March 10, 1998

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The Speaker

The hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Cuba
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, on March 4, in Rivière-du-Loup, the Minister of Human Resources Development acknowledged that an employment insurance plan covering only 42% of unemployed workers was inadequate.

According to Mr. Fortin's study, not only is the plan inadequate, but it encourages people to leave the labour market and go on welfare.

Will the minister acknowledge that a very high proportion of the 58% of unemployed workers excluded from his plan have no choice but to turn to welfare?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Pierre Pettigrew

Liberal

Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday in this House, I am delighted that the number of people on welfare in Quebec is at its lowest in the past five years.

This is certainly the result of the economic reforms in this country, which have led to improved growth in the labour market. Because we have a dynamic market and we have corrected certain systems that were operating very badly, our economy is running better.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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BQ

Gilles Duceppe

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Gilles Duceppe (Laurier—Sainte-Marie, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, while the number of welfare cases has dropped in Quebec, the minister neglected to say that it would have dropped even more had it not been for his plan, because people no longer entitled to unemployment insurance end up on welfare. This was eloquently demonstrated by Professor Fortin.

Does the minister, who is always talking about his active measures, realize that the measures he is proposing have contributed to reducing participation in the job market to its lowest point in 50 years because people are hesitant to take jobs that are too precarious? They know that they will no longer be entitled to employment insurance and so they turn to welfare. That is the reality, not what the minister's technocrats see.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Pierre Pettigrew

Liberal

Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I find it staggering that the government is being criticized for the additional million jobs in Canada we now have. This means our economy is running smoothly.

Second, people on welfare in fact do have the opportunity to benefit from active measures, because we broadened access to these measures, as people, whether they be on welfare when they qualify or on employment insurance when they are unemployed, want active measures to be able to return to the labour market.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister was patting himself on the back for having made it possible, through his so-called reform, for 450,000 more women to have the pleasure of contributing to employment insurance.

The real question, however, is this: Does the minister admit that, according to his own department's estimates, only 10% of these 450,000 women contributors will one day have any hope of gaining access to EI benefits?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Pierre Pettigrew

Liberal

Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the improvements we have made to the employment insurance system met the aspirations of women, who are far more likely to be part-time workers.

What we are pleased to have accomplished is that people can now accumulate hours worked, sometimes in two or three different jobs, so that they are insured, where they were not in the past.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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BQ

Paul Crête

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Paul Crête (Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, a mistake has to be acknowledged before it can be corrected. The minister's problem is that he is determined to deny the evidence.

How can the minister continue to defend his reform, when it is clear that far fewer unemployed people will draw benefits than in the past, that a large number of them will have no choice but to go on welfare, and that Ottawa will save billions of dollars yearly at their expense, as a result of this reform?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Pierre Pettigrew

Liberal

Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew (Minister of Human Resources Development, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, we are greatly concerned by the fact that participation in the employment insurance system has dropped, and I have acknowledged this in the House on numerous occasions.

This is something we need to understand more thoroughly before decisions are made, because that is how we operate. We need to understand why this drop has occurred, before we can find an effective solution to the problem.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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BQ

Michel Gauthier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Michel Gauthier

You are not helping unemployed workers.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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BQ

Yvan Bernier

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Yvan Bernier

Including unemployed women.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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LIB

Pierre Pettigrew

Liberal

Hon. Pierre S. Pettigrew

But if people want us to return to an obsolete system which penalized our country's workers and its economy, that is not what we are going to do. We are going to continue to serve Canadians properly.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Employment Insurance
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health said yesterday that home care is the most urgent element of modernizing and enhancing medicare.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why they are clapping across the way because the finance minister obviously does not agree. There was not one penny in his budget for home care.

My question for the Minister of Health is why did he make those earnest statements yesterday when he does not have the support of his own government?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, this is so typical of the New Democratic Party. According to that party, we should spend first and find out why afterward.

What we prefer to do is identify priorities, make a plan, develop a partnership with the provinces and then invest wisely to get the job done. That is exactly what we are going to do. Yesterday we set out the priorities and now we are going to create the plan and develop the partnerships. We will then solve the problem.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis

New Democratic Party

Ms. Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health will know that the issue of a national home care plan has been studied for many, many months, including an in depth analysis by the National Forum on Health Care. Canadians do not want more studies. They want cash on the table.

If home care is such an urgent priority, why is the Minister of Health promising only to study this idea for another 12 to 18 months? If it is such an integral part of medicare, why is there no money for home care now?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, had the hon. member attended the conference she would have seen, as I did, that 400 knowledgeable people from across the country who know the subject agreed that the important thing to do is to plan wisely and invest carefully if we are going to solve the problem.

The hon. member's leader attended yesterday only long enough to go to the microphone and play politics instead of trying to be part of the solution.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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PC

Jean Charest

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Jean J. Charest (Sherbrooke, PC)

Mr. Speaker, when we asked the government about health care spending last week, the Prime Minister blamed Ontario and the province of Quebec. I understand that yesterday the Prime Minister blamed Manitoba.

The Prime Minister said there would be further cuts in health care funding in Manitoba, but when we checked we found that not only have there been tax cuts in Manitoba, the government of Gary Filmon included $100 million more for health care.

Could the Prime Minister and the government tell us why health care seems to be a priority only for the premiers and not this Liberal government?

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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LIB

Allan Rock

Liberal

Hon. Allan Rock (Minister of Health, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member will have seen in the budget two weeks ago the importance of health care. The first thing this government did when fiscal circumstances improved was to cancel the intended reduction in transfers to the provinces. This resulted in $1.5 billion more in transfer payments this year. We have also given $60 million for a new blood system and investment in medical research.

It is clear that the priority for us is health which is reflected in the budget this year as it will be in the future.

Topic:   Oral Question Period
Subtopic:   Health
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March 10, 1998