Mr. Speaker, I am indeed pleased to rise today to speak to this motion put forward by the Bloc which condemns the federal government's lack of political will in refusing to take positive action in its areas
of jurisdiction to promote economic equality between men and women, and so on.
Today, as I speak to this motion, I would particularly like to dwell on the elements of the motion that deal with economic equality between men and women and the government's place in that.
It certainly is a discussion that is appropriate for this, the day before International Women's Day, and in the period of International Women's Week.
As I speak to this idea of economic equality between men and women, it is an issue that affects those in Quebec as well as in the rest of Canada. As I go forward, I want to address two issues. First, what has the government done on each of these parts of the question, and what has the government done specifically on the economics of this country? Second, what has the government done in terms of equality issues in this country?
Lately the government came forward with its budget. This is a government that has been in power for the last three and a half years. I would like to put to this House that the Liberals are hiding the facts of their record within that time period.
We now have in Canada record consumer debts. We have in Canada record personal bankruptcies. Today there are 1.5 million Canadians unemployed and 76 months straight of unemployment at over 9 per cent. This is the worst record since the depression.
Today two to three million Canadians are underemployed. Today one in four Canadians is worried about losing their job. We have to show for the last three years over $100 billion more in debt and now we have a record $600 billion debt to pass on to our children as they come into the workforce. In this time, average family incomes have been cut by $3,000.
Earlier today I heard Liberal MPs saying that it is up to Canadians who have had to make tough choices. There have been cutbacks. I want to talk about those in a minute.
I hear Liberal MPs talking about tough choices to other Canadians while increasing payroll taxes by approximately 73 per cent and making the tough choice to maintain their own pensions. It is five times greater than what other Canadians can have. Is that making tough choices on that side of the House?
Most of the deficit fighting this government has done has been on the backs of taxpayers with 36 tax increases since 1993. Most of the rest has been on the backs of the provinces with $7.5 billion reduction in transfer payments.
About 92 per cent of the reduction in the deficit to this date has been a direct result in tax revenue increase. As I have mentioned, they are ready to kill more jobs with the CPP tax increase of 73 per cent.
While with the transfer cuts they have cut funding to health and post-secondary education funding, the government will spend $4.2 billion to subsidize its crown corporations like the CBC and Canada Post.
This government's vision, the Liberal vision, is a country where average taxpayers send $10,200 to the federal government each year, and $3,400 of that every year from every taxpayer is to service the debt alone.
The Liberal vision is a country where 7.3 million Canadians earning less than $30,000 pay 17 per cent of their incomes to the federal government.
What has this government done in terms of economics? It has slashed transfer payments. It has made choices that have not been the priority of Canadians, like health care. It has increased our debt. It has made no commitment to deficit elimination and it has done poor service to Canadians.
What has this government done on equality issues? I would like to spend most of my time, as other speakers have, on this area. Canada has taken a leadership role. I saw that firsthand at the UN Beijing conference. It has taken up the standard of gender equality along with other nations. With this gender equality stance, it has promoted the theme of equal outcome for men and women.
The Reform Party looks at this theme and says equal outcome is not the issue. Individuals, regardless of who they are, should have equal opportunity in the job opportunities.
Success in terms of gender thinking is measured by full workforce participation and economic independence and autonomy, as we have already heard from the secretary of state many times today.
I ask, is this true equality? I say to the House that a person, whether male or female, who has equal protection under the law of the land and the equality of choice and opportunity in society: that is equality.
If we look at the history of the women's movement there have been equality seekers, first in the fight for the right to vote, the opportunity to put their name on a ballot. There has been equality of entry into occupations. There have been pioneers throughout the years who have put forward arguments to put women in certain occupations. There has been equality for entry into positions of leadership. Women have been elected to the House who are helping to lead the country politically; there are women business leaders, in teaching and in the sciences.
The history of the women's movement is the fight for equal opportunity, for their place in society and they have done well. The history of the women's movement is the freedom to make economic and political choices according to their own desires and dreams. Women want freedom to make those choices. True feminism is a belief in women and in the choices and in the wisdom of the choices they will make. As I have travelled through Canada and through my own riding of Port Moody-Coquitlam my belief in that kind of feminism is strengthened by what I see. The majority of students graduating from university are women. They are taking positions of leadership with great success.
More women than men are starting up their own businesses. Statistics show that the likelihood of their success is greater than that of their male counterparts. They have shown excellence in non-traditional roles. Yesterday I learned of an insurance company that in four of its six regions the top sales persons were women. There is also excellence in the traditional roles.
The Liberals are out of touch with the real women, with their potential. In their very policies they deny women the respect for the abilities they possess.
The greatest concern I see in gender analysis and equality philosophies is the rejection of diverse opinion. In gender analysis there is a blindness to constructive alternatives to ways of doing things in society. The main theme of gender analysis and policy making, as I saw in Beijing and I see in government policies, is that it drives always and ever to economic independence and autonomy for women. It drives to equal outcome and equal participation in the workforce. It would demand a social revolution, a remaking of society, and a mandate for people to follow in its dictated choices in order to do so.
In the last 20 years we have been witness to the progress of this agenda. In the last 20 years the movement has been toward two working parents. Presently it is seven out of ten households, up from three out of ten. However, within that time the total household income is virtually the same.
Seventy per cent of women are now in the workforce. In the last 30 years divorce has increased 800 per cent. In fact, Canada has one of the highest divorce rates in developed countries. As we have heard, the tragedy of that is the poverty rate. It is greatest among the single mothers who are very often the product of those family break-ups. It is shown that the economic impact of divorce is the greatest on women.
Federal taxes of the average family, according to the Globe and Mail , November 1992, was $1,894 more in 1990 than in 1984. Recent statistics have told us that the after tax earnings of an average household have actually fallen by $3,000 since the government came to power. As I have mentioned, 36 tax increases have been implemented by the federal government alone to help make that happen.
These kinds of things happening in society have very real results. They are not just numbers. According to government statistics child poverty has increased by 40 per cent since 1989. Youth violent crime has doubled in the last nine years. Canada is among the highest in the world in youth suicides. Today we have less money because of cutbacks to direct toward needed programs for those who actually need government help because of debt servicing charges and wasteful government spending.
In the last couple of days we have heard about government spending going toward a prison art foundation in New Brunswick of $100,000; $87 million to Bombardier; $300,000 to friends at the Shawinigan Industrial Centre. Are these the choices of the men and women in Canada? Is this compassion? Do these programs reflect the priorities of most women?
Who sets the goal? Who defines the standard of success for women? Do most women define success as equal workforce participation? Or do most women define success for themselves, that of their friends and of their communities as safety in their streets, an opportunity to achieve for all Canadians, a government that can provide help for those who cannot achieve hope for their youth and for their children and strength in their homes. This is what most women and men define as success, not equal workforce participation.
The government, as I mentioned, rejects diversity in its definition of gender equality. The government has chosen to follow a gender feminist philosophy. Quoting from the government's material: "Status of Women works to ensure women's equality is integrated into all federal government legislation, policies, programs and initiatives" .Women's equality is defined as autonomy and equal workforce participation. What is the price of that? The simple dollar price for the status of women in the main estimates is $17 million of tax funds every year plus $8 million more in grants both in 1996 and 1997, and that was tripled from the previous year, 1995-96.
The price of the status of women policies goes far beyond the dollars that go into that program. I will quickly give three examples. First, the government's commitment is to women working. The finance minister in a letter refused to even consider tax change proposals that might be a disincentive for a spouse to work.
I have with me today a letter from a constituent who supports the fresh start platform of our party which increases the spousal exemption from $5,380 to $7,900, thereby levelling the field for parents who choose to stay home to care for their children and extending the child care deduction of $5,000 to every preschool child, including children whose parents stay at home to care for them.
My constituent states: "Before my child was born in 1994 I was employed as a social worker for the B.C. government. I saw the effect of parental absence from the home in young and teenage children and decided that to raise a child properly I needed to be in the home caring for my child. My husband and I have faced extreme financial hardship as a result of this decision but still feel that children and family are the most important factor in our lives".
She goes on to say: "I hope that all women and men merely have a choice to be parents first, and to find this role to be of equal importance to a career".
The Liberal Party rejects Reform's proposal of a child care tax credit to all parents, and instead chooses to reward only those who put their children in receiptable day care.
The government shows zero tolerance feminist style. It seems appropriate that I mention a Vancouver planning meeting at the the Vancouver status of women location which was held last November. I have the notice for that. It says: "Come help organize for the 1997 International Women's Day event". This meeting was held on November 19 at 7.30 p.m., at the Vancouver Status of Women, Grant Street, "all women welcome".
Two women were refused entry at that meeting. They were identified by the people there as pro-lifers. Not only were they refused entry but there was attempt made to forcibly remove them. Police were called. By the time the altercation was finished, medical attention was required. Cameras were broken and bruises were received.
The Vancouver police have recommended to the crown prosecutor that charges be laid because of this event at the Vancouver status of women location. The Vancouver status of women has received federal grants which total $917,000 since 1984. When the Secretary of State for the Status of Women heard of this, she gave her apologies but replied in a statement that this was not in her backyard. This mind-set is in her backyard.
Last year she made this statement: "This government believes each and every individual, group and community in Canada must be treated equally and with respect". Yet what has she done to address this very real event that occurred at the Vancouver status of women location which is connected with her department?
Status of women and the gender equality thing is no equality of choice and no recognition of various sentiments or ideas of many women. It does not recognize the importance of parenting. It does not recognize the importance of other opinions.
Another example of rejection of other opinions is what we saw lately in Bill C-41, a bill that spoke to child support and access. Like so much of what the Liberal government does, it referred to one side of the argument and forgot that there are two players. In fact in Bill C-41, which dealt with divorce and child support, there are more players. There are the custodial and non-custodial parents and the children.
This bill gave rights to the custodial parent, responsibilities to the non-custodial parent and basically left the ball there. Who will pay for unequal treatment? Who will pay for a bill that does not address the real needs of those who are involved in child support and access issues? Who will pay for the unequal treatment of Canadians in Bill C-41? Not only the non-custodial parent but the children involved in the process of a divorce procedure which will not serve their purposes.
I will reiterate. We have a society that would like to recognize the uniqueness and the freedom to make choices for all Canadians. It is not equal workforce participation but things like safety on the streets, incentives to achieve, help for those who cannot, hope for our youth and strength in our homes which is where most Canadians feel the priorities of government should be.