Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about Bill C-464, introduced by our colleague from Verchères—Les Patriotes. She is a very progressive MP who, unlike the Conservatives, thinks about the future. I can assure the people of Verchères—Les Patriotes that they are very well represented in the House of Commons.
I am not surprised that the Conservatives are not supporting this bill. I do not think anybody should be surprised. They used to be a progressive party, but they are a long way from being progressive right now. Of course, we costed this bill at $26 million. The Conservatives have costed it at $100 million, and we should not be surprised by that either. After all, their costing numbers have been out in space ever since they became government. We only have to look at the F-35s and the way they costed those. They are applying the same costing system to this bill. If anything, I would like to see this bill go to committee so that we can discuss it properly and the costing can be reviewed. If we do that, I am sure that we will see that $26 million is a proper cost.
It certainly is a pleasure for me to rise today, for personal reasons. We have multiple births in my family. We also have multiple births in my wife's family. I could have been a parent of twins. Unfortunately, because of unfortunate things that happened, we are not parents of twins, but that is history. The fortunate thing that happened because of that is that a couple of years later, I got to meet my daughter for the first time. Maybe, if I get lucky, she will present me with twins some day.
My mother-in-law is a twin, and as I said, my wife was pregnant with twins. My aunt also had twins, way back when. I can still remember the difficulty of raising twins back in those days. It is not easy today. It was not easy back then. However, we can help families with multiple births today by passing this bill or at least by sending it to committee.
On my wife's side of the family, my nephew and his wife gave birth to twins. I can remember that they were having difficulty with their twins. It is not easy raising one baby. Imagine raising two babies at once. My wife and their mother and mother-in-law and others went to help. It is very important that these parents of multiple births get help.
Would it not be nice if we were to amend the EI Act so that the father could take part in raising his kids, his twins for, I believe, 35 or 37 weeks? That would certainly make a big difference in the lives not only of the mother but of the babies. Hopefully we can send this bill to committee.
People at Multiple Births Canada had this to say about multiple births and this bill. They said that if this bill is passed or sent to committee, “parents will be able to provide their infants with better (quality and quantity) bonding time—with more weeks, with one primary caregiver or two parents at home, parents will have more opportunities to interact individually with their infants”.
I want to remind people in the House today and people who might be listening in that it is so important that both parents be involved in the first months of a child's life. It is doubly important in the case of twins.
The primary caregiver will be better equipped to handle physical and emotional stress.
I have two kids. It is physically challenging for a woman who has been through a difficult birth to take care of one baby, let alone two babies. This bill would certainly go a long way in supporting the parents.
Another thing this association says is that:
Parents can focus on their babies, not their financial challenges-- ...more financial resources to meet the increased cost of two or more babies, and more flexibility to work when it best meets their needs. Also, there will be less need to seek daycare for their infants, which is difficult to find for two or more babies at the same time and extremely expensive for twins or more.
Except for those who live in Quebec, where people are quite fortunate to have responsible daycare, it is very expensive to have one child in daycare. Let us imagine having two children in daycare at the same time. It becomes very expensive and is onerous on the parents.
In the past, governments have made changes to EI. They have adapted to certain situations for illness and different reasons, mortality for example. We are asking that the bill go to committee so we could look at making changes that would allow parents of multiple births or adoptions to be given more time to spend with their new children.
Raising one child is difficult and costly, but raising twins is double the cost and double the work. It is double everything. It would certainly be a blessing for these parents to get help from the government. I guess that is too much to ask from the Conservatives. They are not really interested in helping ordinary Canadians, let alone mothers who have multiple births.
I just want to read one more line from Multiple Births Canada:
Mothers will have better support after pregnancy complications--with more time, be it with one primary caregiver or two parents at home, mothers have more time to rest and recover while caring for their babies.
Sometimes pregnancies can be complicated, especially where twins are involved. It is rather difficult for a mother who has just given birth to recuperate from a difficult birth or pregnancy. This bill would address this, and it certainly would go a long way in helping mothers and fathers, but most of all it would help in the bonding between parents and new babies.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to review the reasons we cannot vote in favour of Bill C-464 on this side of the House. Quite simply, the bill from the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes bill goes against the spirit of the Employment Insurance Act.
EI parental benefits provide eligible parents with a maximum of 35 weeks of parental benefits to care for their child, regardless of the number of children that resulted from a pregnancy or adoption. This is because it is the lost earnings the individuals are insuring, not their social or financial circumstance. This is fundamental to the concept of employment insurance.
If parents decide to share the benefit between themselves, it can be split so that the benefit can be received either simultaneously or concurrently. The private member's bill proposes to double the number of weeks parents are eligible for parental benefits from 35 to 70 weeks in the case of multiple births or adoptions. It would also allow one of the parents to collect the entire 70 weeks of benefits if he or she so desires.
We recognize the hon. member's good intentions. However, EI is an insurance program. It is not a social welfare program whereby the financial needs and the circumstances of the individual are considered in determining the eligibility, entitlement and rate of weekly benefits.
I know this seems a bit confusing to the members opposite, so let me explain what I mean. If we look at the other benefits, we see that the requirements are universal for an event. Sickness benefits do not change upon the illness an individual has. Compassionate care benefits, again, do not change depending on the type of illness that has put a family member at risk of dying. This is because the benefit is based on a category of life events that earnings are insured for.
The legislation is clear. The EI parental benefit is not tied to the number of children born or adopted at any one time. Doubling the number of weeks during which parents are eligible to receive these benefits would go against the very essence of the EI program, making it more similar in concept to a social welfare program.
Our government knows the importance of family. That is why this government is providing families with fair and adequate assistance through the EI program as well as through several other measures. These measures include the Canada child tax benefit, the national child benefit supplement, and the universal child care benefit. We have also delivered on our commitment to provide income support to Canadian families through the Helping Families in Need Act.
We agree that families are the bedrock of our society and that parents need adequate assistance to provide adequate care to their children during the formative years. This government, more than any other previous government, understands the importance of families. However, the bill would not be financially responsible at this time, and it would undermine the insurance-based principle of the EI system.
It was estimated by the member of Parliament for Verchères—Les Patriotes that the extension of the parental benefits proposed by Bill C-464 would cost $27 million. However, the government estimated that the cost would be closer to $100 million in program costs alone, not including the administrative costs.
So far we have seen the NDP propose almost $8 billion a year in new EI spending. That is per year. This is $8 billion that would need to be contributed by workers and employers through increased premiums to pay for these benefits.
I would encourage all members of the House to join me in voting against this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the point that is being made but, just for the record, we need to be clear about what happened in the House yesterday. I spoke to you after the incident and you assured me that it was about the use of the cameras in the House. I appreciate that was the right course of action. We all know we cannot take pictures in this House, so I just want to set that record straight.
I also appreciate that all members in the House have been very generous in the past in allowing young mothers to bring their babies into the House, to recognize the difficulty with respect to work-life balance.
There are incidents where Sheila Copps brought her baby into the House, Caroline St-Hilaire brought her baby into the House and Michelle Dockrill brought her baby into the House. There certainly are such precedents.
I appreciate the understanding of all members about how difficult it is to do this job and have a newborn. I take it on faith that all the members will continue to exhibit that goodwill. I do not think we need to debate this issue further. I appreciate the understanding and support that all members are showing the member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.
Order, please. I ask for a little order on both sides of the House, please, so that I can hear the question and the comment being made.
The hon. member for Verchères—Les Patriotes.
Mr. Speaker, on February 15, at a luncheon organized by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, the President and CEO of the Port of Montreal provided an outlook on the global maritime industry. The future looks promising with sustained growth in container shipping and, given its geographic location, the Port of Montreal will reap the benefits.
The Port of Montreal will outgrow its current capacity by 2015, and Contrecoeur, in the riding of Verchères—Les Patriotes, was chosen as the expansion site. I, along with the eastern Montérégie CRE and officials from the RCM of Marguerite-D'Youville, was pleased with this announcement, as the decision will have major economic spinoffs for our region and for Quebec.
Given that the Port of Montreal is a true gateway to North America, we hope that the federal government will support this projet, which will revitalize the economy and create wealth, notably through the gateways and border crossings fund, of which Quebec is still not receiving its fair share.
Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is formally opposed to the issuing of a permit to Bruce Power Inc. to ship radioactive waste. The company plans on shipping over 1,600 tonnes of radioactive steel to Sweden via the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The millions of Quebeckers who get their drinking water from the St. Lawrence and the communities along the seaway, including many in my riding of Verchères—Les Patriotes, have valid concerns.
As with the Trailbreaker project, which would reverse the flow of the oil pipeline between Montreal and Portland, Quebeckers are being asked to take on all the risks without getting anything out of the project.
By issuing this permit to Bruce Power, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission has created a dangerous precedent in maritime transportation. The government must overturn this decision. Ontario made its energy choices, and it must take full responsibility for them.
Mr. Speaker, today I am presenting a petition signed by 145 people from the riding of Verchères—Les Patriotes on amending the provisions in paragraph 12(3)(c) of the Employment Insurance Act. These provisions concern benefits payable in case of illness.
Like tens of thousands of others who have signed petitions, they are asking the House of Commons to significantly extend these provisions to more realistically reflect the varying lengths of time claimants need to recover, depending on their disability.
The current provisions, which allow a maximum of 15 weeks of sickness benefits, have not been changed since 1971. This petition serves as concrete encouragement for Marie-Hélène Dubé, a cancer survivor who decided, because she was suffering the consequences, that the legislation should be changed so that people with a serious illness do not rush back to work at the end of 15 weeks of benefits.
I also invite the members to support Bill C-525, which responds to the concerns of the people who signed this petition and Marie-Hélène Dubé.
Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity to speak to this legislation at second reading.
My colleague from
We have been waiting a long time for this bill, as we have heard. As we have also heard, previous versions of this bill have been killed twice by prorogation. Frankly there has been an inordinate delay getting it through first and second reading here in the House since we returned from prorogation in March.
Considering it is the government's own legislation, one has to ask why we have waited so long. Again this week, yet again, we saw another recall of children's products, this time a recall of 11 million toys by Mattel. This follows recalls on children's drugs, cribs and drinking glasses, and the list goes on and on.
Each time this happens, consumer advocates call for reliable product safety information and a law that gets these unsafe products off the shelves. Ideally, dangerous products would not actually get on the shelves in the first place.
My colleague from
We are happy we are here. Finally we are here. I do think it also needs mentioning that the Liberals have been asleep at the switch for 12 years on this issue. By 2005-06, at the end of the Liberals' decade of missed opportunity to improve product safety in Canada, more than 40% of recalls were ordered as a direct result not of us but of U.S.-initiated action. The Liberals were happy to promote and applaud corporate trade but not to police it.
The legislation this bill replaces is part I of the Hazardous Products Act that was enacted in 1969. I will say that again, 1969. To say that this bill is a long time in coming is an understatement. In 41 years technologies have of course changed. The nature of business has changed. The ethics of production have advanced. We need legislation that reflects the realties of a globalized world, which aims to be health conscious and also to establish a more equitable society.
It goes without saying that dangerous products touch the lives of people who are socio-economically disadvantaged more than the rest of society. Cheap products rely on cheaper manufacturing processes, and they are wreaking havoc in the lives of people who cannot afford to make better choices, who are poorly positioned to deal with the health consequences and potentially the lost wages that are due to time off work to care for loved ones who are hurt.
Product safety should not be the right of the rich. It goes very much to equality principles and it is a central piece of moving towards economic justice.
Unsurprisingly, plans to revamp product safety legislation have developed some resistance from industry and from importers due to high costs and the perceived intrusion into their design and manufacturing processes. However, the onus should be on them. Consumer product safety is the cost of doing business in Canada.
The safety of Canadians and particularly the safety of children cannot be balanced against corporate costs. Manufacturers and importers must prove that their products are safe. It is unacceptable to allow products to be negligently introduced onto the market in the absence of much-needed and precise enforcement tools.
We cannot allow tort law to be the enforcement tool, because court remedies may come too late, as consumers or their family members will have already been injured. There may not be an adequate compensation system through tort law that is available for the injuries suffered, and certainly not for the emotional trauma that arises in the worst case scenarios.
We need to catch things before they happen. In reality, strong product safety laws are good for companies because they dissuade them from going down a path that may have widespread consequences to them later.
Product safety laws protect both the health of the nation and the economy. Therefore, I am happy to note that Bill
I note that other NDP concerns have been addressed. For example, a clause that indicated inspectors were not liable for entering private property has been removed and the inspectors can no longer order a person to take measures for non-compliance. Only the minister can do that.
There are some improvements that can be made to this bill and the NDP looks forward to addressing these concerns at committee. The NDP consumer advocate, the member for
It is worth mentioning that protection is given to tobacco products under Bill
Many stakeholders, including the Canadian Cancer Society and Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada, have pointed out that this is a major failing in the legislation. In April 2009, when the bill was known as Bill
There is also an issue of whether there will be adequate resources to enforce the legislation. We cannot allow the bill to exist without the adequate tools for enforcement. The bill implies a more proactive and aggressive approach to product safety, which is completely out of character with past government performance. Therefore, the NDP is considering an amendment to the bill to hold the government responsible for maintaining an adequate inspection capacity and staff to process, investigate and respond to complaints.
Tied to this is the need for stiffer punitive financial penalties. Industry monitoring shows that stiffer penalties improve product safety. Unfortunately, while the Hazardous Products Safety Act already contains fines of up to $1 million for violating its provisions, these fines are rarely imposed, something that we really need to work on at the enforcement end. It is essential that the government change this trend and adequately and consistently enforce the act.
The government also has to get serious about establishing clear and consistent rules for what constitutes a danger. This cannot be allowed to remain as a subjective judgment. We really need a test about what is a danger and how we will decide what is a danger. It is important not just for consumers, but for the industry as well. We need to ensure that industry understands what its obligations are.
Also in the world of enforcement, we need a better system for filing public complaints and the creation of a database that will track product safety issues. This is what the U.S. is moving toward and we need to follow suit. We have an opportunity now not just to make the Hazardous Products Safety Act better, but to be bold, visionary and move forward, not just catch up to our friends around world but maybe even surpass them when it comes to product safety. Right now a product can sometimes be on the market for more than 10 years before a recall happens.
As an example of that kind of delay, the most recent Fisher-Price recall involves products that were on the market for five years. The longer the delay, the less these products will be able to be recalled. In fact, only 10% to 15% of recalled products are ever recovered. That is a shockingly low statistic. This means we need to ensure that the public gets the information when a product poses a danger to people's health through regular announcements that a recall is in effect and to the widest possible audience.
We have also heard concerns that Bill
Currently the wording of the act suggests that reviews of decisions would be made by other Health Canada officers who were not part of the original investigation. Frankly, that is not quite far enough removed. There needs to be some indication of independence. The reviews really need to be done by third parties when a property owner asks for a review of an inspector's order. However, that review is not conducted by a board of review with court powers to ensure a fair hearing. It is only fair to think about it that way and to have those sorts of arm's-length procedures put in place.
In summary, we are pleased that the government has finally introduced this bill. I am getting some smiles from my colleagues on this side of the House. We are pleased that it has been moved for debate, I will note finally. We are also very happy to support it so it gets to committee. The NDP is very much looking forward to discussion of the bill at committee.
The electoral district of Verchères--Les Patriotes (Quebec) has a population of 97,726 with 76,596 registered voters and 200 polling divisions.
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