House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agency.

Topics

Royal Canadian Mint Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois vote yea on this motion.

Royal Canadian Mint Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, NDP members present tonight vote no to this motion.

Royal Canadian Mint Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Progressive Conservative Party vote nay on this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 252
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed, from October 26, consideration of the motion; and of the amendment.

Supply
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to the order made on Thursday, March 12, 1998, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion and the amendment relating to the business of supply.

The question is on the amendment.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 253
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment negatived. The next question is on the main motion.

Division No. 253
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find consent to apply the results of the vote just taken to the main motion.

Division No. 253
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there agreement to proceed in such a fashion?

Division No. 253
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Division No. 254
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion negatived.

I want to congratulate one of our members, Michelle Dockrill, who not only had a baby but brought her son Kenzie to the House so we could meet him.

Division No. 254
Government Orders

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Merit Principle
Private Members' Business

October 27th, 1998 / 6:15 p.m.

Reform

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support the right of all job applicants to be evaluated solely on the basis of merit.

Madam Speaker, the motion before us today calls on the government to support the right of all job applicants to be evaluated solely on the basis of merit.

The subject matter of Motion No. 7 was debated in the House on May 2, 1996. It was not selected as a votable item at that time and it is unfortunate that Liberals on the committee decided not to give members an opportunity to vote for fairness in this parliament either.

This motion goes right to the heart of equality. It asks that all job applicants be evaluated solely on the basis of merit, which means how well they can do the job, how qualified they are to do the job.

I hearken back to a headline from a recent news release from the office of the Minister of Labour which stated the minister supports equal opportunity at employment equity council meeting. Great, I thought. This minister sees the need to treat people equally. According to the news release the main goal of this council is to work with all levels of government in removing barriers to employment of members of visible minorities.

I believe that is a goal to which we can all subscribe. Members of the Reform Party want to ensure that visible minorities have an equal opportunity to compete for jobs. What we object to are the quotas and segregation of visible minorities. Canadians who wish to pursue a particular career path should not be face barriers of discrimination and those with the ability and discipline deserve the rewards of their hard work.

If the Minister of Labour is truly concerned about equality he will introduce legislation in this House to repeal the 1996 Employment Equity Act. While the legislation does not specify quotas it establishes a mechanism whereby the inspectors, auditors and those administering the law can force companies to comply with numerical goals that are nothing more than quotas in disguise.

We know all too well that this government is always looking for ways to intrude into the activities of the provinces and the private sector. The Employment Equity Act enables the government to cast its net even farther, not only in those industries are under federal jurisdiction but in private, public and crown corporations. They are forced to comply but now the quota law extends to provincially regulated private sector businesses with more than 100 employees who undertake contract work for the Government of Canada valued at $200,000 or more.

To qualify for federal government contracts employers must sign a commitment to undertake the following four measures. First, they must conduct a workplace survey to determine its composition by race, sex and disability for each type of work in the organization. Second, they must also compare the results of the workplace survey with national and local averages based on the most recent census data. Third, if there is a significant discrepancy between the workplace representation and national or local averages in any of the 12 designated categories, they must determine why this discrepancy exists and develop measures to correct them. Fourth, they must establish goals and timetables for increasing the representation of the designated categories in the workplace.

This is just the sort of thing that business and industry do not need. They simply do not need more red tape, more government intervention and more expense added to the product they ultimately deliver in the workplace.

Starting last November auditors representing the Canadian Human Rights Commission began conducting proactive audits to determine compliance in those areas.

When we examine the complex set of goals demanded by the government we can see how easily the cost of compliance can escalate. Under the guise of fairness and equality this government increased its bureaucracy and added to the regulatory burden of the private sector.

How can we expect these companies to compete in today's fierce global marketplace when they are mired in red tape and paperwork? If businesses are forced to comply with this sort of thing it naturally adds to the cost of their product which consumers will pay for in higher product prices, whether it is the Government of Canada or whomever.

At a human resources development committee meeting last year the member for Mississauga East said that the additional costs to individual employers in her riding for outside consultants and accountants amounted to approximately $1,000 per employee. Instead of hiring workers to increase productivity, these companies are forced to hire consultants and accountants to fill out their government forms. This demonstrates how misguided enforced equity really is.

For some reason the government subscribes to the misguided theory that it can solve the problem by regulating. As a result, it ends up with a lot of regulations and no solutions. The firearms registry is a prime example of that. Instead of dealing with the misuse and criminal use of firearms by dealing with criminals, it set up an expensive registry to tax law abiding gun owners. Instead of helping visible minorities compete in the job market it has imposed a set of complex staffing rules and quotas on employers.

The reality is that equity programs do not remove sexual, racial or other biases from the workplace. They institutionalize it. Employers should be free to hire the best person for the job regardless of their race, sex or disability. Employees want to compete fairly and be recognized for their expertise.

Hiring quotas place unnecessary obstacles in the career path of Canadian workers. They tie employer's hands and are another contributing factor in the migration of skilled workers to the United States.

Much has been said and written about the brain drain that we are suffering at the moment. At a time when the flow of skilled workers to the United States is a national concern, the government should remove the equity quota of all employers to hire and promote the best qualified people for the job.

The role of government is not to set the terms and conditions under which private companies hire employees. A diverse workforce is a plus for any business. The market will dictate the diversity of the staff. Employers will do it on their own because they cannot afford to ignore valuable resources. The last thing they need is hassle and government red tape.

The Ontario policy director of the Canadian Federation of Business said it is better not to have a regulatory scheme because these things tend to discourage job creation. It is exactly the opposite of what the government has intended it to do.

If the government is really serious about helping visible minorities it should work with employers to create an environment that encourages diversity and raises awareness about the special needs of the disabled and minorities.

Canada has skilled and competent workers. Let us remove the shackles of excessive government regulation and give them an opportunity to compete on a level playing field. I think it is time that common sense prevailed in this area.

Merit Principle
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, I read the motion by the member for Wetaskiwin, which reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should support the right of all job applicants to be evaluated solely on the basis of merit.

That is asking a lot from a government that, as late as yesterday—as I am the public works critic on contracts awarded or the section of the department that oversees a lot of big companies—sent my office a list of recent appointments.

For instance, Vivian G. Albot of Winnipeg, Manitoba, was appointed to the position of office manager for the board of directors of Canada Post. Ms. Albot was a contributor to the Liberal Party of Canada's campaign fund, I even have the amount here.

I have other examples, including the appointment of Gérald Préfontaine of Ottawa, Ontario, as a member of the board of Canada Post. Janis Cochrane was appointed a director of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

What these people have in common is the fact that they contributed to a political party, specifically, the one handing out the jobs.

Another example is Cecil Mervin Ozirny of Melville, Saskatchewan, who contributed to the Liberals' election fund and who was given a position with the National Energy Board.

Is the prime requisite for such appointments the fact of having contributed something to the Liberal Party election fund or do these people really have skills not easily found or at least the same level as those of individuals who might apply or contribute to the management of the organizations I have just named?

Allow me to express my doubts, because I have a newspaper article here.

I remember the 1993 election campaign that brought the Liberals and the current Prime Minister to power, on October 25, 1993, to be precise. This election also produced the official opposition of which I was a member, with its then leader, Lucien Bouchard, who has since moved on to another stage. He has proved to the Prime Minister that he is a good manager and that he can practice in Quebec what he was preaching here, as he has brilliantly demonstrated. What he used to preach here, he put in practice in Quebec.

In their red book, the Liberals vilified the former Prime Minister of Canada, Mr. Mulroney, who, just before he left and handed power over to the newly elected leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, appointed 500 people to positions all over Canada. For instance, he appointed the manager of Montreal's Ritz-Carlton Hotel to the Senate, along with his wife's hairdresser, and he was roundly criticized by the Liberals.

In the red book, the Liberals were very critical of this kind of appointment. But who was recently appointed to the Canada Post Corporation? Pierrette Ringuette-Maltais, who used to sit in this place, who unfortunately—for her, of course—was defeated in the Edmunston region in New Brunswick. There have been others. There was Ross Fitzpatrick, a gentleman who had the bright idea of helping the Prime Minister to a capital gain of $45,000 by giving him shares in his company, which the Prime Minister sold at a profit of $45,000. He was another Liberal appointment.

Just to name a few members I have known in the House, André Ouellet was appointed to the Canada Post Corporation, David Berger was made Canada's ambassador to Israel, Ron Irwin was appointed to an important post, Canada's ambassador to Ireland, I believe.

They are thanking the friends of the Liberal Party. When the current Prime Minister returned to political life, he needed a safe riding. He had to win a seat somewhere to be able to sit in this House as the Leader of the Opposition.

A member by the name of Robichaud, a nice fellow from Beauséjour, in the maritimes, was kind enough to give up his seat so that the Prime Minister could get elected in a safe riding. It worked. Mr. Robichaud had to wait a few months for a national general election to be called and for Mr. Chrétien to win back his traditional riding, Shawinigan, and give him back his seat as the member for Beauséjour, which had become vacant.

Mr. Robichaud was elected in Beauséjour. He sat with us here during the 35th Parliament. Then came a young Liberal star and the Liberals said “The son of the governor general, now that is somebody”. They told him he would run in Beauséjour and asked Mr. Robichaud to step aside and let Mr. LeBlanc, the governor general's son, run for the Liberal Party in Beauséjour.

Unfortunately, it does not always work and, this time, it did not, but Mr. Robichaud was not blamed for the Liberal loss in Beauséjour. Mr. Robichaud, for whom a seat had been set aside in the Senate, soon replaced a good friend of the party who had been appointed to the Senate barely 14 months short of the compulsory retirement age in the Senate. He was obviously appointed to keep the seat warm until Mr. Robichaud was ready to make the move.

Sad to say, the good turns Mr. Robichaud did the Prime Minister were not done out of generosity. He did them because he knew that the payoff would be substantial.

It is no big deal if, in order to get some job, one must be a member of the Liberal Party and give $200, $250, $300 or $400. Many people in my riding would be quite willing to pay $400 to get a job in the Senate or with the Canada Post Corporation, or to sit on the board of directors of the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation.

I can think, among others, of my friend Michel St-Laurent, a carpenter who does all sorts of jobs for me and someone whom I really admire. I am convinced that he too would give $200, $300, $400 or $500 for such an appointment, but he never had that chance. He was never informed of any vacancies. They do not want him because he is not a Liberal, and being a Liberal is the first condition, the prerequisite for such an appointment.

When the Reform Party member, for whom I have a lot of respect, tables his bill on what he calls quotas, but what I would rather call employment allocation equity, we should also discuss the type of jobs given to friends of the party, who get huge salaries or fees—whatever you want to call it—and who often do no work at all, killing time at taxpayers' expense while, in some cases, pocketing millions of dollars.

Consider the case of the friend of the government who was appointed ambassador to the OECD. This gentleman is paid $255,000 per year and he is barely 52 or 53 years old. If he retires at age 75, he will have had an annual salary of $255,000 for 23 years. This amounts to quite a bit of money. It pays to be a Liberal.

Merit Principle
Private Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

Trinity—Spadina
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Ianno Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I welcome the chance to add my voice to this discussion and to demonstrate to the House that the motion is unnecessary and unwarranted. After having heard the comments across the aisle I can see why this issue is as I stated.

Canada's employment equity legislation supports hiring based on merit. Employment equity aims to reinforce the merit principle by ensuring that members of groups that were underrepresented in the past and continue to be underrepresented now have an opportunity to compete on a level playing field. Its objectives are to open up the workplace and to ensure that employment policies and practices are free of any subtle biases.

However a myth has been created that employment equity contradicts the merit principle. Yet one only has to read sections 6 and 33(1) of the Employment Equity Act to see that this is not the case. These sections make it very clear that no employer can be required under any circumstance to hire or promote unqualified individuals.

Let me remind my hon. colleagues exactly what the Employment Equity Act actually does. The act requires the implementation of employment equity in the public service as well as in the wider public sector and federally regulated private sector. The act seeks to remove barriers that restrict the employment of qualified individuals in four employment equity designated groups: women, aboriginal people, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. Hon. members cannot deny that a fair and barrier free workplace means a better working environment for all employees.

The act gives substance to the guarantees of equality under section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms enshrined in the Constitution of Canada. It calls for broadening the recruitment pool so deserving Canadians from all groups receive due consideration for employment. Utilizing the full potential of our diverse workforce is essential to Canada's future success and prosperity.

In the case of the public service these sections also make it clear that there is no conflict with the Public Service Employment Act which governs selection according to merit. The law also clearly stipulates that employment equity will not cause undue hardship for an employer. It does not force firms to hire and promote unqualified people or to create new positions in the workforce to satisfy some arbitrary numerical goals.

I assure the member for Wetaskiwin that the government is fully committed to merit. We vigorously support and promote excellence in the workplace. We are also committed to improving conditions for members of the four designated groups who have faced disadvantage in the labour market. This is not a myth.

There is ample evidence to indicate that certain groups have been and continue to be disadvantaged in employment for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to do the job. They have faced unfair barriers to employment because of personal characteristics totally unrelated to merit. One of the core values of Canadian society is a profound belief in the equality of our citizens.

Canadians are proud of Canada's linguistic and multicultural diversity. We actively promote tolerance and acceptance of differences. We have a global reputation as a caring and equitable society. The spirit of employment equity further enriches that reputation. A number of countries are using our Employment Equity Act as a template for their legislation. They include Australia, Holland and most recently South Africa.

Striving for fairness and equality for all citizens not only enriches our national character but generates significant economic advantages. A highly qualified, highly motivated workforce that reflects the richness of our diversity is essential if Canada is to remain competitive in the expanding global marketplace.

Employers and labour organizations recognize the benefits of employment equity. This was evident in their support of a more comprehensive Employment Equity Act when it was considered in 1995. They recognize that as unfair barriers to employment are eliminated the pool of qualified applicants is expanded. This leads to the full utilization of the skills, talents and abilities of all Canadians.

Clearly we already support hiring and promotion based on merit which is why I am convinced that we need not entertain this motion any longer. Instead, I encourage the member for Wetaskiwin to support the millions of Canadians who benefit from employment equity. By doing so, we can all contribute to a better future and a better Canada for all of us.