House of Commons Hansard #123 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was yukon.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have another petition to present. The petitioners call upon parliament to enact legislation to modernize the employment insurance program according to the plan proposed by the Canadian Labour Congress. It is from my riding of Acadie--Bathurst.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.


Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, my third petition is from the Toronto area. The petitioners appeal to the House of Commons to take immediate action to urge China to free Lin ShenLi, the husband of Canadian citizen Li Jinyu immediately; to free all Falun Gong practitioners immediately; to stop the mass killing of Falun Gong practitioners; to stop the persecution immediately; and to take immediate action to establish and protect Canada's SOS rescue team to travel to China for an international investigation to help stop the persecution.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Leeds—Grenville Ontario


Joe Jordan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will start my speech today by saying that employment equity ought to be reviewed and it ought to be scrapped. Basically the Employment Equity Act was passed by the Mulroney government in 1986 and then strengthened by the Liberals in 1995.

It now has a process of its own. It has monetary penalties or taxes for non-compliance. It basically mandates preferential hiring in the federal public service and in federally regulated industries of people from four target groups: women, other aboriginals, visible minorities and the disabled.

For my party this happens to violate something we believe in which is equality of opportunity, not the idea of equality of result. Basically the government should hire on the basis of merit. Anything else actually hurts workplace morale. Making merit a secondary requirement reduces the overall excellence of the public service.

A Canadian Alliance government would repeal the Employment Equity Act, preserve programs ensuring equality of opportunity and competition on a level playing field but not the idea of equality of result.

The Employment Equity Act assumes that Canadians are unfair. It makes that assumption right off the bat. From there it goes on to say that people should discriminate in favour of someone which therefore requires that someone else has to be discriminated against. We cannot have discrimination in favour without also having discrimination against.

It is a travesty that this law was brought into effect in 1986. Then to create enforcement goons to police the law, levy taxes and penalize businesses that are regulated by the federal government because they are not meeting some sort of quota or target is draconian. It is one of the more top down things the government does.

The Public Service Employment Act governs all federal hiring. Section 44 of the act's regulations exempt employment equity programs from the merit requirement. Section 44 is kind of like a Catch-22 except it is twice as bad as it exempts the act from any type of merit requirement.

It would be one thing to say that this law is unfair, does not make much sense, is draconian, top down, bureaucratic and elitist, and I could go on, but it is absolutely unnecessary. According to the government's reports, in 1998 and 1999 both women and aboriginals were actually overrepresented in the public service. I will repeat that again because I want it to resonate for people. The act was implemented in 1986 and 12 years later government reports indicate that its target groups, women and aboriginals, were actually overrepresented in the public service.

The idea that we are to continue with an act, with the enforcement people and with taxing businesses that are regulated by the federal government in this regard is ludicrous. It makes no sense whatsoever. It is creating a government department for the purpose of creating jobs and getting revenue out of private sector regulated businesses. It is ridiculous.

Affirmative action is being challenged in many U.S. states. California abandoned it in 1996. I tip my hat to the Mike Harris government in Ontario which scrapped employment equity in December 1995.

The Liberal government across the way has a large chunk of its seats from Ontario. Yet the people of Ontario in 1995 voted overwhelmingly not for Lyn McLeod and her Liberal Party that supported this provision but for Mike Harris who boldly flew a banner of gold colours and said he would repeal the quota system that was set up by Bob Rae. The people of Ontario rejected the quota system.

The 1995 campaign was a referendum on this very issue. The people of Ontario, whom many of the Liberals across the way claim to represent, turfed this law. They got rid of it at the provincial level. The idea that the government would continue to promote a law that, according to surveys and election results its own electorate does not support when it is raised as a fundamental election issue, demonstrates how out of touch the government is on the whole aspect of employment equity.

I will go into specific examples of why the act is crazy and wrong-headed. I have a friend who wanted to become a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This young fellow approached the RCMP and was told frankly there was no point of even applying because he did not fit the quota. He was not one of the target groups and might as well not even bother filling out the form.

Another example is of someone I knew personally who was determined and persistent. He went ahead, filled out the forms and went through the process. He was told that if he got 120 points or better on the examination he would make it to the next step in the process and would continue on the path toward becoming an RCMP officer.

Lo and behold, he wrote the test and got better than 120. He was told that if he got better than 120 that was good enough and he would move on in the process. Disturbingly he found out that was not the case. He was informed that his score was not high enough. He asked why that was since he was told that if he got more than 120 he would pass with flying colours. It was explained that it was a little more difficult than that. The officials did not want to shoot straight with him because they were embarrassed to admit the failure of their testing system and program.

He was persistent however and he followed up. He talked to four or five different individuals in the RCMP who transferred him back and forth on the phone. Finally he got to someone who was a straight shooter. This person told him that because of his demographics he required more than 130 to move on in the process of becoming an RCMP officer.

My friend asked if he had to get more than 130 to continue on in the process, what would someone else have to get to continue to move on in the process? Some of these target groups I mentioned only had to get 80. They could get less than two-thirds of what he got on the test. They were 65% less qualified than he was according to an objective test and they could continue to move on and be part of the process and eventually become RCMP officers.

However he was told that he had no chance of becoming an RCMP officer because of who he was, the way he looked, where he was born and who his parents were. This gentleman would have made a fine RCMP officer. He had good bearing, good judgment and the ability to go into tough situations and be able to perform the functions of an RCMP officer. I have known people who have served in the police force and I believe he would have been a fine choice.

It does not end with the police. The situation with employment equity, affirmative action or whatever the government chooses to call this form of discrimination goes on.

I happen to be involved with the military through the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs. I expect to see a fighting force when I look at what Canadians want and expect of the military. I expect it to be up to measure and up to snuff. Sometimes I expect it to be an elite fighting force as the airborne used to be before it was disbanded.

The Liberals got rid of the airborne citing politically incorrect reasons. Actually it was a funding issue over some of the things it did to the airborne. There was a health and cost issue in terms of the government paying for some of the things it put these soldiers through. Canadians want our armed forces to be the fittest, the strongest, the best they can be. There is nothing wrong with saying that people want the best, that they want the best person qualified for the job.

If I were wounded and hoping someone would come and take me to a position of safety away from enemy fire, I would want that person to be the fittest, the strongest, the best qualified, and the one who measured up on the merit tests to get to do that job. That is whom I would want saving my life.

Unfortunately that is not what happens with this act. It is all about what is politically expedient and what buys votes for the party in power. It is all about elitist notions of what it thinks is best. It is about a top down view of the world rather than a common sense guy on the front line with a bottom-up approach. Employment equity is about applying a bureaucratic, silly, wrong-headed measuring system to the real world.

I looked into the subject after I was elected in 1997. An enforcer, one of these goons or thugs who enforce the law, came around to my office. My office was known as one of the more politically correct ones in this place. The enforcer came to my office and said that she was on the hunt, that she was looking for more cases. Why is that? I cited how in 1998 and 1999 according to the government's own reports the job was done because it had overrepresentation in the public service of its target groups. These enforcers have not had a lot to do for the last few years.

This enforcer came to my office, sat down with me and my staff and asked whether we had any cases where people might have phoned in over the last little while, told us about anything that might be construed or considered in some way that she could open a case file. Can members believe that? She came to my office because the well was empty and she came up dry. Her to-do jar was done. She came to my office expecting that we would help her in finding either federally regulated industries or public service complaints where employment equity, despite the fact that the government had surpassed its own goals, had not gone far enough.

It was ludicrous that I had this individual, whom we were paying with our tax dollars, come to my office and say that she did not have enough work to do. She asked whether I happened to have referrals that I could give her. She requested to know if there was anybody who seemed to have their nose bent out of joint with regard to an employment equity case that had not gone far enough.

While she was there I thought there was no point in arguing with bureaucrats. They were only enforcing the law that the government passed, however wrong-headed it may have been. Nonetheless these people were only doing their job and I understood that. They were getting a salary and trying to figure out how they were going to make their retirement, pay their bills and put food on the table.

The nasty ones were the government members across the way. These members were the ones who issued these evil orders. They were the ones who sent these people out into workplaces saying that they had to find a monster out there. That was what they were being paid to do. We expect bureaucrats to top-down thumbscrew and implement this law. That is what these people across the way do.

This bureaucrat was in my office and I asked her to pretend I was in a federally regulated industry. I pretended to be in the transportation industry and running a private company that received a complaint from somewhere. The government thought I was not living up to the Employment Equity Act and had a misrepresentation by a few percentage points here or there of what it thought my workforce should look like.

It did not care about the qualifications or the merit based arguments. The bureaucrats looked at my workforce, analyzed it and determined that they did not like its make-up. There was 1% or 2% more here or there than what the government thought there should be.

I understand that government is allowed to mess up government as much as it wants, and that is a shame. Nonetheless I asked her what the government would do to me in that case, if I were that private business person. She flat out told me that it would be demanded. I said that it was my company and that I would not live up to the government's demand. I was the one who cut the cheques and paid the bills. She said that a tribunal would be held. I asked what would happen if I did not attend. She replied that it would be held in any event.

Then I asked what would happen with the tribunal. She said that it would go ahead and assess a fine. I asked what would happen if I did not pay that fine. She said appropriate forces would be used to seize my books and accounts to do what was necessary to extract the government's funds.

There are many other things the government could do. I would love to see the government recruiting more soldiers because we desperately need them, getting more magnetic resonance imagers or CAT scanners in Canadian hospitals because we are so far behind the Americans, and doing all sorts of useful and productive things.

Relatively speaking, all this would make intuitive sense even if the government were to expand our highway system and make sure that the $4 billion to $5 billion it took in per year in fuel taxes was going toward making sure we had good highway infrastructure, wider and safer roads, and a more lit Trans-Canada Highway. That is what I expect of government and is what works. That is what I want the government to deliver. If average Canadians were asked they would say so too.

Instead we have this perverse system that was set up in 1986 because a certain prime minister thought he would inoculate himself from attacks and look more like a caring, sharing, politically correct and sensitive kind of guy. Then the Liberals got in and made it even worse. They took it from the absurd to the truly absurd and far out ridiculous. There are bureaucrats marching around with orders to tamper with federally regulated businesses, the military or the RCMP. Their job is done. They have achieved and surpassed their targets.

For the last three years I have had bureaucrats come into my office asking if I could give them referrals for work out there. It is absolutely ridiculous that it has gone to this. The civil service hiring policy, whether it be for the RCMP, the military, Industry Canada or any number of the bureaucracies represented by too many ministers across the way, should be based on some common sense principles, on fiscal responsibility, on merit and on who is best qualified for the job. That is what we stand for.

The Liberals across the way love to come up with and push elitist notions. They hire bureaucrats who go into private sector businesses with their top down solutions. We are not just talking about the civil service. We are also talking about federally regulated businesses. These bureaucrats sit down with someone in a company, probably the human resources person, and they come up with some silly, absolutely whacked out federal government formula of an idea where they may tell the company that it has too many females as secretaries or that it has too many males as window washers. This is an example off the top of my head because I talked about it with the bureaucrat who came to my office.

They then go ahead with their political interference and meddle around in a private corporation, or even in the effectiveness of the bureaucracy of a given crown corporation or some other civil service job, and implement totally undemocratic ideas that the public itself would not support nor vote for in a referendum. It goes to show how out of touch the Liberals actually are. It makes no sense.

I will cap off my debate by reiterating some things for perhaps the people in the gallery or the people listening at home. The Employment Equity Act should be reviewed and, for my Liberal friend across the way, employment equity should be scrapped. In his own riding, I am sure a Tory was elected who thought that was a good idea.

It does not make any sense to ruin workplace morale by hiring people under these types of formulas when, according to the government's own figures, they were overrepresented according to the quotas and targets in the workplace. Why would the government persist with something that pits one person against another in earning a living and putting bread on the table? It does not make any sense whatsoever.

I would ask the Liberal heckler across the way to please review employment equity and see fit to scrap it. I am sure many people in his own riding may at some time like a job or at least the opportunity to apply for a job with the RCMP, the civil service or a federally regulated industry. I do not think they would want to be told that because of who their parents are they cannot have the job. It is not right and deep down the member knows that. I served with him on the citizenship and immigration committee and I think he knows this issue all too well.

I hope the Liberals will review employment equity and scrap it.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

From now on, the hon. members who take the floor will have 20 minutes to deliver their speeches, which will be followed by a 10 minute question and comment period, unless these members indicate to the Chair that they want to split their time.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in this debate on the motion, which reads as follows:

That the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities be designated to review the Employment Equity Act, pursuant to section 44(1) of the said Act.

I would like to begin by stating that I would have liked a sub-committee to have been struck to review this act. The Standing Committee on Human Resources Development already has a lot of issues to address, in particular the entire matter of employment insurance, the committee's unanimous recommendations on this, the matter of social insurance numbers, and all the effects of the economic downturn and the recession, which unfortunately is going to be confirmed within days. There are, therefore, a great many issues with a significant social impact, but the decision was made that the act will be examined in committee. I do believe it is important that this statute be revised.

What we are told, essentially, is that the Employment Equity Act needs reviewing every five years by parliament in order to ensure that it meets the real needs of the population.

The House will recall that this was legislation introduced to help particular groups obtain employment more easily, not to be at the mercy of a system that encourages some to the detriment of others.

Over the years, especially in the 1970s, it became apparent that groups such as women, aboriginals, members of visible minorities and the disabled had much more trouble landing jobs with the federal government, federally regulated employers or federal crown corporations. Parliament therefore passed this legislation, which has been reviewed once. Clearly, some progress has been made.

I think that it is important to recognize that this is the result of a systemic approach. Nobody is suggesting that people are deliberately trying to eliminate these groups. I think that society has evolved in this regard. In fact, the majority of people conducting selection interviews or deciding on selection methods have become very aware of the need for equity for the groups in our society, but there are unfortunate unintended effects which can only be corrected through a systemic approach. That is the purpose of this legislation.

Earlier, I was listening to the Canadian Alliance member's speech. I think that it shows a profound ignorance of the situation facing federally regulated employers. In fact, I think that, but for this kind of legislation in recent years, the gaps would be even wider today.

The challenge is much worse for one group. I am referring to the disabled. We are often told that this is because it costs more to integrate them into society. I take issue with this. The government of Quebec has programs to help the disabled get jobs. These people regularly become productive workers. Their disability often even helps them to become more productive than their non-disabled colleagues.

For example, I knew of a deaf employee of the government of Quebec who worked as a typist. I can guarantee that her skills were second to none.

I do not think it is more costly to integrate these people, but we must have a global approach. If someone with a disability can be integrated into a workplace, it goes without saying that this person will feel better about himself. He will earn an income, be a full fledged member of society and buy goods. In the end, society will benefit. By contrast, if, as in past decades, that person stays home and is not given an opportunity to get a job, he will be more unhappy. That person will often take a lot of medication. This will create all sorts of complicated situations that are not pleasant for that person and for society.

Therefore, the government has a responsibility to ensure that it controls the market in terms of jobs, and that people who belong to the above mentioned classes will get another opportunity.

There are also areas that have greater difficulty integrating people with disabilities. This was and still is the case with the Canadian forces.

All sorts of situations were identified in recent years and would justify, when the act is reviewed, taking the time to see if indeed some measures should be taken to deal with this specific issue and to ensure that five years from now, when the act is reviewed again, a number of flaws will have been corrected.

There is another area where equal opportunities are not yet a reality. I am referring to management positions, where it is much more difficult to get results. In support positions, including in the public service, women are often well represented. However, additional efforts should be made when it comes to management level positions, and I hope that this issue will be taken into consideration when the act is reviewed.

This weak representation by minorities, particularly at the management level, has a negative impact on opportunities for hiring and advancement of members of minority groups. I referred earlier to a systemic effect; if the people responsible for hiring are members of the groups covered by the legislation, it is certain that there will be a positive impact as a result. It will be easier to ensure that the four groups concerned have a say and are selected.

I myself worked for several years in a position where I selected staff. I remember competitions for hiring where the committee composition made a difference. If the majority of the selection committee were women, its approach was different from a mostly male committee. I think that there needs to be an update on this kind of situation. This also holds true for the categories for aboriginal people, visible minorities and the disabled.

The selection committee can set an example, ensuring that all negative comments made by people unaware of the reality of these categories of individuals are eliminated. If someone from a category has attained the status of being responsible for selecting staff, this leads to more opportunities for others to be selected.

This provides an opportunity to ensure that the legislation can be even more effective in future, perhaps more refined in its effectiveness. Obviously the bill was put in place initially to correct major shortfalls, significant ones, very sizable ones, that existed at the time. The statistics made it very clear that there was discrimination even at entry level.

Now, at another level, action must be taken in order to ensure that, where results are significant but still insufficient, additional effort must be focused on attaining the targeted objective. The whole matter of quantifying the results attained, but also that of qualifying them, must be addressed in committee.

It must also not be lost sight of that the budget cuts and resulting hiring slowdown particularly affected minorities. The economic downturn is having the same effect again now. When there is an economic downturn, it is a matter of last hired, first fired, and this often means young people.

As well, there are older workers who cannot necessarily retrain easily for other types of employment. As for the situation that the public sector experienced, obviously the five-year period from 1994 to 1999, when there were severe job cuts, had an impact. Recruitment was cut altogether. This did not allow for increases in the proportions of targeted groups in order to meet the results anticipated by the legislation. This will need to be taken into consideration during the study.

Earlier I mentioned quantitative representation. Obviously this needs to be looked at, but we also need to look deeper, because statistics and figures will not provide us with solutions or allow us to make further progress.

The legislation applies to 400 federally regulated private sector and crown corporation employers. It defines, in fairly clear terms, employers' responsibilities with respect to the implementation of employment equity principles, without imposing major obligations. The same obligations are set out for private and public sector employers in terms of developing employment equity plans and programs.

The legislation also specifies that the implementation of employment equity principles does not require employers to establish quotas or measures that may cause undue hardship or create new positions.

So there is some leeway. During the study, it will be important to see if we need to be more or less stringent on this. It also affects the whole issue of bargaining agents and employee representatives.

The act provides the Canadian Human Rights Commission with the mandate of visiting workplaces to verify if the employer is complying with the requirements set out in the legislation and to force them to do so.

In my opinion, the committee will need to hear from many witnesses on each category of requirements set out in the act, including employee association and union representatives, employer representatives, experts from the sector, human resources consultants and human rights groups involved, to see how they approach the issue and where we are heading.

They say as well, and in my opinion this should be given greater importance, that the act confirms that the administration of the federal contract program as concerns employment equity is the responsibility of the Minister of Labour. The requirements of the contracts program must also comply with the law.

On this side, when we say the more private employers are used, the more flexibility, we should perhaps find a way of getting better results.

In short, there is a statutory requirement for the review of the act. As the government House leader said, the government has had consent from all sides to refer the bill to the standing committee on human resources.

I think that it is appropriate to have the bill referred to a committee, because after five years' of existence since the last review the government can expect a whole range of suggestions for improvements.

I think we will then have a chance of getting expertise from the various groups concerned. When the committee has completed its work, it could report to the House with specific suggestions that, in certain sectors might give the law some teeth to ensure better results in the future.

In other sectors, sections or parts of sections that are not relevant or that have failed to produce the desired effects and are not likely to help improve the situation could be repealed.

The entire labour market has changed considerably in the past five years. There is the whole question of telework, self-employed workers, the advent of the Internet and e-mail. The new work technology will have an impact on the Employment Equity Act, because increasingly work is done at home. People could be integrated where five years ago people did not think of their being integrated. Perhaps ways have to be found to permit this integration. I am thinking here of people with disabilities.

It is obvious that if people no longer have to travel, they can become more interested in working and can do their job more easily, with fewer physical constraints than if they had to travel to the workplace. Is this not something worth looking into? I think so.

Technological advances have an impact on employment equity. Aboriginals face a similar situation. In their case, society has evolved considerably. Efforts have been made to help them attain a higher level of education.

In Quebec, Mr. Chevrette's approach has become widespread and makes very significant recognition of first nations possible. It will be possible to achieve better results in future without necessarily having to uproot people from their communities. We can provide them with additional opportunities to get jobs and become a part of society.

I think that the fundamental purpose of legislation such as this is to enable people to join the workforce, but also to allow the public service, all employers in the federally regulated public and private sectors, to better reflect the society in which we live.

When whole segments of society are wrongly denied access to jobs, frustration is created and we deprive ourselves of a society which is as balanced as possible, which gives everyone an equal opportunity insofar as possible.

Let us hope that when it is studying the various proposals the committee will have all the necessary initiative to propose constructive changes and that somewhere in the years 2005-08 we will have an opportunity to evaluate its work, that we will see some interesting results, and that we will be satisfied with the review of the legislation.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the NDP caucus, I am glad to have this opportunity to speak to Motion No. 20, the purpose of which is to refer the results of the Employment Equity Act to the HRDC standing committee, as per the requirements of the act.

An aspect of the current Employment Equity Act is that every five years of progress will be subject to review, and the House of Commons gets the opportunity to review the progress made in the private and public sectors as per the goals stated in the act.

It was a generous move on behalf of the government House leader to give us the opportunity to speak to this motion today. I understand that normally this legislation would simply have been referred to the standing committee but the House leader of the NDP asked for some time today in debate to add our comments to this important piece of legislation.

The employment equity legislation has its origins in the very worthwhile belief that all Canadians should have equal opportunity for jobs in the federally regulated public and private sectors and in the workforce in general, and that especially the public service workforce should generally reflect the community that it serves in all ways, shapes and forms. This shortcoming of under-representation from what is called the four equity groups in the public sector workforce and the federally regulated private sector has been identified over the years.

It was to its credit that the government in 1986 brought in the first Employment Equity Act designed to achieve equality in the workforce. This legislation ensured that no person would be denied employment opportunities for reasons unrelated to ability. In other words, there should not be any kind of barrier to gain access to the workforce and the 1986 legislation recognized that. As well, the legislation at that time was concerned with correcting historic disadvantages to employment experienced by the four designated groups: women, aboriginal Canadians, members of visible minorities and persons with a disability.

The bill was rather complex. A number of factors had to be taken into consideration to design a methodology by which one could determine if any kinds of remedial measures needed to be taken in certain sectors. The government wrestled with this for a number of years until 1996 when the act was strengthened dramatically for the better. Changes were implemented that added substance to the act and provided a mechanism and a yardstick by which progress could be measured. The act charged the Canadian Human Rights Commission with the responsibility to review, document and monitor progress made in the sectors affected by the Employment Equity Act.

The whole concept of employment equity has been controversial. Let us not shy away from the fact that not everyone is wholly in favour of these measures. Not everyone, even in 1986, accepted that such measures were necessary or would be to anyone's benefit or advantage. Some of those viewpoints were put forward by the member for Calgary West. We also heard these arguments from a number of sectors but a diminishing number. Most people have come to grips with what we view as the realization that equity issues benefit all, if not now, then in the long run.

A series of myths has been generated by the move to achieve equity in our employment workplaces.

First, I suppose the most common myth we have had foisted on us, and we have heard it again today, is that employment equity is somehow a form of reverse discrimination. I define discrimination as treating one group unfairly. For example, if men and women were equally distributed in all jobs and salary levels of an organization, then it would be wrong to selectively advertise, for instance, for only women candidates, or for only aboriginal candidates or for only persons with disabilities. That is if we had already achieved true representative equity in the workplace. Then I could accept the argument.

We must remember that the measures found in the Employment Equity Act are there to remedy historic imbalances in the level of representation. The Employment Equity Act seeks to right old wrongs. There will be a period of transition until we achieve true equity in the workplace and, until such time, we believe special measures can be defended.

Employment equity levels the playing field for all workers. I would think that a grassroots party would be able to see the sense in leveling the playing field so that all workers would have an advantage. Some people are worried that their own children will perhaps have a difficult time trying to compete with a greater pool of people seeking employment. This is a difficult issue and I am sensitive to it, especially in times of job shortages when there are not a great deal of good unionized jobs available to go around.

I ask those people, who say that their 18 year old son applied for a certain job and believe that he did not get that job because there were employment equity measures undertaken, to think of our daughters as well as our sons. I would ask those people, who would criticize that particular situation, to think if their child had a disability and were applying for that job. For the last many years, it would have been the child with the disability who would have been passed over and not the inverse for what I say is an interim period of transition until we do achieve equity in the workplace.

Let us think of the aboriginal families, who for years and generations have had their children passed over for employment opportunities. In 1986 the House of Commons said that it was time to remedy these historic imbalances and injustices in our hiring practices, in our own public service, in any federally regulated service and, hopefully by way of example, in the Canadian workforce generally.

I should recognize that there are voluntary measures in some workplaces that are being undertaken today where there is no employment equity act lording anything over them. They have taken these steps because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Of the myths that I have noticed throughout the community of those who would criticize employment equity measures, the second myth I have made note of is that employment equity means hiring unqualified workers. That simply cannot be borne out by any empirical evidence that this is any kind of a serious issue. As an agency doing hiring, we all want to ensure that we are hiring the best person for the job. I would put this to the critics of this point of view. How would we know if we have the best person for the job, if we used to pass over women, or aboriginal people, or visible minorities or persons with disabilities because we did not want them in the workplace? It is easy to say that if we are passing over all of those groups of people, we may in fact be passing over the best applicant for the job. These measures would simply ensure that the entire pool is tested when looking for the qualified applicant for these positions.

Another myth is that employment equity measures cause overnight change in the makeup of the workforce and therefore a disruption in the way that we view things. Employment equity has been a long negotiated process of gradual change. It is the only way it can really be outlined. At least in the Canadian experience, it has not been intrusive or radical. The transition has been a long and gradual process of change in the workforce.

The fourth myth I have identified is the idea to somehow make Sudbury's workforce look like Toronto's workforce. In other words, there would be an attempt to harmonize the workforce all across the country in a federally regulated workplace. That is simply untrue. These things are viewed regionally. To use the example of Sudbury versus Toronto, Sudbury has a much higher aboriginal workforce and the methodology adopted in 1996 does take into consideration the availability levels in each category of the equity groups.

If the availability pool of aboriginal people in Sudbury were 15% and in Toronto only 2%, it would be ridiculous to harmonize those under any standardized national program. I want to put people's minds at ease that this is not some kind of a social engineering scheme that employment equity seeks to achieve. I do not believe those complaints have any merit.

Another myth we hear is that employment equity is somehow only for racial minorities, that it is an effort to change the colour of the workplace with the inclusion of visible minorities. Employment equity, as every speaker has reiterated, is for women, aboriginal people, racial minorities and persons with disabilities. The people who would most directly benefit from the employment equity measures in place today would probably be women, since half the workforce is women.

However, even as we make progress in some sectors, we must remember that we have not even met our targets of availability versus people who are actually hired in the category of women as an equity group. There is a huge shortfall and an underrepresentation of women in senior management positions. The glass ceiling is still a very real issue. Women are still being passed over for advancement and promotion to senior management. The myth that employment equity is all about racial minorities is simply not borne out in fact.

The last commonly held myth, and one I am actually happy to report on, is that employment equity was killed by Mike Harris in 1995 when he took power and repealed the employment equity laws in Ontario. I am happy to report that the federal government's current employment equity legislation, which has jurisdiction over all federally employed and federally regulated employees of the federal civil service, et cetera, and even in the private sector, many of whom live in Ontario, also affects those who seek federal government contracts of over $200,000 worth of business annually.

A lot of Ontario firms find themselves subject to the Employment Equity Act provisions if they seek to do business with the federal government. I am pleased to say that employment equity is not dead in the province of Ontario, in spite of the best efforts of the current premier, Mike Harris.

I am glad I was able to point out some of the myths versus facts regarding employment equity.

I now want to deal with some of the findings of the Canadian Human Rights Commission which, as I say, has been charged with the responsibility of monitoring employment equity provisions and using a yardstick to measure the progress.

I only learned today that Madam Michelle Falardeau-Ramsay, the head of the Canadian Human Rights Commission for the last five years, has announced that she will not be seeking another term. I am very sorry to hear this. She was the steward of this organization through some very challenging times. She did a marvellous job in fulfilling her mandate with fewer and fewer resources and more and more challenges coming before her. We all regret the idea that she will not be with us for the next five year term.

When the government enacted Canada's first Employment Equity Act in 1986, it required federally regulated private sector employers and crown corporations to develop plans to achieve fair representation of designated groups in their workplaces. Women, aboriginal people, people with disabilities and members of visible minority groups were to be represented according to their availability in the labour market. However the problem with this is that the law had no enforcement mechanism.

Stronger legislation in the form of the new Employment Equity Act came into force in October 1996. The bill we are now dealing with today is the first fifth anniversary review, which is an aspect of the 1996 legislation. The act set forth the same core obligations for developing employment equity programs but it bolstered these obligations with a compliance monitoring process.

Employers were required by 12 statutory provisions to analyze their workforces, to review their employment systems, to identify barriers and to implement corrective action plans to ensure they made reasonable progress in dealing with underrepresentation.

Furthermore, the new act established the Canadian Human Rights Commission as the monitoring agency that would carry out compliance audits for the federally regulated public and private sector employers. Employers were given a year to prepare for the upcoming audits and the commission's compliance work began in October 1997.

I think it would be helpful to review some of the progress in those early first few years if we are to understand the scope and magnitude of the challenge faced by the people who were charged with the responsibility to enforce the act. It is useful for us as members of the House of Commons to be aware of this.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission carries out employment equity audits of federal departments, agencies and federally regulated employers and the Employment Equity Act mandates the commission to perform these audits and to report to parliament on the results every year. Working co-operatively with employers is the key, it points out, and enforcement is a last resort.

When the commission made its first report on its work during 1998, the first full year of employment equity audits, two employers in the country were found to be in full compliance, two out of all the audits undertaken. They were the Status of Women Canada, which is possibly fitting to be one of those, and A.J. Bus Lines. I will mention the names of those companies that do come into full compliance because I think they should be acknowledged for the special measures they have taken to come into full compliance.

After two years of experience, from a total of 111 initial audits completed, four employers were found to be in full compliance. If there were ever any proof needed as to why this employment equity bill was necessary, these figures would certainly make the argument for us. Out of 111 employers, 103 signed undertakings to submit to follow up audits. In other words, they were willing to work with the commission to put in place an action plan and then be reviewed again later. The remaining four audits were postponed or cancelled. Four would not take part in the second step. As a result of the follow up audits in 1999, eight more employers were found to be in compliance.

Let me revisit those numbers. Out of 111 agencies and companies visited, four were found to be in compliance. When remedial work was done and a second audit was conducted on the remaining agencies and companies, eight more were brought into compliance for a total of 12 out of 111. That is not really anything to be proud of.

I point out that these compliance audits are not all that onerous. We are not talking about changing 50% of the work force. We are doing it in a very systematic, logical and scientific way. An analysis of the availability of people in the four equity groups is done and then compared to the number of people actually represented in the workforce as per recent hiring. Employers were not being asked to eliminate some people and replace them with others. They were not being asked to hire only from certain equity groups. Employers were simply being asked to increase representation, which they failed to do.

I am looking forward to the results at the committee, the fresh numbers coming forward. I am optimistic that we will not find numbers like this, that out of 111 agencies, only 12 were brought into compliance through the Employment Equity Act provisions.

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4:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the public service commission's hiring practices and particularly the Employment Equity Act which comes before the House for debate from time to time, hopefully with improvement.

By the tone of the speeches by the members, it is quite obvious that we do have some problems with the act but I do not think they are insurmountable. I think a number of things can be improved and it is important for all members, or at least all parties, to have an opportunity to put their presentations forward. That is refreshing. We have not had that opportunity on this legislation for a long time. I think the review is very much warranted

As a point of interest, I have a letter from the Public Service Commission of Canada dated November 29, 2001, It went to most members and most senators basically outlining what the commission does and informing us that there would be a briefing session for members of parliament on December 7 at the Centre Block. I am hoping most members will attend because I think most of us do have some serious concerns.

The letter states:

The PSC [Public Service Commission] is an independent agency reporting to Parliament which ensures that staffing and recruitment for the federal Public Service are made in accordance with the provisions and principles of the Public Service Employment Act.

It goes on in the next paragraph to state:

The Act supports the current use of geographic criteria--

That is one area I want to specifically address tonight, the geographic criteria.

It goes on to state:

—to determine the eligibility for Public Service jobs, also known as area of selection. The practice has been used for almost 40 years as a method of managing the volume of applications, reducing recruitment time lines, and upholding the public trust in the wise use of taxpayers' money.

Most of us have problems with that specific part of the act, the geographic criteria. We simply feel it is unfair. It is unfair for a number of reasons. When we were first elected in November 1988, and we are still here, we heard about western alienation and eastern alienation. We heard it then and we are still hearing it today. Obviously this is the position being put forward by some of our colleagues from Quebec with regard to recruitment and hiring practices.

Last year the member of parliament for Cumberland--Colchester, who is normally my seatmate and has been for a number of years in the House, put forward some questions to the government regarding geographically based criteria for hiring. I think he made a pretty good point in the House on a number of occasions. The one I think he gained the most attention on was the case with the Governor General herself. The member's press release headline, in two inch print, stated “Do not apply. Most Canadians shut out of competition in Governor General's office”. I have the documentation to back this up. It is not just a member ranting for the sake of getting publicity. I do have the specific job description here that was sent out by the public service through the Governor General's office.

The member's press release stated, “The Governor General has a job opening for a program and policy officer, salary range $48,800 to $50,600, but most Canadians who may be qualified for this job will never be given an opportunity to apply for it because the competition is restricted to those who live in certain postal codes in eastern Ontario and western Canada”.

I can remember when the member brought this forward and I could not believe what I was hearing. However he was absolutely correct. It meant the citizens of the areas that most members of parliament represent could not apply for the job in the Governor General's office. Under that set of criteria, the Governor General herself should not be residing at Rideau House because she would not qualify.

When the member wrote to the Governor General asking her to respond, there basically was no response except that this was how it was done and it would continue to be done that way.

It does not end there. I have a list which I have indexed. That was just one example. Here is another one.

This is for 50 permanent positions of senior financial managers-officers at the FI-3 or FI-4 levels. They would be positioned in the Ottawa-Hull area. These positions cover four financial profiles: systems, policy planning and reporting and accounting operations. These are well paid jobs that pay anywhere between $61,000 up to $70,000.

Who can apply? This was on the government's web page. It is not something that we just pulled out of thin air. This was advertised by the Government of Canada. Only people residing within 500 kilometres of Ottawa can apply. Why? It does not make any sense.

Here is another example. Industry Canada also has an opening for a correspondence officer but only those people living in Ottawa or Quebec can apply. So people from my province cannot apply. People from B.C., Manitoba and Alberta cannot apply. Why? It is not right.

Here is another one. The Department of Justice is looking for a senior business analyst. Who can apply? This time they have gone outside of Ottawa and included eastern Ontario and western Quebec, so there is a little change. One has to live in an area with a postal code starting with K1 to K7, K8A to K8H, K0A to K0J, J8L to J8Z, J9A to J9J or J0X. That is pretty specific.

Could we reasonably assume that we would get the best people for those jobs by restricting them to a small geographical area? My guess would be that we would not. It just so happens that these ridings are dominated by the Liberal Party. I would not want to say that this is politics at play, but what else could it be?

I will go on. The Department of Justice advertised for the same types of senior positions, restricted to eastern Ontario or western Quebec. In all fairness this one was dated March 13, but nothing has changed. We brought this to the floor of the House of Commons before but nothing has changed. It is still being advertised in the same way.

Here is one that really incenses the people of eastern Canada. The department of fisheries is advertising in this case for service delivery assistance, working in Ottawa. Obviously that is one of the problems we have in the department of fisheries today. It is a huge bureaucracy located about three blocks from parliament. Probably none of them have set foot in salt water either on the east coast or the west coast. In this case the applicants have to live in eastern Ontario or western Quebec, the Ottawa region and the list goes on and on.

The member for Cumberland--Colchester wrote to the various premiers of the provinces. I have with me responses from every one of those premiers. Every single premier, whether it was Manitoba's, B.C.'s or Quebec's all responded. They all wrote the minister. Some of them wrote the Prime Minister and expressed concern about the issue of geographical criteria and why in their opinion it was wrong.

I will quote a letter written by the premier of Nova Scotia, John Hamm., to the Prime Minister. In his letter, dated April 23, the premier stated:

I fail to see any justification for the restriction of applications for positions in the National Capital Region which have a national impact. If Ottawa is truly to be the nation's capital, Federal public servants must truly reflect the nation.

No one would disagree with that. Premier Hamm went on to say:

They should not just represent the concerns and views of that part of the nation within a perimeter of 500 kilometres radius around Ottawa-Hull.

I think every member of the House would agree with that, but why is it being done?

The premier goes on to quote chapter 7 of the labour mobility agreement. He said:

This was clearly the intent of Chapter 7, Labour Mobility, of the Agreement on Internal Trade. Article 701 of the Agreement states:

“The purpose of this chapter is to enable any worker qualified for an occupation in the territory of a Party to be granted access to employment opportunities in that occupation in the territory of any other Party”.

The Government of Canada is a Party to the Agreement. Chapter 7 sets out legitimate objectives which may restrict its application: none apply in the case of the vast majority of applications for Federal employment.

Therefore, we brought this case to the minister responsible, the President of the Treasury Board. We brought this to the floor before. This is what the premier of Nova Scotia said:

The Honourable Lucienne Robillard, President of the Treasury Board, in her replies--

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4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member. Please use the minister's title and not her name.

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4:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, I was quoting from a letter but what you are telling me is fair. I apologize for that.

The premier goes on to say in his letter to the Prime Minister:

The...President of the Treasury Board, in her replies to questions in the House of Commons by (the member for Cumberland--Colchester) on 15 February and 22 March of this year, indicated that discrimination on the basis of residence is permitted by the Public Service Employment Act.

May I point out again that article 706 of the agreement on internal trade specifically forbids any party to require a worker of any other party to be resident in its territory as a condition of access to employment opportunities.

Furthermore, on February 4, 1999 the first ministers of the provinces and territories, with the exception of the premier of Quebec, agreed that:

Governments are...committed to ensure, by July 1, 2001, full compliance with the mobility provisions of the Agreement on Internal Trade by all entities subject to those provisions, including the requirements for mutual recognition of occupational qualifications and for eliminating residency requirements for access to employment opportunities.

It could not be clearer than that. The premier went on to say:

All governments believe that the freedom of movement of Canadians to pursue opportunities anywhere in Canada is an essential element of Canadian citizenship.

He goes on in detail to quote from the Constitution Act of 1982.

Why do these practices continue? One member suggested it was political opportunity on the part of the government. There is some merit to that argument. Maybe we should debate the politics of hiring in the federal public service.

It would be surprising what we would find out if we were a mouse in the corner, an expression sometimes used in Atlantic Canada and perhaps also used in western Canada. Could members see federal public servants attempting to support policies in a public forum? They could not support them because they are wrong.

Why do we not hear about discontent and unease within the public service about these hiring practices? Because they are scared of the government. They do not want to rat on their own government because some are there at the pleasure of the government. Some are appointed by what is called an order in council. That simply means that the Prime Minister suggests a name to cabinet, which agrees with the name, and the name is given to the Governor General. Suddenly some man or woman has a job. Sometimes there are these very highly paid civil servants, like the deputy minister status, but purely at the whim of the government.

There is a lot of unease in the public service with regard to hiring practices. Why people do not rat on the government is simply because they have no protection. That is why I introduced my private member's bill, Bill C-351, about six months ago in the House. Bill C-351 is an act to assist in the prevention of wrongdoing in the public service by establishing a framework for education on ethical practices in the workplace, for dealing with allegations of wrongdoing and for protecting whistleblowers.

The NDP member for Winnipeg Centre and I, in a non-partisan way, held a press conference along with Senator Kinsella of New Brunswick, a great senator and a great advocate for the underprivileged in the country.

We had a joint press conference to outline the merits of the bill. The reason I brought the senator into the equation was simply that he introduced a bill simultaneously in the Senate when I did in the House of Commons. The story gets complicated, does it not? We brought in the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre, and I always want to say south centre but I think that is the other side.

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4:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Winnipeg Left.

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4:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

As one of the members jokingly said, Winnipeg Left. I do not think there is anything wrong with the member from Winnipeg Left. Particularly on the issue of whistleblowing he was dead on.

This is where parliamentarians of all stripes can actually achieve something in this place. He graciously said that if I got my bill read first he would drop his bill because it basically did the same as mine, so we held the press conference.

The truth is that public servants have to be given the opportunity to speak out on some of these discriminatory practices within the public service. Bills like Bill C-351 could help them do that.

I am looking forward to questions and comments from my colleagues to zero in on some of the areas which we obviously have not had an opportunity to talk about in the last 20 minutes.

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4:25 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too am sorry that the 20 minutes flew by so rapidly when the hon. member was just building up a good head of steam.

I did note with interest that he dedicated part of his speech to the very compelling issue of the regional hiring practices of the public civil service. I would like to add one to his list of which he might not be aware. Perhaps he would like to comment on it. In 1998 a woman wrote to the leader of the NDP, the member for Halifax, with a complaint about her daughter's application for a job at the NRC, the National Research Council. She was a trained scientist, an aeronautical engineer with a second degree in astrophysics. She was an immensely qualified woman but she lived in the province of New Brunswick. This job posting did not say that applicants must reside within a 500 kilometre radius of Ottawa. It said candidates must reside within a 50 kilometre radius of Ottawa, which is very tiny little net cast for such a qualified job. I think she was probably overqualified for the job. I would like the hon. member to add that to his list, the general grievance of this hiring practice.

Seeing that the subject today is employment equity and the Employment Equity Act, I appreciate the hon. member broadening the debate to include something that is clearly not being conducted with deference to any kind of effort at equitable access to employment opportunities for kids from Winnipeg, Halifax, Vancouver or anywhere else. Could the hon. member share his views on that particular incident?

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4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, the point that the member makes is an interesting one, because we have gone from 500 kilometres around the city of Ottawa for hiring purposes and are now down to 50 kilometres. Next week it will be within 50 feet of Sussex Drive. Member should think about it. How do they come up with this equation? It is purely discriminatory. It upsets a lot of Canadians, to be very serious about it, because it just says that the government knows where it will hire these people from so others need not apply.

The excuse of the burden of working through the applications is not valid. The public service sort of refers to some of the reasons why it cannot extend this beyond the 50 kilometres or 500 kilometres, which is total nonsense. I think all Canadians should be able to apply for those positions for which they are qualified. The member makes a very good point.

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4:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my coalition colleague for his speech because he gave a reasoned debate. Throughout his speech he gave several examples of problems with the current system and he offered suggestions for improvement.

One part of those suggestions, which he did not get much chance to talk about and on which I ask him to enlighten us further, was the private member's bill he is bringing forward. Could he tell us how Bill C-351 could remedy some of the situations he outlined in his speech?

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December 3rd, 2001 / 4:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, it is always nice to have a friend in the House to ask a good question, is it not? That is obviously why the Prime Minister enjoys question period.

Bill C-351 is the private member's bill that I introduced about six months ago in this place. Its short title is the public service whistleblowing act. Its purpose is basically to protect people who have questions or concerns about practices going on within the doors of the public service that they are not happy with or that they are concerned about.

It includes three points. These are somewhat technical, but I will read them into the record. The purpose of the act is:

(a) to educate persons working in the Public Service workplace on ethical practices in the workplace and to promote the observance of these practices;

(b) to protect the public interest by providing a means for employees of the Public Service to make allegations of wrongful acts or omissions in the workplace...;

(c) to protect employees of the Public Service from retaliation for having made or for proposing to make, in good faith and on the basis of reasonable belief, allegations of wrongdoing in the workplace.

This in and of itself would certainly not solve all the problems with the hiring practices within the public service, but I think it would go a long way. I think some intellectual honesty would come out on some of these practices the public service is presently engaged in which we feel are very discriminatory.

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4:30 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, on this issue I think it is perhaps important that certain things that have been said be pointed out and not just left to stand. There is a certain propensity by members to not really say what they mean.

I was interested in the speech by the member for Calgary West. I wonder, actually, if his colleague from Edmonton--Strathcona would agree. He might be just a little bit uncomfortable, twitching a little bit, sitting and listening to that member, the same member, by the way, who called Nelson Mandela a terrorist and wore a “Free Tibet” T-shirt to a reception hosted by the Chinese embassy, a questionable judgment.

On this issue what I heard was bashing of bureaucrats. It is easy to do. Someone can stand up and say that we should not be interfering in the workplace, that there is no place for government to set regulations, that we should not be telling people how they do their hiring and then all these bureaucrats come in. That is the description I heard from that member.

That is really code language for members saying that they do not believe this or any government should try to level the playing field for people who are perhaps disadvantaged traditionally in the workplace, people who are from visible minorities, handicapped, aboriginals or, frankly, women. That is the code that is used by saying that it is the bureaucrats' fault. People sit out there saying “Yes, those darned bureaucrats. They should just leave us alone”.

I think it is important to point out that there is this kind of doublespeak from time to time from certain members opposite. Given my history in this place of being somewhat harsh on certain members opposite, I admit that there are members who are equally uncomfortable with the kind of viewpoint or thought process that says “let the strong survive”. That is what it is: let the strong survive. In reality there is real justification and a legitimate role for a thoughtful and compassionate government to play in trying to establish certain standards, in trying to encourage people to do certain things that perhaps heretofore they had not done. I think that is totally realistic.

Members should think about some of the successful programs in recent days or years that if it were not for leadership shown by some level of government we would not have. When seatbelts became mandatory people used to say “Oh, it's terrible. You're forcing us to do something. Leave us alone and let us make our own choices”.

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4:30 p.m.

An hon. member

They're still saying that.

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4:30 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Some do. Some neanderthals might still think along those lines, but the fact is, that law has saved lives. There is absolutely indisputable evidence that in fact it has saved lives.

We should think about the work on drinking and driving that is done within communities by local police forces and governments. My three sons are in their late twenties; tomorrow the oldest turns 31 and I would like to wish him a happy birthday. They would no more drink and drive than fly to the moon. It is just not acceptable. It was government that led the program to educate and convince our young people and indeed all community minded people that they should not drink and drive, that they should act responsibly. Even the LCBO and Brewers Retail in Ontario have bought into that philosophy, buying ads and taking time to convince people of that.

Think about government anti-smoking initiatives. It impacts on our health budget and it is the government that is doing good. Think about Participaction, a wonderful success story in the country, getting people up off the couch. Again it impacts on the quality and availability of our health care programs and it saves money.

Traditionally if one were a laissez-faire type of politician or had that kind of attitude, one would say “I am not going to bother with that. If people want to get up off the couch and exercise, that is their choice; we have no responsibility to encourage it”. Yet those kinds of programs have actual results. They could be financial results or health care related, safety related or community related results. It makes perfect sense. It is the responsibility of a forward thinking, modern government to show leadership in these areas. The same thing is true with employment equity.

Pay equity is another example. Some members opposite would say that there is no way a government should be involved in ensuring that women receive equal pay for work of equal value to men, to let the marketplace determine that, that we have no business in that. I recognize that a constituency out there actually supports that view but when the member opposite says that we are not in touch, exactly the opposite is the case. That member has no clue that the vast majority of people believe in and support these kinds of programs and government initiatives.

Employment equity is the same thing. Let me share some examples. First, this legislation exempts small businesses of under 100 employees. We are talking about federal government regulated industries of 100 employees or more. From all of our research, the facts show that many companies in other areas, provincially regulated or strictly in the private sector, of under 100 employees actually voluntarily employ an employment equity program. As with the other examples that I have shared of Participaction, seatbelts, or drinking and driving, the employment equity concept has created an awareness within the business sector that this is a good thing. There would be people who, without this kind of leadership from the government, would never have had an opportunity to work at a paid job. I want to share some of those examples.

There is a wonderful organization in most of our communities, certainly in mine, called Community Living. Community Living Mississauga deals with young people with severe handicaps, who are perhaps developmentally challenged or whatever their particular problem may be. It is a very successful community organization.

We just launched with it a new fundraising effort called Mississauga On Board which is a board game. We are not allowed to say it is like Monopoly because Monopoly has a monopoly on the Monopoly game but that is what it is. The cost is $40. Every community could have these. There could be Calgary On Board, Vancouver On Board. It is used to raise money. Local businesses buy spots on the game board as a way of promoting their businesses or interests. That is one of the ideas that Community Living is working with.

How does all of this relate to employment equity? Let me share some of the companies that work with Community Living on an employment program which ensures that the young people who otherwise would never dream or have a hope of getting a paid job become very productive members of the community and work for those companies. A partial list of these companies includes: Loblaws, Tim Hortons, HMV, and the city of Mississauga.

Municipalities have led the way right across the country in areas of employment equity. They recognize that there are people in their communities who should not be excluded and should be given every opportunity to show their capabilities regardless of their colour, origin or gender.

My city has done tremendous yeoman leadership in this area as have many municipalities in Ontario and across the country. Allseating, Swiss Chalet and Harvey's are other companies. I will share a story of one of the young people that has been hired. Another company is Blockbuster Video.

These local community based companies deal directly with the public. They hire young people from Community Living and give them an opportunity to develop pride, a sense of their own worth and make a contribution. There are wonderful testimonials. I maintain that much of this would not occur were it not for governments of all stripes in every area of the country being champions of issues like employment equity. That is why it is so disconcerting to hear people trash the concept, whether it is through the back door, as I said, by beating up on bureaucrats, or whether it is through being blunt, up front and at least being honest about their feelings.

Longos, a very successful grocery chain in our community, Aramark, Atlas Air Conditioning, Courtesy Clerk, and the list goes on, are just some of the companies that have entered into this kind of a program.

I will share an article with the House. I would suggest that this is a direct result of employment equity mentality:

Blockbuster Video has created a very supportive environment for people who have an intellectual disability. The Employment Resource Centre has been working with them for many years through paid employment and volunteer opportunities through the Summer Work Experience Program. Blockbuster Video has proven, over the years, to be an equal opportunity employer.

That is what we are talking about here, creating equal opportunities, a level playing field. It is giving people who otherwise would not have that assistance a chance to have a job and a meaningful opportunity to work. The article also states:

Jenny Morris has been working at Blockbuster Video since March 2001. At Blockbuster she has a variety of jobs that she is responsible for, including customer service, returning videos to the shelves, changing any video box inserts, and helping set up when the new releases come in.

In September this young lady, hired by Blockbuster through the program with Community Living, was named employee of the month by the company, a very honourable award. Everyone at the employment resource centre, her friends and her family are very proud of her.

Did this happen solely because someone dictated it? No, it did not at all. In fact, in the case we are talking about, Blockbuster is exempt. It would not be required to file the requisite reports on employment equity and to follow through. Blockbuster is not impacted by this, but it sees the leadership. It sees the opportunity. We can see it every day.

There are some interesting examples of people who have been successful in their careers. It was not too many years ago when I would suggest that it was quite astounding for a woman to become a CEO of a major corporation. People were quite surprised. Yet think about some of the success stories: Maureen Kempston Darkes at General Motors; Bobbie Gaunt at Ford; and the one I am particularly keen about as members of my family work for this corporation is Annette Verschuren, the CEO of Home Depot. They are great examples of women who have succeeded in climbing the corporate ladder.

Do we think it was easy for them to become CEOs in charge of such massive corporations? Do we not think that there were certain prejudices and difficulties along the way? Maybe they had to be subjected to a test or a bar that was a little higher than their counterparts who happened to be males and perhaps white males. Although they are not the types to do this, they could probably tell us stories to prove the point that this situation, this attitudinal shift which has taken place in the business community is as a result of debates and discussions like this one, where people talked about whether or not we need to actually legislate this kind of thing.

My House leader wants to move on in the debate so I am going to wrap this up. It is vitally important that we recognize this. It is a given that some members being in opposition have an obligation to oppose the government. That is fine; I have no difficulty with that. I have been in opposition myself in the past.

Those members should pause and take a deep breath. They should recognize that the purpose of employment equity legislation is to ensure that certain categories of people within our communities are given every opportunity to participate, to grow, to build careers, to have job opportunities, to have some dignity and a chance for a great life experience. It is important and I wish members opposite would agree.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant McNally Canadian Alliance Dewdney—Alouette, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Mississauga West said that his House leader wants to wrap things up and move on to something else, but I was enjoying his comments. He talked about the different individuals within his own riding who had benefited from some companies that had initiated employment equity programs on their own. As he indicated, they were not imposed; they were a result of the Community Living organization and other groups in his riding.

I wonder if the member could expand upon these good notions and things happening within his own riding.

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4:50 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question because I do have another example from the same organization.

A young woman named Kim came to the employment resource centre requesting assistance to find a job. Community Living worked with her and Swiss Chalet and Harvey's, and found a job. This is a young person with a handicap who did not have an opportunity for a job before. Kim's manager said that she is the best, that they would be lost without her, that she is definitely an integral part of the kitchen's functioning. This is a wonderful success story.

The link I am trying to make is that it is the philosophical direction given not just by this government but by other governments and corporations to recognize the need to give people like Kim and many others an opportunity to work and to level the playing field. That is exactly what it is all about.

Employment Equity ActGovernment Orders

4:50 p.m.


Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in the comments by the member across the way with regard to employment equity from some private corporations such as Blockbuster. I actually have an example with Blockbuster which did not work out quite as well in my own community.

A young woman in her early twenties with a mental disability was volunteering with Blockbuster. The volunteer activity had to stop because the corporation was concerned with liability.

I am very interested in the program the member talked about with Blockbuster. It is the same company but there seems to be a great deal of leeway in terms of individual management as to whether or not the company is going to work with persons with disabilities, give them salaries, allow them to work on a volunteer basis, or simply say the company is not going to take any responsibility whatsoever for people in the community who have intellectual disabilities.

Perhaps the member could comment on that real difficulty which my constituents are experiencing in their community.