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.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Len Webber Conservative Calgary Confederation, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a new member. I was elected on October 19 into my first term. I would say that Bill C-473 was before my time. Therefore, I do not have any idea what the reason for that was.

I look forward to progressing forward with this bill that we are discussing here today. Bill C-25 is at the table right now. Let us deal with that. I am happy to support that bill to its fullest.

Canada Business Corporations ActGovernment Orders

November 25th, 2016 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the 2015 budget introduced the “comply or explain” provision, which is in this bill. It is meant to enhance the gender diversity on boards and in senior management.

Why, then, did the Conservatives vote against the NDP's Bill C-473 in 2014, which sought to achieve gender parity on the boards of crown corporations within six years?

Gender ParityStatements By Members

June 10th, 2015 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, women in Canada have never been more educated. They hold the majority of positions in fields such as business administration, law and health.

However, women are still under-represented in senior management positions. It does not make sense to me that in 2015, being a woman is an obstacle to career advancement.

I was embarrassed for Canadian women when every member of the Conservative Party voted against Bill C-473, which called for gender parity in federal crown corporations.

If this trend holds, gender parity in senior management positions in Canada will be not be achieved until 2097. That is shameful. I am ashamed of the Conservative government for refusing to launch an investigation into the murder and disappearance of more than 1,000 aboriginal women.

Canadians deserve better. The NDP will promote women in leadership and call a commission of inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

February 5th, 2014 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-473. The question is on the motion.

The House resumed from February 3 consideration of the motion that Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

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 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

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 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

NDP

Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak on Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), which concerns balanced representation on the boards of crown corporations.

We are at second reading, which is the point at which this House determines if a bill has the merit to be sent to a committee for further study.

I want to thank my colleague who submitted this bill, the member of Parliament for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, and also her predecessor, Irene Mathyssen, who did a lot of work on this issue as well. I thank them—

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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.

The House resumed from November 29, 2013, consideration of the motion that Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

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

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

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

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 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

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.