Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act

An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Michael Ignatieff  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Second reading (House), as of Dec. 9, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment requires the Government of Canada to take the measures necessary to implement the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force. It also repeals Part II of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


May 5, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:10 p.m.
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Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

moved that Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, I introduced Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, in the House. This bill would repeal the measures that undermined pay equity in this year's budget.

The Conservatives hid behind economic recovery measures to launch an attack against the fundamental right to equal pay for work of equal value.

Bill C-471 would make clear in law what should never be in doubt: pay equity is not a labour relations issue, it is a human rights issue.

I take particular pleasure in introducing this bill. It is the first private member's bill I have had the honour to introduce, and I have chosen this subject because of its extraordinary importance to all Canadians, especially to Canadian women.

In this year's budget, the Conservatives put pay equity on the bargaining table and that was wrong. No human right should ever be subject to negotiation and that is the premise on which this bill is founded. My party and I believe the majority of members of the House are firm in their conviction that equal pay for work of equal value is and always must be a human right.

As members of the House will be aware, the fight for pay equity is not yet won. We have much to do.

Today in Canada, women earn on average 72¢ for every dollar earned by a man doing the same work. For a woman who has children, it is 52¢.

Two-thirds of all minimum wage earners are women and women are over-represented among part-time and unpaid workers, as well as those in the lowest income brackets. Among top earners, on the other hand, men outnumber women by the astonishing figure of 330%. In recent years, if we take a global standard, we have fallen to 25th in the world in terms of the gender gap.

Canada is behind 25 other countries when it comes to women participating in economic and political life.

This is Canada. This is the remaining inequality we have to overcome in the country we love. We must do better.

The statistics speak for themselves, but they cannot represent the people these statistics represent. I am thinking of a single mom in Mississauga who cannot find a quality day care spot for her son and who cannot afford not to work.

I am thinking of young parents in Laval who cannot spend time with their children because they need a second job just to feed their family.

I am thinking of a family in Nanaimo, B.C., trying to put their kids through school with two parents working full-time for one and a half incomes. This is why pay equity is a human rights issue. This is why this party has brought this into the House.

This is why pay equity is a national issue, and this is why the House should pass this bill.

Bill C-471 would take pay equity off the bargaining table where it should never have been in the first place. We would create a federal pay equity commission to ensure pay equity in the federal public service, crown corporations and federally-regulated industries.

We will create a federal pay equity commission to ensure pay equity in the public service and federally-regulated industries.

Under Bill C-471, any pay equity measures would be considered human rights legislation.

This Bill C-471 would establish clear and present safeguards to protect pay equity in the workplace. Some of these safeguards have been undermined or eliminated by the present government. Others were called for in the 2004 task force report but never implemented.

This bill calls for the financial resources needed to create a proactive model of pay equity.

The Government of Canada is Canada's largest single employer and has an obligation to lead by example, to start a race for the top and not a race to the bottom. When human rights are in question as they are in this case, federal leadership is not an option, it is a responsibility. This leadership has been sorely lacking in recent years.

Women's equality has been a casualty of the current government's short-term politics.

Women's equality has been a casualty of the government's politics. It cut the operating budget of Status of Women Canada by 43%, and it cut the word “equality” from its key mandate.

The government axed the court challenges program, the national child care supplement and $1 billion in child care agreements with the provinces and territories.

It ripped up the Kelowna accord and the support for aboriginal health and education, especially for women, that went with it.

Now it is reneging on its own promise in the 2008 budget to present an action plan for the equality of women, in order to improve the economic and social conditions of Canadian women and increase their involvement in our democracy.

This is the record of the government. Canadians deserve better.

The Senate, the other Chamber, made its own report on pay equity earlier this year and now this bill is an opportunity for all of us across all divides in this House to make a clear statement about gender equality in this country, to say, in other words, that women are not a “left-wing fringe group”, that women's rights are human rights, and that any attack on pay equity is inexcusable and especially so in the middle of a recession.

We must get this bill passed and I believe we will. However, our work will not end there.

As long as all Canadians, men and women alike, young or old, in rural or urban areas, aboriginal or not, do not have equal opportunities in life, we will not be satisfied with our efforts as parliamentarians or citizens of this country.

Regardless of where we come from or on which benches we sit, we in this House share a common obligation to the people of this country to make Canada the fair society we all believe it should be. This bill is a step in that direction. It is the step we must take. I know that sooner or later, in this Parliament or in the next one, take it, we will.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:15 p.m.
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Simcoe—Grey Ontario


Helena Guergis ConservativeMinister of State (Status of Women)

Madam Speaker, the World Economic Forum just released its gender gap report. Canada rose six places ahead of the Americans. We were leading in the top three categories: number one, economic participation; number two, educational attainment; number three, health. In fact, we were number one in economic participation and literacy rates. Where we did not do well was political empowerment.

I would like to ask the Liberal leader a question. He made some comments to the media that there were some unspecified costs. I would like him to outline how much he thinks those costs are.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, I am surprised that the question of cost should be the first thing in the hon. member's mind. We are talking here about human rights.

The proposal is very specific: to create a federal pay equity commission. Costs are entailed, but when the human rights of women are in question, the question of cost surely is secondary. The primary obligation is to do the right thing.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, I have to say that I am absolutely speechless.

The Liberal Party had the 2004 report from the task force on pay equity in its hands. The Liberal Party was in government. Why did the Liberals not act in 2004?

I would also like to ask the Liberal leader why he and his party voted for every one of the Conservative budgets that gutted pay equity? Finally, I would say that it is too late. The Liberal leader can never undo all the harm to women that he and his party have aided and abetted.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, the 2004 pay equity report was the work of a Liberal government seeking to make progress in this matter. I remind the hon. member that it was her party that secured the defeat of that government and made it impossible for us to make the progress that we wanted to make.

I further remind the hon. member that we have taken steps with this private member's bill today to make sure that a federal pay equity commission devotes itself exclusively to the issue of pay equity for women, and that we restore pay equity as a human right and not put it in labour relations where it could be traded away.

That is the purpose of the legislation.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, we have talked a great deal in this House about a lot of things, but I want to put faces and real facts on this.

Women earn 72¢ for every dollar a man earns. Women have to put food on the table and pay bills just like everybody else. They have families to feed. I would like to ask my hon. colleague, how would this bill help that situation?

Since people want to talk about economics, let us talk about women's real economics.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Madam Speaker, it seems to me a federal pay equity commission will set the standard nationally for pay equity. It will create a system that is proactive, that focuses exclusively on the question of the human right of equal pay for work of equal value.

That focus, an institution that then sets the standard in all federally regulated industries and in the federal public service, will constitute a standard of action which we hope will improve the standards of pay equity right across the country.

The ripple effect of good practice, the ripple effect of advanced legislation at the federal level will directly address the disadvantages to which the hon. member has referred.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:20 p.m.
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Provencher Manitoba


Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-471, the private member's bill on pay equity proposed by the Leader of the Opposition.

This government respects the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. In fact, earlier this year we took action to modernize pay equity in the federal public sector. We introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act as a part of the Budget Implementation Act which received royal assent on March 12 of this year. As all hon. members know, Parliament, including the Liberal opposition, passed this important piece of legislation.

The new legislation imposes joint accountability for pay equity and it is the best way to achieve equitable compensation in the public sector. We are replacing the old adversarial complaints based system with a collaborative one. It brings much needed reform to a system that was broken, a system that was lengthy, costly and adversarial, a system that did not serve employees or employers well. In fact, women had to wait up to 20 years to have their pay equity concerns addressed following gruelling, expensive and divisive court hearings.

I would also like to underscore that our legislation reflects the best of the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force, not all of them, but the recommendations that are practical and useful to help ensure equitable compensation.

It makes federal public sector employers and bargaining agents jointly accountable for ensuring equitable compensation by integrating pay equity into the wage setting in the public sector so that the unions or the employer cannot ignore the fundamental principle of pay equity.

At the end of the day, our legislation will stop the practice of women's rights being ignored at the bargaining table only to have multi-billion dollar pay equity complaints filed by parties against wages they themselves negotiated.

The bill introduced by the Liberal leader is typical of his approach to public policy. He will say anything to one group of people and do the exact opposite in a blatant attempt to curry votes.

I want to remind the House about why this government took the action it did in the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

When our bill was introduced, Canada was facing serious economic challenges with the global economic downturn. Our government's response was to take immediate action through the economic action plan and through measures like the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. When it came time to vote on the bill, what was the voting record of the Liberal leader and his colleagues, the Liberal chair of the status of women committee, the hon. member for Vancouver Centre, and the Liberal finance critic, the member for Markham—Unionville? They voted in favour of the government's important actions, not just once, not just twice, but three times within the space of less than 30 days.

However, the Liberal leader and his party are now trying to undo it with this private member's bill. It is not clear why the Liberals have had a sudden change of heart. Why would they pass our legislation one day and then decide it is not good enough the next?

They speak well of human rights and yet were perfectly willing to support our budget knowing that that legislation was in the budget. The hypocrisy is astounding.

Perhaps even more baffling is the fact that their bill goes against the very position advanced by the former Liberal government before Parliament. I am speaking of the fact that this private member's bill requires the implementation of every single recommendation of the 2004 pay equity task force report.

There are 113 recommendations in all, and as the Leader of the Opposition has indicated, this will require unspecified costs of the government. He has not specified what these costs are but he has clearly indicated that there will be costs for the government. I think the people of Canada are entitled to know what these costs are. Are they simply financial costs? Are they statutory costs? What type of costs are they that his bill will bring forward, as he indicated to the media just a few hours ago?

The previous government publicly spoke out against supporting the task force recommendations in their entirety. In 2005, the former minister of labour and former minister of justice said:

--the Report does not provide an adequate blueprint for implementation of pay equity in a broad range of federally-regulated workplaces.

They also said that the report failed to address key issues that form the backbone of effective pay equity legislation. This includes the relationship between pay equity and collective bargaining, which is an issue I am pleased to say our legislation addresses.

The former Liberal ministers made these comments in a letter to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women in November 2005. A month later, the same justice minister appeared before that same committee to reiterate his government's concern with the task force report. Two former Liberal ministers saw the flaws in the task force report. One of them, the hon. member for Mount Royal, is still with us today. In fact, he supported our legislation last March when he, along with the Liberal leader, voted with the government to adopt the Budget Implementation Act.

It is not clear to this government why the Liberals have changed their tune. It is not clear why they would recommend adopting the entire task force report today when, back in 2005, they actively spoke out against such an action, including the fact that it did not properly integrate the pay equity with the collective bargaining situation. What is clear to us, however, is that this impractical private member's bill will carry undefined costs, as admitted by the leader, and it seeks to undo all of the positive changes that the House already voted in favour of.

By adopting all 113 recommendations of the task force report, we would end up with a pay equity regime that requires machinery changes and costs which have not been fully identified or quantified. With this bill we would also end up being forced into accepting a tight timeframe that would prevent any stakeholder consultations on regulations. This timeframe would also derail the consultations that the government has already committed to for 2010.

In addition, the bill seeks to cover all federally regulated private sector employers. These are employers who, as our government already knows, are not presently equipped to implement such far-reaching measures in the current economic context.

Moreover, I would note that a private sector consensus was never achieved on the majority of the task force recommendations report. This lack of consensus led our government to create the pay equity program for federally regulated private sector employers. This program was created in 2006 and it continues to provide support and resources to these employers to help them meet their pay equity obligations.

I would like to end my remarks today by underlining again that Parliament has already taken action to modernize pay equity in the federal public service. It did this by passing our Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act so that women would not have to wait 20 years in order to see pay equity just as a result of collective bargaining. The legislation that we pass is the best means to achieve equitable compensation in the public sector.

I am proud to say that this legislation has strong support. In addition to our Liberal colleagues across the aisle, the association representing most federally regulated employers supports our legislation.

We will continue to consult key stakeholders and employee representatives as we develop the regulations in support of our legislation. These regulations are scheduled to be in place in 2011, giving us plenty of time to conduct meaningful consultations with all interested and affected parties.

This government believes that women deserve fair pay rates now and every time their collective bargaining agreements are renewed, not 20 years from now. That is a fundamental right that our legislation protects. It is too bad that the Liberal leader does not understand that.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:30 p.m.
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Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-471.

I am pleased to speak today to this bill, which requires the Government of Canada to take the measures necessary to implement the recommendations of the pay equity task force and repeals Part 11 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

In 2001, the Liberal justice minister set up the pay equity task force to examine the effectiveness of the pay equity provisions in the Canadian Human Rights Act. The task force spent three years examining this legislative framework in depth and concluded that it was deeply flawed. The task force held consultations, round tables and a national symposium on pay equity to determine what would be the best ways to respect women's right to pay equity. Employers, unions, women's organizations, lawyers, researchers and federal employees spent a great deal of time and significant resources on the task force's consultations.

During the consultations, the stakeholders agreed on a number of key issues.

For example, they agreed that they were committed to the principle of pay equity; that pay equity was a human rights issue; that employers had a positive duty to take steps to eliminate wage discrimination; that any system must be accessible to unionized as well as non-unionized workers; that the new system must provide additional guidelines on how to comply with pay equity standards; that a neutral body with responsibility for providing information and support and ensuring compliance with pay equity standards should be set up; and that an independent agency with the power to settle pay equity disputes should be set up.

On May 4, 2004, the pay equity task force released a more than 500-page report entitled “Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right”. The report recommended that the federal government pass proactive pay equity legislation, and it set out a detailed plan on how best to do so.

Part 11 of the Conservatives' Budget Implementation Act pertains to equitable compensation and enacts the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. The bill makes no mention of “pay equity”, referring instead to “equitable compensation”, which is never defined.

The legislation applies strictly to employers in the public sector: Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Companies under federal jurisdiction are not covered, nor are certain other crown corporations, for example Canada Post and the CBC. This creates two classes of workers: those who are entitled to pay equity and those who are not.

It was at the bargaining table that considerable wage gaps were created. Yet the Conservative government keeps sending us back to the bargaining table, which means, as I said, that it is turning back the clock by the decade. This is a huge step backwards for women.

The assessment criteria for pay equity are also changing. This is suppressing women and prevents them from bringing grievances against their pay equity program. They are being left with no way to defend themselves. People do not want their unions to defend them, for there could be significant fines. This is a major change that does not reflect a real pay equity program.

The legislation allows the government to issue a series of regulations, such as in subsection 4(5), which are not clearly defined.

So, that is Bill C-471. It would enact what was agreed to in 2004 and repeal the existing provisions.

In the meantime, I think it is important to point out the Conservative government's record on status of women. In April 2008, the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women recommended that the Auditor General examine the implementation of gender-based analysis in the federal government.

This analysis can be used to assess how the impact of policies and programs on women might differ from their impact on men. It aims to allow for gender differences to be integrated in the policy analysis process. Following the United Nations fourth world conference on women in 1995, the federal government committed to implement gender-based analysis in every department.

Yet in a news release on May 12, 2009, the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, stated: “The government has not met its commitment to take gender differences into account”.

Furthermore, as we have already heard, the government eliminated the court challenges program and the pay equity program.

Pay equity is the right to equal pay for work of equal value. All women are entitled to the same wage as men when they do work requiring similar skills, effort and responsibility, in similar working conditions.

I would like to remind the House that, in 1997, the Pay Equity Act came into force in Quebec. This law has been effective to date and significant steps have been made towards equity. This law was adopted unanimously by the National Assembly on November 21, 1996. Under this law, affected employers must achieve pay equity in their companies and prove that there are no pay inequities for jobs occupied predominantly by women.

The Bloc Québécois is, of course, in favour of pay equity and considers it a non-negotiable right.

In order to ensure that pay equity exists for all Quebec and Canadian working women, proactive federal legislation is necessary that will cover all women in areas under federal jurisdiction, whether in the public service or the private sector.

While this government stubbornly refuses to recognize pay equity, Quebec is taking action. The unanimous passage in Quebec's National Assembly of Bill 25, which updates the Pay Equity Act, constitutes a historic gain for women working in Quebec.

Gone are the days when traditionally female jobs were avoided because they were less well paid. With all of the new provisions, the right to pay equity can now be deemed a vested right. As of today, it can be said that, in the area of employment, Quebec women have the same rights, privileges and opportunities as men.

The only exception in Quebec is women who work in federally regulated undertakings. For them, pay equity will be an impossible dream as long as this government is in power.

Bill C-471 was introduced by the Leader of the Official Opposition. It should be noted that, when they were in power, the Liberals had five years to introduce such legislation in prosperous times. They had the opportunity but they never did. Once again, that party only seems to have good ideas when in opposition.

Because the Bloc Québécois considers pay equity to be a non-negotiable right, it will support Bill C-471. This proactive bill responds to Bloc Québécois demands.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:40 p.m.
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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, on March 4, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore instructed his party to vote to end pay equity in our country. He and his party handed a death sentence to pay equity in Canada. The day before the vote, he stood outside these chambers and he said to the press, in reference to pay equity, “We have made it clear that we are not pursing an amendment strategy...Sometimes we have to hold our nose”. The member abandoned women, abandoned equality and he voted to dismantle pay equity in Canada.

Now just a few scant months later, he has introduced a private member's bill in support of something he and his party voted to eliminate.

The member across knows very well that this bill, even if supported by all opposition members and passed in the House, will never see royal assent and become law. The member knows full well that he had his opportunity to save pay equity last spring and he failed.

Women have fought long and hard for the right to equal pay for work of equal value. By he and his party standing up in the House and voting in favour of Bill C-10, they betrayed women all across the country and made it clear that women's equality meant absolutely nothing to the Liberal members of this place.

I confess, I find the bill coming from the Liberal Party to be hypocritical. The Liberals had 13 years of majority government to promote stable economic security for women. They had 13 years of majority government to implement progressive pay equity legislation. What did they do? They cut spending to Status of Women Canada and failed to implement any of the 113 recommendations from the pay equity task force.

The Conservative members of the House have no intention of addressing inequality between the sexes in our country. This has been proven by their reaction to pay equity, changes made to Status of Women, the elimination of the court challenges program, the dismantling of the gun registry and more. They have no intention of addressing inequality any more than their Liberal predecessors.

The Conservatives, with support from the Liberals, are taking Canadians back 25 years instead of moving Canada forward.

Now it is clear to me why the Conservative Party eliminated pay equity last spring. In 1998 the now Prime Minister described our current pay equity laws in the following words:

For taxpayers, however, it's a rip-off. And it has nothing to do with gender. Both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service.

That's why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

He also pointed to specific flaws in the current legislation:

Now “pay equity” has everything to do with pay and nothing to do with equity. It's based on the vague notion of “equal pay for work of equal value,” which is not the same as equal pay for the same job.

Just to be clear. In 1998 the member who is now our Prime Minister did not and still does not believe in pay equity at all.

What is not clear to me is why the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore and his party, all of whom voted to eliminate pay equity, are suddenly so interested in introducing a pay equity bill for consideration in this Parliament.

I want to reiterate. The fact remains that while Liberals were in power, women's rights, economic security and pay equity were stalled. They failed to act as an effective government, and now they are failing to act as an effective opposition.

In March 1997 the Liberal then secretary of state for status of women announced the elimination of program funding for women's organizations starting in the 1998-99 fiscal year. From that point on, moneys from Status of Women Canada were delivered on a project by project basis within the priority areas set out each year by SWC. This eliminated any long term or core funding for women's groups. Overall, program funding for women's organizations was cut by more than 25% over the 1990s.

The Liberal government also disbanded the Canadian Advisory Council on the Status of Women, a semi-independent agency, which conducted research on a wide range of issues as they affect women.

The previous government then merged the body that provided funding to women's organizations, the women's programs, into Status of Women Canada and then eliminated the Canadian Labour Force Development Board, which had given organizations of women, people of colour and people with disabilities a small voice in training policy. Women's equality-seeking groups were dealt blow after blow.

Economic security for women hinges on key things, such as access to child care and access to affordable housing and the ability to earn a decent living. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have failed to address the need for affordable housing in Canada. The first step toward economic security for any person is a safe place to live.

Despite this, the Liberals ended the federal role in social housing in 1996. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have also failed to create affordable child care in this country. The Conservatives touted taxable money for child care and have failed to create a single child care space in Canada.

In 1993, the Liberals promised to create 150,000 new child care spaces, but after 12 years and three majority governments, they created none.

Today a woman still earns only 72.5¢ for every dollar a man earns. Because pay inequity contributes to poverty it has devastating health and social consequences for children. Pay inequity is also related to economic dependence, which can affect the ability of a woman to leave an abusive relationship. The choice between abuse and poverty is one that no person should ever have to make.

It is also true that the women bringing home lower paycheques also receive lower retirement incomes. Too often senior women live hand-to-mouth until the end of their lives.

I am not going to stand here and just point out how both the Liberals and Conservatives have failed women in Canada; it could take up several speaking spots to do that. I would prefer to show fellow members of the House that positive action for women can be achieved.

New Democrats have released a fairness for women action plan. Part of that plan includes making equal pay for work of equal value the law. Canada needs proactive pay equity legislation that would compel all employers to ensure that all employees are getting equal pay for work of equal value. The NDP plan to make Canada a leader in gender equality has at its core the implementation of the pay equity task force and the introduction of proactive federal pay equity legislation in particular.

New Democrats would increase access to employment insurance. Only one in three unemployed women collects employment insurance benefits. The NDP plan to ensure access to EI includes an overhaul of the legislation governing employment benefits. In the 40th Parliament, the NDP introduced 12 private members' bills to improve access to this vital income support.

Establishing a $12 minimum wage is crucial. Two-thirds of minimum wage workers over the age of 15 are women. Many minimum wage earning women are living well below the poverty line. Clearly the federal government has a role to play in setting fair pay to ensure the welfare of all hard-working Canadians and their families.

The NDP has tabled a bill to reinstate the federal minimum wage at $12 an hour. The minimum wage was scrapped by the Liberals.

Creating a national child care program is also at the centre of family security. The House should pass the NDP national child care act and establish a network of high quality, licensed, not-for-profit child care spaces. The creation of new and reliable child care spaces would mean that women were no longer forced to choose between work and family.

Improving parental and maternity benefits is another part of the NDP plan. One in every three mothers lacks access to maternity and parental benefits under the Employment Insurance Act. Women are paying an economic penalty for having children. Our plan calls for a dramatic overhaul of maternity and parental leave programs.

We can achieve equality for women in Canada; what we lack is political will. Past Liberal governments stalled and failed to act. Conservative governments have ignored problems and chosen not to promote equality. Women come last and profitable corporations are first for the members across the aisle. They have chosen tax cuts instead of equity for women.

We need a real commitment from this House to act and create the legislation needed to achieve equality for women in Canada.

We cannot trust the words of the leader of the Liberal Party any more than we can support the activities of the Conservatives.

In 2006, a former Liberal staffer told the nation that the last minute Kelowna accord and child care provisions were a Liberal government deathbed repentance. Canadians turfed them out because they did not keep their promises then. Why on earth would we believe them now? Canadians certainly do not believe them now.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:50 p.m.
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Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Madam Speaker, I do get rather tired of the constant self-righteous talk of the NDP. The Kelowna accord was negotiated for two solid years. It is not something that was taped together in two minutes.

Number one, the minister brought every single provincial and territorial government and first nations to the table and negotiated it, and finally negotiated something that was acceptable to everybody.

Number two, let us get back to some of the self-righteous comments with respect to what we did or did not do on child care. In 2004 the Liberals put forward a $2.2 billion program for child care. We could not get the provinces on side. For example, in Ontario, Harris would not talk about child care. He would not have it. In fact, he used the money for something else which is now called the early years program and eliminated the child care program. That was a struggle we had constantly.

We continuously added to the child care program. In 2005 we finally negotiated an agreement with every province and territory to establish a national early childhood education and child care program. I know because I was very involved with that whole process for a very long time.

For someone who wants to set the record straight and is so self-righteous about things, it was the NDP who chose to abandon child care in this country by voting for the Conservatives and putting them in power. It was the NDP who chose to abandon a national housing strategy in this country, and at the same time pay equity because at that time we were ready to table legislation.

We could point fingers in this House forever. I see my colleague, the former minister of justice, who was going to table that bill. It was ready to come to the House. It was a Liberal government that brought in parental leave, compassionate leave, and other programs. They were on the table, progressive programs for women in this country. There were programs for housing, early education and child care, but members of the NDP chose to take us out. That is fine. That is a choice they can make. That is their choice. Nobody can say anything about it. This is a democracy. But let us not stand in this House and rewrite history every time we speak, because it is a waste of everybody's time, not to mention the misinformation.

More recently the NDP was quite prepared to allow $50 billion in corporate tax cuts when we were talking about a coalition in which the NDP would have some cabinet seats. There are times when there are compromises, and there are times when decisions are made and people do things they normally would not have done.

This brings me to the minister's earlier comments, and also to the comments of my colleague who just spoke with respect to the budget and how we voted for it and now we are trying to change it. It was made clear from the very beginning that we did not support the pay equity bill which the government unnecessarily and disingenuously attached to the budget bill.

It was not part of the budget. It was never part of the budget when it was tabled. The Conservatives did that in order to ram it down the throats of the House. They knew the rest of us on this side of the House did not support their pay equity bill. However, the other choice was to have an election in the middle of a recession. I guess the NDP was quite prepared to do that, although now I see that those members are singing a different tune.

We had to make a choice. Would we have an election, or vote for a bill that was being shoved down our throats whether we liked or not, when we did not like the bill? We chose to not have an election. However, we decided that at the earliest opportunity, we would address the issue that was very close to our hearts and we are doing so here today.

Let us set the record straight here, and let us talk to each other a little more frankly than we normally do in this place. I am tired of the rhetoric. Quite frankly, I am also tired of the government constantly shoving things down the throat of the House and holding the House hostage on bills that the government knows the House does not support, namely the pay equity bill which was attached to the budget, and others before it.

Earlier the minister was talking about how this was much better because we did not have to wait for 25 years, that women had been waiting too long. But what was his option? Instead of waiting 25 years, the Conservatives are taking away the right altogether. That solves the problem. We no longer have to worry about that because now it is off the table. Women no longer have rights. We have taken away the right for them to appeal to the human rights commission because it takes too long. That has been taken away instead of being replaced with something that would be helpful for them and that would actually make a difference. That is something I have never seen.

We talk about the economy. It has been raised by the Conservatives that women are earning 72¢ on the dollar compared to what men earn, and they worry about the economy. Does this mean that women do not have to put food on the table, pay rent for their children and put clothes on their backs? Why should they, their families and their children have to carry the rest of us on their backs? Why should they be the only ones to pay for our economic situation?

This is about real food, real rent, real survival and real stuff for people. It is not something that is esoteric that people do because they have nothing else to do. This very real for women out there who are earning 70¢ on the dollar and go home in this economy, like everyone else, and try to pay their rent, buy food and put clothes on the backs of their children. That is what we are talking about and that is what this is about. It is real.

Yes, by all means, let us fix the economy, but let us not do it on the backs of the children and women who are affected very directly.

The government has decided that this should be put on the bargaining table. Since when do we bargain human rights away at the bargaining table? When collective bargaining takes place, there is usually a series of things on the table. There are pensions, sick leave, income, pay raises and all kinds of other things on the table. The government has said that women's rights should also be on the table to be bargained away one way or the other.

Now women and their colleagues in the companies they work for are being asked to choose a little more money and equity for women, or their pension, or health services or something else. We do not know what will fall off. It will probably be the pay equity issue again. This should not be put on the table in that manner.

That does not happen in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario has a commission that deals with pay equity in the private sector. It is the same in Quebec as well. In those two provinces it is working very well in the private sector. In fact, Quebec has done an evaluation of its program. I read that about a year ago.

Not only has Quebec found that it works extremely well, but private sector companies told the government in their assessment that their employee relations and productivity had actually improved as a result of a better environment as a result of recognizing the value of the work being done by all the employees in the companies. At first the private sector companies had problems and difficulties with this issue. They now have said that it works very well for them, that it in fact has made a difference in the positive.

We should learn from that. Why do we not look at best practices? During the debate on the government's bill, it insisted that this was the same as the Ontario legislation. It is far from it. There is absolutely no comparison at all.

This is what the legislation of the Conservatives does.

First, it restricts pay equity to a smaller group of women. It will limit the number of female-predominant groups that can claim pay equity by requiring evidence of 70% of women in a group. In other words, if there is fewer than 70% of women in a company, then it does not apply. Therefore, a whole group of women are not even covered.

Then the government has made it part of the bargaining process. To make matters worse, if a union tries to help the woman who is being discriminated against, she is charged $50,000. Women are now no longer able to even have representation to help them. They are being denied that.

They cannot go to the Human Rights Commission at all. They cannot go to the Human Rights Commission, they cannot use their union representatives to help them because they will be charged and most of them will not even be represented in the legislation. The government calls this pay equity and progressive. This is anything but progressive.

It is about real survival on the part of a lot of women. It is about equality. It is about respect. It is about human rights. We do not bargain them away at the bargaining table. As Ontario and Quebec have done, they are not part of the bargaining process. They have established a pay equity commission. This is proactive and companies work with the government to identify whether they have met the requirements. They have deadlines and so on, but they have to meet the legislation.

The legislation corrects a horrible action on the part of the government.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 7 p.m.
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Beauport—Limoilou Québec


Sylvie Boucher ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to have this opportunity today to speak to my hon. colleagues on the subject of pay equity.

Contrary to the statements of the Liberal Party leader, who sponsored the bill we are debating today, our government respects the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Our commitment to this fundamental right is why we decided to take a much more proactive and timely approach to ensuring equitable compensation for federal public servants.

It was high time we reformed the complaint-based pay equity regime, which proved to be a lengthy, costly and adversarial process that did not serve employees or employers well. However, let us look at the approach to this issue advocated by the Liberal Party leader. On issue after issue after issue, he has tied himself into a pretzel in a blatant attempt to please all of the people all of the time, while managing to disappoint most of the people most of the time.

We heard from the Liberal leader tonight about his supposed commitment to pay equity and about how, supposedly, this government has taken all sorts of negative actions toward Canadian women. But just look at his voting record on this issue. And look at the voting record of the Liberal chair of the House of Commons status of women committee.

When it came time to vote and to put their money where their mouths were, what did they do? They voted in favour of the Conservative government's Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act three times: once on February 12, once on March 3 and again on March 4.

He and the member for Vancouver Centre will no doubt try to spin the facts, but that will not change a thing. He might not like the facts, but the facts are the facts.

Here is another fact. Since he became leader, the Liberal Party has tried to politicize virtually every issue it can, especially issues dealing with the status of women in Canada.

For example, the Liberal leader had the gall to stand in the foyer of the House of Commons and tell millions of Canadian women that under our Conservative government, women are at increased risk of domestic abuse and violence. That is on page 24. Even worse, he suggested that levels of violence for aboriginal women are even worse since our government took power. That is on page 25.

Shame on the Liberal Party leader. Shame on him for trying to play politics with an issue as serious as the domestic abuse of women, especially aboriginal women.

We all must work to end violence against women in our society. It is not a partisan issue. It is an issue we must all work together on each and every day. It is an issue that society must work on; not a single political party.

There are millions of women in this country who support the Conservative Party and are downright insulted by such nonsense. The Liberal leader should apologize for supporting that position.

And what was the response of the Liberal party?

The Liberal Party leader gave the thumbs up by his silence and refusal to rein in the member for Winnipeg South Centre. This unfortunately is what we have come to expect from him. When the going gets tough, the Liberal leader disappears.

Let me return to the action our government took, supported by the sponsor of this bill tonight. The legislation this government introduced gives us a more modern and collaborative approach. It rids us of the previous system which was archaic, onerous and unfair to employees and particularly women in the public service.

Most importantly, it protects the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. It ensures that women and men continue to benefit from quality working conditions in Canada’s public service.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 7:05 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The hon. member will have three minutes left when debate resumes.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario


Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

moved that Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to present private member's Bill C-471, which relates to putting into operation the recommendations of a 2004 working group on pay equity and modifying another law in consequence.

To come right to the point, hidden in the 2009 budget was a measure that undermined pay equity. This bill, which we support, restores pay equity as a human right. That is paramount for us.

Mr. Speaker, you may at this point, however, have a feeling that you have walked into Groundhog Day because I have been on my feet before on this very project. That is because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament before Christmas, so we are having a Groundhog Day experience today as I reintroduce this legislation.

The purpose of the government's prorogation of Parliament, of course, was, as it said, to recalibrate. It seems to have now recalibrated its cabinet a bit, but it has not been able to avoid the questions that it sought to avoid when it prorogued Parliament, namely, the questions about Afghan detainees and the other urgent public matters on which it sought to avoid the scrutiny of Canada.

The prorogation attempt failed. All it has managed to do is set back the legislative agenda for several months and, unfortunately, the legislative progress of this worthy measure. That is why I am here today and the House will remember the experience of having lived through this whole thing once before.

Let me enter into the discussion of the matter. Budget 2009, in the dumpster bill aspects of the budget implementation act, introduced measures which would reduce pay equity to a chip on the bargaining table in labour relations. We on this side of the House believe, as a matter of principle, that pay equity is not a labour relations issue but a fundamental human right.

We need to see this measure in the context of a historical anniversary. The House will be aware that this is the 40th anniversary of the report on the status of women, the great commission chaired by Florence Bird, a great Canadian. It was commissioned under the Pearson government that set the agenda for women's issues and equity issues for the next 40 years. That agenda included, let us remember: child care, pay equity, maternal leave and more women in the House and the judiciary.

We can say after 40 years that some progress has been made, but there is an enormous amount of work still to do and on this side of the House we remain fiercely and passionately committed to that agenda. We remain committed to early learning and child care for every Canadian family that wants it. We remain committed to adequate and restored funding for Status of Women Canada.

We remain committed to the idea that it is a stain on our national honour that there are missing aboriginal women who have simply disappeared. We have not even taken the trouble as a country to give their families the answers they need as to what happened to these fellow citizens of our country. That is a wrong that must be righted and we stand for the righting of that wrong.

We also stand for the reintroduction of the court challenges program, which women have used to defend their rights and which the government has undermined. Finally, to put this measure in context, we stand for pay equity for women.

It is abundantly clear that we have a lot of work to do. Women in Canada earn 72¢ for every dollar a man earns.

In the case of a woman with children, it is 52¢.

We think this is in an inequity that must be corrected and it can only be corrected by proactive federal pay legislation. Men outnumber women by 330%. Yes, members heard me right. It is 330% among top earners. This is also a sign that in a country that claims equality, we have much more to do.

We must do better. We can do better. We will do better.

Let us review very briefly the government's record on this issue. It came to the G8 summit with the admirable objective of helping women and children in the developing world, but with nothing on the necessary reproductive health care that will actually make a difference and reduce death in pregnancy and improve maternal and child health. Nothing.

The government has cut the operating budget of Status of Women Canada. Just last week it cut the pay equity commission in New Brunswick. It has abolished the court challenges program. It has eliminated $1 billion of committed federal funding to day care since 2006.

This is the record of the government on the other side of the House. This is where we begin to see the larger design between taking pay equity off the human rights table and putting it on the labour regulations table where it can be traded away.

This is the grander design to which we object. We are taking the pay equity issue as an example of a wider failure of the government to advance the cause of women's equality in Canada.

What does our proposal specifically entail? It entails a federal pay equity commission with jurisdiction over the federal public service, crown corporations and the federally regulated corporations. This commission would have a proactive mandate. It would have a mandate to deliver judgments in a timely fashion. Above all, it would give women the right to advance their claims to pay equity within the framework of human rights.

This is an important matter because the Government of Canada is the largest employer in the country. The Government of Canada can set an example to all employers across the country and it must on the issue of pay equity for women.

In conclusion, this private member's bill will undo what we conceive to be a wrong. It will restore pay equity as a human right with a proactive federal pay equity commission. We urge all members to support it.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the Leader of the Opposition decided to vote for the budget, what part did he not understand? That was the budget that took away women's right to pay equity.