House of Commons Hansard #241 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was taxes.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Interparliamentary DelegationRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Anna Terrana Liberal Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in English and in French, the report of the 6th annual meeting of the Canada-Japan Interparliamentary Group, held in Tokyo and Osaka from September 9 to 16, 1995.

Japan is Canada's largest trading partner after the United States. The volume of trade has more than doubled since 1985 and is increasingly diversified in composition.

In 1994 Canada's exports to Japan rose 13 per cent to $9.5 billion, resulting in an increase of over $1 billion for the second year in a row.

Ignoring the impact of liberalized Japanese markets and increased Canadian competitiveness, projected exports from Canada to Japan will climb to $14 billion in the year 2002, which is 80 per cent greater than 1993 levels.

While in Japan, members of the delegation were able to express Canadian concerns and promote Canadian excellence with our Japanese counterparts. This will help ensure a growing Canadian presence in the Japanese market and allow us to work with our business communities in encouraging increased commercial activity with Japan.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I think you might find unanimous consent for a House order along the following lines:

That today the first item of business on Government Orders be resumption of debate at third reading of Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity, and that at the conclusion of two hours of debate, or at such earlier time as no one rises to speak, the question shall be deemed to have been put, a division deemed demanded and the vote deferred until 5 p.m. this day, provided that no amendment to the motion for third reading shall be received by the Chair during such extended debate.

(Motion agreed to.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present this morning. I am pleased to do so on behalf of many constituents of Regina-Lumsden as well as the surrounding area.

The first petition is signed by a number of people who are concerned about the approval of a synthetic bovine growth hormone, known as BGH or BST, a drug injected into cows to increase milk production.

These signators call on Parliament to take steps to keep BGH out of Canada through legislating a moratorium or stoppage on BGH use and sale until the year 2000 and examining the outstanding health and economic questions through an independent and transparent review.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have another petition concerning the Senate of Canada. It is signed by many constituents of Regina-Lumsden and other parts of Saskatchewan. The petitioners are quite concerned about taxpayers' money being spent on the Senate, an unelected, unaccountable institution which is costing Canadians over $54 million a year.

They request Parliament urge the government to abolish the Senate, which would save taxpayers this money and eliminate a body which is in essence useless for Canadians.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.


Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I present a petition today with 26 names. The petition arises from proposals coming before the Department of National Defence to change the tendering process. Its signators believe the process we have now is fair and equitable and serves all moving vans appropriately.

The petitioners call on Parliament to resolve the situation and to veto any proposed change to the present tendering process of the Department of National Defence and to support the present system of tendering moving processes for all military personnel.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed from October 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-64, an act respecting employment equity, be read the third time and passed.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

York North Ontario


Maurizio Bevilacqua LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, millions of Canadian workers experience barriers preventing them from participating as fully as possible in the labour market. For example, many women continue to be ghettoized in low paying and part time work. In spite of that fact, in 1990 women obtained 55 per cent of university bachelor degrees.

Unjust hiring criteria, attitudinal barriers and uneven training and promotion practices still prevent women, as well as persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and members of visible minorities, from achieving equality in the workplace.

In light of these facts there can be no doubt in anyone's mind that employment equity is not only a good thing, it is a necessary thing. Good business practice would require that companies do something to improve access to world markets. Members of ethnocultural communities, with insider cultural linguistic knowledge as well as contacts with their country of origin, can play a key role in penetrating new markets. They are a rich resource in the workplace environment.

It is puzzling to me how the Reform Party can fail to see the desirability of the bill now before the House. My colleagues on the opposite side of the Chamber seem frozen in time. I have news for them, the past cannot be resuscitated. The 1950s are over.

We live in a radically restructured working world, different from anything that has gone before. Rapidly changing technologies and failing trade barriers are globalizing the economy, challenging us to become more competitive.

Canada's export driven economy is heavily dependent on foreign sales. Expansion into emerging markets, most notably in Latin America and Asia, will change even further our economic reality.

This greater interdependence poses new challenges. It means that our business organizations must be able to understand the culture and outlook of our new consumers.

Another fact of Canadian life is Canada's evolution as a technology based society. Knowledge is key to Canada's future prosperity and our human resources are our greatest asset.

Consequently, policies that develop our human capital are pivotal to our ability to compete. As everyone can see, employment equity is nothing to be feared or shunned. It is a policy that permits our society to move forward and to take into account the talents and potential of all our citizens.

It is no surprise that Canadian companies with experience in employment equity are often the strongest supporters of this legislation. They have seen firsthand how employment equity programs bring them numerous benefits. By having a fair and efficient human resources development strategy and a very efficient environment, employers have a chance to access a broader set of skills, a base of skills that makes their companies more productive. By improving the workplace they stabilize their workforce, boost employer's morale and increase productivity. They also enhance their corporate image in the community at large.

Employers cannot afford to exclude a wide segment of qualified individuals if they want to survive and succeed in the global economy. Private sector companies, and among them most progressive business leaders, have long appreciated the added value of employment equity.

Our challenge in the workplace is to accommodate the different needs of our diverse workforce and to demonstrate flexibility. These initiatives are in no way a threat to other Canadians.

Bill C-64 is not about hurting the chances of white males to earn a living and pursue a career. It is about creating real equality of opportunity in the federal government, in the federally regulated private sector and among federal contractors. It recognizes that making overt discrimination illegal and unacceptable in society was a critical step to that goal.

The next step is for employers and society to find and break down the hidden barriers that discourage people from applying for jobs or that keep them in certain occupational ghettos.

Bill C-64 ensures that employers look at their workforce and their employment practices thoroughly in order to identify and remove barriers. They then set targets for hiring and promotion that create greater access for qualified people. With the proper tools and strategy they will achieve these results.

Far from taking anything away from anyone, employment equity offers something of value to everyone. It permits employers to build greater trust and dialogue with all their employees and unions moving forward from awareness to action.

The Reform minority report shows little appreciation of this potential for creating a more level playing field for all Canadians. Instead, it offers a narrow view of discrimination and exotic examples of university admission policies, most of which are not even Canadian.

The existence of systemic discrimination does not seem to trouble the Reform Party. It boldly proclaims that Canadian employers do not discriminate on a systemic basis. Contrary to what the Reform Party members say with their usual confidence, systemic discrimination unfortunately is still very much part of our daily life. It continues to exist because organizations hold on to workplace practices that place barriers in front of certain people.

Many companies and organizations inspired by the act have chosen to eliminate barriers. The Royal Bank worked with aboriginal Canadians to improve the interviewing process. In a report issued by the Royal Bank it shared some of its philosophy with regard to its activities: "With a labour shortage predicted in the future and a more diverse population, it is very important to get off the mark quickly, before the labour crunch hits. Serving a diverse group of clients well means having a representative workforce".

The Royal Bank's example and that of other organizations is precisely the approach taken by the federal government with Bill C-64. Far from dividing people, employment equity helps us to forge a fairer future and build a better country. It is not about guilt and punishment, nor is it about tearing down merit based hiring systems so as to hire the unqualified. The bill actually forbids quotas. It states specifically that employers do not have to hire unqualified workers. The merit principle is only enhanced by this legislation.

When we eliminate irrelevant criteria for hiring, does that not strengthen the merit principle even further? When we ensure that more people have more chances to apply for a job or get suitable training, does that not strengthen the merit principle even further?

Bill C-64 makes merit work. It opens doors to opportunity that have been closed for far too long. The fact that designated groups are under-represented and concentrated in lower paying jobs is a reality the Reform Party just does not understand. These groups have historically had higher unemployment rates and lower average salaries. They have also tended to be concentrated in a few occupational groups.

If Canadians were to accept the Reform Party's stand on this issue, they would also have to accept the fact that somehow women, aboriginal Canadians, visible minorities and disabled Canadians choose lower salaries and higher unemployment rates. We know and Canadians know that aboriginal Canadians, visible minorities and designated groups want good jobs and good salaries like the rest of Canadians. The Reform Party wants us to believe that those individuals love to be ghettoized in low paying jobs, that they love high unemployment. That is not the fact.

The reality is quite simple. We can look at our society in a very simple way or we can try to break down the barriers that have left some people unfortunately in situations Reform Party members certainly would not want to be in themselves. That shows the hypocrisy of the Reform Party.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill C-64 today.

The government likes to talk about Bill C-64 in terms of employment equity and it shudders when the terms affirmative action or quotas are used. The reality is the bill is exactly about quotas and affirmative action. What else can it be when numerical targets are provided, employers are required by law to attain those targets, and those who fail to do so are subject to significant fines? This legislation is about quotas, pure and simple, and it is wrong, pure and simple.

The entire premise of Bill C-64 is built on the concept of correcting historical wrongs. There was discrimination in Canada's past. I will use women in the RCMP as an example. Women were not allowed to join the RCMP as regular employees until 1974. That was discriminatory. Women who were born prior to the 1940s were discriminated against because they were denied the opportunity to apply to become regular members of the RCMP. However, for the past 21 years women have had the opportunity to apply for positions. There have been successes and failures. Now we are

starting to see women cracking the commissioned officer ranks of the force.

If nature were allowed to take its course, over time we would see the numbers in the RCMP change dramatically, as all those males retire who were hired under a men only policy. This is not good enough for the government, as it wants to legislate the ratios immediately. It does not take into consideration the fact that fewer women than men are likely to see police work as a desirable occupation.

The reality of police work is that it is a dangerous job. People shoot at you, punch you in the face and fight you when you try to arrest them. For some strange reason this does not have a lot of appeal for many women. I do not know why that is. The way I look at it, if you are going to spend your Friday nights fighting drunks you might as well get paid for it, but that is another matter.

The reality is that since the pool of male applicants for police work is significantly larger than the pool of female applicants, it is not surprising there are more qualified men than women applying for those jobs. That is not to say there will not be a significant female presence on any police force that hires solely on the merit principle. I have absolutely no doubt that the top female recruits compare favourably with the top male recruits. However, this bill ignores the principle of hiring based on merit. We will have a situation where the RCMP will be hiring some female applicants who are less qualified than some male applicants, who will not be hired because of this legislation.

The government says that this discrimination is justified. When we look carefully, we will have a system whereby females will receive a special advantage because their mothers were discriminated against. At the same time, the government will endorse state sponsored discrimination against males because their fathers had an unfair advantage over 20 years ago. I guess this all makes sense to the government, but it sure does not give me any positive feeling. The convoluted logic behind this argument is surprising, to say the least.

I ask the government, when has one form of discrimination ever righted any wrongs created by a different form of discrimination? People are already being hurt by employment equity programs, and this bill is going to make it worse. I have met a number of young men who want to become police officers. They have degrees in criminology and they meet all the other criteria. However, when they happen to be white males not only can they not get hired, but they have been told they should not even waste their time applying for the position. These men have never received any specific advantages because they are white males, yet this government believes they must be punished because at some point in time white males did receive unfair advantage.

Perhaps these young men should be instructed to turn their career sights to the nursing profession. Here is an occupation that has been traditionally staffed by a disproportionate number of females, so with the new employment equity legislation many more men will be hired for this profession because of their under-representation. Right? Wrong. Since men do not qualify as one of the designated groups, they do not rate protection under Bill C-64. Despite the fact that men have traditionally been under-represented in the nursing profession, just as females have traditionally been under-represented in the policing profession, this bill works only in one direction, and that is in itself discriminatory.

Is that not what Bill C-64 is all about, the creation of state sponsored discrimination? Let us treat people differently because of their gender or their race. Let us punish young white males today because their fathers may have received special and unfair advantages decades ago.

We all know that it is easy to pass legislation due to which other people are expected to make sacrifices but not the lawmakers. That was quite apparent when the government dealt with MP pensions and it is quite apparent here. The government has no problem imposing these quotas on others but is it prepared to live up to the spirit of the legislation itself?

When one looks at the cabinet one sees an extreme over-representation of white males. Of the 23 cabinet ministers in the House, excluding the secretaries of state, only four are female. If we were to make the cabinet demographically correct there would be more females.

Once the government passes Bill C-64, I am very curious to know which eight white males will resign their cabinet positions and give up their spaces for females. Which eight are prepared to sacrifice the additional $46,645 of the cabinet salary? Which eight are prepared to sacrifice their jobs, just as they expect others to do in the name of employment equity?

I am proud to belong to a party that believes that the only criterion in hiring or promoting is that the best qualified person should be given the job. If this principle were followed I am sure we would have a workforce that is truly reflective of the Canadian mosaic.

As a female I find it extremely insulting to suggest that I need special legislation to compete with a man. I believe the things I have accomplished have been because of my abilities, not my gender. I am proud that when I won the Reform Party nomination for my constituency I competed on an equal basis with five males and I won a first ballot victory, not because of my gender but because of my abilities.

During the election campaign the Liberal, Conservative and NDP candidates were all male. While I certainly do not believe I won just because of my gender, it obviously was not a detriment to my campaign.

There are a number of people in this country who are sexist and racist and who engage in other forms of discrimination. They will not disappear just because Bill C-64 is passed. If the government wanted to deal with discrimination in hiring or in promotion practices in the public service all it had to do was make it clear that anyone who engages in such a practice will be immediately fired. If this approach had been taken we would have obtained the same results without instituting the state sponsored discrimination that Bill C-64 brings.

I cannot support any legislation that is discriminatory and racist in content and institutionalizes the concept that individuals in Canada will be treated differently because of their gender or race.

I will not ask government members to vote against Bill C-64 because I look forward to going into the next federal election with them having to defend it, just like Lyn McLeod had to defend her support for employment equity in the recent Ontario election. As the old saying goes, those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. I take it the Liberals are saying they are intent on following the footsteps of the Ontario Liberals in the next federal election. That is just fine with me.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Broadview—Greenwood Ontario


Dennis Mills LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I was intending to ask the member a question. I have immense respect for the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley. In her opening remarks she said the bill was enshrining quotas and numerical targets and I immediately became concerned and consulted with my colleague, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of human resources.

It is very important that the House and the people of Canada specifically understand clause 6 of Bill C-64 because it basically abolishes the entire premise of the member's speech:

  1. The obligation to implement employment equity does not require an employer

(a) to take a particular measure to implement employment equity where the taking of that measure would cause undue hardship to the employer;

(b) to hire or promote unqualified persons;

(c) with respect to the public sector, to hire or promote persons without basing the hiring or promotion on selection according to merit in cases where the Public Service Employment Act requires that hiring or promotion be based on selection according to merit; or

(d) to create new positions in its workforce.

With respect to the member for Surrey-White Rock-South Langley, the premise of her entire speech goes right down the chute when we read the exact wording. It is not a written speech where people want to take partisan, political gimmick shots. They know there is a current in the community right now which thinks that a bill like this is designed to tell the senior management of business that it must hire 15 people from this country or that country, that it must hire 20 per cent of people of this colour or that colour, or this language or that language, or with this disability or that disability.

That is what the Reform Party is trying to spin on this bill. Quite frankly I find it distasteful. I find it distasteful because the very first day the leader of the Reform Party stood in the House of Commons he said they would not come into the House and take cheap, political, partisan shots. If they saw something good coming from the government, they would not get into political gimmickry, they would support the government. What we have today is a beautiful example of Reform Party gimmickry.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Strong principles.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Dennis Mills Liberal Broadview—Greenwood, ON

This has nothing to do with principles. I want to repeat clause 6 for Canadians from coast to coast. I will even go to the person who hates me most in my riding, the biggest Reform Party supporter in my riding who will never vote for me. I will look him in the eye and hold up clause 6 of this bill:

  1. The obligation to implement employment equity does not require an employer

(a) to take a particular measure to implement employment equity where the taking of that measure would cause undue hardship to the employer;

I am a businessman; my background is in business. That is all I need as a business person. If I can prove for my small business that it will cause undue hardship, then I am fine.

I am a passionate believer in the government's policy on multiculturalism. I am also one of the few believers in the vision for the country that Pierre Trudeau put forth. He was so far ahead of his time as a Prime Minister that the Reform Party does not even understand it. In 1971 Pierre Trudeau stood in the House and said: "We will have a policy on multiculturalism in which no culture is less than or greater than another culture". I know the member supports that.

We have spent taxpayers' money to encourage people who came here, whether they were from Germany, Italy or Austria, to keep their language and culture of origin. We have become a globally trading nation. Today the greatest trading advantage this country has is that there are Canadians who have preserved their language and culture of origin. They can go back to their country or that of their parents and talk about doing deals.

I will give a concrete example. Last week during our recess I spent four days in Austria with my former employer, Frank Stronach, chairman of Magna International. In the last 18 months he has returned to spend a lot of time in his country of origin. Part of this was because of our rotten tax system; the government has to get up to speed on changing the tax system.

I will go back to the notion of multiculturalism. Last week I saw Frank Stronach doing deals in Canadian technology in the automotive industry. He was selling that Canadian technology in Austria. We all think that the Europeans are far ahead of us but they are not. Canadian automobile manufacturing technology is much further advanced than in many parts of Europe. He was over there with Canadians doing deals. Because he has preserved his language and feels comfortable with his country of origin, he is doing deals left, right and centre. Is he doing this just for the Austrian community? No, he is exporting Canadian jobs and Canadian manufacturing.

That is why I am so passionately committed to the notion of multiculturalism. It is the greatest trading strength our country has. I do not give a darn what anybody says about Pierre Trudeau's being a centralist. I am a centralist. People knock him for building a strong national government. I think our government is dismantling too much too fast.

I call this multiculturalism, phase two. With this bill on employment equity we are further sensitizing our communities, especially our business communities which build on the policy of multiculturalism. Wake up people, because if we can have a business organization that is sensitive to all cultures, all communities of the world, then the chances for our survival will be far greater than if we lived in a cocoon.

There may be one or two minor flaws in the bill but I have absolutely no problem supporting the bill. I will have even less problem going door to door selling it. I will take on any Reformer who wants to go with me, street to street. In the end the Liberal policy will win, if it is properly explained by the words in the act and not by spinning little aspects of it that make it look as if we are trying to punish white Anglo Saxon males. This bill is not about that.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the words of the hon. member. He defended Pierre Trudeau by saying that Mr. Trudeau was far ahead of his time. Not that long ago I was up on the sixth floor of this building looking at a series of photographs which started with Lester Bowles Pearson and went right through to Kim Campbell. I thought that if one wanted to graphically illustrate the trouble with Canada, one could use those five pictures of those Prime Ministers starting with Lester Bowles Pearson, with Mr. Trudeau's picture being the pre-eminent one in the whole lot. That is the problem with Canada.

I come from a business background. The reason I am here in the House of Commons is not that I ever wanted to be a politician. It is not that I wanted to come to Ottawa and be part of this. It is that the policies and the actions of this government over a period of 25 to 30 years annoyed me to the point where I could no longer sit at home and watch what was going on without becoming actively involved.

What we have here is an elitist group of people who believe they know better than anyone else how the country should run. They want to dictate from the top down how we are to organize our lives and run our affairs. That is what the member is talking about.

The whole idea of employment equity is repugnant. Anywhere in the world where this has been tried it has not worked. The employment equity philosophy is that we somehow have to help people because they cannot make it on their own. I cannot think of anything more patronizing. If I were part of one of the minority groups being targeted to be helped by this legislation I would find it extremely offensive. Not only that, this kind of legislation creates divisions in our society that we do not need. It creates an us versus them mentality.

I do not know how many times I have listened to people saying: "I feel like a second class citizen in my own country". That is the kind of feeling this type of legislation generates in people. They feel they can no longer walk around this country and feel they are part of a nation.

I suggest to the hon. member and the members of the government that if they think this legislation would ever be supported by the Canadian people, then put it to a referendum. Find out whether the Canadian people would accept this kind of top down management, this kind of elitist attitude that we somehow can control society and make it better.

These people have the attitude that government has solutions. The attitude of the people on this side, certainly people from the Reform Party, is that government in most instances is the creator of problems not the solver of problems. That is why I am here. The government made so many problems for me in my business that I eventually got tired of being in business and sold it. The government does not create solutions; it creates problems. It is this kind of attitude and this kind of legislation that creates more problems for Canadian businesses and industry.

After this bill is passed the quota police will be going into small and large businesses looking over their shoulders to see who they hire. The whole idea of hiring and elevating people on the basis of merit is going out the window. We will be looking at what kind of disadvantaged group people come from or what kind of multicultural aspect they have to offer to a business rather than whether they have something to contribute in terms of ability, effort and merit.

I find the bill absolutely repugnant. I find the philosophy of the bill absolutely repugnant. I cannot believe that grown men and women would support it. I certainly do not believe that a vast majority of Canadians from coast to coast would support it. Therefore I will be voting against it. I am sure any thinking person in the House will be voting against it.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.


Jane Stewart Liberal Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to join in the debate on Bill C-64 not only as a legislator but as a practitioner who in the private sector has applied this legislation very effectively. I reiterate what my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood has pointed out. This act when utilized to its fullest potential allows Canadian businesses to be more competitive than any other businesses in the world.

Let us look at the act and figure out what it really asks employers to do. First the act says that employers should look at the demographics of the labour force around their businesses. They should look at the percentages of white able bodied men, women, the disabled, visible minorities and aboriginals, and then look inside at the representation of their employee bases. In almost every case companies look inside and find that they are not representative, not even close to being representative.

When they see that displayed in front of them so clearly very often they ask how they can possibly be serving their customers or clients effectively when they do not have members in their employee bases that come from those communities, that have those ethnic backgrounds or that have that gender understanding.

They then say there is something to the legislation, that there is something they have to do. They begin to ask themselves how they have let this happen. How have they allowed their employee bases to become so homogeneous? What is it about the way they do business that has encouraged this?

In the bill the government requests employers to take a look at the numbers, at the representation, and build targets for themselves, targets and not quotas to give themselves a time line so that they can make shifts and their employed population is more representative of the surrounding society, their customers, their clients. The recommendation in the regulations is that they look at the employment systems that exist within companies: how people hire, how people promote, how they recruit, how they fire and how they retire.

When we actually start to look at the internal mechanisms of how these activities occur it is fascinating to find, unfortunately very often, aspects of systemic discrimination. This is not to suggest that we want to be discriminatory. People do not want to discriminate. However over time things have become systemic or part of the way we do things.

The value of the legislation is that it says that we should stop and think about what we are doing. Is this really what we want to be doing? Every time the answer is no.

For purposes of illustration let us look at some examples. When people decide they want to hire a new employee they think about the skills, the abilities and the qualities that need to be filled by the person who is going to take the job. They may take a lot of time. Some companies take no time to do it; other companies take time. When they get into the interviewing process natural human characteristics sometimes take over and we tend to hire people who are most like us.

Even though we may say we need someone with a particular education, with particular life and job experiences to fill the job effectively, sometimes in the course of interviewing we find somebody who looks like us, likes to play golf, perhaps goes to the same church, and we know he or she will fit in. All of a sudden that is the person who is selected for the job.

We need to recognize we want to make employment decisions based on skills, based on qualifications and based quite frankly on merit. We do not want to mix in things that are not bona fide requirements. When companies sit down and think about how this happens, they prepare for the interview and recruitment process more effectively and as such get better results.

We can think about how jobs are advertised. For example, large companies typically advertise in the Globe and Mail . They know a certain kind of person reads that newspaper. Do they think about advertising in the ethnic newspapers, in the Teka in my local community that goes to the Six Nations, to broaden the base and increase the numbers of people who are on the slate for consideration?

There is nothing in the legislation that says companies have to select anyone but the most qualified, but they have to create a situation so that the slate is broad enough to include all members of society.

When people start to see the impact of the decisions they make in terms of the recruiting process they say that they do not mean to be but they are being selective. The system has generated itself to be this way and we need to change it. We can think of how jobs become available through word of mouth: the president says to the vice-president who says to his sister or whomever. That is a very selective source of candidates.

Companies need to use different strategies to broaden the slate, but there is nothing in the legislation which says once a slate is determined they have to pick someone from a particular designated group.

We start by going through the employment systems analysis at the hiring stage and at the recruitment stage. Then we start looking

at what happens with the day to day norms in the company, the activities and the way employees interact. One important matter that has come from the legislation is an understanding of the importance of having policies that support a harassment free workplace so that once people come together in a workplace community they can work effectively together. They understand each other's differences. They know they have to treat each other with respect and dignity.

One important learning as a result of the legislation which has not been developed very quickly but with patience, understanding and education over 20 years is that harassment free workplace programs are vitally important.

Another thing which I have seen magically take hold in communities is the value of cultural diversity training where we sit down and understand social, economic and ethnic differences among Canadians. When we sit down, talk about them and understand them suddenly the barriers that stopped people from working together are gone and the value of being able to enjoy differences, celebrate diversity and understand different ways of getting to the same end makes a company a thriving, competitive organization.

First they have to take a look at the demographics. Then they have to take a look at their companies to see if there are processes that are systemically stopping them from engaging all Canadians in the workplace. This is not a bill that revokes the merit principle but quite the opposite. It says to use the merit principle but use it fairly and equitably. Their decisions should be based on skill, bona fide job requirements, qualifications and characteristics; not on a person's social history.

I can tell a personal story about working for a company. After I had been there for a couple of years and had been identified as perhaps being someone who could progress through the system, I was given a test to write. It had nothing to do with whether I could do mathematics or whether I could relate to people. It asked me about the history of my parents. Did my father belong to the Moose Lodge? Did my mother belong to the UCW? How many children were in my family?

This was not very long ago. I sat back and thought these were the measures they used to determine success in the organization. They were building a homogeneous population of white able bodied men at the top, typically from the same university and with the same graduating degree. Thanks to this legislation that company looked inside and discovered it was a detriment to its capability and its competitiveness and it is no longer there.

The bill is not about revoking the merit principle. It is not about reverse discrimination. It is about reversing discrimination and making sure we have a level playing field for all Canadians to participate. It is an important piece of legislation.

As a human resources practitioner I can say that if they follow the model presented through regulations they will effectively create for their companies a very good, strong working human resources plan and process. It is all there in the bill. Quite frankly it is all about treating individuals with dignity and with respect.

Like my colleague from Broadview-Greenwood I am proud to stand in the House in support of Bill C-64 as we continue very slowly but very effectively with the changes we need to make the country's workplace the engine of our future: competitive, fair and equitable.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.


Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I feel very privileged to be able to stand in the House to enter in this important debate.

When I was first elected as a member of Parliament in 1993 I came here with very high ideals. I have grown to like this place. We have here, for the most part, freedom to debate ideas and concepts which profoundly affect society and have a huge impact on our well-being as a country.

I begin my intervention by clearly stating that I do not question or judge the high motives of some hon. members opposite. Those who have spoken favourably with respect to Bill C-64 for the most part are sincere. I accept that. I also invite them to consider that I believe sincerely in the views I will put forward in the next while.

It is important not to reduce ourselves to name calling but rather very honestly and openly question the bills before us. We should have the freedom to amend bills so that the end product is the absolute best for the people of Canada.

I believe very strongly that I am not only fulfilling a role as a member of the opposition by being against these things. Certainly there are elements in all bills which bear reason for support. I say as a member of Parliament-and I think I would do this if I were a government member-that if I identified a flaw in a bill I would as forcefully as possible bring it to the attention of the House and urge the House to amend the bill or defeat it. Unfortunately in the way Parliament works that is not an option. I regret that. It is unfortunate that government members opposed to the bill lack the freedom to effectively influence change.

I agree with the premise that people ought to be treated equally. Members opposite have said quite often that this is a bill about equality. The word equity comes from the same root word meaning equal or equality. We cannot tell a book by its cover. In this instance the bill labelled a bill about employment equity, implying employment equality, just does not deliver. It so happens that while the bill speaks of equality it actually entrenches inequality. I say that with all due respect.

Members opposite are correct when they say that we have a history in which some people have been discriminated against on invalid grounds: grounds of race and grounds of gender. When I was a young man we were discouraged from entering the nursing profession because it was a job largely filled by females. There was a prior bias in the different ways of hiring.

Every time there is a position to be filled certain discriminatory principles will be applied. I was for a long time in charge of hiring in the place where I worked. It is true. Sometimes we had 200 applications for three positions. We had to apply criteria to decide who would get the jobs. I believe I did this with honesty and integrity throughout. I always asked the question who is best able to do the job?

I did not ask the gender of the person. I did not ask what was their racial background. I did not look at the colour of their skin. My records will show, if anyone would like to check, that as a private businessman and a supervisor in a technical institute there was no evidence of discrimination. All I asked was that this person be the best qualified to do the job. That is to me an overriding principle.

The intrusion of these various elements into evaluating a candidate for a position is totally unrelated to the ability to do the job. They are entrenchments of inequity and inequality. I urge members of the government to think very carefully about this. Do not pass it off. Do not get emotional about a bill that you have come to love, but ask yourself whether it really does the job.

At the beginning of this bill it states that the purpose of the act is to correct disadvantages in employment experienced by women, aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities and members of visible minorities.

I would be the first one to get up and scream if someone were denied a position because she was a woman and for that reason only, or because he or she was native and for that reason only. I would object strenuously. As I said before, my policies in my past and even as a member of the House of Commons are that I do not look at those things, I look past and beyond.

We have heard quite a bit of talk, especially from the member for Greenwood, about the fact that this bill does not require quotas, that there are exemptions for employers. The bill says "where there is undue hardship to the employer". I beg to ask what is the definition of undue? It is so loose it does not mean anything. There is no reason for people to obey this bill if it means that they would have to hire or promote unqualified persons.

This is a good reason to vote against this bill in its entirety. It gives two conflicting messages. One says that you must hire these people based on their numbers in these groups. On the other hand, it says that you do not have to because you should test them based on their abilities. You should not have to hire unqualified persons.

In that case, the bill presents a real conundrum. There is no solution to this problem because you have two conflicting sets of criteria.

I also challenge the member's statement that this is not about quotas. Liberal members talk over and over again about the fact that business practice is going to be enhanced by this bill. I beg to differ and I differ strongly because right now, to my knowledge, no legislation in Canada says you cannot hire the best people if they are in one of these groups. The absence of this bill does not present any difficulty to business at all.

We have had examples mentioned of different businesses that are working toward providing more equality in the hiring place and eliminating barriers. They have done it because it is good practice.

If they are doing it because it is good business practice, then the legislation is redundant. The only thing that this legislation is going to do is develop a huge bog of bureaucracy that will once again slow down the efficiency of business and of our economic well-being. What am I talking about? I am talking about what the employer is required to do because of this act. "Every employer shall collect information and conduct analysis of the workforce. With respect to whether or not there is a degree of under-representation of persons in these designated groups, he or she is to conduct a review to identify employment barriers. Only those employees who identify themselves are to be counted".

I digress for a moment but there is a flaw in this bill right there that gives me a reason to vote against it. I beg the members on the government side to consider what they are voting for when they follow their party leadership later today and all dutifully, one after the other, stand up and say, yes, we are in favour of this bill. Listen to what it says: "if employees choose to identify themselves they are to be counted". Otherwise they are not counted.

Let us say one of the groups in the area represents 20 per cent of the population. Let us say a business actually has 20 per cent in this group. Let us say they exercise their constitutional right not to identify themselves. The reason the disclaimer is in the bill is because it is so close to being unconstitutional, it requires identification of oneself.

Let us say that the 20 per cent of people working for this business exercise that right and do not identify themselves. They cannot be counted. Though in truth they occupy one-fifth of the positions in this business, they are not counted. When a position becomes open, they are under-represented according to the books. Therefore there is an obligation to hire another one of them.

They could by simply not identifying themselves keep that ball rolling until that workplace is entirely filled with people in that group, discriminating against everyone who is not in the group. That is a major flaw in this bill.

We tried to amend it. Reformers moved amendments in committee and the Liberals dutifully voted them down. I guess they did not want to think for themselves. The people who were telling them how to vote were not thinking very clearly either. That is what happened.

I urge all Canadians to ask themselves if this is such a wonderful bill and if it reflects what Canadians are truly about and if the members of the government truly believe this-I ask again in this context, why is the bill necessary if that is really true-why these draconian enforcement measures?

Why do we have enforcement that says that every employer shall make all reasonable efforts to implement its employment equity plan and to monitor it? Why is it that the government requires that employers maintain these employment equity records and that they file with the government, annually, a report respecting how they are fulfilling their quota.

Government members do not like to use the word quota because quota unfortunately is a word that means force. It means big government. While they want to do the same thing, they do not like to use the word quota.

They will say that nowhere in the bill is the word quota mentioned. Proportions are mentioned. The numbers are there. If that is the case and each business has to report, it has to report the salary ranges of people in these different groups. It has to report the number of employees hired in each group. After it has reported and only those employees, by the way, who have agreed to identify themselves are counted, in fact the employer could be doing it and it does not even hit the record.

In all instances we find it is just big brother. In the end-

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am very sorry to interrupt the member but through an error on the Chair's part he has had five minutes more than he should have had.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on this bill.

I like to call the bill respecting employment equity an act without respect for the abilities and sensibilities of Canadians. I put forward that the act perpetuates several myths: there is systemic discrimination that will be cured by systemic remedial measures; the myth of righting the historical wrongs of the past by proactive reverse discrimination in the present; the myth of addressing the problem of racism with a far more dangerous version of the same; and the myth that government mandated crutches to groups when those groups only desire to compete in that race from the same starting line.

I speak in opposition to the bill and its policy of affirmative action in all matters related to government operations that is dressed in the guise of the euphemism of employment equity.

I noticed the member for Brant mentioned that in making an application for a job the government is asking about membership in a club or background or whatever. She took offence to that and I agree with her offence to that kind of thing.

This weekend I was looking at an application for a university for my daughter. That application was for a post graduate position in the university and included a page to ask her if perhaps she was disabled, or if she was from the aboriginal community. She was asked to identify herself presumably to gain entry to a program that should be equally available by academic achievement and by ability in one of our public institutions. As she takes offence at the questions asked of her, I take offence that my daughter should be asked certain questions that are outside her academic ability to enter an academic institution in the public realm.

That is very much the case in many of the areas in our society. We have taken one situation and given it another solution which is going to create a larger problem.

I speak not just as a Reformer but for the vast majority of Canadians who I know feel as I do, that people desire to be recognized for their ability-my daughter, myself and members of the House included-for their personal qualities and not for the colour of their skin or for their personal characteristics.

Along with a colleague from this side of the House I served on the committee on human rights and the status of disabled persons. I took part in the examination and hearings on this bill. We submitted over 40 names to be considered as witnesses to come before that committee. Those witnesses' names were submitted to offer balance to the discussion and what we felt was a majority perspective, the public perspective on many of these issues. Of the 40 names we submitted, only four were brought before that committee. From what I see in the report which the government produced, of those four none were heard.

When the Liberals came to power they trumpeted a new and open process of government. They chose to refer this bill to our committee before second reading. In reality what that did, and certainly at the end of our sessions in the spring, was remove that bill from public scrutiny and then allowed this orchestrated affirmation of the broad concepts of the bill.

I was interested in many of the witnesses who did come from across Canada through the choice of government. When we asked trade union representatives for instance how their experience of employment equity came about, they were very pro this bill. They supported what the government had to say. When questioned

concerning their own advancement or achievement of the goals of this bill, their own structures denied the fact that they took it seriously. They were very willing to apply it to companies or to businesses but not to its own administrative structure, where there was an obvious lack of representation from the disabled community and the aboriginal community. Generally speaking, women were not doing too badly in most of these situations.

I get the feeling that some of these programs put forward by the government are simply vehicles for certain groups to put forward their agenda. The groups that perhaps need government consideration for programs the most are denied or shunted aside while the more vocal groups take the stage.

I want to comment on an aspect in this bill that has not yet been addressed. It is in terms of my recent experience at the fourth world conference in Beijing. This applies very much to the concept of employment equity. Our government signed the document to that conference, which was very much in support of affirmative action. It becomes very plain after reading the document that it is an affirmative action program our government signed in the name of the Canadian people on the platform for action.

The platform for action from the Beijing conference commits all signatory nations to implement over 500 actions by the year 2000. In the next five years we are supposed to put in place 500 things that nobody really knows about here. They were signed on to half a world away.

I question our government's accountability in that process. Certainly around the world and across Canada employment equity has been denied by the public-certainly not by this government, because it has not been listening to the public. It has now extended that, again completely unaccountably half a world away.

Let me read one section into the record. This is part of the platform for action: "Implement and monitor positive public and private sector employment equity and positive action programs to address systemic discrimination against women in the labour force, in particular women with disabilities and women belonging to disadvantaged groups, with respect to employment, hiring, retention, promotion and vocational training of women in all sectors".

We are working on a bill here that I believe does not have the support of the Canadian people. Our government has put this not only in the public sector but in a private sector agreement in an international document it has signed on to. I am not even sure if Canadians know that. It has done that without resolution of debate on this issue in this House and certainly no debate on its signing on to the documents from the United Nations.

Will this document from Beijing ever come to the House? Here we have positive public and private sector employment equity agreed to elsewhere, but will we be able to discuss it here? We have signed on to something with no accountability coming through from the status of women people or anybody telling us what they have done, let alone the fact that they should not have done it without accountability. I question whether they will even admit it when they get back here.

We are committed to an aggressive program of affirmative action. It is an umbrella program that covers all federal departments. This is not simply the status of women people who are going to work with special interest groups. The program that has been defined in our signing on to this document encompasses all federal departments in all areas, looking through what is called a gender lens, which would reflect public and private sector employment equity and positive action programs.

I am amazed to hear the government saying it is open and available to Canadian opinion when it goes behind closed doors or behind the globe and signs on to documents that are not only against public sentiment but have no accountability in the House. I object strongly to the denial of open government and of the wishes of the Canadian public.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.


Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand and speak to the bill. In the last session this bill was kind of my baby. It was something I was supposed to shepherd through the committee process, through the amendment process, and so on. I think it is only proper that I spend a few moments talking about the bill and why the Reform Party feels it must oppose the bill in its current form.

I should mention a little bit about the whole process. This was one of the bills that was referred to committee after first reading. Supposedly at that time it was to encourage debate and amendments and the creation of the bill at first reading stage in committee.

I remind the House that during that session things happened in committee that I think are almost unprecedented in the history of the House. We had limited debate of only five minutes per clause. We were not allowed to submit amendments because they were not in both official languages, only in English. Certain portions of the bill were passed without a vote. It was a real travesty.

The ironic part is that it was on the human rights committee that this all occurred. It was a very souring experience. I did report it to the House at the time. I re-emphasize that it is a very poor way to draft what is very controversial legislation.

I will speak on a few points about the bill and then I will talk briefly about the Reform Party's alternative. Contrary to some of the bafflegab that has been coming from across the way, the Reform Party does have a solution to what the bill is supposed to be addressing. We do have some ideas on hiring practices and how to encourage employers to make sure their workplaces are without discrimination. I will put those on the record as well.

I find it interesting that in the bill the Prime Minister's office is not included as being covered under employment equity. It is interesting that the top office in the land will not be subject to employment equity. Why is that? Why are private enterprises that do business with the federal government, the federal government itself, crown corporations, the armed forces and so on all covered but the Prime Minister's office does not want to be covered under the legislation?

I remember making that proposal in committee and it was rejected by the Liberals. I find it interesting that when it comes to their own significant offices they are not prepared to allow themselves to be covered under this employment equity legislation. It is an interesting thought. I wonder if sometime the Prime Minister could expand on why he and his office should not be covered.

There has been recent controversy about the statistical base this whole thing is predicated on and the problems with the statistical base. In the last census 10 per cent of aboriginals refused to even be enumerated in the census. That is just one example of how the statistical base is often skewed. When supposedly the workforce is to be exactly representational, sometimes it is not possible to know because of the skewing of the statistics.

Another thing that was brought out in question period a little while ago is that in the last census almost a million people refused to designate themselves by ethnicity and background. They said "I want to be called a Canadian, please. Just call me a Canadian. Treat me the same as everybody else and I will be happy". Of course the Liberals will not allow that. The next census will make sure all people have to indicate which category they fit into. They will not be allowed to call themselves just Canadian; they will have to indicate they have some form of ethnicity. That is a shame. We should be working toward commonality but instead we are driving in a wedge, trying to drive people apart.

I have heard a lot of talk today that this legislation is not about quotas, that this does not force people to hire a certain percentage of people of certain gender, minority status, and so on. That is simply not true. For example, say we had witnesses from the RCMP who said that in the RCMP in the coming year there will be the following people hired: 238 females, 238 people of visible minority status, so many people from aboriginal groups. In other words, they would be providing exact numbers. When we start quoting numbers like that, what is the difference between that and a quota? There is no difference. We are talking about exact numbers to meet numerical goals arbitrarily set by the government. That is a shame. The government can say that it does not include quotas, but the numbers and the proof are there, which again is why we oppose this legislation.

This legislation is opposed by the Canadian people. In British Columbia, the area I am most familiar with, only 11 per cent of people say they are supportive of this legislation. This includes almost exactly the same proportion of people from any of the so-called designated groups, who do not want to be patronized, do not want to be told the only way they can get a job is because the government is going to somehow pave the way for them. Most people from all groups say: "Just give me a chance, just let me have an opportunity. I will get a job and I will be able to hang on to it because of my abilities, not because the government has said so".

Self-designation is supposed to be a voluntary process. In other words, you do not have to self-designate yourself into any group if you do not want to. At least that is what the government would have you believe. The problem is the lines are already being blurred on that. The Department of National Defence put forward a questionnaire for employment equity purposes. The top part of the form is compulsory, including your name, your rank, your serial number, your whatever from the military. In the fine print it says that you do not have to fill out the second part if you do not want to.

Already there is a record of everyone in the military who is willing to co-operate with the government and those who are not. They already have that information. If you have been a good boy or a good girl and you have done what you have been asked to do, then you get that in your file. If you did not fill out the form, that is also there. In other words, you are not co-operative if you did not fill out the form. You did not help them do what they think is their job.

The lines are very blurry between this voluntary self-identification and the compulsory self-identification that characterized stricter forms of apartheid such as happened in South Africa. It becomes a very blurry line when we force people or even ask people to indicate on an application form whether or not they are a visible minority. To think that this is possible in Canada.

Taking this same attitude to an extreme, during the committee hearings we heard about what happened at the University of Guelph, for example. They put a line down the middle of the student lounge and one side of the lounge was for visible minorities and the other side of the lounge was for whoever was not a visible minority. This is the attitude this sort of legislation promotes: think of yourself not as Canadian; think not as an employer or an employee; think not as a person with equal rights and worth in the

world; think of yourself first and foremost as members of groups, divide yourselves up, divide the workforce. If you are working beside someone, do they have the job because they are the most qualified? That is to be hoped, but is it the case? Is it like the student lounge at the University of Guelph where it was said: "Let us separate the people. We will put all the coloured people on this side and all the white people on that side"? Is that where we are heading? This type of legislation promotes that.

This legislation was designed in Ottawa. I wonder if these people have ever been to the west coast of Canada. I wonder if they have ever been to the greater Vancouver area. Have they been to Richmond? Have they been to Abbotsford? When Mr. Spicer appeared before the committee I put it to him that if he were to say he would not hire visible minorities he would go broke. He would have to hire visible minorities in order to hire the most qualified people or he would go broke. The marketplace would determine that. In British Columbia that is a fact.

I told Mr. Spicer there is a Hindi language radio station in the lower mainland. Under CRTC rules, compounded with these rules, more hoops and more bureaucracy, the radio station will have to show in its designated groups how many people are visible minority status, their gender and all the rest of it. This is a radio station which is addressing the needs of the Hindi speaking people of the lower mainland of which there are quite a few, over 100,000. To say to that station we would encourage it to have so many aboriginal people in its workforce is ridiculous.

The employment opportunities will come and will be determined by the marketplace. We have said that the Canadian Human Rights Commission is there to protect individuals from discrimination. That is its job and I encourage it to do that. The Canadian government could serve a role by advertising jobs properly and extensively; by implementing a comprehensive system of student loans; by making post-secondary education responsive and accessible to local people, in other words not denying people educational opportunities; by performing objective job testing; and also by being a model employer in the area of access and reasonable accommodation for the disabled.

We can deal with the problems in Canada without this legislation. This legislation is bad for Canada. It is unnecessary, it is coercive and I believe it should be dropped.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-64. I had prepared a speech for this bill some time ago but a lot of what I had intended to say has been said. However, there are some things about the legislation which I must present to the House today.

The stated purpose of the legislation is to put equality in the workplace and to correct some conditions which are in the work

place or had been in the workplace in the past and are unfair. That is the stated purpose of the legislation. Who could speak out against that as a goal? All of us in the House would like to correct the unfair situations in our society, particularly those concerning employment. None of us wants discrimination and none of us is willing to tolerate in any way discrimination in the workplace based on race, gender, or any other factor. The stated intent of the legislation in terms of the problem which it is meant to fix I do not believe is a problem for any of us.

Bill C-64 is oppressive legislation which is not only unnecessary in today's society but is very damaging. What is in the legislation disturbs me and many of my constituents and others across the country to whom I have spoken about the legislation. It bothers a lot of people. Polls have shown of course that people across the country do not support the concept of employment equity or affirmative action, call it what you like.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to employment equity. The first is that legislated programs are necessary to fix a wrong, especially wrongs that were in the workforce in the past. The second is that employment equity is flawed because it advocates hiring of individuals based on personal characteristics, not on merit. Those are two opposing schools of thought.

A third view I have heard expressed is that possibly sometime in the past there was the need for some type of affirmative action or employment equity legislation. It was necessary sometime in the past because of discrimination in the workplace. That position is tolerated by a lot more people than the position of bringing this piece of legislation forward today, where conditions are not nearly as they were in the past. Empirical evidence and good information has shown that there is much less discrimination in the workplace now than there was in the past.

I repeat that there should be no tolerance of discrimination in the workplace, period. I do not and will not tolerate it and I do not believe any member of the House will tolerate it.

I will read five points to lay out the Reform position briefly. First, all Canadians are equal before and under the law and all workers have the right to be free of discrimination in the workplace. Again, I do not think anyone in the House and hopefully no one across the country would argue with that point.

Second, the market will provide solutions to a representative workplace in the private sector. The hon. member from Fraser Valley West who spoke before me and others of my colleagues have spoken to this issue. Business which is practising good business will hire people who can best relate to the customers. That in itself

should mean there will be people from all visible minorities hired in the workplace in a way that makes sense, not because of quotas.

Third, the role of government is to ensure equality of opportunity rather than to determine equality of employment outcomes in the public sector or beyond the public sector. Equality of opportunity, that is a role of government, but a government cannot ensure equality of outcome, nor should it try.

The fourth point Reform puts forth with regard to employment equity is that the workplace should be free from arbitrary obstructions to hiring and promotion. Merit must be the sole hiring criteria. I believe this and evidence has shown that a majority of Canadians believe in this. That would mean that Canadians do not support Bill C-64, the employment equity bill.

The fifth point is that employment equity legislation is coercive, discriminatory in itself, unnecessary and costly and it should be discontinued. Bill C-64 should be thrown out. The vote this afternoon should throw this legislation out because it is bad legislation. Not only that, employment equity legislation from the past should also be thrown out.

I congratulate the Mike Harris government in Ontario for promising to do exactly that. I sincerely hope the Ontario government will carry through on that promise. I believe it will.

What do various groups involved in the workplace have to say about employment equity? First, when it is known that employment equity is involved in the hiring practice, employees going about and working in the workplace look across the room. They see another employee from one of the groups designated in the employment equity legislation and they have to wonder was that person hired because they were the best and most qualified for the job, or was that person hired to fill a quota under an employment equity program?

What kind of a work environment is that? It is not a healthy work environment at all. Fellow employees would always have that doubt in their minds that members of visible minorities and so on were hired based on quotas rather than merit. It is not fair to them and it does not make for a healthy environment.

What about the very groups that are targeted to fill these quotas in this employment equity legislation? What about the visible minorities, women and others who are targeted in these quotas? How do they feel about legislation like this? Although I cannot say how many, I can say that many people from these designated groups this legislation is intended to help have said to me they want no part of it for two reasons.

The first reason is that they have doubts as to whether they were hired because they were the best qualified or whether they were hired to fill a quota. Imagine what it would do to a person in the workplace, feeling that they were well qualified for a job but always having that doubt, wondering whether they were hired to fill a quota rather than because they were the best qualified. That is not a healthy work environment for those people either.

What about that other group, the people excluded from jobs because they do not fill one of those categories set out to be filled by quota? For example, I have had several people say to me that they do not like not even being eligible to apply to the RCMP. Employment equity has been in the RCMP for some time. White males simply are wasting their time if they apply to the RCMP and this is one example.

How do those people feel? They feel resentment against not only the body that has put these rules in place but against the groups targeted through quotas. That is sad and unacceptable. This kind of thing must end. It is not a healthy environment for that type of person. They can never find their way into that working environment.

There are a couple of people I have come to know well since I have been involved in politics. It is only because they talk to me about being part of the excluded group. They are indeed upset. Both of these people whom I have talked with many times on this issue have been excluded from what they want to do with their lives. They are young males, 25 years old. They want to join the RCMP but have been excluded because of these quotas. It is sad. It is wrong and it is unacceptable.

Another group in the workplace affected in a negative way by these quotas is the employers. Other members from my party have made it clear these are quotas we are talking about. The companies will be affected by this legislation. They have been affected in the past by previous employment equity legislation. How do they feel about this?

I have talked with a couple of companies in my constituency that depend to some extent on government contracts. They have been excluded in the past, before the new legislation, because they simply could not get the proper mix required under the quota system to qualify for jobs from the federal government. They could not fill the quotas.

These companies are upset not only about the fact that they could not get the contracts but because it costs them money. These are not extremely large corporations but they are large for the area. It cost them money to hire someone to see how they were doing with regard to quotas, to keep track and to hire people to fill the quotas. It is damaging to the employers as well.

I have gone through the list. I think everyone in the workplace falls into these four groups. I ask members of the governing party in the House and members of the not so loyal opposition why they would support this piece of legislation when none of the groups think it is good legislation. There is not a good answer.

It is sad that we will pass the legislation. Because of the dictatorial style government across the Chamber I know it will pass. Those members will not dare vote against the government position so legislation will pass that very few people want.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, when I read Bill C-64 for the first time I could not help but wonder if George Orwell might have had something to do with its drafting. Most people have read the book Animal Farm and would remember the pig who made the famous statement so often quoted: ``All animals are equal but some are more equal than others''.

That is the sort of thing the bill will create in Canada. The bill is not about equality. It is not about putting people on an equal footing. It is quite the contrary. It is about creating divisions among us. It is about creating different classifications of Canadians. That is wrong.

We have long had a public policy of hiring and promoting by merit. It is also generally the policy in private industry. A speaker earlier said if we do not hire by merit we will very quickly go broke. When we hire by merit and if the meritorious person happens to be within one of the designated groups in the legislation, obviously the person should and would get the job.

Rather than being about the equality of persons the legislation is about the Liberal propensity for regulating, controlling, creating bureaucracy and in general getting in people's faces. Why do we not leave people alone? Canada is working very well. Canadians are basically good people, people of goodwill. We are friends. We have a multiracial society. It is working. Why do we have to poke our finger in a wound that the government will create by itself? It is nonsense.

I worked overseas both in a private capacity and for several years with the United Nations on a large number of highly motivated, highly skilled technical teams. They were multiracial. They were not multiracial because somebody wanted them to be. They were multiracial because applicants had been selected from all over the world for these jobs and they took the best. We were the best and we were proud of it. If they had been created by affirmative action programs I would not have had anything to do with those groups. I would have slunk away and hid.

This will happen in Canadian society if affirmative action is enforced. We will see very good, capable people belonging to minority groups that have jobs either in private industry or in government but feel self-conscious, demeaned and patronized. There will always be a question hanging over their heads about whether they got their jobs because of qualifications and ability or a bit of tokenism. Were they hired because of colour, race, language, gender, or whatever? Government has no place getting involved in telling people who they can or should not hire. It is offensive. It is wrong.

I was probably campaigning for equality of races before most members of the House were born. I recall when I was a young teenager collecting the occasional lump because of my curious attitude on the matter. I find it terribly offensive that some members opposite who spoke earlier had a self-righteous and smug attitude toward me and my fellow party members. They inferred that because we opposed their racist legislation we were racists. They are turning sociology on its head.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Liberal logic.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

This is Liberal logic. When I came to the House today I did not intend to speak to the bill. However I had to get up because I was so incensed by the remarks of some people opposite. I do not have a long, prepared speech and therefore having made my case I will return to my seat.