Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act

An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.

Sponsor

Michael Ignatieff  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Second reading (House), as of Dec. 9, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Government of Canada to take the measures necessary to implement the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force. It also repeals Part II of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • May 5, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on December 10, concerning the requirement for a royal recommendation for Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, standing in the name of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this issue, as well as the member for Vancouver Centre for her comments. In his intervention, the parliamentary secretary noted that Bill C-471 proposes to do two things. First, it imposes a duty on the government to implement the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force report. Second, it repeals the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, or PSECA. The parliamentary secretary dealt with each of these proposals in some detail as, in his view, each of them infringes on the financial prerogative of the Crown.

He began by noting that the first recommendation of the pay equity task force report concerns the need for legislation. That recommendation reads:

The Task Force recommends that Parliament enact new stand-alone, proactive pay equity legislation in order that Canada can more effectively meet its international obligations and domestic commitments, and that such legislation be characterized as human rights legislation.

The remaining 112 recommendations in the report, he pointed out, describe the measures that should be included in that legislation. The recommendations taken overall seek to establish a new regime for the oversight of the pay equity process and the adjudication of pay equity complaints. Among these recommendations, several call for the establishment of pay equity oversight agencies. He referred to the fact that clause 2 of Bill C-471 states:

The Government of Canada shall ensure that all statutory oversight agencies are put in place no later than January 1, 2011 and that all the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force are implemented no later than January 1, 2012.

The parliamentary secretary raised two concerns with respect to the requirement to implement the recommendations. He felt that the bill imposes a requirement on the government that can only be met by the passage of legislation, a requirement which seemed to bind Parliament to passing that legislation. In his view, such a requirement was both impossible for the government to carry out and unconstitutional.

As well, he noted that the establishment of new agencies clearly requires the expenditure of public funds and therefore requires a royal recommendation. The parliamentary secretary then turned to clause 3 of the bill, which repeals the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and related provisions from the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

As he saw it, two effects would follow from repealing the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. First, a new purpose would be given to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. They would now be given jurisdiction for public sector pay equity complaints. Further, as the liability arising from the statutory grounds of complaint under the Canada Human Rights Act differ from those under the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, the Crown, as employer, would be faced with potential expenses not currently provided for. The parliamentary secretary explained the difference between the liability schemes in some detail, which I will not repeat here. He also made reference to a number of Speakers’ rulings from both this House and the other place, in which the need for a royal recommendation to accompany new or increased liability of the Crown is clearly illustrated.

The member for Vancouver Centre pointed out that the repeal of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act does not constitute a new legislative regime. Rather, in her view, it leaves the currently existing legislation in place. Second, she claimed that the requirement to establish a framework is not the same as the actual implementation of the framework.

As the House has no doubt gathered from this brief summary, the issues confronting the Chair in this case are complex. I would like to begin by reminding honourable members that the Chair is obliged to confine itself to dealing with the procedural aspects of the question. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd edition, p. 261 states:

... it is not up to the Speaker to rule on the “constitutionality” or “legality” of measures before the House.

The procedural issue which faces the Chair relates to the possible requirement for a royal recommendation.

There are three distinct elements in the bill. The first relates to the introduction of legislation to implement the recommendations of the pay equity task force, including the setting up of two statutory oversight agencies. The second element is the repeal of the PSECA, from which flows the third element, that of the repeal of the consequential provision stimulated at sections 395 to 405 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

With respect to the implementation of the pay equity task force recommendations, it was indicated by the parliamentary secretary that such provisions would, in all likelihood, require a royal recommendation. Those provisions, however, are not part of Bill C-471, but of some future bill not yet before the House. It is my view that this aspect of Bill C-471 is similar to Bill C-288, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, from the last Parliament, despite the arguments to the contrary advanced by the parliamentary secretary.

I remind the House of the ruling given on September 27, 2006, where the Chair stated at page 3315 of Debates:

As it stands, Bill C-288 does not contain provisions which specifically authorize any spending for a distinct purpose relating to the Kyoto protocol. Rather, the bill seeks the approval of Parliament for the government to implement the protocol. If such approval is given, then the government would decide on the measures it wished to take. This might involve an appropriation bill or another bill proposing specific spending, either of which would require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-471 implements no recommendations and establishes no agency. It simply requires that the government bring forth legislation and thus it is difficult to see how these provisions could be construed as requiring the expenditure of public funds.

The second main objective of Bill C-471 is the repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, enacted by section 394 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 and the repeal of the transitional and consequential amendments stemming from the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and stipulated in sections 395 to 405 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

While it may impact the operations of government, the repeal of a statute does not normally require a royal recommendation. The parliamentary secretary contended that repealing this act and the related sections of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 would have the practical effect of assigning a new mandate to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

If Bill C-471 were adopted, the situation with respect to oversight of the pay equity process and the hearing of pay equity complaints would revert to that which was in place prior to the adoption of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. In effect, this is a change in the mandate of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

As stated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 834, this kind of change requires a royal recommendation.

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation, or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown’s financial initiative.

Consequently, it is my ruling that in changing the objects and purposes of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Bill C-471 infringes upon the financial prerogative of the Crown.

Accordingly, the Chair will decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received. Today's debate, however, is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the current debate.

I thank hon. Members for their attention.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that we are debating a bill that is going to have some troubles along the way, but here we are. I will certainly bring forward some of the ideas that I think need to be put on the public record.

The reason and rationale for this bill was because of the government's stripping away of rights that were provided for women, hard-fought rights. For many years, women and the allies of women who wanted to see equity in the workplace fought for pay equity. The basic principle was that the work done by women should be rewarded in the same way as work done by men and that we would have an understanding and some balance in our society in the way that work was recognized.

Arguments were made over decades. Eventually there was some daylight at the end, with the pay equity decisions that were made both in the court and through negotiations. With the stroke of a pen, the government, through a budget bill, took those rights away.

I do not have to tell the House of the concerns that many of us have with the government in the way in which it constructs budgets. It sneaks different proposals into a major budget document that it cannot get through in the House by stand-alone bills. In fact, that is what happened with this.

Not only that, to put this into context, we can well recall what happened when this was first proposed. It was first proposed in a financial update, along with other measures that the government had to back down on because it was so tone deaf. It brought forward a fiscal update that would strip women of their rights to pay equity. It looked at not providing stimulus for the economy at a time when it needed it. It looked to take out the opposition parties, financially. There were also a couple of environmental measures as well.

The government backed down on a couple of those proposals, but it had the audacity to keep the proposal to strip away pay equity. It is astonishing when we look at the number of years it took for women to have pay equity recognized and monitored, and that is an important facet and was mentioned in the Speaker's ruling just a minute ago. It is not sufficient to say that women's labour will be recognized the same as men's labour. There has to be some monitoring mechanism to do that. It was understood through court decisions and through bargaining at the table over the many years that there had to be some form of monitoring to ensure pay equity would not only be done, but that there would be some oversight to it.

The government basically said that it did not need this, that we should trust it. I am with those women and others who say that trusting the government on that kind of issue is a little too cute by half. We cannot have a system where the government says on one hand that it will let this take its course and that it does not need any oversight. On the other hand, witness what has happened with the pay between men and women.

As members probably know, we are not at a point in our society, sadly, like others are, where men and women receive the same pay for the work they do. That notion of equity is either something the government does not understand or does not want to understand.

We know where gains have been made in other jurisdictions. It has been an issue where pay equity is recognized, it is embedded in contracts and it is recognized in compensation. Most important, and this is where the government has taken away the oversight, is to have a mechanism in place to ensure the employer, in this case the federal government, actually abides by the principles and the rules. Once that is taken away, then we basically say we will go back to the old way and hope that it happens.

We do not have to talk to too many women to find out that they need a little more than the good word of the Conservative government or any other government. They want to see a process in place, a process with oversight. They want to see some progress in terms of goals. They want to see the equal pay for work of equal value notion recognized. They want to see some form of oversight so when it does happen, there is a process in place to follow-up. This is 2010 but there are still inequities.

The budget put forward by the government was first introduced in a fiscal update and then in budget form. What the government put into that fiscal update and then in it budget would take away a right. That is why we on this side said that we would not support that budget.

Taking the right to pay equity away was not something we could support, but notwithstanding that, the government put it in the budget bill. Issues of confidence arose as a result. We said that we would not standby and watch the progress that women had fought many years for be taken away with the stroke of a pen.

This bill is about trying to right a wrong. It essentially says to the government that we will not standby idly and watch it take away rights when it puts together a budget. If a budget is supposed to be an aspirational document, this one was retrograde. The government went back to the days when women did not have protection, when there was no oversight in terms of women being compensated. The government wanted to leave it the way it was done before. We are not satisfied with that.

I will sum up by saying that if we look at societies where there is equity, if we look at societies that are truly democratic in all the indicators, such as participation in the economy, compensation from work, the ability for people to live independently and successfully, the measure between a man's compensation and a woman's, we will see that these things did not happen because of a whim. These things happened because decisions were made and laws were invoked to ensure they happened. If we standby and allow things to happen on a whim and allow the state of affairs to continue the way they are, then this place would be filled with only men. Women would not be here. We cannot allow rights to be taken away, certainly not in a budget.

We on this side will not support the government's attempt to take away rights. We will support the notion of righting a wrong. That is why we will support the bill.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lise Zarac LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed about the ruling that was just handed down. Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, was introduced in the House of Commons by the leader of the official opposition. This bill would repeal the measures in this year's Conservative budget that eroded pay equity.

It is inconceivable that in 2010, a Canadian government can attack a right as fundamental as equal pay for equal work. The measures in this budget do away with pay equity for Canadian women in a reprehensible way. What is more, Canadians are starting to have a better idea of the sneaky, roundabout way the Conservatives govern. The ultimate goal of Bill C-471 is to restore pay equity as a human right.

It makes no sense to put pay equity on the bargaining table. One cannot put a price on legitimate human rights and turn them into bargaining chips. That is why all the members of this House should wholeheartedly support this bill, which seeks to correct this serious injustice, and state officially that equal pay for equal work is still a fundamental right.

I want to share some statistics that should give us pause. Women who work full-time earn only 70.5% as much as men in the same job category who also work full-time year-round. In addition, women of colour earn only 64% and aboriginal women earn a frightening 46% of what men earn. Most women still hold what are known as “women's jobs” in teaching, nursing and health care, office work and retail sales.

With the measures in this year's budget, the Conservatives are trying to make women pay for their economic woes. I want to talk about how the Conservative vision, as reflected in the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, will affect the well-being of Canadian women. For starters, these measures limit pay equity for more women. To be able to claim pay equity, a group must first show that it is 70% female, which further limits the number of eligible groups. In other words, if a company has less than 70% women, the law does not apply. As a result, many women would no longer be eligible.

Furthermore, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the Conservative government made pay equity part of the bargaining process. But it gets worse: unions face fines of up to $50,000 for encouraging a woman who has been discriminated against or encouraging one of its members to file a complaint regarding pay equity.

Thus, women are being deprived of their right to be represented. They cannot even turn to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. With all these obstacles, the Conservative government has the nerve to call this pay equity legislation progressive. Instead, this measure is regressive, as are most of the measures the Conservatives have brought forward since they came to power, measures to appease their right-leaning electoral base.

It is completely clear that the Conservative government has no intention of addressing gender inequity in Canada. Its track record when it comes to women thoroughly reveals its intentions. Its position regarding maternal health in developing countries is very telling. And we can see other examples in the measures taken regarding Status of Women Canada: the elimination of funding for public interest groups that advocate for women, the elimination of the court challenges program and the repeated attacks on the firearms registry. The list goes on. These are just a few examples that clearly demonstrate this government's backwards attitude to women.

Bill C-471 is about equality, respect and the protection of human rights. Above all, these rights can never be negotiated. This excellent legislative measure is necessary and it must be supported by all members. It already has the support of the majority of Canadians. This legislation is beneficial for and important to the women of this country who must always fight to advance their fundamental rights.

In its March 2003 presentation to the Pay Equity Task Force, the Canadian Human Rights Commission recognized that fundamental rights are closely tied to women's economic well-being. Discrimination is one factor that leads to their economic disadvantage and the gender wage gap is one indicator of inequality for women. The link is obvious.

Only an effective and efficient pay equity policy can contribute to women's equality.

Our legislative measure, Bill C-471, is based on the principle that pay equity is a human right. In fact, it is one of the earliest human rights recognized as an international standard. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has stated that pay equity is enshrined in many international agreements to which Canada has been bound for decades. We must highlight the quasi-constitutional nature of human rights, their pre-eminence over other types of rights and the need to interpret them liberally and progressively.

Furthermore, still according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canada has also signed recent international agreements that recognize the need for comprehensive equality action plans coupled with transparent and accountable institutions of government in order to move the equality agenda forward.

To the Canadian Human Rights Commission, human rights and the right to pay equity are universal and indivisible. Human rights, including the right to pay equity, must be the same everywhere and for everyone. Inextricably linked to equality, pay equity is also intended to be transformative. While pay equity aims to fairly value and compensate the work done primarily by women, pay equity is not "just about the money". Pay equity identifies and dismantles long-standing patterns of systemic discrimination in order to change how we do business and how society operates. In other words, while wage discrimination in and of itself can lead to a constricted ability for some to fully enjoy a range of human rights, it is the insidious link between wage discrimination and other forms of discrimination that can adversely impact the most disadvantaged workers. Unequal pay is part of the broader problem of systemic discrimination in employment, and pay equity is one essential tool for creating systemic change.

That is why pay equity has become a national issue and why members of this House must support and pass Bill C-471.

With this legislation in hand we could create a federal pay equity commission to ensure pay equity in the federal public service, crown corporations and federally-regulated sectors. This federal pay equity commission would enforce the principle of pay equity in the public service and federally-regulated industries. Most importantly, under Bill C-471, future pay equity measures would be considered human rights legislation.

In closing, this bill would benefit all Canadians and I am pleased to support it. I hope all my colleagues in this House share my enthusiasm and will make it their duty to support this bill wholeheartedly.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss an issue of great importance to women and to all those who believe in the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The subject is the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act which, I am proud to say, our government introduced into the House last year and was subsequently passed into law.

The previous pay equity system in the federal public sector was broken. It was lengthy, costly, and because it was complaint-based, these issues were addressed only as an afterthought when complaints were made. As a result, women had to wait up to 20 years for resolution of their complaints following gruelling and divisive court proceedings. In fact, many employees had already left the public service by the time complaints were settled.

Why was this happening? It was because under the previous system, federal public service employers and unions were not required to take pay equity issues into account when they negotiated wages, and this was not fair to women.

There is a better way. That is why our government introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. Our approach ensures employers and unions take pay equity into consideration every time they negotiate. It is time for employers and unions to be jointly accountable for setting equitable wages, for reporting publicly to employees, and for sticking to the commitments they make at the bargaining table. We should be putting dollars in the hands of women and not in the hands of those directing these costly and lengthy legal proceedings.

Others share our viewpoint. The Federally Regulated Employers-Transportation and Communications organization told a parliamentary committee that the legislation makes sense and that both collective bargaining parties must be responsible for implementing pay equity.

In 2004 a task force, appointed by the previous government, concluded that proactive pay equity legislation was a more effective way of protecting the rights of women. The same task force recommended that Parliament enact new stand-alone pay equity legislation, which is what we did. Our legislation addressed the key recommendations of the 2004 report by setting out a proactive and collaborative system to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

It does not change human rights. It protects them. We put teeth in this legislation. Fines will be imposed on either employers or unions that do not comply with their duty to ensure equitable compensation. As a further protection, employees will be able to resolve any disputes through the Public Service Labour Relations Board, an independent tribunal.

Pay equity legislation has been continually evolving since the first such legislation was introduced in Manitoba in 1986, followed by Ontario and Quebec. Our new federal model builds on those existing models. It goes a step further by truly integrating equitable compensation into the wage setting process and ensuring continuous action for years to come.

Women deserve fair pay rates now and every time their collective agreements are renewed, not 20 years from now, which is why I am proud of our government's pay equity legislation.

Let us be clear. When women are treated fairly, they prosper. We need look no further than today's public service. In today's public service, women and men have equal access to all positions. Today women comprise just over half of the overall public service and they have shown a marked increase in their participation in professional, scientific and executive ranks.

Since 1999, women have made great strides in accessing more top jobs in the public service. The glass ceiling does not exist in today's federal public service. Women are fully represented in positions of power and authority and are able to contribute at all levels. Women have made important strides in the federal public service. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act reflects our commitment to ensure we continue to move in the right direction.

However, our commitment to women does not end there.

We support a wide range of initiatives that create opportunities for women and their families, including the extension of maternity and parental benefits to self-employed Canadians, as well as more targeted programs such as the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund.

The women's community fund supports projects at the local, regional and national levels to enable the full participation of women in all aspects of Canadian life.

The women's partnership fund facilitates the engagement of eligible organizations and public institutions through joint projects designed to address issues important to women.

Our government continues to introduce initiatives that improve the lives of women at home and abroad.

In the recent Speech from the Throne, we committed to further protecting women by cracking down on crime and addressing the unsolved cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women.

On the international front, Canada is championing a major initiative on maternal and child health in developing nations, during its G8 presidency.

Every year, more than half a million women die in pregnancy and nearly nine million children die before their fifth birthday. Far too many lives and futures have been lost for lack of relatively simple health solutions, all well within the reach of the international community. Often, the keys to life are no more sophisticated than clean water or the most basic treatment against infection.

Other members of the G8 share our concern. Together, we will take action to address this human misery.

Action was what was required when it came to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Our government acted when it brought forward the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

Let us not now undo the progress we have made. Let us not now return to a system in which women had to wait up to 20 years for resolution of pay equity complaints, and then only after gruelling and divisive debates in court. Let us not take a step backward for women. Instead, let us support the just system our government has put in place by opposing the bill before us today.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-471 regarding pay equity, just a few days after we celebrated International Workers' Day on May 1, even though there are not many reasons to celebrate in Canada with this current government.

I would first like to state our party's position. The Bloc Québécois fully supports the bill introduced by the Liberal leader, although, if the Liberals had taken action as soon as we received the report of the pay equity task force ordered by their own government, we would not still be stuck in this debate, which will ultimately show two things: the Liberals are progressive only when they are in the opposition, and the Conservatives are misogynistic all of the time.

When he was with the National Citizens Coalition in the fall of 1998, the current Prime Minister made his view on pay equity clear. He said that, for taxpayers, pay equity was a ripoff and had nothing to do with gender. According to him, both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service, and that was why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

That is what the Prime Minister said, and that is what he was quick to do in the 2009 budget.

Part 11 of the 2009 budget implementation bill has to do with “equitable compensation” and it enacted the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act. The term “pay equity” is nowhere to be found in the bill, which instead refers to “equitable compensation” without ever defining it.

The act applies strictly to public sector employers: the Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Businesses under federal jurisdiction are not covered, including some crown corporations, like Canada Post and CBC.

I think it is important to hear what is in the preamble:

Whereas

Parliament affirms that women in the public sector of Canada should receive equal pay for work of equal value;

Whereas Parliament affirms that it is desirable to accomplish that goal through proactive means;

And whereas employers in the public sector of Canada operate in a market-driven economy;

So, what does that mean? Clause 3 states:

An employer shall, in respect of its non-unionized employees, take measures to provide them with equitable compensation in accordance with this Act. In the case of unionized employees, the employer and the bargaining agent shall take measures to provide those employees with equitable compensation in accordance with this Act.

Of course the Bloc Québécois voted against this bill, which made pay equity a negotiable right and part of a collective agreement. Instead, the Bloc Québécois asked that sectoral committees on pay equity be created, as has been done in Quebec.

We also denounced the fact that the bill created a third category of workers in Quebec consisting of those who fall under Quebec pay equity legislation, those under federal legislation on equitable compensation, and those still subjected to the ineffective complaint system under the federally regulated private sector and certain crown corporations.

So we had to ask ourselves this: If the Conservative government believes that equitable compensation is necessary in the government, why would that not also be the case for private businesses under its jurisdiction, unless it believes that this principle is costly and harmful to private enterprise?

The Liberals and their party leader have gone to the trouble of introducing Bill C-471 on pay equity in order to show women how important they are, and yet the Liberals voted in favour of the budget.

In his speech introducing the bill, the Leader of the Opposition said, “To come right to the point, hidden in the 2009 budget was a measure that undermined pay equity.” The truth is, pay equity is worth nothing more to the Liberals than a couple of seats. The truth is, they voted in favour of the budget and in favour of driving pay equity backwards, knowing very well what they were doing, and too bad for women.

The pay equity issue is all but solved in Quebec. It is not complete yet because some female workers in Quebec are under the Canada Labour Code.

It is clear that the principle of equity, which is fundamental in Quebec, is not fundamental here. The federal government announced that it will cut $1.7 billion in spending and chances are that during collective bargaining, because they will obviously have to negotiate pay equity in the future, the government's negotiators will say that it is necessary to decrease the operating budget or that a collective effort is needed. If nothing concrete happens concerning pay equity during collective bargaining, it will be blamed on the union.

People will say that I am a pessimist, a cynic. However, this is the government that rejects anti-scab legislation, this is the government that goes over the heads of federal-level unions and that even repudiates its own collective agreements. This is the government that is risking the health of workers covered by the Canadian Labour Code, as was shown in a study last week. This government is even going so far as to vote against a Bloc bill that would exclude labour disputes from the employment insurance qualifying period. The truth is, the Conservatives do not like workers and never take their side.

At the same time, this government is questioning the right to abortion. It is cutting funding to women's rights groups and it is against a preventive withdrawal program. The truth is that the Conservatives have no concern whatsoever for women.

They want nothing to do with pay equity, this “ridiculous legislation”, as the Prime Minister called it a few years ago.

The Bloc, however, cares and has always supported the creation of proactive legislation.

On May 4, 2004, the pay equity task force published a report of more than 500 pages titled Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right. It recommended that the federal government put in place proactive pay equity legislation, and it presented a detailed plan outlining the best way to undertake this.

During the Pay Equity Task Force's consultations, stakeholders agreed on several key issues. Among other things, they agreed that they were committed to the principle of pay equity; that pay equity was a human rights issue; that employers had a positive duty to take steps to eliminate wage discrimination; that any new system must be available to unionized as well as non-unionized workers; that the new system must provide additional guidelines on how to comply with pay equity standards; that a neutral body responsible for providing information and support and ensuring compliance with pay equity standards should be set up; and that an independent agency with the power to settle pay equity disputes should be set up.

That all seems reasonable to me, and it is hard to see how anyone could be against this, yet the Conservatives are. They plan to silence anyone who speaks out against their equitable compensation scheme. They claim that they are making things better for women in the public service. They know that is not true. We all know that is not true, but the truth holds little sway with the Conservatives.

The theme for this year's workers' day was “For a fair Quebec”. This bill can help make both Quebec and Canada more equitable places.

Successive federal governments have done a poor job of defending Quebec's values of fairness and equity, so I believe, as always, that sovereignty is the best way for Quebec to become a fully equitable society.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill today. I noted that the previous speakers referred to the fact that pay equity was initially begun in Manitoba. It was the first province in Canada to bring in pay equity in 1986. I was lucky enough to be elected in 1986 and be part of the government of Howard Pawley that brought in legislation, eventually to be followed by Ontario and Quebec.

At that time, in some ways we were the vanguard of this type of legislation, but not only pay equity legislation. That government dealt with some very controversial areas. We were the first to bring in daycare proposals. Myrna Phillips, speaker of the legislature in Manitoba for awhile, was the legislative assistant who worked on the daycare issue. Pharmacare was brought in by the NDP in 1970-71, under the Ed Schreyer government.

To this day, even though we talk about having a national pharmacare program, and the Liberals will promise it occasionally before elections when they are in red book mode, when they become government, and when the Conservatives become government, we do not see actions taken in the areas of pharmacare. We do not see actions taken in the area of daycare. We certainly do not see actions taken in the area of pay equity.

Another issue we dealt with in 1986 was the inclusion of gay rights in the human rights code. That was when I was first elected. Even our own caucus was having difficulties with this issue. I know I was one of a group of four people who stood our ground. We fought the issue and over time we turned the government around on it and it agreed to bring it forth. To his credit, Premier Pawley to this day says that the action he took to introduce the legislation was one of his proudest moments during his six and a half years as premier.

We in the NDP in Manitoba, like the Bloc in Quebec, have been at the vanguard of a lot of very progressive legislation.

When I see Bill C-471 introduced by the Liberal leader, I wondered why it would be introduced in 2010. When we looked into the issue a little further, we found that it was a case where the Liberals and Leader of the Opposition essentially got themselves into a problem. Last year, on March 4, 2009, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore instructed his party to vote with the government on the budget bill. Like this year's budget implementation bill, last year's was very similar, with a omnibus approach in which the government took a number of issues that it knew would be controversial in a minority Parliament and threw them in the budget.

There were environmental issues and there was this issue. The government decided to take the whole area of pay equity out under the purview of the human rights jurisdiction legislation and put it under the area of labour negotiations.

The members of the Bloc and the NDP understood what was going on with the government, regardless of its protestations, and members of the Liberal Party understood it as well. However, they were caught in this cat and mouse game, which the government has played with them over the last two year period. The government feels it can throw items like this into an omnibus bill and serve it up to the Liberals. The Liberals are so afraid to go to an election over it that they simply fall in line and vote the way they have. To try to recover and save some face in the matter and some credibility, the member has decided to come up with this approach. That is what we are dealing with right now.

The current Prime Minister has a pretty spotty record in this area as well. We have some issues and quotes from him. I believe the Bloc member dealt with it a few minutes ago, but the Prime Minister has made all sorts of very incendiary comments over the years. I recall him talking about the maritime provinces being overly dependent on government incentives and that got himself into a lot of trouble. He talked about building firewalls around Alberta and that got into a lot of trouble.

In 1998 the Prime Minister described our current pay equity laws in the following words. He said:

For taxpayers, however, it’s a rip-off. And it has nothing to do with gender. Both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service. That’s why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

I do not believe the leopard changes its spots that easily. He knows he is close to a majority government and has to make some changes, so perhaps he will moderate his views a little to gain some short-term political advantage. At the end of the day, I do not really think he will have changed his views all that much.

He also pointed out specific flaws in the current legislation. He said:

Now 'pay equity' has everything to do with pay and nothing to do with equity. It’s based on the vague notion of 'equal pay for work of equal value,' which is not the same as equal pay for the same job.

Just to be clear, we recognize we will not count on the government any time soon to support women's issues in our country. In fact, Conservatives constantly come up with the negative on any of these issues. They can be pretty much guaranteed to be pulling out the cost factors on progressive social initiatives. If we want to establish pay equity, they will be the first to say that they cannot do this because it will cost too much, that it will slow the economy down, that it will bankrupt businesses, that it will bankrupt the government. They will put as regressive a face on it as possible.

We have the issue of the court challenges program, another program that the government eliminated, which is hardly a friendly move as far as women are concerned.

On the whole issue of affordable child care, both Conservative and Liberal governments over the years have failed to create affordable child care in our country. I recognize Quebec has had the best affordable child care system in the country for a number of years now. However, people can look back to 1986 and the work Myrna Phillips and Muriel Smith did in the area of daycare, and the member for Saint Boniface knows the people to whom I refer. It was before she became the speaker of the legislature. We brought in that daycare program in Manitoba.

The fact is successive Conservative governments have never dared to tamper or change those programs, and that is the fundamental fact. The Conservatives rarely propose innovative social programs. We will never see that happening. They are more concerned about corporate taxes. They cannot offend the big corporations. They have to reduce the corporate taxes to attract more business to the country. Then they will be able to afford proper daycare and pay equity 200 or 300 years into the future.

The Conservatives' priority is driving corporate taxes down to zero, if it can get it there, which is the difference between the Conservative approach and the approach of the NDP. I think the women in this country know very well that they are far better off supporting the NDP than they ever have been or will be supporting governments like the Conservatives.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
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Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking out against Bill C-471, a private member's bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition to repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act from the 2009 budget.

I first need to indicate how confused I am about the Liberal position. This is a party that, today, once again, attempted to shut down a female member of Parliament's right to speak, a party that continually bullies our female members of Parliament. It is the male member for Ajax—Pickering who continues to do that on behalf of the Liberal leader.

I am talking about the debate that is going on about the gun registry, a debate that Canadians are seized upon and that many women care intimately about. It is an issue that we wanted to debate wholly and fulsomely but, unfortunately, the member for Ajax—Pickering attempted to shut down that debate by eliminating all but a couple of witnesses who actually sit on the side of repealing the long gun registry and tried to force through a whole contingent of witnesses who would only air one side of it.

Once again, they are bullying Canadians by trying to silence them. This is done because the leader, for whatever reason, is afraid to hear from police officers who are in fact in support of repealing the registry.

Today, after a motion had been made by the member for Ajax—Pickering, a motion to allow the mover of the bill only 30 minutes to speak when normal practice is that the mover of the bill gets an hour in every other committee, a bullying tactic by the member for Ajax—Pickering, the discussion period was limited to 30 minutes on a very important bill to repeal the long gun registry.

Again at that committee, the member for Ajax—Pickering bullied his way through committee and silenced the will of committee. The committee had voted very clearly on his motion to proceed with the 30 minute period for the person—

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I question the relevance of the member going on and on. My understanding of it is that that side had been filibustering in that particular committee. Now we are on a private member's bill in regard to equity.

Mr. Speaker, I think you should look into the relevance.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the bill because we are speaking about women's equality and how far women have come in this wonderful Canada that we call home.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Party sees fit to try to silence women, not only here in the House of Commons but across the country when things like the gun registry are being discussed, which is in their interest, for their protection and for safety. We need to make it more functional.

We need to make pay equity more functional, which is what our government has done. Today, when the member for Ajax—Pickering, after his motion passed in committee to allow the member for Portage—Lisgar to speak for 30 minutes on her bill, again limiting her because normally it is an hour, he then interrupted at the beginning of committee and limited her once again to 10 minutes. He was able to silence a female member and make it seem as if this were a normal process.

I am sorry but I question the honesty of that member and democracy among the party.

The private member's bill before us today is flawed and unworkable in so many ways that I do not even know where to start.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which affects only the federal public sector, is based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. That is the same principle found in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In principle and in application, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act shows that our government respects this fundamental value of Canadian society.

One of the flaws of the opposition's Bill C-471 is that it requires the government to implement a complex and costly pay equity system that would not serve federal public servants and the Canadian people well. We do not need that.

Canada and Canadian women have evolved a lot since 1970. In the last 30 years, women have made great progress, particularly in the federal public service, to which the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act applies.

In 1983, fewer than 5% of senior level positions in the federal public service were filled by women. Today, 41% of senior executives are women. This shows that women are increasingly taking their rightful place in the federal public service. They not only have access to these positions; their representation in most positions at all levels has also increased considerably over the years.

It is fair to say that there has been a profound change in the Canadian public service over the past few years and women have played an important role in that change. Today, the public service offers women and men equal access to all positions and the same pay within the same groups and levels.

Women have made significant progress in three decades and the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act recognizes that reality. Not only have women taken their place in the ranks of the federal public service, but their wages have been integrated into the bargaining process for all federal employees.

If you believe in the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and if you believe in the right to collective bargaining, that is as it should be. If you believe in equal pay for work of equal value, you will understand that public servants' remuneration as well as benefits must be established in the same way and at the same time, but not separately.

This proactive approach reflects the equality and equity enjoyed by men and women in the public service today.

I believe that most people would agree with me that it is better to adopt a proactive approach to all matters pertaining to remuneration than to engage in long and costly pay equity processes that will force future generations to pay women the salaries that they were entitled to from the beginning.

That is the aim of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

Of course, Bill C-471, sooner or later, after much effort, may lead to a system of proactive remuneration, but at what cost? Repealing the entire Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act—a new law which will soon go into effect—and replacing it later with another complex and costly law does not make sense.

It is even less logical to think that any law that might replace it in the future would even come close to equalling the level of accountability and effectiveness in the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act.

Repealing this act would be terrible. It would do a lot of damage and would not be progressive at all, considering that an effective solution is already available.

I also want to point out that opposition members like to downplay one of the major reforms that the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act introduced: recourse.

Our new system does not deny women or any employee the right to file complaints in court.

On the contrary, it upholds that right via an independent watchdog: the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

There is another reason why this bill is defective.

Currently, the public service is going to great lengths to renew its workforce and work environment to keep them relevant to the next generation of Canadians and to ensure that they contribute to our country's success. We call it public service renewal. One of our goals is to create a work environment that will persuade the best and brightest to work for Canada.

In closing, I will be voting against the leader of the Liberal Party's bill because it does not enhance the ability of women to fight for their rights. We would be taking a huge leap backward, should we go back to what we had previously. I am not willing to allow women to go back to a system where it takes 15 years for them to get their just due and I will not agree with the Liberal leader's position on this.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Etobicoke—Lakeshore
Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Leader of the Opposition

moved that Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to present private member's Bill C-471, which relates to putting into operation the recommendations of a 2004 working group on pay equity and modifying another law in consequence.

To come right to the point, hidden in the 2009 budget was a measure that undermined pay equity. This bill, which we support, restores pay equity as a human right. That is paramount for us.

Mr. Speaker, you may at this point, however, have a feeling that you have walked into Groundhog Day because I have been on my feet before on this very project. That is because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament before Christmas, so we are having a Groundhog Day experience today as I reintroduce this legislation.

The purpose of the government's prorogation of Parliament, of course, was, as it said, to recalibrate. It seems to have now recalibrated its cabinet a bit, but it has not been able to avoid the questions that it sought to avoid when it prorogued Parliament, namely, the questions about Afghan detainees and the other urgent public matters on which it sought to avoid the scrutiny of Canada.

The prorogation attempt failed. All it has managed to do is set back the legislative agenda for several months and, unfortunately, the legislative progress of this worthy measure. That is why I am here today and the House will remember the experience of having lived through this whole thing once before.

Let me enter into the discussion of the matter. Budget 2009, in the dumpster bill aspects of the budget implementation act, introduced measures which would reduce pay equity to a chip on the bargaining table in labour relations. We on this side of the House believe, as a matter of principle, that pay equity is not a labour relations issue but a fundamental human right.

We need to see this measure in the context of a historical anniversary. The House will be aware that this is the 40th anniversary of the report on the status of women, the great commission chaired by Florence Bird, a great Canadian. It was commissioned under the Pearson government that set the agenda for women's issues and equity issues for the next 40 years. That agenda included, let us remember: child care, pay equity, maternal leave and more women in the House and the judiciary.

We can say after 40 years that some progress has been made, but there is an enormous amount of work still to do and on this side of the House we remain fiercely and passionately committed to that agenda. We remain committed to early learning and child care for every Canadian family that wants it. We remain committed to adequate and restored funding for Status of Women Canada.

We remain committed to the idea that it is a stain on our national honour that there are missing aboriginal women who have simply disappeared. We have not even taken the trouble as a country to give their families the answers they need as to what happened to these fellow citizens of our country. That is a wrong that must be righted and we stand for the righting of that wrong.

We also stand for the reintroduction of the court challenges program, which women have used to defend their rights and which the government has undermined. Finally, to put this measure in context, we stand for pay equity for women.

It is abundantly clear that we have a lot of work to do. Women in Canada earn 72¢ for every dollar a man earns.

In the case of a woman with children, it is 52¢.

We think this is in an inequity that must be corrected and it can only be corrected by proactive federal pay legislation. Men outnumber women by 330%. Yes, members heard me right. It is 330% among top earners. This is also a sign that in a country that claims equality, we have much more to do.

We must do better. We can do better. We will do better.

Let us review very briefly the government's record on this issue. It came to the G8 summit with the admirable objective of helping women and children in the developing world, but with nothing on the necessary reproductive health care that will actually make a difference and reduce death in pregnancy and improve maternal and child health. Nothing.

The government has cut the operating budget of Status of Women Canada. Just last week it cut the pay equity commission in New Brunswick. It has abolished the court challenges program. It has eliminated $1 billion of committed federal funding to day care since 2006.

This is the record of the government on the other side of the House. This is where we begin to see the larger design between taking pay equity off the human rights table and putting it on the labour regulations table where it can be traded away.

This is the grander design to which we object. We are taking the pay equity issue as an example of a wider failure of the government to advance the cause of women's equality in Canada.

What does our proposal specifically entail? It entails a federal pay equity commission with jurisdiction over the federal public service, crown corporations and the federally regulated corporations. This commission would have a proactive mandate. It would have a mandate to deliver judgments in a timely fashion. Above all, it would give women the right to advance their claims to pay equity within the framework of human rights.

This is an important matter because the Government of Canada is the largest employer in the country. The Government of Canada can set an example to all employers across the country and it must on the issue of pay equity for women.

In conclusion, this private member's bill will undo what we conceive to be a wrong. It will restore pay equity as a human right with a proactive federal pay equity commission. We urge all members to support it.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question and I also thank her for all the hard work she does as a member of Parliament.

We are very aware of what was in the 2009 budget. We read it carefully, but we found that it contained a fundamental error that undermines pay equity and prevents Canada from protecting people's rights to pay equity. Our position is that a federal pay equity commission must be restored to protect and defend human rights, which are what pay equity is all about.

I would like to say that I would be very happy if the hon. member were to support this bill.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, in his speech today the Leader of the Opposition said that our government has done nothing for aboriginal women. I work very closely with Grand Chief Ron Evans and the aboriginal women and men across this country.

Earlier this year our government gave $100,000 for a conference that was held in Winnipeg on missing women. In addition to that, this money was also used for education materials to help people understand what happens when predators target children.

I am wondering whether the opposition leader knew of this initiative that was so important and why he would not be a bit more careful in his comments instead of being so partisan because our government has done a lot of work.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think there is a concern across the House about missing aboriginal women. The question is not whether there is concern. The question is whether there is action.

The hon. colleague opposite is in government. It is up to the government to create a commission of inquiry to get to the truth of this. The funding and the gestures that it has made are commendable. We are saying they are also inadequate and we need to go further.

This is also a government that has been unable to reduce the gap in the funding of education for aboriginal women and unable to reduce the gaps in funding for health care for aboriginal women. This is a government that had to be pressed and pushed by the Government of Saskatchewan and other authorities, and by the distinguished member for Wascana, to step up with the First Nations University. The stepping up is not full and it is not complete. It is begrudging and it is not completed.

All of these measures indicate that the government does not fully understand the importance of advancing the cause: the equality of aboriginal women. That was the point I was trying to make.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives made their attack on pay equity very clear when they came back with that toxic economic update that they threw to the middle of the House and there were three main issues in it. First, there was the attack on pay equity; second, there was the attack on environmental standards; and third, there was the attack on political parties getting financed.

Therefore, we were at a constitutional crisis at that moment and when the Liberals caved, they received one benefit. The only thing that the Conservatives caved on was the fact that the Liberal Party is still getting its election donations through the taxpayer. At the time when we could have made the issue of pay equity an issue to push back, when it was an issue of confidence, the Liberals rolled over. They were missing in action.

Now, we are to believe that a private member's bill that comes in on a Monday morning is action. I would say that the member had the chance to take action and the Liberals refused because they did not want to stand up at the time. Now they are going to walk around the country saying, “Wait, after we voted to kill pay equity, now we have a private member's bill”.

I think that shows a complete lack of concern for the fact that my party and our colleagues in the Bloc were looking to the Liberals to fight for pay equity--

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act
Private Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note my colleague's comments with interest and some amusement, noting that his party supported the government last September. I would urge him to set aside partisanship and rancour from times past and consider the virtues of supporting a measure, which I am sure aligns with the fundamental principles of his party.

I cannot understand why, if we have a chance to correct what I am sure his party agrees is a serious and grave mistake, he would not seize the opportunity to vote with us on the bill and correct the wrong that he identifies as clearly as we do.