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House of Commons Hansard #140 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

International Women's DayStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, March 8, is International Women's Day. I would like to say a few words about this event.

Women make up more than half the population, but they do not hold half the power, particularly not half the political power. Some countries do not even allow women to vote. In Canada, the proportion of women in the various legislatures varies between 15 and 20 per cent.

The percentage of members of Parliament who are women comes as a surprise. It is 11 per cent in the United States, 10 per cent in the United Kingdom, and only 6 per cent in France. Although there has been some improvement, a new electoral dynamic must be found that is more favourable to women.

Progress is certainly under way towards the equal access of men and women to political office, but it must continue if there is to be real democracy throughout the world. Scandinavian countries have almost achieved this representation and I express my hope this March 8 to all women that this objective will be attained as quickly as possible.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Reform

Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, International Women's Day is an important opportunity to speak out for all women and all concerns.

Government policy and priority focus solely on equal workforce participation and economic autonomy for women. I speak today for many women caught in the time crunch of competing demands. I speak for the ultimate concern of many women, their communities, their homes and their children. I speak for their right to make choices and be free from economic and social penalty in raising their own children. I speak for the many men and women who recognize that some of the greatest architects, engineers and scientists are those who build and work not in the marketplace but in the shaping of our future generations.

Today I salute their right to be heard by a government that has been deaf to their concerns. Today I am proud to stand with the Reform Party whose fresh start policies include their voice.

The Late Dr. Cheddi JaganStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to express sadness at the passing of His Excellency Dr. Cheddi Jagan, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, who passed away yesterday at age 78.

Dr. Jagan was a political leader in his native Guyana for a period that spanned 50 years. His prominence and experience gave him a presence far beyond his homeland, particularly in the western hemisphere.

In addition to his lifelong contributions to the citizens of Guyana, a country of several cultures, he was a leader in the evolution of democratic left of centre politics, in the evolution of Guyana's economy and social state and in the transition from colony to independent state.

In a meeting in Ottawa last fall Dr. Jagan made it clear how Guyanese and Central American and Caribbean politics has affected us all in North America. With the more than 100,000 Guyanese Canadians and all the people of Guyana, we mourn the passing and the loss of Dr. Cheddi Jagan.

McMaster UniversityStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Stan Keyes Liberal Hamilton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise in the House today in recognition of the achievement of McMaster University in my riding of Hamilton West.

McMaster consistently ranks in the top five medical doctoral universities in Maclean's magazine's annual university rankings. In the fall of last year the UN flag was raised on campus, instituting McMaster as North America's first campus of the United Nations University Network on Water, health and the Environment.

Now McMaster has been honoured in Newsweek magazine's annual guide to graduate schools as one of six innovative medical schools in North America. McMaster is credited with being the birth place of problem based learning where medical students worked on real or simulated patient cases in a clinical setting.

McMaster president, Dr. Peter George, says that the Newsweek honour is a fitting tribute to the leadership of then university president Dr. Harry Thode and the founding dean of the new medical school, Dr. Jean Evans.

Since its inception in 1965, the McMaster approach to teaching and learning medicine has attracted worldwide attention.

On behalf of my constituents of Hamilton West, I applaud McMaster for its leadership in this field and congratulate the president, Dr. Peter George.

International Women's DayStatements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Maud Debien Bloc Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec organizations working for the status of women called on women to unite and keep up their efforts on the occasion of International Women's Day.

From all corners of Quebec, women have worked together to create a cloth chain of messages, with each of the links symbolizing the solidarity that unites them. In addition, a human chain will surround the Montreal stock exchange, the hub of economic and government decisions, next March 12.

Women hope to show, by means of this demonstration, that economic equity and the fight against poverty are the cornerstones of an egalitarian and fraternal society.

I would like to pay tribute to all the women from Laval who are here today to weave this great chain of solidarity.

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Canada Labour Congress has just released a study on women's work.

The study shows, using OECD statistics-as you know, the OECD represents major industrialized countries throughout the world-that Canada is the industrialized country with the highest percentage of women in low-paying jobs, after Japan. The report tells us that only 20 per cent of women have full-time jobs paying more than $30,000 annually. In other words, poverty has a gender. Poverty is female.

My question is directed to the Acting Prime Minister. Does this government, which promised not to touch social programs, realize today that the consequences of its decisions are that millions of women are doomed to even greater poverty?

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, that question is exactly why this government has embarked on certain initiatives to deal with economic autonomy of women. It is precisely why we have started to build a strong infrastructure that will assist women to get sustainable jobs in today's economy and also in the information, technology and science economy of the 21st century.

It is the beginning of every federal department's ensuring and looking at the sustainability of women's equality and economic

equality with gender based analysis as one of the key and most important levers to help women in Canada to become economically autonomous.

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is somewhat surprising, because as far as the infrastructure program is concerned, the main criticism from women's groups was that the program did not give any jobs to women. It had practically no impact on women because it was not even intended for women.

So the answer was very surprising, but surprises seem to be the order of the day.

The labour market situation is deteriorating. Today in particular, we see that the number of jobs is decreasing: 14,000 jobs were lost last month, while existing jobs are less dependable, do not last as long, and pay less, and women, who have 70 per cent of part-time jobs and 70 per cent of the lowest paying jobs, are bearing the brunt of this situation.

Does the government agree that the term highway robbery applies to the way women have been affected by employment insurance reform which, in their case, has meant reduced access to unemployment insurance, reduced benefits and reduced benefit periods, at a time when the unemployment insurance fund has a record surplus of more than $5 billion a year?

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I would draw the attention of the hon. member to some of the very important initiatives that the government has taken since it came into power.

In its strengthening of employment equity it has targeted women as a key group for employment equity strategy.

Second, when we talk about the infrastructure program, I think the hon. member should know that some of our youth strategies are aimed at helping young women into non-traditional jobs like construction work, which will be part of the infrastructure program.

Finally, the employment insurance bill changes ensure that women can now make choices. Women can get back into the workforce under EI five years after maternity leave and well over 300,000 women will be able to get benefits for the first time in their lives.

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member that the government has targeted women, but the trouble is, it regularly misses the target, and when it scores a hit, it is for the wrong reason.

I may remind you that Canada Labour Congress vice-president Nancy Rich said this week that, since the Minister of Canadian Heritage had resigned when the Liberals reneged on their promise to abolish the GST, today the whole cabinet should resign for reneging on the promises made in the red book and by the Prime Minister regarding social programs.

Again, I want to ask the Acting Prime Minister how she thinks Canadian and Quebec women judge their government which, in spite of its promises, has savagely torn the social safety net they so badly need, since women and children represent more than 70 per cent of the poor in Canada, according to Statistics Canada?

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate.

In the new employment insurance bill over 700,000 women, including 495,000 women who pay EI premiums today, will not have to pay EI premiums. That is a major breakthrough for women.

Second, when we talk about cuts not benefiting women, the child benefit that has been put in place by the government will make a difference to women. Eighty per cent of single parents are women. Sixty-five per cent live in poverty. By targeting women with small children a lot of women are being helped.

Child support benefits assist women to improve incomes to help them look after their children. Dealing with women's economic autonomy is not only dealing with the issue of employment because women depend on many other things to assist them in getting economic autonomy. We are addressing this in a comprehensive holistic way, not simply in a one shot linear unilateral way.

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is very hard to listen to these words without anger, knowing that women were the hardest hit by the cuts to employment insurance and to social transfers.

My question is for the Acting Prime Minister. The government has gazed into its crystal ball and predicted more than 300,000 jobs in 1997, but this morning's figures hardly support its enthusiasm. Instead of creating new jobs, Canada has lost 14,000 jobs since the beginning of the year. As we approach March 8, women have still less to celebrate, for 44,000 full time jobs have been lost since last month.

How can the Acting Prime Minister explain that her government is still predicting such a rosy future, when the employment situation of women continues to deteriorate?

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, I think the issue that my hon. colleague is talking about has to do with transfer payment cuts.

I would like to draw the hon. member's attention to some comments made by Lucien Bouchard when he made it clear that he knows that restraints involve tough choices. He said in the National Assembly on March 25, 1996: "For those who say not in my back yard I reply that there would be something in everyone's back yard".

In the current fiscal year, federal transfers to provinces for health and other social programs will still be $26.9 billion. In addition, equalization payments will top that up. Quebec is getting federal transfers of approximately $11 billion.

How Quebec determines to place its emphasis and its priorities on what it does with its money is Quebec's business, and it should consider whether women are a priority.

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, the problem is that it is mostly women who pay the price.

Since the end of 1994, or since the Liberal Government's reforms have come into full effect, the number of full time jobs for women has increased by only 10,000, whereas the number of part time jobs has risen by 140,000.

How can the Acting Prime Minister deny such a deterioration in the employment situation, particularly for women?

Status Of WomenOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry LiberalSecretary of State (Multiculturalism)(Status of Women)

Mr. Speaker, again the hon. member does not understand the full and holistic component of what is done for women's jobs.

Many women cannot have sustainable full time jobs because they have children, a fact which statistics support. We are looking at how to assist women with children. One of the most important things to help women to get training for long term sustainable jobs is the new EI benefit where women can take five years off for maternity leave. Five years is a massive increase which will allow women to still go back and get training.

We have talked about levering money into literacy programs so women can get into the job market. We have talked about levering money so women can have post-graduate training in sciences and math. Those are the things that create an infrastructure for women to build their economic autonomy.

EmploymentOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal-Tory years have been hard years for the one and a half million unemployed in Canada. StatsCan announced today that the unemployment rate for February was 9.7 per cent. That is the 77th straight month, or six and half years, that unemployment has been over 9 per cent. It is the worst string of job numbers since the Great Depression.

I ask the Minister of Finance, where are the jobs, jobs, jobs that the Liberals promised Canadians in the last election?

EmploymentOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr Speaker, we are concerned about the February figures which the hon. member mentioned.

I point out to him that the unemployment rate has not risen but has stayed the same. The trend over the the last four months has been strong job growth. If he had read this morning's papers he would have seen articles by a number of analysts who clearly stated that while this is disappointing, all the prospects for continued job growth are there.

This morning's papers were full of indications of increased house starts, increased house resales, increased purchases, increases confidence. As private sector forecasters assert, those indicators will lead to 300,000 to 350,000 new jobs in the coming year when Canada will lead the industrialized countries in growth.

EmploymentOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, great words, but no jobs. I cannot believe the government is actually trying to justify an unemployment rate of 9.7 per cent.

Let us look at the numbers: 38,000 full time jobs disappeared last month; 44,000 more women are out work; the lowest number of young people working in 20 years. What is more, CIBC Wood Gundy and Canadians who had given up looking for work say that the unemployment rate is up to 13.9 per cent.

Why has the government broken its red book promise? Why have the Liberals failed completely and miserably to create growth and opportunity?

EmploymentOral Questions

11:25 a.m.

St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, it is simply untrue to leave the impression that the government does not care about employment. We care very deeply about it. Our strategies which are reflected in our budgets support that.

First and foremost we have, as the hon. member and his colleagues have insisted we do, maintained the course on deficit reduction. That has kept interest rates low, leading to investment.

That is going to translate into greater job growth this year. We are not stopping there and not sitting back.

The hon. member represents a party whose approach to all these questions is simply cut taxes for their friends, sit back and wait for everything else to happen. Canadians want a government that takes action so not only is it acting on deficit reduction but it is investing in short term growth and providing immediate impetus for jobs through infrastructure, foreign trade, youth employment measures, unemployment insurance reforms, reform of the CPP. It is also investing in long term growth in jobs through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, through higher education support for that and investing in a stronger society, something we care very much about.

EmploymentOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Reform

John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is another story of more talk and more taxes and fewer jobs. In Canada 1.5 million people are unemployed, two million to three million underemployed, 800,000 moonlighting to make ends meet, the lowest number of young people working in 20 years, and one in four who are worried about losing their jobs. That is the Liberal job record.

What is the Liberal answer to this crisis? A 73 per cent hike in payroll taxes that its own department is saying is going to kill even more jobs.

With an unemployment rate of 9.7 per cent, with 1.5 million Canadians unemployed, why is the government introducing a73 per cent payroll tax hike that is going to kill more jobs?

EmploymentOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

St. Paul's Ontario

Liberal

Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian people know which side of the House is talking and which side of the House is acting.

On the question of the CPP contribution increase, it is somewhat irresponsible of the hon. member opposite to talk about something as a job killer when it is an investment in the public pension plan shared risk that all of us share to ensure a decent retirement, a foundation for retirement. It is contributions toward a fund that is invested for the benefit of the workers, the present retirees, the future retirees. It is something that we will continue to support and make sure is viable and sustainable.

JusticeOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General.

On October 4, 1995, the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General gave Judge Lynn Ratushny the task of examining the files of the various women who were sentenced for killing their abusive partner. The judge has just released her findings and concludes that four women should be freed, one should be given a lighter sentence and another should be given a new hearing before the court of appeal.

When does the minister intend to implement the judge's recommendations?

JusticeOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have received Judge Ratushny's preliminary report. It is being studied by a working group of officials in the Department of Justice and the Department of the Solicitor General. They are also consulting with the provincial attorneys general.

Because this matter raises some rather novel juridical concepts we have to proceed with all due deliberate speed. I look forward to having a response from the Minister of Justice and myself before too long.

JusticeOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski—Témiscouata, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is perhaps important for the Solicitor General to take his time. This is a report he himself requested with his colleague in Justice.

I would like to know at what point the women prisoners are likely to get out of prison, because you are going to act on the recommendations. How long will it take to examine the files? How long should these women expect to wait: a week, two weeks, six months? What hope are you giving them?

JusticeOral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have great respect for Judge Ratushny's work. I think she would be the last person to say that her report should be simply treated as something with a rubber stamp.

Instead, what is involved in her report is something quite novel and that is applying a ruling of a court to a trial in a decision of another court that took place quite a while before the judgment that has led to the study by Judge Ratushny.

Under the circumstances, when we are talking about either asking for a new trial under section 690 of the code or using the royal prerogative of mercy, certainly we have to think carefully about the implications for the justice system. We also, in that connection, have to take into account the views of our provincial counterparts.

We want to proceed with all due deliberate speed but we want to do it in the right way.