Mr. Speaker, I am appalled at the way hon. members of the Reform Party are misrepresenting Bill C-64 to the Canadian public. They are consistently using terms that do not apply to this legislation either in fact or in spirit.
In its minority report, the Reform Party makes it look like employment equity and affirmation action are one and the same thing. However, any astute Canadian reading Bill C-64 or the current Employment Equity Act can see quite clearly that employment equity is not affirmative action.
I suppose it is fitting, in keeping with its small r republican status, that the Reform Party tries to equate everything with the way things are done in the United States of America. However, employment equity is a fair and just Canadian manner of addressing the inequality of opportunity experienced by persons with disabilities, aboriginal peoples, visible minorities and women.
Of course we know why the hon. members of the Reform Party use the term affirmative action. For the Reform Party, affirmative action is a code word for preferential treatment and in Reformers' convoluted attempts to obfuscate and derail this legislation they think they can pull the wool over the eyes of Canadians by taking this approach.
Canadians are a lot smarter than the members of the Reform Party realize. They will not be bamboozled by smokescreen language that fails to address the true spirit of Bill C-64.
Reform has a section titled "Are Numerical Goals Really Quotas?" in its minority report. I am delighted to be able to tell the hon. members opposite that the answer is no. Numerical goals are not quotas.
I would like to take a moment to tell members of the Reform Party what the difference is between quotas and goals since it is clear from their arguments that they do not seem to know. I want to say at the outset that Bill C-64 specifically states that quotas cannot be imposed. Under the bill a quota is defined as a requirement to hire or promote a fixed and arbitrary number of persons during a given period. I refer them to section 33.
Most Canadians understand the difference between numerical goals and quotas, even if the Reform Party does not understand.
Goals are based on the availability of qualified people to do a given job. Quotas are arbitrarily determined.
The bill clearly states that employers will not be required to hire unqualified people. Goals are percentages of anticipated hirings and promotions that an employer aims to achieve but quotas are usually fixed numbers of positions.
The bill specifically states that employers will not be required to set fixed and arbitrary goals. Employers must make reasonable efforts to achieve goals. Quotas must be attained regardless of the circumstances. The bill clearly states that if employers make reasonable efforts to implement their goals they will be found in compliance.
This is the Canadian way. The government's approach to implementing employment equity can be described as flow based. We are asking well-intentioned men and women to work in collaboration with one another to achieve employment equity goals within a reasonable time frame. That time frame is flexible depending on individual circumstances. We know everyone is not able to move ahead at the same pace and the commission will take that into consideration.
We have a process for those few employers who do not comply with the legislation. We know from experience that the majority of employers bring a very positive attitude toward achieving the goals set out in Bill C-64 and the Employment Equity Act.
Why is the Reform Party misrepresenting the legislation and misleading Canadians regarding its intent? Canadians support equality in the workplace for members of designated groups.
I can assure hon. members opposite that they will not score political points by misconstruing the spirit of the legislation. The goal of Bill C-64 is not to place undue hardship on any employer who is making an honest effort to meet the spirit of the new act. I repeat again, because it seems members of the Reform are having as hard time grasping this, we are only asking for and we only expect that employers make all reasonable effort to comply with the act's provisions.
I ask the hon. members of the Reform Party to consider their bogus argument about the necessity of meeting quotas. The bill specifically rules out quotas. It is that simple.
We know from recent studies that the majority of people entering the labour force will come from members of designated groups. That is simply one more reason that employment equity makes good economic sense. It will help employers focus on accessing the skills of those productive and hard working individuals.
This legislation is a positive step for Canadians. It will help us gain a diverse and highly skilled workforce that will ensure Canada a competitive edge in the rapidly expanding global marketplace. For that reason I am pleased to be able to support Bill C-64.