who are contributing to EI.
The PBO looked at it and said that if we extended the cost of investing in EI benefits to make this program work, to extend it from 15 weeks to 50 weeks, it would cost only an extra 6¢ on $100. It is a nominal fee to protect workers, especially those who are supporting families and their needs to get by.
Therefore, I ask my colleague this. Why have the Liberals not decided to take care of workers who are sick with cancer or another illness and are off work for a long period of time, especially those who have been contributing to the EI program for so many years? We have not seen an increase in this program since 1971. I hope the member can think about his own constituents who may fall ill and require the support of the government, especially regarding money they have paid into the program that they want to get back.
View Fayçal El-Khoury Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Fayçal El-Khoury Profile
2019-04-30 12:18 [p.27162]
Mr. Speaker, I can assure my colleague that this government is taking care of every single citizen in this country from coast to coast to coast, whether these citizens are sick, need assistance or are old.
I would also like to remind him that this government created the Minister of Seniors. We encourage citizens of all ages to return to their workplace and we support them. We support all workers. We are creating a Canadian drug agency to allow those who are sick to pay less for their medications. We are supporting all provincial governments with money in order to help them improve the life of any sick citizen in the country of Canada.
View Brigitte Sansoucy Profile
Mr. Speaker, with voices full of compassion, the Prime Minister and his Minister of Social Development indicated that they were going to enhance EI sickness benefits by the end of the year. That was in 2016.
There was nothing in the 2017 budget, nothing in the 2018 budget and still nothing in the 2019 budget. This was the Liberals' last chance to keep their promise, but they decided to turn their backs on hundreds of thousands of sick people who need more than 15 weeks to recover.
Why did the Prime Minister betray them?
View Justin Trudeau Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Justin Trudeau Profile
2019-03-20 15:04 [p.26181]
Mr. Speaker, we made investments to help caregivers. We made investments to help families who have a loved one with a rare disease, including $500 million to reduce the cost of very expensive drugs.
We will always make investments that help workers. In fact, in the budget, we announced the Canada training benefit, which will help workers find the time and money to improve their skills. This benefit includes four weeks of training every four years and up to $1,000 in income support.
The labour market is changing, and we are making sure that Canadians are ready for it.
View François Choquette Profile
View François Choquette Profile
2019-02-22 13:31 [p.25700]
Madam Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak to Motion No. 194, instructing a committee to undertake a study of the important issue of precarious employment. The motion calls for the committee to be instructed to undertake a study on precarious employment in Canada, along with other instructions. For example, it is instructed to:
...develop a definition of precarious employment, including specific indicators, as well as examine current data and options to expand available data...
We will obviously support this motion, even though the committee, which is independent, could have decided on its own to study precarious employment. It is nonetheless distressing to see the Liberals call on an already busy committee to conduct a study. At this point in the session, after nearly three and a half years of Liberal governance, we will not have much time for this study, even though precarious employment is a very serious issue that affects all segments of society, and in particular young people, or millennials. It is disappointing that after three years, the Prime Minister, who designated himself as youth minister, has not yet taken any clear and decisive action to address this issue.
As many reports have shown, precarious employment in Canada creates serious inequality. The oxfam, for example, showed that inequality is growing steadily. In recent decades, inequality has gotten worse, not better, around the world and here in Canada. We need to pay attention to this phenomenon. The trend began when Conservative and Liberal governments' neo-liberal policies stripped workers of their rights and benefits through privatization, downloading the risk of such ventures onto workers.
As the end of its mandate looms, the Liberal government has made it clear that it does not intend to take action. It chose to study a well-understood phenomenon rather than act quickly to ease the pressure on workers. Instead of taking action, they want to do yet another study. The NDP has already done a cross-Canada tour, speaking of which, I would like to thank our member for Churchill—Keewatinook Aski, who did great work across the country. She held meetings and round tables. Everywhere she went, she met millennials and people whose work is precarious. Recommendations were made and definitions were proposed, so the prospect of yet another study is a little disappointing, considering that the government could act on this right now.
Even though it is important that the government gather as much information as possible on workers in precarious employment, universities and union representatives have already answered most of these questions, as I was saying. Very little new information can come out of this study. The NDP has already criss-crossed the country as part of a national forum called “The Precarious Generation: Millennials Fight Back”. We want tangible solutions now.
The rise in precarious employment clearly shows that the status quo is no longer tenable. Too many Canadians, even those who work full time, have a hard time breaking the cycle of poverty. It is not normal that people who work four or five days a week have a hard time making ends meet. Most new jobs are part time, low-paying and with hardly any benefits. That is why it is time to lead by example by offering a federal minimum wage of $15 an hour and ensuring pay equity.
Every time I tell the people of Drummond that we still do not have pay equity legislation in this country, they simply cannot believe it—yet it is true. The Prime Minister, a self-described feminist, said that he would do everything he could to achieve gender equality. However, he has been in power for three and a half years now, and we still do not have federal pay equity legislation. It is positively scandalous and unacceptable.
In addition, we also need to put an end to unpaid internships. That would be very helpful. While we are at it, we also need to regulate employment agencies, which are growing in number and sometimes resort to unfair practices, while limiting the use of temporary, part-time employees to fill full-time positions.
It is also important to support local and social enterprises and good jobs through a federal procurement policy that relies on local suppliers and generates local spinoffs. A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting of the UPA Centre-du-Québec. I was told that they are very worried about what is happening, especially with regard to the new Canada food guide, which does not mention local food. I told the people at UPA that they were right, and that we were lacking something that is key. It is all well and good to have the Canada food guide, but what we do not have is a national strategy for local food. That is very important.
If we change our eating habits but start buying and consuming food from other places, we are no further ahead. In Canada, Quebec and Drummond, we have access to good foods that provide excellent nutrition and are healthy choices. Buying locally would give our local economy a boost and also generate good jobs.
Many millennials do not have a private insurance plan. Only 38% of Canadians have access to EI benefits, and many of them are at risk of losing their precarious employment. It is time to reform the EI system, starting with sickness benefits. That system is currently making life even more difficult for Canadians. It is terrible.
Nearly 50% of those who claim federal sickness benefits are unable to go back to work at the end of their 15 weeks of benefits. That means that nearly 50% of those who receive EI sickness benefits are left without a cent after 15 weeks, even though they are still sick. They already have to deal with the stress of getting treatment and going to all of the necessary medical appointments, and then they are left without a cent after 15 weeks.
Let us not forget that, unfortunately, nearly one in two Canadians are diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime. How long does it take to recover from cancer treatment? It can take up to 52 weeks, on average. There is a big difference between 15 and 52 weeks.
Sickness benefits are the only type of EI benefits that have never been brought up to date, and they were implemented in 1971. I was not even born yet. My daughter, who was born in 2002, always tells me that the year 2000 seems like a long time ago, so I cannot imagine what she would think of this.
I still have a lot to say, but I am short on time. I will therefore close by saying that we are proposing a period of 50 weeks of sickness benefits because 15 weeks to heal is not enough.
View Mark Eyking Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Mark Eyking Profile
2019-02-07 17:31 [p.25425]
That, in the opinion of the House, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities should examine the possibility and practicality of extending the maximum number of weeks of Employment Insurance sick benefits for those with long term illnesses; and that the Committee report its findings and recommendations to the House no later than six months from the adoption of this motion.
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the chamber tonight to speak on my private member's motion, Motion No. 201, to extend employment insurance benefits, as extending employment insurance benefits is not only the right thing to do but the smart thing to do.
I will start by expressing my appreciation to all of my colleagues in the House who have already expressed to me their support for the extension of these benefits. We all know someone who has experienced financial hardship when recovering from a debilitating disease. Anyone who knows me knows that I have always been an advocate for this extension. I put it forward in the House many years ago and I am putting it forward again today. I see all too often at home in Cape Breton how diseases can cripple people financially when their EI benefits run out.
Sickness benefits were provided in the Employment Insurance Act in the 1970s by government as a compassionate option for Canadians who have to leave their jobs temporarily due to illness. The financial support is intended to allow individuals to focus on their treatment. Current legislation allows recipients up to a maximum of only 15 weeks. The length of recipients' terms of sick benefits is decided by health care professionals. Many aspects of the El Act have changed since it was passed. However, the duration period has gone unchanged.
Many of us in the chamber have constituents, friends and family members who have experienced financial hardship as they recovered from serious diseases such as cancer, heart problems or respiratory issues. Like other members, my constituency office in Cape Breton sees this happen all too often. People apply for El sick benefits and receive the full 15 weeks, but find themselves incapable of going back to work after those 15 weeks.
Think about it. It could be a nurse, teacher, bus driver, fish plant worker, factory worker or construction worker. It does not matter. Let us say a 40-year-old has paid into the system for 20 years and gets prostate or breast cancer or whatever, and it is curable. Most cancers are curable now, but it takes a year. There are no payments after 15 weeks. The person may have to sell the car or remortgage the house. That individual paid into the EI system for 20 years while being a productive citizen and will be going back into the workforce.
These Canadians, through no fault of their own, as I said, have to remortgage their homes to get by financially. They use up all of their savings, if they have any, and continue paying for everything else. We are hearing more and more from medical professionals and the studies they conduct that stress has a serious negative effect on our bodies. It would certainly have a negative impact on a person's effort to recover from a prolonged or serious ailment.
In my hometown of Cape Breton, a local doctor, Dr. Ron MacCormick, an oncologist, attests that it can take at least one year after cancer treatment before a patient starts to regain energy. In fact, most oncologists will say that treatment, surgery, chemotherapy or radiation takes one year. The harsh reality is that cancer and other serious illnesses do not discriminate. Canadians of all ages are attacked by disease. The unfortunate part is that these people still have lots of productive work years left ahead of them, but if we are not giving people proper time to recover, they may even relapse upon returning to work.
Canada is known as one of the most progressive countries in the world. However, it is less known that our country also has one of the shortest periods of sickness protection in the modern world. Many European countries see the benefit in bridging. They find that bridging workers when they suffer from illness is a net benefit to their society. It is an investment. These people do not get lost in the welfare system or the pension system. When we bridge them financially through tough periods of sickness to health, they come back to work and contribute to society.
Increasing the amount of weeks that sick Canadians could receive does not mean they will use all those weeks. It simply gives them the option to use them if they are needed in recovery. We owe this to Canadians.
In fact, The Globe and Mail reported last year that almost four out of every 10 applicants are maxing out these sick benefits and the demand for El sick benefits hit a 10-year high in 2015.
I would put to the House that the spirit and intent back when the Employment Insurance Act sickness benefits provisions were first enacted were to help people through such hard times. Times have changed. There seems to be more people with cancer. The reality is that more people are getting cured. Therefore, we have to change the act accordingly and ensure that these people have the proper transition back to their normal lives.
Our government has made some positive changes to the El act since 2015, including changing the rules for regular benefits, extending parental leave to 18 months, introducing an option for five weeks of leave for parents adopting children and making compassionate care leave more accessible. However, we need to focus on sick benefits.
Just this past December, at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. Michael Prince, a professor of social policy at the University of Victoria, stated that an extension of the 15 weeks to 26 weeks is a sound investment in Canadians. He said this would be “an investment in early interventions and job retention, so that these people would not be opting [to totally leave the workforce]. They would be continuing to work and making some premium contributions.”
I also appreciate the positive comments from all sides of the House during that committee.
For example, there were positive comments made by the member for Battlefords—Lloydminster. She said, “When people are denied by Service Canada, how is that spoken to them? Is there compassion...?”
The member for North Okanagan—Shuswap, at the human resources committee on the same day, asked about the type of assistance we can look at providing for employers who are making those accommodations to try to keep employees who are suffering from disorders.
The member for Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, at that same committee, said that when it comes to applying for a job, “we have to ensure that people with...disabilities in general, are not turned away.”
It is great to see that we have cross-support for this, because out of the 333 members of Parliament we have, I do not think there is one member's constituency office that does not see people coming in with this happening. Therefore, we all know it is a problem and we should fix it.
There remains a misconception that people who have maximized their El sick benefits can simply apply for Canada pension plan disability benefits. As many members know, the criteria for this program are very strict and most patients are denied because they are not considered 100% disabled. The small numbers of those who meet the criteria are faced with a three-month long application process. Then there is a long waiting period before they actually receive payment. On top of this harsh criteria for the Canada pension plan disability benefits, not all employers offer a long-term disability program. We have to help these people within that one year. Therefore, on top of the harsh criteria for the Canada pension disability, we have to have something else.
For nearly a decade, one-third of Canadians who claim sick benefits are maxing out their 15 weeks. That averages out to roughly 135,000 people in 2016-17. I believe the consistency in these numbers shows that this program is failing Canadians.
Too many are facing unnecessary financial stress at a time when they should be directing 100% of their energies toward battling their ailments and recovering. We just have to think about the worry and concern a person who finds out they have an ailment like this has. They should not be concerned that they cannot buy groceries, pay the phone bill or drive their kids around. No Canadian should be left trying to figure out where they are going to get the money to pay for all these things. We should be helping them.
There is a need for this legislation. The job of health professionals, associations and organizations is to make people better. Our health system is there to make people better. Our job is to help people financially when they are being treated. Employees and employers are paying into this system. Employees want to get back to work and employers need them back to work. We have to help them get through that.
I would like to finish off with a few points. Like I said, the employment insurance fund is funded by employees and employers. It is their money. A healthy nation is a working, contributing nation. These Canadians have paid into this program their whole working lives. It is our turn to take care of them when they need it most.
Increasing the number of weeks sick Canadians can receive does not mean they will use them all. It simply gives them the option to use them if they need them for their recovery. Who knows? After 20 weeks, they might be good to go back to work part time. Things might be okay, but they should not have to worry when they get to 15 weeks. A lot of times, treatment does not start right when they are diagnosed and not feeling well. It could take five weeks to start treatment.
This motion is not a partisan issue. It is about dignity for sick Canadians. It is about changing this system from a one-size-fits-all approach. It is not only the right thing to do, but it is the smart thing to do. I hope my colleagues in the House will support my motion when it comes before the House.
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