Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to speak on Bill C-14, the borrowing authority which would allow the government to meet its commitments and put into effect its budgetary policy. This statement, this budgetary accounting, indicates the choice our government is making for the next fiscal year and shows some very important fundamental changes.
The agenda before us is a very ambitious one. It is a difficult one and it is taken in a time of economic restraint. Notwithstanding, our main goal has been to create jobs and growth and to be innovative while being fiscally responsible. We also believe that with the co-operation of Canadians we can reduce the deficit to 3 per cent of GDP within three years.
Our agenda and our priorities are no secret. Last fall we laid out our blueprint in the famous Liberal Party policy book. I know some members refer to it as the red book, but for me it is a fundamental policy book. It was our blueprint for job creation, deficit reduction, and a comprehensive policy review. Canadians have looked at it and have given us their approval by electing a strong majority Liberal government for the people, to speak with their voice and for them.
We are turning those promises into action. The budget tabled by the Minister of Finance is based on fairness for all Canadians. It stems from an unprecedented consultation process and dialogue, a process to which the government is firmly committed in many areas. It is an open process of which we can be very proud. Women and women's groups have participated in the process and our voices have been heard.
I am especially happy to point out to the House that the budget addresses a whole series of issues that are very important to women. The government is sensitive to the fact that programs and policies may have a different impact or a different effect on women. That is why we will ensure gender perspective is taken into consideration in all proposed changes undertaken as part of the various policy reviews. I can say that we are wearing gender tinted glasses, for that is what we are doing. Essentially my job is to make very sure that within the machinery of government we maintain that gender tint all along the way.
Women and women's groups have been very important in applying that theory and ensuring within our party that perspective is always kept in balance. This is the first time a budget clearly recognizes that women often bear the brunt of social stress and economic dislocation. It is also the first time that a minister of finance recognizes publicly that there are disparities in our tax system and income system that are detrimental to women.
The comprehensive review of our tax system which we will be undertaking shortly represents a unique opportunity for women to help us correct some of our system's shortcomings, such as the tax treatment of support payments, which are prejudicial to them. It is very important that women and women's groups participate in these consultations because by proceeding with these kinds of reforms, we will succeed in improving the lot of Canadian women and quickening the process of equality for everyone.
Our goal is to build a society in which women will have full access to the economic, political, cultural and legal spheres. I see that you are nodding in agreement, Mr. Speaker. There is no question that equality for women, equity and justice for all are tied to economic independence. Women must have the opportunity to participate in the labour market, to receive equal pay for work of equal value and to contribute fairly to our collective wealth.
The contribution of women to our society and to our economy is enormous. Yet, women are often economically disadvantaged because of the disproportionate burden they must bear as far as family and home are concerned. Today, 60 per cent of Canadian women are active members of the labour force and three-quarters of them hold down full-time employment. This is a rather interesting figure as it reflects the major shift that has occurred in the past twenty years.
Women of diverse ages, origins and cultures make up 45 per cent of Canada's labour force. By the year 2001, it is expected that women will account for nearly two-thirds of all new labour market entrants.
In the short term, our infrastructure program will help to create thousands of jobs. We are increasingly confident that this program will give our economy the needed boost to get back on the prosperity track. This program, by investing in local communities, will create direct and indirect jobs for Canadians and improve the quality of their lives.
Women too have a role to play in the development of legislation by introducing initiatives to increase the safety of their environment. I must say that women also have responsibilities. They must bring pressure to bear on mayors and municipalities so that their needs become a priority at the local level and can then be recognized as a responsibility at the provincial and federal levels. It is up to the mayors, aldermen and women's groups to demand whatever they consider important for their communities. That is part of our local priorities.
The program can be used for building day care centres, which has the triple advantage of creating immediate employment, providing important services to families and leading to long-term employment. We will be ready to go ahead with child care services when the economic growth rate reaches 3 per cent of the GDP.
On the other hand, our infrastructure projects are under review by federal, provincial and territorial co-presidents, as I just said. I can assure you that our representatives have been instructed to assess projects in terms of employment equity. I must thank the President of the Treasury Board for having taken this into consideration, while recognizing the need to take women into account in that regard.
Statistics released in January 1994 show that Canadian women still average only 72 cents for every dollar earned by men for working full time and that immigrant women make only 80 per cent of women's income. That is quite a gap that we will have to address. Women, especially during child bearing years, experience more career interruptions which impact on their advancement in the workplace and their lifelong earning potential.
The budget begins to address the fact that low income earners with dependants, primarily women, need a fairer system and that women live longer and have lower incomes in old age. The proposed changes to the Unemployment Insurance Act are designed to promote job creation, adequacy and fairness. The government has recognized that unemployment insurance programs must be linked to family status, dependants and other needs. As such these programs should be changed to provide assistance to those in greater need.
In today's economic conditions many households are under financial stress even where there are two income earners. More often than men, women tend to earn low wages and have dependants. Increasing UI benefits to 60 per cent for individuals with low earnings and dependants helps women, particularly single parents.
Amending and clarifying how the voluntary quit and misconduct provisions are applied stands to benefit women and improve the fairness of the entire process. That is something we complained about and felt strongly about in the last Parliament.
We recognize that some other changes to the unemployment insurance system may have a detrimental effect given women's weaker attachment to the workforce. However we must remember that these changes are temporary. The Minister of Human Resources Development has already initiated a full review of our social security system. Every measure will be closely examined after extensive consultation in all regions of the country.
In the meantime it is comforting to see business and labour leaders agree that Canada cannot afford to maintain barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce.
In a report published a few days ago the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre makes some recommendations aimed at breaking the principal barriers to women's equality in the workforce. Among other recommendations the report proposes to provide family responsibility leave and extend flexible working arrangements.
When I read the report I thought back to 1967 and the beginnings of the royal commission. I thought how far we had come in some areas, at least in terms of sensitivity if not in terms of complete catch-up. When I read a report from the Canadian Labour Market and Productivity Centre that says that family responsibility leave should be provided and flexible work arrangements extended, I remember when they wanted to count
every head from 9 to 5; employees did not move and could not leave.
Now at least there is some understanding that there has to be a flexible system. Establish a national child care system with professional salaries for child care workers. Reduce the work week possibly to four days with longer paid vacations and limits on overtime to free up jobs for more workers. Reduce stress for women who juggle work and family. Increase access to financing for women entrepreneurs.
There is really big news here. Actually the biggest news, speaking as a mother of four sons, is the fact that my sons can be involved in raising their children in a far more equitable way. I know that is something they look forward to doing.
The recommendations are good. Indeed this government has initiated many of them, including convincing the banks to supply more capital to small business. I know my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood is going to make very sure that the banks are going to listen. I told him what I said to the Royal Bank the other night. Go to it, Dennis. You and Berger make sure the banks listen.
What is totally new is the strong endorsement this report has received from both business and labour. I have always said consensus of this type is essential to the advancement of women. I can only give this new consensus my strongest support. Unless we have men and women working together I do not think we can advance.
We are certainly on target. Our economic recovery plan is based on small business. I should add that women are a major element of our strategy, as 30 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses in this country are run by women. It is with great pleasure that I remind you that the proven rate of success of businesswomen is at least double that of their male counterparts. That is why, in the budget, actions concerning small business are essential for women.
We know that it is very difficult for small business owners, women in particular, to obtain funding for their businesses. Banks impose unrealistic financing conditions which prevent the establishment and expansion of small and medium-sized businesses, acquisition of new technology, development of new markets and above all job creation. The fact of the matter is that the risk taken by banks-and I point this out to my hon. colleague so that he can bring it to the attention of the presidents of the nation's banks the next time they get together-by increasing the percentage of loans to small and medium-sized businesses is very small.
Studies show that only 13 out of every 1,000 loans granted to small business are not repaid. In other words, Mr. Speaker, 98.7 per cent of borrowers are creditworthy.
In the actual conjuncture 98.7 per cent constitutes an incredible rate of success. It should impress even the leaders of the banks and the most conservative of the bankers.
It must also be noted that profits in the banking sector reached $2.9 billion in 1993, or almost 60 per cent more than the previous year.
That is a lot of money. I think they could start taking some risks along with our small and medium sized businesses.
That is why our government set up a finance and industry task force to study, in collaboration with banks and small businesses, the issue of access to capital. I hope that the hon. members here in this House who have ideas will share them with us and provide clarification.
In addition, business leaders asked us to urgently reduce unemployment insurance premiums, and we have done so. This will enable businesses to save $300 million a year and to reinvest this money in new jobs.
We will also cut red tape and reduce interprovincial trade barriers, create a Canadian investment fund, form strategic alliances in favour of small business, establish joint ventures between research services and small businesses, and replace the GST with a tax that is more equitable for taxpayers and less burdensome for businesses.
This being said, our budget also proposes many initiatives that focus directly on women's needs. It puts in place provisions to improve women's health by creating a centre of excellence for women's health and launching a prenatal nutrition program. The national forum on health will also give us the opportunity to redress disparities in the way women are treated in our health care system. I could go into that at great length because there is much to do in that area.
As soon as we reach 3 per cent of economic growth we will create 50,000 child care spaces a year until we reach an additional 150,000 spaces. The budget contains provisions for this in 1995 and 1996.
Our initiatives will assist the people of this country to fully exercise their rights in terms of the charter, the Human Rights Act and the Multiculturalism Act. I am referring to the creation of the race relations foundation, the restoration of the court
challenges program and the law reform commission, as well as a review of immigration and refugee policies. All these initiatives are aimed at making this country's society a fairer, more compassionate one.
We have to do that because we cannot allow the increase in racism that has been taking place and the manifestation of scapegoat because of the economic situation.
We must take steps to make people understand that we are a peaceful society, where we live together in reasonable harmony, either in English or in French, Canada's two official languages.
Finally, the budget reaches out to young people, the pride and the future of our nation. The aboriginal head start program, the youth services corps, the young internship program, the literacy program and the youth student loans program are all important because they fill a great need.
I see young people upstairs in the gallery. Your future is what we are talking about as we look at the budget and try to analyse where we will be going to put this country back to work and give hope to the next generation, which is our absolute mandate in this House.
Added to this basic reform and initiatives already announced, these programs will allow our young women and men to prepare themselves for the challenges the new global economy is imposing on them. Our young people are smart and creative. They are like their parents, hard working and dedicated. They want the opportunity to contribute to society. We have made it our mission to help them reach that goal.
In conclusion, I must say I am very pleased with the budget, primarily because it is fair but also because it reflects our commitment to including all Canadians in the economic and social life of this country. If philosophical and ethical considerations do not move people, then common sense considerations should. In an increasingly complex and competitive world societies which do not tap into the talents of all their citizens are societies which sooner or later will lose.