Employment Insurance Act

Ms. Elizabeth May: Madam Speaker, I want to commend the hon. member for Bourassa for his efforts to help people who are unemployed receive benefits sooner.

I wonder whether he has any thoughts on the difficulties that people who have become unemployed in the current economic downturn are having. I am certainly getting complaints about this. They are waiting so very long just to get someone on the phone to help them find the way to get their benefits.

Hon. Denis Coderre: Madam Speaker, there are far too many examples.

There is a problem with personal service. People are waiting on the line and are told that their call is important; press 1 if there is an issue; press 2 if they would like to have the question repeated; press 3 if they want a break. And their call might be answered in the next 15 minutes.

That is the problem. I have nothing against technology, but there is nothing better than personal service and a human voice. At the very least, if the service cannot be personal, the process should be. And when people call Service Canada, they should be able to get an answer.

Unfortunately, too often, staff are hired temporarily as a way of avoiding having to create permanent positions. We cannot defend the indefensible. I agree with the hon. member. Not only should people be treated decently and receive more benefits without a waiting period, but unemployed people who have needs should also have their calls answered.