Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to address you today on the budget implementation act. My name is Katherine Scott, and I'm a senior researcher with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives here in Ottawa.
Bill C-86 marks an important milestone for Canada with the introduction of part 1 of Canada's first poverty reduction act, followed quickly this week by Bill C-87 yesterday, as well as three other pieces of legislation enshrining the principle of gender equality and efforts to advance gender equality through policy and program.
These bills have been a long time coming. The call for proactive pay equity legislation reaches back decades. It's been a recommendation in the CCPA's alternative federal budget for many years. With this bill, federally regulated employers will be required to create proactive pay equity plans that will help to chip away at Canada's stubbornly high gender pay gap and to uphold women's right to equal pay for work of equal value.
The Canadian gender budgeting act will require governments of the day to assess and report on the impact of all new budget measures, including proposed revenue generation and program expenditures using a gender and diversity lens.
The new department for women and gender equality will ensure that the federal government is actively engaged in both supporting women's rights and gender equality through its own policy and research and providing much-needed support to government agencies and civil society organizations working in communities across the country.
These are foundational pieces for a more inclusive, a more just, and a more prosperous country. At a time when there is a mounting backlash against women's rights, these efforts are significant and important to ensure that, as the preamble to the proposed legislation for the new department attests, all have the opportunity equal with others “to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have”.
The provisions for gender-based budgeting are also essential in modernizing Canada's processes for policy and program development. Around the world, gender budgeting is recognized as key to generating the evidence necessary to inform policy and programs that successfully deliver on their stated goals and contribute to broader societal well-being. The new act provides a vehicle for strengthening accountability and transparency, both key characteristics of effective public policy.
It's one thing to know, for example, that a measure like the employee stock option costs Canadians $755 million a year in forgone revenue. It's another thing to know that 77% of those benefits are claimed by men. The partial exclusion of capital gains delivers 75% of its benefits to men at an enormous cost to the government of $6.6 billion. These policies effectively amplify existing gender disparity in the labour market. A gender analysis poses fundamental questions. Are these tax expenditures effective in achieving their stated goals? Are they just? Could Canadian tax dollars be better spent elsewhere?
The work of the new department and those charged with carrying out GBA+ analysis will require sufficient resources to ensure the positive impact of this work. This will include mechanisms for meaningful engagement with and support for women's rights and gender equality-seeking groups. We have recommended an annual budgetary target of $100 million for the new department in the alternative federal budget.
So too does the new pay equity act hinge on the resourcing available for the new commissioner for training, education, compliance and enforcement.
We fully endorse and support the recommendations of the pay equity coalition with respect to proposed reforms, enshrining existing human rights protections, and the call for a robust mechanism for pay transparency. Without these actions, the proposed pay equity model risks becoming a variant of “comply and explain”, an approach that's met with precious little success in encouraging gender parity on corporate boards.
The issue of resources is also fundamental to the potential success of the new poverty reduction act. The act outlines specific targets for reducing poverty as measured against an official poverty line, and establishes a framework and a process for reporting on progress to both houses of Parliament.
At the same time, the act does not include any new investment in the programs that are needed to achieve the strategy's goals. Indeed, Canada's new plan is really more of a framework than a strategy to accelerate poverty reduction. A strategy implies that we have a plan to get from where we are to where we want to go, and crucially, the resources to back it up. On this score, low-income Canadians are still waiting.
With urgent need across Canada, an effective poverty reduction plan requires more ambitious targets and timelines and greater investments in programs such as universal child care, national pharmacare, training and education for marginalized workers, and the like.
Finally, I would like to commend the government for the amendment to the Income Tax Act taking up recommendation 3 of the consultation panel on the political activities of charities. This is a very important amendment, and we hope that the forthcoming guidelines coming from CRA will uphold the letter and the spirit of the bill's proposed amendments.
Thank you again very much for your kind attention.