Mr. Chris Alexander (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in this House to respond to the motion from the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and to emphasize at the beginning of this speech, as my colleagues will be emphasizing, that we will not be supporting this motion.
It is unfortunate that, once again, the opposition is attempting not to debate an important government program, a vital government program in need of updating, in need of change, but rather to mislead Canadians.
We on this side are asking ourselves if it is deliberate or whether the opposition simply misunderstands. Having listened to the debate this morning, we fear that it is deliberate. We will take this opportunity to clarify the changes that were made to remind Canadians of the need for these changes. We will focus on what is actually being implemented so that those Canadians with work who fear that one day they might lose their jobs, as many of us do from time to time in our careers, and those without work, will understand these changes and how they could help them return to work more quickly when they need employment insurance.
First, let us look at the big picture, at the overall economic climate.
Our country's economic performance continued to be strong in 2012. In fact, between July 2009 and March 2012, more than 900,000 new jobs were created. That is often mentioned.
However, what is not universally recognized in the country is that this represents by far the strongest employment growth among G-7 countries. Under the Conservative government, Canada has become a driver of job creation among the leading economies of industrialized countries.
A recent feather in our country's economic cap is that the OECD and the IMF have recently provided analysis that offers very encouraging long-term views of the Canadian economy. What they tell us is that, in the coming decades, if we continue to update our current policies, we have every chance—perhaps the best chance in the world—to create hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of jobs for future generations.
When we listen to the opposition, we often lose track of the sectors that have been creating the most jobs in the last three years. In the last 18 months alone, the manufacturing, financial and metal-producing sectors have been among the biggest and strongest job creators in Canada. Despite their best efforts, our partners and our competitors in other countries have much less positive records for their own economies.
Our economic prosperity therefore depends on our ability to meet emerging and growing labour market challenges.
That is why this year's economic action plan continues the hard work of implementing a long-term plan for jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity. What does that mean? It means making sure that our capital markets function well, that they are competitive and that we attract capital from around the world. However, let us also make sure that our labour market functions well, that people are able to switch sectors when they have to, and that people requalify or retrain for new jobs when they lose jobs or businesses go bust, as sometimes they do. Let us continue to find the right people with the right experience to fill the skills gap and the labour shortages Canada faces today.
These are not challenges for the future in decades to come. These challenges are affecting us now. If left unchecked, they will hinder our ability to prosper as a country. Chief among these challenges is the growing skills shortage. It is a paradox that is of great concern to our government. We have too many unemployed in Canada, yet we have tens of thousands of jobs, hundreds of thousands according to some estimates, going unfilled.
Matching Canadian workers with available jobs in their local area is critical to supporting growth and productivity as well as quality of life for Canadians.
This is what we have always done in our country. The jobs of today are not the jobs our parents or grandparents had 50 years ago or 80 years ago. We have always adapted. We have always changed. We have always moved from the sawmill to the manufacturing plant to the digital software producing enterprise. That is the way the Canadian economy stays strong. This is why our common sense clarifications to EI ensure that the program remains fair and flexible and helps Canadians find jobs in their local labour markets.
What we are trying to do is make the labour market work better. We know that Canadians want to work. At the same time, we know that there are Canadians who are having difficulty finding work, particularly in the off-season in parts of the country that rely on seasonal industries. For those unable to work, we have good news. Employment insurance will continue to be there for them, as it always has been, despite what the opposition alleges. We will say it as often as we need to, inside or outside of the House. Fear-mongering will not work on Canadians.
In many cases, Canadians are not aware of the jobs available in their areas or of what types of jobs are relevant to their skills. That is the key part of this reform: giving Canadians more information. How can the opposition oppose that? We will help connect available workers with suitable work in their local areas.
Starting in January, just last month, we began sending job alerts twice a day to Canadians receiving EI. It is working.
I sat in a taxi the other day and made the driver, a young Canadian, who just finished his Bachelor of Arts and is not working in the field he would like to work in, aware of this website, www.workingincanada.gc.ca. Across the way they should mark it down. It deserves to be checked, especially after 2015. He went on that website, as I sat there, and found three or four jobs in his field, in his area. I do not know if he has taken one of those jobs. He is driving a taxi. It is his choice.
The system works. The information is out there. It is online. We have consolidated it. If people are unemployed and are receiving employment insurance they will receive that information and will be required to look at it and work through it. It is a good thing. It is going to make the labour market work better.
We have also introduced a connection between the EI program and the temporary foreign worker program to ensure that Canadians have first crack at jobs in their local areas. We are all grateful to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Multiculturalism for his efforts in this area.
However, we also recognize that in many areas of the country there are legitimate labour shortages that are threatening our economic recovery. I can tell the House, from personal experience, that there are many areas experiencing chronic labour shortages in skilled and low-skilled occupations. Therefore, in addition to providing more information to Canadians on local jobs, we have also clarified what constitutes suitable employment and a reasonable job search. This is assisting Canadians currently collecting EI benefits in understanding their responsibilities while on claim.
Better utilizing Canada's workforce and making Canada's labour market more adaptable will help ensure our long-term economic growth.
To be clear, it has always been a requirement of the EI program that Canadians be looking for work while receiving benefits. We understand that every region of our country is different, with varying levels of economic opportunity, depending on the season and the business cycle. It has changed from decade to decade, from century to century, throughout our history. We also know that every individual has unique circumstances, and we will also take these into account. We are not asking EI claimants to uproot their families to find work in another part of the country or even another part of the province. We are not asking them to work at jobs that are far below their skill level. We are not forcing people to accept low wages or bad working conditions.
If one looks at GDP per capita in the country over the last six or seven years, while our government has been in office, it has gone up. The Gini coefficient income disparities are not deteriorating, as they are in other parts of the world. They are actually holding steady and are improving in some areas. We are creating opportunities. We are lifting people up to higher levels of opportunity and to a higher quality of life. We are not forcing people to accept low wages. If they cannot find work, EI will be there for them, as it always has been. What these changes are doing is ensuring that every EI claimant will be better off working than not working. The fact is, Canadians collecting EI have to look for work.
The extra-five-weeks pilot program was created in 2008 and extended in 2010. It was always meant to be a temporary measure to support Canadians through the worst of the recession. Once economic conditions began to return to normal, the pilot was allowed to lapse. In fact, in a couple of regions covered by the pilot, it was ended early, because they had 12 continuous months of unemployment below 8%. One of the regions in the pilot had almost 5% unemployment for a significant period of time, so we took account of that.
We will continue to forge ahead with policies that matter to Canadians, focusing on their priorities, which are jobs, growth and long-term prosperity and, especially in the case of today's motion, a better functioning and more responsive labour market.
Ms. Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet (Hochelaga, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine.
Today I rise in the House to speak in support of the motion tabled by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, who is the NDP employment insurance critic.
A number of my colleagues representing different parts of Quebec and Canada will be speaking to this motion today. I would like to join them today in underscoring the devastating effects of the Conservative government’s EI reforms on the Montreal area.
Since the cuts announced by the Conservatives took effect last month, I have received hundreds of comments from my constituents in Hochelaga. They deplore these measures that jeopardize the welfare of their community, which has already been hard hit by unemployment and announcements of plant closures.
Over the next two years, hundreds more well-paying jobs will be lost, especially when the Mabe plant is shuttered.
What does the minister intend to tell these specialized, well-paid workers in East Montreal? To leave Montreal for a job in Fort McMurray? To accept a job at Tim Hortons?
The changes to the Employment Insurance Act fail to take into account the realities of regional labour markets and seasonal industries and adversely affect workers and communities.
Although there are not as many such workers in my riding as there are in eastern and northern Quebec ridings, Hochelaga has its share of bus drivers, substitute teachers, construction workers, daycare workers and botanical garden employees who work seasonally and who, as frequent EI claimants, will be affected by the Conservative reforms.
Montreal is also home to a large number of tourism industry and museum workers. I know something about this. They will be labelled frequent EI claimants and suffer the resulting consequences.
These workers, who typically claimed three times as many EI benefits and received these benefits for more than 60 weeks over the past five years, will have to look for similar work that pays 80% of their previous wage. Once they have received EI benefits for six weeks, they will have to accept any job for which they are qualified and that pays 70% of their previous wage.
Even though the reforms are mostly aimed at frequent claimants, all workers will be affected.
By forcing all unemployed persons to accept a lower-paying job than their previous one, the government is putting downward pressure on wages, something that will adversely affect the country’s economy as a whole. By forcing unemployed workers to accept jobs far from home, the Conservatives are asking them to choose between travelling a long way to work or losing their benefits.
Asking a person who is unemployed and who cannot afford a car to buy a vehicle in order to travel to a job a long way from home and to accept a pay cut to boot defies logic.
The real problem is that there are not enough jobs.
As recently as yesterday, in response to a question from my colleague from Parkdale—High Park about the widening social inequality gap and our government’s poor record on fighting poverty, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development had this to say:
||...the best way to fight poverty is to create jobs and to have skilled people fill these jobs.
Government ministers should really avoid making statements of this nature just to hide their own incompetence. In actual fact, 300,000 more people in Canada are out of work today than during the 2008 recession.
The Conservatives would have us believe that they have created countless new jobs, but the facts speak for themselves. Today, there are over 1.4 million unemployed Canadians for approximately 270,000 available jobs, or five unemployed workers for every available job.
Overall, 14.1% of Canadians between the ages of 15 and 25 are unemployed. Currently, only four out of every ten unemployed workers receive EI benefits. The numbers are at a historic low. The situation is worse than it was under the Mulroney, Chrétien and Martin governments, the uncontested champions when it came to wreaking havoc on the EI system and plundering the EI fund. The situation is truly unacceptable.
Whatever the minister would have us believe about the changes introduced by the Conservatives in their mammoth bill, we need to be clear about one thing: tightening EI eligibility rules and forcing workers to accept any job, be it one in another geographical area or one that pays less than their previous wage, is what she calls EI reform.
As if that were not enough, we learned just last Friday, February 1, that Service Canada inspectors must now meet EI cost-saving quotas.
Last Friday, I put a question to the Minister of Human Resources in the House and reminded her that Service Canada employees are supposed to help claimants, not track them like criminals. All the minister had to say in response to my question was this:
||...as for the EI system, it is very important to note that, once again, the NDP is supporting the bad guys.
So then, if I understood the minister correctly, when the NDP asks her to stop treating unemployed workers like criminals and characterizing them as fraudsters in order to find savings at their expense and at the expense of their families by giving Service Canada inspectors quotas to meet, the only response she has is that the NDP is supporting the bad guys.
I would therefore like to remind the minister at this time that the NDP will always be there to defend Canadian families and to oppose Conservative policies that, by destroying the country’s social safety net, hurt more people than they help.
The minister’s response shows the arrogance of the Conservatives and the government’s lack of respect for the unemployed and for workers. Their punitive reforms clearly reflect the negative, stereotypical view the Conservatives have of EI recipients.
And there is more. When asked by reporters about the fraud penalty quotas given to Service Canada inspectors, the minister replied that there were no quotas as such, but rather targets. Does anyone here in the House really see a difference between a quota and a cost-saving target? I thought about this all weekend long and I really do not see any difference. It is merely a question of semantics.
Another worrisome trend that we have observed with this government is the off-loading of costs onto the provinces. Even though the federal government is responsible for employment insurance, last-resort compensation programs fall under provincial jurisdiction.
So what happens when the federal government restricts EI eligibility by imposing unreasonable conditions on EI recipients who want to keep their benefits and by giving Service Canada inspectors quotas to meet? Well, the provinces ultimately end up having to pick up the tab.
After its omnibus bill on Criminal Code reform and its refusal to pledge to renew long-term agreements for social housing, the government is now refusing to compensate people for the unemployment it has created, sticking the provinces with the bill.
I cannot say it enough: employment insurance is insurance, and workers must be able to turn to it if they lose their jobs. It is a social safety net that workers and companies have paid into. The money in the employment insurance fund is not the government's money.
I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of the motion of my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and I hope the government will finally listen to reason regarding its management of this file. Otherwise, the NDP will cancel these callous reforms imposed by the Conservative government when it leaves the Conservatives unemployed in 2015.
Mr. Philip Toone (Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, 2012 was a dramatic year for the economies of the resource regions in Canada. My riding, Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, is a good example of the harmful, even destructive impact the employment insurance reforms will have on those regions.
I want to emphasize that many changes have been made to the employment insurance system. One of them concerns the matter of suitable employment. As a result of another change, people will be asked to travel an hour from their homes to find a job that may not even be suitable, depending on their employment history.
I also want to emphasize that it is not that easy to drive an hour in the regions in winter. It could even put claimants' lives in danger. I hope that was not the Conservatives' intention, but that is debatable. People are hurting in the resource regions. There simply are not enough jobs to meet the demand from all the workers who are unemployed in winter. We cannot disregard the fact that looking for jobs when there are none causes hardship.
The fact the government wants to cancel the pilot project to address the black hole will mean that many people in the resource regions will have no income for five weeks. If we also consider the fact that there is an automatic two-week waiting period at the start of the benefit period, that means they will have no income for a total of seven weeks a year. In addition, the Conservatives have decided to cut the number of weeks for which claimants may receive benefits. As we are now seeing, the black hole will be extended. Instead of continuing a pilot project to address the black hole that will meet people's needs, they are eliminating it completely. This is really a step backward.
I want to emphasize that people finding it difficult to get a job are not the only ones who will be affected. Employers will be in trouble in the spring. If the labour force does what the Conservatives constantly say it will do—they are trying to help unemployed workers find jobs—people definitely will not find those jobs in Gaspésie, but they may find them in Alberta.
If that is really what the Conservatives want, the I have a question for them. What will happen in the spring when there is a labour shortage in my riding, when the tourism industry does not have enough employees and fishing captains are without fisherman's helpers? I can tell people who like shrimp cocktail that they will have trouble finding any because there will be no fishermen to fish for shrimp.
I want you to understand that there is a reason why people stay put in the regions where work is seasonal, and that is precisely so the tourism, fishing and forest industries can operate during the necessary seasons, which are the seasons other than winter.
Our economy will lose its labour force, families and wealth, and that loss will be irrecoverable. Even the Conservatives can understand that, if people are chased away from our ridings, that will be a serious loss. They really must consider the hardship they will be causing in the ridings in remote regions and in all the seasonal industries, which are also located in urban areas. This is an aspect they have not considered.
If there is one thing I really hold against this Conservative government, it is its almost total lack of consultation. The Conservatives draft bills with no consultation and are not prepared to amend them. They do not want to consult, either in parliamentary committees, or by going out into the regions of the country to talk to people about their bills. They just do not do it.
Here we have major changes to employment insurance, but officials tell me that Service Canada has not explained them. Yet people are supposed to know the law. It is a really difficult situation. Recipients of benefits have the right to be informed. Up to now, Service Canada has done a very bad job explaining the changes. Basically, it is up to my office to explain the employment insurance changes to my constituents. The government does not even have the brains to explain to people the changes it is making. I wanted to say the gall, but let us stick with brains. Instead, we get sound bites telling us that everything is fine. Everything is not fine.
But we can see that people in the regions are beginning to rise up in a major way. Thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks. Some demonstrated yesterday and others are demonstrating today. They will continue to demonstrate in the days and weeks to come. People are very concerned by the changes being made to employment insurance and they have no choice but to take to the streets because, unfortunately, the Conservatives do not take the time to consult anyone.
I could mention the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche, who actually thinks that people are opposed to employment insurance reform because they cannot wait to go hunting. Frankly, that is treating people like dummies. I feel that people have the right to a little more respect than the Conservatives have shown them up to now.
In eastern Quebec, the many protests have had consequences. The minister—unfortunately for her, perhaps—had to backtrack on one aspect of employment insurance reform, the working while on claim pilot project.
In the past, people had the right to earn 40% more while on claim. As part of the 2012 reform, it was decided to abolish this pilot project and replace it with another one that would take 50% of people's income starting the moment they went to work.
The main consequence of the new pilot project is that people are refusing to work when a job becomes available. That is the complete opposite of what the Conservatives would have us believe. Instead of getting people into the labour market, they are poisoning work to the point that people are refusing to work. That is no way to run a pilot project.
If the government had bothered to consult the people, it might have seen that this was not working. Fortunately, the minister decided to backtrack following major opposition in eastern Canada. Now people who want to can go back to the old rules and earn 40% of their income.
In my riding, employers are very happy, because people are starting to go back to work. That is what we want; we want people to work. However, the Conservatives' reform will have the opposite effect. It will prevent people from looking for work. It is truly impressive to see just how badly the Conservatives botched their employment insurance reform.
Still, the fact that people now have a choice is a good thing. They can earn 40% of their income, if they want. The problem is that the Conservatives have done everything in their power to make the new pilot project for working during a benefit period as unpleasant and difficult as possible.
Instead of filling out the familiar employment insurance cards using the telephone or online system, they have to go back to the old system of manual cards, which is obviously going to cause significant delays.
As well, they have to contact Service Canada to make an informed choice. In other words: pick up the phone, dial the Service Canada number, and sit on the phone for hours. No one answers the call, because the government has cut Service Canada services to the point that there are not enough staff to meet the employment insurance related needs. It is quite simply not working.
The Conservatives are trying to save money on the backs of workers by eliminating the positions of the people who handle employment insurance cases. Unfortunately, that creates a situation in which the service is not there and people cannot figure out whether they should choose the old rules or not, because the agents do not have time to assess their cases.
I will add this: under the new rules, a person has to provide proof of all the job searches they have done. If they are spending all day on the phone, it will be hard for them to prove they have been looking for a job.
They are doing everything they can to prevent people from receiving employment insurance. We also have to wonder whether the provinces will end up stuck with a giant mess once people no longer have access to employment insurance. In other words, people will be applying for social assistance or will move to other regions of the country.
The bill is poorly drafted. All of the EI bills were designed to hurt claimants and employers. If the Conservatives had taken the time to consult people, we might have had some reasonable reforms, but they did not. What they should do now is scrap all of the 2012 EI reforms, start from scratch and seek real consultation.
I urge them to come visit my riding, to ask the people what needs to be done to provide access to jobs and to create jobs. How can we move forward with an employment insurance program that will help employers and employees? How can we create a full employment situation in a resource region like mine, where there is a shortage of jobs during the winter months?
That is what they need to do. They must consult the public. Unfortunately, the Conservatives seem completely incapable of doing so. Lastly, I recommend that they resign en masse. Then, once an election is held, we can have a real government with MPs who truly address the needs of the public.
Hon. Wayne Easter (Malpeque, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Avalon.
I am pleased to speak to the motion, which asks the government to reverse the devastating changes it has made to employment insurance, and further, to reinstate the extra five weeks pilot project. I support unequivocally those two points.
The changes the Conservative government has made to employment insurance are punitive, ill-conceived and penalize seasonal workers. I want to emphasize that it penalizes seasonal industries and will undermine the seasonal economy. The seasonal economy in this country is responsible for about 20% of our exports. It is responsible for a substantial amount of our GDP. In fact, those seasonal industries require skilled workers. If those seasonal industries and seasonal businesses are to survive, prosper and contribute to the Canadian economy, it has to be understood that they require skilled workers to come back.
As a farmer, I have a neighbour who runs a multi-million dollar operation. He has three full-time employees year round and there are three seasonal employees. He has had those seasonal employees coming back every year for somewhere between 10 and 15 years, depending on the person. They know how to run a $300,000 piece of equipment. They know his operation well. He does employ them sometimes two days a week in the summer, and so those folks with skills are there for him in the following season.
The punitive penalties the government is putting in place with the EI changes will affect that person substantially. The employees who work for him are penalized 50¢ on the dollar for the two days they work. That is a penalty. They want to work. They want to earn more income. They want to spend the income they earn in the economy, and the government is taking that away with these changes.
I see the parliamentary secretary frowning. I wish she would come down to meet some of those people. The fact of the matter is that if those people are penalized, they have to look at whether or not they should stay in their communities, whether or not they should leave their families, whether or not they should go to work in Fort McMurray or whatever. This does two things. It affects the community and it affects that farmer's business. It does a third thing as well. It affects the families. The economy as a whole would be injured.
These changes came in, and I look at the parliamentary secretary again, and were done without consultations with the provinces. They did not have any real hearings in this place. There was absolutely no cost-benefit analysis done in terms of the economy. I would submit that these changes not only hurt the workers, they will undermine our seasonal industries and the businesses that operate in those seasonal industries.
I find it remarkably strange, and I listened to a lot of the speakers here today, that words are being expressed by government MPs that do not in any way at all have any relationship with the reality on the ground for the people who are affected by these changes. Conservative backbench MPs are quite brave to stand up in this place and spout the government's talking points, or the ones that the parliamentary secretary allows them to spout. However, they seem very reluctant to explain these changes beyond this place.
I will reference the Moncton Times & Transcript, Saturday, February 2, 2013 with the headline, “Labour groups demand EI meetings”. It says:
|| A new coalition of anti-poverty and labour groups from across New Brunswick is asking the province's eight Conservative MPs to set up public meetings to explain controversial changes to the employment insurance program.
It goes on to say in the article that most Conservative MPs stayed away from any such meetings.
In fact, last Thursday night I attended a meeting in Alberton, Prince Edward Island, that was called by those concerned about the employment insurance changes. That is the riding of the Minister of National Revenue. The seasonal workers there expressed lots of concerns. However, I was shocked by the initial remarks of the chair of that meeting. The chair, from the microphone at the meeting, directed the media not to take any photographs of people who were speaking at the microphones because she had been informed by the people there that they were fearful that if their photographs were taken, HRSDC might retaliate against them in some way.
This is Canada. People should not be operating out of fear in this country, but that is what they are doing. We hear it all the time from people on the phone who call in to our office.
The parliamentary secretary laughs, but this is no joking matter. The fact of the matter is that this is what people are saying on the phone to us.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Scott Andrews (Avalon, Lib.):
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and support this motion on employment insurance. Coming from a rural part of this great country, I realize how important this is to so many seasonal workers. I have thousands of fish plant workers in my riding and they depend on employment insurance to help them get through the winter season.
This is not a program they want to be on; it is just in the nature of where they live in this country of ours. That is why we are standing up for this. The current government has no interest whatsoever in the EI program. That was easily seen when the minister said a few years ago that she did not want to make the EI system too lucrative. I can tell the House that what these employees are getting while on EI is far from lucrative.
Really galling is the fact that during the debate when the minister introduced these new measures, she said there was nothing to worry about because the changes would only impact about 1% of those on EI. That statement itself was totally false and misleading. That 1% on EI meant that it would only impact about 5,000 people, but, guess what? It does not impact 5,000 people. It impacts tens of thousands of people. That is what has people really upset and worked up. They cannot believe anything the government says when it comes to EI.
Whether an employer or employee, when people are working there is one class they pay into equally based on what they make, that being the EI system. Now the government wants to make three different classes of people who would draw upon this particular system, which makes no sense. It makes people feel degraded. It is bad enough when people lose their job, but now they will be thrown into one of three classes of recipients for employment insurance.
The restructuring of these pilot projects was not necessary. The existing pilot projects were there for six-plus years and were working fine. They were addressing some of the concerns. They were working well. People knew what they could do. The member for Malpeque just gave the example of someone working while on a claim, who could keep 50% of what he or she made. The government had taken away these disincentives to work.
I would also elaborate on the comment by the member for Malpeque on people taking cash under the table. That is one of the reasons these pilot projects were created in the first place, in order to remove the incentive for businesses to pay cash under the table. Now we are reverting back to that. It is like going back 10 years because businesses will pay people cash under the table if they cannot find employees. That is wrong and it should not be supported.
The government wants to catch the people who are defrauding the system. However, the power was already there. The recipients had to seek employment and were called upon at times to produce proof of where they had sought employment. The system was there and was working fine. Now the Conservatives are saying there is a group of people out there, the seasonal workers, whom they want to go out and attack and make them drive an hour or an hour and a half to work at some minimum wage, low-paying job at McDonald's. The minister herself said that these people need to go and work at McDonald's, which is absolutely deplorable.
One of these changes that really gets me is that making the review tribunal process more difficult. There is a tribunal out there. When things happen and people are denied EI they are given a fair hearing and a fair shake at the review tribunal. Now the Conservatives would be cutting out all of the local review tribunals across the country and the local knowledge, the people who know the circumstances that these employees are in, and moving it all to Ottawa. It is great to move everything and centralize it here in central Canada. However, it will be tough for us to represent those people who come before the tribunal themselves to make their case.
I have one person in my office who works on EI appeals for me and goes to the review tribunal and the board of referees. It is a lot of work. He puts a lot of effort into representing my constituents. I do not know what I would do without him because he is essential in helping these people navigate through the confusing tribunal process. However, now we are not going to do it on the ground in Newfoundland. People will not be able to go and represent themselves. It will all be done here in Ottawa.
This is not the government's money; the employers and employees pay into the fund themselves. The government did not consult with Canadians when it made the changes. Governments, over the years, squandered the EI surpluses away. Right now, in our province, more training money is needed to help people retrain and get them into the new megaprojects and the growth that we are experiencing in Newfoundland. The government is not putting any money at all into training.
It is a long way, an hour and a half, to drive for a minimum wage job. These people want to work. They would love it if the fish plant in their community were open year round, but that is not always possible because the government sets the opening and closing dates of the fisheries. It is not possible for them to work in the fish plant all year around. It is very hard, labour-intensive work. These employees work very hard when they are in the fish plant in the fishing season.
When employers have good paying seasonal jobs in seasonal industries, it is important that they can rely on their employees to do the job. I have an example of a bus company in my riding. The owner is one of the hardest working individuals I know. He works hard making sure he has a successful bus company. He has a fleet of buses and depends on the seasonal or tourist nature of the work. He needs good bus drivers. Just recently, he had one of his bus drivers, who was a seasonal employee, taken away from him. Service Canada called the employee and said there was a job for him and he had to go and take that job.
Whether for a week, two weeks, or a whole season, that takes this employee away. The owner had spent $15,000 training that bus driver. It is not possible to just pull someone off the street to drive a motor coach. The government says it wants to help business survive and that it is going to help struggling businesses, yet this employer just spent time and money investing in a good quality bus driver and now that bus driver is gone. Now this small company has to start all over again. It will have to invest another $15,000 in another seasonal employee. What is frustrating is that sometime during the winter season he might get the odd call for a motor coach to take a group somewhere, and he cannot call that employee up because he has been taken away.
One of the things the member for Cape Breton—Canso has been saying is that these employees are being encouraged not to work in this pilot project. I have an example of an employee who worked at a fish plant. I will try to keep the story fairly short, but she worked there for 34 or 35 weeks and did well. Then she went and collected her employment insurance for a week. Then she was called back to work for a whole week and did not receive any EI at all. Then she went back on EI to finish off the season. She called the other day and wanted to revert back to the old system of EI pilot project, which she thought she would be able to do because the government said she would have the choice to go back to the old system. She was denied the opportunity to go back to the old system. Why? It is because when she was working while on claim, she did not collect. If an employee does not collect, he or she does not qualify to go back to the old system.
The government likes to say that the economy is fragile. Yes it is. The fishing industry is fragile. This year she may not have an opportunity to go back for a full week's work. It might be for only one or two days. However, the government will not let her go back to the old EI system. It is absolutely ridiculous. It is sad that this is happening.
There is confusion out there. We have had meeting upon meeting with fish plant workers in the riding who are so concerned that these EI changes are so detrimental to their work.
Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. It is a pleasure to add my two cents and my experiences to this EI debate. I would welcome any questions.
Mr. Robert Chisholm (Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise and add my voice, and the voices of my constituents, to this important debate.
First, this is the issue that takes the most time of my staff in my office. People are calling, raising concerns, and it is not just employees, not just people who are looking for help from the system, but it is also employers.
We heard recently from the owner of a paving company in Dartmouth who, as other employers have said, was concerned about the fact that the measures being brought in by the government were literally driving seasonal workers out of our region of Atlantic Canada.
That is affecting this business owner. It affects fishermen, boat owners, owner-operators who operate a few months of the year. It affects tourism owners and operators in Nova Scotia, in Atlantic Canada and in fact throughout the country. It affects people in the tourism sector because our tourism sector is seasonal. It affects people in the agriculture sector. In other words, it affects the whole economy of Atlantic Canada.
What many of us who have talked with our constituents, governments and others in our provinces and in our constituencies cannot understand is why the government, which claims to not want to do any harm to the economy and is focused 100% on the economy and making things prosperous, would bring in measures like this that are devastating the economy in one region of the country, in particular, Atlantic Canada.
It is happening without consultation with employers and with premiers. The premier of Nova Scotia has expressed his disappointment and, frankly, his disgust at the lack of consultation on this issue.
We, in Atlantic Canada, in Nova Scotia, have a seasonal economy. There is no doubt about that. Whether it be in the fishing industry or for seasonal companies like this paving operator, they depend on people in the community being available when they are needed. They train them and invest money in them because they are there on a regular basis.
The owner of the paving company told us that he trained his workers to ensure they did not get injured on the job. If they are not there, then he has to invest in more training every year for the new employees, if he is lucky to find them.
I have heard the same concerns raised by owner-operators in the fishing industry, in the lobster industry. It is a very dangerous, if not one of the most dangerous, occupations we have. The people who are there are concerned about the lack of training for issues like health and safety.
Before I go much further, I will be sharing my time with a colleague to be mentioned later.
One of the first calls I received was from a fish boat captain who was concerned about the health and safety of the crew he had on his boat. He has the same people every year, and has had for many years. People who have ever been on a boat when they are out fishing for lobster know it is fast moving, it is chaotic and it is dangerous. If people do not know what they are doing, then there are very serious health and safety concerns.
This skipper said that this would mean he would not only be potentially putting everybody in the boat at risk, because he would have people who perhaps were not as well-trained as they should, but he would be incurring additional costs every year in order to train these employees.
That is what the operator of the paving company said when he called our office. That is what we have heard from farmers. That is what we have heard from tourism operators, operators of inns, restaurants and other seasonal activities.
What the government has done is add a greater burden onto the backs of small businesspeople who are trying to cobble together a living, who are keeping our communities in rural Canada, in rural Atlantic Canada in this case, which is what I am focused on. Not only is the government focusing its attention to bring down unemployed workers to, in effect, depopulate places like Atlantic Canada, not only attacking unemployed workers, but it is also attacking small businesspeople in communities throughout Atlantic Canada.
People are asking me to try to find out why the government, which says it is pro-business and pro-economy, is picking winners and losers. Why has it decided that Atlantic Canada, small businesses, seasonal industries, will be losers under the Conservative government?
That was not part of the Conservatives' election campaign in 2011. They did not tell small businesspeople in Atlantic Canada that they were coming for them. They did not tell the unemployed that they were coming for them. They did not tell seniors that they were coming for them. However, that is exactly what they have done with these measures. All the measures they have brought in, as they deal with employment insurance, are penalizing workers and small businesses. There is no question in my mind that is wrong.
Do members know what has been going on lately? I have been increasingly getting calls in my office from people who cannot even get through to the 1-800 number. People who are trying to follow these rules, who are recognizing that they are going to be punished and they are going to be punished more if they do not follow the rules, cannot even get through to the employment insurance office, to Service Canada. People are calling by the half-hour, day in and day out, to try to get through.
What do these people get? They get a message that says to call back at a time when there is less call volume. The people who have called my office have said that they have done that, that they have called early in the morning, that they have called at the end of the day, but it does not seem to matter.
I have spoken with half a dozen constituents directly who have indicated to me that it took them a week in one case and a week and a half in another case to get through after calling persistently hour after hour.
Constituents of Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, people in the fishing industry who have talked to me, people in Atlantic Canada who have raised concerns with me have asked me why the government has attacked unemployed workers. I have been asked why it has attacked small businesspeople, in particular, the seasonal industries.
Why is the government trying to depopulate Atlantic Canada? Why has it decided that the prosperous Canada that it says it is trying to build will not include Atlantic Canada?
The people in my constituency, the people in Nova Scotia and the people throughout Atlantic Canada want some of those answers from the government.
Mr. Jonathan Tremblay (Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to thank the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour for his speech and for the verbal skill with which he fights for his constituents.
As you see, I am wearing a symbolic black hole on my lapel today, to represent the black hole or spring gap in EI and the fight against it by workers opposed to this odious EI reform.
I would like to take this opportunity on an opposition day to express my concerns and those of my constituents regarding the Conservative government's draconian changes to employment insurance.
Need I remind the minister that the Conservatives did not consult the people of Canada and Quebec on this proposal? Nor did they even mention their plan to restrict employment insurance during the last election.
We are all aware that this assault against our regional economies and workers in seasonal industries is causing anger and a profound feeling of injustice among those who contribute to this system, the real owners of the EI fund.
Recently, demonstrations took place at Service Canada offices all across the country. That wave of protest set off by the Conservatives will wash over the eastern part—and all parts—of Canada, because the cause is just and the demands are justified.
This reform affects everyone, not only the employees and employers who contribute, but also the entire middle class, which will be irresistibly drawn toward the big cities.
The Conservative government must reconsider its position with regard to seasonal workers and stop trying to make voters believe that draining resources from rural regions is a solution to the lack of work.
I hope that the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development is listening to us now, because we do not understand the reason behind this fury and obsession against the regions. Why make cuts to a self-financing program and thereby deprive thousands of families of insurance against the loss of employment revenue?
The minister is being very naive or blindly optimistic when she claims that her reform will put people back to work. What we see on the ground is bafflement at the federal government's refusal to acknowledge the negative effects of this reform, such as the exodus of skilled workers from the regions and the breakdown of the social fabric there.
The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development ought to remember or be more aware of the human aspect right there in her department's name. To me, it seems that “human resources” includes the notion of humanity.
The minister tells us that she really wants to manage the EI fund better. And how? By asking her departmental staff to set off on a witch hunt, by asking them to meet quotas of $40,000 in cuts each month per inspector, at a time when less than 40% of potential claimants qualify for employment insurance benefits.
I think it is conceivable that some people commit fraud. But what is not conceivable is the Conservative government's unhealthy tendency to act as judge and jury in such affairs and make an assumption of guilt regarding those who really need the powerful economic tool that EI can be.
Do these few cases of fraud justify all this upheaval? Is it necessary to mete out so much punishment? Is it necessary to scrape whole regions down their bare bones so that people of good faith and honest workers are caught in a tight net and receive the same prisoner-like treatment as the few who commit fraud? The answer is no.
It is inhumane that the Conservative minister, wearing a mask of justice and sound management, makes the honest citizens, the majority, suffer the consequences of the misdeeds of a minority.
Should the government’s priorities not be quality of life, economic security, pride and the regional economies we heard so much talk about during the last campaign?
With the current reform, a seasonal worker falls into the category of a frequent user and becomes suspect or, in the minister’s words, a bad guy. For example, after two months of benefits—which means in early summer—workers who are skilled operators of the specialized machinery at the Mont-Sainte-Anne ski centre in Beaupré will have to accept any job within 100 km of their home, and at a lower salary.
In such cases, it is not only the workers who are penalized, but also the employer who trained them, who will have to start over every year to train its workforce. Employers will no longer have access to skilled workers. Many sectors of activity in the cities, such as construction, education and community organizations, will be penalized for recruiting and retaining their employees. Has the government considered the additional costs for such employers?
We are therefore asking the Conservative government to re-establish the pilot project providing five additional weeks to avoid the 17-week black hole that seasonal workers are currently facing on the upper north shore and in Charlevoix.
We must quickly terminate this reform, which did enough damage last January 6. The reform is restricting access to benefits, putting downward pressure on wages and driving workers in our area into poverty, not to mention the fact that it is the provinces that will bear the increased costs of social programs.
The Conservatives and their minister have been turning a deaf ear for too long. They accuse seasonal workers of being frauds, and in the same breath, they claim that the program is there for those who really need it. I call upon all these right-minded champions of virtue to come and tell my fellow citizens to their faces that henceforth they will have to drive 200 km, accept a 30% pay cut and get ready to serve as cheap labour.
Let them come and tell people who, because of the nature of the industry that employs them, will not be going back to work until early May that they and their family of three children are not in need, when they have just received their last week of employment insurance benefits. For them, what lies ahead is a black hole. They do not have a penny to pay rent or buy groceries.
Employment insurance is a useful and necessary program in regions where the economy is based on seasonal work. Despite the efforts already made by stakeholders to diversify the economy, the fact remains that tourism, fishing, forestry and agriculture are the main industries in our regions, and it is thanks to the skills of the men and women who work in these industries that they are able to prosper.
Despite the need to maintain the transitional measures and the recommendations to that effect, the Conservative government terminated urgent and essential financial assistance measures in November 2011. It is time for the Conservative government to stop being so stubborn for no reason and assume its responsibilities by stimulating the regional economy rather than letting it go down in flames.
People from eastern Quebec are getting organized, non-partisan round tables have been set up, a coalition has been formed and a meeting with the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development was recently requested. I hope that the minister will take this opportunity to gain a better understanding of the reality of our communities.
I would like to close by reiterating our request to this government:
|| That the House call on the government to reverse devastating changes it has made to Employment Insurance which restrict access and benefits, depress wages, push vulnerable Canadians into poverty and download costs to the provinces; and reinstate the Extra Five Weeks pilot project to avoid the impending “black hole” of financial insecurity facing workers in seasonal industries and the regional economies they support.
Mr. Ted Opitz (Etobicoke Centre, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to address something my hon. colleague from Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said, which was something I believe was mistaken, about the people of Atlantic Canada and the government. I would like to correct that.
This government values our great Canadians from Atlantic Canada. I served in the Canadian armed forces. I served with many great people from that region. To a man and women, they were hard-working, brave, honest and patriotic. There are no better Canadians. I stand for these great people of Atlantic Canada.
I would also like to point out that we have created 920,000 new jobs since the recession, and most of those are full-time.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to respond to this motion from my hon. colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. A lot has been said about our government's employment insurance changes, and it is hard to see much that is actually accurate in the intentionally misleading and exaggerated claims of the opposition parties. My response will therefore focus on setting the record straight and on drawing attention to the difference between the myths and the facts with respect to the changes our government has made to EI.
The hon. member alleges that EI changes have been harmful rather than necessary and have either put EI out of reach of hard-working Canadians or have created undue financial hardship for many. These are myths that are simply not based on evidence. Yet these stories continue to spread, without a shred of fact. I can see why the opposition is attempting to use the politics of fear in a desperate attempt to win public support. I would say that it is misguided. Clearly, the opposition no longer holds itself to the high standards it professed in the last election.
I would like to bust a few of the myths. Job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians are our government's top priorities. We need everybody's skills and talents at work in our nation. There are skills and labour shortages across the country, from most rural parts of our great nation to the downtown urban cores. Does the opposition motion attempt to address this most pressing of economic challenges? Does this motion increase Canada's chances of growth and long-term prosperity? The answer is decidedly no. Instead, it feeds into five big myths about EI, and I am going to address each one of those right now.
Myth number one is that EI changes mean that people are going to lose their benefits. This is categorically false. No one who makes a reasonable effort to look for and accept a suitable job will be cut off of EI. The purpose of EI has always been, and will continue to be, to provide temporary income support while someone is looking for another job.
Regarding the requirement for claimants of EI regular and fishing benefits to look for work while collecting benefits, this is not new. What is new, however, is that the Government of Canada has put forward a series of measures to help unemployed Canadians transition back into the labour force more quickly. Whether claimants live in a big city or a small community, they now have access to information on locally available jobs on, as was pointed out by the hon. parliamentary secretary earlier, www.workingincanada.gc.ca. Some members were not familiar with that website. Hopefully they are now and will be able to access that and provide that information to their constituents. I hope they do.
We have also clarified what a claimant's responsibilities are while collecting EI. This was done through the new regulations that came into effect in early January. These definitions explain what constitutes suitable work and a reasonable job search. The fact is that EI will always be there for people who need it. All that is expected is what all hard-working Canadians expect of themselves, and that is to do their best to find jobs.
Myth number two is that EI changes mean that seasonal industries risk losing their trained workforces. That is false. If a seasonal business is a good employer, one that pays workers a fair wage, there is no reason the employees would not return to their jobs when the season resumes.
Let us also be clear that EI is not meant as an income supplement for those who choose not to look for work during the off-season, especially when work is available in their local area. Seasonal workers, like any other type of worker, are required to look for work when receiving EI. However, there is nothing in these changes that prevents people from returning to a previous employer should they choose to do so once a new season starts. The intent of the updated regulations is to help claimants transition back into the workforce by clearly stating how to look for suitable employment and when to broaden the search.
We are making sure that Canadians are always better off working than not. That is why these regulations ensure that suitable employment consists of opportunities that would result in a claimant being better off financially by working than by receiving only EI benefits.
What about the status of the extended EI benefit pilot project and its effect on seasonal work?
In their motion, NDP members are specifically calling for a renewal today of the extra five weeks pilot project. However, this pilot project was a temporary measure. It was aimed at providing five weeks of extra EI benefits to Canadians who were hardest hit during the worst years of the recession. The program was never meant to be permanent. It was introduced nationally by our government in 2008 and then subsequently renewed in 2010 as part of our economic action plan, which of course has helped raise 920,000 new jobs since the recession. Canada is in a period of economic recovery, and temporary supports like the extra five weeks pilot project were allowed to end because of the improvements we have seen in our economy.
Now to myth number three: Do EI changes mean having to accept work even when there is more than an hour commute or a drive up to 100 kilometres? This is a question that is often asked. However, this is false.
The common-sense changes we made are helping more Canadians to find a job as quickly as possible. The fact is that there are skills and labour shortages in many parts of the country, including areas of high unemployment. Our efforts are meant to help people find available jobs in their geographic areas and areas of expertise. Again, the www.workingincanada.gc.ca website is going to go a long way in assisting them to do that.
Commuting time is only one element that makes a job suitable. Other factors to take into account are personal circumstances, working conditions, the type of work, as well as the wages and hours of work. Of course, common sense will always prevail, and no one will be forced to take a job that is going to result in higher living costs and thus be financially worse off than they would be on EI.
While one hour is generally accepted as an appropriate commuting time, commuting time can be longer only in two very specific circumstances: if one has a pattern of travelling more than one hour in the past, which is quite possible and some may be used to that sort of thing; or if one lives in a community where it is not uncommon to travel such distances, such as large metropolitan areas. Let me be clear that the requirement regarding the commute refers to the time it takes to go from a claimant's home to the place of work and not to drive 100 kilometres. I cannot stress enough that personal circumstances will always be taken into consideration. There is a lot of flexibility and common sense built into this plan.
Myth number four: Do EI changes mean someone will be made worse off by accepting a low-paying job? Again, this is false, and here are the facts.
We are helping EI claimants get back into the job market and not penalizing them. Furthermore, the changes ensure that claimants accepting suitable employment will be better off working than receiving only EI. As I explained in my remarks, our changes are guided by common sense. There is a lot of flexibility. We will, of course, take into account a claimant's personal circumstances to determine whether a particular job is suitable or not.
If claimants live where there are few jobs available, there are still activities they can do to look for work. Simply saying that there is no work, but not looking for work, is not acceptable. At a minimum, those living in regions with limited employment opportunities can talk with former co-workers, friends and other community resources about job openings. That networking option is something people generally do as a standard operating procedure when looking for a job. They can look in newspapers or online for potential jobs. They can also use the enhanced job alerts up to twice daily for jobs available in the area for up-to-date information. Again, the website is www.workingincanada.gc.ca.
Should people be compelled to accept a job that would leave them worse off financially than being on EI? Well, no, that is not going to happen. EI is there to help support people while they are looking for a new job.
Myth number five: Do EI changes mean that there are new obligations for claimants? Once again, this is false.
Much has been made of claimants being obligated to search for suitable work. Let us look at the facts. These claimants have always been required to conduct a reasonable job search and accept any offer of suitable employment. That is not new.
The changes are about making those responsibilities clear for claimants. The regulations have been updated, and now there is a clear understanding of what constitutes suitable employment and a reasonable job search.
Let us set the record straight. The updated rules defining what constitutes suitable employment are based on the following. They are based on commuting time, working conditions, the type of work, compensation, hours of work and the claimant's personal situation. The type of work and compensation that a claimant will have to seek will vary based on his or her contribution to and use of the EI program and time spent on the claim.
In the face of groundless fearmongering, as witnessed in the motion, I have laid out the facts on the changes our government has made to EI. What we are doing with these changes is helping move Canada in the right direction, to continue on a path of success and prosperity for all. That is the absolute goal, success and prosperity for all. Nine hundred and twenty thousand new jobs, mostly full-time, have been created because our government remains focused on jobs and the economy, and Canadians are benefiting from that focus.
It is a fact that job creation and economic growth for every single Canadian looking for a job continues to be the number one priority of the government, and we are proud of the 920,000 new jobs. This is a G7-leading job growth statistic and is because of the strong economic leadership of our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance, who I believe is now the longest serving finance minister in the G7 and in fact the best.
Our economic action plan is working and has shown tremendous results. Members do not have to listen to me; they can look at the world bodies, expert organizations like the IMF and others around the world who laud Canada for its approach and successes. Other countries are now modelling themselves on Canada because of our success in growing our economy and jobs and making sure that success and prosperity are equally distributed to all Canadians. We continue on that mission because it is important to do that. It is something that we as a government will remain focused on for all Canadians.
We have provided job seekers with better tools to help them with that task and it now means that Canadians are better connected than ever to the jobs that are available in their local areas, matching their skills. Unfortunately, the NDP continues to vote against measures that are helping Canadians by creating more jobs and economic growth.
The Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development have been very clear. If Canadians are unable to find work, employment insurance will be there for them, just as it always has been. We have been clear that personal circumstances will be considered when it comes to determining what a reasonable job offer is.
Those are the facts. I urge all members to vote against this ill-informed motion and vote against the fearmongering.
I have heard today that it is better to remain on EI than to work at Tim Hortons, for example. I think that is rather insulting to that particular company because Tim Hortons is a venerable organization to Canadians. Many of us who travel abroad look forward to that Tim Hortons coffee when we come home. I know I do. Tim Hortons has the Timbits hockey program. It is great for the Canadian Forces deployed abroad. It is a tremendous organization. It is a well-suited organization for a lot of people.
Tim Hortons provides opportunities in many areas. For example, what can one learn at Tim Hortons? One can learn about restaurant supply systems, production, management development, retail and growth within the company. It is a very vibrant company.
As we heard today, the Minister of Finance said The Source stores are expanding in Canada and providing jobs. Retail is a very vibrant sector in our country. Walmart stores are coming. I heard someone snicker about the Walmart stores earlier, which is just unacceptable because that also is a tremendous organization that is growing and providing jobs. It has always provided jobs to seniors as well. That is tremendously laudable for the company to do that.
As I mentioned, McDonald's has a world-renowned management development system. People who started on the line flipping burgers have risen in the ranks of that company to manage local stores and groups of stores within that organization. It has been a tremendous boost for people just starting their careers, who may have been unskilled when they started but developed those skills as they worked their way up through that company.
The same is true of other chains, restaurants, retail jobs and all of the jobs that some in the opposition benches here deem to be “beneath them”. That is unfortunate because that speaks to the attitude of the NDP and the Liberals. It smacks of a do as I say, not as I do kind of attitude. That is not good enough for this government. This kind of misinformation and fearmongering does no service to Canadians.
In my own personal experience, I have bussed tables, waited on tables and been a short-order cook. I have built cars on the factory line. I have been a Bell telephone technician. I worked my way up. I started in the army and worked my way up from a private. I have driven a truck and delivered fruits and vegetables as well.
Nothing is beneath anybody who wants to work. That is called the dignity of work, the pride of work. That is what I always got out of it. I always felt proud that I worked my own way. I did not care how dirty my hands got. When I came home at the end of the day, at the end of my shift, I always felt good about myself. I felt pride in the fact that I earned my own dollar and that I contributed to the economy in my country by working. It does not matter what the job is. What matters is the pride and work ethic that individuals have, to seek that kind of dignity while they are working. It is important to keep that in mind.
The vast majority of Canadians think this way too. Members on the opposition benches are doing a lot of characterization of people being looked down on or taking a job that is beneath them. No job is beneath anybody in this country. Most Canadians get up every day and do the best job they can, be the best Canadian they can be. If they are looking for work, they are looking for work earnestly. The vast majority of people do a good job and contribute to this country. They aspire to that, and this government is going to help them do that.
One of the ways we are going to do that is with our job search website, which again is www.workingincanada.gc.ca. I am repeating that over and over because I am hoping it sinks in. I am hopeful that members on the opposition benches will catch up with those of us on the governing side and provide this information to their constituents. It is hugely important that they assist them in doing that.
In my riding, I help my constituents do that. I have been helping some of those people with high dropout rates. I have been steering some of those young adults to find jobs and working with the community college and other trade schools to find opportunities for them. We have been doing some job counselling and helping to develop opportunities for people.
It is hugely important for people to be able to find their way in life, to find those opportunities, to find a path and an interest in something about which they can be passionate. It is important for people to find a job and move on and develop themselves in life. That is something I definitely do in Etobicoke Centre. Unfortunately, sometimes members on the opposition benches consider looking for those kinds of opportunities a colossal waste of time. We on this side of the House do not do that. We believe that a Canadian who wants to find a job, a Canadian who wants to work, is a proud Canadian, a Canadian with a lot of dignity. We are going to push and work for that.
I certainly hope that members on that side of the House will start working with their own constituents that way and take a hands-on approach to helping them find a job rather than spreading rhetoric, fear, misunderstanding and misinformation in the House, which is something we do not want to do.
The government will never do what the Liberals did, and that is take billions, to the tune of $57 billion, out of the EI program. That is absolutely staggering and absolutely unacceptable.
I would just remind all hon. members to steer all their constituents who are looking for work to www.workingincanada.gc.ca.