An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (gender balanced representation)
Irene Mathyssen NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
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Financial Administration Act
Private Members' Business
April 23rd, 2013 / 6:35 p.m.
Judy Sgro York West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate for the Liberal caucus and to speak in favour of Bill C-473 at second reading.
Of course, the Liberal Party has a long and well-established reputation as a leader and an advocate for gender equality, as many in this House do, in all areas of society and our parliamentary caucus continues to be committed to this legacy.
On April 17, 1982, Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into law and, with it, section 15 took effect. As a result of Mr. Trudeau's quest for a just society, section 15 assured that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
So, while the charter-signing ceremony took place under the capital's cloudy skies, its impact was to provide a fledgling ray of sunshine for women and girls struggling against the odds. For the first time in our history, the Constitution of Canada formally recognized that men and women were viewed as equals in every way, under Canada law. However, there was still much yet to be done along the road to full equality for Canadian women. Today, three decades after Mr. Trudeau's historic move, Canadian women and girls continue with their efforts to attain full gender parity.
For most people, myself included, particularly those within the Liberal Party, there is a clear understanding that inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for the nation as a whole. Canada's economy can be strengthened immensely by employing more women and by ensuring their entrance in vocational fields traditionally occupied only by men. That is why I am speaking to this issue today.
Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the board of directors of a parent crown corporation shall be such that the proportion of directors of each gender is not less than 30% the second year, 40% the fourth year, and 50% the sixth year. The legislation does stipulate that the numbers may vary when the board of directors consists of no more than eight members. In these instances, Bill C-473 proposes that the difference between the numbers of directors of each gender may be not greater than two.
Now, these are laudable objectives that I applaud but, prior to committing to support Bill C-473 at all legislative stages, I would like to have a few specific questions answered both here and for discussion at our committee.
First, are the gender breakdown numbers being cited in the legislative preamble accurate, and is there a reason for the current levels?
Second, what would the real world impact be upon business if mandatory quotas of this nature were established with the timelines suggested?
Third, what penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies?
I am a lifelong and strong advocate for gender equality, as are many in the House. However, I believe that the standing committee would be an appropriate venue for us to have a full discussion on the implications of Bill C-473, and I think the appropriate place for that is, of course, with the status of women.
I also have questions that the sponsor may be able to answer. On March 8, 2012, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-407. That legislation is nearly identical to Bill C-473, with one notable exception. Bill C-407 would have required that federally regulated boards be made up of at least 40% women. Bill C-473 is premised upon Bill C-407, but the new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% commencing in the sixth year following the coming into force of the section. I am not suggesting that the change is good or bad, but I would like to know why Bill C-407 and Bill C-473 have proposed different target percentages. I am quite sure that the mover of the bill will be able to explain that further at committee level so that we can have further debate on it at our committee.
There are also considerations on the business side of the equation.
Bill C-473 seeks to rapidly modify the environment in which crown corporations must function. As such, consideration must be given to ensure that both gender equality and corporate success can exist simultaneously under the proposed rules set out in this legislative package.
Perhaps we can all agree that Bill C-473 establishes a legal goal without speaking to the methodology necessary to attain that important goal. As it seems this portion of the discussion has been forgotten or omitted by the sponsor, the Liberals on this side of the House believe it is prudent to explore the issue at committee prior to determining amendments and voting intentions at report stage or third reading in the House of Commons.
This is not to say we will lend our support to Bill C-473. In fact, I am asking all members of the House to support it at second reading and to send it to the standing committee so we can explore all of the avenues.
Gender inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for Canada. I am hopeful that Bill C-473 is just one more step along that path. Hope is important because Canada has clearly been slipping as of late.
In October 2012, The Globe and Mail reported that when compared globally, Canada had fallen three spots and was no longer in the top 20 nations when it came to those making progress on equality issues. In fact, the World Economic Forum's annual gender gap ranked Canada in the 21st spot, behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua. When the study was first conducted in 2006, Canada was in the 14th place out of 115 countries. That was leadership.
Although Canada landed in the 12th spot regarding economic opportunity for women and girls, with high levels of income, labour market participation and professional workers, it must be noted that wage equality still lags behind international benchmarks.
On April 17, 1982, Canada emerged as a global leader in the fight for gender equality, but in the 31 years since our lustre has been somewhat tarnished. Today, as in 1982, there is much to be done to help Canadian women and girls and that work must begin in earnest.
I thank the sponsor of this bill and I look forward to working with all members of the House and with our status of women committee to thoroughly debate the pros and cons of Bill C-473 that is before us.
Financial Administration Act
March 8th, 2012 / 10:05 a.m.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-407, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (gender balanced representation).
Mr. Speaker, I would add my congratulations to all women on this International Women's Day.
Volunteerism is a wonderful thing in all of our communities but it does not promote the equality of women, which is the reason for my bill. It would require that federally regulated boards be made up of at least 40% women.
The reality is there is a growing body of research that shows that gender-diverse corporate boards are more effective, perform better, access the widest talent pool, are more responsive to the market and lead to better decision-making.
Because women are active participants in the democratic governing of the country, both as voters and as politicians, they should have balanced representation in the management of crown corporations.
According to a report from the United Nations on the status of women, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth.
The reality is that, despite our best efforts in regard to federal organizations, only 32.43% of those boards have women as active members despite the fact that women make up 47% of the workforce.
We have been criticized quite significantly by the United Nations in terms of CIDA because we have not promoted the equality of women. Many industrialized countries have enacted legislation to achieve gender parity. Countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Spain have passed a law requiring that women's representation on boards reach 40% within the next six years.
We have a lot of catching up to do and this bill aims to help Canada to move in a positive direction.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)