Miss Coline Campbell (South West Nova):
Mr. Speaker, I shall be very brief as I have a short time left to me from the last time we debated Bill C-3. At that time I referred to the reduction in the amount of time that is needed for someone to earn an unemployment insurance stamp. I noted that although the time period had been changed in a previous amendment, this year the Unemployment Insurance Commission had decided that a reduction in the length of time was required.
Before criticizing this particular regulation that was introduced recently in this House by the minister, I should like to point out that the existing regulation had also been changed to make the required period 20 weeks or 30 per cent of maximum insurable earnings. Now that is to be changed again, to 15 weeks or one-fifth of maximum insurable earnings as the time requirement to earn one stamp. This indicates to me that 20 hours of employment per week, or 30 per cent of maximum insurable earnings, cannot be provided to workers at all times. This hits very directly at one segment of society-part-time workers, and women in particular.
The last time the bill was before the House 1 pointed out this difficulty and commented that it would be very hard for this group to find employment. I have pointed out in committee and in the House that it might be better to combine two weeks in order to qualify for a stamp, but apparently the commission decided that there should be a regulation to reduce the period. This zig-zag from one year to the next is very unfair and it is difficult for people to know how much they must earn in order to qualify.
It seems to me it would be more advantageous in areas such as the one I represent if an employer were able to give a stamp for two weeks combined, rather than the period being reduced as is done by the regulation.
It is possible that the task force is considering this proposition, but at the present time the confusion that has been so much a part of unemployment insurance amendments and regulations in the past few years, still exists.
I would remind the minister that in the notes on the employment program and community development projects that he passed out to members of Parliament, he stated:
Members of Parliament and local advisory groups will be consulted by the minister in the decision-making process and funds will be allocated to all constituencies on the basis of unemployment.
This is the reason I have raised the subject tonight as well as other occasions, and why I will raise it again in the future, until the basis of unemployment has been regulated by the minister and the Unemployment Insurance Commission.
Unemployment Insurance Act
I should like to return to the question of the use of the variable entrance requirement based on the economic region. The last time I spoke, I mentioned the use of this factor which came into effect last July. It has led to confusion in those areas of the country where it is being administered. People do not know, from one month to the next, how many weeks of insurable earnings they need in order to qualify for benefits by next November, December or January.
I would like to reiterate that the economic region-unemployment insurance rates been used by unemployment insurance offices, and by that economic region rate I mean that employed by Statistics Canada and used by the unemployment insurance offices. The other night 1 tried to show to the House the difference and the handicap. It is not only under the variable entrance requirement or under the extended benefits or just in the ability to go into, let us say, the employment programs, it is the harshness that it brings about. Yet, if one looked at the labour surplus rate, which I defined earlier, as the number of regular beneficiaries as a proportion of the labour force, we would look at South West Nova and see that a difference existed between the labour surplus rate and the unemployment rate as indicated by Statistics Canada under the economic region. In fact, it shows such a different picture than the use of the Statistics economic region. The labour surplus rate in South West Nova last year was 13.3 per cent compared to a labour surplus rate of 12.8 per cent for the economic region unemployment insurance rate. The reason that the two sets of data are different, as I have said before, is probably the result of the statistical problem in estimating labour force and unemployed data from a sample that may be too small as used by Statistics Canada.
If we had true statistics, and if one used just the unemployment office in that area, the figures would probably show that in South West Nova the unemployment is as high and as severe as any other economic region in the province. I am substantiated in my theory by the benefits paid out. If one looks back to January, 1978, January, 1979, and January, 1980, by taking that particular month we find that in January,
1978, the total benefits paid in Yarmouth were 15 per cent of the total benefits paid for the whole province. If one looks at
1979, it was 16 per cent, and in 1980 the figure was again 15 per cent. That includes the fact that there were many people who qualified in 1979 who did not qualify in 1980 because of the use of the variable entrance requirement. It is a very severe handicap. It shows that there were 7,046 beneficiaries in January, 1980, at the Yarmouth unemployment office. This is out of a total of 44,552 beneficiaries in Nova Scotia.
That would be about 15.8 per cent of the total beneficiaries in Nova Scotia. Yet if we take a look at the figures for January, and by assuming that January has the highest number of unemployed, and by assuming that in South West Nova the critical unemployment period is in the winter from November to February, and by assuming the estimated impact of Bill C-13 in a district office area of Yarmouth in 1979-80, by taking the individuals who were prevented from establish-
June 26, 1980
Unemployment Insurance Act
ing a claim either because they were a repeater or because of the new entrance provision, there were approximately 1,170 people affected.
By adding that figure to the 7,046 registered beneficiaries, we come up with about 8,216, which is approximately 18 per cent of the total for the province of Nova Scotia. We are looking at 18 per cent of the total beneficiaries in Nova Scotia, and one has to consider that in that area we have probably about 7 per cent of the total population of the province and probably some of the lowest salaries earned in Nova Scotia. If we look at the federal-regional rate scale, it shows that South West Nova has the lowest salary scale in Nova Scotia.
1 reiterate this point, because I looked at Hansard the other night and perhaps I did not make it clear enough then as to the acute problem that the continued use of variable entrance requirement will create in South West Nova. I look at it again in light of the fact that 1 reviewed the projects under this bill, and I have to say that I am upset that we are continuing the use of the variable entrance requirement. First, people in South West Nova do not have a definite amount of time that they must work in order to qualify. Second, the use of the money under the new financing arrangement is not going into job creation.
I stop at that point because the use of the unemployment insurance rates based on economic regions in South West Nova has had a cruel effect in that area because of the amount of employment created by the employment programs. 1 say this because in the past under Canada Works it was based on the unemployment rate. If you go to employment strategies it was based on unemployment rates, based on an economic region which did not truly give a good sample of the population that was unemployed in that area at specific times in the year. It goes back to the need for all sorts of employment programs, such as the employment tax credit which does not apply directly. It has some application in the area but it perhaps created about $100,000 worth of job creation last year out of a total package of whatever was used in government tax credits. Yet, that type of employment incentive does not apply to a rural area where the business end of it cannot take that up as a program. They need economic employment stimulation.
I want to say again tonight that I look forward to this bill in committee. I look forward to pressing the minister to find a solution. I ask him not to wait for two years and have two winters of hard times where the unemployment rate for stamps in a given area is not known. I will continue to press this, particularly in light of this bill, and I look forward to seeing what happens in committee. I must say that I find it hard to think that the Unemployment Insurance Commission needs 18 months. I am glad that there is another study under way, but I hope that there will be lots of consultations with the members. Perhaps in the future some of the members will be listened to in terms of the problems which have been suggested to the minister in the past, here in this House and in committee.
1 thank the House for the time allotted to me. I am sure there are many other speakers who wish to speak on this bill and I look forward to the bill coming to committee.
Subtopic: UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE ACT, 1971 MEASURE TO AMEND