Business of Supply – Opposition Motion—Employment Insurance

That this House call on the Conservative government to abandon plans to further restrict access to Employment Insurance for Canadian workers who have followed the rules and who will now be forced to choose between taking a pay cut of up to 30% or losing their Employment Insurance benefits.

Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from St. John’s South—Mount Pearl for a very clear description of the different worlds that exist within one country. Canada is one country, and we all love it. I am grateful that yesterday the hon. member for Calgary Centre reminded us of that.

I hear Conservative members of Parliament talk about how employees are not looking hard enough for work, even though we know that they do. However, I want to focus the question on the employers.

In seasonal industries, the employers have benefited from EI. They need the system. It can be fixed, it can be tweaked, and things can be done, but essentially, when employers lay off employees at the end of a summer season, whether the employers are in fisheries, forestry, tourism or mining, they want to know those people are willing to come back to them for the same jobs they held before they were laid off.

This is an employer benefit, and I am going to ask the hon. member if he thinks the government has given sufficient concern to employers’ dependence on this system.

Ryan Cleary: Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. I have spoken with employers since these proposed changes were announced, and employers in seasonal industries such as those the hon. member mentioned—tourism or the fishery, for example—are concerned that the EI changes are going to cause them to lose skilled workers. Yes, they are seasonal workers and do not work 52 weeks of the year, but in the fish plants, the tourism industry, the crafts industry and so on, we are talking about a skill set that could be lost because the workers will have to move away as a result of the changes in the EI regulations.

That is a very good question. Employers are very concerned.