An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation)

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Anne-Marie Day  NDP

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

Status

Defeated, as of Feb. 5, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Financial Administration Act to achieve balanced representation in the number of women and men serving as directors on boards of parent Crown corporations by establishing the minimum proportion of each sex on those boards.

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

Feb. 5, 2014 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 3rd, 2014 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak on Bill C-473, legislation that would amend the Financial Administration Act to achieve balanced representation of the number of women and men serving as directors on boards of parent crown corporations, by establishing the minimum proportion of each.

I want to commend my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for an initiative which builds on the work of the senator for Bedford, Quebec.

Before I discuss the merits of the legislation, I would like to note that women's rights are human rights and there are no human rights that do not include the rights of women. Therefore, it is incumbent upon each of us to give expression to this fundamental message through concrete action and to understand that the tools to promote the objectives of equality are in our own hands. That is, we must commit ourselves to this cause without delay. Canada ranks 20th among 133 countries regarding the gender gap, behind Nicaragua, Latvia, Cuba, and Lesotho. Status of Women Canada has a $29.6 million budget and only four offices. The government has yet to launch an inquiry into the 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls. Violence drives 100,000 women and children from their homes into shelters each year. Canadian women earn 81¢ for every $1 that a man earns, and the government fails to value the enormous contribution that women make to the two-thirds of the 25 billion hours of unpaid work that Canadians perform every year.

While women make up 50.9% of the Canadian population, women hold barely one-quarter of the seats in the House. Canada ranks 42nd in terms of the gender gap in politics. This is a result of policy choices we have made and that we should change. While I will not go into the details here, we have examples from around the world, such as Norway and Sweden, that if we remove obstacles, including financial barriers, more women would run, more women would be elected, and we would improve gender parity in the House of Commons.

Beyond policy options to improve gender parity in Parliament, there are policy options with respect to equality more broadly, and that is what this bill is about. Bill C-473 is at second reading, and the question before Parliament is whether it should be sent to committee for further study. I believe the bill should indeed be referred to committee, so that witnesses can help inform the discussion and debate. I support the spirit and principle of the bill, as I believe gender parity is a goal we must pursue, and more importantly attain.

According to the research organization Catalyst, women make up 47% of the Canadian labour force, but only 14% of board seats among the 500 largest Canadian companies surveyed by the Financial Post. Women's representation on boards of publicly traded companies still stands at only 10.3%. There was new data out last night that suggests another study shows it may be 20%.

Many industrialized countries have discovered that legislation is needed to achieve balanced representation in the corporate world. Since 2008, at least nine countries, including Norway, Spain, France, and Italy, have adopted some form of quota requirements for diversity on corporate boards. Other countries do not have fixed quotas, but they have set targets for women that companies are either required to comply with or must explain publicly why they are not.

According to Deb Gillis, chief operating officer at Catalyst, “There really is a global conversation going on right now about the issue of women on boards”. Yet, in Canada, progress has been glacial. The Globe and Mail's annual “Board Games” report on corporate governance found that 41% of companies in the benchmark S&P/TSX index still have no women on their boards.

There are some questions to be addressed in committee regarding the scope and implementation of this bill. One question is whether the legislation goes far enough, in that the number of women on boards may not be an accurate indicator in and of itself of women's progress more broadly. Let me provide an example.

Just because we have gender parity on a board heading a science agency does not mean we are doing enough to encourage women to enter and remain in the sciences, or that women are equitably represented in decisions regarding science policy. We all hope that if more women are on boards, these boards and agencies will adopt policies and perspectives that are inclusive and sensitive to the need for minority representation.

However, we might wonder whether there are other metrics to be considered in this regard, such as compensation. Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the bill seems to be silent on the matter of sanctions. That is, it does not outline penalties or remedial action for failure to adhere to the objectives outlined in the bill.

It specifically states:

An act of the board of directors of a parent Crown corporation to which section 105.1 applies is not invalid on the sole ground that the composition of the board is not in compliance with that section.

In other words, any decision made by a board without the designated gender representation is not invalid if the board does not meet the appropriate gender representation requirements. This clause would seem to lessen the strength of the bill.

I think we have to investigate whether we might have some sort of mechanism whereby we do not merely say, as this bill does, that failure to meet the required parity is just business as usual and we are sorry. Ultimately, without any consequence for failure to meet the quotas, this entire initiative may become an exercise in symbolism, which I am sure the hon. member who introduced the bill did not intend to be the principal impact.

There are multiple approaches to this question. Those studying the bill at committee should perhaps question what the goal should be, and if and when sanctions should be put in place. For example, should the goal be 50% parity in the statute and that sanctions be mandated with a figure of less than 40%, or should perhaps some other number be achieved?

We need to hear expert witness testimony before the committee. While Canada has seen little improvement in women's representation on boards, other countries have seen marked improvement. For example, in France, where mandatory quotas will take effect in 2017, women comprised 16.6% of directors in 2011, up from 9.1% just 2 years earlier.

I hope we can send this bill to committee so that witnesses will provide the evidence that we as parliamentarians can then use to inform our perspectives and the subsequent debate.

Before concluding my remarks, I would be remiss if I did not note that all issues of gender parity are not solved by this bill, though it is certainly a step in the right direction. There are indeed many other concerns, both domestic and international, that time does not permit me to address, including pay equity, ending violence against women, an inquiry into the 600 missing and murdered aboriginal women, matrimonial real property, gender budgeting, women in armed conflict, etcetera, on which I would encourage the government to adopt a more progressive and inclusive approach.

Until that time, I hope more private members' bills such as this will seek to advance the equality cause that arguably the government has abandoned.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 3rd, 2014 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to rise and speak in strong support of Bill C-473, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation). I commend my colleague, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, for her hard work on this important initiative.

I first want to discuss what this bill is designed to accomplish. Then I want to address some of the arguments that may be aligned against it.

At the outset I want to say that I am deeply indebted to my constituent Ms. Nancy Singh, who has been a tireless researcher and passionate advocate for this very issue. Her analysis has been helpful to the presentation I will make today.

Bill C-473 aims to achieve gender parity in representation on the boards of directors of crown corporations over a period of six years. It is a gradual, phased-in initiative. It would also have the effect of indirectly forcing crown corporations to widen their search for qualified high-calibre applicants and target non-traditional recruitment pools.

What the bill would not do is in any way legislate measures for companies, private sector corporate entities, financial institutions, or the like. As an NDP opposition, we believe that taking steps to gender equity on government corporations would set an example desperately needed in the private sector to achieve balanced representation in the management of our important industries, and it would mirror the demographic makeup of our very country.

Canada is one of the few western countries with no policy or legislation on women's representation on corporate boards. Therefore, we are depriving ourselves of the talent women would provide to decision making. Most experts who have studied corporate governance have concluded that this is a positive contribution that should be made.

There are obviously enough women qualified to serve in these capacities. For many years I taught at a law school. Year after year women were in the majority of applicants. Also, that composition has been or is being achieved in many of our provincial superior courts. However, as I will discuss in a moment, that has not been the case on corporate boards or in the crown corporations of Canada.

In March the Toronto Star reported on a report entitled “Get on Board Corporate Canada”, written by Ms. Beata Caranci, the deputy chief economist of the TD Bank. She stated that nearly half the companies listed on the TSX composite index have only one female board member and just over a quarter have no women on their boards.

This is why an example must be set. She said that based on a widely accepted international measure, termed the GMI index, just 13.1% of corporate board seats in Canada were held by women in 2011, a figure that actually dropped from sixth to ninth place among industrialized nations over a three-year period. In other words, it is getting worse, not better.

There is no strategy at all, no cohesive government policy to address this issue.

Many have talked about a policy whereby, if a corporation cannot comply, it must explain why not. That has been the latest option in some of the private sector. As has been pointed out by no less than the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan, this voluntary measure is having little or no impact. That is why it recently asked the Ontario Securities Commission to require all public companies to have at least three women on their boards. It is not tokenism. Rather, it is a requirement that it recognizes to achieve better decisions on boards reflecting the diversity of this country, so we have a more holistic view of the environment in which these corporations act. It is no different in crown corporations.

Since 2008, we have had at least nine countries around the world—Norway, Spain, France, and Italy—that have some sort of quota representation requiring diversity on corporate boards. Other countries have set targets. What has Canada done? Canada has done nothing.

In 2012, the EU justice commissioner announced that European countries would be forced to hire a female candidate over an equally qualified male or face sanctions, unless women occupy at least 40% of board seats in Europe by 2020. Other countries are getting serious about this problem. What is Canada doing? Canada is doing nothing.

So what about crown corporations? Most recent data show that among the 2,000 Canadians who hold positions in more than 200 crown corporations, agencies, and commissions across this country, women are currently under-represented. They hold only 27% of senior management positions. The Library of Parliament tells us that according to the list of directors of crown corporations, out of 84 crown corporations in Canada, only 16 of those 84 presidents are women, or 19%. Women are over 50% of our population.

Quebec has done something. Quebec is the only province that has passed legislation to attain gender parity on the boards of their crown corporations. The goal was to do so by 2011. What has happened in that period? The results have been impressive. In December 2011, the deadline to have achieved parity, 141 women and 128 men held positions on the boards of 22 state-owned enterprises in Quebec. Therefore, women have become a majority of board members. The task now is to balance representation in each board of state-owned enterprises covered by the legislation. It can be done. It has been done in other European countries; it has been done in Quebec; it can be done at the federal level.

That said, what is the problem? Why would people be opposed to this, if indeed there are any people opposed? Let me suggest that there are probably three arguments.

The first might be that appointments to a board must be based solely on merit. We agree. However, there are so many women with the very credentials and skills needed who are not being brought forward that we have a problem. There are qualified people, and that has of course been proven elsewhere.

The second argument is that there somehow is a quota system, even a temporary one, and it imposes a rigid straitjacket on the appointment process. I too find the word “quota” an ugly word, and in Canada it has an ugly connotation and an ugly history. However, we must work to ensure that there are opportunities for women and girls coming forward. The government has to show leadership. I believe that introducing a quota is a last resort, but the status quo is simply not working. This must be a function of what is termed “effects discrimination”. We cannot look at the statistics I have quoted without coming to a different conclusion.

For example, a woman named Guylaine Saucier has been a very prominent director on Canadian corporate boards. She was on the board of the French food giant, Danone. When France announced it was creating a quota requiring corporate boards to have at least 40% women directors, she was initially an opponent. However, Ms. Saucier has come around to an entirely different view. The Globe and Mail reported:

“I’m beginning to evolve,” she confesses. “Yes, they appointed some token women, no doubt about that. But at the same time, I do see coming on board women that really were not known and are really good… And I’m sure I can bet you that they would never have been invited to boards without this legislation… I am more pleasantly surprised than I thought I would be”.

The third argument, I presume, is that the law is not necessary. It is necessary. The Quebec example obviously demonstrates that the opposite is true. A selection process can remain very simple, and a corrective measure like imposing quotas balances the representation on boards within a realistic timeframe. Women are willing to participate in the administration of large corporations, and certainly are more than ready to participate in large Canadian crown corporations.

It is proven that the simple passage of time does not translate into a significant increase of women on boards. We have tried, but nothing meaningful has occurred. It is time for action. It is time for Canada to join with its European counterparts, to join with the Province of Quebec, and to get into the 21st century, to show the kind of diversity that we desperately need in our boards.

I strongly support this initiative and hope my fellow members of Parliament will do so as well.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 3rd, 2014 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-473, which was introduced by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Because I am fortunate enough to share a desk with her, we have had a number of discussions about this bill.

This bill would introduce progressive measures to address the under-representation of women on crown corporation boards of administration. This bill is about professional equality between men and women. Equality in every dimension results from a long process of democratization that leads to recognition that both sexes have the same rights.

Nevertheless, women with the same skill sets as men still do not have equal access to senior positions. This problem affects both boards of directors and senior management teams.

This bill expresses the political will to fight this type of inequality. Politicians can commit to taking meaningful action to foster gender equality in the realms where it is possible for them to do so. I want to emphasize that it takes political will to walk the talk and pass this bill, a bill that can change things.

Women entering the workforce was a major change for our democracy. Our country is relatively young, but in its early days, there were hardly any women in the labour force. Things changed very fast. Now women are in the workforce. The labour market has also become more democratic over time. We have to keep up the fight and take meaningful action to conquer this kind of inequality.

Economically, implementing social policies that encourage women to join the labour force is a win-win situation. It is a technical win because when there are more women in the labour force, there is more taxable income, which means higher tax revenues for the state.

It is also a win because when men and women play an equal role in governing public corporations, their decisions take a much wider range of perspectives into account. Influenced by different viewpoints, their decisions are more thoughtful and effective. It is no secret that men and women often see the same problem from different angles.

When we have the views of both men and women on how to address specific problems, the outcome is more effective. Companies are usually at an advantage when they choose to include more women on their boards of directors or management teams. In fact, research conducted by Catalyst has shown a positive correlation between a company's sound financial results and a high number of women in its executive ranks.

For instance, the crown corporation Canada Post says it has financial difficulties, but its vision is probably more masculine. If more women had been on its board of directors, the visions would have been more varied and the corporation would have taken more acceptable and effective actions.

The vision of Canada Post would have been much broader. As we can see in the case of private companies, such a vision leads to better financial results. I think the government would benefit from adopting this type of policy, since it has a positive effect on financial results.

This legislation remains an effective tool for achieving the goal of gender parity. By examining international experience in the area, we can see that, unfortunately, voluntary incentives in no way lead to the expected results. When you rely on people's goodwill and you encourage them without putting legal measures in place, you will not achieve the desired results. In our example, what really matters is the outcome. Once we realize that a voluntary approach does not work, I think it is very important to take a stand and pass the appropriate legislation.

In addition, when legislation is not passed, inaction often seems to reinforce inequalities. The longer we wait to pass a piece of legislation, the more the situation worsens or at least does not improve. I think this clearly demonstrates the need to pass this legislation.

Once the bill comes into force, the objective of ensuring gender parity on the boards of crown corporations must be achieved within six years. Practically speaking, this means that it is important to pass such legislation quite quickly.

A gradual approach is used so as not to shake things up too much all at once and to allow people to adapt and slowly achieve their objectives. Quite often this means there will be one or two more women a year. At the end of six years, the target will be met. This is done gradually to give the organizations the time to develop new recruitment strategies. They will definitely need it. Often, women need to be encouraged to join boards of directors and they have to be sought out. Nonetheless, there are just as many well-qualified women as men. Sometimes women need to be sought out and encouraged to join boards of directors. The skills that these women have acquired and developed throughout their careers would be taken into consideration. This timeframe would allow the crown corporations to explore new labour pools and adjust their recruitment policies in order to bring qualified executives into their boards of administration.

The NDP has clearly demonstrated that it is leading the way in Canadian politics, and one way we have proven that is with our nominations. Fifty percent of NDP candidates are women. This has been good for democracy. I think I am a good example among my peers. By doing something tangible we are leading by example. The NDP currently has the largest female caucus in Parliament. It is important to do something tangible.

If women do not make up 50% of the parties' candidates, then it will be hard to have more female members of Parliament. We have to force the hand of the authorities in place. By having female candidates, we are able to have female MPs. The same goes for boards of directors. By passing legislation and forcing their hand a bit, we will end up with excellent women contributing to our crown corporations. The government can then also contribute to the increased use of professional practices that are based on balanced representation and that, I hope, will go beyond those of the public enterprises in question.

In other words, the bill before us can truly provide a concrete strategic advantage to our crown corporations. What is more, considering that some crown corporations are in financial difficulty, this might even help them face the future much more effectively.

I think this bill will truly benefit Canada, and I recommend that all members support it.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 3rd, 2014 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, as both a woman and a member of the NDP, I am pleased to support Bill C-473, which was introduced by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. This bill is designed to ensure that crown corporations have balanced representation.

I would like to talk about my own experience in politics. In 2009, I had the opportunity to run in a municipal election as a candidate for Project Montréal, a party in the Island of Montreal that encouraged women to run in municipal politics. That was my first experience, and then I had the opportunity to run again, this time for the NDP. The NDP encourages women to run for politics, and we can see the results.

That led us—the caucus and me, as a female politician—to think about the obstacles that keep some women from going into politics. The ripple effect from the 2011 election and the fact that many women ran for political office is proof of the NDP's desire to encourage women to join various fields of endeavour. All of that relates to Bill C-473.

Government is often regarded as a mover and innovator when it comes to building a better society, and this bill does just that. It sets out principles that would allow Canadian crown corporations to gradually work towards better gender parity.

We need to do this. Women have come a long way in recent decades, but there is still a long way to go. The document titled Women in Canada 2010-2011, drafted by Statistics Canada and Status of Women Canada, notes that there is greater representation of women in management positions. In 2009, women represented 37% of those employed in management positions, up from 30% in 1987. However, women have greater representation in lower-level management positions as compared to upper management positions. In 2009, women held 31.6% of upper management positions, but 37.4% of management positions at other levels.

There is still progress to be made, and it is not because women are not qualified for the job. The latest statistical profile from Statistics Canada shows that more women are completing post-secondary studies, are very well educated and can rise to the challenge.

Mr. Speaker, my riding of LaSalle—Émard is lucky to be represented by a woman, and furthermore, the mayor of the riding is also a woman. Several municipal councillors are women, and that is also the case in the Sud-Ouest borough, which is next to my riding. More and more women are rising to the challenge and answering the call. That has to continue. We have to eliminate barriers by establishing progressive policies that will lead to a fairer representation of women in crown corporations.

When the government sets an example with crown corporations, the private sector often follows suit. That is our hope.

An article in today's Globe and Mail notes that women account for 20% of seats in boards of directors, especially those of very large Canadian companies. However, if we consider small, medium-sized and large businesses overall, this statistic drops to 12%. That is really not a lot.

If the government sets an example, as the Quebec government did, by establishing progressive measures leading to increased gender parity in crown corporations, I am sure that private businesses would follow suit.

What is interesting about Quebec's example is that not only did it implement measures, but it also ensured that they produced results. Quebec measures results against goals, studies the barriers that could keep women from executive positions and finds ways to help them overcome some of those barriers.

I want the government and the Minister of Status of Women to show some leadership to ensure that there is balanced representation on boards of crown corporations. This will create a ripple effect and ensure that women—who represent more than 50% of this country's wealth, as we have already heard—have an opportunity to actively participate in running crown corporations and also private companies.

It is time for this government to show some leadership and commit to ensuring that more and more women are able to assume management roles and that they have the means to take on these positions and be involved in politics. By “means”, I do not necessarily mean financial means, although that helps. We must ensure that there are no barriers hindering women's promotion to these positions.

By breaking down these barriers, we would not only be helping Canadian women, but also advancing our society so that it is more just and fair and so that everyone has the opportunity to participate for the greater good. This has been proven in the research that my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles did when drafting this bill. It has been shown that diversity, including gender diversity, on governing councils and boards of directors can have a positive impact on debate and dialogue. Diversity also encourages boards to consider all aspects when making decisions and to take into account the experience of every individual on these boards.

A bill to achieve balanced representation on the boards of crown corporations will not only enable women to be promoted to these types of positions, but will also enrich Canadian society as a whole, in many respects.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 3rd, 2014 / 11:50 a.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to have this opportunity to rise again in the House today to continue the debate on my bill, Bill C-473, which proposes changes to the Financial Administration Act.

The purpose of the bill is to improve the representation of women on boards of directors of crown corporations and only crown corporations. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that gender equality must be a priority for Canadians. In its Constitution, Canada recognizes that men and women are equal. However, when it comes to economic independence, equality in decision-making, violence against women, pay equity and other issues, there remains a great deal of work to be done in order for men and women to be equal in economic, social and political spheres in Canada.

In previous debates, some of my colleagues raised a number of questions that should be clarified for everyone's benefit. I hope my responses here today will answer their questions. First, I would like to remind everyone that the heads of crown corporations—even though those corporations operate at arm's length of the government—are appointed by the ministers. The government therefore has the power to take the necessary corrective action to put an end to any undue discrimination currently practiced against women in the hiring process.

During my last speech, my main argument was that Canadian women are more qualified than ever, and accordingly, the government needs to bring in measures that maximize the potential of all that talent. Thus, I have to be critical of the parliamentary secretary's tactic of using misinformation when she stated the opposite of what I said. As I explained last time, the problem has nothing to do with qualifications, but rather with accessibility. Women have the skills needed, but they are not recruited as much because their resumés do not make it onto the minister's desk.

The solution is simple. We have to make sure that, during the appointments process, CVs from women and men with equal skill sets are provided to the minister's office. Quebec is a perfect example of how that can work. Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary said, there have been no problems and no negative repercussions on performance. There has been nothing rigid or arbitrary about this process, simply a pool of male and female candidates to choose from. My colleague opposite also presented an argument based on the effectiveness and benefits of the voluntary measures put forward by the government. Norway tried the voluntary approach, but it did not work. The Conference Board of Canada says that it will take another 150 years to reach parity if we rely solely on the voluntary approach.

I also want to mention the brave step that Morocco took in introducing legislation after the Arab Spring. Female representation in that Arab country went from 19% to 50%. Here in Canada, the voluntary approach has resulted in women being under-represented on boards of crown corporations and holding only 27% of senior management positions. How can the government claim to be doing everything it should be doing when the figures are clear and do not lie? There has been no progress on this issue. That is clear proof that the voluntary approach does not work and does not produce the expected results.

In a speech she delivered last fall, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, supported the introduction of quotas “because nothing has changed in the past 25 or 30 years!” I would therefore urge all of my colleagues to recognize the obvious and take appropriate measures to ensure that we achieve the goals Canada wishes to set for itself in terms of gender parity.

In response to other questions that some of my colleagues had, I would like to add that I am very aware that this bill does not fix all of the problems related to women's rights, especially not access to senior positions. However, I sincerely believe that Bill C-473 is a step forward, a corrective measure. Without it, a laissez-faire approach will change nothing.

I strongly suggest that we refer this bill to a committee so that we can give more thought to issues such as transgender individuals and sanctions in cases where boards do not achieve parity by the deadline. Experts, including people who were in charge of implementing the new process in Quebec, will be able to advise us on this matter.

It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to pass corrective legislation so that women can benefit fully from their rights. The NDP has always been and will continue to be a champion of women's rights.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2013 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

moved that Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, the government recently prorogued, so here we are once again, debating my bill, Bill C-473. I am pleased to speak to this bill today and to speak on behalf of the thousands of Canadian women who aspire to a high-level career.

I would like to begin by saying that I would have preferred to see this issue settled sooner. I would have preferred that its legislative course had not been interrupted by prorogation. That way, today we would be taking action, not still debating.

The issue of equality between women and men in a fair and equitable Canadian society was always at the heart of my previous professional life and now, today, as a politician, I am truly proud to be able to contribute to this cause.

As introduced in the House last February, Bill C-473 proposes a simple but effective improvement to the current legislation governing our public financial administration.

Specifically, the bill would give Canadians balanced representation on the boards of directors of crown corporations. It is a corrective measure to help us reach our goal of parity on the boards of directors of Canadian crown corporations.

The question of gender equity in the management of our crown corporations is not unknown to Canada's Parliament. In the House, the Senate and committees, the fact that still too few women are involved in the management of our political institutions and Canadian businesses remains an important problem that we must consider if we want to be able to say we live in a society with equal rights.

I remind members that this bill has to do with equality of representation and affects only crown corporations, not private companies. Since Canadian women are taxpayers just like men, it is as though they are shareholders of crown corporations, just like men.

Their taxes go towards crown corporations, so it makes since that, as shareholders, they should have the right to be heard, considered and represented in proportion to their demographic weight in society.

In spite of this, and while Canadian society has made many strides toward women's rights in recent decades, the figures show that the government lacks the vision and will to make this issue a priority.

The most recent data show that over 2,000 Canadians occupy positions in more than 200 crown corporations, organizations, boards of directors and commissions across the country.

Of all the positions available on the boards of directors of these organizations, only 27% of senior management positions are occupied by women. The situation is even worse for presidents of boards of directors. The most recent figures show that only 16 of the 84 presidents are women.

Sadly, we are a long way from the equal representation that would reflect Canada's demographic makeup and offer professional growth and development opportunities to our talented women.

With women as 27% of directors of crown corporations, we are far behind the 40% reached in most Scandinavian countries. Other countries such as Spain, France and the Netherlands have introduced incentives for other kinds of institutions.

As our country has evolved, it has established a robust democratic process for appointments to fill available positions on the boards of our crown corporations.

Ministers manage the appointments within their own portfolios, and submit their nominations to the Governor in Council.

As part of the selection process, criteria are established to define the essential qualifications for a given position. A number of mechanisms are used to attract a large number of potential candidates, such as the Governor-in-Council appointments website, executive recruiting agencies, newspapers and specialized publications. Canadians who express an interest are evaluated according to the requirements of the position they apply for.

In regard to the balanced representation issue, one of the problems our society had to address was that, in the past, there were not enough women with the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements of the position. This problem disappeared over the years, with mass education for Canadians and women's access to post-secondary studies.

These days, according to a number of experts who have looked at the issue, one stubborn problem that persists is that we are still looking for candidates in traditional recruitment pools, where men are still in the majority. Two factors we thought had almost disappeared from contemporary society are still very much in place: the “old boys' club”—the traditional recruiting network for executive positions—and the familiar “glass ceiling”, which, unfortunately, is still hard to crack for women aspiring to professional careers at the highest levels.

My bill proposes an indirect approach to eliminating these two stereotypes. Once the boards of our crown corporations have to comply with gradual gender representation quotas, those responsible for recommending appointments will have to show their creativity and willingness to expand the limits of their recruiting methods and broaden their search for candidates with the required skills to non-traditional recruitment pools.

Canada has a highly qualified female workforce, and we can be proud of that. Our working women include more than 60,000 professional accountants, 20,000 lawyers, over 16,000 engineers, thousands of university professors and hundreds of actuaries. There are therefore plenty of women with the talents and skills required to fill these positions. All we need is to be given the resources, as a society, to go out and recruit them.

Now, the question is why the government would create quotas rather than voluntary incentives. It must be said that some groups and organizations have come out against this kind of mandatory reinforcement measure. The justification that is usually given is the fact that the government should not become involved in the choices of outside organizations, like businesses.

First, let us remember that my bill does not affect any organizations other than crown corporations. I would like to remind hon. members of this again because, unfortunately, the Conservatives tend to want to discredit my bill based on the fact that they took action by setting up an advisory committee in 2012 in order to find ways of increasing the number of women on company boards of directors.

However, my bill has nothing to do with corporate governance. What is more, the committee was supposed to provide the government with clear recommendations in the fall of 2013 and still has not done so.

In short, I would like to point out that the problem of unbalanced representation on the boards of crown corporations will not be resolved through proposed solutions that deal with corporate governance. Let us not confuse the two subjects. Let us work together to find appropriate solutions that will show the government's real desire to change things by taking action to achieve more balanced representation, meaning more women, on boards of crown corporations.

Members should also understand that the proposed choice of quotas is based on the results of careful reflection by experts, published studies and consultations with professional organizations. That reflection also took place in the light of results observed in other countries, where the problem of balanced representation has been addressed in one way or another.

On this point, I would like to share with my colleagues some more enlightening remarks by Anne Golden, chair of the Conference Board of Canada from 2001 to 2012, who noted that at the current pace, [the way things are going,] it will take 151 years to achieve equity at the top of the organizational ladder if the government does not step in with a mandatory measure.

Another clear example that justifies the establishment of quotas rather than voluntary measures is Norway's failure in this area. In 2003, Norway was the first country to pass legislation providing for gender equality on the board of directors of public limited companies. The legislation extended to crown corporations and came into force in January 2004.

To get to this point, it is important to know that the government had originally tried to negotiate voluntary quotas with the private sector to reach 40% representation of women on boards, with an ultimatum that restrictive legislative measures would be introduced should the desired gender representation not be attained by July 2005. A survey by Statistics Norway showed that by the deadline, only 13% of companies complied with the voluntary quotas, with women representing only 16% of board members.

As a result, legislation was applied to public limited companies. That legislation came into force in January 2006. This example shows that voluntary measures simply do not work.

Quebec, an example from our own backyard, is worth mentioning, since it has been very successful. Quebec is the only province to have passed legislation aimed at achieving gender equality on crown corporation board of directors since 2006. Efforts in this regard have proven successful, to say the least.

In December 2011, the deadline by which crown corporations were to have achieved gender equality within the five-year period, 141 women and 128 men held positions on the board of directors of 22 Quebec crown corporations. Women made up the majority, or 52.4%, of directors appointed. Unfortunately, balanced representation in the number of women and men appointed to the board of each crown corporation subject to the act still needs to be achieved.

In the case of both Norway and Quebec, the legislation did not cause any problems or result in any additional paperwork. Needless to say, crown corporations are obviously very well managed.

Imposing quotas, which could be temporary, could prove to be an effective tool in making our public institutions more democratic. Given how hard it is to achieve gender equality without corrective action, it is the government's duty to bring in effective methods to correct this injustice. Things will not simply change over time.

I would like to share with my colleagues some other important things I have thought about. I hope that they will consider this when we vote in the next few weeks. A 50/50 quota is the most neutral gender-based measure. It avoids all discrimination. Quotas do not discriminate. They compensate for the current barriers that prevent women from exercising their fair share of representation.

Women, as citizens, have the right to balanced representation, especially when the taxes they pay are used to finance the crown corporations. Women who sit on boards of directors add different points of view, diverse knowledge and a change in the dynamic. It is good for business.

These days, Canadian women are just as qualified as Canadian men. It is very important that the government hire outside of traditional, male-dominated recruitment circles. Imposing quotas has not caused any confusion, injustice or problem whatsoever in the jurisdictions where they have been applied. That is why I think using quotas is the best solution for the boards of directors at crown corporations, when we have such a success story in our own backyard.

I may have focused till now on the legislative measure proposed in my bill, but I would now like to discuss the time it is taking to achieve equality between the sexes when it comes to our financial administration. Various approaches have been adopted by countries that have implemented similar measures and, in the case of Quebec, the provincial government gave itself a five-year timeframe.

In light of the examples we are familiar with and in order to maximize the chances of success, Bill C-473 proposes a realistic six-year timeframe. The current figures have female representation hovering around 27%, so it would be realistic to put in place the tools necessary to reach 30% in the next two years, 40% in four years and, ultimately, parity in six years.

Obviously, if a board of directors were composed of an uneven number of members, it would stand to reason that there would be an imbalance in the female-male representation.

Before concluding my speech and moving on to questions and comments, I would like to take the few minutes remaining to invite my colleagues from all parties to take advantage of this unique opportunity to showcase the skills and aptitudes of female professionals across Canada.

It is my profound belief that, with this bill, Canada has an opportunity to emerge from the stone age, position itself as a global leader in gender equality, and catch up with many other G20 countries.

Giving competent women an opportunity to realize their full potential and contribute to the development of their community is a question of fairness, rights, democracy and economic prosperity. Everyone wins, and I do hope my colleagues here today will come to the same conclusions as I have on the matter.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2013 / 1:50 p.m.
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London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to voice my concerns about Bill C-473. Before I start, I want to correct the record and indicate that funds at Status of Women are actually at their highest level ever.

The bill put forward by the hon. member opposite would use legislated quotas to force the government to balance the representation of women and men on the boards of directors of crown corporations.

The government agrees that the presence of women on corporate boards brings a different perspective and an important voice to crown corporations. However, legislated quotas come with many potential problems, and that is why we cannot support the bill. For example, there are rigid and arbitrary thresholds that could get in the way of appointing people who reflect Canada's diversity in terms of linguistic, regional and employment equity representation, including women.

Legislated quotas could also result in the potential disruption of commercial operations and good corporate governance. For instance, gender quotas could restrict or limit the pool of potential candidates for a vacant position, leaving the board unable to meet quorum while the minister searches for an appropriate person. In short, the problems with imposed quotas far outweigh the benefits.

However, no one should doubt our government's commitment to women having a voice in Canada's public and private sector boardrooms. We know that women contribute in every respect to corporate enterprises throughout Canada, but we believe that a more competitive corporate Canada requires that appointments to boards are based on merit and excellence. That is why we support a voluntary approach. The voluntary approach is a more flexible way of meeting the government's objectives of appointing the most suitable candidate, based on a number of requirements and competencies.

At the same time, we believe in taking concrete action to advance more women into leadership roles across the country and our economy. For example, working in partnership with private sector firms, we supported the work of the Canadian Board Diversity Council. This group is educating the business community on the value of board diversity. It is also equipping a diversity of board-ready, high-potential candidates, including women, with the tools to pursue board positions.

In addition, in economic action plan 2012, we announced the creation of an advisory council to increase opportunities for women's leadership on corporate boards and to keep our economy strong. Its members were announced by the Minister of Status of Women in April.

The advisory council is comprised of women and men representing a wide range of experience within the corporate sector. All have distinguished themselves as inspired, forward-thinking leaders and decision-makers, committed to the principles of equality, diversity and excellence in our country's boardrooms. These prominent Canadians include John Manley, president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives; Monique Leroux, head of Desjardins; and Charles Winograd, chair of the TMX Group.

The role of the advisory council is to advise the minister on how businesses in the private sector can increase the number of women on their corporate boards. The council is also being asked to suggest how industry and government can track and measure progress under this initiative, and what tools, if any, the government should employ to achieve this goal. It will suggest ways of recognizing or rewarding companies that meet their targets for increasing the representation of women on their boards. Finally, the advisory council will report back with its recommendations this fall, and we look forward to its input and ideas.

Another example of actions that our government has taken to empower women is in economic action plan 2013. Economic action plan 2013 includes a number of measures to better connect Canadians with job opportunities, which will help increase the representation of women in all types of careers.

In addition, since 2007, more than $46 million has been approved through the women's program at Status of Women Canada for projects that promote women's economic security and prosperity. This past July we announced that, through Status of Women Canada, we were providing $266,630 in funding for a 36-month project called Roots/Routes to Women's Leadership and Empowerment: Best Practices.

The project promotes leadership through economic empowerment for women in Toronto. Participants receive leadership training and mentorship to help strengthen their skills and confidence and assist them in taking on leadership roles in their communities. Our support for this project reflects our government's desire to empower women, by putting in place the building blocks of success for more women and girls to prosper in their own lives.

We understand that Canada is better off when the talents and skills of women and girls are represented in every sector of society, in government at every level, and from the grassroots all the way to the boardroom. We know that the more we break down barriers and inspire young women and girls to pursue a wide variety of career options, the stronger Canada will be.

Where we differ from the hon. member opposite is that we believe in creating sustainable pathways to success rather than legislating them. That is why we do not support Bill C-473 with its legislated quotas as the best way to achieve gender balance on the boards of crown corporations.

The voluntary way is the more effective way, and we believe it is the better way for Canadian women, crown corporations and Canada's economy to succeed.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to address Bill C-473, legislation that would amend the Financial Administration Act to achieve balanced representation in the number of women and men serving as directors on boards of parent crown corporations by establishing the minimum proportion of each sex on those boards. I want to commend my colleague for her initiative and her remarks in debate today.

Before I discuss the merits of the legislation, I would like to note the context in which this debate occurs. November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. It marked the first of 16 days of activism against gender violence, which will conclude on December 10, international Human Rights Day. During this period, as members know, we will observe, on December 6, the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, marking the anniversary of the 1989 murders of 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. The truth of this tragedy should not be ignored, marginalized, or otherwise sanitized. Simply put, these 14 women were murdered simply because they were women, a fact that finds expression in global violence against women both domestically and internationally.

While I know the bill before us is not on the subject of gender violence, I believe that we must situate our debate on gender parity within the broader context of discussing women's rights. At the risk of repeating myself in the chamber, although it is a moment and a message that bear repeating, Canada should lead the way and heed the call, first affirmed 20 years ago at the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, that women's right are human rights, and there are no human rights that do not include the rights of women. It is up to us to give expression to this message through concrete action, and it should be clear to all listening to this debate that the tools to promote the objectives of equality are within our own hands. We must commit ourselves to this cause without delay.

I have been inspired by the work of civil society and NGOs in this regard, but most of all, I have been inspired by young people who are leading the call for change. As many members are aware, McGill University held its annual women in House program last week, bringing McGill women students to Parliament to meet with MPs to discuss encouraging more participation among women in public life. I was privileged to participate in a panel, which included representation from all parties, as part of this inspiring gathering. I would like to publicly thank the organizers for their hard work in achieving this year's event success.

As I noted in my remarks to the visiting students, it is a shame that while women make up 50.9% of the Canadian population, 70 million-plus strong in the 2011 census, in the current House, women have barely one-quarter of the seats. This is a result of policy choices we have made and could change. While I will not go into the details here, we have seen in examples around the world, using, for instance, Norway and Sweden as examples, that if we remove obstacles such as financial barriers, the old boys' network, and the like, more women will run and more women will be elected, and we can improve gender parity in the Commons.

As an aside, I would be remiss if I did not note that in the wake of this week's by-elections, I look forward to welcoming the new member for Toronto Centre, Chrystia Freeland, who I have no doubt will make many important contributions to, among other things, women's rights and gender equality in her new role.

Beyond policy options to improve gender parity in Parliament, there are policy options with respect to parity more broadly, and this is what this bill is about. Bill C-473 is at second reading, and thus the question before Parliament is whether it should be sent to committee for further study and refinement. I believe this matter should, indeed, be referred to committee so that witnesses can help inform the discussion and debate. I support the spirit and principle of the bill, as I believe gender parity is a goal we should pursue.

That said, there are some questions to be addressed in committee regarding the scope and implementation of this bill. One such question I think it important to raise is whether the legislation goes far enough in that the number of women on boards may not be an accurate indicator, in and of itself, of women's progress more broadly. In other words, to illustrate with an example, just because we have gender parity on a board heading a science agency does not mean we are doing enough to encourage women to enter and remain in the sciences or that women are equitably represented in decisions regarding science policy.

Certainly, I share the hope that if more women are on boards, these boards and agencies will adopt policies and perspectives that are inclusive and sensitive to the need for minority representation. However, we might wonder whether there are other metrics to be considered in this regard, such as compensation and the promotion of women relative to their male counterparts.

It is interesting to note that the bill comes from the NDP, which generally takes very progressive stances in this regard. Another such question is that this bill seems not to contemplate how a transgendered individual may count or wish to be counted for gender-parity purposes. Simply put, there may be consequences to ambiguity in the legislation as it does reinforce a gender binary to which not all ascribe.

Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, the bill seems to be silent on the matter of sanctions. That is, it does not outline penalties or remedial action for failure to adhere to the objectives outlined in the bill. It specifically states:

An act of the board of directors of a parent Crown corporation...is not invalid on the sole ground that the composition of the board is not in compliance with that section.

In other words, any decision made by a board without the designated gender representation is not invalid if the board does not meet the appropriate gender representation requirements. This clause would seem to lessen the strength of the bill. I think we will have to investigate whether we might have some sort of mechanism whereby we do not merely say, as this bill does, and importantly so, that failure to meet the required parity is “just business as usual” and “we're sorry”. Ultimately, without any consequence for failure to meet the quotas, this entire initiative may become an exercise in symbolism, which again is important but which I am sure the hon. member who introduced the bill did not intend to be the principal impact.

There are multiple approaches to this question. One which I believe ought to be considered, though again this perspective might be informed through debate and in committee, is whether we set a goal of 50% parity in the statute and mandate sanctions when a figure of less than 40% is achieved. While I agree that 40% is not parity, a requirement of 40% with a 50% goal is preferable to a goal set of 50% with a requirement of 0%, which is what the bill would appear to mandate in its current form. I want to be clear on this point because I know there will be some doubts as to what direction this ought to take and whether one should support quotas, affirmative action and the like, and whether this initiative can be effective.

In part, the discussions on this bill will be illuminated by expert witness testimony before the committee. I do hope we can send this bill to committee so that witnesses will provide the evidence that we as parliamentarians can then use to inform our perspectives and the subsequent debate.

Indeed, there is expertise and experience on this question, most notably from my own province of Quebec, as my colleague cited in her remarks. She stated:

As previously mentioned, in Quebec, An Act Respecting the Governance of State-owned Enterprises requires that the Government of Quebec establish a policy with the following objective:

...that the boards of directors of the enterprises as a group include an equal number of women and men...

Just before that line, there is a provision that states:

...that the boards of directors of the enterprises as a group be composed of members whose cultural identity reflects the various segments of Québec society;

We might wonder if a similar provision on cultural community representation ought to be in Bill C-473 as well. From Quebec's experience and international experience in this regard we can better establish how effective such a law is at achieving parity and where the pitfalls are. For example, if it turned out that to comply with the guidelines, some board would simply reduce the overall number of members but that this would have a prejudicial impact on the work of such a board, we might want to reconsider if in some cases a ministerial exemption might be appropriate. This would be a matter in which hearing from Quebec's experience would greatly inform and assist parliamentarians as we address this issue.

Before concluding my remarks, I would be remiss if I did not note that all issues of gender parity are not solved by this bill, though it is certainly a step in the right direction.

For example, the recent appointment to the Supreme Court of Canada of Justice Marc Nadon, was critiqued in that his appointment did not preserve the previous 5:4 gender parity observed on our nation's highest tribunal. While I would agree that judicial excellence and merit ought to be the prime consideration in any appointment, it is troubling to note that under the current Conservative government there have been six justices appointed to the Supreme Court. They are the Honourable Justices Rothstein, Cromwell, Moldaver, Karakatsanis, Wagner and Nadon, only one of whom is a woman. Surely, we can do a better job of achieving and maintaining gender parity at the Supreme Court and of addressing diversity in the judiciary overall, as there is room for improvement on this front.

This bill would not address parity on a body such as the Supreme Court, though one would hope that in 2013 the Government of Canada would adopt a mindset of equality and not need a legislative reminder of what ought otherwise to be considered common sense, if not principle.

As I close, I want to applaud my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for addressing an issue of women's rights wherein the government's leadership has been wanting and wherein Parliament has a distinct role to play.

There are many other concerns, both domestic and international, that time does not permit me to address, including women in armed conflict, pay equity, matrimonial real property, gender budgeting, access to comprehensive medical care, and the like, on which I would encourage the government to adopt a more progressive and inclusive approach. Until then, I hope more private members' bills such as this will seek to advance the equality cause that arguably the government has abandoned.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2013 / 2:15 p.m.
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NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona touched on a lot of important issues in this debate, and I am pleased to be here to discuss them.

I want to congratulate and thank the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, who worked very hard on this bill. She does an excellent job, not only for women in her riding and in Quebec, but also for all women. I am very proud to have her as a colleague.

The purpose of Bill C-473 is to achieve gender parity on boards of directors of crown corporations within six years, as my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona mentioned.

After so many years, gender parity is still an issue. It is important to acknowledge the gains and progress made on this issue, but we would be remiss to think that this issue is resolved and that there is nothing more to be done to work towards equality.

In the workforce and elsewhere, women realize that inequality is still deeply entrenched, whether it is in terms of pay or shared responsibilities. We know that women still earn about 70% of what men earn. As for the sharing of responsibilities, more often than not women still do more at home, take more time off to raise children and have more responsibilities. This has a huge impact on equality in our society.

Although women represent half the population, they are far from being equal to men in management, on boards of directors and in politics. We see this in the House of Commons, for example, where only about 25% of MPs are women. This is also the case in provincial and municipal politics. Although there are currently more women premiers than ever before, that does not mean that the number of women in charge of ministries has really increased that much. We really do have a lot of work to do.

For example, in 2012, only 32.8% of the members of Quebec's National Assembly were women. However, women represent 40% of the NDP caucus, something we are proud of. I am proud to chair the NDP women's caucus. There are some really fantastic women in my party on this side of the House. We have that 40% because we went out and recruited women specifically. We worked hard to find female candidates in Quebec, and we encouraged women to run for office.

We must work on achieving better representation, as our party did. As my colleague from Edmonton—Strathcona mentioned, when we form the government, I am certain that we will maintain this representation and that we will achieve parity. That will very much change the way Parliament works.

The situation is even worse in Canada's 84 crown corporations, where 16, or 19%, of the presidents are women. The most recent data indicate that there are 2,000 Canadians who hold positions in more than 200 crown corporations, agencies, board of directors or commissions across the country, and that women are under-represented on boards of directors, where they currently hold 27% of senior management positions. In Quebec, women hold only 24% of management positions and 15% of the seats on boards of directors.

I dream of the day when we will have achieved perfect gender equality at work, in relationships, in politics and in every aspect of society and life, whether private or public. I also hope that this equity really makes a difference in the status of all women and all men, all Canadians and all Quebeckers.

As a woman in politics, I believe it is my duty to support other women, motivate them and, above all, encourage them to reach for the sky. Women in politics have a duty to show the women around them that nothing is impossible and that they can achieve anything they put their minds to.

We really need to support one another to truly understand that we can do anything, be it running a business, sitting on a corporate board or being in politics. We are in dire need of role models. As we can plainly see, women only account for roughly a quarter of people in politics and on corporate boards.

There are too few female role models to look up to, which is why we do not always see ourselves in these roles. We need to encourage one another, and women in politics need to lead by example.

By empowering women and girls, we can make a positive difference in the lives of everyone in the community. I would say that women have been working to achieve equity at least since the time my grandmother was my age.

A first step in that direction would be to support my colleague's bill. She is proposing the following parameters: a target of 30% women two years after the bill is implemented, 40% four years after the bill is implemented, and 50% six years after it is implemented. As the hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona said, it will not happen in one fell swoop, but over a six-year period.

In addition, this legislative measure will indirectly force crown corporations to expand their search for qualified, effective candidates and to target non-traditional recruitment pools. One reason that it is more difficult to find women in positions of power is that recruiters do not look to traditionally female-dominated areas, such as nursing and education, for those skill sets.

They are wonderful, hard-working people. Nobody would suggest they are not qualified. We need to look at everyone who is active in the community, whether we are recruiting for a board or looking for political candidates. If we want to change the decision-making landscape, we need to widen our search parameters when we are looking for decision-makers.

I want to point out that this bill does not apply to businesses, companies, financial institutions or publicly traded companies. It only applies to crown corporations.

New Democrats firmly believe that supporting this bill means supporting women's equality, a government responsibility. Indeed, the government must lead by example and ensure a better gender balance among people managing public finances, to better reflect Canadian reality.

This will also inspire other institutions and businesses, and help them realize that having women on their board gives them a competitive edge. We will only achieve equality once 50% of board members are women. We must keep in mind that board diversity is key to good governance: its positive impact will extend not only to crown corporations, but to society as a whole.

In closing, I want to point out that many countries have adopted incentives, the same way Quebec did.

Quotas like these ones have a big impact because they highlight the importance of this issue. I will conclude by saying that New Democrats remain committed to fighting any type of discrimination against women. I believe this would be a good way to show that equality between men and women is really important.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

November 29th, 2013 / 2:25 p.m.
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NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-473, which was introduced by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

As she mentioned at the beginning of her speech, she had introduced her bill early this year, but had to reintroduce it because Parliament was prorogued.

I took the opportunity of putting Bill C-473 in one of the mail-outs. I wanted to talk about the fact that it was being introduced. I had an extremely positive response to this bill from the people of Laval.

People were pleased that we were addressing this issue, getting involved and trying to ensure we achieve equality between men and women on our boards. In my area, Laval, people view this bill very positively. I would like to thank my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for introducing it.

Since I was elected, like many of my female colleagues in the House, I have participated in a number of round tables. We go to see many community groups, particularly women's groups, that want to hear about our experience in politics. They want to know how it works and what it takes to get involved in politics. Does one need to have $100,000? Does one need to know the Prime Minister? Some people have no idea how the process works or how to run in a federal election. This surprised me, but I was very pleased to speak about my experience.

I have spoken about my experience many times with the Table de concertation de Laval en condition féminine, or the TCLCF. When I spoke to these women's groups, they often told me that they did not know what they could do.

Mr. Speaker, if I told you to close your eyes and imagine what a politician looks like to you, you would likely imagine a white male between the ages of 50 and 60.

When I played that little game with groups of women, most said exactly the same thing. That is what we see in our heads. The image is etched in our minds. That needs to change. It is very hard to find women to enter politics. We have to seek them out. For every woman we try to reach, there are 10 men lining up to take the job, each saying we should choose him. It is very difficult. This is firmly entrenched.

Accordingly, I believe that Bill C-473 presents an excellent opportunity for us to come together and break the glass ceiling above our heads.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2013 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-473. It is clear to the House that the intention of the proposed act is to amend the Financial Administration Act to provide some method of balance. It is a laudable goal of a Canadian just society to ensure that gender equity is not a slogan but a commonplace action within our society.

The fundamental goal, recognition of equality and respect of everyone, is very commendable, and so I am pleased to speak to some of the strengths of the bill. There are some issues that need to be addressed, obviously. The bill does not prescribe any method of attaining the gender equity it attempts to achieve. There is no method laid out as to exactly how this statutory provision would be enacted, controlled and monitored.

That said, I will speak to the general parameters of the bill.

It has been a long-standing and well-established practice that we move, wherever reasonable and possible, to bridge the gap, to prevent an unjust or unfair and disproportionate imbalance in gender within our own federal jurisdiction. We have long moved toward gender equity with pay equity issues. We have seen the value of ensuring that there is gender equity and the recognition of gender equity within hiring in the federal public civil service. Therefore, it only stands to reason that we would also incorporate gender equity within the governance of our major Crown corporations, which are governed by the government and accountable to this House through various ministers.

Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the boards of directors of a parent Crown corporation shall be such that the proportion of directors of each gender is not less than 30% the second year following the coming into force of this proposed section, not less than 40% the fourth year and not less than 50% the sixth year following the coming into force of this section. The proposed bill clearly outlines these requirements and stipulates that the aforementioned numbers may vary when the board of directors of a parent Crown corporation consist of no more than eight members, and so there is latitude and flexibility built into the bill.

For example, in such instances, it is proposed that the difference between the number of directors of each gender may not be greater than two. For small governed boards, obviously it is a little more difficult at times, such as in the immediate aftermath of the coming into force of the proposed legislation, to be able to reconstruct the board, and the bill does provide that flexibility. However, there are no specific requirements or criteria as to how this would get done exactly. We would like to see a little more detail on that.

It is worth noting that Bill C-473 is premised on Bill C-407, but this new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% from the current of approximately 30% non-legislated average commencing in the sixth year.

Prior to endorsing Bill C-473, we would like to better understand whether or not the breakdown of gender numbers cited in the legislative preamble are indeed accurate and if there is an appropriate reason for the current levels. However, these issues would come out if the bill were to be passed at second reading and sent to committee.

We would like to know what the real-world impact would be on business if mandated quotas of this nature were established within the timeline suggested, 30%, 40% and 50% within two, four and six years respectively.

We would also like to know what specific penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies. Legislation that is absolutely toothless just merits a public rebuking and does not go beyond that, with no scope of arbitration, no scope of determination of whether or not proper compliance requirements are being met and if not, what the consequences are of such decisions.

It becomes a bit of a fool's errand in the sense that we actually institutionalize non-compliance, even though we could enact laws to prevent this. If it is absolutely baseless and there is no consequence whatsoever except for a public rebuking, which may or may not be scoffed off by those who have been cited, the legislation becomes somewhat worthless. It speaks to a platitude but not to an action. That is really not where we necessarily need to be.

If concrete proposals could be brought forward as to how this could be done and what the consequences of this being done would be, greater comfort would be provided to all of us, I am sure. We should be prepared to say here and now that the concept is not only valid but that it is necessary. It is necessary to work toward gender equity at the highest echelons, in the most prominent and largest profile of organizations within the federal jurisdiction.

We have not had very much feedback from stakeholders at this point in time; in fact, very little. One of the opportunities at second reading is to be able to receive input from stakeholders as to how exactly they feel about this, what they would offer in terms of strengthening and criticizing and in terms of impacts, and receive their other views about the nature of this legislation and what it would do. That would be extremely helpful.

There also has not been a huge amount of feedback in terms of the real-world analysis of the consequences of this. There are many organizations that can offer that. We look forward to hearing from them so that we have a better idea of exactly what the legislation could present to us.

Finally, it would be helpful at this point in time for the parties within the House to pronounce where they stand on the general principles of the bill. I have pointed to the fact that there are obviously some inherent issues, some concerns, some information that is not contained within the bill, which may be necessary for the enactment of legislation, in the opinion of some. If we are going to pose a statutory requirement on somebody to do something, that statute should also lay out a process as to how that would be done and what the consequences of not adhering to it would be.

While we can all recognize that there are some issues surrounding this, it would be helpful if we could understand a bit better whether or not the parties within the House support the concept of gender equity within the governance structure of our Crown corporations, boards and their directorships, instead of just simply saying this is not a piece of legislation that can be supported. That would be very helpful.

I appreciate the work done by the mover of this particular piece of legislation. I look forward to hearing the debate. I also look forward to, hopefully, having this piece of legislation before committee, so some of these questions can be given proper answers.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2013 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today about Bill C-473 to help achieve gender parity on the boards of directors of crown corporations.

I would like to start by congratulating my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for her efforts on this file. I know that this issue is important to her and she works very hard to promote gender equality.

Despite the progress women have made over the past few decades to take their place in the workforce, in certain settings they are still grappling with a glass ceiling that prevents them from reaching the highest levels in some organizations. In spite of their progress, women continue to be under-represented in the executive ranks and earn 70% less for every dollar men earn.

For this situation to improve, we must act by using tangible measures such as those proposed in the bill. This bill provides a logically sound and effective mechanism to help increase the number of women in the executive ranks of Canada's crown corporations. This proposal should be relatively simple to implement and has the potential to help improve the situation of women across the country.

I would like to give a few examples that really illustrate the scope of the problem related to the under-representation of women in decision-making roles. At this time, over 2,000 Canadians occupy executive positions in more than 200 crown corporations, organizations, boards of directors and commissions across the country; yet women occupy only 27% of senior management positions. In addition, only 16 of the 84 presidents of crown corporations are women. That is only 19%.

Canadian women are also under-represented on the boards of directors of private corporations. According to the Catalyst 2010 study, women occupied only 16.9% of senior management positions in Fortune 500 companies. Worse still, over 30% of those companies counted no women among their senior officers.

In December 2010, Anne Golden, chair of the Conference Board of Canada, appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce and noted that, “At that rate, it will take approximately 151 years before the proportion of men and women at the management level is equal”.

In light of these troubling statistics, clearly, we need to take action to promote fair gender representation in the business world. Bill C-473 aims to achieve gender equality on the board of directors of crown corporations within six years by establishing criteria to ensure that women occupy 30% of positions within two years of the bill's coming into force, 40% within four years, and 50% within six years of its coming into force. Implementing these requirements will guarantee gender parity.

In addition, this legislative measure will indirectly force crown corporations to expand their search for qualified, effective candidates and to target non-traditional recruitment pools.

It is important to note that, compared to other countries, Canada is falling behind. According to the World Economic Forum report on the global gender gap, Canada has fallen seven places since the first report was published in 2006, currently ranking 21st. Catalyst Canada noted that the proportion of women on the boards of companies listed on the stock exchange had increased by only 0.1% between 2007 and 2011, rising from 10.2% to 10.3%.

Unlike the Conservative government and previous Liberal and Conservative governments, numerous countries have introduced legislative measures to address the fact that women are under-represented in the boardrooms of various types of organizations. For example, Norway, Spain, France, Iceland and the Netherlands introduced legislated quotas to increase the number of women on various boards of directors, while Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Finland have implemented mandatory disclosure and transparency initiatives.

In some countries such as Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom, corporations have been urged to close the gender gaps on their boards under the threat that quotas could be introduced if voluntary measures are seen to be ineffective.

In that same vein, I would like to dispel a perverse myth that exists within the Conservative government. The government is proposing a voluntary approach to ensure increased representation of women on boards. I am thinking, in particular, about the member for Mississauga South who, on April 23, stated in the House that legislating a quota system to increase the proportion of women on crown corporation boards “is not acceptable”. She said that legislated quotas are rigid and arbitrary thresholds that would adversely affect the appointment process for board members. The member for Winnipeg South Centre said that efforts to promote qualified candidates in the business community and to recognize and encourage business leaders are more effective than legislative measures.

Basically, the Conservatives believe that we can attain parity by using a laissez-faire approach. However, Norway provides us with a case study that puts an end to the far-fetched myth of voluntary parity. Norway was the first country to legislate gender balance on the boards of public limited companies.

The legislation applying to state-owned companies came into force in January 2004. The government had originally tried to negotiate voluntary quotas with the private sector to reach 40% representation of women on boards, with an ultimatum that restrictive legislative measures would be introduced should the desired gender representation not be attained by July 2005. This voluntary measure did not achieve the desired effect.

A survey by Statistics Norway showed that by the July 2005 date, only 13% of companies complied with the voluntary quotas, with women representing only 16% of board members. As a result, legislation was applied to public limited companies. The legislation came into force in January 2006, giving the companies in question two years to comply with the targets. To illustrate how effective a legislative measure can be, in Norway, the representation of women on the boards in question has been more than 40% since 2008.

For progress on similar gender equality measures, we can look at our own successes here in Canada. In 2006, the Government of Quebec introduced Bill 53 in order to set criteria for state-owned enterprises so:

(1) that the boards of directors of the enterprises as a group [would] be composed of members whose cultural identity reflects the various segments of Québec society; and

(2) that the boards of directors of the enterprises as a group [would] include an equal number of women and men as of 14 December 2011.

Although this legislation still has not fully achieved its objective, the numbers are impressive. In December 2011, which marked the end of the five-year period by which crown corporations were to have achieved gender equality, 141 women and 128 men held positions on the boards of directors of 22 Quebec crown corporations. All that remains is to ensure balanced representation in the number of women and men appointed to the board of each crown corporation subject to the act.

The Conservatives' unwillingness to achieve gender parity in the public service is symptomatic of their general attitude toward promoting gender equality. Let us not forget that in addition to deleting the words “gender equality” from Status of Women Canada's mandate, the Conservatives closed 12 of the 16 offices of the only federal agency devoted to promoting gender equality.

Hon. members will also recall that the Conservative government cut funding for the court challenges program, which was created to defend equality rights cases guaranteed under the Constitution of Canada.

The Conservative government's dismal record on gender equality is attested to by the fact that Canada ranks 21st in the World Economic Forum's gender gap index, after countries such as the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and even Nicaragua.

It is obvious that, in reality, Canadian women cannot count on the Conservative government to promote gender equality.

Therefore, I want to reiterate my support for Bill C-473, and I urge my colleagues in all parties to vote for it.

Finally, this bill clearly shows that the NDP has real measures to achieve balanced gender representation when it comes to the management of public finances and thus to better reflect the Canadian population.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2013 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), introduced by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles.

Gender equality is still an issue for Canadian society today. Progress has been made, but we need only look at the membership of the House to see that we still have work to do.

This bill seeks to achieve balanced representation of men and women serving as directors on boards of crown corporations within six years. It should be noted that it applies only to crown corporations and not private businesses.

First, we must understand that gender equality, in my opinion, is the responsibility of a proactive government. If government sets an example, hopefully others will follow.

Women are still under-represented on boards of directors of crown corporations in Canada. Most of these corporations have more men than women on their boards, and it is estimated that women make up approximately 27% of these boards.

Many Canadian women have the skills and experience needed to serve on these boards of directors. I think that women should have the same opportunities as men to be appointed to these boards of directors.

Equality in how our crown corporations are managed is an important issue, since these corporations offer a window into our country and how it manages gender equality. The fact that there are still too few women leading our political institutions, businesses and crown corporations is a problem that we should be looking at if we want to set an example as a society with equal rights in terms of gender representation.

Of over 200 crown corporations, agencies, boards of directors and commissions, only 27% of all available positions are held by women. Furthermore, fewer than 20% of chairs of these boards of directors are women.

Many people tend to celebrate the achievements made in recent years regarding women's rights. However, I do not think we should fall into the trap of taking gender equality for granted. We must continue to work. A lot of work remains to be done to make more progress and to protect what some may want to take away.

To those who say that appointments to senior government positions must be based on merit, I agree. I do not think this bill will change the fact that people are appointed based on merit. However, we must not forget that there are highly skilled female workers in Canada. There are enough women with the skills required to fill these positions and who deserve to be there. What we primarily need to change are the mindsets and the stereotypes that are perpetuated.

As the member for Mississauga South said, research shows that businesses with more women on their boards are more profitable. These businesses generally outperform other businesses with fewer women.

According to the bill's proposed roadmap, the implementation will be gradual. We are talking about 30% women after two years, 40% after four years and 50% after six years.

The bill also stipulates that:

105.2 Any appointment of a director of a parent Crown corporation in violation of section 105.1 [in other words, the percentages I just gave] is invalid and the vacant position shall be filled without delay by the appropriate Minister, with the approval of the Governor in Council

Therefore:

105.4 (1) Five years after the coming into force of sections 105.1 to 105.3 and every five years after that, a comprehensive review of these sections and of their operation shall be undertaken by such committee of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament as may be designated or established by Parliament for that purpose.

Therefore, there will be a review after this bill is implemented to ensure that we stay on track. This is quite important. According to the Conference Board of Canada, without a quota, gender parity will take over 150 years to achieve. Even I will not be able to live that long. It will take 150 years to reach parity in important positions. I am not sure that waiting one and a half centuries is really the best solution in this case.

Moreover, when a gradual gender representation quota is imposed on the boards of crown corporations, people in charge of recruitment and appointment recommendations will be compelled to expand their recruitment efforts and extend their search to candidates with the required skills in non-traditional or less traditional recruitment pools.

In addition to seeking more women, organizations will also look for women who may have different backgrounds, more varied experience and different visions, which can only help enrich the boards of our crown corporations. Studies have shown that a higher percentage of women in senior management can generate tangible benefits for businesses. This will then foster economic growth and help develop our country to its full potential.

Of course we want peak performance from our crown corporations. We have known for some time now that female members of corporate boards offer Canadian companies a different and valuable perspective.

We can work with crown corporations to institute change and raise the bar for corporations that belong to Canadians and play a leading role. This is our opportunity to ask crown corporations to show leadership and say that women should play as great a role as men in managing them.

Drawing from a wide talent pool instead of accessing the assets of only a portion of Canadian society, as we are doing now, would be logical and beneficial. Gender parity will truly benefit Canadians both socially and economically. Bill C-473 can take us one step forward in that direction.

I sincerely believe that those who see impediments to this bill are mistaken because we have seen over and over that there are plenty of competent women. Maybe they are just shyer.

Recently, several people have written about female representation on boards of directors and in companies, suggesting that they might be shyer. They might not stand out as much or express their interest, but they are still there. Some of them need a little encouragement, a few compliments on their work. Maybe they need to hear that people have been admiring the quality of their work since they have joined a particular company or crown corporation and that they would make an excellent board member. Recruiting such women and helping them reach their potential would be good for both our image and for our crown corporations.

Canada should have high-performing crown corporations. Consider Canada Post, which is dealing with some major challenges at the moment. I think that such a corporation would benefit from having more women on the board. We must enable women to progress. If we do, we will all win.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak to this issue in the House and to highlight, once again, how women can help enrich Canadian society. I sincerely hope that all members of Parliament will agree and will enable our crown corporations to move forward because it is clear that we cannot afford to wait 150 years. I would really like to see this happen in my lifetime. Fortunately, I am pretty young, so that gives us a lot of room to manoeuvre.

We cannot stand back and let things happen or merely encourage women. We have to be more aggressive if we want to achieve this goal.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

June 17th, 2013 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am truly pleased to speak for five minutes today to Bill C-473, which would amend the Financial Administration Act in order to improve the representation of women on boards of directors of crown corporations.

I would like to reiterate that gender equality must be a priority for Canadians. In its Constitution, Canada recognizes that men and women are equal under the laws of Canada. However, when it comes to economic independence, equality in decision-making, violence against women, pay equity and other issues, there remains a great deal of work to be done in order for men and women to be equal in economic, social and political terms in Canada.

In the last hour of debate, my colleague from York West raised a number of points that should be clarified for the benefit of all members of the House.

First, I would like to speak about the percentage mentioned in the bill's preamble. The data were provided by the Library of Parliament and indicate that women represent a mere 27% of directors on boards of Canada's crown corporations.

It is the responsibility of parliamentarians to enact legislation on this matter. This morning, the member for Calgary Centre-North spoke about private enterprises, whereas I am referring only to crown corporations. They are two completely different matters, and we must not mix them up.

She also spoke about aboriginal peoples. I would remind the House that when we are discussing women, fairness and representation on boards of directors, the appointment of aboriginal women will also be welcomed.

There were also questions about how to go about this. It is so simple that we could provide ministers with a basic guide on how to appoint women to boards of directors. I would humbly remind members that the minister has people from the crown corporations managed by his or her department make these appointments.

Competency must remain the basis for recruitment. As I explained earlier, it is merely a question of ensuring that male and female candidates are presented for each position. There are enough talented, competent and experienced women in the areas of management, finance, law and engineering to ensure that 50% of the positions are filled by women.

I would remind the House that many appointments are made based on the “old boys' club” model. We all know or have worked with someone who approached us to do some lobbying, for instance. Then, when the time comes to appoint representatives, we think of that individual.

People often go as far as relaxing the qualification criteria, in order to appoint a male candidate rather than a woman who has the required skills. I would also remind the House that, since the late 1980s, more women than men have been graduating with degrees in public administration.

I want to reiterate once again that Bill C-473 deals only with crown corporations. It imposes absolutely no restrictions on private corporations, which is why it is so important for the government, as an employer, to set an example and hold itself to higher standards of female representation among executive ranks.

There is absolutely no downside to this. In Quebec, women make up over 50% of boards of directors of crown corporations. This has no negative impact. Quebec crown corporations have not been altered because they have appointed women as leaders.

Lastly, Bill C-473 aims to achieve gender parity in six years. Why six years? Simply because Quebec managed to achieve it in five years. We therefore believe that the federal government can achieve it in six years.

The NDP has always been a strong advocate for women's rights and always will be. We have an opportunity here to make a significant gesture in support of Canadian women and to allow them to take their rightful place in the decision-making processes that govern our democracy.

In closing, let us not wait 150 years.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

April 23rd, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.
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NDP

Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

moved that Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present Bill C-473 to the House today.

The issue of equality between women and men in a fair and equitable Canadian society was always at the heart of my previous professional life and now, today, as a politician, I am truly proud to be able to contribute to this cause.

Bill C-473 proposes a simple but effective improvement in the current legislation governing our public financial administration. Specifically, the bill wishes to offer balanced representation to Canadian men and women on the boards of directors of crown corporations.

The question of gender equity in the management of our crown corporations is not unknown to Canada's Parliament. In the House, the Senate and committees, the fact that still too few women are involved in the management of our political institutions and Canadians businesses remains an important problem that we must consider if we want to be able to say we live in a society with equal rights.

I would like to thank all the pioneering women who worked so hard to advance women's rights, especially in the sectors that traditionally were the preserve of men, such as politics and management.

Among others, I think of the phenomenal work done by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, on which the spirit of my bill is based, and of my colleague from Churchill, who has been so lively in her defence of the issues affecting the status of women, and of the Senator from Bedford who has been trying for many years to make the infamous glass ceiling vanish.

Despite all their hard work, and while Canadian society has made many strides toward women's rights in recent decades, the numbers speak clearly: there is still a lot of work to do. That is why I decided to introduce Bill C-473.

The most recent data show that over 2,000 Canadians occupy positions in more than 200 crown corporations, organizations, boards of directors and commissions across the country.

Of all the positions available on the boards of directors of these organizations, only 27% of senior management positions are occupied by women. The situation is even worse for presidents of boards of directors. The most current figures show that only 16 of the 84 presidents are women.

Sadly, we are a long way from equal representation that would reflect Canada's demographic makeup and would offer professional growth and development opportunities to our talented women.

With women as 27% of boards of directors of crown corporations, we are far behind the 40% reached in most Scandinavian countries. Other countries such as Spain, France and the Netherlands have introduced measures to encourage more equity in their institutions.

Canada even lags behind the 30% quotas imposed by South Africa and Israel—quotas that have been exceeded for a number of years.

As our country has evolved, it has established a robust democratic process for nominations and appointments to fill the positions on the boards of our crown corporations.

Ministers manage the appointments within their own portfolios, and present their nominations to the Governor in Council.

In the selection process, criteria are established to define the essential qualifications for a given position. In order to attract a large number of potential candidates, a number of mechanisms are used, such as the Governor-in-Council appointments website, executive recruiting agencies, newspapers and specialized publications. Candidates who express an interest are evaluated on the basis of the requirements of the position they apply for.

With regard to the issue of balanced representation, one of the problems—not to say prejudices—our society has had to deal with was that there were not enough women with the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements of the position. This problem disappeared over the years, with mass education for Canadians and access for women to post-secondary studies.

These days, and this is the opinion of a number of experts who have looked at the issue, one problem that persists is that we are still using the traditional recruitment pools to find candidates, where men are still in the majority.

Yet two factors we thought had almost disappeared from contemporary society are still very much in place: the “old boys’ club”, the traditional recruiting network for executive positions, and the familiar “glass ceiling” which is unfortunately difficult to break through for women aspiring to professional careers at the highest level.

My bill proposes an indirect approach to getting rid of these two stereotypes. Through the imposition of a gradual quota for representation of both sexes on the boards of our crown corporations, those responsible for suggesting appointments will be compelled to extend the boundaries of their recruiting methods, and open up the search for candidates with the necessary skills to include a non-traditional recruitment pool.

Canada can rely on a highly qualified female workforce. We can be proud of that. Its ranks include more than 60,000 women who are professional accountants, 20,000 women lawyers, more than 16,000 women engineers, thousands of women university professors and hundreds of women actuaries. There are thus plenty of women with the talents and skills to fill these positions. As a society, all we need do is give ourselves the resources to go out and recruit them.

Another point I would like to address concerns the proposed choice of quotas rather than voluntary incentives.

It must be said that some groups and organizations have come out against this kind of mandatory reinforcement measure. The justification usually given is the fact that the government should not become involved in the choices of outside organizations, like businesses.

Let us not fret. Let us remember, first, that my bill in no way affects organizations of a completely different nature from crown corporations.

It is also important to understand that the proposed choice of quotas is based on the results of careful reflection by experts, published studies and consultations with professional organizations. That reflection also took place in the light of results observed in other countries, where the problem of balanced representation has been addressed in one way or another.

On this point, I would like to share with my colleagues some more enlightening remarks by Anne Golden, chair of the Conference Board of Canada from 2001 to 2012, who noted that at the current pace, it would take 150 years to achieve equity at the top of the organizational ladder if the government did not step in with a mandatory measure.

One other blatant example justifies the establishment of quotas rather than voluntary measures. I am referring to Norway’s failure when it took its first steps in this area. In 2003, Norway was the first country to pass legislation providing for gender equality on the board of directors of public limited companies. The legislation extended to crown corporations and came into force in January 2004. However, in getting to this point, the government had first attempted to negotiate with the private sector so-called voluntary quotas calling for 40% of seats on boards of directors to be held by women, warning that restrictive legislative measures would be brought in should the desired representation not be achieved by July 2005.

A survey of businesses conducted by Statistics Norway revealed that only 13% of businesses had established voluntary quotas and that women held only 16% of the positions on boards of directors as of the 2005 deadline.

That is why this kind of legislation is needed.

Norway went on to extend the scope of the legislation to public limited companies effective January 2006.

This proves that basic measures must be taken and that voluntary quotas do not work.

Another noteworthy example is Quebec. In this instance, theirs is a success story. Quebec is the only province to have adopted legislation aimed at achieving gender equality on crown corporation board of directors since 2006. Efforts in this regard have, to say the least, proved successful. In December 2011, the deadline by which crown corporations were to have achieved gender equality within the five-year period, 141 women and 128 men held positions on the board of directors of 22 Quebec crown corporations. Women made up the majority, or 52.4%, of directors appointed. All that remains is to ensure balanced representation in the number of women and men appointed to the board of each crown corporation subject to the act.

In the case of both Norway and Quebec, the legislation did not cause any problems or result in any additional paperwork. And needless to say, crown corporations are obviously very well managed.

Summing up, I would like to use my speaking time to mention the government’s proposal to set up an advisory committee to look into ways of increasing the proportion of women appointed to company boards of directors, while working with the private sector to come up with concrete solutions.

This is a positive step forward and I can only agree with my colleagues opposite when they say that improving women’s prospects of serving on the board of directors of companies is beneficial for Canadian women as well as for the country’s economy. I assume their logic also extends to the board of directors of crown corporations.

However, in the case of the latter, I think the government needs to set the example and send a strong message about balanced representation in the management of our public finances. Such a message would open the door to many women with latent potential and could inspire companies to do likewise.

That is why I believe quotas are the most appropriate solution for crown corporation boards of directors. We are seeing a real success story in our own backyard. I am referring, of course, to Quebec.

I may have focused till now on the legislative measure proposed in my bill, but I would now like to discuss the time it is taking to achieve equality between the sexes when it comes to our financial administration.

Various approaches have been adopted by countries that have implemented similar measures and, in the case of Quebec, the provincial government gave itself a five-year timeframe. In light of the examples we are familiar with and in order to maximize the chances of success, Bill C-473 proposes a realistic six-year timeframe.

The current figures have female representation hovering around 27%, so it would be realistic to put in place the tools necessary to reach 30% in the next two years, 40% in four years and, ultimately, parity in six years. Obviously, if a board of directors were composed of an uneven number of members, it would stand to reason that there would be an imbalance in the female–male representation.

Before concluding my speech and moving on to questions and comments, I would like to take the few minutes remaining to invite my colleagues from all parties to take advantage of this unique opportunity to showcase the skills and aptitudes of female professionals across Canada.

It is my profound belief that, with this bill, Canada has an opportunity to emerge from the dark ages and position itself as one of the global leaders in gender equality, thereby catching up with many other G20 countries.

Giving competent women an opportunity to realize their full potential and contribute to the development of our community is a question of fairness, rights, democracy and economic prosperity. Everyone wins.

The NDP has always been, and will always be, the staunchest advocate of policies that enable women to fully participate in the stewardship of public finances, and we believe that women should have the same opportunities as men when it comes to serving on boards of directors.

Moreover, in light of the evidence, the NDP strongly believes that diversity among boards of directors is crucial for the good governance of organizations, and that it benefits everyone concerned.

As a woman, fairness and justice are among the fundamental values at the heart of my philosophy and my engagement. In my opinion, this bill is a concrete measure that will help to strike a balance in gender representation when it comes to the management of public finances, while at the same time better reflecting Canadian demographics. I hope, therefore, that my colleagues will come to the same conclusion, and that they will listen to the demands of thousands of women who wish to bring down the glass ceiling and contribute fully to Canadian society.