Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I want to begin by thanking my fellow member for introducing this bill.
Women now have their place in the labour force. We represent 50% of the population and thus 50% of workers. It is incumbent upon governments to implement measures so that women are not disadvantaged because they are the ones who bear children.
I am a mother of four children, and, as a Quebecer, I was able to take advantage of the province's preventive withdrawal program. Women should in no way be penalized in the workforce because of their pregnancy.
I'm someone who prefers to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. In yesterday's budget, the government raised the number of weeks women can claim EI maternity benefits before their due date from 8 to 12, which is certainly a good thing. You are recommending, however, that clauses 6 and 7 be cut out of your bill, if I understand correctly, and I think that's a shame. I think we should still try to extend that period to 15 weeks before the due date, as those provisions seek to do.
I was in the House when your bill was being debated, and Quebec's program was mentioned repeatedly. I spent more than a decade as the director of a community housing organization. As in many service fields, all the workers were women, save for one or two. They were entitled to access preventive withdrawal benefits as of week 14 of their pregnancy. Under Quebec's program, as soon as a woman's job poses a health risk, her workplace is assessed. An effort is then made to determine whether she can be reassigned with the same employer while keeping the same working conditions and pay, even if the new job has fewer responsibilities. If it is ultimately determined that she cannot continue working in that environment, the program entitles her to continue receiving her pay from the employer during the first five days. After that, she receives 90% of her pay.
We really have to keep up the effort at the federal level because every Canadian woman in every province deserves a program like that.
Mr. Gerretsen, our committee must do what it can to propel your bill forward. Your national maternity assistance program certainly sounds good, but Canadian women need more than just consultations; they need real measures that will improve their situation.
Why would we not keep fighting for your bill in its entirety and the 15 weeks it proposes?