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.