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.

Sponsor

Michael Ignatieff  Liberal

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

Status

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

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

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

April 12th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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North Vancouver B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to see the Leader of the Opposition back in the House of Commons today.

It is a pleasure to speak today to the issue of pay equity. Contrary to the statements of the hon. member sponsoring the bill we are debating today, our government supports the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Our commitment to this fundamental right is why we acted to ensure a more proactive and timely approach to equitable compensation in the federal public service. Our government's approach has brought much needed reform to the previous complaint based pay equity regime. The previous regime was lengthy, costly and adversarial, and did not serve employees or employers well.

We are fortunate in this country. Canada's public service is among the finest in the world. Canada's public service employs some of the best and brightest people whose work is intimately tied to the well-being of our country. Public service employees work in more than 200 federal organizations and dozens of different occupations, from border guards, to food inspectors and from public health specialists to diplomats. We should never doubt for a moment the importance of what public servants do on behalf of this country.

This point was brought home by the Prime Minister's advisory committee on public service when it stated in its first report:

As a national institution, a high-quality, merit-based Public Service is part of Canada’s comparative advantage and a key to competitiveness in the global economy. It also helps provide the foundation for sound democratic government, which is critical to a positive business climate in Canada.

This proud reputation is what has made the federal public service one of the best and most attractive places to work. Competitive salaries and a full range of family friendly benefits also make the public service attractive for both men and women.

The hon. member raises the issue of gender gap. We have seen significant progress toward greater gender balance in the public service, particularly within the senior ranks. It is worth noting that back in 1983 fewer than 5% of women were in senior management. Today, women make up 43% of the senior and executive ranks of the federal public service. To be sure, women are taking their rightful place in the federal public service. They are not only accessing top jobs but their representation in other categories has also increased dramatically over the years. For example, women now represent nearly 56% of knowledge workers. They also represent about half of the economist group and they represent about 43% of the commerce officer group.

It is safe to say that over the past few years there has been a significant change in the face of Canada's public service and women have played a big role in this change. Today's public service provides women and men with equal access to all positions and identical wages within the same groups and levels. I am proud of the example we are setting for both private and public sector organizations around the world. Remarkable progress has been made in addressing the wage gap between men and women in the federal public service.

The difference between total wages for women and total wages for men has been decreasing steadily. This bodes well for the future. This situation and the need to ensure the strides women have made in the federal public sector continue to be maintained led our government to put in place a more modern approach to pay equity. We took action to end the long and drawn out court cases of the past. It is worth recalling that the last court ruling on pay equity was in 1999, a settlement that took a gruelling 15 years to achieve. We cannot afford any more repeat performances. This is unfair to women. Public service employees deserve better. Taxpayers deserve better.

The root of the problem in the previous system is that pay equity issues were raised after compensation decisions were made. Federal public service employers and unions were not required to take pay equity issues into account during wage setting. These issues were only raised when complaints were made. This has led to ad hoc progress on pay equity, a situation that the Canadian Human Rights Commission lamented in its 2001 special report to Parliament.

Those are some of the reasons that our government passed legislation, with the support of many members opposite, that ensures that old ways become a thing of the past in the public sector. The new system makes employers and bargaining agents jointly accountable for setting fair wages, ensures these decisions are made at the time of collective bargaining for unionized employees and imposes a rigorous process to ensure the federal public service employers address pay equity in a timely way for non-unionized employees.

I will underline a key feature of our reforms. The new system maintains the right of women to launch complaints through an independent oversight organization: the Public Service Labour Relations Board. As a neutral third party, established in 1967, the board is well-equipped to ensure fair and objective recourse. It should be obvious to all that we needed to replace the previous complaint based pay equity regime that left us with a lengthy, costly and adversarial process. This was a process that did not take into account the realities of the Canadian labour market.

Moving to an approach that is based on collaboration with bargaining agents, ensures pay equity issues are addressed as they arise and that problems are resolved quickly.

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 women in the public service. Most important, it protects the principal 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. Equitable compensation can only be ensured through a proactive, timely and fair system where employers and bargaining agents work together rather than as adversaries. That is what we have put in plan.

Now, the bill in question calls for a repeal of the legislation that created this new approach. By proposing this bill, the Leader of the Opposition is asking women to wait once again. He is asking women to wait for a new system that would cover the federally-regulated private sector. This is a diverse group of employers who would face significant challenges in implementing such far-reaching measures. We understand how difficult this would be for Canadian employers. We have taken a approach to addressing pay equity with this group of employers. We brought forward the pay equity program run by Human Resources and Social Development Canada. This program takes a three-pronged approach of education, mediation and compliance monitoring to help private sector employers comply with the legislation.

Our government has moved forward toward a more just approach. To support the bill before us would be to delay justice once again. Justice delayed is justice denied.

I call upon my colleagues in the House to oppose this bill and thereby support the new system our government has put in place.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to this private member's bill.

In 2009, we did not agree with the budget and we voted against it because it did irreparable harm to women who have done an outstanding job working in the public sector for many years and yet are not given their due.

These women, who have worked for many years in government departments and federally regulated corporations, had the right to expect that all the opposition members would vote against the budget bill that stripped them of their rights.

Unfortunately, over the past four years, the government has chipped away at their rights. The same thing has happened with a number of other status of women issues. Members of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party stood up in the House to vote against the bill that day because we had no doubt that if we voted for it, we would betray the trust of all of those women. Those women are Quebeckers and Canadians. I want to emphasize that they are Canadians because the opposition leader seems to think that the Bloc Québécois stands up only for the rights of Quebeckers, not those of Canadians.

I want to point out that the opposition leader and his party members were not among the members who dared vote against this bill. When the time came to vote, they were not considering the Canadians this bill would hurt. He did not do what he should have back then, which is why we have to debate another bill today to give the right to pay equity back to these women.

Pay equity is not complicated: it means receiving equal pay for work of equal value. Work of equal value is easy to define if we have the proper tools to define it. A task force began studying the issue in 2001, and in 2004, it produced a comprehensive report over 500 pages long. The report recommended very specific steps to take to achieve pay equity and ensure that all women working for an organization under federal jurisdiction benefit from pay equity.

People have been fighting for this for years. For example, the rights of a number of women working for Bell Canada and various federal organizations were infringed upon. In Quebec, pay equity has already been achieved. These women were aware that their situation was not the same as that of Quebec women working for organizations under Quebec jurisdiction.

In the early 2000s, there was enough money to meet these needs, but sadly, the Liberal government of the day did not meet the needs of public and private sector employees under federal jurisdiction.

We could spend all day wondering. But the answer is in the question. As soon as an opposition party takes power, its convictions and perceptions of things change. It suddenly realizes that it is not possible to achieve pay equity, because it would be much too costly. But when these parties are in opposition, their convictions are much more in tune with the needs of the workers, ordinary human beings working from 9 to 5 every day. We meet these people in our ridings.

They trust us. They develop a bond with us. We listen carefully and then we are supposed to share their concerns here, in the House, to show them that they have been heard and that we will listen to them. Unfortunately, as it stands, neither side of this House seems to be listening.

The government is not listening. Since it took power, the government has made cuts to women's programs. It cut the court challenges program, it made shameless cuts to programs in Status of Women Canada, and it took away the right to pay equity.

Earlier, the hon. member was saying that anyone who now wants to seek pay equity can go before the labour court. How can a woman go before the labour court all by herself if she does not even have the right to be accompanied by a union representative? She does not even have the right to be accompanied by someone who knows all the rules and all the labour laws to defend her. If someone from her union decided to support her and defend her, the union would have to pay a $50,000 fine. Can you believe that? Have we ever seen such a glaring inequity? I have never seen anything like it, and I hope I never will again. I hope to never see such glaring inequities in this House again.

All women working in the public sector have called on us to return to the House and prepare a much more detailed and complete bill that will restore their right to pay equity. For these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will definitely be supporting the bill presented by the Leader of the Opposition.

However, we will examine this bill with a fine-tooth comb. We will ensure that it meets all needs, and that its application and implementation also conform to what is decided by Parliament.

All too often it is easy to draft a bill. It is easy to vote in favour of a bill. However, once the bill has been passed, things may be different.

Take, for example, the Immigration Act and the Liberal Party promises with respect to immigration. To date, these promises have not been kept, even though they were enshrined in legislation. They were made and voted on.

I would be surprised, even astonished, to see a bill on pay equity passed by the House. We know that the Conservatives will oppose this bill. I would be astonished if such a bill contained all the measures required to give women true pay equity.

Working women in Quebec who fall under federal labour laws are not entitled to preventive withdrawal, a measure extended to all other Quebec women. That is also part of equity.

Quebec women who work in federally-regulated undertakings do not have the right to the same parental leave as other women in Quebec. If, unfortunately, after taking parental leave, their employer fires them when they return to work, they are not entitled to employment insurance benefits. They are not entitled because they were sick during their parental leave.

In fact, according to the employment insurance system, a woman who gives birth to a child is sick. She qualifies for sick leave. Even if the Quebec government pays for parental leave, the woman fired when she returns to work is considered to have been sick. These are issues that must be clarified.

I hope that when this bill goes to committee, given the great wisdom of this House, we will be able to ensure the pertinence of all items contained therein.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:35 a.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, you may recall that on March 4, 2009, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore instructed his party to vote to end pay equity in this country. He and his party effectively handed a death sentence to pay equity in Canada.

The day before the vote, he stood outside this chamber and said to the press, in reference to pay equity, “We have made it clear that we are not pursuing an amendment strategy. Sometimes we have to hold our nose”.

He abandoned women, abandoned equality and 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 knows very well that this bill, even if supported by all opposition members and passed in the House, will never see royal assent. It will never become law. This 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. When he and his party stood up in the House and voted in favour of Bill C-10, they betrayed women all across the country and made it clear that women's equality means absolutely nothing to the Liberal members of this place.

I confess that I find this bill, coming from the Liberal Party, to be hypocritical. They 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 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 this country either. We see unequivocal proof from government actions in regard to pay equity, changes it made to Status of Women, the elimination of the court challenges program, the dismantling of the gun registry and more. The Conservatives have absolutely 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 current Prime Minister described our current pay equity laws in the following words. He said:

For taxpayers, however, it's a rip-of. 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. He said:

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 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 very 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. The Liberals failed to act as an effective government and now they are failing to act as an effective opposition.

In March 1997, the then secretary of state for the 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, an agency that conducted research on a wide range of issues as they affect women. The previous Liberal government then merged the body that provides funding to women's organizations, the women's program, into Status of Women Canada and proceeded to eliminate 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, 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 also failed to create affordable child care in this country. The Conservative-touted taxable money for child care has 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 3 majority governments, they had created none.

Today, a woman still earns only about 72.5¢ for every dollar a man earns. Because pay inequity contributes to poverty, it has a devastating effect on the health and social consequences for children. Pay inequity is also related to economic dependence, which can affect an abused woman's ability to leave a violent relationship. The choice between abuse and poverty is one no person should ever have to make. It is also true that women bringing home lower paycheques also receive lower retirement income. Too often senior women live hand to mouth until the end of their lives.

I will not stand here and just point out how both the Liberals and the Conservatives have failed women in Canada. It could take up several speaking spots to do that. I 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 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's plan to make Canada a leader in gender equality has at its core the implementation of the pay equity task force and in particular the introduction of proactive federal pay equity legislation.

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 include 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 hardworking Canadians and their families. The NDP has tabled a bill to reinstate the federal minimum wage at $12 an hour. Members will recall that the minimum wage was scrapped by the Liberals.

Creating a national child care program is at the centre of family security. The House should pass the NDP's national child care act and establish a network of high quality, licensed, not-for-profit child care spaces. The creation of new, 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 employment insurance. Women are paying an economic penalty for having children. Our plan calls for a dramatic overhaul of maternity and parental leave programs now.

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 with the members across the aisle. They have chosen tax cuts instead of equity for women. We need a real commitment from the 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 deathbed repentance. Canadians turned them out because they did not keep their promises then, and we do not believe them now. The next step is to provide the same treatment for Conservatives: equal treatment for inequality and the offence of betrayal.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Anita Neville Liberal Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate on this private member's bill put forward by the leader of my party. This is a very important bill and one which I hope will be supported wholeheartedly by all members of this House.

As members may well be aware, women's equality in this country has been very much the casualty of the current government. We have been subjected to short-term political manoeuvring on women's issues for political gain. In light of some of the remarks that were made earlier, it is important to take a walk down memory lane to remind members in the House of some of the actions taken.

Members who were here in 2005 will remember that the House went down on a vote just on the cusp of a number of major initiatives that members talked about being implemented and taking root.

Members will remember that the national child care strategy had been signed by all of the provinces. My province of Manitoba was the first to sign this agreement. It was one of the most memorable moments in my career as a member of Parliament.

Members will also remember that the Kelowna accord had been signed and was about to take root. I listened to the disrespect shown to the Kelowna accord by some members of the House, that it was written on a napkin, that it was a last minute accord. I want them to say that face to face to those individuals who participated in the 18 month process of developing the Kelowna accord.

That accord would have improved the educational opportunities of countless numbers of young people in this country. It would have improved health care. It would have provided training in health care to a large number of young people. It would have dealt with the issues of maternal health in first nations communities. It would have dealt with the issues of governance.

More important, I want to remind members that the minister of justice at the time and the minister of labour at the time came to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and made a firm, unequivocal commitment to bring forward legislation in March of the following year that would act on the recommendations of the task force on pay equity.

The commitment was made. The legislation was being drafted and it was going to come to the House for review. There was going to be a long consultation process with the appropriate stakeholders in the country on the legislation. It is important that members realize that this legislation was in development, there to be addressed with a strong, firm commitment.

It is important to remember that a national housing policy was about to be announced.

All of that was lost because of the political desire and political aspirations of members in the House.

Women's equality has very much taken a beating under the Conservative government. We have heard other members talk about the removal of equality from the status of women. We have heard about the removal of advocacy funding under Status of Women. We have heard about the fact that research dollars are no longer available under Status of Women.

We heard from the previous minister that she in fact had the final say on what organizations would or would not receive money under Status of Women funding programs, the partnership and the community program, and that she made the final decision as to who would receive money. We know from anecdotal evidence that the funding for hard-working, long-standing organizations in this country was denied on ideological grounds.

We know there has been little or no gender-based analysis done by the government. As I indicated before, we have lost the early learning and child care programs. Cuts have been made to literacy programs, which affects many women in this country.

As my colleague indicated, there has been little or no action on the missing and murdered aboriginal women. Just this weekend I had the opportunity to meet with a number of families of the missing and murdered aboriginal women to hear of the lack of supports that are available for the families of the women who have gone missing, the trauma in their lives and the inability to respond to it.

We know that the court challenges program has removed women's equality.

The previous minister indicated that she had the authority to influence policy across government and that she operated with “a little big stick”. I would say that as far as pay equity was concerned, the minister had no voice, no stick, not big, not little, and it did little for the women of this country.

It was unfortunate that the government surreptitiously, cynically may be the more appropriate word, chose to bring in the pay equity reforms under the budget implementation bill. The government really put the economic recovery of this country at risk by lumping it into that bill rather than having the courage of its convictions to introduce it as a separate bill standing on its own.

We have heard about the disparity of women's wages in this country. We have heard about the disparity of EI availability to women. We know that women are going to be greatly disadvantaged by the legislation the government has brought in, which is why the legislation we are debating today is so important.

Equal pay for work of equal value is a human right. It is not something to be bargained away through the bargaining process. It is not something where if one goes to one's union officials and chooses to ask for the support of one's union in accessing equal pay for work of equal value that a $50,000 fine be introduced. This is a very cynical approach. It is a very limited approach. It does little good for the women of this country.

I ask that members on both sides of this House read the legislation that we are debating this morning. I think that all reasonable right-thinking individuals would understand that this is a fundamental human right for women. It should be supported. It has support throughout the country. It does not disadvantage women. It is an important piece of legislation for the women of this country.

I would reiterate in closing that women in this country have not been well served in the last four years under the current government. It is time to begin a new chapter with a new minister and review what has not been done and what can be done.

This legislation would make a big difference in the lives of women. I urge all colleagues to support it.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Lois Brown Conservative Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-471, a private member's bill on pay equity.

I would like to draw to the attention of the House an article in today's paper, the headline of which is “Women grab reins of power in PS”, from which I would like to quote. I am very proud to be part of a government that has taken a look at this issue and realized that it needed to be addressed. We took stock of it and addressed it in budget 2009. The article states:

A married woman was forbidden from working in Canada's public service 55 years ago, but today women have the majority of jobs and a growing hold on the executive ranks.

They have outnumbered men since 1999, but the government's latest demographic snapshot shows 43 per cent of executives are now women...

I believe that is to the credit of what this government has done and what this government saw was a problem that needed to be addressed.

Our government has made its views against this bill crystal clear, but I am happy to repeat our position today so there is no doubt in anybody's mind that this bill should be sent to the parliamentary dustbin. To be blunt, this bill is too little, too complicated and too late, not to mention out of order.

Our government already took action to modernize pay equity for the public sector. We did this last year when we introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act as part of Canada's economic action plan in budget 2009. That budget was the earliest to be released in Canadian history. Moving at record speed, we cut red tape and delivered the largest economic stimulus in Canadian history.

Today we are beginning to see the first signs of better days ahead. The recovery is still fragile, but it is clear that the Canadian economy has started to recover. This is due in large part to the actions our government has taken, including the extraordinary measures in Canada's economic action plan announced in budgets 2009 and 2010.

Budget 2009 was also notable for creating a proactive pay equity system for the federal public sector. This was no small feat. For too long, women in this country had to endure an adversarial complaints-based pay equity system. For too long, women had to endure a system which was lengthy, costly and did not serve employees or employers well. Thankfully, this Conservative government did something about it. We introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act speaks to our government's respect for the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. It speaks to the fact that women should not have to wait up to 20 years to have their pay equity concerns addressed and that women should not have to endure gruelling, expensive and divisive court proceedings. This had been a long time coming and I am proud to be part of the effort that finally brought this issue to a close.

Our legislation makes employers and unions in the federal public sector jointly accountable for ensuring that wages are equitable through the collective bargaining process. In other words, the legislation ensures that men and women who do work of the same value receive the same pay. It does so through the process in which wages are actually set and agreed upon. The new system we brought in ensures that equitable compensation issues are addressed as they arise. This is a regime that is modern, timely and responsive. It ensures disputes are resolved quickly and collaboratively.

Now would be as good a time as any to bring up the fact that the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act was passed by Parliament with the support of the Liberal Party, including its leader, who happens to be sponsoring this bill before us today. Mr. Speaker, you heard right. Last year, the Liberals helped us pass the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and now they want to undo it. Is this is a responsible way to conduct the nation's business? I do not think so. No wonder Canadians do not trust the party opposite.

Bill C-471 has many shortcomings. I cannot go into all of them today, but let me discuss a few of them.

One of the most problematic parts of the bill is that it calls on the government to implement every single recommendation of the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force report. There are 113 recommendations, many of which our government rejected with good reason when we drafted the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

When the report was released in 2004, the Liberal government of the day publicly spoke out against supporting every recommendation. The former ministers of labour and justice said that the “report does not provide an adequate blueprint for implementation of pay equity and a broad range of federally-regulated workplaces”. Therefore, it is clear that many people in the Liberal Party feel uncomfortable with the task force report.

The Liberal leader may not appreciate the mood of his caucus on this issue. He was still living abroad when this happened. Yet the Liberal leader is here today asking Parliament to now implement it wholesale.

I am also gravely concerned that the bill is out of order as it would require a royal recommendation. Some of the recommendations in the task force report would require the creation of new statutory agencies as well as a new system adjudicators. These things cost money. As we know, any legislation that includes new expenditures requires a royal recommendation, which may only be introduced by a minister.

I dare say that the Leader of the Opposition is not a member of cabinet and as a result his bill is out of order.

As you know, Mr. Speaker, we made a point of order on this issue and we look forward to your ruling. Bill C-471 would require that all statutory oversight agencies are put in place not later than January 1, 2011. This is less than a year from now.

In our party we make it a point to consult with stakeholders that will be impacted by our policy. Rushing in the measures proposed in Bill C-471 would not allow for any meaningful consultations. That is not how good policy is made.

To close my remarks, I would like to reiterate our government's position on this proposed legislation. Parliament has already taken action to modernize pay equity in the federal public sector when it passed our Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. This legislation is the best means to achieve equitable compensation in the public sector. The private member's bill before us today is faulty and impracticable. It would lead to a pay equity regime that requires machinery changes and costs that have neither been fully identified nor quantified.

In the coming weeks and months, our government will consult all 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, which gives us plenty of time to conduct meaningful consultations with all interested and affected parties. What is more, we believe our legislation will result in better collaboration between federal public sector employers and bargaining agents in achieving equitable compensation.

This government believes that women deserve fair pay. This is a fundamental right and they deserve it now, not 20 years from now.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Liberal

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

Conservative

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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Liberal

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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NDP

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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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Liberal

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

Conservative

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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Bloc

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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NDP

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.