OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Speaker: The Honourable Andrew Scheer
Helping Families in Need Act (C-44)
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague’s comments with some interest. I want to note that the bill does not actually fix one of the most egregious problems of the EI system, and that is its discrimination toward women.
Women are the only sex that I am aware that can have babies. As a result, women are the only sex that can take maternity leave, and in large measure, of the maternity and parental leave, most of them are taken by women.
I am aware of at least six in one of the workplaces I dealt with where women had taken maternity leave and did not have time to accumulate enough hours before their permanent layoff from their employer. As a result, those women, in my view, were being discriminated against. It was only women who took maternity leave and therefore those women were not eligible for regular benefit when they were subsequently laid off from the employer. They were back at work for a month or a month and a half, so they did get a few hours in, but they were not able to collect regular benefits.
Would the member like to comment on the lack of government response to this issue?
Ms. Chris Charlton (Hamilton Mountain, NDP):
Mr. Speaker, the member points to one of the most serious flaws with our current EI system.
As I mentioned in part of my speech, I introduced Bill C-362, which we have called “EI for moms”. The member is quite right, we cannot currently stack EI benefits. If individuals are on maternity leave and their company closes down, they are no longer eligible for EI as their colleagues would have been.
It is not just true for maternity leave and regular benefits, it is also true for sick benefits, for all special benefits: none of them can be stacked. It is one of the most serious flaws in the EI program. I am really appreciative that my colleague pointed out the particularly discriminatory impact of those policies on women in our country.
We had incredible support for Bill C-362. As I said earlier in my speech, the minister has poached some parts of that bill and incorporated it into Bill C-44. I would strongly encourage her to also adopt the rest of the bill.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments and the quite touching stories and family histories he gave us.
While we do support the notion of the bill, I think some on the other side might agree that this is only the beginning of the changes to EI that are necessary to make it easier for families in this country.
For example, women are discriminated against because if they are receiving maternity benefits, they cannot quality for regular EI if they are laid off after they return from maternity leave.
The Liberals brought in a measure which lowered the rate payable from 60% to 55%. It was supposed to be temporary because of a temporary blip in the economy, but it has been there ever since and no government has ever done anything to put it back to what it was.
Would the member comment on these two issues and whether these things need to be fixed in the EI system as well?
Mr. Phil McColeman (Brant, CPC):
Mr. Speaker, today’s discussion is about a totally different subject matter than the hon. member brought up.
However, if he looks at the track record of what our government has done since we have taken office to help improve employment insurance for those who are in true need, he will see about six steps to set the platform to where we are today. I alluded to one in my speech, which is with respect to people who are self-employed. They are typically small business owners like myself. I had a small company with a workforce of about 15 to 20 individuals, yet I could not be part of an EI program. Our government corrected that.
Our government has gone on to provide more benefits, greater benefits, with the things we have done to employment insurance since we have been elected than any of the previous governments that I have watched through my lifetime.