Good morning. Thank you for your invitation.
I wish to begin my presentation with an important reminder. I wish to remind you that Canada signed on to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women on July 17, 1980, and ratified that convention on December 10, 1981.
Under that commitment, we believe that the federal budget should place a priority on measures to promote equality of women. Must we remind you that there are still wide gaps between men and women in some very key sectors in our country? The average wages earned by working women are still significantly lower than the wages earned by men. Women represent a disproportionate segment of the population that is earning a low income, and they are much more likely than men to only be working part-time. I could provide a long list of statistics that were provided by Statistics Canada, and that department could certainly not be labeled a radical feminist group.
Women remain unequal in Canada, and we expect concrete measures to fight against this discrimination. The budget tabled in Parliament on January 27 by the Minister of Finance, Mr. Jim Flaherty, does not introduce any new measures to fight discrimination against women. Worse still, there are certain legislative measures in the Budget Implementation Act of 2009, the bill that you are considering today, that prohibit women workers in the federal public service from demanding pay equity. To our mind, this is a real sign of regression.
Through this bill, the government is reiterating its intention to suspend legal recourse in all cases dealing with pay equity. In our opinion, the government should instead adopt measures that align the Canadian pay equity system with our national and international commitments to women's rights. It must adopt measures that recognize the contribution of women workers to our economy.
Quebec has a proactive law that governs both private and public sectors. That act has proven to be much more effective than the federal model that is complaint-based. We therefore recommend repealing all legislative measures on pay equity from the Budget Implementation Act of 2009, specifically speaking part 11. In addition, we recommend that the government adopt a proactive federal piece of legislation on pay equity, as was recommended by the 2004 Working Group on Pay Equity.
With respect to employment insurance, women are particularly penalized because they make up the vast majority of people working part-time, or who are returning to the workforce after a prolonged leave. Changes made to the Employment Insurance Act do not eliminate this discrimination and do not bring about any significant improvement. Indeed, eligibility criteria will not be relaxed, income replacement rates will not be increased, there is still the two-week waiting period, and training programs will remain inaccessible to those who are not eligible to receive employment insurance benefits. It is expected that six out of ten unemployed workers will remain ineligible.
As for eliminating certain provisions of the employment insurance system that discriminate against women, particularly the establishment of eligibility requirements, and hours worked, these criteria discriminate against people who are working part-time, the majority of whom are women. We believe that there must be a significant improvement to the employment insurance system so that the unemployed can maintain a decent standard of living.