Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the third reading debate of Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity.
The hon. Minister of Human Resources Development has described the new employment equity legislation as follows: "This initiative is a significant step toward ensuring equitable employment opportunities for women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities".
The President of the Treasury Board has echoed the minister of HRD, suggesting the legislation is necessary to ensure equity and fairness in the workplace.
I suggest this is a snow job by the Liberal government which is masquerading as a beacon of light when it is moving us back toward the dark ages.
I suggest this because governments that have experimented with employment equity have found it does not work and it does not matter how you couch the term. It does not matter whether you say it is not exactly the same as the American employment equity program or not exactly the same as Bob Rae's legislation. The principle is whether it is working. It has not worked in the United States. It was rejected by the voters of Ontario. It was rejected even by the Liberal Party of Ontario.
Meanwhile its elder brothers and sisters in Parliament are pushing ahead Bill C-64, a bill respecting employment equity. It talks about numerical targets or goals. It simply is talking about quotas and it is federal legislation which means it is the law of the land.
It is wrong. It is draconian. It is against the will and wishes of the Canadian people and it is against the prevailing wisdom of those who have experimented with employment equity in its various ways, shapes and forms and who have found it does not work.
The Liberal government has couched employment equity in terms that mask the true intent of the legislation. I heard the hon. member before me saying it is not what we think it is, it is sort of a wishy-washy, mishy-mushy-wushy piece of legislation.
It is employment equity. That is what the bill is called and that is what we are talking about here. I wish hon. members on the other side would have the courage to say they are proposing employment equity rather than saying it is something new that we have never tried that we do not really understand.
The government is going about to ensure equity and fairness in the workplace for all Canadians? I doubt it very much. I believe it is imperative to provide the House with a non-biased, general definition of employment equity. We picked one that members on both sides of the House should agree is fairly accurate.
Employment equity could be defined as results oriented actions that a government department or contractor by virtue of its contracts with the government must take to ensure equal employment opportunity. An employment equity program includes such goals as correcting underutilization and correction of problem areas. In addition, it may also include relief such as payback, retroactive seniority, make-up goals and timetables.
I could speak on a lot of these but I want to briefly talk about the unprogressive manipulation this legislation includes, the goals and timetables the government will surely be following to implement and cement the numerical targets it talks about.
This definition outlines the intent of the legislation. The Liberals undoubtedly have timetables to indicate that certain percentages of employees must be appropriate to women, aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities by a certain point. The employment equity policies can be viewed as results oriented, which indicates the results of proportional representation, regardless of qualifications, are the main focus of the legislation.
The Reform Party's position on this legislation is that an employment equity policy is unnecessary. It is ineffective. It is very costly. It is unpopular. Governments lose because they have tried to implement employment equity. It is discriminatory. It is intrusive. It is harmful to designated and to non-designated groups. The equality of all Canadians is recognized by affirming that hiring and promotion should be based solely on merit rather than on gender, race or other distinguishing factors of that nature.
Employment competition based on the merit principle is the key to both equality and productivity. The Reform Party has no qualms with encouraging the recruitment of qualified visible minorities and women through advertising and training programs. Visible minorities and women should then compete on a non-discriminatory, colour blind, gender neutral basis for jobs, promotions or educational positions.
The Reform Party believes discrimination is a heinous offence that needs to be rooted out of our workplace. However, this will not be achieved through employment equity legislation being orchestrated by the federal government. I believe private companies doing contract work with the government and government departments have the proper mechanisms to deal with discriminatory practices. Any problems not addressed by the company or the government department can be appealed to either provincial or federal human rights commissions under the human rights code.
Private companies in particular have a vested interest in maintaining a representative workforce because it makes good business sense. According to Fazil Mihlar of the Fraser Institute:
The market solution of the problem as it stands is discriminatory employment costs firms money; therefore if an employer refuses to hire the best candidate for a particular job, the productivity of the discriminating employer is bound to fall and consequently produce less profit. The more competitive the industry, the less likely firms are to engage in discrimination.
The bottom line is that companies are capable of achieving employment equity without governments imposing legislation.
I could talk about the American experience. We have already been criticized in the House for doing that, but if time permitted I would.
We did a bit of research on the breakdown of electoral success in the House of Commons by gender as calculated from the 1993 federal election. The numbers are interesting and also a bit revealing.
I will start with the Reform Party. We were successful in electing 29 per cent of the female candidates our party had nominated. This was without any manipulation or any intervention whatsoever. We only elected 25 per cent of our male candidates. In other words, one quarter of the men who won nomination in our party were elected to the House. A higher percentage, 29 per cent, of the women who were nominated at the riding level by the Reform Party of Canada were successful in the 1993 federal election. This is with no manipulation by the leader of the party, no directives from our party office telling the constituencies: "Make sure you nominate women. We want a lot of women nominated from our party."
The members of our party who selected female candidates chose excellent candidates who garnered the support of their constituents. They were more successful than the male candidates.
If we look at the Liberal numbers, they are about even. They were actually a little less successful in electing female candidates than they were in electing male candidates. Now, as we know, the Liberals elected a lot more MPs to the House, so the percentage of successful male candidates was 60 per cent. That is why they have a majority government.
With all the manipulation, with the bypassing of the constituency nomination process and the anointing of star female candidates, they elected 59 per cent of the females, one per cent less than the male candidates they elected. So the wisdom of the Liberal Party
hierarchy was not the same wisdom as the constituents in the ridings, who voted for who they felt was the best candidate.
This indicates the whole concept of employment equity, the playing around with quotas and jiggering around with results not based on merit but based on numerical targets does not work and is not effective. It even hurt the Liberals in the last election.
I see my time is running out. I want to talk about the party that has made the most noise about employment equity in Canada, the NDP. Of course, they have suggested very stringent quotas. They suggest that there has to be an equal number of women on their party councils and committees from top to bottom, inside and outside and around the corner.
They had 100 female candidates and they elected one, who happened to be their leader, the highest profile candidate they put forward to the Canadian electorate. So one per cent of their females were elected. They did not do so well on the male side either, but they did elect four per cent of their male candidates. This is from a party that has indicated that there must be employment equity, that it must be legislated and written in stone.
Instead of having the government on this side and the opposition on that side, they would almost want to have men on one side and women on the other and make sure it was equal. That is the approach they have taken to employment equity, and it just does not work. It has not worked for that party.
Why would the Liberals, who are intelligent people and a party that has been around for over 100 years, want to give us Bill C-64, which would try to impose upon companies and government departments what does not work in practicality, does not even work in their own party, which has been a failure everywhere it has been tried and which is disgusting and discriminatory by its very nature and is demeaning to the very people it is supposed to help?
I like to see visible minorities and female members in the House of Commons and in business, who are there because they are darned good, the best at what they do. I have a lot of respect for those people, whether they be black, white, yellow or red, whether they are male or female or whether they are handicapped in some way. I have a lot of respect for those people who made it on their own. If they are being given numerical quotas by a federal government and are given a position just because they happen to fit a certain category, it is demeaning to them.
I suggest this government should withdraw this legislation. It is wrong, it is immoral, and it does not work.