Candidate Gender Equity Act

An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity)

Sponsor

Kennedy Stewart  NDP

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

Status

Defeated, as of Oct. 19, 2016

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-237.

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canada Elections Act to reduce the reimbursement each registered party receives for its election expenses if there is more than a 10% difference in the number of male and female candidates on the party’s list of candidates for a general election.

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

Oct. 19, 2016 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

Concurrence in Vote 1—Privy Council OfficeMain Estimates, 2017-18Government Orders

June 14th, 2017 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, last year I put a private member's bill forward, Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act. Through discussions of that bill and the subsequent democratic reform committee, that proposal was put forward but was voted down both times by the government. Canada now is about 65th place in the world in terms of the percentage of women in the House of Commons. I am wondering if the minister has any concrete plans to make changes to increase the number of women in the House.

Gender Equality Week ActPrivate Members' Business

May 16th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, achieving gender equality is non-negotiable. There is no doubt about it. That is one of the NDP's core principles, actually. It is always at the heart of our work on the ground and the legislative measures we put forward. Can the same be said of the government? Unfortunately not.

I have no doubt about the sponsor's intentions. I have been keeping tabs on his interventions in the status of women committee. However, if one truly believes in as fundamental a principle as gender equality, one must be consistent and non-partisan about it.

It is a shame that the sponsor of the bill before us voted against the NDP's Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, which was designed to increase the number of women in federal politics. It was actually an excellent and very well-documented bill.

How can anyone support gender equality and yet vote against a measure that would put more women in Parliament? I, for one, will be consistent and vote in favour of this bill. I do not think it goes far enough or actually does anything concrete, but I do think there is no such thing as paying too much attention to gender equality.

In addition, my NDP colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith will work tirelessly in committee to propose amendments in order to make this bill even more action-oriented, and I fully trust and support her.

When I first saw Bill C-309, an act to establish gender equality week, I thought that we would finally see some real progress and concrete measures for women and girls. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This bill proposes declaring the first week of October gender equality week, but nothing more.

There are no measures to tackle economic disparity, there is no money to fund shelters for women and children, no action plan to end violence against women, no funding restored to organizations that work with women and girls and that, quite frankly, do an excellent job with very little funding, there are no measures to increase the number of women in the House, and I could go on.

What does the bill propose? Its preamble has 21 points. Here is an excerpt: “Whereas there is a wage gap between men and women in Canada”. What does the bill propose to address that problem? Does it include any actions, plans, or measures? Well, no, it proposes to establish a gender equality week.

No one here is against apple pie, but how will a gender equality week truly change anything for women and girls? If legislative measures are proposed, then action must follow. Unfortunately, this bill proposes no such action.

As the House probably knows, the disparity between men and women is glaring. For every dollar earned by a man, a Canadian woman earns only 74¢. That is unacceptable, and measures must be taken to address this gap.

Last March, Oxfam published a report on the measures taken by the Liberal government on gender parity. This government received the worst score for its policies on the work of women and pay equity. The Oxfam report noted that while the Liberal Party campaigned on a promise to improve the economic situation of women, this government has put very few measures in place to that effect.

In other words, once again there are more words than action. I feel like I have been saying that all day. Women need tangible measures from this government. Women have been waiting for pay equity for 40 years. It is all well and good to promote it, but proposing concrete measures is better, and women need these measures now, not later. This government must immediately draft proactive legislation on pay equity in order to reduce the wage gap and achieve economic equality for women.

Because this is 2017, we should do things differently. Because this is 2017, women should have equal pay for work of equal value. It is time for this government to back its claims that equality counts and to take immediate action.

Another point highlighted in the preamble is the following:

Whereas poverty and inequality disproportionately affect Canadian women, particularly elderly, disabled, transgender and visible minority women, leaving them isolated and vulnerable;

That is so true.

With respect to my Bill C-245 to establish a poverty reduction strategy, I heard many stakeholders, several organizations, and many women's groups talk about this reality. These organizations are waiting for real measures and actions to continue helping women.

Women's groups in my riding do extraordinary work. I am thinking, for example, of the Centre Ressources-Femmes de la région d'Acton; the Centre de femmes L'Autonomie en soiE; La Clé sur la porte, a shelter for victims of domestic violence; the Centre d'aide pour victimes d'agression sexuelle or CAVAS; Les 8 Marskoutaines , which organizes activities on March 8 every year; the Cercles de fermières in various communities; Afeas, which does work to raise awareness; the Syndicat des agricultrices de la région de Saint-Hyacinthe; and the Coalition des femmes de la MRC Les Maskoutains. These groups expect more. They expect better. They expect this government to walk the talk.

In our ridings, 63% of low-income seniors who live alone are women. The median income for seniors in Quebec is $20,200 for those aged 65 to 74, and for those 75 or over it is less than $20,000. There are real people behind the statistics. They need action and measures.

When women live in poverty, so do their children. That is completely unacceptable. By not dealing with this problem, the government is abandoning thousands of women, girls, and children who are in desperate need. How is a week of celebration going to help them to get out of poverty?

I am already at the end of my speech. We must adopt concrete measures to make gender equality a reality. Feminism means more than just believing in a philosophy and lofty principles; it means taking actions that are consistent with those principles. Appointing a gender-balanced cabinet and doing nothing else for the next four years is not enough. Dedicating a week to gender equality is not enough. This bill has to be the first of a great number of steps.

Oxfam gave this government the worst grade. New Democrats know that action is key to true gender equality. Words are not enough. We can never stop fighting for gender equality and women's rights, and we never will.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

October 19th, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-237 under private members' business.

The House resumed from October 18 consideration of the motion that Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Status of Women

October 19th, 2016 / 2:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2006, 64 women were elected to Canada's Parliament, and I was proud to be among them. At that time, women represented 21% of the members of the House. Now, 10 years later, women are still only 26% of the members, which is progress at a snail's pace.

Unless we make an effort, it will take another 60 years, to 2076, before women have equal representation in this place, a snail's pace indeed.

According to the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Canada ranks 60th in the world when it comes to gender parity in Parliament. In all our history, women have never accounted for more than 29% of candidates in a federal election.

We can do better, and we have the opportunity to do that today. I urge every member of the House to support Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, put forward by the member for Burnaby South.

Let us do this for Canada, because, after all, it is 2016 and are we not all feminists?

Status of WomenAdjournment Proceedings

October 18th, 2016 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, I guess I get to continue my previous speech, because this adjournment proceeding is on the debate with the Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women.

This debate arose when the Minister of Democratic Institutions and the parliamentary secretary supposedly had some kind of legal judgment that said that my private member's bill was unconstitutional. I have here in my hand a memorandum from the House of Commons law clerk and parliamentary counsel that says that not only is my private member's bill, Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, constitutional, it actually would enhance the charter and help move us toward the goal of supporting gender equality.

Bill C-237 is an important move forward in the fight to bring gender parity to the House of Commons. With a mere 26% of MPs sitting in the House being women, we are far away from having gender parity. In fact, we are ranked 64th in the world when it comes to this certain characteristic of our House.

It is extremely disappointing. I asked the Parliamentary Secretary for the Status of Women the question in the House of Commons to get clarification on why they are opposing my bill. They do not have any ideas as to how we can increase the number of women in the House. They have just been trying to put up a smokescreen to stop my private member's bill. That is extremely disappointing.

We are in desperate need of some kind of legislative change here in the House. The bill I put forward is an incentive. It is not a quota. It uses existing funding that is provided to parties by Elections Canada. It uses that money as an incentive for parties to run more women candidates.

We know from the research that we need more women candidates to have more women MPs. That is just a simple conclusion.

The reason we do not have more women candidates is that parties simply block women from becoming candidates for political parties. I have been studying this for 20 years. I did my Ph.D. at the London School of Economics on this. We found in one study of Canadian legislators that when women are in head-to-head competitions in nomination contests, women are six times less likely than men to win, simply because of bias within the parties.

I just wanted to rise to say that the bill I put forward is constitutional. I have documentation, which I would be happy to table or to show to anyone who is interested in seeing it.

I would also like to hear, from the parliamentary secretary, why they said they had legal advice, when they actually did not have it.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 18th, 2016 / 6:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand here today, and it has been a pleasure listening to the debate, or most of it, on my bill.

I would ask members to take a look around the House of Commons. This is a place of moments. This is the place where we decided women should get to vote. This is the place where we decided that women should become people in the eyes of the law. This is where we decided that first nations people should get to vote. This is a place of moments, and we are having a moment right now. The bill that I put before the House, Bill C-237, is an effort to move us out of the 64th place in the world in terms of how we sit in representing women being elected to this place.

We have had some extraordinary moments around the debate. For example, we have had the Minister of Democratic Institutions and the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women stand up in the House and say that they were not feminists. We have had women on the other side of the House stand up and reveal that they are not feminists. They actually side with the social Conservatives on this side of the House, which is strange to see, because this is a moment where the feminists in the House will stand up and vote for the bill. That is what will happen tomorrow, or will not happen, and it is a fairly serious moment.

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the election, so we have been here a year. We only have 36 months left. I wonder how many bills of this nature will come forward in the House. How many chances will members get to stand up and say, “I am a feminist and I agree that there should be more women in the House of Commons”. When will that happen? It will not happen.

This side of the House has put up all kinds of arguments, especially from the government side, as to why the bill should not be passed. They said that it is a quota, but it is not. It is an incentive scheme that is used in other countries very successfully. They said that there are constitutional reasons and that it would be struck down by the courts, and of course, they quickly retracted that because they actually did not have a legal opinion to counter the very facts of my bill. In fact, I have a legal opinion from the House of Commons legal team that says that not only would the bill meet all the requirements of the charter; it would actually help us meet our charter goals.

We have nothing from that side of the House as to how we are going to move from having 26% of women MPs elected in the House. We have a Prime Minister who goes all around the world saying how much of a feminist he is, but there is no concrete action. We have rhetoric from that side of “I'm a feminist”, and we have some symbolism, which I think we should be proud of with having a gender-balanced cabinet, but what we do not have is any real, concrete action.

In the world, we have over 100 countries that have legislated some laws to make sure that there are more women in their legislatures, and Canada has not done that. As a result, when the Prime Minister was elected, we were 60th in the world in terms of the percentage of women in our legislature, and we have already dropped to 64th. Four years from now when we have our next election, I bet we will be around 70th or 75th. We are dropping like a stone in this ranking, and it is disconcerting.

There is a chance tomorrow for the bill to pass. Again, I know the Conservatives will not vote for it, because they are opposed. They will not stand up and say that they are feminists. However, the Liberals have.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 18th, 2016 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, it is my distinct privilege to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-237, sponsored by my colleague from Burnaby South. It is a bill whose time has come, and I encourage all my colleagues to support sending Bill C-237 to committee.

Studying this bill at committee will send a powerful message to the electorate that says that this session of Parliament has the courage and conviction to assess and remedy why in 2016 our Parliament is not representative of the electorate. It will send a message that we have finally moved beyond blaming individual women for not running for office, and it will examine how the current structures, systems and institutions present barriers to women seeking to be elected as members of Parliament.

Bill C-237 would make it possible for more women candidates to present themselves in the electoral process and therefore help more of them get elected. As they say, one cannot win if one does not play, and so it is in electoral politics, one cannot be elected if one is not able to run.

We know from research that it is not the electorate that does not vote for women candidates. Women candidates win elections at the same rate as men candidates. It is not the electorate but political parties that fail to nominate a representative slate of candidates to the electorate.

We also know from research that women candidates need to work harder and have to spend 10% more money on average than men candidates to get elected.

Many of my colleagues hear the phrases “gender equity in candidacy” and “financial incentive” in the same sentence and instinctively shy away. They have a fear that somehow levelling the playing field could have a disruptive implication on the system, and it will. The system will be fairer for all candidates. Personally, that type of disruption I look forward to.

The bill is not about limiting the number of male candidates. I will repeat what the member for Burnaby South said earlier and clarify that the threshold of 45% of candidates identifying as female was chosen to allow for the flexibility to choose the most qualified candidates.

The bill is not about marginalizing other minority groups seeking representation. I would suggest it could seek to address one aspect of an issue that has many intersections and could potentially serve as an incentive for political parties to nominate more indigenous women and women of colour.

Finally, the bill does not seek to minimize the hard work that every woman currently in the House has put into getting elected. Rather, gender equity in candidates is about recognizing that women face barriers within political parties that their male colleagues do not

The bill offers the opportunity for this Parliament to acknowledge systemic discrimination within the current candidate selection process and provide a remedy to address it. Without dismantling the barriers that prevent women from running, we cannot truly encourage or expect qualified women leaders to participate in our democracy to their fullest capacity.

Being able to sit in the House of Commons as a woman was a hard-won achievement for each and every one of my female colleagues, from the very early stages of winning their respective party nominations, through all the different aspects and phases of a long campaign. However, many women who had the courage to even begin the process have found themselves pitted against a whole array of obstacles that makes winning even the nomination an uphill battle.

In a post entitled “Where are all the women (candidates)?”, Kate McInturff from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives lays out just a few barriers that women face.

She discusses work and life balance, how elected office at any level demands long hours on an irregular schedule, and how for women with young children and dependent family members, this poses a real challenge. She says:

Women still perform double the number of hours of unpaid childcare work as do men, they are three times as likely to take time off from work for family reasons and they are more than ten times as likely to cite childcare as a reason for not working full time. Even if you can manage a full time schedule and find a childcare spot, there’s still the problem of what to do when there’s a council session that runs until 11pm or a community consultation on a Sunday.

The second is that women are told not to be bossy. She says:

Study after study demonstrates that, as a society, we don’t always respond favourably to women stepping into public leadership roles. Female politicians, in particular, are often portrayed as overly aggressive...At the same time, female politicians are subjected to questions about their hair and clothes that have no parallel in interviews with male politicians. Or they get what [is]...referred to as “the princess treatment”—all hair and no policy.

Finally on violence, she says:

From the time they are teenagers, girls are subject to harassment in public. That’s a lesson young women are learning about the risk of being in public.

And it’s an accurate lesson.

Again, the presidential race in the U.S. provides compelling and distressing evidence that women are objectified, ridiculed, dismissed, and subjected to unequal and disrespectful treatment. Lest we feel too smug, closer to home, the female premier of Alberta has been subjected to death threats, misogynistic slurs, and other threats of violence. This has to stop.

The statistics on this issue are familiar to all of us. It is 2016 and women still hold only 26% of the seats in the House of Commons, an all-time high. It is clear that we must do better.

This past International Women's Day, I had the privilege of participating in the women in the House program. It was a pleasure to have two students from McGill University and the University of Toronto shadow me on March 8th and 10th respectively.

The young women who shadowed me in March were bright and capable, and they have much to offer in service to their communities and to this great country. I want to make sure I do whatever I can to level the playing field so that these young women can one day take their seats in the House of Commons. However, at the current rate women are being elected to the House of Commons, a gender-balanced House is not projected until 2075. I am sure that none of my colleagues think this is desirable or acceptable.

Of course, the unequal playing field in the candidate selection process is not the only form of systemic discrimination to which women of Canada are subject. As vice-chair of the Special Committee on Pay Equity, I am extremely disappointed that this so-called feminist government has decided to make working women wait another two years for a fundamental human right. This is completely unacceptable. There is no reason to postpone fairness. Canadian women have been waiting for decades to receive equal pay for work of equal value, and it is way past time for the government to correct this injustice.

This is just another example of how women are systemically discriminated against. It is realities like the widening wage gap that make bills like Bill C-237 necessary. It is only logical to assume that higher numbers of female candidates will lead to more female representation and with that, perhaps, a Parliament that feels a greater urgency to tackle long-standing gender-based issues such as the wage gap. The time has come for the government to stop talking about its feminist values and start acting like feminists. Supporting Bill C- 237 would do just that.

Bill C-237 is not about guaranteeing 50% women in the House. The bill is not about guaranteeing anyone a seat in the House of Commons. The bill is about offering the electorate the opportunity of electing a House of Parliament that is more representative and reflects them in the House of Commons. Canadians are not holding women back from being elected. It really is the systems and structures of our political parties that are.

It is naive to say that somehow institutions and systems like political parties will somehow magically evolve over time to be free of sexist and racist barriers. There are limits to voluntary measures and good intentions.

As my colleague from Ottawa West—Nepean stated in her excellent speech to the House on Bill C-237:

In virtually every case where countries have achieved gender parity in Parliament, it has been done using mandatory legislated measures, regardless of the electoral system. In Canada, at the current rate, even with party leaders who have a strong commitment to electing more women, we will not achieve parity for another 90 years, unless we make some changes, which in my view cannot be left solely to the goodwill of political parties.

I am proud to say that the NDP has always had the highest percentage of female candidates, and that is because we have worked very hard to remove the barriers to women's participation, but we can and must do even better.

It is my hope that my colleagues will vote in favour of sending this legislation to committee so that the day will come sooner rather than later when we will elect a truly representative Parliament.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 18th, 2016 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-237, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity).

Today, 87 years ago, women were recognized as persons in Canada. The fight to get the right to vote was led by five trail-blazing pioneering Alberta women who changed history for all Canadians, paving the way for women's increased participation in public and political life.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary that voters in Lakeland elected me to represent them as their member of Parliament, and I am proud to serve them and to fight for our communities and our priorities.

The Liberals talk about progress for women, gender parity, and equal opportunity, but it is often just a lot of talk. They seem to really care mostly about appearances. They promote quotas for cabinet. The Prime Minister quips about it being 2015.

However, Conservatives really have the strongest track record of promoting and electing women to powerful positions of leadership, and that is something about which we are proud. Conservatives treat men and women equally because of our conviction that we are equal as individuals, as human beings, in dignity, in capacity, and in potential. Women can compete, we can deliver, and we can win.

Quotas were not needed to elect the first female prime minister, a Conservative. Quotas were not needed for my former boss and long-time friend, Deb Grey, to become the first woman leader of the official opposition in Canadian history. She did not want or need quotas. It is very special for me to represent much of the riding where Deb was elected as the first Reform member of Parliament.

As Conservatives, we will not tell women what they should be, what they should aspire to, or what should animate their dreams. If women want to be mothers, we will support them. If women want to be entrepreneurs, we will support them. If women want to do both and anything else, we will support them.

We are the party of the first female engineer MP, the first female minister, the first female foreign affairs minister, and the first female prime minister. As Conservatives, we believe women's individual ambitions and efforts are what matter, not what society expects or progressive collective quotas demand.

Conservatives support women in all walks of life, and that is why the Conservatives, especially Conservative women, have always been trail blazers. In fact, it was under a Conservative prime minister that women finally got the right to vote.

Today, we Conservatives are the only party with official status in the House of Commons to have a female leader, and she is the fourth female leader of our movement. That happened because the Conservative MPs knew that the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland was the best person for the job, not because of a quota or because there was an expectation.

I have been involved in politics in many different ways for many years. My experience is that men, younger, the same age, and often much older, have always supported me wholeheartedly, when I was the youngest volunteer, or a staff member, and now. They have knocked on doors with me, promoted me, donated to my campaigns, and volunteered countless hours to help get me elected in the nomination and in the general election.

My Conservative male colleagues, incumbents and rookies alike, always encourage and lift me, and support me tirelessly. My volunteer board is half women and half men, and 20% youth. The full-time staff in both my offices are all women, but they are the best people for the jobs.

When I walk into a room of Conservatives, I know they are assessing me on my merit, work, skills, expertise, knowledge, and character. They judge me on my ability and my competence. They do not fixate on just one of my traits, as if it defines my whole identity or who I am. That is what I prefer. What Conservatives care about is how hard people are willing to work. Conservatives care about action. They prioritize what people do, not what they say or promise.

I know I earned my position in this party and my role for Lakeland, and I will keep earning it. I believe it is my job to do my best at whatever I do. That is what counts.

This bill is undemocratic and it is demeaning. It assumes Canadians are too sexist to choose the right people to represent them, and that parties should be punished for allowing local nomination processes to determine the best local person for the job. This belittles my work and my accomplishments as a candidate, as a member of Parliament, and as a woman, just like all of my formidable Conservative women colleagues and all the strong women here.

I do not want to be treated like a victim who requires a quota to succeed in life. Frankly, the notion that I need legislative coercion to succeed is utterly condescending, and this is the reason why.

My grandmother was the first female mayor of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, elected in 1973. She was a councillor, a journalist, a wife, and a mother of eight. She was always described as expressive, passionate, “voluble and aggressive”, a firebrand. Therefore, my colleagues will forgive me for coming by it honestly.

My Missy Nan never wanted special favours or treatment for being a woman. She told me that the best way to succeed was to work harder and to be more prepared.

As a new opposition MP from rural Alberta, like me now, the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland once said that working women did not need men in Ottawa telling them how to live their lives. Today, as then, I agree. This bill is typical of an ideology that government is always the fix. I would love to see more women run for political office, but the idea that parties should be forced to choose women over men under threat of financial punishment does a disservice to women everywhere. It says that Canadian women cannot achieve success on their own merit.

I want people from all walks of life, all ethnicities, ages, or genders running for office. I want the best possible representatives from every community to be elected, so we must forever be vigilant for freedoms and for our belief in the equal sanctity and dignity of every individual as a human being. The task is monumental.

Before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, girls were allowed to go to school; afterward, they were not. Before the Iranian revolution, women were free to wear what they wanted; afterward, they were forced to cover their hair. It is possible for societies to go backward on women's rights, so we as citizens of free democracies must embolden the inherent equality and liberty of all individuals everywhere. It underlines how privileged and fortunate we are here.

The NDP believes that gender parity of Canadian political candidates is the most pressing issue today when women in other countries face almost unimaginable oppression and harm. In Niger, 76% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 reported marrying before the age of 18, and 28% before the age of 15. In some African countries, women and girls are brutalized by ritual female genital mutilation. In Tanzania, 50% of women are pregnant before they turn 18. Many women in developing countries either die from childbirth or lose their babies. That is why the former prime minister and Conservative government focused Canada's foreign aid on maternal health in the developing world, because while Liberals talk about their support for women, Conservatives act.

I am incredibly proud of the hon. Leader of the Opposition. I first met her in university. I was immediately inspired by her intelligence, her work ethic, and her integrity, and I volunteered on her first nomination campaign. From the moment I met her, I have seen that she always works harder than anyone else. She inspires those around her to do the same. That is how she leads us. She is a constant champion for the rights of all women and girls, and against violence and persecution in Canada and around the world. She succeeded with Plan International to establish the International Day of the Girl.

Just two weeks ago, she addressed a gathering of 11,000 Conservatives in the U.K. about the serious issues facing women and girls around the world. That is leadership. She lifts women up, recognizes their strengths, and promotes their talents.

At the time she was appointed in 2006, she was the youngest female cabinet minister ever, a record later broken by another Conservative, the member for Calgary Nose Hill. She held 10 different senior portfolios under the previous government. She kept the confidence of a demanding leader and has earned her well-respected place here in the chamber and in Canada. She will leave our party in a stronger position and has built an admirable legacy. I consider her an outstanding role model for Canadians, especially women. She is exceptional.

I am a Conservative. I believe in democracy, personal responsibility, freedom, and equality as the fundamental values of civilization. This bill would simply use taxpayer dollars to interfere in local democratic processes. So I say to women, as Nellie McClung once said and my mentor Deb Grey reminded me often when I worked for her and continues to now, “Never retract, never explain, never apologize—get the thing done and let them howl!”

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 18th, 2016 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle Québec

Liberal

Anju Dhillon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-237, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity), at second reading.

I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague, the member for Burnaby South, on preparing this bill and on his hard work on this issue.

Bill C-237 proposes reforms to the Canada Elections Act by reducing reimbursements for eligible parties based on the difference in the percentages of male and female candidates for a general election. The bill would allow for no greater than a 10% difference in the number of females and males run by a party in a general election. Any difference beyond this threshold would result in reductions to an eligible party's reimbursement.

I am pleased that the 42nd Parliament ushered in the highest number of female members in Canada's history, with 88 female candidates elected. We also saw a record number of female candidates participate in this federal election. Unfortunately, this record number of elected female members represents only 26% of the seats in this place, placing Canada 60th in the world in terms of gender equality in a lower house.

In light of these figures, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for raising this issue in the House of Commons. Our government is committed to fostering gender equality in Canadian institutions and all aspects of civic life. I am proud that we can have this very necessary debate.

Gender equality is a noble and necessary goal that we support. However, we must decide how best to achieve it. I am not convinced that the mechanism in this bill, imposing a legislated gender quota, is the best way to achieve that goal.

I would like to talk about the government's current electoral reform initiatives and discuss other measures that we as MPs can take that might be more effective at increasing the number of female candidates and women elected to Parliament.

As all members know, the House has struck a special all-party parliamentary committee to examine a variety of reforms to our electoral system, including a wide-reaching and comprehensive study on the use of preferential ballots and proportional representation. Our government would like the view of the committee before introducing legislation.

I would like to point out that Canada's electoral system for the next election is still unknown. It is premature to impose a legislated gender quota designed for the first-past-the-post system.

Gender quotas, such as the one proposed, operate differently under different electoral systems. In fact, of the few countries in the developed world that continue to use the first-past-the-post system, there are none which impose legislated gender quotas on parties, and therefore none which provide useful examples to show how such a quota may function in our current system in Canada.

There are many reasons why it is hard to impose such a quota in a first past the post system. In Canada, one of those reasons is the impact that such a quota would have on internal nomination contests within parties. Aside from the control measures that apply to party financing, nomination contests are usually treated as an internal party matter.

During the previous Parliament, this was debated extensively as part of the debate on the Reform Act, 2014, which amended the provision of the Canada Elections Act on endorsement of candidates to allow parties to choose the people responsible for endorsing candidates, instead of this responsibility always falling to the party leaders.

Under the provisions of Bill C-237, parties could now be forced to impose candidates in some ridings to ensure that their subsidy is not reduced, as it would be if they do not achieve the quota. Despite the pressure to promote open nomination contests, this measure will instead work against the parties' financial interests, their commitment to open nomination contests, and the desire of their riding associations.

I would much rather see my party work with the riding associations to invite more women to run, instead of encouraging the parties to centralize the nominations.

I am sure all can imagine a situation where parties would begin to incrementally stage nomination contests across the country in order to evaluate progress toward the gender quota. The later nomination contests get, the more acute the situation becomes.

We must look to what other like-minded countries are doing, or have done, to work toward gender parity in their legislatures. There is both domestic and international evidence that voluntary gender quotas within parties can be an effective mechanism for increasing the number of female candidates.

I would like to applaud the NDP in this regard. As I am sure the member opposite is aware, the NDP has had a voluntary gender quota at the party level of 50%. In the last election, the NDP fielded the highest percentage of female candidates of any party in the House at 43%, and more than 40% of the current caucus is female. This is an achievement and it brings the NDP very close to the threshold the member seeks in Bill C-237 to implement between 45% to 55% female candidates without incurring a penalty. It also demonstrates that this level of gender equity can be accomplished without the introduction of a legislative amendment.

Likewise, European nations with the highest percentages of female parliamentarians, such as Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands, have largely adopted voluntary gender quotas at the party level with great success. Without resorting to legislative means, these countries have some of the highest levels of female participation in the western world.

This demonstrates two things. First, since we still do not know what Canada's voting system will look like in 2019, it would be premature to adopt a legislative measure designed for a first-past-the-post system. Indeed, as the NDP demonstrated, the issue of gender inequality can be resolved without resorting to mechanisms governed by legislation.

Gender equality and gender parity in every aspect of political and civilian life are objectives that we must strive for in any way possible.

I thank the member opposite for the exemplary work he did to raise this matter in the House. Nonetheless, I hope I adequately explained the reasons why I cannot support this bill at second reading stage.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

October 18th, 2016 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, debating a matter as important as gender parity in politics in order to defend this fundamental right should be an honour and a privilege. Sadly, however, I am somewhat embarrassed to note all the missed opportunities over the years. Therefore, I hope that we will get the job done this time and that all members of our respective parties will seize the opportunity to turn words into action.

Madam Speaker, the fact that I am addressing my comments to you, a female speaker, gives the impression that the problem is practically solved. Without taking anything away from you, that is not the case. We must continue to work very hard so that there are more women working in various capacities in this Parliament.

No one questions article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “all human beings are born free and equal”. Therefore, we must acknowledge that political parties should be instrumental in upholding and applying this fundamental principle.

With the election of a Liberal government came a few glimmers of hope. The gender-balanced cabinet was probably the most tangible sign of that. When our Prime Minister saw fit to sum up the facts and his thoughts by quipping that it was, at the time, 2015, I hope I was not mistaken in reading between the lines that the answer was self-evident and the question no longer bore asking. Unfortunately, the question does bear asking, and we must not back down from asking it because women currently hold just 26% of the seats in the House. We are clearly still a long way from achieving the ultimate goal of parity.

I would like to put a fine point on the situation by sharing one figure. Is Canada in 10th, 20th, or 30th place? No, Canada ranks 60th in the world on the proportion of women in Parliament. Without new measures like Bill C-237, it is unlikely that we will achieve parity before 2075. Looking ahead to 2075 means relying on statistical projections, but without meaningful measures to bring about equity, there is little reason to believe we will hit that 2075 target.

Stereotypes are hard to break and I am making it my duty to dispel myths such as the one where women are not interested in becoming actively involved in public affairs, or that they are less interested than men. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, during the 2011 federal election, more women turned out to vote than men, or 59.6% to 57.3%. Back home in Trois-Rivières, if further proof is needed, the majority of volunteers involved in my election campaign were women. The issue is not whether women are interested in becoming politically involved, but rather ensuring that the political parties are not an obstacle but rather an incentive for women to become involved in our democratic institutions.

We need to put measures in place to encourage the political parties to recruit more women candidates. That is the foundation of the entire structure of equitable representation of men and women in this Parliament.

One might wonder how the NDP has always successfully managed to recruit more women candidates than the other parties and have more women elected to the House of Commons than all the other parties. Quite simply it is because in our approach to this issue we go beyond the rhetoric and we put policies into practice that are conducive to having more women candidates and electing more women. It is one thing to ask women to run in the ridings, but we must also ensure that these women can run in ridings where the success rate or the chances of winning are also equitable.

By establishing proactive policies on this issue, our party is getting results, getting more women involved in politics, and promoting balance between men and women in the House.

For instance, we introduced our policy of freezing candidate nominations until the riding associations could prove that every effort had been made to recruit women, and that approach was successful. In 2015, 43% of NDP candidates were women. That is nearly 50-50. We are not quite there, but it is pretty close to gender parity. While 43% of our candidates were women, 41% of the elected members in our party are women. That means 41% of the NDP members in House are women. This is the result of our party's concrete policies.

Bill C-237 goes even further and addresses a key element: it interferes with political party financing to give parties an incentive to recruit more female candidates. This serves to confirm the desire to affect representation in the House and improve gender parity.

Under the provisions of the bill introduced by my colleague from Burnaby South, political parties will receive less in public subsidies when women do not make up at least 45% of their list of candidates. For instance, if a party has 25% female candidates and 75% male candidates, its post-election rebate would be cut by 10%. Of course, this version of the bill also offers the various political parties the opportunity to freely choose the rules and measures they wish to use to achieve the desired result.

Our proposal would correct the systemic under-representation of women in politics and introduce gender parity. Our democracy would be stronger and would better respond to our aspirations if the House of Commons was more representative of the makeup of Quebec and Canadian society.

Some international experiences show in no uncertain terms that my colleague's bill is a step in the right direction. It must be said that, compared to other democracies, Canada is lagging behind. Eleven democracies have adopted laws similar to our proposed legislation, which makes public funding of parties conditional on gender parity.

In France, parties lose a portion of their subsidies if the spread between the percentage of male and female candidates is greater than 2%. Oddly enough, when this incentive was increased in 2008, the number of women elected rose by 46%. Ireland is another example. In 2012, Ireland passed legislation whereby annual public funding of parties would be cut by 50% if both men and women did not make up at least 30% of their candidates. In just one election, this law led to a 90% increase in the number of female candidates and 40% in the number of women elected.

A number of studies show that Canadian voters do not discriminate against candidates based on gender. In Canada, a woman who seeks public office has about the same chance as her male colleagues of being elected. Therefore, we have to ensure that women enter the race.

Therefore, I am asking once more why only 26% of the members of Parliament are women. We could think about this at the same time that we consider an entirely different matter, one that has been debated for weeks and months, and which we will continue to debate, namely the long awaited reform of our voting system. If we had a proportional voting system, the lists of the different parties might result in gender parity and also, why not, correct the balance between cultural communities.

I would have liked to talk about our international obligations with respect to sustainable development because expecting the countries we are helping to meet particular objectives is at odds with a lack of effort on our part to meet those same objectives.

My time is running out, so I will conclude by saying that I hope all parties in the House agree that under-representation of women in our political institutions is an impediment to our democracy. It is our duty to do better when it comes to increasing the proportion of women in Parliament.

If this Parliament's priority is to ensure gender equality, I encourage all members of the House to support this bill and help improve it in committee.

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Gender EquityPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

October 18th, 2016 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present a petition signed by many constituents.

The petitioners call on the government to support Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act. The constituents point out that women still only hold 26% of the seats here in this place and Canada is ranked 64th in the world in terms of gender representation in our legislature.

My constituents would like the legislation passed and we will have a chance to do that tomorrow night when we vote on the bill.

October 7th, 2016 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Okay.

We have a bill in Parliament right now, Bill C-237 from a colleague of mine from the west coast that would do exactly what you suggested, incentivize parties to nominate more women. I'm assuming, after we've heard so much testimony from people like yourselves, that we're going to get near-unanimous support for this, at least one part of it, while we change the electoral system. Should the committee be considering doing these two things together—changing the way parties nominate and also changing the voting system—rather than saying we can only do one thing at a time? Should we consider both the mechanisms of the party nomination as well as the way that Canadians vote, and that their votes be counted for better voter equality across the country?

October 5th, 2016 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alistair MacGregor NDP Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, BC

Thank you very much, Chair.

Professor Bittner, I've really appreciated your testimony today. I appreciate the fact that you've come today to talk to us, especially on your work regarding women in politics. I'm a father of young daughters and I would love nothing more than to see them grow up and consider a life in politics, although having seen my experiences, they may be dissuaded from considering that.

When we were in Halifax yesterday, one of the first people who came to us was Professor James Bickerton, and he uttered a phrase that really stuck with me. It was the phrase “institutional changes to behaviour”, and I'm really glad you mentioned my colleague Kennedy Stewart's Bill C-237. I'm glad that it's actually making the news, because often private members' bills get lost in the mix. I appreciate that the bill would do some great things if passed, but the fact remains that under our current system, we are still depending on the good will of the Liberal government to get that bill passed, and that's a majority government based on 39% of the Canadian vote.

I was wondering if you could give me some of your thoughts on that phrase “institutional changes to behaviour”, in the context of our requiring the support of the Liberals' goodwill to get that kind of bill passed, because if we are going to make these changes, we hope they will agree with that bill, but at the same time, it's kind of like the chicken and the egg problem. Do we change the system that elected this government, or do we ask it for permission to get this change put forward?