Mr. Speaker, we also need to look at parts II and III of the Canada Labour Code. Part II relates to occupational safety and health and part III governs labour standards.
Members of the House will recall the extensive consultations and discussions on protecting the safety and health of pregnant and nursing women in the workplace that led to recent amendments to part II of the Canada Labour Code.
At that time the House approved a new section in part II of the Canada Labour Code, section 132, to improve protection for pregnant or nursing women.
Section 132 states that a pregnant or nursing woman who believes her job creates a risk for her or for the fetus or child has the right to stop doing her job and can take the necessary time with pay to consult her physician to ascertain if she really is at risk.
Under section 132, the employee is entitled to receive all the benefits and wages attached to her job until she obtains a medical certificate supporting her claim.
If it is determined that a woman should not remain at work because of health risks to herself, her fetus or nursing child, she is then entitled to protection under part III of the code, the section that sets out standards and employer obligations in the workplace.
On maternity related measures, for example, part III sets out specific protection for pregnant or nursing mothers. For example, part III requires the employer to modify the employee's working conditions or to reassign her to another job if she is deemed to be at risk.
If neither of these options are available, then the employee is entitled to leave and whatever financial support would be related to that leave status.
Based on practical experience, most women under the federal jurisdiction have access to salary replacement through employment insurance and/or private insurance schemes when they take this leave.
In other words, the Canada Labour Code now includes comprehensive measures to ensure safe and healthy working environments for pregnant and nursing mothers. In addition, it provides for leave and it allows for access to financial compensation for the pregnant or nursing mother who is deemed to be at risk in the workplace.
Bill C-340 asks us to change the federal law so that pregnant or nursing employees under federal jurisdiction in a province would be entitled to have their personal circumstances dealt with according to the laws of the province and not under the Canada Labour Code.
It is important to note that the province of Quebec is the only jurisdiction in Canada that has a program for pregnant and nursing mothers that differs fundamentally from the federal standard. Thus, the practical effect of the bill would be to create a different system for employees under federal jurisdiction in Quebec as compared with the rest of the country.
Changes like this could have implications for labour legislation throughout Canada. When the member opposite proposes we use federal law to influence labour policy at the provincial level, she is entering into an area of constitutional complexity.
Speaking for the federal government, we have to look at what is in the best interests of the country overall. This means being willing to look at the potential to work co-operatively with the provinces and territories so that new proposals can be broadly explored.
Our successful experience in other areas of social policy, such as the national children's agenda and improvements in programs to support children and families throughout Canada, illustrates what is possible when we keep an open mind.
These examples show the positive value of working co-operatively to improve the lives of Canadians. They also illustrate that the federal government is willing to discuss and implement new ideas that will benefit all Canadians. Indeed, the government is always interested in looking at new ideas that will improve the lives of Canadians.
In the case of pregnant or nursing mothers, perhaps there are some useful lessons to be learned from Quebec's experience in the area of social policy but we need to look at that experience much more carefully before we can vote for the kind of fundamental change proposed in Bill C-340.
While we welcome the member's ideas, we suggest that the bill is premature and needs a great deal more work.