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House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was firefighters.

Topics

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not have the exact figures, but I think over the last nine years we have funded REAL Women in projects it has brought to the table. It has in fact been doing very good work in dealing with the issue of unpaid work, something at which the government has been looking, the caregiving work women do for which they get no reimbursement.

We have funded REAL Women but we did not fund that group this year because it did not come forward with a project worth funding. We have not funded many other groups when their projects did not meet the criteria for funding.

The Prime Minister met with women because he is very supportive of the attention the World March and the women's march in this country is bringing to issues that he has consistently had to defend in the House.

Members of her party only talk about tax breaks and the wealth of individuals. The Prime Minister is on record as saying we have to deal with the issue of disadvantaged persons. That is the kind of balanced approach we are taking. That is why the Prime Minister met with them. The Prime Minister told them that he does not micromanage and that in their meetings with members of his cabinet that will take place over the next two days they will discuss the very specific issues in their 13 requests.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, listening to the minister responsible for the status of women reminds me of an old expression “one step forward and two steps backward”.

I do not need to say how hopeful women were 20-25 years ago at the height of the women's movement. We were moving toward pay equity, dealing with violence against women, addressing the need for pensions and dealing with poverty. The list went on and on. Yet here we are today with thousands of women coming to Ottawa appealing to the government on the most basic demand, the most basic questions pertaining to economic and social security.

Today women are under stress more than ever before as they try to juggle work and family responsibilities. Women are finding it more and more difficult to meet all the demands on their time and to provide for themselves and their families.

My questions are threefold. The minister talks about the Prime Minister meeting with the organizers of the women's march. Is it better for the Prime Minister to meet and patronize women with words and spurn their concerns, or is it better not to meet at all?

Second, when it comes to the rhetoric of the minister around gender based analysis, why do we never see that translated into actual policies and programs? I can testify to the fact that when it comes to applying those words, as we had an opportunity to do in the health committee, it is Liberal members who stand and refuse to apply gender based analysis, refuse to even ensure parity on the governing councils for such basic areas as scientific and medical research.

On the most basic of matters where women are truly struggling, why does the government stand in the way each and every time? Whether we are talking about providing for national child care, national home care, national drug coverage or national housing programs, these issues really matter to women in terms of making a difference the government has done nothing. It has actually backpedalled and made the situation worse.

Will the government reverse the agenda of privatization and deregulation and start to work in the best interest of women to ensure we finally achieve equality in this millennium?

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member must not confuse rhetoric with fact. The issue of what gender based analysis has done is pretty clear. The changes in EI announced recently by the minister of HRDC show that gender based analysis has played a part.

Looking at the changes in the CPP, the government pushed very hard to ensure that the dropout provisions would be there for women so that they could drop in and out and not lose their pensionable earnings. The survivor benefits in the CPP are part of it. We talked about health. The whole new gender institute in CIHR is a huge piece. When the government came into power in 1993 it established five centres of excellence for women's health across the country.

I could go on and on about the initiatives taken when gender based analysis showed us the way to go. What the hon. member does not understand is that gender based analysis is about helping each department. She should look at each department and the changes that have been made, many of them in the budget when the Minister of Finance put forward a tax credit for women who are caregivers. That was a start.

Students with dependants was another start. Persons with dependants getting grants was a start. It all shows that we understand that women with dependants have a need for education and other issues. I could go on but I do not have the time.

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1:10 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the debate today as well. I noticed that my colleague talked about the fact that we have been trying very hard for 20 or 25 years, I think was the number she used, to advance some of the problems we have seen today. I would like to put on record that a full 35 years ago in the mid-sixties, my mother Joyce was a single parent. It was fairly rare back then, certainly in Vancouver in the sixties. I can remember being I think the only family in our school that had divorced parents. It is not that many years down the road and it seems almost strange if a student has two parents at home.

Government money is going into looking at these problems. They are endemic in society, but is just throwing money at them the ultimate solution?

The minister just took a shot across, saying that my party and I are only concerned about taxes and debt, that we do not understand the lives of real women out there. I have news for her. I know all too well on a personal basis the pain involved in growing up in a single parent family in Vancouver, very close to where she lives right now. I have been very blessed by that. I would have given anything if my mom had been able to be a doctor or a professional person to raise her kids. She had no trade. She went out, got a job in a lamp store and raised five children single-handedly. I take my hat off to her.

There are thousands and probably millions of people out there in the very same position, but surely these things have been going on not just for 25 years but for 35 years. For the money the minister says she is putting in to rectify these problems, surely something else is missing in this equation. It is not just money for this group or money for that group, but something is wrong if the basic building block of the family is not a concern.

We put forward a tax friendly policy toward families because we truly think that families are discriminated against if, for instance, one parent chooses to stay home and raise the kids. That does not mean I advocate that one parent out of every family should stay home, but surely they should be given that choice.

The minister knows that under tax policy one needs a receipt for third party day care. What is the problem? If someone chooses to have one parent stay at home, why can that not be treated as some sort of tax break? We have been around the block on that. I know that the junior minister of finance got backed right into a corner some months ago about this very issue because it is indefensible.

If she says that all I do is rant about taxes, that is one way they could solve a whole lot of problems in a big hurry. Many of these things we are looking at and talking about today, and which the March of Women, address the whole idea of violence against women. However, there is violence against everyone in our society. Everyone of us here should abhor that. Surely we could make changes in the justice system.

I look at the youth justice bill for instance. The justice minister was sworn in I believe on August 3, 1997, but I am not sure of the exact date. She said the youth justice bill was going to be her number one concern. It is now October 2000 and I am terrified to think what concerns seven, eight and nine are.

The youth justice bill deals with women but it also deals with all kinds of problems. It deals with young men and women being perpetrators of crime and young men and women, older people and children being the victims of those crimes. What happened? She blamed the separatists and said they were holding it up in the House of Commons. This is a majority government. If something is as important as making sure that our justice system works well, surely to heaven we do not have to blame it on the Bloc just because it is doing a bit of filibustering in the House. If a government really believes that then let it work through the House and through committee. For goodness sake in two parliamentary terms, one of which is coming evidently to a rapid end for no reason, why can we not get these things through and let justice be justice in the justice system and not under the guise of the Minister of State for Multiculturalism.

Justice and equality do not necessarily require further government intrusion. As I said earlier, we put more and more money into these programs and yet the minister claims that the incidence of violence and the incidence of women's shelters is going up at an alarming rate. It would seem to me that when she talks about the roots of violence or family domestic problems, we have to dig a little deeper to the root.

She talked about the gun control bill and that this really was going to help things because she said guns commit these crimes, and granted they do in violence against women. However, it is almost as if there is a myth across the way that nothing is going to happen or some of these dreadful things will not happen again. Even if a gun is registered, do government members think that a gun will not be used commit a crime?

Let us look at the roots of violence and why domestic violence happens. I know plenty about violence even though the minister would laugh and say that am just a Alliance member and know very little about it. I understand what family violence is about. I do not understand it totally but I understand that even if there is a gun in the house or a knife or a frying pan, if a male or female has it in his or her heart to commit violence, we know darn well it is going to happen. It does not matter if a gun is registered or if a longbow or a crossbow or a Henckels carving knife is used. If violence is in someone's heart, the person is going to commit violence. I really do not think gun control is going to answer the question.

Let us look at economic equality and women and work. Women are more often greatly affected as part of the sandwich generation. They have kids at home to look after. Many of us who are baby boomers are not only getting older but our parents are aging. Many of us look after our parents at home and that obviously takes up, in terms of unpaid work, huge amounts of responsibility for women.

I already mentioned family tax fairness and child care. Why would we discriminate against two parent families where one chooses to stay home? Who in the House would be able to defend such a policy where the government discriminates in the tax system against someone who chooses to stay at home.

Setting up the promised national child care fund is something that the group is looking for, starting with an immediate contribution of $2 billion. When I talk about family and celebrating family as a priority, lots of people send their kids to day care and many times they have to. I do not think it should be a natural way of life to assume that we are going to send our kids to day care as a matter of course. This motion certainly leads in that direction.

Let me talk about personal and business taxes. The minister talked about taxes. I wish she were here to hear this because it is a really good one. She needs to know that women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. That to me is a pretty significant and exciting development. Yet, I did not hear anything about it from the other side.

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1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

I did S. O. 31s on that years ago.

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1:15 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Very good. I am glad to know that somebody over there has talked about how women are starting businesses at twice the rate of men. That is good news.

When we talk about taxes and how this will absolutely help, we want to lower business taxes. The minister and a couple of other members over there are rolling their eyes to indicate as if this would help. Lower business and payroll taxes would help a man or woman with a small business. I see that as good news and I am sure they do over there too. It is just the looks on their faces that does not have me convinced.

On planning for retirement, the official opposition has a plan to benefit all older Canadians, especially women. That is exciting to me. In 1997-98 women made up 52% of college enrolment and 55% of university enrolment. There is nothing wrong with that. It is certainly representative of what they represent in the population and it is absolutely wonderful to see that happening. The minister talked about some of the good things happening regarding student loans.

Let me wind down by talking about the manifesto of the March of Women 2000 and NAC have as their plank and platform. This actually is what we are voting on, not just the words of the Bloc motion.

First, of its feminist dozen, which is 13, is to restore federal funding to health care and enforce the rules against the privatization of our health care system, beginning with Alberta. I notice that at the Liberal convention this weekend people want to talk about two tier health care systems in Quebec. I will be interested to watch the health minister have a little fit like he did with the folks in Alberta. I also will mention for the listening audience that B.C. and Alberta pay health premiums, and I understand that no other province does. That is kind of interesting.

Second is to spend an additional 1% of the budget on social housing.

Third is to set up the promised national child care fund, starting with an immediate contribution of $2 billion.

Fourth is to increase old age security payments to provide older women with a decent standard of living. That is an excellent idea. Women between the age of 55 and 65 who are widowed receive pitiful survivor benefits. It is a difficult 10 or 15 years that they have to spend.

Fifth is to use the surplus from the employment insurance fund to increase benefits, provide longer payment periods and improve access as well as improve maternity and family benefits. It is funny that the Liberals took all that away but now that we are on the eve of an election all of a sudden it comes forward. Maybe we should revive that old Barry McGuire song “The Eve of Destruction”. It is not an eve of destruction but it is certainly an eve of an election.

Sixth is to first support women organizing for equality and democracy by allocating $50 million to front line, independent, feminist, women controlled groups committed to ending violence against women such as women's centres, rape crisis centres and women's shelters. Yes, these are good ideas. However, what happens to men who are perpetrating violence or men who are victims of violence? We would all agree that we have some of in the country. Surely they would not just fall through the cracks. Second is to recognize and fund the three autonomous aboriginal women's organizations to ensure full participation in all significant public policy decisions, as well as provide adequate funding to aboriginal women's services, including shelters in all rural, remote and urban aboriginal communities. Third is to fund a national meeting of lesbians to discuss and prioritize areas for legislative and public policy reform. Fourth is to provide $30 million in core funding for equality seeking women's organizations which represents only $2 for every woman and girl child in Canada, our fair share. I am not sure what that is.

Seventh is to fund all consultations with a wide range of women's equality seeking organizations prior to all legislative reform of relevance to women's security and inequality rights beginning with the criminal code and to ensure access for women from marginalized communities.

Eighth is to implement progressive immigration reform to provide domestic workers with full immigration status on arrival, abolish the head tax on all immigrants and to include persecution on the basis of gender and sexual orientation as grounds for claiming refugee status.

Ninth is to contribute to the elimination of poverty around the world by supporting the cancellation of the debts of the 53 poorest countries and increasing Canada's international development aid to .07% of the gross national product. We are $600 billion in debt. For every family of four either watching here or on television today that is an extra mortgage of $75,000 on our debt. It cannot be forgiven. We owe that money and every single family of four in the country owes that percentage to our national debt. Surely we are in a pretty grave situation here too.

Tenth, of the feminist dozen 13 immediate demands to the federal government to end poverty and violence against women, is to adopt national standards which guarantee the right to welfare for everyone in need and ban workfare.

I always liked working. I am very glad and grateful, being raised by a single parent, that my mom did not have to use welfare. She worked in a lamp store and raised five kids by the scruff of the neck in downtown Vancouver in the sixties when such a thing certainly was not popular. She was very blessed that she did not have to go on welfare. She certainly did not think she had a right to it. She had the opportunity to get out, get a job and raise those kids. For her, welfare would have been something that she would have to fall back on if she needed to. I certainly do not think she thought that it was a right.

Eleventh is to recognize the ongoing exclusion of women with disabilities from economic, political and social life, and take the essential first step of ensuring and funding full access for women with disabilities to all consultations on issues of relevance to women. Yes, that it a good thing but are men with disabilities treated fairly in the workforce as well? Do we just eliminate them? There are great problems with all people with disabilities and we would be discriminatory if we just picked out one group of them and not the other.

Twelfth is to establish a national system of grants based on need not merit to enable access to post-secondary education and reduce student debt. As far as I know, we are the only national party in the country that has in our platform an income contingent student loan repayment plan. I have not seen that over there. I understand that the minister of HRD not long ago said “We lost $245 million but shucks it was student loans.”

These were taxpayers' dollars. They just disappeared? We have said pay the money back. If they have a job doing x when they are qualified to have a job doing y then surely they should pay back some of it out of the money they are making doing job x . Make it contingent upon their income. People would know that they would be paying back their loans, maybe at a lower rate. However, when they get a better job at least we know it would be paid back fully. Then we would not have the HRD minister saying that they lost the money and since it was more than six years ago they just wrote it off. I do not think that is fair to anyone.

Thirteenth is to adopt proactive pay equity legislation. I have always believed in equal pay for equal work. I am a high school teacher and worked just as hard as every male teacher in that school. How do we go to pay equity where we are talking about equal pay for work of equal value? How do we ever define that?

I would like to mention to the minister as I wind down now, that in my little school in Dewberry, Alberta we had some problem with the boiler systems. One morning it was 45 below. Yes, the principal is number one in any school, but does anyone know who I went to see on that morning when the boilers were out? I went to see the janitor because I knew he was the only guy who could get those things going or get some propane tanks in there to blow heat down the hall. How do we ever determine what is work of equal value—

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Equity is important then, is it not?

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1:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

I see I have touched a nerve. It is a funny thing. When we look at it, we must realize that these are the demands we are talking about and will be voting on maybe not later this afternoon but certainly tomorrow.

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1:25 p.m.

Vancouver Centre B.C.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member and I realize that she does not have a clue. She still does not get it. She does not understand the difference between the realities of men and women. I do not know what part she does not understand that 88% of persons who are killed in domestic violence are women. It is all about sameness. It is all about one size fits all.

The question I want to ask is on the issue of pay equity. Here is another prime example of how that party across the way does not even have a clue. Pay equity recognizes the fact that women have for a long time been caught in what we call the pink ghetto or in the low paying jobs in which the jobs were paid low because women did them. They are still being paid low wages because women are still doing them. It brings them up to scratch in terms of the value of the work that secretaries do, the value of the work that elementary school teachers do and puts it against the value of the work that men are doing.

Would the member explain to me why she does not seem to get it? I would like to know where she lives. She talks a lot of rhetoric, but I would like to ask her to explain to me what she knows about the historical pay equity problems, the pink ghetto, and the fact that women for so long have been underpaid because of the work they do. Could the member tell me what she thinks about that.

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member says I just do not get it and do not understand the differences between men and women. Does that mean seven years of marriage have taught me nothing?

Let me assure the hon. member that I am well aware of the differences between men and women, and I say praise God. I was 41 when I was married the first time and I love having a husband. The hon. member can bet I understand the differences between men and women. I grew up in a family of four daughters. My husband is the eldest of five sons. I certainly do understand some of the intimate differences between men and women.

The hon. member talks about women being caught in the pink ghetto. She said I do not get it and she asked where I live. I live in Edmonton. I have seen some things all across the country, specifically in Vancouver, where family members still live.

The member laughs this off and talks about the pink ghetto and whatever else. Frankly, I do not find it very funny. The hon. member says I do not get the fact that women have been ghettoized and asks me to explain that.

The minister knows there are many reasons why women exit the workforce. She just talked about it with her CPP in and out plan. That is one of the reasons there are problems. That is one of the problems. Beyond that, many women choose to go into the humanities and other areas. They make conscious decisions about child raising and child rearing.

Just to label it off and make comments about the colour I am wearing today, I am not sure—

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

That has nothing to do with it.

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, she says it has nothing to do with it. What does have something to do with it is the fact that when government money is being thrown at something and it really does not solve the problem, the government needs to go back to the table and say “wait a minute, maybe there are deeper root causes for some of these issues”.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, as I sit here and listen to the Liberals and the Alliance on the issue of pay equity I just want to say a pox on both their houses. The concept of pay equity is well understood by those who have worked long and hard to advance this notion over the past 20 years. I do not understand how, in 2000, we are sitting here debating whether or not it has merit and can be applied.

Members of the Alliance sit in the Chamber and say no to pay equity, no to equal pay for work of equal value. The Liberals just refuse to apply the law. Goodness gracious, we sat here for 10 years while the government found every legal loophole it could to avoid paying its obligations and applying equal pay for work of equal value.

What is the difference? On the one hand we have a party that gives lip service and lots of rhetoric but refuses to do anything until it is pushed, dragging and screaming, to do something. On the other hand we have a party that just does not acknowledge the basic facts and the basic situation. It refuses to simply acknowledge that fundamental aspect of the pursuit of equality.

For the benefit of Alliance members I should point them back to some 15 years ago when the concept of equal pay for work of equal value was developed and implemented. It was implemented fully in the province of Manitoba. It was implemented fully in Yukon. It was implemented in other provinces across the country. It works.

Would the member give some thought to the record of jurisdictions that have applied this concept, bring her policies up to date, and support the very important struggle we have as women in parliament and in the country to ensure full equality between women and men?

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1:30 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would be interested to know if the government of Saskatchewan has brought in full pay equity. Maybe it is working on this before Roy leaves. I am not sure. This might be his last item of business.

I have been told that I do not know the difference between men and women and that I just do not get it. Now I have had a pox put on my house. This could be a long winter. However, I am looking forward to heading home to see my husband as soon as time permits.

Let me go back to the difference between equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value. How do we know the value of work? It seems to me all work is valuable. It seems the government is talking about the fact that only some work is valued. I think all work has value whether it is done by men, women or young people. I spoke at two or three schools last week and saw groups of young people. I think it will be exciting to have them in the workforce.

It is very difficult to see an ill defined policy like this one. I just gave probably the best life example of work of equal value. As much as I respected my principal, he was the last guy I wanted to see when it was -45°C and the boilers were not working. Somebody has to somehow arbitrarily put value on work A , work B or work C .

I see I have exorcised some of the members across the way. Before we move on to the next speakers, and I look forward to hearing what they have to say, let me reiterate very strongly that with more and more government money being distributed to various groups on various issues, the problem is only increasing.

We can talk about women's shelters, family violence, violence against women, women staying home with their children, or those of us with older parents. Many baby boomers are staying home with those people. Is it getting worse? It would seem so. The government just continues to put in more and more money and give the rhetoric that it has solved the problem.

The Prime Minister met with NACSOW. I was amused the minister said that I was ranting about the Prime Minister's meeting with the women's groups yesterday. It was not this member but the NACSOW people themselves who said the meeting was a colossal waste of time. I was not at that meeting. I was on an airplane. When the people themselves say it is a waste of time, I think we need to realize that surely there are better ways to solve the problem than an increase in rhetoric and money and everything else.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Augustine Liberal Etobicoke—Lakeshore, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening very intently to the member. I think we want to establish for not only ourselves but all Canadians the position she is putting forward as an individual member and on behalf of her party.

I get the idea that she is saying one size fits all. Are we talking about equality and equality in the workplace? What is her party's position on dealing with equality in the workplace, on women gaining equality in the workplace? How would the member deal with visible minority women, aboriginal women and women with disabilities in the workplace?

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1:35 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Edmonton North, AB

In two words, Mr. Speaker, equal opportunity. Regardless of whether it is based on gender or disability it should be equal opportunity for everyone.

The minister stands and says she defends these feminist dozen. I do not know how anyone, even a Liberal, could defend the fact that they say they want full funding access for women with disabilities. That is discriminatory. There are lots of women, lots of men and lots of young people with disabilities who need equal opportunity, period, in the workplace regardless of gender or disability.

That is not one size fits all. That is making sure we do not just separate out women with disabilities but include men with disabilities and say that we will hire on the basis of merit and merit alone. There would not be the discrimination that I see in this document.

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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I take great pleasure in participating in this debate. I will be sharing my time with the member for Bras d'Or—Cape Breton, the status of women spokesperson on behalf of the New Democratic Party.

As I reflect on the exchanges that have taken place between the spokespersons for the government party and the official opposition, it is little wonder that women in the country have become discouraged. They are tired, fed up with being dismissed, demeaned and basically pushed into the shadows by the party in government and the official opposition.

Is it worse to have an official opposition that does not even understand the concept of equality and justice, that does not even understand the notion of sisterhood and solidarity, that clearly embraces the Margaret Thatcher view of the world that there is no such thing as community or society but only individuals living as isolated islands in a society that does not care about them? Or, is it worse to have a government party that actually does understand something about the magnitude of the problem, that cannot even make that excuse, but that does not use the power, the mandate and the resources it has at its disposal to do something to advance equality and justice on behalf of women? It is hard to know which is worse.

I want to leave that very depressing situation to focus on something very much more hopeful.

Yesterday a group of Canadian women held a huge rally here on Parliament Hill. I remember that six years ago Quebec women organized a solidarity march which focused on a very important and progressive symbol: bread and roses.

Today I want to congratulate Quebec women for having shown leadership in the great battle to fight violence against women, to fight poverty and to promote justice, solidarity and equality for women.

I am very proud of the leadership shown by the women of Quebec in this struggle. They have undertaken to turn what started out to be a modest and successful march in the province of Quebec which extended across Canada the next year into an international women's march against poverty and violence.

Yesterday, as I had the opportunity to mix and mingle and participate with those women, as did many of my New Democrat colleagues, I felt very hopeful. Despite all the discrimination women have suffered, despite all the reasons women have to feel discouraged, they celebrated yesterday. They celebrated with music, with humour, and with a reinforcement of the kind of solidarity and sisterhood they know will be necessary to move governments to act to eliminate poverty and violence against women in society.

It is not an accident that the women of the world who have come together have recognized that they have to work with one another and support one another to get governments to act. That is why we are privileged to have a democratic process that allows women an equal voice.

I was very encouraged to hear woman after woman, and not just those who had the opportunity to speak on behalf of others, speak very much from their own experiences, their own hearts. They will not take no for an answer. They have been waiting on the sidelines. They will use the democratic process available to them in the upcoming election to say enough is enough. They will not put up with a government that is sitting on a surplus, which is building to $121 billion and beyond, and refusing to implement its commitments to women, to the people of Canada, in the 1993 election and again in 1997.

What were those commitments? A commitment to a national child care program, which still has not seen the light of day, and a commitment to a national home care program. Make no mistake about it, it is women who carry the double burden of the cutback in our health care system. The government brags that it has reinvested some money into health care. Wrong. It has not even brought health care funding up to the level that it was, for the name of heavens, under the Mulroney government when it took power in 1993.

There was a commitment to a pharmacare program that would ensure that elderly women would not be forced to choose between buying their groceries or filling their prescription for drugs given to them by their doctor. There was also a commitment to more adequate, affordable housing.

When the Liberals were in opposition they said that social housing was a disgrace and that more money needed to be invested in social housing. Does anyone know what their contribution has been to the women and children struggling with inadequate housing, struggling with the reality that more and more women and children are homeless on the streets in some parts of this country? We have some 5,000 children who are homeless and who have nowhere to go to bed at night except at an emergency shelter in the city of Toronto. Does anyone know what the federal Liberal contribution has been toward solving that problem and eliminating any national commitment to social housing? We are the only industrial nation in the world that does not have a national housing program.

Far from despair, I celebrate and I take hope from the fact that 50,000 women came together representing millions of other women to say “We will solve this problem. We will take charge of our own futures. We will use the democratic instruments that are available to us to ensure that we demand accountability from our governments and we make progress that will advance genuine equality and justice for ourselves and for our children”.

I will conclude by once again saying how inspiring it has been to watch women come together to support one another in this struggle. This is not just a slogan. The women's movement, I am prepared to say, is the single most important movement happening in the world today. These women have come together and said “As long as one woman is a victim of violence, as long as one woman in this world is a victim of poverty, then we are all at risk of victimization”. That is the meaning of the notion of sisterhood in solidarity.

“So, so, so, solidarity”, that was the slogan. Many women, not only across Canada but literally all over the world, are working together to solve the issues of violence and poverty. I am very proud to participate, along with my NDP colleagues, in this great battle, one we intend to win.

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1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not as concerned with the speech we have just had as I am with the speech made by the member of the official opposition.

I do not think the official opposition understands pay equity and women's issues. I believe the member of the NDP and her caucus understand these issues very well.

What I have a problem with is talking about it, dealing with it, then voting for it and encouraging NDP governments to support those same positions. This seems to be where the rhetoric comes first and the reality is that we do not quite get there.

Let us talk about pay equity in Saskatchewan. That government says it cannot afford it but we cannot afford not to do it.

This is a serious issue. That member, who was the previous leader of that party, voted against gun control. Gun control was a woman's issue. I know there were members of that party who clearly understood the issue. My concerns come from wanting to have both the actions and the words on this issue on the same page, which I believe would actually unite us in many respects.

I respect a lot of the members in that caucus for their stances and their positions. They have been very supportive in many cases. However, I was disappointed with what happened when we voted on gun control. I would like that explained to the Canadian public.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, why does it not surprise me that Liberal members of the House absolutely never want to deal with their own record? What do they want to do? They want to ask me to account for a government at some other level in some province that is halfway across the country from where I spent my political years and active life so they can be satisfied that they do not have to do anything about pay equity.

Who can blame government members for not wanting to talk about the fact that some 17 years after pay equity legislation became the law of the land they were finally forced, because the courts would not let them get away with breaking the law any longer, to pay up. No wonder they do not want to talk about that issue.

What do members of that government have to say about the fact that it is now seven years later and we still do not have a national child care program? What do they have to say about the fact that poor women, visible minority women and the poorest, most discriminated women of all in this country, aboriginal women, are able to give more leadership in the fight for child care, for services to deal with domestic violence, for home care and for pharmacare than this whole government put together with all of the resources in Canada at its disposal. No wonder the members of the pathetic Liberal government do not want to give an accounting of their record over the last seven years.

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1:50 p.m.

Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I can talk about the record of the government. I can talk about health care and the reinvestment in prenatal programs. I can talk about EI and the government's move in this area for women and their families. I can talk about equity. I can talk about all kinds of programs in terms of head start programs and children's programs.

I do not understand why the members of the NDP, and that leader in particular, want to take the high ground here when they would bankrupt the government with their spending spree. They have no concept of equality. They have no concept of equilibrium. What they would do is spend the whole pot on whatever they think is appropriate without being fiscally prudent.

The leader opposite should hang her head in shame knowing that she cannot bring about the balance necessary. I can defend the record of this government any day of the week and twice on Sundays because we have done the right thing. What they cannot get their heads around is having the fiscal responsibility necessary to govern.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, for seven straight years the government has used the excuse of the deficit for breaking practically every single promise that it made in two election campaigns that might have positively impacted on the suffering of women.

The hon. member should not talk to me about fiscal responsibility. The reality is that the jig is up. The government can no longer use the excuse of the deficit for continuing to turn its back on home care, on child care and on pharmacare, on the things that would really make a difference in the lives of women.

Yes, that member is correct. When it comes down to what we would do with the surplus, we would make no apology for the fact that we would overwhelmingly spend that surplus to deal with poverty, with violence, with homelessness and with the hunger of children.

If members opposite want a debate over whether the emphasis should be on driving more people to food banks, which is what Liberal policies are doing, or giving yet another freebie to the bankers, we will fight every time to give women and children what they need so they are not forced to depend upon food banks. Let us have a debate.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the speech by the hon. Secretary of State for the Status of Women, I could not help but notice how full it was of incredible contradictions.

The hon. secretary of state was saying that to eradicate poverty among women we would have to somehow reduce the capital gains tax for the wealthy; that to eliminate poverty among women we would have to give bankers another tax break; that to eliminate poverty among women we would have to change the EI system in a structure where still only 30% of unemployed women will qualify for EI.

I wonder if the hon. leader of the New Democratic Party could clarify some of the inherent contradictions in the attitudes held by the hon. secretary of state.

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1:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I can try to clarify but I sure will not make excuses for the Liberals. What is so astounding about this is that they do know better. They know that when a federal government eliminates its commitments to social housing it is bound to increase the number of homeless people and the number of people living in substandard housing.

The Liberals do understand that if they provide no leadership on child care they will have more and more families at risk and more and more children who do not have the benefit of affordable quality child care.

What makes this so pathetic is when one of those members stands up, as he just did, and says “Why are you not congratulating us for our head start program?” I have worked with the head start movement for 33 years. What the government knows is that the vast majority of Canadian children are being robbed of getting the kind of head start in life they need because the government has completely abandoned its commitments to universal affordable child care.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Since it is almost 2 p.m., we will now move on to Statements by Members.

Jim StoneStatements By Members

October 16th, 2000 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take this opportunity to extend my congratulations to Mr. Jim Stone, a constituent in my riding of Simcoe North, who recently donated his time and talent overseas in the service of the Canadian Executive Services Organization.

CESO is a non-profit, volunteer based organization which brings Canadian expertise to businesses, communities and organizations in Canada and abroad. Mr. Jim Stone volunteered in Lima, Peru where he used his expertise to advise on the management of the paper and textile industry. He also provided technical assistance and made recommendations on production quality and cost.

On behalf of all Canadians, I wish to congratulate Mr. Stone and the many highly skilled Canadian volunteers. It is because of the efforts of people like Mr. Stone that Canada enjoys a strong international reputation.