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

May 4th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons on December 10, concerning the requirement for a royal recommendation for Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, standing in the name of the Hon. Leader of the Opposition.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary for having raised this issue, as well as the member for Vancouver Centre for her comments. In his intervention, the parliamentary secretary noted that Bill C-471 proposes to do two things. First, it imposes a duty on the government to implement the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force report. Second, it repeals the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, or PSECA. The parliamentary secretary dealt with each of these proposals in some detail as, in his view, each of them infringes on the financial prerogative of the Crown.

He began by noting that the first recommendation of the pay equity task force report concerns the need for legislation. That recommendation reads:

The Task Force recommends that Parliament enact new stand-alone, proactive pay equity legislation in order that Canada can more effectively meet its international obligations and domestic commitments, and that such legislation be characterized as human rights legislation.

The remaining 112 recommendations in the report, he pointed out, describe the measures that should be included in that legislation. The recommendations taken overall seek to establish a new regime for the oversight of the pay equity process and the adjudication of pay equity complaints. Among these recommendations, several call for the establishment of pay equity oversight agencies. He referred to the fact that clause 2 of Bill C-471 states:

The Government of Canada shall ensure that all statutory oversight agencies are put in place no later than January 1, 2011 and that all the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force are implemented no later than January 1, 2012.

The parliamentary secretary raised two concerns with respect to the requirement to implement the recommendations. He felt that the bill imposes a requirement on the government that can only be met by the passage of legislation, a requirement which seemed to bind Parliament to passing that legislation. In his view, such a requirement was both impossible for the government to carry out and unconstitutional.

As well, he noted that the establishment of new agencies clearly requires the expenditure of public funds and therefore requires a royal recommendation. The parliamentary secretary then turned to clause 3 of the bill, which repeals the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and related provisions from the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

As he saw it, two effects would follow from repealing the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. First, a new purpose would be given to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. They would now be given jurisdiction for public sector pay equity complaints. Further, as the liability arising from the statutory grounds of complaint under the Canada Human Rights Act differ from those under the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, the Crown, as employer, would be faced with potential expenses not currently provided for. The parliamentary secretary explained the difference between the liability schemes in some detail, which I will not repeat here. He also made reference to a number of Speakers’ rulings from both this House and the other place, in which the need for a royal recommendation to accompany new or increased liability of the Crown is clearly illustrated.

The member for Vancouver Centre pointed out that the repeal of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act does not constitute a new legislative regime. Rather, in her view, it leaves the currently existing legislation in place. Second, she claimed that the requirement to establish a framework is not the same as the actual implementation of the framework.

As the House has no doubt gathered from this brief summary, the issues confronting the Chair in this case are complex. I would like to begin by reminding honourable members that the Chair is obliged to confine itself to dealing with the procedural aspects of the question. House of Commons Procedure and Practice, 2nd edition, p. 261 states:

... it is not up to the Speaker to rule on the “constitutionality” or “legality” of measures before the House.

The procedural issue which faces the Chair relates to the possible requirement for a royal recommendation.

There are three distinct elements in the bill. The first relates to the introduction of legislation to implement the recommendations of the pay equity task force, including the setting up of two statutory oversight agencies. The second element is the repeal of the PSECA, from which flows the third element, that of the repeal of the consequential provision stimulated at sections 395 to 405 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

With respect to the implementation of the pay equity task force recommendations, it was indicated by the parliamentary secretary that such provisions would, in all likelihood, require a royal recommendation. Those provisions, however, are not part of Bill C-471, but of some future bill not yet before the House. It is my view that this aspect of Bill C-471 is similar to Bill C-288, Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, from the last Parliament, despite the arguments to the contrary advanced by the parliamentary secretary.

I remind the House of the ruling given on September 27, 2006, where the Chair stated at page 3315 of Debates:

As it stands, Bill C-288 does not contain provisions which specifically authorize any spending for a distinct purpose relating to the Kyoto protocol. Rather, the bill seeks the approval of Parliament for the government to implement the protocol. If such approval is given, then the government would decide on the measures it wished to take. This might involve an appropriation bill or another bill proposing specific spending, either of which would require a royal recommendation.

Bill C-471 implements no recommendations and establishes no agency. It simply requires that the government bring forth legislation and thus it is difficult to see how these provisions could be construed as requiring the expenditure of public funds.

The second main objective of Bill C-471 is the repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, enacted by section 394 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 and the repeal of the transitional and consequential amendments stemming from the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and stipulated in sections 395 to 405 of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009.

While it may impact the operations of government, the repeal of a statute does not normally require a royal recommendation. The parliamentary secretary contended that repealing this act and the related sections of the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 would have the practical effect of assigning a new mandate to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

If Bill C-471 were adopted, the situation with respect to oversight of the pay equity process and the hearing of pay equity complaints would revert to that which was in place prior to the adoption of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. In effect, this is a change in the mandate of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

As stated in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 834, this kind of change requires a royal recommendation.

A royal recommendation not only fixes the allowable charge, but also its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications. For this reason, a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is significantly altered. Without a royal recommendation, a bill that either increases the amount of an appropriation, or extends its objects, purposes, conditions and qualifications is inadmissible on the grounds that it infringes on the Crown’s financial initiative.

Consequently, it is my ruling that in changing the objects and purposes of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Bill C-471 infringes upon the financial prerogative of the Crown.

Accordingly, the Chair will decline to put the question on third reading of the bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received. Today's debate, however, is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the current debate.

I thank hon. Members for their attention.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that we are debating a bill that is going to have some troubles along the way, but here we are. I will certainly bring forward some of the ideas that I think need to be put on the public record.

The reason and rationale for this bill was because of the government's stripping away of rights that were provided for women, hard-fought rights. For many years, women and the allies of women who wanted to see equity in the workplace fought for pay equity. The basic principle was that the work done by women should be rewarded in the same way as work done by men and that we would have an understanding and some balance in our society in the way that work was recognized.

Arguments were made over decades. Eventually there was some daylight at the end, with the pay equity decisions that were made both in the court and through negotiations. With the stroke of a pen, the government, through a budget bill, took those rights away.

I do not have to tell the House of the concerns that many of us have with the government in the way in which it constructs budgets. It sneaks different proposals into a major budget document that it cannot get through in the House by stand-alone bills. In fact, that is what happened with this.

Not only that, to put this into context, we can well recall what happened when this was first proposed. It was first proposed in a financial update, along with other measures that the government had to back down on because it was so tone deaf. It brought forward a fiscal update that would strip women of their rights to pay equity. It looked at not providing stimulus for the economy at a time when it needed it. It looked to take out the opposition parties, financially. There were also a couple of environmental measures as well.

The government backed down on a couple of those proposals, but it had the audacity to keep the proposal to strip away pay equity. It is astonishing when we look at the number of years it took for women to have pay equity recognized and monitored, and that is an important facet and was mentioned in the Speaker's ruling just a minute ago. It is not sufficient to say that women's labour will be recognized the same as men's labour. There has to be some monitoring mechanism to do that. It was understood through court decisions and through bargaining at the table over the many years that there had to be some form of monitoring to ensure pay equity would not only be done, but that there would be some oversight to it.

The government basically said that it did not need this, that we should trust it. I am with those women and others who say that trusting the government on that kind of issue is a little too cute by half. We cannot have a system where the government says on one hand that it will let this take its course and that it does not need any oversight. On the other hand, witness what has happened with the pay between men and women.

As members probably know, we are not at a point in our society, sadly, like others are, where men and women receive the same pay for the work they do. That notion of equity is either something the government does not understand or does not want to understand.

We know where gains have been made in other jurisdictions. It has been an issue where pay equity is recognized, it is embedded in contracts and it is recognized in compensation. Most important, and this is where the government has taken away the oversight, is to have a mechanism in place to ensure the employer, in this case the federal government, actually abides by the principles and the rules. Once that is taken away, then we basically say we will go back to the old way and hope that it happens.

We do not have to talk to too many women to find out that they need a little more than the good word of the Conservative government or any other government. They want to see a process in place, a process with oversight. They want to see some progress in terms of goals. They want to see the equal pay for work of equal value notion recognized. They want to see some form of oversight so when it does happen, there is a process in place to follow-up. This is 2010 but there are still inequities.

The budget put forward by the government was first introduced in a fiscal update and then in budget form. What the government put into that fiscal update and then in it budget would take away a right. That is why we on this side said that we would not support that budget.

Taking the right to pay equity away was not something we could support, but notwithstanding that, the government put it in the budget bill. Issues of confidence arose as a result. We said that we would not standby and watch the progress that women had fought many years for be taken away with the stroke of a pen.

This bill is about trying to right a wrong. It essentially says to the government that we will not standby idly and watch it take away rights when it puts together a budget. If a budget is supposed to be an aspirational document, this one was retrograde. The government went back to the days when women did not have protection, when there was no oversight in terms of women being compensated. The government wanted to leave it the way it was done before. We are not satisfied with that.

I will sum up by saying that if we look at societies where there is equity, if we look at societies that are truly democratic in all the indicators, such as participation in the economy, compensation from work, the ability for people to live independently and successfully, the measure between a man's compensation and a woman's, we will see that these things did not happen because of a whim. These things happened because decisions were made and laws were invoked to ensure they happened. If we standby and allow things to happen on a whim and allow the state of affairs to continue the way they are, then this place would be filled with only men. Women would not be here. We cannot allow rights to be taken away, certainly not in a budget.

We on this side will not support the government's attempt to take away rights. We will support the notion of righting a wrong. That is why we will support the bill.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lise Zarac Liberal LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed about the ruling that was just handed down. Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, was introduced in the House of Commons by the leader of the official opposition. This bill would repeal the measures in this year's Conservative budget that eroded pay equity.

It is inconceivable that in 2010, a Canadian government can attack a right as fundamental as equal pay for equal work. The measures in this budget do away with pay equity for Canadian women in a reprehensible way. What is more, Canadians are starting to have a better idea of the sneaky, roundabout way the Conservatives govern. The ultimate goal of Bill C-471 is to restore pay equity as a human right.

It makes no sense to put pay equity on the bargaining table. One cannot put a price on legitimate human rights and turn them into bargaining chips. That is why all the members of this House should wholeheartedly support this bill, which seeks to correct this serious injustice, and state officially that equal pay for equal work is still a fundamental right.

I want to share some statistics that should give us pause. Women who work full-time earn only 70.5% as much as men in the same job category who also work full-time year-round. In addition, women of colour earn only 64% and aboriginal women earn a frightening 46% of what men earn. Most women still hold what are known as “women's jobs” in teaching, nursing and health care, office work and retail sales.

With the measures in this year's budget, the Conservatives are trying to make women pay for their economic woes. I want to talk about how the Conservative vision, as reflected in the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, will affect the well-being of Canadian women. For starters, these measures limit pay equity for more women. To be able to claim pay equity, a group must first show that it is 70% female, which further limits the number of eligible groups. In other words, if a company has less than 70% women, the law does not apply. As a result, many women would no longer be eligible.

Furthermore, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the Conservative government made pay equity part of the bargaining process. But it gets worse: unions face fines of up to $50,000 for encouraging a woman who has been discriminated against or encouraging one of its members to file a complaint regarding pay equity.

Thus, women are being deprived of their right to be represented. They cannot even turn to the Canadian Human Rights Commission. With all these obstacles, the Conservative government has the nerve to call this pay equity legislation progressive. Instead, this measure is regressive, as are most of the measures the Conservatives have brought forward since they came to power, measures to appease their right-leaning electoral base.

It is completely clear that the Conservative government has no intention of addressing gender inequity in Canada. Its track record when it comes to women thoroughly reveals its intentions. Its position regarding maternal health in developing countries is very telling. And we can see other examples in the measures taken regarding Status of Women Canada: the elimination of funding for public interest groups that advocate for women, the elimination of the court challenges program and the repeated attacks on the firearms registry. The list goes on. These are just a few examples that clearly demonstrate this government's backwards attitude to women.

Bill C-471 is about equality, respect and the protection of human rights. Above all, these rights can never be negotiated. This excellent legislative measure is necessary and it must be supported by all members. It already has the support of the majority of Canadians. This legislation is beneficial for and important to the women of this country who must always fight to advance their fundamental rights.

In its March 2003 presentation to the Pay Equity Task Force, the Canadian Human Rights Commission recognized that fundamental rights are closely tied to women's economic well-being. Discrimination is one factor that leads to their economic disadvantage and the gender wage gap is one indicator of inequality for women. The link is obvious.

Only an effective and efficient pay equity policy can contribute to women's equality.

Our legislative measure, Bill C-471, is based on the principle that pay equity is a human right. In fact, it is one of the earliest human rights recognized as an international standard. The Canadian Human Rights Commission has stated that pay equity is enshrined in many international agreements to which Canada has been bound for decades. We must highlight the quasi-constitutional nature of human rights, their pre-eminence over other types of rights and the need to interpret them liberally and progressively.

Furthermore, still according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Canada has also signed recent international agreements that recognize the need for comprehensive equality action plans coupled with transparent and accountable institutions of government in order to move the equality agenda forward.

To the Canadian Human Rights Commission, human rights and the right to pay equity are universal and indivisible. Human rights, including the right to pay equity, must be the same everywhere and for everyone. Inextricably linked to equality, pay equity is also intended to be transformative. While pay equity aims to fairly value and compensate the work done primarily by women, pay equity is not "just about the money". Pay equity identifies and dismantles long-standing patterns of systemic discrimination in order to change how we do business and how society operates. In other words, while wage discrimination in and of itself can lead to a constricted ability for some to fully enjoy a range of human rights, it is the insidious link between wage discrimination and other forms of discrimination that can adversely impact the most disadvantaged workers. Unequal pay is part of the broader problem of systemic discrimination in employment, and pay equity is one essential tool for creating systemic change.

That is why pay equity has become a national issue and why members of this House must support and pass Bill C-471.

With this legislation in hand we could create a federal pay equity commission to ensure pay equity in the federal public service, crown corporations and federally-regulated sectors. This federal pay equity commission would enforce the principle of pay equity in the public service and federally-regulated industries. Most importantly, under Bill C-471, future pay equity measures would be considered human rights legislation.

In closing, this bill would benefit all Canadians and I am pleased to support it. I hope all my colleagues in this House share my enthusiasm and will make it their duty to support this bill wholeheartedly.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to discuss an issue of great importance to women and to all those who believe in the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The subject is the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act which, I am proud to say, our government introduced into the House last year and was subsequently passed into law.

The previous pay equity system in the federal public sector was broken. It was lengthy, costly, and because it was complaint-based, these issues were addressed only as an afterthought when complaints were made. As a result, women had to wait up to 20 years for resolution of their complaints following gruelling and divisive court proceedings. In fact, many employees had already left the public service by the time complaints were settled.

Why was this happening? It was because under the previous system, federal public service employers and unions were not required to take pay equity issues into account when they negotiated wages, and this was not fair to women.

There is a better way. That is why our government introduced the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act. Our approach ensures employers and unions take pay equity into consideration every time they negotiate. It is time for employers and unions to be jointly accountable for setting equitable wages, for reporting publicly to employees, and for sticking to the commitments they make at the bargaining table. We should be putting dollars in the hands of women and not in the hands of those directing these costly and lengthy legal proceedings.

Others share our viewpoint. The Federally Regulated Employers-Transportation and Communications organization told a parliamentary committee that the legislation makes sense and that both collective bargaining parties must be responsible for implementing pay equity.

In 2004 a task force, appointed by the previous government, concluded that proactive pay equity legislation was a more effective way of protecting the rights of women. The same task force recommended that Parliament enact new stand-alone pay equity legislation, which is what we did. Our legislation addressed the key recommendations of the 2004 report by setting out a proactive and collaborative system to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

It does not change human rights. It protects them. We put teeth in this legislation. Fines will be imposed on either employers or unions that do not comply with their duty to ensure equitable compensation. As a further protection, employees will be able to resolve any disputes through the Public Service Labour Relations Board, an independent tribunal.

Pay equity legislation has been continually evolving since the first such legislation was introduced in Manitoba in 1986, followed by Ontario and Quebec. Our new federal model builds on those existing models. It goes a step further by truly integrating equitable compensation into the wage setting process and ensuring continuous action for years to come.

Women deserve fair pay rates now and every time their collective agreements are renewed, not 20 years from now, which is why I am proud of our government's pay equity legislation.

Let us be clear. When women are treated fairly, they prosper. We need look no further than today's public service. In today's public service, women and men have equal access to all positions. Today women comprise just over half of the overall public service and they have shown a marked increase in their participation in professional, scientific and executive ranks.

Since 1999, women have made great strides in accessing more top jobs in the public service. The glass ceiling does not exist in today's federal public service. Women are fully represented in positions of power and authority and are able to contribute at all levels. Women have made important strides in the federal public service. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act reflects our commitment to ensure we continue to move in the right direction.

However, our commitment to women does not end there.

We support a wide range of initiatives that create opportunities for women and their families, including the extension of maternity and parental benefits to self-employed Canadians, as well as more targeted programs such as the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund.

The women's community fund supports projects at the local, regional and national levels to enable the full participation of women in all aspects of Canadian life.

The women's partnership fund facilitates the engagement of eligible organizations and public institutions through joint projects designed to address issues important to women.

Our government continues to introduce initiatives that improve the lives of women at home and abroad.

In the recent Speech from the Throne, we committed to further protecting women by cracking down on crime and addressing the unsolved cases of murdered and missing aboriginal women.

On the international front, Canada is championing a major initiative on maternal and child health in developing nations, during its G8 presidency.

Every year, more than half a million women die in pregnancy and nearly nine million children die before their fifth birthday. Far too many lives and futures have been lost for lack of relatively simple health solutions, all well within the reach of the international community. Often, the keys to life are no more sophisticated than clean water or the most basic treatment against infection.

Other members of the G8 share our concern. Together, we will take action to address this human misery.

Action was what was required when it came to the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. Our government acted when it brought forward the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

Let us not now undo the progress we have made. Let us not now return to a system in which women had to wait up to 20 years for resolution of pay equity complaints, and then only after gruelling and divisive debates in court. Let us not take a step backward for women. Instead, let us support the just system our government has put in place by opposing the bill before us today.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 5:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-471 regarding pay equity, just a few days after we celebrated International Workers' Day on May 1, even though there are not many reasons to celebrate in Canada with this current government.

I would first like to state our party's position. The Bloc Québécois fully supports the bill introduced by the Liberal leader, although, if the Liberals had taken action as soon as we received the report of the pay equity task force ordered by their own government, we would not still be stuck in this debate, which will ultimately show two things: the Liberals are progressive only when they are in the opposition, and the Conservatives are misogynistic all of the time.

When he was with the National Citizens Coalition in the fall of 1998, the current Prime Minister made his view on pay equity clear. He said that, for taxpayers, pay equity was a ripoff and had nothing to do with gender. According to him, both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service, and that was why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

That is what the Prime Minister said, and that is what he was quick to do in the 2009 budget.

Part 11 of the 2009 budget implementation bill has to do with “equitable compensation” and it enacted the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act. The term “pay equity” is nowhere to be found in the bill, which instead refers to “equitable compensation” without ever defining it.

The act applies strictly to public sector employers: the Treasury Board, the RCMP and certain agencies and crown corporations. Businesses under federal jurisdiction are not covered, including some crown corporations, like Canada Post and CBC.

I think it is important to hear what is in the preamble:

Whereas

Parliament affirms that women in the public sector of Canada should receive equal pay for work of equal value;

Whereas Parliament affirms that it is desirable to accomplish that goal through proactive means;

And whereas employers in the public sector of Canada operate in a market-driven economy;

So, what does that mean? Clause 3 states:

An employer shall, in respect of its non-unionized employees, take measures to provide them with equitable compensation in accordance with this Act. In the case of unionized employees, the employer and the bargaining agent shall take measures to provide those employees with equitable compensation in accordance with this Act.

Of course the Bloc Québécois voted against this bill, which made pay equity a negotiable right and part of a collective agreement. Instead, the Bloc Québécois asked that sectoral committees on pay equity be created, as has been done in Quebec.

We also denounced the fact that the bill created a third category of workers in Quebec consisting of those who fall under Quebec pay equity legislation, those under federal legislation on equitable compensation, and those still subjected to the ineffective complaint system under the federally regulated private sector and certain crown corporations.

So we had to ask ourselves this: If the Conservative government believes that equitable compensation is necessary in the government, why would that not also be the case for private businesses under its jurisdiction, unless it believes that this principle is costly and harmful to private enterprise?

The Liberals and their party leader have gone to the trouble of introducing Bill C-471 on pay equity in order to show women how important they are, and yet the Liberals voted in favour of the budget.

In his speech introducing the bill, the Leader of the Opposition said, “To come right to the point, hidden in the 2009 budget was a measure that undermined pay equity.” The truth is, pay equity is worth nothing more to the Liberals than a couple of seats. The truth is, they voted in favour of the budget and in favour of driving pay equity backwards, knowing very well what they were doing, and too bad for women.

The pay equity issue is all but solved in Quebec. It is not complete yet because some female workers in Quebec are under the Canada Labour Code.

It is clear that the principle of equity, which is fundamental in Quebec, is not fundamental here. The federal government announced that it will cut $1.7 billion in spending and chances are that during collective bargaining, because they will obviously have to negotiate pay equity in the future, the government's negotiators will say that it is necessary to decrease the operating budget or that a collective effort is needed. If nothing concrete happens concerning pay equity during collective bargaining, it will be blamed on the union.

People will say that I am a pessimist, a cynic. However, this is the government that rejects anti-scab legislation, this is the government that goes over the heads of federal-level unions and that even repudiates its own collective agreements. This is the government that is risking the health of workers covered by the Canadian Labour Code, as was shown in a study last week. This government is even going so far as to vote against a Bloc bill that would exclude labour disputes from the employment insurance qualifying period. The truth is, the Conservatives do not like workers and never take their side.

At the same time, this government is questioning the right to abortion. It is cutting funding to women's rights groups and it is against a preventive withdrawal program. The truth is that the Conservatives have no concern whatsoever for women.

They want nothing to do with pay equity, this “ridiculous legislation”, as the Prime Minister called it a few years ago.

The Bloc, however, cares and has always supported the creation of proactive legislation.

On May 4, 2004, the pay equity task force published a report of more than 500 pages titled Pay Equity: A New Approach to a Fundamental Right. It recommended that the federal government put in place proactive pay equity legislation, and it presented a detailed plan outlining the best way to undertake this.

During the Pay Equity Task Force's consultations, stakeholders agreed on several key issues. Among other things, 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 new system must be available 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 responsible 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.

That all seems reasonable to me, and it is hard to see how anyone could be against this, yet the Conservatives are. They plan to silence anyone who speaks out against their equitable compensation scheme. They claim that they are making things better for women in the public service. They know that is not true. We all know that is not true, but the truth holds little sway with the Conservatives.

The theme for this year's workers' day was “For a fair Quebec”. This bill can help make both Quebec and Canada more equitable places.

Successive federal governments have done a poor job of defending Quebec's values of fairness and equity, so I believe, as always, that sovereignty is the best way for Quebec to become a fully equitable society.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to the bill today. I noted that the previous speakers referred to the fact that pay equity was initially begun in Manitoba. It was the first province in Canada to bring in pay equity in 1986. I was lucky enough to be elected in 1986 and be part of the government of Howard Pawley that brought in legislation, eventually to be followed by Ontario and Quebec.

At that time, in some ways we were the vanguard of this type of legislation, but not only pay equity legislation. That government dealt with some very controversial areas. We were the first to bring in daycare proposals. Myrna Phillips, speaker of the legislature in Manitoba for awhile, was the legislative assistant who worked on the daycare issue. Pharmacare was brought in by the NDP in 1970-71, under the Ed Schreyer government.

To this day, even though we talk about having a national pharmacare program, and the Liberals will promise it occasionally before elections when they are in red book mode, when they become government, and when the Conservatives become government, we do not see actions taken in the areas of pharmacare. We do not see actions taken in the area of daycare. We certainly do not see actions taken in the area of pay equity.

Another issue we dealt with in 1986 was the inclusion of gay rights in the human rights code. That was when I was first elected. Even our own caucus was having difficulties with this issue. I know I was one of a group of four people who stood our ground. We fought the issue and over time we turned the government around on it and it agreed to bring it forth. To his credit, Premier Pawley to this day says that the action he took to introduce the legislation was one of his proudest moments during his six and a half years as premier.

We in the NDP in Manitoba, like the Bloc in Quebec, have been at the vanguard of a lot of very progressive legislation.

When I see Bill C-471 introduced by the Liberal leader, I wondered why it would be introduced in 2010. When we looked into the issue a little further, we found that it was a case where the Liberals and Leader of the Opposition essentially got themselves into a problem. Last year, on March 4, 2009, the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore instructed his party to vote with the government on the budget bill. Like this year's budget implementation bill, last year's was very similar, with a omnibus approach in which the government took a number of issues that it knew would be controversial in a minority Parliament and threw them in the budget.

There were environmental issues and there was this issue. The government decided to take the whole area of pay equity out under the purview of the human rights jurisdiction legislation and put it under the area of labour negotiations.

The members of the Bloc and the NDP understood what was going on with the government, regardless of its protestations, and members of the Liberal Party understood it as well. However, they were caught in this cat and mouse game, which the government has played with them over the last two year period. The government feels it can throw items like this into an omnibus bill and serve it up to the Liberals. The Liberals are so afraid to go to an election over it that they simply fall in line and vote the way they have. To try to recover and save some face in the matter and some credibility, the member has decided to come up with this approach. That is what we are dealing with right now.

The current Prime Minister has a pretty spotty record in this area as well. We have some issues and quotes from him. I believe the Bloc member dealt with it a few minutes ago, but the Prime Minister has made all sorts of very incendiary comments over the years. I recall him talking about the maritime provinces being overly dependent on government incentives and that got himself into a lot of trouble. He talked about building firewalls around Alberta and that got into a lot of trouble.

In 1998 the Prime Minister described our current pay equity laws in the following words. He said:

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.

I do not believe the leopard changes its spots that easily. He knows he is close to a majority government and has to make some changes, so perhaps he will moderate his views a little to gain some short-term political advantage. At the end of the day, I do not really think he will have changed his views all that much.

He also pointed out 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, we recognize we will not count on the government any time soon to support women's issues in our country. In fact, Conservatives constantly come up with the negative on any of these issues. They can be pretty much guaranteed to be pulling out the cost factors on progressive social initiatives. If we want to establish pay equity, they will be the first to say that they cannot do this because it will cost too much, that it will slow the economy down, that it will bankrupt businesses, that it will bankrupt the government. They will put as regressive a face on it as possible.

We have the issue of the court challenges program, another program that the government eliminated, which is hardly a friendly move as far as women are concerned.

On the whole issue of affordable child care, both Conservative and Liberal governments over the years have failed to create affordable child care in our country. I recognize Quebec has had the best affordable child care system in the country for a number of years now. However, people can look back to 1986 and the work Myrna Phillips and Muriel Smith did in the area of daycare, and the member for Saint Boniface knows the people to whom I refer. It was before she became the speaker of the legislature. We brought in that daycare program in Manitoba.

The fact is successive Conservative governments have never dared to tamper or change those programs, and that is the fundamental fact. The Conservatives rarely propose innovative social programs. We will never see that happening. They are more concerned about corporate taxes. They cannot offend the big corporations. They have to reduce the corporate taxes to attract more business to the country. Then they will be able to afford proper daycare and pay equity 200 or 300 years into the future.

The Conservatives' priority is driving corporate taxes down to zero, if it can get it there, which is the difference between the Conservative approach and the approach of the NDP. I think the women in this country know very well that they are far better off supporting the NDP than they ever have been or will be supporting governments like the Conservatives.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6:10 p.m.
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Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking out against Bill C-471, a private member's bill introduced by the Leader of the Opposition to repeal the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act from the 2009 budget.

I first need to indicate how confused I am about the Liberal position. This is a party that, today, once again, attempted to shut down a female member of Parliament's right to speak, a party that continually bullies our female members of Parliament. It is the male member for Ajax—Pickering who continues to do that on behalf of the Liberal leader.

I am talking about the debate that is going on about the gun registry, a debate that Canadians are seized upon and that many women care intimately about. It is an issue that we wanted to debate wholly and fulsomely but, unfortunately, the member for Ajax—Pickering attempted to shut down that debate by eliminating all but a couple of witnesses who actually sit on the side of repealing the long gun registry and tried to force through a whole contingent of witnesses who would only air one side of it.

Once again, they are bullying Canadians by trying to silence them. This is done because the leader, for whatever reason, is afraid to hear from police officers who are in fact in support of repealing the registry.

Today, after a motion had been made by the member for Ajax—Pickering, a motion to allow the mover of the bill only 30 minutes to speak when normal practice is that the mover of the bill gets an hour in every other committee, a bullying tactic by the member for Ajax—Pickering, the discussion period was limited to 30 minutes on a very important bill to repeal the long gun registry.

Again at that committee, the member for Ajax—Pickering bullied his way through committee and silenced the will of committee. The committee had voted very clearly on his motion to proceed with the 30 minute period for the person—

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I question the relevance of the member going on and on. My understanding of it is that that side had been filibustering in that particular committee. Now we are on a private member's bill in regard to equity.

Mr. Speaker, I think you should look into the relevance.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

May 4th, 2010 / 6:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the bill because we are speaking about women's equality and how far women have come in this wonderful Canada that we call home.

Unfortunately, the Liberal Party sees fit to try to silence women, not only here in the House of Commons but across the country when things like the gun registry are being discussed, which is in their interest, for their protection and for safety. We need to make it more functional.

We need to make pay equity more functional, which is what our government has done. Today, when the member for Ajax—Pickering, after his motion passed in committee to allow the member for Portage—Lisgar to speak for 30 minutes on her bill, again limiting her because normally it is an hour, he then interrupted at the beginning of committee and limited her once again to 10 minutes. He was able to silence a female member and make it seem as if this were a normal process.

I am sorry but I question the honesty of that member and democracy among the party.

The private member's bill before us today is flawed and unworkable in so many ways that I do not even know where to start.

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which affects only the federal public sector, is based on the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. That is the same principle found in the Canadian Human Rights Act.

In principle and in application, the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act shows that our government respects this fundamental value of Canadian society.

One of the flaws of the opposition's Bill C-471 is that it requires the government to implement a complex and costly pay equity system that would not serve federal public servants and the Canadian people well. We do not need that.

Canada and Canadian women have evolved a lot since 1970. In the last 30 years, women have made great progress, particularly in the federal public service, to which the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act applies.

In 1983, fewer than 5% of senior level positions in the federal public service were filled by women. Today, 41% of senior executives are women. This shows that women are increasingly taking their rightful place in the federal public service. They not only have access to these positions; their representation in most positions at all levels has also increased considerably over the years.

It is fair to say that there has been a profound change in the Canadian public service over the past few years and women have played an important role in that change. Today, the public service offers women and men equal access to all positions and the same pay within the same groups and levels.

Women have made significant progress in three decades and the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act recognizes that reality. Not only have women taken their place in the ranks of the federal public service, but their wages have been integrated into the bargaining process for all federal employees.

If you believe in the principle of equal pay for work of equal value and if you believe in the right to collective bargaining, that is as it should be. If you believe in equal pay for work of equal value, you will understand that public servants' remuneration as well as benefits must be established in the same way and at the same time, but not separately.

This proactive approach reflects the equality and equity enjoyed by men and women in the public service today.

I believe that most people would agree with me that it is better to adopt a proactive approach to all matters pertaining to remuneration than to engage in long and costly pay equity processes that will force future generations to pay women the salaries that they were entitled to from the beginning.

That is the aim of the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act.

Of course, Bill C-471, sooner or later, after much effort, may lead to a system of proactive remuneration, but at what cost? Repealing the entire Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act—a new law which will soon go into effect—and replacing it later with another complex and costly law does not make sense.

It is even less logical to think that any law that might replace it in the future would even come close to equalling the level of accountability and effectiveness in the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act.

Repealing this act would be terrible. It would do a lot of damage and would not be progressive at all, considering that an effective solution is already available.

I also want to point out that opposition members like to downplay one of the major reforms that the Public Service Equitable Compensation Act introduced: recourse.

Our new system does not deny women or any employee the right to file complaints in court.

On the contrary, it upholds that right via an independent watchdog: the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

There is another reason why this bill is defective.

Currently, the public service is going to great lengths to renew its workforce and work environment to keep them relevant to the next generation of Canadians and to ensure that they contribute to our country's success. We call it public service renewal. One of our goals is to create a work environment that will persuade the best and brightest to work for Canada.

In closing, I will be voting against the leader of the Liberal Party's bill because it does not enhance the ability of women to fight for their rights. We would be taking a huge leap backward, should we go back to what we had previously. I am not willing to allow women to go back to a system where it takes 15 years for them to get their just due and I will not agree with the Liberal leader's position on this.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:05 a.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, 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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Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question and I also thank her for all the hard work she does as a member of Parliament.

We are very aware of what was in the 2009 budget. We read it carefully, but we found that it contained a fundamental error that undermines pay equity and prevents Canada from protecting people's rights to pay equity. Our position is that a federal pay equity commission must be restored to protect and defend human rights, which are what pay equity is all about.

I would like to say that I would be very happy if the hon. member were to support this bill.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, in his speech today the Leader of the Opposition said that our government has done nothing for aboriginal women. I work very closely with Grand Chief Ron Evans and the aboriginal women and men across this country.

Earlier this year our government gave $100,000 for a conference that was held in Winnipeg on missing women. In addition to that, this money was also used for education materials to help people understand what happens when predators target children.

I am wondering whether the opposition leader knew of this initiative that was so important and why he would not be a bit more careful in his comments instead of being so partisan because our government has done a lot of work.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think there is a concern across the House about missing aboriginal women. The question is not whether there is concern. The question is whether there is action.

The hon. colleague opposite is in government. It is up to the government to create a commission of inquiry to get to the truth of this. The funding and the gestures that it has made are commendable. We are saying they are also inadequate and we need to go further.

This is also a government that has been unable to reduce the gap in the funding of education for aboriginal women and unable to reduce the gaps in funding for health care for aboriginal women. This is a government that had to be pressed and pushed by the Government of Saskatchewan and other authorities, and by the distinguished member for Wascana, to step up with the First Nations University. The stepping up is not full and it is not complete. It is begrudging and it is not completed.

All of these measures indicate that the government does not fully understand the importance of advancing the cause: the equality of aboriginal women. That was the point I was trying to make.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives made their attack on pay equity very clear when they came back with that toxic economic update that they threw to the middle of the House and there were three main issues in it. First, there was the attack on pay equity; second, there was the attack on environmental standards; and third, there was the attack on political parties getting financed.

Therefore, we were at a constitutional crisis at that moment and when the Liberals caved, they received one benefit. The only thing that the Conservatives caved on was the fact that the Liberal Party is still getting its election donations through the taxpayer. At the time when we could have made the issue of pay equity an issue to push back, when it was an issue of confidence, the Liberals rolled over. They were missing in action.

Now, we are to believe that a private member's bill that comes in on a Monday morning is action. I would say that the member had the chance to take action and the Liberals refused because they did not want to stand up at the time. Now they are going to walk around the country saying, “Wait, after we voted to kill pay equity, now we have a private member's bill”.

I think that shows a complete lack of concern for the fact that my party and our colleagues in the Bloc were looking to the Liberals to fight for pay equity--

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

April 12th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Michael Ignatieff Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I note my colleague's comments with interest and some amusement, noting that his party supported the government last September. I would urge him to set aside partisanship and rancour from times past and consider the virtues of supporting a measure, which I am sure aligns with the fundamental principles of his party.

I cannot understand why, if we have a chance to correct what I am sure his party agrees is a serious and grave mistake, he would not seize the opportunity to vote with us on the bill and correct the wrong that he identifies as clearly as we do.

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.
See context

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.
See context

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.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations ActPrivate Members' Business

December 9th, 2009 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

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.
See context

Beauport—Limoilou Québec

Conservative

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 ActRoutine Proceedings

October 29th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.
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Etobicoke—Lakeshore Ontario

Liberal

Michael Ignatieff LiberalLeader of the Opposition

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce this bill that will recognize something that never should have been an issue: it is a human right to receive equal pay for work of equal value.

Earlier this year, the government hid an attack on the pay equity rights of women behind the stimulus measures in the budget . Doing so was wrong. It must be reversed, and this bill proposes to do just that. The bill repeals the measures in the budget that put pay equity on the bargaining table, because no human right should ever be on the bargaining table.

Women are not a left-wing fringe group. All Canadians, both men and women, deserve the full protection of their government. All Canadians deserve equality in their workplace.

Under this government, the gender gap is growing. We dropped from 4th place to 25th in the world. We should do better.

A Liberal government would implement in full the recommendations of the 2004 pay equity task force. We would set clear targets and we would meet them. Canadian women have waited too long for justice, and that is the purpose of this bill.

I truly hope that this bill will receive the support of the House, since we are working to fulfill our shared commitment to protect the human rights of all Canadians.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)