Evidence of meeting #49 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was women.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Diana Sarosi  Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam Canada
Jennifer Howard  Executive Director, Public Service Alliance of Canada
Lisa Kelly  Director, Women's Department, Unifor
Kate McInturff  Senior Researcher, National Office, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
Vicky Smallman  National Director, Women's and Human Rights, Canadian Labour Congress
Angella MacEwen  Senior Economist, Canadian Labour Congress
Megan Hooft  Deputy Director, Canada Without Poverty
Michèle Biss  Legal Education and Outreach Coordinator, Canada Without Poverty
Alana Robert  As an Individual
Shania Pruden  As an Individual
Natasha Kornak  As an Individual
Anne Elizabeth Morin  As an Individual
Antu Hossain  As an Individual
Aygadim Majagalee Ducharme  As an Individual
Élisabeth Gendron  As an Individual

9:15 a.m.

Director, Women's Department, Unifor

Lisa Kelly

In answering your question on Quebec, I feel a little like Dr. Danielle Martin when she was questioned in the U.S. by a U.S. senator about the badness of the Canadian health care system. She said she couldn't tell him about this problem but she could tell him that 43 people die a day, or whatever, on that. There might be a two- to three-year wait list in Quebec, but I can tell you that I had my son on a wait list and after seven years, I gave up getting him into the child care program at his school. There are wait lists across Canada and Quebec is by no means the worst.

Is it a perfect system? Absolutely not. But it does prove that it pays for itself, that you put money into it. For the women who choose to go to work—and I take your point that for women who choose to take care of their children at home and not go into the workforce, that's a choice they have—their income pays back into the income system.

I do believe in a universal system rather than a targeted system. I don't object to looking at the pillars of government's investment, as well as parent fees, so that there might be some recognition of a sliding scale—at least for parents. I echo what I know you've heard before, which is that programs targeted at poor people become poor programs. We support the public and not-for-profit institutions because people shouldn't make a profit from caring for my child. But the studies also show that the quality is better in public and not-for-profit sectors.

In connection with that, when you've got good working conditions for the child care providers, you have less turnover. That means on Mother's Day, I don't have to re-explain to someone else what my family configuration is for the Mother's Day cards, whether there's one or two. There is respect for my human rights and my family.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

You mentioned the not-for-profit sector. You do agree with a potential sliding scale, then, that those families that can pay more should pay more. Where would the intervention be with the not-for-profit sector? You mentioned that, so what do you see its looking like?

9:20 a.m.

Director, Women's Department, Unifor

Lisa Kelly

If you look at the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care, it has some materials on that, as does the CCAAC. There are certainly some things I can forward to you on that. Ideally, it would be a wholly public system, but we have to work our way there. What is clear is that we don't support a for-profit child care system.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Awesome.

Do I have a few more minutes?

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

You have 45 more seconds.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Jennifer, back to you.

When you're looking at the women in your unions, how many would part of some of the STEM fields? Would you say there are 10%, 15%, 20%, or 50% who are part of the STEM fields?

9:20 a.m.

Executive Director, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Jennifer Howard

Our union doesn't represent a lot of the women who work in those fields. PIPSC would likely represent them, so it's probably a question better directed to that union.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Thank you.

9:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

We now go to my colleague, Ms. Malcolmson, for seven minutes.

9:20 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the panel.

I'm going to start with a question to Oxfam. First of all, thank you so much for bringing Oxfam's international reputation to focus on a domestic campaign in Canada. It's a very good reality check for us that there's a lot of work to do right here on the ground.

Your feminist scorecard was just released yesterday, and in it Oxfam called out the Trudeau government, saying, “the government has disappointingly taken very few steps to ensure women’s work is fairly paid and equally valued.”

I also have your report from October, entitled “Shortchanged: Make Work Paid, Equal and Valued for Women”. That was a call from Oxfam to implement pay equity legislation, which the Canadian government committed to do some 40 years ago, and it still hasn't happened.

Are there any real barriers to the federal government's immediately implementing pay equity legislation? Have you heard any good rationale for waiting until 2018?

9:20 a.m.

Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam Canada

Diana Sarosi

No, we have not heard what the real barriers are. Anita pointed some of those out earlier, and we definitely agree that we want a good system rather than a rushed system.

There are models out there that can be looked at and studied. In fact, the Quebec model is hailed as one of the most progressive in the world, but there are also opportunities to look at the models, for example, in Sweden and Germany. This is something we continue to speak out about. We don't just look within; we look outside the country.

There are so many examples of pay equity models, gender budgeting models, that we can learn from, and that can really help us speed up the process. Many countries have been very progressive in this area. We know this is complicated, but learning and lessons learned are out there, and we should take full opportunity of those.

March 7th, 2017 / 9:20 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

I'm reminded that at the committee last year, there weren't any witnesses who asked for a delay along the lines that the government's now proposing, so we're going to keep pushing.

Moving to either Jennifer Howard or Lisa Kelly, I'd love to hear from either of you on this. We've been hearing a lot about the changes to pensions, introduced by the government, under Bill C-27, which threaten the defined benefits pensions that many retired women depend on for income.

I've been hearing a lot from constituents in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, which has a lot of elderly people and folks in the retired bracket. I have been hearing that women especially have a higher representation in defined benefits programs. When they don't do well, that's especially what drops retired and elderly women into poverty.

Just this week, we got copies of letters from the Canadian Labour Congress and United Steelworkers, asking the finance minister, Bill Morneau, to withdraw Bill C-27 and protect defined benefits.

Can you explain, for the record, why those changes are so harmful for women, in particular, especially elderly women without other sources of income, and what would you recommend the government do to protect the pensions for those women?

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Jennifer Howard

We are also opposed to Bill C-27. I think it opens the door to an attack on defined benefit pension plans by opening the door to the target benefit plan. The average salary for our members is about $45,000 a year. These are middle-class folks, and when they retire they have access to a good pension that is deferred wages—a pension that they pay into all their working life. If we have seen a decrease in poverty among senior women, good pensions is one of the biggest causes of it, along with women being in the labour force—either their own pensions or having access to survivor pensions, which is also key for women, who tend to live longer than men.

We see this as an attack on those pensions. We know those pensions are critical to good retirement income and dignity. However, we also want young women—some of the women who are going to be in here later today—to have access to those pensions.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Is there anything you would add from the Unifor side?

9:25 a.m.

Director, Women's Department, Unifor

Lisa Kelly

I would just add that sometimes we look at these things in such isolation, saying that we've been in an economic downturn or that there's not enough money. It really feels as though that viewpoint skews towards looking at public service workers to be the solution.

I'll get you to go back to listen to Kathleen Lahey's presentation about tax policies and where money has gone and the money that's not in the coffers of the government because it has been foregone in tax changes in the last 10 years.

9:25 a.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

We've been hearing a lot about the trend towards precarious work and how it affects women in particular, especially young women. I was disheartened to hear Finance Minister Morneau say that Canadians should get used to job churn, because it's going to happen and we have to accept that.

I'd like to hear from you as strongly as we can what this government can do to ensure that women, and young women in particular, have stable employment that helps them achieve true economic security.

9:25 a.m.

Executive Director, Public Service Alliance of Canada

Jennifer Howard

Well, they can start with their own workforce. What we have seen is some restoration of the previous cuts, but not a growth in full-time permanent employment in the federal public sector, at least not from the statistics we've seen. We'd be happy to be provided with other statistics that show that. That is concerning.

Leading by example, stopping the reliance on temporary staffing agencies, and creating full-time jobs not only is good for recruiting employees, but this is a government that has said it wants to attract the younger generation into the public service to renew the public service, and those folks need good, long-term, full-time jobs.

9:25 a.m.

Director, Women's Department, Unifor

Lisa Kelly

I would echo that and just add that having a strong system of employment standards in the Canada Labour Code is really important for setting a floor. Often there's an idea that we can just go in individually and bargain with our employer or tell them how different work practices are affecting us.

I have two teenage kids.

Actually, my son turned 20 yesterday, so I have to stop saying that. I have one teenager and one 20-year-old.

They had an experience, over their summer jobs, of absolutely well-meaning employers whose idea of flexibility was all on their side. When you get a text at 7 a.m. saying, “Your shift at 2 p.m. is now at 10 a.m.”, and you had plans to work around that.... That was a reality for them.

So it's getting full-time hours and having standards there for you, and not only looking to the individual to make those things real.

9:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Marilyn Gladu

Now we're going to Ms. Damoff for seven minutes.

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Thank you, and thank you all for being here and for your presentations.

Could you give some global examples, if you have any, of countries in which there are policies that are working well? I believe the U.K. has day care available for its citizens. Could you give some examples that we could perhaps implement here, best practices that you may have seen, from other countries?

If you don't have any, that's fine, but I wonder whether any of you has any.

9:30 a.m.

Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam Canada

Diana Sarosi

Do you mean specifically for child care?

9:30 a.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

I mean for gender equity.

9:30 a.m.

Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam Canada

Diana Sarosi

In general, we always point to the Nordic countries—Sweden, Finland, Denmark—as examples. I'm not sure about the U.K. system, but I would definitely look at those countries.

9:30 a.m.

Director, Women's Department, Unifor

Lisa Kelly

In the Nordic countries, one of the things the federal government is considering, I understand, is what I think got labelled as “paternity” leave. I would call that “second parent” leave, although I don't want to leave out the gender component of that. It really is about giving targeted use-it-or-lose-it leave to the second parent, who overwhelmingly is a man, to disrupt this notion of what women's work is and the connection with their children, the role modelling with their children. My understanding is that in Quebec, where they do have that, the men who took that leave are more likely five years later to do more domestic work. In Sweden there is a lower rate of divorce after men have taken that leave. You've walked a mile in my shoes. You actually understand that a day at the beach with the baby is a day with “the baby”.

I love my children. I was really happy to be supported to stay home with my children for an extended period of time before coming back to work, as compared with my U.S. counterparts; but boy, it's when you get that other person stepping in, knowing that they can contribute to that care, that you get a shift in gender roles. I think that's really important.

9:30 a.m.

Senior Policy Advisor, Oxfam Canada

Diana Sarosi

I just want to add that one of the challenges here in Canada is that it is a federal system, and a lot of things lie within provincial jurisdiction. In that case, I would also encourage you to look at Germany, which is also a federal system where jurisdictions are split like that.