House of Commons Hansard #236 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employment.

Topics

Oceans Act
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11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Oceans Act
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11:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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11:05 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45(5)( a ), the recorded division on the question now before the House stands deferred until 5 p.m., this day, at which time the bells to call in the members will be sounded for not more than 15 minutes.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity, as reported by the Standing Committee on Human Rights and the Status of Disabled Persons with amendments.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

October 3rd, 1995 / 11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

There are 17 motions in amendment in the Notice Paper concerning the report stage of Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity.

Motions Nos. 2 and 12 are the same as the amendments presented and negatived in committee. Accordingly, pursuant to Standing Order 76(5), they have not been selected.

Motion No. 3 cannot be considered today pursuant to Standing Order 76(2).

Motions Nos. 1, 6, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16 and 17 will be grouped for debate. A vote on Motion No. 1 applies to all the others.

Motion No. 4 will be debated and voted on separately.

Motion No. 5 will be debated and voted on separately.

Motion No. 7 will be debated and voted on separately.

Motion No. 11 will be debated and voted on separately.

Motions Nos. 13 and 14 will be grouped for debate and voted on as follows: an affirmative vote on Motion No. 13 obviates the necessity for the question being put on Motion No. 14. However, a negative vote on Motion No. 13 necessitates the question being put on Motion No. 14.

I shall now propose the motions in Group No. 1 to the House.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Ian McClelland Edmonton Southwest, AB

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-64, in Clause 3, be amended by deleting lines 33 to 44, on page 2 and lines 1 to 6, on page 3.

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 18.

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 19.

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 20.

Motion No. 15

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 38.

Motion No. 16

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 39.

Motion No. 17

That Bill C-64 be amended by deleting Clause 40.

Madam Speaker, for the benefit of members present who may not be entirely familiar with this bill and for the benefit of those thousands of Canadians earnestly watching this on television wondering what on earth this is all about, we are talking about the affirmative action bill of this Parliament. It is officially entitled employment equity.

What this bill purports to do is primarily to the public service, but any private companies of 100 employees or more doing business with the federal government are going to be going through substantially more hoops than they have in the past in meeting quotas for employment.

The amendments the Speaker has mentioned all have to do with three separate and distinct criteria. They are to remove the effects of this bill from application to the private sector.

If it is the Liberal government's intent to foist employment equity or affirmative action on the operations of the Government of Canada there is little the opposition can do because the government is going to do what it wants to do. However this should be carefully considered as it applies to the private sector. Private sector employers have enough trouble these days without adding one more hurdle for them to overcome.

I would also point out that the private sector by and large is light years ahead of the government in its relationship with minority groups. Much of what is done by the private sector is done in enlightened self-interest. There is nothing wrong with enlightened self-interest. A company will hire from those available the very best people it can get. They should not be acquired by a quota system, no matter how that quota system is comfortably or carefully disguised as employment equity. It is still affirmative action. It is still reverse discrimination. It still purports to set out that people are able to get jobs, advancement or opportunities based on human characteristics rather than merit.

The other amendments I have proposed that we will be discussing, and we would ask the government to consider carefully, are that the sole criteria for advancement or employment be merit. It should be understood that although there are items in the bill that purport to say that merit has not been taken out, we think it would be improved if we were to explicitly say that yes, the Government of Canada understands and appreciates and affirms that merit will be the sole criteria on which people will be hired, on which people will be promoted and any distinction within the employment will be based solely on merit.

The Speaker mentioned quite a number of amendments. Most of those amendments are consequential amendments that have to do with making sure that if there is an amendment, for example, to clause 3(2)(i) that those amendments follow through. Most of them really do not have any consequence. We are talking about just three major philosophical ideas in all of these amendments.

The third is that there is quite a convoluted procedure whereby people must identify themselves to the responsible officer to make sure that the employment equity or affirmative action targets or quotas are met. The person from the government comes in and says: "Hi, I am from the government. I am here to help you", snicker, snicker. The person comes in and says: "I am from the government, I am your employment equity or affirmative action officer and I am checking to see if you are in compliance".

Suppose this person goes into a room and everybody working in the room is black. There are 20 people working in the room. The person from the government looks at a piece of paper and notes that everyone has identified themselves as Canadians. They have not said that they are black; they have not said that they are yellow, white or green or whatever colour they might be. They have said: "We are Canadians". Technically they would not be in compliance.

This gives the compliance officer the chance to use some common sense and say: "Wait a minute, these people are definitely in compliance with the spirit of the law, if not with the letter of the law". It gives the compliance officer a little bit of flexibility.

These are the three major thrusts of the amendments we would ask the House to carefully consider before automatically saying: "We are not going to consider any of these amendments".

That concludes my short remarks on Bill C-64 at this time. We will have a lot more to say on this subject when it is debated at third reading.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

11:15 a.m.

York North
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Madam Speaker, I am often shocked by the simple analysis of how our society works and sometimes does not work for the people.

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank you for this chance to demonstrate the merits of the Liberal approach to employment equity and to expose the destructive nature of the proposed amendment.

The effect of Motion No. 1 would be to exclude the private sector altogether from the act. This would be tantamount to repealing the existing Employment Equity Act. It is not acceptable to the government.

The motion begs a very important question because it speaks to the type of work that members of Parliament do in committees and whether they are or are not listening to what people have to say.

Did hon. members opposite hear what the business community had to say about employment equity during the hearings of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development? Perhaps I can use this occasion to refresh their memories. The strongest proponents of the legislation were also those organizations representing some of Canada's largest employers, including the Canadian Bankers Association, the Canadian Association of Broadcasters and Canadian National.

Banks alone employ nearly one-third of all federally regulated private sector employees. W.J. Lomax of the Canadian Bankers Association, like many others who testified, stated at the hearings that employment equity "has stimulated fundamental reviews and enhancements in the bank's human resources policies and practices which have benefited everyone. It has helped us lay the foundation for managing an increasingly diverse workforce, something every employer of choice in the 1990s wants to do well".

The friends of business are speaking out against business. I have heard hon. members across the way offer their curious understanding of life in the Canadian workplace and employment equity. Here we have a party that tells the world that it is in favour of equality. It claims it is in favour of hiring on merit. It tells us to seed opportunity for all and yet attacks a piece of legislation that has helped employers clear away impediments for all Canadians.

I am going to take this opportunity to dispel some of the myths the Reform Party has been stating. The first speaker on its behalf said certain things that are not quite accurate. What does the bill not do? The bill specifically states that it does not require employers to hire unqualified people. That is what the bill says.

It also says that it does not require the federal public service to set aside merit principles. That is what this bill says. It exempts employers with less than 100 employees. The hon. member should listen to this: It does not create a rigid quota system and it makes clear this program must never cause undue hardship on an employer.

Employment Equity Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Reform

Randy White Fraser Valley West, BC

That's Liberal arrogance.

Employment Equity Act
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11:20 a.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Very Orwellian.

Employment Equity Act
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11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua York North, ON

Madam Speaker, I hear some heckling on the other side. Obviously the Reform Party has a great deal of difficulty dealing with the facts when they are presented as clearly and concisely as they have been this morning.

Canadians understand. The Reform Party couches its intentions in elegant language but the people of Canada, the visible minorities, the average Canadian, young people understand what the Reform Party is all about. Its members may think they are pulling the wool over people's eyes. However, the fact is that everyone is waking up to the reality and the type of mean spirited outlook the Reform Party day in and day out demonstrates in the House.

Madam Speaker, let me continue to enlighten the members opposite on the key issues of why employment equity builds a fairer and more just society for everyone. The Reform Party's position implies that people from designated groups choose greater unemployment, they choose lower wages, they look for more uncertainty as employees. They invite it. That is what visible minorities, aboriginal Canadians and women want. They want to make less than everybody else. That is what the Reform Party would like Canadians to believe.

Canadians are more reasonable. They understand that employment equity is not about favouring one group. It is the realization that in our society there is something called systemic discrimination, that people sometimes have to overcome insurmountable barriers to find work and move ahead.

The thoughts I have expressed today arise from rational discussion in every single part of the country. When people look at the statistics and at the fact that women make less than men in comparable positions and that aboriginals are being shut out of employment opportunities, they tell the government that employment equity makes sense.

Employment Equity Act
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11:25 a.m.

Reform

Herb Grubel Capilano—Howe Sound, BC

Indian affairs is doing it.

Employment Equity Act
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11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua York North, ON

I am somewhat surprised that the Reform Party would stoop this low-