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Bill C-17

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This enactment implements various parts of the February 22, 1994 budget.

In so far as it affects persons employed in the public service, as well as federally appointed judges, Parliamentary agents, the Governor General, the Lieutenant Governors, Parliamentarians, and members of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, this enactment extends the wage freeze currently in effect for a further two years, suspends the upward movement within salary scales (pay increment increases) for a two-year period and enables incentive payments to be made to indeterminate employees of the Department of National Defence, Emergency Preparedness Canada and the Communications Security Establishment under the Civilian Reduction Program referred to in the budget.

It also fixes a maximum on contributions to provinces under the Canada Assistance Plan for the fiscal years after 1994-95 and extends the restrictions on payments to provinces under the Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer Act.

It makes permanent the 10% reductions in payments to railway companies under the Atlantic Region Freight Assistance Act originally enacted by chapter 13 of the Statutes of Canada, 1993, and increases the reduction in the government share of freight rates under the Western Grain Transportation Act from 10% to 15% for crop years beginning on or after August 1, 1994. If the latter amendment is not in force by June 16, 1994, the reduction will only apply to crop years beginning on or after August 1, 1995.

The enactment also authorizes the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to borrow money.

In so far as this enactment affects unemployment insurance claimants, it establishes a two tier benefit rate: enhanced income protection at 60 per cent for claimants with low earnings and dependants and a basic benefit rate at 55 per cent. It decreases the rate of employees' premiums to three per cent of insurable earnings for 1995 and not more than that percentage for 1996. A new benefit entitlement schedule strengthens the link between work history and duration of entitlement to unemployment insurance benefits and adjusts entitlement when this enactment comes into force. The minimum entrance requirement is increased from ten to twelve weeks of work.

It also provides that claimants who are suspended for misconduct, who take a leave of absence or who quit their job a few weeks before the end of their employment will no longer be disqualified from receiving benefits for their entire entitlement period; they will, however, not be entitled to benefit while suspended or on leave or while their contract of employment continues. The benefit of the doubt will be given to claimants on these and other issues related to just cause or misconduct, where the evidence is equally balanced.

The enactment also authorizes the establishment and operation of pilot projects to study ways to make the administration of the Unemployment Insurance Act more efficient, to improve service to the public or to make that Act more current with industry practices. Such pilot projects could include matters such as earnings reporting history, electronic filing and direct deposit of benefits.