Mr. Yvon Godin
As my Bloc Quebecois colleague is pointing out, they also controlled the rate. But that happened later on. I do not think it was in that bill then. But they did take control of the rate and the amount a long time ago.
In 2001, we had Bill C-2. I kept telling the Liberals more amendments should be introduced so that Bill C-2 would go even further.
I remind the House that members--who should remain nameless--had made promises throughout Quebec during the election campaign They kept saying that more changes were coming. In the House of Commons, these same members said, “Do not move any more amendments. We need Bill C-2. People are struggling, and they need this piece of legislation. Bill C-2 should be passed right away.”
We went along and passed Bill C-2. I have always said in the House of Commons that I would support any bill that brings something positive for workers. I have kept my word until now, and I intend to do the same in the future.
Yet, at the same time, the Liberals promised to strike an all-party parliamentary committee to make recommendations to the government. Its unanimous report was entitled “Beyond Bill C-2”, and it contained 17 recommendations that had the support of all political parties.
Since no election was in the offing, the Liberal government forgot to make these changes. It just forgot. It ignored our recommendations.
Time goes on and people are still struggling. In southeastern New Brunswick, 1,500 people are under investigation and could be accused of “banking hours”, as it is called.
Well, it was a Liberal riding so a solution had to be found the solution. I would like to say to the people listening in from southeastern New Brunswick that the solution offered by the minister cannot be found in writing. With regard to the promise he made to you, I would be somewhat apprehensive if I were you, because you just might get a bill in the mail after the election.
I can say that we saw the same problem in my riding. There were 11 people in the same situation. Those eleven got caught with extra hours. However, it would seem that people have reached an agreement in Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, whereby they are released from their payback obligation, given that the employer will be made to pay. The government, on the other hand, is not sure that the employer will pay.
I am asking the government to state in writing whether employees will be made to pay or not. I can tell you that I asked twice in the House of Commons if people in the southeast of the province would be treated the same way as those in the northeast. The answer was yes.
Yet I can tell the House that this week Michel Guérette, a worker in my riding, got a bill from Human Resources Canada indicating that he owes $4,823 because he banked hours. This is the case that was taken to the Bathurst office, and do you know what the response was? In Beauséjour—Petitcodiac 1,500 people broke the law, and this affects the entire community. In Acadie—Bathurst, there are only 11, and they are spread around a number of different places, which is why they are being made to pay, and the others are not.
The message from the Government of Canada is this: “If you want to break the law, then do so along with 1,500 or 2,000 other people and you will get away with it”. Is that what the government is telling people? I find it deplorable that the minister has stood up in this place twice to state that any Canadian anywhere in this country would be treated the same way in a case like this, and yet today people are getting billed. They are panicking because they do not have the money to pay those bills.
The government recognizes the problem of banking hours. What we will see in the weeks to come is that the government will say that maybe it will take the 14 best weeks so as to try to get rid of the problem it has created in southeastern New Brunswick.
In the meantime, families are hurting. In 2001, even in the southeastern part of the province, in the area of Richibucto or Kent, hundreds and hundreds of people had to pay fines because of the same problem. The government refused to address the problem at the time and still refuses to retroactively reimburse these people for the fines they had to pay.
We now have before the House 17 recommendations. The federal government made two changes in 2000 dealing with EI and a couple of changes to do with parental benefits between 2000 and 2004. Because of the upcoming election, the federal government now wants to buy votes, so it has announced two additional changes. At that pace, it will take 32 years and 8 elections to reform the employment insurance plan.
A few weeks ago, I went to a place near Forestville, in Quebec, where people took to the streets to protest. For the benefit of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, it was not the CLC, but rather workers, businesspeople and even the priest who were protesting, asking the federal government to stop stealing money from the workers. This is no longer a political issue, it is a human issue. People are hurting.
The rest of Canada needs to understand that the people who work in the forest or lumber industry are seasonal workers. Consumers are quite happy to buy fish and 2x4s. What we are saying is that we will stay in our region. We have no intention of moving to central Canada. We have no intention of moving to Calgary with the Conservatives who, every time they rise in this House, try to reduce EI premiums and put more money back into the pockets of the employers, but not the workers. They should be ashamed.
Hopefully the election will take place soon and Canadians will remember what the Liberals did. They drove families out of the regions. I get calls to my office from women who tell me they want to commit suicide. You should know that the suicide rate in the Acadian peninsula has gone up as a result of the changes to employment insurance. You should know also that when it was in the opposition, that party, through Doug Young and Jean Chrétien, said that we had to deal with the economy. In this respect, if you do not want people to be on EI, create an economy that works. Put people back to work instead of forcing them to leave the rural regions to go to major centres. That is what should be done.
I want to express my gratitude for the fact that this motion was moved here in the House of Commons, allowing us to stand up for workers. The CLC has done a good job. The FTQ has done a good job in this respect, and so has the CSN.The trade unions have represented workers while the federal government has stolen their money. That is regrettable.