Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to this legislation, which is extremely well intentioned and certainly is in line with where our government wants to go with respect to employment insurance.
We understand that EI parental benefits need to be fair for all workers. That is why we are committed to adopting legislation that would provide adoptive parents with an additional 15 weeks of leave to ensure that they receive the same level of support to care for their children as other parents do.
When we look at the various different measures we have brought in, whether they are the Canada child benefit, affordable child care or incentivizing shared leave, our government has delivered in many regards with respect to providing for Canadian parents. We will continue to do that at every opportunity.
I do note that there are some flaws with the legislation, in particular, perhaps not a flaw but a major hurdle, the issue with respect to royal recommendation. My colleague who spoke before me certainly indicated that it was possible to contact the minister, but the minister does not have ultimate jurisdiction over what is awarded royal recommendation. It is an extremely difficult process to overcome that hurdle of a royal recommendation, and I would be more than interested to hear of examples that former Conservative governments did with respect to allowing for royal recommendation when similar legislation came forward.
I know of the issue of royal recommendation very well. Back in 2016. I brought forward a bill that I did not believe required a royal recommendation. However, after the bill had been tabled, the Speaker determined that it did. Needless to say, the government certainly did not support my request for royal recommendation. My bill was on the same topic of EI and maternity benefits for women who worked in hazardous conditions. The point is that this hurdle of royal recommendation is indeed an extremely tall one that requires an incredible amount of consideration, and it is very rare that royal recommendation is given by cabinet.
There are some other challenges with the bill that I would like to address.
Under the current EI regulation, adoptive parents and parents of children conceived by surrogacy are entitled to up to 40 shareable weeks of EI parental benefits to care for and bond with their children. Adoptive parents do not, however, as the bill tries to address, have access to EI maternity benefits of 15 weeks, which support the recovery of claimants who are pregnant or who have recently given birth.
Bill C-318 would create a new 15-week EI benefit for the attachment and caring for adoptive children or those conceived by surrogacy that is available from the week of placement up to 52 weeks. This is an attempt to mirror the 15 weeks of maternity benefit, which can start as early as 12 weeks before the expected date of birth and can end as late as 17 weeks after the actual date of birth. However, the proposed 15-week benefit would only commence at the time of “placement”. In other words, it would not support the individuals during the time they need to prepare for the arrival of a child, for example by preparing their home and other lifestyle changes that are required to take in a new addition to their family.
In addition, the bill would provide 17 weeks of leave; that is two additional weeks to the proposed benefit's 15 weeks of income support, which is an outdated practice from when the EI waiting period used to be two weeks rather than the current one week.
I absolutely applaud the member for bringing this forward. I think most members in the House agree, and I certainly do, that we need to move in the direction that would allow for this type of implementation, but there are some issues with it.
The problem the bill faces right now is whether it receives that royal recommendation, because it will not be able to proceed much further from this point until that occurs. As I indicated previously, it is very rare that this occurs.
Nonetheless, I applaud the member for the initiative. It is a very important one. I think there will be opportunities in the future, if not through this bill specifically, to continue to collaborate together in the House to ensure that maternity and parental benefits are widely available to all those who have children. We continue to see different forms of that happening throughout the country as families are growing.
I thank the member for bringing the bill forward. Unfortunately, because of the reasons I outlined, I will not be able to support it, but I look forward to seeing where the issue goes in the future.