Mr. Speaker, like my friend from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, I am proud to be part of a government that is standing shoulder to shoulder with Canadian sealers. Unlike the Liberals, who through the activities of Ontario Senator Mac Harb have consistently tried to destroy the livelihoods of Canadian sealers, our Conservative government will continue to fight for Canadian sealers and their families.
I am pleased to report that sealers working in the North Atlantic Ocean are on target to increase this year's harvest by some 40%. We remain committed to supporting jobs and growth generated by Canada's humane seal hunt.
Order, please. The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
Economic action plan 2013 is great news for my riding of Brant, for southern Ontario and indeed for all of Canada. It is a plan that keeps Canada well positioned for long-term, stable economic growth and balanced budgets. It includes a variety of exciting common sense proposals that would make government more productive and efficient and create jobs in southern Ontario.
Economic growth in my riding of Brant is largely driven by small and medium-sized businesses that are innovating and gaining a leading edge in the 21st century economy, and I will provide an example of a company. GreenMantra Technologies recently opened up as a new start-up company. As a government we were able to help it through our southern economic development agency, FedDev, to get the funding to produce new, innovative and patentable technologies creating wax products for commercial use. This is a very exciting development and one which would create hundreds of jobs in our community down the road.
Our government continues to build on the unprecedented support for businesses that are innovating and transforming southern Ontario's economy. In particular, we are providing record support for manufacturers and processors. Since 2006, our government has assisted manufacturers by lowering taxes, making Canada the first tariff-free zone for manufacturers in the G20, reducing unnecessary red tape and improving conditions for business investment.
In economic action plan 2013, we are taking further action to support Canada's manufacturers. We are providing tax relief for manufacturing equipment through the extension of the temporary accelerated capital cost allowance. This measure would allow manufacturers to invest in new machinery and equipment to help them compete. We are also continuing our support for innovative businesses like GreenMantra Technologies, which I referred to earlier, by renewing the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario with new funding of $920 million. FedDev has been a critical agency. It has helped provide much needed support in my riding by boosting businesses that are showing leadership with transformative projects, which in turn would allow them to capitalize on new world market opportunities and compete in the 21st century economy.
I would like to refer to another company in my riding called Systems Logic. Systems Logic produces software and hardware for the warehousing industry. It has recently expanded its market base extensively into the United States with new and innovative products. This is another great example of new jobs being created in the 21st century right in my community as a result of our budget initiatives.
Through economic action plan 2013, FedDev Ontario would offer businesses in Brant new support through the exciting new $200 million advanced manufacturing fund, which is aimed at helping our region's manufacturing industry to further innovate and become more competitive.
The good news for Brant does not stop there. There is a burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit that is emerging in my community. Businesses are seeing the opportunities and investing in my community, which has a skilled labour force made up of people from all walks of life who are ready and willing to go to work and take advantage of the new economic opportunities.
Our government understands the tangible benefits that such an entrepreneurial spirit can deliver for our communities and knows that southern Ontario's long-term economic competitiveness needs to be driven by globally competitive, high-growth businesses that take risks, innovate and create high-quality jobs. That is why economic action plan 2013 continues building on our government's support for entrepreneurs and risk takers in my riding.
Economic action plan 2012 announced resources to support Canada's venture capital industry, including $400 million to help increase private-sector investments and early-stage risk capital and to support the creation of large-scale venture capital funds led by the private sector. Shortly after, our Prime Minister announced a comprehensive venture capital action plan, which will improve access to venture capital financing by high-growth companies. The plan will promote a vibrant capital environment in Canada, rooted in a strong entrepreneurial culture and well-established networks that link investors to innovative companies.
Budget 2013 would advance the venture capital action plan by offering $60 million to help outstanding and high-potential incubator and accelerator organizations expand their services to entrepreneurs, as well as $100 million through the Business Development Bank of Canada to invest in firms graduating from business accelerators. We would also provide funding specifically designated for young risk-taking entrepreneurs who are working to create the jobs of tomorrow through the Canada Youth Business Foundation. All of this is great news for entrepreneurs, not only in Canada but in my specific riding of Brant.
We know that businesses and workers alike in my riding would benefit from the tremendous new support that the economic action plan offers in terms of skills training and connecting workers with jobs. We would increase skills and training support with the new Canada job grant to help more workers get high-quality, well-paying jobs. Under the new grant, Canadians would be able to qualify for up to $15,000 per person to get the skills and training they most importantly need. Training and skill development would be focused on jobs that are in demand. In fact, the grant would directly connect employers looking for skilled workers with Canadians who want to fill those jobs.
Meanwhile, our budget would create opportunities for apprenticeships that would allow young people to learn a skilled trade while gaining paid, on-the-job work experience. Also, we would offer even more targeted support to promote labour market participation and a more inclusive workforce.
Residents of the Six Nations of the Grand River and the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation in my riding would benefit from an investment of $241 million to improve the on-reserve income assistance program to help ensure aboriginal youth can access the skills training they need to secure employment and better outcomes for their futures.
Among a series of new proposals that are garnering excitement among disability advocates and experts from across the country, our budget calls for $222 million per year to improve employment prospects for persons with disabilities. Canadians with disabilities represent a significant untapped pool of talented people who are ready, willing and able to work. In fact, there are more than 800,000 Canadians whose disabilities do not prevent them from working. We know about the enormous opportunities for social and economic inclusion that gainful employment can provide these people.
In my riding, we have several fine examples of entrepreneurial companies that have hired people with disabilities. One is Brantford Volkswagen, and someone from this company will be coming to Parliament to tell the human resources committee about how positive the experience has been and how much of a business case there is for taking on people with disabilities.
I am thrilled to see that we would move forward to help those who want to get work—those who are willing and able—move in the directions that employers and entrepreneurs and businesses need.
The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
Mr. Speaker, I would like first to congratulate my colleague from Nova Scotia, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, on having generated wealth and employment in Nova Scotia and in the Atlantic provinces.
I would like in turn to comment on the motion respecting employment insurance changes introduced in the House by the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and to express clearly my disagreement with the NDP's position on the issue.
The employment insurance plan is the most important Canadian program devoted to the labour market, and Canadians rely on it to assist them financially when they are temporarily out of work and are looking for a job. I have myself received employment insurance benefits. It is a useful and necessary program for all working people.
We know that those who remain active in the labour market are more likely to find permanent work more quickly. Permanent jobs are what provides stability and makes it possible to improve living conditions for Canadian families and Canadian regions. There is no doubt that most Canadians want to work, and are actively looking for employment while receiving employment insurance benefits. That is one of the principles of the system.
The changes we are making to the employment insurance plan are necessary to ensure that it remains fair and efficient. One of the goals is to help workers find jobs more quickly, preserve jobs and ensure that Canadian workers have more money in their pockets.
The measures we announced in the 2012 economic action plan are ensuring that the employment insurance plan is now better suited to Canadians’ needs, more flexible and more equitable. They also ensure that the plan helps Canadians stay active in the labour market, and find employment more quickly. How? Members will agree with me that it is does not make sense for employment insurance claimants to be looking for work, on the one hand, for jobs to be available, and for those concerned not to speak to each other. That is what the new measures introduced by our minister are bringing about, in every part of the country.
We are proposing and putting in place a better way of connecting Canadians with job opportunities in their local area. We have also clarified the responsibilities of claimants while they are receiving regular employment insurance benefits. For example, we realized that some people have difficulty in finding a job, or in seeing what jobs are available in their region. Sometimes they are unaware that their skills, particularly those of seasonal workers, which are remarkable, could meet the needs of other industries during the off-season.
That is why we undertook to enable Canadians receiving regular employment insurance benefits to receive daily notification of job offers from various sources in their region, in order to assist their job search.
We have also provided clear definitions in the regulations for “suitable employment” and “reasonable job search.” We believe these clarifications reinforce the responsibilities of claimants receiving regular benefits and will help them in their active job search, in order to accept suitable employment.
Contrary to what the opposition claims, we have no thought whatever of compelling people to accept jobs for which they do not have the skills—we are dealing here with the kind of urban myths perpetuated by the opposition—or asking them move to another part of the country, or accept underpaid work, as some people have wrongly claimed.
This is about clarifying claimants' responsibility when receiving EI benefits and sticking to clear parameters. The new and enhanced job alert system has been introduced to provide Canadians with better, more relevant information on employment.
The employment insurance system to which workers and employers contribute is designed to provide temporary income support. It is not designed to provide an income supplement when people choose not to work. That goes without saying and everyone knows that.
It is important to note that those who do not manage to find work will still be able to rely on the employment insurance program. Again, those who are not able to find work can still count on the EI system.
In our desire to better connect Canadians with available jobs, we have also improved coordination between the EI system and the temporary foreign worker program.
It is very simple, and the objective is clear. We just want employers to consider hiring Canadians before foreign workers, and we want foreign workers to be hired where we need them most. Let us first meet our needs with Canadian workers, and then let us get additional help abroad, if necessary. This is just common sense. It is a sensible and reasonable measure. Let us first offer Canadian jobs to our own workers. Then, if necessary, we can turn to foreign workers.
We have also adopted a new Canada-wide method to calculate EI benefits, so that people living in regions with similar labour market conditions can be eligible for the same benefits. We are talking about fairness for all regions of the country and a flexible system that takes into consideration the employment insurance rate.
That is why we are convinced that these new initiatives, which are being implemented, will help more Canadians find work, and will put more money in workers' pockets. These measures will provide greater support to people looking for work. A daily report will inform them of available jobs in their region. In addition, as I mentioned, thanks to these measures people will have more money if they work than if they merely collect EI benefits.
Our government is committed to making targeted and sensible changes to the EI system, for the benefit of Canadians and the whole country. I hope opposition members will support our efforts to connect available jobs with workers who are looking for work. This will create wealth and prosperity in all our regions, particularly in areas that are so dear to us, like Lévis—Bellechasse and Les Etchemins.
With regard to government expenditures in Nova Scotia: (a) what is the total amount of all government grants provided to the following Nova Scotia ridings from 2006 to 2012, broken down by year, (i) Halifax West, (ii) Halifax, (iii) Sackville-Eastern Shore, (iv) West Nova, (v) Kings—Hants, (vi) Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, (vii) Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, (viii) Sydney—Victoria, (ix) Central Nova, (x) Cape Breton—Canso, (xi) South Shore—St. Margaret's; and (b) what is the total amount of government loans provided to the Nova Scotia ridings listed in (a)?
Mr. Speaker, it is a delight to be able to participate in this debate on Bill C-38, the jobs, growth and long-term prosperity act. Like my colleague, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, I want to address the changes proposed in Bill C-38 to the Fisheries Act, in particular.
Let me begin by telling the House how I approach legislation, and not just this legislation but all legislation that I see. I ask myself a couple of key questions. The first one is, “What problem is this legislation attempting to solve?” Of course a related question is, “Is there a problem at all, or are we happy enough with the status quo?” I think that is a key question to ask. The second key question is, “Does this legislation solve that problem in the best way possible?” In the end, my comments about these changes to the Fisheries Act are going to answer those questions.
The focus of the original Fisheries Act was to regulate fishing and activities that directly impact fishing. However, over the years the Fisheries Act has grown to include powers and authorities aimed at conservation and protection of fish and fish habitat. On its own, that may not have been a bad thing.
The problem is due to direction, some of it coming from the courts. We now no longer effectively discriminate how we regulate small-scale impacts and low-value fisheries, like stream crossings on farmland, and projects that are larger scale with those large impacts and more valuable fisheries, like a hydroelectric development or sockeye salmon.
The government has been talking with stakeholders over a number of years. I have been connected to Fisheries and Oceans now for several years and have been part of this. We know that people care about fisheries protection and proponents that undertake development activities in and around fisheries waters. They talk to us about their challenges.
Based on their knowledge and the issues they have raised, we have determined that we need to do at least three things to solve this problem. We need to streamline our process and reduce overlap and duplication. Second, we need to reinforce our commitment to protect Canada's commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries. We need to be more discriminating as to where and how we apply our mandate to protect fisheries.
We could add a fourth, and that is that we need to create an enabling environment to be able to partner with others, whether they be provinces or conservation groups and others.
In a nutshell, I think we need to move the federal government out of the business of reviewing every activity on every body of water, regardless of the impact, to focusing on activities that pose a significant threat to the sustainability and productivity of commercial, recreational or aboriginal fisheries.
We want to adopt a common sense approach to managing real and significant threats to fisheries and the habitat that supports them while minimizing the restrictions on routine, everyday activities that have little or no impact on the productivity of Canada's fisheries.
We recognize the importance of Canada's fisheries across the country, and our government is introducing changes that would focus our fish and fish habitat protection measures on Canada's commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries.
The new changes would protect the productivity of Canada's fisheries while providing much-needed clarity to Canadians by, first of all, focusing the government's protection efforts on those three fisheries; second, drawing a distinction between vital waterways that support Canada's fisheries and unproductive bodies of water, like man-made reservoirs, drainage ditches in some cases and irrigation channels; and third, identifying and managing real threats to the fisheries, including direct impacts to fish, habitat destruction and aquatic invasive species.
To help focus limited resources on projects and areas that are significant in scope and in impact, the act would enable the exemption of certain types of lower risk and routine activities or waters, like digging farm ditches or draining flooded fields, from the prohibition.
Under the revised Fisheries Act, the government would be able to enter into productive partnerships with provinces, industry and conservation groups to enable them to use their expertise to protect, monitor and conserve Canada's fisheries. This would allow the federal government to maximize its ability to collaborate with agencies and organizations that care about protecting fisheries. Enhanced partnering opportunities with organizations would help support the conservation of fisheries. Collaboration would also be streamlined by enhanced abilities to enter into legal agreements for the effective protection of fisheries.
Better partnerships with other government agencies are also key to reducing duplication and overlap. We are proposing to achieve this through new authorities that would allow other federal departments, such as the National Energy Board or the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, for example, or provinces, to issue authorizations under the Fisheries Act.
The new act would also give the minister the authority to declare that, if a provincial regulation made under the Fisheries Act meets or beats the federal government standards, only the provincial regulation would need apply. If the province has strong protection in place, the federal government would not need to intervene.
Let me say this, because this has been the subject of some question. There is a new prohibition in the act, a new section 35. This new section would replace text that had become outdated and no longer reflected today's reality. The prohibition states that it is prohibited for any person to undertake any works, undertakings or activities that result in serious harm to fish that are part of a commercial, recreational or aboriginal fishery or a fish that supports these fisheries. It also defines in the act what that serious harm is. It is the death of fish or permanent alteration to or destruction of fish habitat. Fish habitat is defined in the act as spawning grounds and any other areas, including nursery, rearing, food supply and migration areas on which fish depend directly or indirectly in order to carry out their life processes.
The amended Fisheries Act also includes tools to enable greater protection of ecologically significant areas such as spawning grounds for sockeye salmon, which is important of course in British Columbia where I come from. These amendments would make it easier to clearly identify and therefore to better protect these zones. Other tools to protect fisheries include enhanced compliance and enforcement tools, such as enforceable conditions, the obligation for proponents to notify government officials in the event of serious harm to fisheries, and penalties that are aligned with the Environmental Enforcement Act.
The amendments to the Fisheries Act would also provide for greater transparency in decision-making. Under the existing law the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans does not have to take any specific factors into consideration when he is making decisions. In the new Fisheries Act, factors that the minister would need to take into account when making certain decisions and exercising certain powers would add clarity and transparency to decisions. The minister would have to show that he has considered key factors before he can make regulatory decisions related to, for example, the new prohibition, regulations and authorizations. The minister would also need to consider these factors when he is exercising powers related to fish passage, exclusions and authorizations and designating ecologically significant areas, just to name a few. They are listed in the act, and I encourage my colleagues to go and look at them in more detail.
In addition, the minister would prepare and present to Parliament a report on the administration of agreements and equivalency, if any agreements are entered into with the provinces, and enforcement of the provisions relating to fisheries protection and pollution protection after the end of each fiscal year.
The new act would recognize that this is where protection is needed, not in farmers' fields, not in irrigation ditches, not where there are no fisheries; it would recognize that we cannot do this alone and allow us to effectively partner with the provinces and territories, aboriginal groups, conservation organizations and other stakeholders for the protection of Canada's fisheries.
Now I will get back to those questions. Is there a problem? I think there is, and I think many Canadians do as well.
Does this legislation address these problems in an effective way? I think it does. It is not perfect; no legislation is, but it goes a long way to addressing these problems. We are going to have sustainability and productivity of commercial, recreational and aboriginal fisheries for future generations of Canadians, and that is what we need.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank members on both sides of the House who participated in this debate. A lot of people took the opportunity to talk about search and rescue in general, and I am very glad to see it given that attention in the House. It ought to be a greater priority, we believe, for Canadian Forces. Therefore, the attention being given to it from all parts of the country is certainly valuable and worthwhile.
I did not really hear any rationale for not supporting this motion. We know that SAR involves many elements, but the Canadian Forces' response time with helicopters and fixed wing is extremely important in getting to an emergency, particularly at sea. The position of the double standard of 30 minutes during the 8:00 to 4:00 period and two hours afterwards, when about 80% plus of the taskings take place, is really unsupportable.
The Kitsilano Coast Guard station, which was closed down by this government, with 12 people, provides a rescue crew of 3 people at any one time who can respond 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the whole year round, and they can do so within 1 to 2 minutes of being tasked.
Coast Guard ships on SAR standby duty are able to embark within 30 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In St. John's if someone is in a helicopter being transported to the Hibernia, or any other oil platform off the coast of Newfoundland, there is another SAR helicopter required to be wheels up in 15 to 20 minutes. This is a result of the recommendation of the Wells inquiry into the Cougar crash of March 2009. If there is an emergency, especially at sea, we need the rescue to “get there fast”, to quote the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. I agree with him, getting there fast means getting into the air fast, to get there.
Therefore, why do we continue with a system that says we can have a SAR aircraft in the air within 30 minutes between 8:00 and 4:00 on weekdays, but outside that, when as I mentioned over 80% of the tasking takes place, the standard required is two hours?
Members opposite said that we are unique and that this is the reason why we must have our own standard. Well, we certainly are unique in the world. We are in fact the second largest country in the world, which is all the more reason we need to get into the air faster. We also have the longest coastline in the world. We have to remember we are going from only four places for primary aeronautical SAR for all of Canada: Gander, in Newfoundland and Labrador; Greenwood, in Nova Scotia; Trenton, Ontario; and Comox, B.C. There are four places for all of Canada, including the Arctic. Getting there fast means getting into the air fast and that requires a better standard than we have.
Other countries have set a better standard. The United States and Australia have 30 minutes to wheels up, 24/7, 365 days. Norway has a 15-minute standard for getting a helicopter into the air, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland have an elongated day, 15 minutes in the daytime up until 9:00 or 10:00 at night and 45 minutes overnight. Even Mexico has around-the-clock 40-minute wheels up, in the air.
These countries can do this; why can we not? Why can we not give the priority to search and rescue that it deserves? Why can we not have a 21st century rescue service that can respond quickly, as other countries can? Even the United States, for example, has not only the 30-minute standard but a standard that says they have to be at any place in their area of responsibility within a total of 90 minutes. A country like Canada should be looking at standards like that to be sure we can meet our commitments to our citizens, in particular the Canadian Forces, whose job it is to defend Canada and protect Canadians.
I urge members opposite who have considered voting against this motion to change their minds. We would sure like you have their support for improving search and rescue standards in Canada, to help save lives, particularly for those who are in desperate emergencies that require search and rescue to get there as soon as possible.
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to address this House today in support of an initiative that will allow our workers to find jobs more quickly.
I would first like to congratulate the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley. The hon. member is from New Brunswick and I am from Quebec, of course. He clearly showed that the program is beneficial for his region. It is a win-win situation.
It is certainly a win for our employers in Bellechasse and Les Etchemins who need people. We are hiring in Bellechasse and Les Etchemins. People are coming from Quebec City and Montreal. We even have people from outside the country. One of the companies I am thinking of is Exceldor, where most of the workers in one of the production facilities come from every corner of the world.
We need workers. We need an active workforce in Bellechasse and Les Etchemins right now, and in Lévis too. That is why we want to create tools so that workers in search of jobs, people who are temporarily out of work or out of the labour market, can have access to the jobs that are available.
Is it not bizarre that the New Democrats, who say they want to help working people, want to stop them from finding jobs? Have you thought about how illogical their position is, today, when they oppose the idea of job seekers finding a job?
Fortunately, here on the government side, we have created 750,000 jobs. Why? Because we have companies that are not suffocated by taxes and operate in a context of prosperity that benefits all of us here in Canada. This country is the envy of many others in the OECD. That means that our Minister of Finance is praised both in Europe and by all the big economic decision-makers.
So the measure we are proposing today is a win-win measure. I would like to explain why. First, it enables working people who are looking for jobs to have easier access to the pool of jobs available in their immediate environment. There are tools like the Internet, for example, or various communication tools. That is why we are investing. In fact, we are investing $21 million. Today, we need only look to the extensive use being made of communication tools by the new generation, in particular, whether that be the Internet, social networking or the various communication systems available to us.
Essentially, with what is called Job Alert, we will be able to inform people who are looking for work about jobs available in their area. That is the first measure. It must be remembered that the employment insurance system is in fact Canada’s largest labour market access program. It is therefore important to ensure that it is on the leading edge of the technology. That is one of the first things our program does. It connects workers with the jobs available. That will apply everywhere, throughout Canada.
It means that Canadians who are receiving employment insurance benefits will receive daily notices of job postings from a variety of sources, so they are aware of jobs that are available in their region. So far, this is a measure that should gain the unanimous approval of the parliamentarians who are here today.
The second measure is also sensible and intelligent. It aims to ensure that if there are jobs available in regions, workers who have the skills to fill those jobs will be able to access them. That means that instead of receiving employment insurance benefits, which provide only a fraction of the income they were making, workers will be able to earn additional income.
Because of this measure, workers who are looking for a job will be able to temporarily, or, you never know, perhaps over the longer term, work at jobs that will put more money in their pockets. It is another measure that is very sensible and warrants the approval of all parliamentarians. The purpose of the measure is to enable workers to connect with jobs that are available and to tell people seeking work that there are opportunities for them in their area that will enable them to obtain additional income besides employment insurance benefits.
So I think that it is important to tell those who are watching us today that it is a reasonable measure, one that is beneficial to workers because it enables them to earn additional income and thereby have more money in their pockets. For example, during the off-season, if there are jobs available, seasonal workers will be able to fill these jobs. That will give them access to more ready income to support their families. This is the second measure in this reform being put forward by our Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, a measure that will be very beneficial to all regions across the country.
The third factor is that there are currently jobs that are not necessarily filled by Canadians. Foreign workers are even brought in to fill these positions. Would it not make more sense to first offer these jobs to Canadians? It is very simple. There are jobs available here in Canada. We have Canadian workers who have the skills to fill these jobs.
So before offering them to foreign workers, would it not be logical to develop mechanisms to ensure that these jobs here in Canada are first offered to Canadians and filled by Canadians? It strikes me as a rather basic principle that should gain the assent of every parliamentarian in this House.
To summarize, there are three important principles. The first is to connect available jobs to workers. The second, which is equally important, is of course to ensure that the jobs available in our regions are first filled by Canadian workers. Of course our country, which welcomes people from many nations, will continue to be happy to offer some jobs to other countries. These are straightforward measures.
We want to ensure that it is fair for all Canadians and that it provides the right level of support given the availability of jobs wherever they happen to live.
At the same time, we are proposing new EI measures that will help EI claimants to get back to work more quickly. Our government is committed to making targeted, common sense changes to the EI system so that Canadians are better encouraged and supported in their job search.
Canada's well-trained and highly educated workforce is one of our key advantages in competing and succeeding in the global economy. However, too often barriers or disincentives discourage workforce participation. We are making changes to ensure that the EI system better supports employers who have jobs to fill and we are also going to ensure that Canadians are always better off working than not.
We are investing $21 million over a two-year period in new targeted measures to help unemployed Canadians find jobs more quickly.
I must say that we realize that some Canadians have a hard time finding employment, especially when there is no work during the slow season that some regions experience. Today, those people can rest assured that if there are no jobs available, they will be entitled to their benefits.
This is a balanced initiative, and I encourage every member of the House to support it because this is what we need to ensure that our workers have more money in their pockets.
Mr. Speaker, the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley is right. When it comes to trade, the NDP just does not get it. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster even claims that free trade has cost Canadians dearly. The fact is one in five Canadian jobs is linked to trade.
While the NDP and its special interest friends would go to isolation of silos, Canadians know that our government's pro-trade plan is creating jobs, growth and economic prosperity both here at home and abroad.
Mr. Speaker, I am going to share my time with the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
Since March 6, Canadians have been on their toes, concerned about suffering the consequences of the dispute between Air Canada and its technical, maintenance and operational support employees and pilots.
Almost 8,200 employees work in the technical, maintenance and operational support unit represented by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. Those employees play a vital role, a role that requires very specific skills. They are the ones who ensure the smooth operation of the aircraft fleet and the safety of passengers and crew members. Without them, planes would obviously not take off.
Almost 3,000 pilots are represented by the Air Canada Pilots Association. The pilots are responsible for operating aircraft, for passenger and crew safety, and for all the decisions after takeoff.
Across Canada, the possibility of a work stoppage at Air Canada is causing serious concern. This is proving to be a very difficult situation for the passengers directly affected. It is very serious for Air Canada, which could suffer significant commercial and financial losses. It is dangerous for our economy on the whole.
Let us first talk about the serious consequences this dispute could have for passengers. Clearly, a work stoppage would leave thousands of travellers stranded. Together, Air Canada and Air Canada Express serve over 32 million customers annually and provide direct passenger service to over 170 destinations on five continents.
Let us consider Canadian entrepreneurs, many of whom do business across Canada and around the world. A cancellation, delay or even a postponement could make them miss an opportunity to conclude a contract, carry out an important transaction or sell their products.
Let us also think about Canadians who made vacation plans. They may have no other choice but to cancel their plans and their reservations if they cannot find another way to get to their destination. During the break week, over 1 million passengers will fly on Air Canada's regular flights.
Let us also think about those who take flights to visit their loved ones, attend an important conference or go to work somewhere else in their region.
For some destinations there are other airlines that can offer the same service, provided, of course, that there are still seats available on the flights. But how much will that cost?
It is also important to note that the domestic airlines have limited capacity. There is nothing to say that these competitors would be able to offer the same service within a reasonable time frame.
For Canadian destinations, things become even more complicated, and in some remote regions there simply is no additional capacity and therefore no alternative.
For the company itself, the losses could be devastating in the event of a work stoppage and a prolonged dispute.
I think it is important to remember here that the airline industry as a whole has been under significant pressure since the events of September 11, 2001, pressure that the global economic crisis has exacerbated.
Factors such as fluctuating demand, enhanced security measures and rising fuel prices have jeopardized the profitability of airlines around the world. Air Canada, the largest full-service airline in Canada, is no exception.
Let us not forget that in 2003, Air Canada had to start operating under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act.
Thanks to major investments from the private sector and the Government of Canada, the company was able to restructure and get out from under bankruptcy protection in September 2004.
Let us also not forget that barely four years ago, the future of the company was again uncertain because of its financial difficulties.
The recession and Air Canada's contractual obligations have brought additional challenges. In 2008, in order to avoid bankruptcy, Air Canada had to secure additional loans so that it could survive in the short term. The company was also able to extend its collective agreements without work stoppages. On a number of occasions in recent years, the company has had to restructure and make cuts to its human and financial resources in order to maintain its viability.
Air Canada would be economically unstable if a work stoppage became a reality. Air Canada is already operating close to a basic level of viability. The largest full-service air carrier in Canada, serving more than 32 million clients annually, could be driven into bankruptcy. Then, 26,000 direct jobs would be in peril. Let me repeat, 26,000. Another 250,000 workers are indirectly linked to Air Canada and would be affected by a work stoppage. Many of those workers have families who count on the livelihood they provide. It is not just the company's viability that is at stake, it is its very existence. A prolonged work stoppage would be a damaging blow to the carrier—a blow that could be fatal—and, ultimately, to the economy as a whole.
A working document prepared in 2009 by the International Labour Organization shows that, for every job lost in an air carrier, from four to 10 other jobs will also be lost. Each week a strike lasts will cost the Canadian economy millions of dollars. The losses could reach $22.4 million for each week a strike lasts. Those estimates are based on the value of the trips or the shipments that would be cancelled, postponed or taken over by another carrier.
We cannot run the risk of jeopardizing the largest air cargo carrier in Canada, or the future of its workers and our economy.
In this period of global market uncertainty, nothing can be taken for granted. We must not take any chances. It would be completely irresponsible on our part to shrug our shoulders, let the dispute drag on and watch our economy slip backwards.
We have the proof that it is possible for the parties to come to an understanding. Just last June, the approximately 3,800 sales and customer service employees represented by the Canadian Auto Workers went on strike. After three days, the parties reached an agreement.
It is a fact that workforce stability is a key element in the smooth operation of the Canadian economy and in our continuing economic recovery.
Pardon me, I did not hear that, but the hon. member is correct.
The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley will have eight minutes remaining for his speech, and also five minutes for questions and comments when the House next resumes debate on the motion.
Before recognizing the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, I will let him know that we have two or maybe three minutes and then we will have to finish.
The hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.
The electoral district of Cumberland--Colchester--Musquodoboit Valley (Nova Scotia) has a population of 87,895 with 68,172 registered voters and 221 polling divisions.
This action requires you to be logged into Politwitter. No regisrtation is required, just authenticate using your Twitter account.