National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy Act

An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy

Sponsor

Mark Gerretsen  Liberal

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

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of June 14, 2017

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-243.

Summary

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

The purpose of this enactment is to provide for the development and implementation of a national maternity assistance program strategy to support women who are unable to work due to pregnancy and whose employer is unable to accommodate them by providing reassignment.

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

June 14, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy
Oct. 26, 2016 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

The House resumed from June 7 consideration of the motion that Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, be read the third time and passed.

National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2017 / 6:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Long Liberal Saint John—Rothesay, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege for me to here on behalf of my riding of Saint John—Rothesay. As members know, I love my riding. It is an industrial riding and a union riding.

I am here today to speak to Bill C-243, put forward by my colleague from Kingston and the Islands. The bill raises important issues, such as health and job security.

Just as important for our government is our commitment to help the middle class and those working hard to join it. To respect this commitment, we have to give all workers in the country an equal opportunity. The government recognizes that pregnancy should not be a barrier to full employment. We recognize that we must ensure workplace health and safety for pregnant workers.

The Canada Labour Code has provisions that guarantee safe working conditions to all workers in federally regulated sectors, including pregnant and nursing employees.

We also believe that pregnant workers should be able to benefit from more flexibility when the time comes to take their maternity leave. This is particularly true in cases where pregnant women have to stop working earlier than expected because of the risks their job could pose to their health or that of their babies.

I will take the few minutes I have to talk to the House about what our government is doing to help these workers, as well as their families, across the country. In particular, I would like to elaborate on the measures proposed in budget 2017 to increase the flexibility of El special benefits. The special benefits under the El program help parents balance work and family life.

Each year, this program helps thousands of eligible Canadians prepare and care for a new baby or take care of a family member who is critically ill. It is our responsibility to ensure that these measures remain appropriate and accessible for Canadian workers seeking to balance their professional careers and personal lives.

Let us start with parental benefits.

Starting a family presents certain challenges, especially for working parents. Measures set out in budget 2017 offer these parents flexibility. Parents will be able to choose the option that best suits their needs based on their work and family situation.

Under the proposed changes, parents will have two options. For the first option, which corresponds to the standard 35-week period for parental benefits, claimants can receive El parental benefits at the current rate of 55% of their average weekly earnings for a period of up to 12 months. For the second option, the extended 61-week parental benefits period, claimants can receive El parental benefits at a rate of 33% of their average weekly earnings over a period of 18 months.

These changes represent an investment of $152 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and $27.5 million per year. In addition, parents can continue to share the benefits.

Moreover, we are proposing to allow pregnant women to apply for El maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their expected delivery date, if they wish to do so. This means more flexibility compared to the current standard of eight weeks. This additional flexibility is expected to amount to $43.1 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and $9.2 million per year.

In budget 2017, we are also offering more support for caregivers. We are proposing the creation of a new El benefit for a period of up to 15 weeks. This new caregiver benefit will allow Canadians to care for an adult family member who is critically ill or injured.

These benefits would be provided to people caring for an adult family member who is critically ill but not at the end of life.

This is a first for employment insurance. We are very proud of this measure. I must add that this new benefit would supplement the existing compassionate care benefit for people caring for family members who are critically ill and in end-of-life situations.

Parents of critically ill children would continue to have access to up to 35 weeks of benefits. They would now be able to share these benefits with more family members.

For some time now, we have wanted to increase the flexibility of the different types of parental benefits to better respond to families' needs. We made sure to do this right. That is why we worked together with all of our partners. I am talking about Canadians and numerous stakeholders. Together we studied the possible changes to employment insurance. Most of all, we listened to people from coast to coast to coast, and the changes we are making are the ones people asked us to make.

Last fall, we held on-line consultations with Canadians. We asked them how they felt about the idea of offering more flexible EI maternity and parental benefits and leaves under the Canada Labour Code. We also asked them for their views on the idea of offering more inclusive caregiver benefits and leaves for Canadians caring for a family member. We also hosted a stakeholder round table last November. Among the participants were representatives of the medical community, health charities, family advocacy groups, unions, and business associations. We made a commitment to take measures to improve EI benefits, and that is what we are doing. These changes would ensure greater financial security for Canadian workers and their families when they need it the most.

In conclusion, there is no doubt that our government is making a real difference for workers, especially female workers, across Canada. We are taking this action because their well-being, health, and safety are of the utmost benefit and importance to us. Giving everyone an equal opportunity means the middle class and those working hard to join it will be better off.

I can certainly say first-hand from the riding of Saint John—Rothesay that the response to this bill has been outstanding. Workers who are thrilled with these proposed changes come into my office every week, and I am honoured again to speak to these changes on behalf of my riding of Saint John—Rothesay.

National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2017 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to Bill C-243, as put forward by my colleague from Kingston and the Islands, and to commend him for the work on this legislation and for raising awareness of this extraordinarily important issue about equity and equity for women in the workplace.

It is a sign of the times and the generational change starting to happen in the House as we see men step up in ways that are extraordinarily progressive. They find imaginative ways to address not women's issues, but societal issues that have a gender component to them and the gender analysis that is required to start to create a more equal society and also bring women into places where they perhaps would not have had the opportunity to work as a result of some of the challenges, especially younger women in their child-bearing years.

The bill focuses on the health and safety of pregnant workers in the workplace. In particular, the bill would mandate the Government of Canada to invite provinces and territories and relevant stakeholders to consult on the prospect of a national maternity assistance program.

I have a couple of quick notes in response to the previous speaker.

As the bill moved through the process of introduction, committee, through the budget process, and now onto the floor for third reading, a doctor's note is no longer a mandatory requirement as part of this provision, as the issues that were raised and the concerns that were highlighted have been dealt with through the collaboration of cabinet talking to the private member's bill. The committee heard some excellent evidence to make the bill better as well.

Additionally, some of the flexibility that took away the pressure on the need for royal consent has given the bill more flexibility and, in doing so, has also accommodated the situation where an unexpected pregnancy, which also produces a child more quickly than expected, can now be accommodated in a way that protects the woman's right to ensure income continues to come into the household so the family is sustained and supported properly.

On top of that, we have also taken a number of other steps around EI reform and revision to make EI more flexible but, more important, more easily accessible with respect to the time from application to receiving benefits. This too was an important component that was added to the process as we were seized by this issue, in large part because of the presentation by the member for Kingston and the Islands.

We are looking to support pregnant women in the workplace. We are also ensuring we minimize and deal with the risks to their health and to the health of their unborn children. We are also ensuring that when the employer is unable to accommodate them through reassignment, there are mechanisms in place to support the family, the mother, and the child.

I would like to again state that the government supports Bill C-243, as amended by the standing committee. I will also take a few minutes to talk about some of the other measures contained in budget 2017 that also deal with this issue and work to protect the health and safety of pregnant workers and nursing employees, with which is also an important issue our caucus is seized.

Starting in 2017-18, $886.4 million will be spent over five years, and $204.8 million per year to make employment insurance caregiving, parental, and maternity benefits more flexible to meet all of their diverse needs of families. There is more to this issue than simply the situation facing pregnant workers.

With budget 2017, we are helping working parents face the challenges that come with a growing family and we are offering more flexible arrangements to pregnant workers. We are proposing to make employment insurance parental benefits more flexible.

Budget 2017 introduced choice and flexibility for parents. Parents will be able to choose the option that best suits their needs based on their work, their family situation, and their child care circumstances.

Under the proposed changes, parents will have two options: receiving El parental benefits over a period of up to 12 months at the existing benefit rate of 55% of their average weekly earnings, or over an extended period of up to 18 months at a benefit rate of 33% of their average weekly earnings. In either case, eligible parents will receive roughly the same level of support.

Investing in El parental benefits to make them more flexible is expected to amount to $152 million over five years starting in 2017-18, at the rate of about $27.5 million per year. Parents will continue to be able to share these benefits, and that is an important component as well.

Through budget 2017, we also proposed additional supports for caregivers. We proposed to create a new employment insurance benefit that would last up to 15 weeks. This new benefit will allow Canadians to care for an adult family member who is critically ill or injured, a benefit we pay to people caring for an adult family member who is critically ill but is not at the end of his or her life. This is a first for employment insurance.

Any of us who have dealt with family situations involving complex illnesses know that the severity of those illnesses do not necessarily give one a prescriptive timetable in which to take time away from work. This flexibility and acknowledgement of some of the challenges facing Canadian families is part how we are making EI more accessible, flexible, and fair. This new benefit supplements the existing compassionate care benefit, which continues to provide up to 26 weeks of benefits for those who leave work to care for family members in end-of-life situations.

Parents of critically ill children will continue to have access of up to 35 weeks. They will now be able to share these benefits with more family members as part of the flexibilities. To implement these measures, budget 2017 proposes to amend the Employment Insurance Act.

Additionally, our government is also proposing to amend the Canada Labour Code to ensure that workers in federally regulated sectors have the job protection they need while they are receiving caregiving, parental or maternity benefits. Of particular interest in the present debate is the proposal in budget 2017 that will also allow pregnant women to claim El maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, up from the current eight weeks, if they so choose. This is how we have worked with the member to ensure his goals are realized. This investment in additional flexibility is expected to be about $43.1 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and about $9.2 million a year thereafter.

The collaboration between the member for Kingston and the Islands, our government, and members from both sides of the House was valuable to advancing this private member's bill's policy agenda. For those of us who have watched private members' bills move through the House, sometimes with friction, sometimes with quite easy support, the work that the member did on this bill to ensure it not only got represented in the budget when it ran into some difficulties around the financing issue but by also working at committee with his colleagues to ensure he had an impact with his private member's bill, speaks well to not only the focus, but the integrity and the hard work of the member in question, and we thank him. In fact, families across the country owe this member a debt of gratitude.

We are making these changes to the employment insurance system because we care about the well-being of Canadian workers. We made those improvements because Canadians asked us to make these changes.

Last year, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the member for Kingston and the Islands launched online consultations with Canadians on employment insurance around maternity, parental, and caregiving benefits. They asked how people felt about the idea of developing more flexible maternity and parental employment insurance benefits. However, we also requested their views on the idea of offering more inclusive benefits and leave provisions under the Canada Labour Code for Canadians caring for family members. This was all part of the process to develop this bill and ensure we got as much input as possible. Consultation does matter. It is not just a buzzword; it actually is something we do to improve legislation with Canadians for Canadians.

When asked about their challenges while being on maternity or parental leave, people mentioned that finances were their main concern, especially those who were in single-income families, and those with twins and multiple births. Difficulties finding suitable and affordable child care and problems qualifying for El benefits, while being self-employed or working on contract, were also brought up. More than half of the participants said that they would prefer taking longer combined maternity and parental leaves for up to 18 months at a lower El benefit if we could make that happen. In terms of caregiving benefits and leave, participants mostly talked about the financial, personal health, and emotional burdens of having to deal with these things without proper government supports.

Our government also hosted a stakeholder round table last November. Participants included representatives from the medical community, health charities, family advocacy groups, unions, and business associations. With respect to maternity benefits and leave, one of the things we heard was that early maternity leave was a health and safety issue and a human right. We also heard from stakeholders that changes to caregiving benefits and leave were needed to make those less restrictive as well.

We made sure to consult on potential changes to employment insurance with our partners, including the public, and numerous stakeholders. The implementation of Bill C-243 will have us engage provinces, territories, and the relevant stakeholders regarding the prospect of a national maternity assistance program.

Canada's employment insurance special benefits can be of support to eligible Canadians through important life events. Each year, these benefits help thousands of eligible Canadians to prepare and care for a new baby. We are happy to help. We are happy to partner with the member to support the bill. We want these benefits to remain appropriate for Canadian workers to help them balance their responsibilities.

Our government is on its way to make a fundamental change to the landscape for working women and men in our country all for the better, and in particular for our country' s children.

National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

moved that Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak once again to my private member's bill, Bill C-243. I would like to begin with a couple of quick thanks, and then I will address the substance of the bill.

First of all, I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities for the careful study of the bill. I appreciate the efforts of all members of the committee, and I look forward to speaking to their proposed amendments shortly.

I would like to thank the nine witnesses who took the time to present constructive feedback to the committee for consideration. The witnesses represented a diversity of backgrounds, including women's advocacy groups, skilled trades organizations, and of course, Melodie herself, the welder in my community who inspired the bill. I hope that all of them will continue to be part of the important discussions going forward and if my bill is passed, their voices will be a critical part of the development of an effective national maternity assistance program that reflects all areas of the labour market, including women working in hazardous jobs.

As today will be the last opportunity to speak to Bill C-243 in the House, I would like to thank all members who have supported the bill from the beginning. Bringing forward legislation is one of the most important things that we do as MPs, and I truly appreciate all members and all parties who took the time to get involved in one way or another.

As one final thanks, I would like to take the opportunity to thank a staff member in my office. I know that all MPs greatly value the work that our staff do. There is one individual, Mr. Steven Patterson, who works in my office who started working on this file when I was told that I had a private member's bill coming up very early on. He was still a fourth year student at Queen's University studying politics. He started writing this bill from his dorm room in residence. He worked with me when we were challenged on royal recommendation, and in my opinion, put forward one of the smartest and best cases against royal recommendation that the House has seen, and further continued to work as this went through committee. Unfortunately, Mr. Patterson will be leaving me to go to law school, which was pretty much inevitable in the fall, and I want to greatly thank him for his participation in this. A warning to anyone out there who crosses paths with lawyer Patterson in the future, they want to make sure they are on his side because otherwise they will most likely be on the losing side.

I want to provide some background on this issue, and then get to the committee's amendments. My goal with the bill was to address one of the barriers for women who want to enter a so-called non-traditional job. I believe that we need to level the playing field, so that women have an equal opportunity to participate in all sectors of the labour force.

I am pleased to see that budget 2017 includes strong measures to do exactly that. Specifically, budget 2017 proposes to allow women to claim EI maternity benefits up to 12 weeks before their due date, which is expanded from the current standard of eight weeks if they so choose. While there are some small differences between this and my original bill, this change introduces exactly the kind of flexibility that I and so many others have been advocating for with the bill.

Budget 2017, which was introduced one day before the committee began its study of my bill, obviously has implications for the future of Bill C-243. Therefore, I support the committee's decision to remove the employment insurance provisions of Bill C-243 found in sections 6 and 7, as with the passing of budget 2017, they will have essentially been addressed.

It is important to note that these changes leave the first part of the bill, the national strategy, essentially unchanged. The bill in its current form specifically calls on the Minister of Employment to develop a comprehensive strategy to ensure that pregnancy is not a barrier to a woman's full and equal participation in all aspects of the labour force. To be honest, this has always been the most important part of the bill as the changes to EI were only ever intended to be a first step and not a final solution.

The strategy would give the government a proposed mandate to engage in broad consultations, and to consider more comprehensive and long-term solutions. The other amendments, such as adding greater emphasis on gender equality, are also consistent with the goal and purpose of Bill C-243. I support the decision of the committee, and I would urge all members of this House to vote yes on Bill C-243 at third reading.

I want to reiterate why I feel having this debate and developing a strategy is so important. Many of the discussions we have in this place and throughout the country about equality in the workforce, as it relates to gender equality, specifically for some reason seem to focus on including more women as doctors, lawyers, business leaders, and politicians.

While well-intentioned, these conversations often neglect the fact that many women want a career in other fields, including physically demanding jobs like skilled trades and construction. These are good paying jobs and according to Statistics Canada, employees in the trades earn an average hourly wage that is about 6% higher than other occupations.

While the wages are good, in many cases there is a shortage of labour to meet the demand. Over the next 5 to 10 years, 40% of current tradespeople will need to be replaced, and the Conference Board of Canada has predicted that one million skilled workers will be needed by 2020. This skills gap would hurt Canada's competitiveness, but more important, it is an opportunity. In my opinion it is an opportunity for a win-win. We have the opportunity to get more women involved in skilled trades, and in lines of work that have a higher demand, and at the same time we have the opportunity to fill these vacant positions that will be created very soon.

Finally, the national strategy proposed in Bill C-243 is an opportunity to promote gender equality while addressing this very real economic challenge.

National Maternity Assistance Program Strategy ActPrivate Members' Business

June 7th, 2017 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

moved that Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, as amended, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-243, An Act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Employment Insurance Act—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

May 29th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Before proceeding to the orders of the day, I wish to draw the House's attention to Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy and amending the Employment Insurance Act, maternity benefits, standing in the name of the member for Kingston and the Islands.

The Chair would like to remind members of a ruling made on December 6, 2016. In that ruling, I stated that the bill as it then stood needed to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

On May 3, 2017, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With Disabilities reported the bill with amendments. The Chair has carefully examined these amendments and confirms that the bill, as amended, no longer requires a royal recommendation. Consequently, debate may proceed and, when appropriate, all necessary questions to dispose of the bill will be put.

I thank hon. members for their attention.

May 17th, 2017 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Melodie Ballard As an Individual

My purpose today is to speak to the changes occurring as a result of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 22, 2017, specifically changes to the maternity and parental leave benefits from the Employment Insurance Act and Canada Labour Code.

For those of you who are not familiar with my story, it was the inspiration behind MP Mark Gerretsen's private member's bill, Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy and amending the Employment Insurance Act.

In 2014, I unexpectedly became pregnant. At the time, I was working a dangerous job. I was not able to continue in my position with my employer while pregnant, due to the many hazards of the job, and my employer was not able to offer me accommodation by way of a suitable temporary position. I discovered then that there was no coverage, federal or otherwise, for an early pregnancy leave from a dangerous job. I became very entangled in our system, dependant on programs that weren't designed to sustain me in my situation.

I campaigned the issue to the 41st Parliament, without result. Not one to give up easily, once the 42nd Parliament had settled in, I took the issue up again with my new local MP. From there, in an effort to amend the issue, Bill C-243 was created.

My early maternity leave and parental leave was a tumultuous time in my life, wherein I a gained a lot of insight into what it's like to be a vulnerable person, failed by our social system. I am now in what I call “the hamster wheel of poverty,” having to constantly concern myself with housing, moving, affording basic needs, and parenting, with little energy and resources left to actually improve my situation.

This is the result of a social system that has not kept up with both the cost of living and the diverse needs of the population. This is what happens when cost of living is not delivered, and it's worth considering that I am more expensive to society in the hamster wheel than if I had just had a proper leave program to begin with.

I hadn't expected to fall into a federal aid gap. I didn't know there was one. To say I am disappointed with my maternity leave experience is an understatement. I am devastated, but I'm also solution driven, and playing a part in improving the system is giving purpose to my pain and allowing me to move on. While the upcoming changes to the maternity leave from the budget tabled on March 22, 2017 are what can be best described as a small step forward in the right direction, they are most welcome all the same.

I've noted a common theme from families and professionals offering feedback on the maternity and parental leave program in Canada, and that is simply the ability to customize a leave that works best for their growing family. Our circumstances, abilities, priorities and aspirations are so varied in this country. As Canadians, we need options that acknowledge those diverse needs.

I am pleased to see this budget allows for the addition of an extended leave option and more flexibility in timing the start of maternity leave. I must, however, criticize the payment of parental benefits over a long period, at a lower benefit rate of 33%. The lower rate disincentivizes use and is less likely to be found as a viable option to low-income or single-parent families, but it is an option that adds flexibility for some families, and with the attitude that it can be improved upon in the future, I support it.

While I understand that protecting the 15-week maternity leave period from the pressures of work for the purpose of safeguarding health and allowing child-parent bonding is extremely important, I encourage you all to look at parental leave a bit differently, because 33% of most people's income is not going to meet their cost of living. Either the federal government needs to meet the cost of living, or the regulations restricting income earning on parental leave need to change. People from low-income households especially are being alienated from these services. Adding flexibility for low-income people, without added cost to the government, is key in broadening Canadians' abilities to customize their parental leave.

I am not aware of an EI program that allows for a combination of receiving benefits while partially working, but if the federal government cannot afford to offer the cost of living during parental leave, then it's not useful to low-income families. For these families, or even parents in competitive careers who are torn between quality time with their children and not falling behind at work or on bills, please consider it. Consider, for example, that in a typical 40-hour work week, 22% of pay—the difference in this case—comes from just nine hours of work.

Consider allowing a recipient of parental leave, who does not otherwise receive a top-up from work, or whose income is below a threshold, to select the 18-month leave and top themselves up by working up to 18 hours in a biweekly period, or 22%, if they wish.

This flexibility would benefit low-income families. The result would be six days a week with their child instead of forgoing the program and only getting an average of two. While working to strengthen the middle class, let's make sure we're dropping ladders down the poverty pit, so that the middle class is not strengthened on the backs of people in poverty.

I applaud Minister Morneau's tabled budget changes for maternity and parental leaves and the government's efforts in improving the system.

Thank you.

May 4th, 2017 / 9:10 a.m.
See context

The Clerk

Absolutely. We do have a current example, Mr. Gerretsen's Bill C-243, for instance.

Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with DisabilitiesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

May 3rd, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the sixth report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy and amending the Employment Insurance Act (maternity benefits).

I would like to thank the member for Kingston and the Islands and his staff, especially Steven Patterson, for all their hard work on this bill. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House, with amendments.

May 2nd, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Bryan May Liberal Cambridge, ON

My fourth and final amendment seeks to amend the French version of Bill C-243, in clause 4, by replacing line 12 on page 3 with the following:

4 (1) Dans les trois ans suivant la date d'entrée en vi-

I am proposing that the minister be given three years to lay before each house of Parliament a copy of a report setting out the conclusions of the consultations. That would give him ample time to consult the stakeholders specified, as well as those not yet considered. The extra time would be especially useful when it comes to compiling the information and writing the report to be laid out before each house of Parliament.

Finally, in English, my last amendment is that Bill C-243, in clause 4, be amended by replacing line 14 on page 3 with the following:

“House of Parliament within three years after the day on”

It's the same as in French. I'm suggesting that we give the minister three years, rather than two, to report the conclusions of the consultations on a national maternity assistance program to each House of Parliament.

May 2nd, 2017 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bryan May

Good morning. Pursuant to the order of reference of Wednesday, October 26, 2016, Bill C-243, an act respecting the development of a national maternity assistance program strategy and amending the Employment Insurance Act regarding maternity benefits, we're here today to go through clause-by-clause consideration.

Pursuant to Standing Order 75(1), consideration of clause 1, the short title, and the preamble will be postponed.

Does clause 2 carry?

(Clause 2 agreed to)

(On clause 3)

Is there any discussion around clause 3?

Mr. Robillard.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-243Routine Proceedings

April 11th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am really disappointed in the questions that were posed by both NDP and Conservative members. The member for Calgary Nose Hill started off her comments by telling us that this debate was about procedure in the House. No. What this debate is about right now is whether a committee should travel and spend money in order to support legislation that I put forward, Bill C-243.

The member from the NDP who spoke last talked about respect. What about the respect that members should be paying to the people who would be affected by this bill? Is this the right way to treat legislation, as a vehicle to deliver another message and another motive that they have? I do not think so. The House should do the proper thing and move on from this discussion so we can have a proper vote on this.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-243Routine Proceedings

April 11th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has been a tireless advocate for issues affecting women, from pay equity on up, and is a wonderful member of our committee.

When it comes to extending leave, I am all about creating flexible options. I am not necessarily about giving away a zillion dollars to do it, but I think there are ways, such as the way Bill C-243 has sort of said when people can take the leave. I think some of the ideas that we heard on committee were from other countries that have a use it or lose it kind of philosophy. They have seen the uptake, and they have not really seen that both people are off at once. It is more sharing that load and stretching out the duration.

I am a fan of providing as many options as we can. We know that, especially in some types of jobs, union jobs and such, they have a legal contract that they have negotiated, and it is hard to put the flexibility in after the fact. If we could have anything from a legislative point of view that would provide that flexible framework, I think that would be better.

Instruction to Committee on Bill C-243Routine Proceedings

April 11th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today and speak to my hon. colleague's motion. I am a little disappointed that I was not able to speak to what I was originally here to speak to, which was the motion regarding gender-based analysis, because I brought the report that our committee had done on it and I was prepared to talk about how the government has not followed up on any of those recommendations, but I will have to let that go, and instead focus on another very important issue.

In my role as chair of the status of women committee, as I sit and listen to the testimony, we are currently studying the economic status of women in Canada. Part of that discussion is as to how we take advantage of the 50% of the workforce that is really underutilized. How do we get more women on boards? How do we get more women into science, technology, my favourite which is engineering, and mathematics? As we look at this issue, we are hearing testimony about things that are barriers for women, things that are contributing to the systemic discrimination that exists against women in industries of all kinds, and things that need to be fixed in order to facilitate women being more free to take advantage of these jobs.

One of the topics we have heard about is maternity leave, and the whole issue of if women are in a situation where they are in an industry where there are hazards or it is the kind of work that would impact them in their pregnancy, that we have the flexibility to address that. Also there should be the ability to allow flexibility in who takes the leave and how long the leave is.

We have heard testimony from other countries where they have done a good job in sensitizing the other parent to take leave with a “use it or lose it” kind of philosophy. We have seen where that has been effective in other countries in increasing the ability of women to have a greater percentage of participation in the workforce. We look at the kinds of bills such as Bill C-243 that are brought forward. This was a great idea. It was really not costing any more. It was just providing that extra flexibility to start the leave earlier, if needed. Certainly we saw it was well received by most people in the House, maybe not by the cabinet, but all those folks who are trying to do the right thing for Canada were right behind the bill.

We think about the barriers that exist for women with respect to maternity leave. I know for myself, I was working as an engineer with global responsibilities when I was having my children. Members can appreciate that I was flying all over the world at all hours of the day and night and being exposed to dengue fever, malaria, and I could go on about the hazards that I endured personally. Then there is trying to actually take time off. What is the company supposed to do with an individual's job? Legally a company has to leave an individual's job or an equivalent there, but as an individual rises to positions on boards and positions that are very responsible, that is a very difficult thing to do logistically. When we think about producing more flexibility in maternity leave, that would give women who are in high-power positions the ability potentially to have their spouses take that leave.

Another thing that is very concerning which we heard in testimony at our committee was regarding who can actually take advantage of maternity leave. If a woman does not qualify for EI in the first place, she may not be able to receive the benefit that she really wants to get. We did hear that a disturbingly high percentage of women who, because of the nature of the precarious work they are in, or because they are not able to get enough hours to have the minimum qualification, face a lot of barriers that have an impact on them.

Then there are the attitudes in the workplace. I remember when I was the engineering manager at Suncor and had quite a large staff, one of the staff announced to all of her fellow engineers that she was planning to have six children. There should not be anything wrong with somebody wanting to have six children, but the attitude that caused over time eventually forced the company to get rid of the woman, because it was known that she would keep taking maternity leave and it would keep being difficult. Those are the kinds of things that can contribute to systemic discrimination against women that we do not want to see at all.

The parental leave provisions that came out in budget 2017 have not really addressed this issue of maternity leave. I think it is worth having the committee look in more detail to see what else can be done, because the parental leave provisions that were put in the budget really stretch out the same amount of money over 18 months, so people would really only get 33% of their salary. No one can realistically afford to live on that. It pretty much takes two parents nowadays to get by.

Certainly, the committee has a job to do in looking into this in depth and hearing from people across Canada talk about what they would like to see in maternity leave, and potentially even consulting with countries that are doing it better than we are.

The government currently consults super broadly when it wants to consult, but the rest of the time it does not. This is an example where it wants to not have this kind of consultation happen. Where was the consultation with credit unions when it introduced all of the latest restrictions there? Where was the consultation with youth when it increased the down payment requirement to 20% to get a first-time mortgage? Where was the consultation with the oil and gas industry when it put its policies in place to basically drive the industry south? The government needs to apply consultation a bit more evenly when it is going to consult, needs to actually consult on everything and then take action on that.

The other thing I want to talk about, which my colleague did not talk about, is that the motion talks about getting permission to travel across Canada. I have a difference of opinion with my colleague when he speaks about going from coast to coast to coast. I always think of things in terms of budget, so I can imagine how much it would cost for the committee to be flying all over the place. I sit on the liaison committee, and I am astounded to see the way the travel budget is administered here in government, as opposed to what happens in private business. The way private businesses develop their travel budget is that either they have a historical perspective of what has been spent or they have plans for the year and know how much travel is estimated to be associated with that. They put together a budget and then stick to the budget.

I was astounded to find out that we put together the initial budget, and I guess the budget had never been fully spent in the last 10 or 12 years of Parliament, but all of a sudden, this year, the first year of government, we ended up overspending the budget immediately. The committee just came and said it wanted a supplement of $800,000 on a $1.2 million budget. It was incredible. It would never happen in private industry. Certainly, we need to consult, but it needs to be balanced and it needs to be planned. Subsequent to that supplement, it came again and asked for another supplement of $650,000. It is not as if the well is just continually there and committees can just keep spending the taxpayers' money without having any need to be held fiscally responsible.

Therefore, when it comes to travel, I would like to see the committee consult, but I would like committee members to focus their efforts on areas where there are programs going on or things happening that are good, and on areas where there is particularly nothing or great difficulty with maternity benefits.

I am not sure where this motion will fit into the priorities of the HUMA committee, because I am also sensitive to the fact that it has a lot of things on its roster. There are things that we have also been talking about in our status of women committee that are important for the economic benefit of women. I would not want to see the focus on shelters or on affordable housing, which also are having an impact, dropped off the committee. Therefore, I appreciate the fact that they have narrowed it down to the five days of the committee. That is appropriate. Hopefully, the committee will give it the priority that is needed.

To summarize my points, when it comes to trying to figure out how to get more women into positions of power in the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and math, we have to figure out how to make our policies more flexible. One of those policies is maternity leave. There have been some interesting ideas. Bill C-243 is one of those great ideas that we should go forward with. However, it is worth looking into what else we could do that would help these women.