Mr. Speaker, I am pleased on behalf of our party to have a few words to say on Bill C-340, which proposes an amendment to section 132 of the Canada Labour Code. Section 132 of the Canada Labour Code was an item we dealt with in the House a year or so ago when there was a major revision or updating of the Canada Labour Code. It deals with the right of a pregnant worker or a nursing mother at work to remove herself from a hazardous situation in the workplace.
It is very difficult to understand how anyone could vote against the bill, against motherhood. It is not a votable motion, but to speak against this kind of bill is absolutely mind-boggling.
It allows for a woman in such a position to be transferred to a safer position in the workplace and sets out the terms and conditions under which she might obtain fair compensation if she had to withdraw from a very hazardous situation in the workplace.
Obviously it is only fair and compassionate to err on the side of safety when it comes to the health of an unborn infant or a newborn infant who is still nursing. Radiation or chemical pollutants that may be in doses acceptable to an adult may cause very severe harm to and problems for a child in the womb or a newborn infant still dependent upon the mother's milk.
As a strong supporter of life and family issues, I therefore have no hesitation in supporting section 132 in that it provides a woman with options other than quitting her employment.
However, Bill C-340 takes the issue a step further in that it makes provision for a woman covered in section 132 to apply for provincial benefits instead of the relevant federal benefits. That would obviously be beneficial to the woman in the case where provincial benefits are better for the woman or more generous than those that may be offered through federal legislation under section 132.
Bill C-340 is sponsored by a Quebec member and it is no secret that Quebec has some of the most progressive and generous family benefits in the western world. Being a supporter of these benefits I would agree with a provision that provides a pregnant woman or a nursing mother with the best possible package of benefits if she has to withdraw from a hazardous situation in the workplace.
Proposed subsection 132.1(2) would allow a woman to apply for provincial benefits and also indicates that the relevant provincial agency may refuse the application, in other words, opting for provincial benefits is certainly not automatic but the right to apply would be guaranteed. Proposed subsection 132.1(3) would guarantee that the application must be processed by the provincial authority under normal rules.
Proposed subsection 132.1(4) reaffirms the right of a female worker to avail herself of provincial benefits and remedies if she is approved for them by the relevant provincial authority.
Proposed subsection 132.1(5) allows for the establishment of federal-provincial agreements to regularize the terms and conditions wherein a female worker under federal jurisdiction could opt for provincial benefits. That is standard practice in a federal state. Such agreements allow for the seamless application of rights gained at the federal level but delivered at the provincial level.
Finally, proposed subsection 132.1(6) allows for the exercise of provincial benefits under section 132 without prejudice to any other rights and responsibilities under the Canada Labour Code.
In short, Bill C-340 would allow a female employee to have access to the most generous package available for the protection of her unborn or recently born child. We in the PC Party have no hesitation in supporting the bill.