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—