Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mister Minister and Madam Minister, thank you for being with us today for our study on votes.
I was very interested in what you said about the anticipated increase for the new horizons for seniors program. I can actually see the benefits of this program in the riding I represent. However, I’m most interested in what is not in the votes.
I was in the House last week when we debated Motion M-201 for an hour. I was angry. I felt that wanting to take credit for a beneficial reform has its limits. In the past year, I have tried four times to introduce a motion that says essentially the same thing. Four times, what we saw earlier in that meeting happened again. The Liberals, who have the majority on our committee, asked for the debate to be adjourned so that we could not discuss it.
In the past year, our committee could have done the study on the 15 weeks of EI sickness benefits. Four times, the Liberals were not allowed to vote for the motion.
In recent months, we have studied benefits for bereaved parents, a topic we discussed earlier, episodic disabilities, and precarious employment. Each time, witnesses have told us that the employment insurance program needs to be reformed and the sickness benefits improved. Most organizations, most of the public and most unions agree that action must be taken now. There is a broad consensus. In the past year, the committee could have taken action and conducted that study.
You met with Marie-Hélène Dubé, who collected 600,000 signatures. Yesterday, I held a public session in my riding on this issue, which was very popular. The issue affects people. Last week, I asked you about the story of William Morissette, from New Brunswick, who, in addition to fighting cancer, has to fight the government for his benefits. That's outrageous.
This reflected the many accounts we heard from people in similar situations who have exhausted the 15 weeks of sickness benefits to which they were entitled. Some sick people, like William Morissette, are turning to crowdfunding to survive. This can be seen across the country.
Figures from your department indicate that 150,000 people need more than 15 weeks. Let me stress that we are talking about 150,000 people who have qualified for employment insurance. The distinction is important. As witnesses from your department who appeared before our committee indicated, 6 of 10 people do not qualify for employment insurance.
Mr. Minister, in 2016, you and the Prime Minister said on, Radio-Canada’s Téléjournal, that employment insurance sickness benefits should be improved.
Sick people are looking forward to hearing what you intend to do about those benefits. So let me ask my question again. Mr. Minister, when exactly will you be improving EI sickness benefits?