House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was commissioner.

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Message from the Senate
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following public bill to which the concurrence of the House is desired:

Bill S-209, An Act to amend the Criminal code (protection of children).

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My private member's bill, Bill S-204, is scheduled for consideration later this day. However, it cannot be considered, as the report from the subcommittee on private members' business has not yet been tabled by procedure and House affairs.

Therefore, I seek unanimous consent for the following: “That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practice of the House, Bill S-204, An Act respecting a National Philanthropy Day, be designated as votable and be allowed to proceed later this day”.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

There is no consent.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, after listening to our colleague, I must ask a question.

If I am not mistaken, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women did an analysis and found that women's established rights—judicial rights or de facto rights—have suffered. De facto rights have taken a huge step backwards, especially in the past two years. I would like to hear her thoughts on this.

I am going to digress for a moment. My colleague brought up the problem of poverty. At the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, we are undertaking a study of poverty. One thing that jumps out at us concerning the status of women—particularly single mothers, but also working women—is that they do not receive the same treatment as men. What is worse, we see that government policies are putting them at a disadvantage economically. I find it interesting that the motion takes that into consideration as well.

I would like to hear my colleagues thoughts on this. Did I understand correctly that the Standing Committee on the Status of Women arrived at the same conclusion? And what are the underlying reasons?

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question from our colleague. It is true that women have taken a step backward in the last number of years. In the mid-nineties women were earning 72¢ to the dollar of what men were earning. Now they are earning 70.5¢ to what men, earn even with a university education, so women are taking a step back.

In addition to that, the Conservative government has also hurt women by eliminating the ability for research and advocacy on behalf of women. That is another step backward. When we talk about legislation and about women's equality, the equality provision is quite empty. It is a word without any real force behind it to deliver that equality and make it real in the everyday life of women.

The hon. member talks about poverty. The committee is studying this. It is true, for instance, that it is important pay equity legislation happen because women do not receive equal pay for equal value. Again, our party has committed to bring forward proactive pay equity legislation. The government again has refused to do that. This was one of the recommendations from the standing committee, along with previous recommendations to that effect. This would go a long way in assisting women to receive their due pay.

Also, government policies have to be analyzed. Previous and future tax measures have to be analyzed in terms of how they treat women. I gave some examples earlier. The committee has put forward some very strong recommendations, asking government to do a gender based analysis on previous and current tax measures. Also with all future budgets tabled in the House, it should also table a gender based analysis so we can see how much of the billions of dollars that the country spends on social and other programs goes to women and children. The reason there is high poverty rates is because obviously very little does.

As the hon. member will see from his work that he does at committee, most often tax measures are not the best way to invest in social programs or our society. Investing directly in housing, education, child care, especially these three areas, impact on women, women in poverty and their children.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, as the Bloc member brought up the poverty study, I would like to mention that yesterday a witness from the United Kingdom talked about fuel poverty and how the costs of fuel made it very difficult for low income people, seniors and single parents as well.

When the member from the Bloc gets up to speak again, perhaps he would like to suggest to the Liberal Party that its carbon tax could be very difficult on the poorest. Yesterday the witness from the United Kingdom specifically said that it was part of its poverty strategy to somehow address the fuel and costs of fuel for heating. People there live in a cold country.

We live in a large and a cold country. Any type of carbon tax would indeed be difficult. The witness particularly talked about single and elderly people. Did the member ever do an analysis of how some of her ideas would hurt women in the rural communities? The $100 universal child care benefit has been very welcomed in rural communities. It has also been welcomed among immigrants when they first arrive in our country with small children. The member does not speak for all women when she says that universal child care benefit is of no value. It is of value and it has helped parents who stay at home with their children.

Many women work and it does not take long for them to be in an income tax bracket where tax cuts have helped them, such as the $2,000 child tax credit. I am sorry a lot of these ideas have not been supported by the women from the Liberal Party because they must realize there are women who have benefited from our programs.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it quite ironic that the hon. member is talking about poverty and universal child care. There is nothing universal about that child care. It would be universal if there were spaces available.

I have spoken with rural women and they tell me that they have huge problems accessing government services. There are no services nearby. Now that the government has shut down most of the offices of Status of Women Canada, they cannot access those either.

By the time they pay taxes on the $100 a month, it actually comes down to about $48 to $50. Without spaces there is no child care. The women in rural Canada have told me that they need access to government services. They need child care and they need access to training and education so they can get decent jobs. These are the things that they are talking about.

If we are going to talk about immigrant women, and I spent 30 years working with immigrant women in this country, they are coming to my constituency office all the time saying that child care is what they are looking for. They need spaces. Many of them who are here are struggling to establish their lives in this country, looking for work, getting their credentials recognized, and upgrading their ability to speak the language or upgrading their skills so they can find decent jobs. They need child care and there are no spaces. There is no money to pay for infrastructure to establish spaces. This is an empty promise. We can call it what we like, but it does not deliver.

The hon. member goes on talking about all kinds of things that in essence mean nothing. What the government has done, essentially, is impoverished women.

The Liberal government introduced the child benefit plan, which was real income support for low income Canadians in this country. It went a long way to reducing child poverty. We are committed to increase that. The Conservative's $100, which is not at all child care but actually an income supplement, is also taxed, so it is a poor supplement for income. It is absolutely not a child care program at all.

With all due respect, I think the hon. member should take a look at the analysis done by the experts when we did the gender based analysis and talk to her own colleagues, who in fact as a result of that training that we did had to acknowledge that the $100 is not a child care program and does absolutely nothing for women in this country, especially low and middle income Canadians

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in this debate on the eighth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning the following motion:

That the government appoint an independent commissioner for gender budgeting analysis immediately to conduct a gender based analysis of governmental policies, including budget policies.

The standing committee, over the last several months, has undertaken extensive studies on gender budgeting. This has involved hours of meetings, hearing from witnesses from as far away as South Africa to non-governmental organizations and representatives from federal government departments and central agencies.

As I have already said, the committee has heard from a wide range of experts on this subject.

The Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, an agent of Parliament, when she appeared before the standing committee, said that her office could look and see if the government is actually doing gender based analysis and the quality around that analysis. The Auditor General also went on to give some caution to the committee when looking at broad-based cross-department policy initiatives. Ms. Fraser said:

Too often we see broad-based initiatives across government, but nobody is really accountable for the success of that project. It could be a central agency, it could be a department, but somebody who clearly has the responsibility and the accountability to make sure the program is implemented.

I would certainly want to hear and believe that we would all profit from the views of the standing committee on this as well.

This side of the House believes we need to take a more comprehensive approach to advance equality for women and their full participation in all aspects of Canadian life. Our government is indeed committed to the work we have already undertaken to advance opportunities for women and men, and we have more plans for the future.

In the 2008 budget we announced that over the next year our government will develop an action plan for women. This action plan will advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions, and their participation in democratic life.

The government wants to look at all the recommendations together and devise a thorough and complete strategy to move the agenda of equality forward for women. This would include consultations across all sectors of society.

Experience has shown that an action plan accompanied with indicators against which outcomes for equality for women and men can be measured is the most effective approach. This is the course that we are taking.

Since the 1995 fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, where governments committed to gender based analysis in the Beijing Platform for Action, considerable progress has been made.

In Canada, some federal departments have taken initiatives to create their own training packages and infrastructure. Such efforts include: departmental statements on gender based analysis; integration of gender based analysis in strategic and operational plans; and establishment of departmental focal points or networks of gender specialists.

Citizenship and Immigration Canada, for example, became the first department to have accountability for gender based analysis entrenched in law. This law requires the department to report annually to Parliament.

The Canadian International Development Agency has a comprehensive non-legislative approach to gender based analysis; one it uses with success in its development work around the globe.

Finance Canada has undertaken gender based analysis on its tax measures in budgeting and has now committed that future budgets will undergo gender based analysis.

The Treasury Board Secretariat requires that gender based analysis be undertaken uniformly as part of the submission process that departments go through to receive financial authorities, and others are working to integrate gender based analysis into their work.

Our government is creating opportunities and working hard to achieve concrete results for women by introducing the universal child care benefit, increasing the pension income credit, and changing the guaranteed income supplement, thus putting more money in the hands of older women.

We are addressing matrimonial real property on reserves, modernizing the federal labour standards, expanding business opportunities for women, taking action to ensure pay equity is achieved, creating special initiatives for women entrepreneurs, and increasing crime prevention, justice and security measures to protect children from sexual exploitation.

Over the last year 181 projects received funding under the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund for a total value of $33,000,993 over three years.

Impacting over 1.5 million women and girls through the projects funded, organizations are carrying out work in educating women on violence prevention, building women's financial literacy, encouraging networking, promoting women's economic security, prosperity, health and safety, and ending all forms of discrimination against women.

This year's theme of financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women at the 52nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women heard over and over again the value of putting in place plans of action and indicators to measure progress. This is the course action we are on.

Just as a business would not leave a new product half developed, the Government of Canada will not do only half a job. In the same way, we want to ensure that we have the best plan possible, an action plan that takes into account all Canadians, women and men alike.

Equality for women and their full participation in the life of our country are important not only for women, their families and their communities but also for Canada. We want to use the action plan to improve Canada's prosperity by enhancing women's active participation in the economy as well as in the overall social and democratic life of our country.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will take this opportunity to ask a question. Before I do that, I would like to set the record straight and correct information that I do not believe is accurate.

When she spoke, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development stated that witnesses from the United Kingdom speaking by videoconference yesterday to the issue of poverty were talking about fuel poverty. In the United Kingdom, those who spend more than 10% of their income on energy are considered fuel poor. That is one thing.

Members of the Conservative Party asked the witnesses from the United Kingdom if it would be a good idea to impose a carbon tax in Canada. That is something altogether different. The Conservatives were introducing their fixations and biases to the United Kingdom, which surprised us.

However, someone from Bristol University, in the United Kingdom, answered the question but not in the way indicated by our colleague. They indicated that a carbon tax could be good or bad and that would depend on how it is implemented and how it is used. That was the answer given by the individual, who went on to give some examples.

We should not take things at face value. Our colleague would have liked that individual to have given a different answer; however, that is what they said. The answer provided by our colleague in this House, today, is the answer she would have liked to have heard. That is the first point to be corrected.

Now, I would like to ask the following question of our Conservative colleague who just spoke: with regard to her concerns about helping women overcome the barriers that prevent them from escaping poverty, is her party prepared to examine, with regard to energy, the factors that contribute to family poverty, particularly the poverty of single-parent families?

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the one thing that has not been said here today and that needs to be said is that there was a great deal of cooperation on the committee when we were studying this issue of gender based analysis and gender based budgeting.

The report was adopted unanimously, with two footnotes put forth by the Conservative government. One of those footnotes addressed the issue of a commissioner, which is what the motion is today and which is what I would like to address.

We heard from a lot of people that there are a lot of different issues out there. We heard from many witnesses that finally we are starting to see some movement on improvements in the gender based budgeting issue.

It has taken a long time. Governments have worked on this in the past but have not been successful. Members of the committee need to be commended for the way they worked together, which is one of the reasons that we are starting to see some movement on this issue.

The footnotes were put in place on behalf of the Conservative government because it is a premature issue. We do have an avenue whereby we can examine what is being done with the gender based budgeting in this government and we can do that without putting a commissioner in place.

A commissioner of gender based budgeting would create a new bureaucracy that we feel is premature at this time. Other avenues can be explored. The Auditor General said that she and her department would be quite willing to do an audit on the gender based analysis that is being done. We feel that we should be waiting for that report to come back before we go to the extent of appointing another officer of Parliament. It would come at tremendous cost, which, I might add, has never been investigated fully, and it would come with a great deal of bureaucracy.

We would rather see the dollars in our programming go toward helping women, which is what the department is for and which is the initiative that we are trying to promote. We are trying not to promote bureaucracy in a cumbersome system. We are trying to get the dollars directly to the women who need them, which is why we, as the Conservative government, would like to wait to see what the Auditor General's report indicates.

The Auditor General has indicated that we will not be waiting for two to three years for the report. This report will be done in the near future.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, in her speech and in her reply, the hon. member talked about an action plan that the government would put together, which is wonderful, but then she mentioned that Citizenship and Immigration has a law that actually forces that department to do a proper gender based analysis. However, even at that, there are some difficulties.

An action plan is great but that does not guarantee anything for women, which is evidenced by the fact that Finance Canada has known for some time that it has to do gender based analysis and yet it came forward with a gender analysis that was totally useless when it came to the standing committee.

The fact is that if the Conservatives were interested in programs that benefited women, they would never have brought forward the universal child care program that they are so proud of.

There is no question that there are problems and that women in this country need to have someone who will stand up for them and say openly to any government, Liberal, Conservative or what have you, that the policies being implemented are detrimental to women, do not benefit women and do not move women forward. This kind of oversight is needed badly.

The bureaucracy is not an issue here. What we need to look at is women's advancement. I hope the hon. member can tell us exactly what her concern is with respect to a gender equality commissioner who actually would stand up for women, because, quite frankly, up to now we have not done that.

Status of Women
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has been a valuable member of the status of women committee. She has worked tirelessly for years in trying to better women's place in this country. I understand her frustration.

She talked about how she had worked for 30 years or more with immigrant women. She has worked a long time on gender based analysis and on gender budgeting. It is probably that length of time that she has worked on all of these issues that is causing the frustration that we are not moving fast enough.

However, the member must remember that the witnesses told us that it has only been within the last couple of years that we have seen any progress on this. We are starting to see progress but we need to see this progress unfold.

The motion we are debating today asks that a commissioner to be appointed immediately. However, in our estimation that would create undue bureaucracy. There are other avenues that we can follow in the meantime, other avenues that can lead to a better environment for women and better gender based analysis, which is the reason that we are taking the route that we are.