From the House Week of September 30 – October 7, 2011


John Rafferty MPOTTAWA – I don’t think it is right that when someone is diagnosed with a serious illness or is injured in an accident that they lose their jobs as well, but that is often what happens in our “modern” economy. As it stands now, a person cannot be fired for being sick or temporarily unable to work due to injury, but only for 12 weeks and then all bets are off. I don’t think this is right, so I have tabled a bill to change things.

This past week I tabled Bill C-294 (An Act to Amend the Canada Labour Code – Injury and Illness). C-294 is composed of a single clause and would extend the eligible period of recovery from 12 weeks to 52 weeks for people who are unable to work due to serious illness or injury. Nothing else would change outside of the allowable recovery time. Employers would still be free to hire a replacement worker or fill the position on a temporary basis, and the ill or injured worker would not get paid anything beyond what they are already entitled to today.

Like some of the best legislation I have seen this bill would enhance the rights of citizens without costing the government or private industry any money whatsoever. Think of the cancer patient who must undergo four months or more of chemotherapy, or the car accident victim who must learn to walk again before returning to the office or factory floor. Let’s also think of people who are struggling with depression or other mood disorders, who may need 6 months or more to receive a proper diagnosis and to begin a suitable treatment. These people are innocent victims of illness and injury so I cannot support making them victims twice over by allowing them to lose their jobs on top of everything else.

It may be a reach, but I also believe this bill could have a positive effect on the recovery of these workers and on our economy as a whole. Think about being treated for anxiety and having to worry about whether or not you will have a job when you have recovered. The same goes for cancer. Should people in physical rehabilitation be ‘hurrying’ to recover so they can get back to work? I don’t believe so. A medically supervised complete recovery is not just in the interest of the worker, but the economy as a whole since a healthy workforce is essential for the efficient production and consistent consumption of goods and services.

What I think this bill, and other bills that I will be tabling in the near future, are about is fundamental fairness in our society. We can’t stop people from getting sick or being injured through no fault of their own, but we can take action to ensure that they are treated fairly afterwards. We can make sure that they don’t win their battle for their life only to find out they have lost their livelihood. I don’t want my fellow Canadians – my family, friends, and neighbours – to suffer more than they have to during their recovery and I am betting that their employers and you feel the same way.

I am not sure that Bill C-294 will ever be debated in parliament, but I do know that it needs to be on our parliamentary agenda. It’s time the Conservative government was shown exactly how it can improve the lives of millions of Canadians without spending billions of dollars or running huge deficits, and I will continue to table affordable, responsible, and effective bills like this moving forward. In short, I want to show Conservatives and Canadians what ‘common sense’ government really looks like.

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John Rafferty is the current Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Rainy River and a member of the New Democratic Party caucus in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Ontario. John was first elected to serve as MP in the 2008 federal election and was subsequently re-elected on May 2, 2011 with 48.1% of the vote.