Debates of March 7th, 1997
House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.
- Question Period
- Quebec Games
- Kap'Yong Hill
- Nuclear Weapons
- International Women's Day
- York North Town Hall
- Status Of Women In Rwanda
- Canada Pension Plan
- Disabled Persons
- Montreal Economy
- International Women's Day
- The Late Dr. Cheddi Jagan
- McMaster University
- International Women's Day
- Status Of Women
- Hospital Closures
- Breast Cancer
- Health Care
- Pay Equity
- Senatorial Selection
- Correctional Service Of Canada
- Pay Equity
- Regional Development Banks
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Business Of The House
- Unified Family Court
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
That this House condemn the federal government's lack of political will in refusing to take positive action in its areas of jurisdiction to promote economic equality between women and men and cutting transfer payments to the provinces by $4.5 billion, including $1.3 billion to Quebec between 1996 and 1998; and
That, moreover, this House remind the government of the formal commitment it made on March 8, 1994, to take specific measures to improve the socio-economic status of women.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Laval East, each of us using 10 minutes. It is indeed a great pleasure for me to speak today on this motion. I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about my vision of International Women's Day.
Many hold the-in my opinion unfounded-belief that celebrating March 8 is unnecessary. Why a special day for women? I must say right off that this day is intended as a day of reflection. It is an opportunity for women of all backgrounds, walks of life and faiths to take stock and see not only how far we have come, but also how long a way we still have to go. This is both a day of celebration and a day for taking charge aimed at examining and improving the social, economic and professional status of women worldwide.
Think that, not so long ago, women did not have the right to vote in Canada. But today, a number of us hold elected office at various levels of government. This is a step in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go.
International Women's Day has its origins in women's demands for decent working conditions. The new realities of the labour market, which are becoming the lot of a growing number of women, are best described by the words insecurity, instability, short term contracts and underpaid work.
The social safety net that had ensured, so far, that women in both Quebec and Canada could keep their heads above water is under direct attack by the federal government, which, under the guise of restructuring, is in fact using social program funding to reduce its deficit. Thus, the government is the primary cause of increased poverty among women and children in Canada because, instead of closing tax loopholes, as requested time and time again in this House by the Bloc Quebecois over the past three years, the government chose to drastically reduce transfer payments to the provinces, restrict UI eligibility and cut benefits, not to mention downsizing, as it just did at Canada Post, by laying off an unprecedented number of employees, the majority of whom were women.
I would like to quote a few statistics on women, poverty and employment. It is very important to acknowledge these statistics today, as this may be an annual review we are doing here. In 1994, 70 per cent of all Canadians living in poverty were women or children; out of 4.8 million poor people, there were 2 million women and 1.3 million children. That is a lot of people. There are now 1.5 million children living in poverty, 200,000 more than when the Liberals took office. That is a clear setback.
Of all the industrialized countries, Canada is the one where the proportion of women in low paying jobs is the highest, at 34.3 per cent, with the exception of Japan, which has a rate of 37.2 per cent.
Let us look at more figures. Only 20 per cent of women have a full time job, throughout the year, for which they earn more than $30,000 per year, compared to 40 per cent of men.
The vast majority of part time jobs are held by women. In 1994, 69 per cent of all part time workers in Canada were women, a figure that has not varied much over the last two decades.
Again in 1994, 1.6 million women, or 26 per cent of those who had a job, were part time workers, compared to only 9 per cent of
men holding a job. Moreover, an increasing number of women are working part time because they cannot find a full time job.
In 1994, over 500,000 women, that is 34 per cent of all women working part time, said they would like to have a full time job. The unemployment rate among certain groups of women is higher than the national average. For young women under 24 years of age, that rate stands at 15.6 per cent.
Here are more figures. The majority of working women hold jobs that have traditionally been women's occupations. In 1994,60 per cent of all working women were teachers, nurses, or had a similar job in the health sector, were office workers, or were in sales and services. By comparison, 31 per cent of the working men had jobs in these areas.
Statistics show that 57.3 per cent of single mothers with children under 18 are poor. Regardless of women's level of education, their earnings are lower than those of men. Even female university graduates working full time throughout the year only earned 75 per cent of what their male counterparts made in 1993.
These statistics show that women are not moving forward, they are losing ground. Women are getting poorer year after year. Moreover, the number of jobs for women is decreasing. We also have to realize that, given the number of divorces and separations, there are more and more single mothers. These women find themselves in charge of a family, but without a job. Sure, they get support payments, but these are never enough to provide children with all they need for education, health, etc.
We are therefore in the process of taking a net step backwards. It is unacceptable when we realize that today in 1997 after all the progress women have made, all the work done by women's groups, all the work done by unions, by all the groups working to advance the cause of women and develop job markets for women that, today in 1997, we are losing ground.
At this point, I would like to remind you of the promises the Liberals made in the red book, and I will tell you what they were.
The Liberals gave us universal health care, unemployment insurance, old age benefits, the guaranteed income supplement, the Canada Pension Plan, the Canada Assistance Plan, the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The failure of the economic and social policies of the Conservatives is obvious: there are 1.6 million unemployed; 4.2 million Canadians, including 1.2 million children, live in poverty; 62 per cent of single mothers live under the poverty line, and their incomes are slipping.
Since 1984, the Conservatives have systematically chipped away at the social safety net built up over the years.
They have cut health care, and assistance to children, seniors and the unemployed by billions of dollars. They have encouraged the development of a two tier society that separates the rich and the poor, those with education and those without, with middle classes gradually disappearing. Most Canadians do not want this kind of country.
It is well known that not nearly enough money is being spent on research into breast cancer, which affects one woman out of nine. Many single mothers would like to find work but, for lack of quality day care, must settle for welfare. They must rely on meagre welfare payments, food banks and inadequate housing. They cannot receive training or find jobs that would make them financially independent. If we look at the cuts made by the federal government in social housing alone, it is truly shocking.
In conclusion, for I see I have used up all my time, I would like to mark this day. I would like to pay tribute to all the parliamentary women who are working today and who, I hope, will see, today, tomorrow and Sunday, in their various regions and fields of activity what remains to be done to advance the cause of women.
Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for kicking off debate on this issue. I think it is a very important issue and there are some dimensions that I hope the member and other colleagues will raise in the debate because it is not just men and women and how they live in our country separately. The issue for me is how the family survives, men and women together raising children. Society as we know it would cease to exist without the family and without those children.
A report from the Vanier Institute on the Family stated that there is one divorce for every two marriages in Canada, according to the latest statistics; a 50 per cent divorce rate in Canada.
In addition, the member would know that 23 per cent of all families in Canada are lone parent families. I want to make sure the member hears this; lone parent families, not single mother families. That 23 per cent of lone parent families account for 46 per cent to 53 per cent, depending on the research, of children living in poverty.
In my view, a significant portion of the member's argument has ignored the fact that the crisis of the family in Canada, particularly the breakdown of the traditional nuclear family, has been a major contributor to the poverty of women in Canada. Half the marriages break down and the vast majority of arrangements give custody of children to the women and in any family breakdown if both
parents' income stays the same that is going to result in poverty for no other reason other than there is a second residence and second living costs.
Does the member not believe that the crisis of the family in Canada, the breakdown of the family, is a major consideration in terms of dealing with the issue of economic independence of women?
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, if I understood the Liberal member properly, he was telling me that women are to blame for divorce. Divorce is very common these days, and women and children are the ones who pay the price when there is a divorce.
Who looks after the children? The women who become single parents. They often do not even have any support payments because the husbands disappear into the woodwork and they cannot manage to get any help from them in raising their children. I am not saying that everyone is in the same boat here, but there are many women who are forced to clothe and feed their children, finance their educations, help them get as far ahead in the world as possible. We see this every day in our ridings. And if there are divorces, this is a choice. A divorce is a choice made by a couple to live apart. People cannot be forced to live together.
I have already spoken to my hon. colleague on this, because I was so angry at this idea of wanting to force people to stay together for the sake of the children. Children would not be any happier living with parents who detest each other, who would happily tear each other's eyes out, than living in a divorced family. It is far healthier for them to grow up with parents who, although divorced, are rebuilding their lives and see eye to eye about their education, their diet, their health and so on. Women's situation is, therefore, precarious. We need to open our eyes.
I referred to social housing. The federal government has completely cut funding to social housing. Today, social housing is being cut back more and more, and the problem is being dumped onto the provinces. Today, we find women living in run-down and poorly heated housing. Is this any good for their health and the health of their children? Really, Mr. Speaker.
Something has to be done somewhere, then. This government is responsible for some of the actions that have been taken in the past three and a half years, and today is the ideal time, perhaps, to wake up to reality and to make the necessary changes.
Maud Debien Laval East, QC
Madam Speaker, International Women's Day is celebrated annually in many ways. For women, it is a time to consider what they have achieved, which has been significant over the years, especially thanks to the battles they have fought.
It is also a time to consider what remains to be done, and in this respect, the figures show that although women in our country now have equal rights, they still have a long way to go in terms of equal opportunities.
Earlier, the hon. member for Laurentides mentioned a few statistics that were self-explanatory, and I think they bear repeating again and again. I am referring to the fact the battle is not won, that women are still poorer than men and more vulnerable when the economy falters, and that governments are letting this situation continue.
These issues were again in the news this week when the Canada Labour Congress released a study that concluded that women's equality is a myth. According to the study released on Wednesday, only 20 per cent of Canadian and Quebec women have a full-time, steady job which pays about $30,000 annually, compared with40 per cent of the men. Of all industrialized countries in the OECD, Canada, after Japan, has the highest percentage of women in low paying jobs. Women have less than 20 per cent of the highest paying jobs and more than 70 per cent of the lowest paying jobs.
The unemployment rate is incredibly high among many groups of women. Among young women under 24, it is 15.6 per cent. Among women who are members of a visible minority, 13.4 per cent. Among native women, 17.7 per cent. And among women with a disability, 16.6 per cent.
In less than 20 years, the number of part-time female workers has increased 200 per cent. During this period, women represented 70 per cent of the part-time labour force. More than one third of the women employed in part-time jobs would prefer to work full-time but can only find part-time employment. That is one of the reasons why they are severely penalized by employment insurance reform. So, one job out of ten is now temporary.
The myth of women's equality is everywhere. Although women's demands for wage equity have a long history, there is still more talk than action in this respect. There is still a 26 per cent gap between the wages of a man and those of a woman, both working full-time.
On her latest income tax return, Mrs. X will report an average income of $29,700 and Mr. X a salary of $40,600. Even with a college or university degree, women earning a good salary are on average paid 10 per cent less than their male counterparts.
Women make up half the population, have the same democratic rights as men, and their contribution to political, social and economic life in Canada and Quebec is a recognized fact. However, although many women are actively involved in our society and are highly qualified, they are still under-represented in executive positions. This low representation of women in positions of authority may not only prevent a real understanding of the
problems that specifically affect women in Quebec and Canada but it also deprives the institutions that wield this authority of a range of views and experience that would be a real asset to the way they conduct their business.
Women may have succeeded in opening the doors to the corridors of power, but to achieve any kind of recognition, they must struggle to adjust to a political and organizational culture that evolved at a time when women were excluded. Furthermore, they must often be far more resourceful than their male colleagues to reconcile the various aspects of their lives.
Economic equity is the key, in a society that calls itself egalitarian. Today's employment market for women is characterized by insecurity, instability, short term contracts and underpaid jobs.
The social safety net that in the past helped Canadian and Quebec women manage, as my colleague for Laurentides mentioned, is now being sabotaged by the federal government on the excuse of eliminating the deficit. And the effect is greater poverty among women and children. We must not forget that one child in five in Canada lives in poverty.
By choosing to reduce transfer payments to the provinces, by limiting access to unemployment insurance and lowering its benefits, the federal government is the one responsible for the unravelling of the social safety net.
It was, however, the Liberal government that established the Canada assistance plan and made the commitment with the provinces at the time to cover the costs of health care, social assistance and higher education. It was the same Liberal government that broke all its election promises to not touch social programs-and this is verbatim from the red book-and decided to use the money set aside for social programs to reduce the deficit.
Thus, between 1996 and 1998, the federal government will take $4.5 billion away from the provinces, including $1.3 billion from Quebec. During this time, the insecurity of the job market and the cuts to unemployment insurance will increase the welfare load of the provinces. In 1995, Quebec had a record number of households on the welfare rolls.
When now, more than ever, women need income assistance between two jobs, the federal government is tightening its unemployment insurance eligibility criteria, thus making it less accessible to part time women workers.
In the past, 300 hours worked entitled an individual to benefits. Now the figure is 910. The Council on the Status of Women pointed out that it is reasonable to assume that the first hour worked will not, in many cases, improve access to the plan.
Women will be paying into a plan they may never benefit from. Moreover, while the government is tightening criteria and shortening the benefit period, it is building up surpluses in the unemployment insurance fund that might reach a record $12 billion by 1998. We are told that these surpluses will be used to artificially lower the deficit instead of creating jobs.
I would also like to say a couple of words about the Employment Equity Act passed in 1977 by this Parliament. The Liberal and Conservative governments in power since it was enacted have done everything in their power to stall its implementation. Despite the fact that the Employment Equity Act has been in force since 1977, some 80,000 civil servants, mostly women, have been waiting for Treasury Board to act on this problem.
We could also mention the broken promise to create 150,000 day care places, the dismantling of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the cuts to funding for women's groups. Instead of helping the women and children in this country, the heritage minister is trying to make us believe that the Canadian flag can turn into pizzas in Canadian elementary schools. Whether we are Canadians or Quebecers, I do not believe that a flag is a good substitute for milk, fruit and vegetables.
To conclude, I would like to salute all the women in the riding of Laval East and the women's groups who are striving, with what little resources they have, to improve living conditions for women in Laval.
Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to commend the member for Laval East for her speech which was, as always, well documented, clear and soberly delivered.
Even if tomorrow is International Women's Day, it is appropriate for some men to rise in this House to voice their support for the women's movement, for improved living conditions for women and for some aspects of this movement, this progression toward greater economic autonomy, equality and equity.
For two years now, the efforts made in Quebec, under the stewardship of the Fédération des femmes du Québec, which coordinated the two Bread and Roses marches, have increased Quebecers' awareness of the plight of many women among them.
Unfortunately, the tight economic situation and, as the member for Laval East reminded us, the non-application of legislation on employment equity in the public service, added to all the cuts that were made, created a situation where some women will have to wait longer than they normally should before they can enjoy equity.
Among the measures which could improve the status of women, one is a greater presence in politics. I do not want to annoy my colleague from Laval East, but I would like her to tell us if she
agrees that more women in politics would be a solution, if stressing the importance of women's involvement in politics would improve things.
Maud Debien Laval East, QC
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his question. Would it make a difference if there were more women in politics, in power and in decision making circles? I think it would. As I said earlier, women make up 50 per cent of the population. Men and women complement each other. There is what is often called in Latin the animus and the anima . This is an old theory which, I think, was developed by Teilhard de Chardin during the course of his work.
So the animus and the anima complement each other. I do not want to turn this issue into a battle of the sexes, but I do think that the presence of women in politics must be considered from that perspective. Women bring with them 50 per cent of mankind's knowledge and experience. Their contribution is different from men's contribution, and this is why their presence in power and decision making circles is so important.
I would like to come back to an something my colleague from Mississauga-South talked about a while ago because I feel compelled to respond to his comments. He talked about family policy and he talked about the fight against poverty. That is the problem with this government as it was with its predecessor: they confuse a comprehensive and consistent family policy with a policy to fight poverty. These are two completely different things. I will use the child tax benefit proposed by the government as an example.
We know that the child tax benefit is part of a family policy. Right? Well, that is one thing. The government is using poverty as an excuse-
Must I conclude my remarks, Mr. Speaker? It is very unfortunate. I would have liked to talk at length about the distinction that must be made between family policy, which should be under provincial jurisdiction-and Quebec has already developed such a policy-and a policy to fight poverty.
Hedy Fry Secretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)
Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to the motion on women's economic autonomy that is currently before the House. I am pleased that my hon. colleague attaches such a high importance to the enhancement of women's economic autonomy, because there is still a great deal that we still must do. She is extremely right.
Let us remember where women have come from. Women only got the vote federally in 1918. In Quebec, women only got the vote in 1940. Aboriginal women have had the vote only since 1969. Women were only considered persons in 1929. We have a long way to go.
Some of the things that need to be done to ensure women taking their full place in society, economically, socially, politically and culturally are going to mean embarking on some very long term measures that will take time. Women have only just, in the later and middle part of this century, actually come into their own.
Women's economic security and independence affect every single aspect of women's lives. Why? Because women are made up of all the things that contribute to their lives. If we talk about women's economic autonomy, we have to talk about the impact that women's poverty and women's dependence have on violence against women.
We have to talk about the fact that 80 per cent of single parent families are headed by women. We need to talk about the diversity of women. We need to talk about the fact that many women face triple barriers, not just the barrier of their gender. Therefore, we cannot present a simplistic solution to women's economic autonomy. They must, necessarily, be comprehensive as they must cross every single segment of women's lives.
As Secretary of State for the Status of Women, I am very proud of what our government has done to promote women's economic independence and equality between the sexes in general in Canada. Although there is still a lot to do, we are determined to advance the cause of the equality of women.
Therefore, the government has taken an approach to women's equality that is multi-faceted and comprehensive. Its accomplishments are many and varied. In a little over three years it has moved forward on a wide range of issues of importance to women.
While the federal government moves to strengthen employment equity, certain provinces are moving to cancel employment equity measures. It has moved to deficit reduction because a stable Canadian economy gives the ability to assist and to move forward with good social strategies to assist women.
Firearms control, child support reform, Canada child tax benefit and job creation and growth are all things that must and will impact on women's economic autonomy. The government has moved on education and training, prenatal nutrition and women's health issues, because health is an economic resource. It has moved on youth employment because the young girl child will become the woman of tomorrow. Reproductive technologies, outlawing female genital mutilation, action on child poverty and more are all measures which the government has moved on.
All of these may seem unrelated but they have an impact on women's economic autonomy. The foundation of women's equality must be built on a composite of positive actions which touch on all aspects of their lives. One issue interacts with another. The actions of one government department impacts on another. Policies must be shaped, which is what the government is doing with a careful eye to their full implications for all Canadians, no matter whether they are women or men, young or old, rich or poor, recent immigrants or long time Canadians.
As Secretary of State for the Status of Women, I have focused my work therefore on three key priority areas: economic independence and autonomy for women, eliminating violence against women, and women's rights as human rights, with particular emphasis on the role of the disadvantaged.
We have moved first and foremost to secure the future of Canada's social programs, many of which are vital to the economic well-being of women. We know that women's incomes do not only depend on paid work, they depend on transfers from governments and transfers from individuals such as alimony and child support. They depend on the amount of unpaid work that women do. And they also depend on whether women have children or not.
There are fewer and fewer jobs for women which speaks to a discrimination that is rampant against women. That is why we have moved forward to deal with these issues with a short term and a very long term holistic strategy. The 73 cents that many women in full time jobs earn to the $1 that every man earns has to do with the fact that many women have children and that impacts on their ability to secure full time work.
What has the government done? In this budget it has strengthened literacy programs because women need to be assisted to become literate. In this budget access to training and work has been improved. Slowly an infrastructure has been built over the past three years.
Look at the EI system. Everyone has heard talk about the EI system. What has not been said is that over 270,000 women will have work insured for the very first time in their lives. The reinvestment of $800 million in employment benefits will help women to find jobs. Sixty-seven per cent of the people who receive family income are women. The average benefit for the single parent, given that 80 per cent of them are women, will be increased by 13 per cent.
Seven hundred thousand women, including 495,000 who pay premiums today are going to have their premiums refunded under the EI benefit. We do not hear about these things. We also do not hear about the fact that under the new EI benefit women will now have choices, especially when we consider that women with children have problems in the workforce. With the new EI benefit, women will be allowed to make a choice to stay at home and look after their children for up to five years and still have access under the employment insurance to go back to training.
Labour market support. Look at the Employment Equity Act which has targeted women as a very high group in terms at looking at employment equity for women.
The Canada student loans program, which gives grants to part time students, such as single women, will fund increased day care and tax credits to women in high school now. These things are all new. They may seem to be small things but when they are stacked one on top of the other, they become a holistic, long term, bit by bit infrastructure which can be built on to help women achieve economic autonomy.
Among our accomplishments, we might mention consolidation of the Employment Equity Act and a series of measures aimed at improving access to post-secondary education.
We have now improved the ability of women to go into post graduate programs, specifically in science and mathematics, because these are where the new sustainable long term jobs will come from in the next century.
These are some of the things we talk about. They are not grandiose gestures because centuries upon centuries of women's inequality cannot be fixed with one single move. It must be built with a strong, solid infrastructure.
This is why we have looked at the issue of unpaid work. For the first time in the history of the country there have been questions about unpaid work in the census forms. They will define exactly how much unpaid work women do in terms of nurturing and care giving. They will look at how that is factored into national accounts so we can realize that unpaid work supports the economic structures of the country.
We need to look at the child support programs. Many women who head single parent families do not have the ability to support their children properly. These children live in poverty. That is why scheduled to come into effect on May 1, 1997 will be the new child support payments act to ensure that women do not have to fight tooth and nail for every penny they receive to support their children. These children will finally get the support they need to help them get an education and to have the quality of life they need to become strong and secure adults.
There is practically no dispute that the federal government has put its fiscal house in order. That meant spending restraints. We could not exempt transfers from the spending restraints because transfers make up 20 per cent of all federal funding.
We have been a lot tougher on ourselves than we have been on the provinces. Between 1993-94 and 1998-99 Quebec's transfer entitlements will decrease by 10.9 per cent. During that same period the federal government transfers will be reduced by 15 per cent. The government of Quebec knows very well that the reduction of budgetary deficits imposes difficult choices. The Quebec government also knows it must bear its share of the effort.
Premier Bouchard made very clear that restraints involve tough choices when he said in the National Assembly on March 25, 1996: "To those who say not in my backyard I reply that there must be something in everyone's backyard".
Then there was Bernard Landry who told the National Assembly on December 9, 1996 that it must nevertheless be admitted there is a sense of responsibility that binds us to do our share to help get Canada out of a debt we helped create.
In the current fiscal year federal transfers to provinces for health, post secondary education and other social programs will be $26.9 billion. In addition, provinces like Quebec receive well over $8.5 billion in equalization payments. Quebec is getting federal transfers of approximately $11 billion a year or 31 per cent of all transfers. Where that province chooses to spend its money will depend on the goodwill of the province and its commitment to women. If it chooses to spend the money on women then it will. It is the provinces' choice as to what they cut and not ours.
For the provinces to be able to build some long term goals into their programs for the future of women and children, we have stabilized the transfers to a five-year program that in the last two years will see an increase. There will also be an $11 billion cash flow so the federal government can continue to keep a set of national standards to ensure that women have the social programs and the health care they need.
We talk about women's economic well-being and the health of women. We have set up five centres of excellence for women's health across the country to deal specifically with helping to form good policies to assist women to be healthy so they can contribute to the economic growth of the country.
This is what we mean when we talk about economic autonomy. We do not limit it to whether or not a women has a dollar in her pocket. Some of the things we have done in the last budget will assist about 1.4 million families to get more money in their pockets, and 2.5 million of them have children.
Women are the heads of households, the majority of whose children live in poverty. When we attach money to children who live in poverty we assist the well-being of women and their families. They are interdependent.
It is important when we are talk about women's equality, Women's International Day and Women's International Week, to remember those who say we do not need to have programs, that we do not need to look at women as disadvantaged group, or that many women like aboriginal women, lesbians, disabled women and women of colour continue to be triply and doubly disadvantaged. If we do not understand that then there are those of us in the House who are out of touch with the real lives of women, who do not understand that women are the poor, that women are among the most illiterate and that women are the ones who need access to good training programs.
As a Liberal government we realize it. We have specifically targeted women so that they have access to training and that because they have children they are able to find work within their homes, to be able to set up their own businesses. Since we have come into power women's enterprise centres have been targeting women, assisting them to get money to start their own businesses and assisting with work plans so their businesses can be successful. Over 46 per cent of new businesses are headed by women and they are the most successful businesses that have given women the choice to have economic independence.
When we speak about women's economic independence and about violence against women, we speak to women and their human rights. One of my colleague's across the way talked about women in politics. Women make up over 50 per cent of the population. If we do not understand that getting women into political structures where they can play a part in decision making is simple democracy then we do not understand democracy. If we do not have appropriate representation from over 50 per cent of our population in decision making we do not factor in the reality of how the country is structured or the reality of the gender differences that make up the country.
The Minister of Finance said that helping women to achieve their full potential was simply a matter of good common sense. If women make up over 50 per cent of the population they must have a key role to play in forming the important human resource development that is necessary. The Minister of Finance also said resources for the country in the 21st century would not lie in the ground on which we walk but would lie in the people who walk on it. Those people make up 50 per cent of our population. They are women. They are still disadvantaged. They are still not equal.
The government has dedicated itself to ensuring that a strong infrastructure for the long term development and enhancement of women's economic equality is starting. We started it. We will continue to build it. It will be strong. In the 21st century we can be assured that, with many of the initiatives we have taken, women will be well on their way to fulfilling their place in Canada.
Monique Guay Laurentides, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to see that the minister realizes that much remains to be done for women, politically, socially and economically.
But I would like to see, first of all, how much influence the minister has in cabinet. Her speech was very eloquent, very passionate, but is such a strong stand taken on the status of women, the issue of women and children, in cabinet meetings? What I would give to be a fly on the wall and see how much importance is given to these issues.
I have a question for the minister. She mentioned a number of initiatives she feels the federal government has taken to improve the economic situation of women and, therefore, of children.
Does she realize that, by totally eliminating transfer payments for social housing, making billions of dollars in cuts and cutting 10,000 jobs at Canada Post, the government is affecting a growing number of women, who end up on UI or welfare? Does she realize also that, by abolishing the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, the government has impeded the advancement of women?
I would like her to elaborate a bit on this, because what we on this side of the House are noticing is that this government is tearing the social safety net to shreds. Promises are made that are not kept, except for cuts, cuts, and more cuts. They keep cutting transfer payments.
She mentioned earlier that it was up to the provinces to decide where the money went, but let me tell you that, with no money coming in, it is almost impossible to make up for the shortfalls created by the federal government.
I would like her comments on this.
Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC
Mr. Speaker, I will address the first question about my influence as Secretary of State for the Status of Women in cabinet.
The issue of women's equality is too important to be left to personal influence. That is why the government has embarked on gender based analysis, a clear government tool to ensure that every policy, initiative and piece of legislation being considered by every federal department, institution, agency and crown corporation is looked at through the eyes of how it affects men and women.
That is how much importance the government has placed on women's equality. It is too important to be left up to the influence of one person. We have written it into a tool kit so that gender analysis is being done by every department on everything they do.
The second question concerned transfer payments. It is a bit ironic that the Bloc Quebecois should be raising this issue and opposing measures to bring Canada's fiscal stability into order as the government has done.
I would like to remind the members of the Bloc Quebecois of what the PQ government did in Quebec. The PQ has reduced financial assistance to the poor while at the same time cutting the social programs intended for these people. They have also cut transfer payments to the municipalities.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Milliken)
There will be questions and comments to the minister when we resume orders of the day later this day.
Statements By Members
Antoine Dubé Lévis, QC
Mr. Speaker, for the first time since the creation of the Quebec Games, in 1971, the provincial finals were organized by a RCM, that of the Chutes de la Chaudière, located in my riding.
Thanks to the joint efforts of eight municipalities, the 32nd Quebec Games are being held in the riding of Lévis this year. I take this opportunity to congratulate the 3,000 volunteers who made a success of these games, as well as the athletes from all over the province who are taking part in the competitions that will conclude this weekend.
However, I must also deplore the attempt made by the federal government to make political gains out of this event. Indeed, the government made its financial contribution conditional to the flooding of federal material promoting Canadian unity.
Again, congratulations to the organizers and athletes of the Quebec Games, but shame on the federal Liberals for associating the performances of young Quebec athletes with the promotion of the Canadian identity.
Statements By Members
Bill Gilmour Comox—Alberni, BC
Mr. Speaker, while the Prime Minister was on his last trade mission to Asia he took the liberty of renaming a local landmark in my riding. Our local landmark was known as Radar Hill. It has now been arbitrarily renamed to Kap'Yong Hill and my constituents are furious.
The Prime Minister did not even have the courtesy to review the issue with the local residents in Tofino and Ucluelet before he went ahead with his announcement.
Radar Hill was named for its prominence during World War II and has significant historical meaning to British Columbians. The national park staff along with many other organizations has recommended to the Prime Minister that he allow Radar Hill to keep its name and instead establish a memorial site on Radar Hill dedicated to Kap'Yong. This is a fair compromise arrived at and supported by local communities.
On behalf of my constituents in Comox-Alberni, I ask that the Prime Minister agree to this compromise, reinstate the name of our historical landmark and establish a memorial site on the hill instead.
Statements By Members
Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, there are over 30,000 nuclear weapons on earth posing a threat to the health and survival of humans and the global environment. It is for this reason that our government strategy has been a progressive effort to establish international norms and to lay the foundation for peace and nuclear disarmament.
Canada co-sponsored the resolution to reaffirm the UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and we were among the first to ratify and implement the chemical weapons convention.
A peace organization in my riding, Ploughshares Ottawa, has recognized the importance of working with the international community for nuclear disarmament, and its members would like to see the abolition of all nuclear weapons.
I commend groups like Ploughshares Ottawa and the Peace and Environment Resource Centre for their work in this area. I know that our government will continue to work to make the world a safe place to live in.
Statements By Members
Larry McCormick Hastings—Frontenac—Lennox And Addington, ON
Mr. Speaker, today millions of people across Canada and around the world are celebrating the World Day of Prayer. This year the women of South Korea have prepared the service which is being observed in over 170 countries around the world.
I am particularly honoured to share this information because I feel a personal bond with the people of Korea. Since coming to this House I have participated in the Canada-Korea Interparliamentary Friendship Group and was elected president.
I believe our links with Korea are very important. The hands of friendship that are extended across the ocean are peaceful. Peace has brought friendship, trust and respect. In this context trade is occurring, providing jobs and growth for both our countries.
Today Korean voices and the voices of people around the world are joining with my constituents and other Canadians in more than 3,500 communities from Newfoundland to Yukon. Prayers on the theme "like a seed which grows into a tree" will be offered.
Let us add our prayers with theirs. May crime and starvation be eradicated.
International Women's Day
Statements By Members
March 7th, 1997 / 11 a.m.
Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB
Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is International Women's Day, an occasion for the Liberal government to take note on the report on women's work released this week by the Canadian Labour Congress. It revealed the sobering statistic that Canada has the second worst record among industrialized countries for the percentage of women in low wage employment.
In exactly the same way we have seen with Canada's shameful record on child poverty, Canadians now have before them the evidence of the terrible social damage being inflicted on Canadian families by this Liberal government's economic policies.
The Liberal cuts have made the situation worse for women, as some 64 per cent of the public sector jobs lost have been women's jobs. Think of the thousands of well paid jobs lost by nurses and other health professionals in the latest round of health care cuts in Ontario, cuts jointly sponsored by Mike Harris and the Prime Minister.
The Liberals are fond of saying how they got the economic fundamentals rights. They dare not say this on International Women's Day.