House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Publishing Industry
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Laval West
Québec

Liberal

Michel Dupuy Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I think it would be advisable for me to consult my colleagues before making a decision, and I shall be delighted to do so.

Hyundai Motor Company
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the finance minister.

The federal government and the provincial government of Quebec have paid $46.4 million in government grants to Hyundai motor company to assemble cars in Bromont, Quebec. I understand the finance minister plans to spend another $32 million on this project in the name of job creation.

When is the finance minister and his government going to learn that regional development programs do not work, that injecting cash into the private sector distorts the marketplace and that these dollars ultimately dig our debt hole deeper? When will the finance minister learn something and stop wasting taxpayers' dollars on direct grants and subsidies to businesses?

Hyundai Motor Company
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development -Quebec

Mr. Speaker, as has already been announced in this House, the respective ministers responsible for the development agencies, namely the minister responsible for ACOA, the minister responsible for western diversification and the minister responsible for FORD-Q, have all said the way in which regional development policies have been carried out in the past are certainly ineffective and really not in accordance with the needs of a modern economy.

As a result, all three ministers have said they are reviewing and in fact have either imposed or brought in substantial changes in the way government interacts with the economy.

Our position has been very clear on that and we are in the process of doing it. In fact a great deal of that is manifested in the budget and will be manifested in subsequent budgets to come.

In terms of the particular incident the member raises, first of all this agreement was signed prior to our taking office. It was also within the context of a larger overall agreement between Quebec and the federal government, as has been signed with many other governments. While there are numerous problems with that, we are going-

Hyundai Motor Company
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Order. The questions and the answers should be shorter. The hon. member for Calgary Centre for one final question.

Hyundai Motor Company
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Reform

Jim Silye Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, has the finance minister and his government even asked why Hyundai closed its doors and why this project did not work, before pumping another $32 billion of good taxpayers' money after bad? Does he know the answer?

Hyundai Motor Company
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

LaSalle—Émard
Québec

Liberal

Paul Martin Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec

Just to show you that I have learned my lesson, Mr. Speaker, yes we have asked those questions.

Hyundai Motor Company
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, on two different occasions today I intervened in questions. I simply want to inform the House why.

When we have questions with regard to committees or chairman of committees, the ministers who would ordinarily be involved with those committees are not responsible for those committees. That is why I intervened on the two questions.

It being 12 o'clock, we will now proceed to the routine business of the day.

Public Service Employment Equity
Routine Proceedings

11:55 a.m.

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to subsection 2.4 of section 11 of the Financial Administration Act I am pleased to table, in both official languages, the first ever annual report of the President of the Treasury Board on the state of employment equity in the public service. This deals with the fiscal year 1992-93.

Ways And Means
Routine Proceedings

March 25th, 1994 / noon

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table explanatory notes and a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act, and I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Public Service
Routine Proceedings

Noon

York Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Art Eggleton President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for Infrastructure

Mr. Speaker, the first annual report on employment equity in the public service which I just tabled is a requirement of the Financial

Administration Act as a result of amendments that were passed in December 1992 as part of the Public Service Reform Act.

I would like to remind hon. members of the important role-those who were of course in the last House will recognize this-that my parliamentary secretary, the hon. member for Ottawa West, played in ensuring that this report would be tabled in the House.

Indeed, when the act was in committee she introduced an amendment that the government of the day accepted and that became the section on employment equity in the Financial Administration Act.

In speaking in the committee the hon. member for Ottawa West said that the amendment represented a renewed commitment to some very positive action to ensure that people in the four designated groups are no longer denied opportunities to be whatever they are capable of being in the public service of this country.

To return to the annual report that I have tabled, I should note that the Treasury Board has been publishing employment equity data since 1988.

These information packages which were made available to the public, although not tabled in this Parliament, have provided useful information on the state of employment equity in the public service.

However, they did not show the range of positive initiatives and activities that the Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission together with departments had been taking to advance the goals of employment equity programs.

The annual report that I have just tabled tries to fill that gap. As the act states, the purpose of employment equity programs and policies in the public service is to improve employment and career opportunities for four designated groups. They are women, particularly women in non-traditional and executive positions, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and, finally, persons who because of their race or colour are in a visible minority.

How are we to achieve this result: By eliminating employment barriers against persons in designated groups; by introducing and supporting, as the legislation requires, positive policies and practices; and by trying to ensure that persons in designated groups are represented in the public service in proportion to their representation in the workforce of this country and of the particular communities they serve in. However, focusing on the number of designated group members in the public service is not enough. Public service managers and employees must value diversity and must show it consistently through their actions.

At this time I want to reiterate the government's commitment to employment equity and specifically its commitment to employment equity in the public service. It was in the red book, we made that point and we stick by it.

The numerical goal of employment equity may be more difficult to achieve in times when the public service has stopped growing. However, let me assure hon. members that the employment equity program is a high priority of this government and that we will do everything possible to ensure that its goals are met.

For example, just three months ago, we made a lot of changes to the Special Measures Program that was put in place by a Liberal government in 1983.

The report does not provide details of these revisions because it covers the period April 1, 1992 to March 31, 1993 which is before we came into office. However, I would like to inform the House that the Treasury Board has approved funding for a restructured special measures initiative program which will provide for pilot projects co-funded with departments that help increase our employment equity opportunities.

One of these initiatives aims to improve, for example, employment opportunities for persons with disabilities in the public service.

As of April 1, 1994, I am pleased to announce that a special fund of $500,000 will be created to assist employees with disabilities. This is replacing a program that was a mere $40,000 I might add. This assistance includes attendant care, modifications to computer equipment, materials and alternative formats and special telephone equipment.

Second, retention of aboriginal employees is of concern to the government. The Treasury Board is developing a guide for managers to help them create a work environment that will encourage aboriginal employees to join and to remain in the public service.

Furthermore, an executive development program for persons in a visible minority is being extended. Of course the recruitment program for visible minorities is also being continued.

The progress of women in the public service has been steady and we shall be putting more emphasis on the development of opportunities for women in the public service.

Courses on cultural awareness and diversity in the workforce are widely available to both public service managers and employees who are encouraged to take such training. It is important to set the right atmosphere in our public service and that kind of program helps a great deal.

Finally, the Financial Administration Act requires the Treasury Board to prepare annual employment equity plans. All departments and agencies are required to have employment equity plans ready by this coming April 1, 1994. Anyone interested may obtain copies of the plans from departments and agencies.

I also invite members of this House to make suggestions on how, since this is our first report, we might improve the annual report on employment equity.

Public Service
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want thank the hon. minister for tabling his report, although we have been waiting for it since June 30, 1992, in accordance with the Public Service Reform Act.

This document highlights, among other things, the representation profile of designated groups in the public service. It also provides the evolution of this profile from December 1988 to March 1993. It shows that, during those five years, female representation in the public service only increased by 3.2 per cent; aboriginal groups by 0.3 per cent; handicapped people by 0.4 per cent; and visible minorities by 0.9 per cent. In other words, the representation of designated groups barely changed over the last five years.

In its red book, the Liberal government stated its intention of doing something for these designated groups. Yet, the Employment Equity Act still does not apply to the public service, nor to federal commissions or agencies. What did the government do in the light of these findings and policy statements?

Today, the government announced pilot projects for the restructuring of special measures programs. It announced the creation of a special $500,000 fund for handicapped people which, divided by ten provinces, barely represents $50,000 for each province. There is certainly nothing extraordinary about this initiative.

The government also announced a development program for visible minorities which, for all intent and purposes, was already in place. Consequently, this is merely a measure ensuring the status quo . In the case of women, whose representation only increased by 3 per cent over the last five years, which means barely 0.6 per cent per year, the government announced development initiatives for administrative support positions.

There seems to be a significant gap between the government's avowed intentions, or at least its stated intentions, and the measures actually taken to correct the situation. Just to give you an idea of how inconsistent the government is, on the one hand it announces measures which will have a very limited effect while, on the other hand, it is going to court to challenge representations made by the Public Service Alliance of Canada in favour of pay equity. Moreover, the government tabled Bill C-17, which freezes salaries in the public service, prevents a reform of salary scales, blocks a reform of job classification, and also delays wage parity and prevents it for the time being.

What will be the real impact of Bill C-17 on the reclassification of groups of employees? What concrete measures is the government taking to ensure that the salary freeze will not jeopardize negotiations on wage parity? There is a gap between the government's stated intentions, the low-impact measures it advocates, and the real problem of pay equity in the public service. That gap has not been closed and nothing leads us to believe that it will be closed in the coming weeks or years.

I will conclude by saying that the tabling of this report highlights the obvious contradictions between the government's real intentions and the weak measures it is taking to correct the situation. The government would be well advised to state its real intentions quickly, so that those affected can have some hope and confidence. After all, some have been waiting since the 1980s to improve their plight, and they have to have some hope that things will finally improve.

Public Service
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, this employment equity in the public service targets four designated groups: women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and visible minorities. It covers people in the federal public service and other sectors under the public influence such as banks of federal charter and certain businesses that do business with the government.

In so far as the employment equity in the public service has as its primary goals, one, the removal of barriers to employment and, second, to encourage and support those in the designated groups to apply for advancement, then we endorse these activities and we applaud the public service for taking a leadership role.

However, we would caution that it is one thing to remove barriers to provide encouragement and quite another to promote or hire because of ethnic or gender considerations. I would caution the public service not to practise reverse discrimination.

As to persons with disabilities, the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons tabled a report last year. That report clearly indicates that a primary barrier to employment of persons with disabilities is a catch-22 situation. That is when persons with disabilities get a job and gain income from employment they do so very often at the expense of the very benefits they have been receiving that allowed them to get the job in the first place.

This is an area that we already know the answer to which is one of taxation. The standing committee brought the report forward and it should be reviewed by the employment equity people.

Our position is that emphasis must be on individual achievement. Employers must treat people as individuals in all aspects of recruitment, training, hiring and promotion. The emphasis must be on the individual's experience, ability and performance. Putting the emphasis on individuals will ensure that women, racial minorities, aboriginals and the disabled are not held back by stereotypes or other discrimination.

Finally, there may well be those in the identified groups who need a helping hand and they should be encouraged. It is quite right that the public service would have this body to do just that, to encourage and to ensure that barriers do not exist.

However we should recognize that the vast majority of women, visible minorities, aboriginals and the disabled would resent being categorized as somehow disadvantaged and unable to compete on their own merit. That is something that needs to be understood, that many people have made tremendous strides in their achievements. They have done so and will continue to do so on their own merit, not because they have benefited by some special program.

We are, all of us, human beings with the same strengths, weaknesses, hopes and dreams as everyone else regardless of our defining characteristics.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands
Ontario

Liberal

Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 13th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Your committee has considered Bill C-18, an act to suspend the operation of the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act and has agreed to report it without amendment.

I also have the honour to present the 14th report of the said committee on the membership of the various standing committees.

If the House gives its consent, I intend to move concurrence in the 14th report later this day and I would ask for the consent of the House to dispense with the reading of the report.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent among the members to dispense with the reading of the report?

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.