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House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Lobbyists Registration ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Jean Guy Carignan Liberal Québec East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I vote yes to this motion.

Lobbyists Registration ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Independent

Ghislain Lebel Independent Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I vote no to this motion.

Lobbyists Registration ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too vote no to this motion.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Lobbyists Registration ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

The House resumed from February 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Income Tax Act (political financing), be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

February 25th, 2003 / 7:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the amendment to the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-24.

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would find consent in the House that the vote previously taken on Bill C-2 be applied in reverse to the motion now before the House and to the subsequent motion on Bill C-20.

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed in this way?

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

7:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I would ask the chief government whip for some clarification. On Bill C-2 there were two votes. One was on the concurrence motion and one was on an amendment. Perhaps she could tell us which vote it is that applies in this case because I gather there was a difference.

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was the motion for concurrence in Bill C-2.

(The House divided on the amendment to the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Canada Elections ActGoverment Orders

7:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment to the amendment lost.

The House resumed from February 20 consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Criminal CodeGoverment Orders

7:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the amendment to the motion at second reading of Bill C-20.

(The House divided on the amendment, which was negatived on the following division:)

Criminal CodeGoverment Orders

7:30 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the amendment lost.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise again on a question I raised on November 6. It was about a job in Nova Scotia that was advertised in the City of Halifax. I rose to make a point because it happens that the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans lives in Digby county and people who lived in his county could apply for this job in Halifax, but the people who lived in Cumberland county, my county, or in Pictou county, could not apply for this job in Halifax.

I wanted to raise the question because it was a fisheries job. In that case the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was able to have his constituents apply for the job, whereas I could not, nor could the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I rose to make the point about the inequities of the system, whereby some people, even though fully qualified, could not apply for a job just because of the county in which they lived, while others could apply, even though they might have been far less qualified. Since that has happened the rules have been changed. The Public Service Commission has addressed the issue.

However, I want to take advantage tonight of the opportunity to make another point about something that is just as offensive. I went to the computer in the lobby and rattled off five advertisements for federal government jobs. They are in a variety of departments: the Department of Industry, the RCMP, the Library of Canada, and the Department of Public Works. All these jobs are available only to people in the immediate Ottawa-Hull area. One has to have a postal code in eastern Ontario or western Quebec to apply for the job. A person in my province of Nova Scotia cannot apply, nor can people apply if they are from New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, Yukon, Newfoundland and Labrador, or P.E.I. No one can apply to work in these jobs in Ottawa unless they live in the immediate Ottawa-Hull area and have that postal code.

One is a contract for a procurement officer for the Department of Industry. One is for a communications officer for the Department of Industry. Can anybody in my riding apply? No.

Madam Speaker, no one from your riding could apply. No one from any riding, unless they live in the immediate Ottawa-Hull area, can apply for these jobs. It is unfair and wrong.

One is for a shift operator for the Department of Public Works. Again, who can apply? Only those who live in the immediate Ottawa area, eastern Ontario or western Quebec. No one in Nova Scotia, in my entire province, can apply, nor can anyone from British Columbia and so on. One is for a student loans clerk for the Department of Human Resources Development. Imagine: a person cannot apply unless they live in eastern Ontario or western Quebec. One is for the National Library of Canada for a digital imaging specialist. Another is for a junior policy analyst for the RCMP.

How can the government develop policy if it hires only people from Ottawa? How can it hire someone to develop a policy that would apply appropriately to Nova Scotia or to British Columbia if the only applications it will accept are those from the immediate Ottawa area?

For thermal hazard scientists for Natural Resources Canada, who can apply? Only those people in eastern Ontario or western Quebec. For a trade policy analyst for the Department of Agriculture, who can apply? Only those people from the immediate Ottawa area. Not one person from Newfoundland or Nova Scotia or all the other provinces will have an application accepted: only those from Ontario and Quebec.

That is just an example of unfair hiring practices. Jobs in Ottawa should be available to every Canadian who is qualified to apply. They should not be restricted, because Ottawa develops policies for the entire country and if Ottawa only has the view and the experience from the immediate Ottawa area and not from Pictou, not from Advocate, Nova Scotia, not Nanaimo, B.C., or not from Edmonton, then the policies will not be appropriate for the entire country. They will be--

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Niagara Centre Ontario

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Cumberland—Colchester for bringing this issue before the House.

We recognize the hon. member's concerns on this very important issue. The practice of using geographical criteria to determine who can apply for certain positions with the Public Service of Canada has been a subject of discussion among parliamentarians and Canadians for some time now.

Hiring public servants is the responsibility of the Public Service Commission of Canada, which is an independent federal agency responsible for recruiting and appointing qualified candidates to public service positions in accordance with the provisions and principles of the Public Service Employment Act. The act allows for the use of geographic criteria, a practice which has been in use for about 40 years. Although we agree in principle with the concerns that have been raised in the House, there is a rationale for imposing geographic criteria on public service competitions.

First, let us appreciate that the objective of advertising job openings is to generate a sufficient pool of qualified and representative candidates for a given position. Common sense dictates that when the job is a highly specialized one or when the labour market has a low concentration of the sought after skills, the net has to be cast widely to ensure that there will be a sufficient pool of qualified candidates to choose from. That is the approach that the commission has traditionally taken.

Conversely, for junior level positions, it makes much more sense to limit the scope of the search to a smaller geographic area because the labour market is likely to contain a higher concentration of the sought after competencies per capita. I should point out that it is not unusual for the Public Service Commission to receive hundreds or even thousands of applications for open competitions and that it is required by law, via the Public Service Employment Act, to assess every one of those applications within the current recruitment system. This is performed manually. Clearly the government has to find the right balance between equity of access to public service jobs and the wise use of taxpayers' money.

That said, the Public Service Commission has expressed on numerous occasions its desire to move away from geographically based areas of selection to the fullest extent possible. Such a course of action cannot be pursued without assessing all of the implications within a merit based staffing system. We do not want to find ourselves in the position of promising Canadians something that we simply cannot deliver.

Therefore, the Public Service Commission has been taking a measured approach to this issue, phasing in wider areas of selection and evaluating the consequences. One thing it has discovered, not surprisingly, is that broadening the geographic area of selection for a given position increases the volume of applications, adds to the workload of departmental managers, lengthens the selection process and places additional pressures on an already strained staffing system.

The commission is currently studying how best to solve these issues at a reasonable cost. I would like to point out that the Auditor General has commented favourably on the approach that has been taken in this regard. In her report to Parliament last year she concluded that it would be premature to eliminate geographic selection criteria without careful study first. She wrote:

Opening all positions across the country could have a significant impact on the affordability and efficiency of recruitment. It could increase the volume of applications and therefore the time it takes to hire someone. It could increase the costs of the selection process and of moving successful candidates to the job location.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I do not mean to home in on the parliamentary secretary, but just to point out the unfairness of this, I wonder how he answers his constituents in Niagara Centre as to why they cannot apply for these jobs. Are they not qualified? Are they not smart enough? Are they not educated enough? Do they not have the qualifications? Do the people in Niagara Centre not have something to offer the government? Do the people in Niagara Centre not have even some ideas and some abilities and qualities to bring to the government that could help influence the government and draft policies that would be very positive for Niagara Centre?

I do not mean to home in on the parliamentary secretary, but just as an example of how unfair it is, I am sure he has people in his riding who would qualify for these nine jobs, people who are really well and fully qualified. Why should they not have the opportunity to come to Ottawa and bring their experience from Niagara Centre and help influence the government to--

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate again the question from the hon. member. As a matter of fact, the government was very concerned that perhaps the selection process was too restrictive. More than a year ago the Public Service Commission broadened the area of selection for all senior officer level jobs to Canadians residing anywhere. It also launched a series of pilot studies to determine how these changes would affect costs, workload and other aspects of the selection process.

The commission briefed parliamentarians this past November on the result of its projects and on its planned course of action with regard to systematically moving away from geographical based areas of selection. The government is concerned about the process and has undertaken the pilot projects with the hope that it would be able to broaden its selection area from coast to coast to coast.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to pursue a matter that I raised in the House this past November regarding the heroic struggle of Kelly Lesiuk to end the discriminatory provisions of Canada's employment insurance regime toward women and part time workers.

Kelly Lesiuk was a part time nurse who was unable to claim EI benefits because she fell 33 hours short of the qualifying time she needed. Without EI assistance she had to return to work six weeks after undergoing a Caesarean section to make ends meet. She and her family had to deplete their savings and borrow money. She launched a charter challenge to the Employment Insurance Act and actually won. In that case the judge stated:

In my view, the eligibility requirements demean the essential human dignity of women who predominate in the part-time labour force because they must work for longer periods than full-time workers in order to demonstrate their labour force attachment...

Women make up 70% of the part time work force and carry most of the responsibility for raising children. The decision recognized the juggling act of working mothers and indicated that they should not be penalized. Incredibly, instead of immediately introducing changes to EI eligibility requirements to correct the systemic inequalities facing women, the government took Kelly Lesiuk's case back to court on appeal. On January 8 of this year the Federal Court tabled its decision which is now being reviewed by Kelly Lesiuk. Ironically, she has until March 8, International Women's Day, to take further legal action.

Why should women in Canada have to resort to court cases to gain legal access to employment insurance? There is a $43 billion EI surplus that was collected for the direct benefit of unemployed workers. Yet only 38% are eligible to qualify for a program set up by the Liberals.

Many Canadians were shocked and disgusted at the government's determination to keep the lowest paid part time working women from accessing financial support in time of need. It was hoped that the government would finally do the right thing in last week's budget and announce changes to the EI fund to cover women like Kelly Lesiuk. Did they? No. Did it allocate funds for programs to assist workers in improving their job marketability? No again. Is one more unemployed worker eligible for a penny of the $43 billion today? Certainly not. What a message it is to desperate Canadian women caught in the web of unattainable government EI criteria and the urgent demand of supporting their families.

The government is demanding that they juggle with one hand tied behind their backs. That is inexcusable and I again call on the government to remove the barriers it has put in place that discriminate against women and part time workers.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

Shefford Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Madam Speaker, I want to start by telling the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre that the federal Court of Appeal allowed Human Resources Development Canada to apply judicial review in this case, and that the period to apply for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada expires on March 7, 2003. Therefore, it is not appropriate to comment on this, since the period has not yet expired.

I can, however, confirm that the changes made to the employment insurance system have benefited women. The adoption, in 1996, of an hours-based system, in addition to amending the provisions affecting persons returning to the labour market and the recovery process, as well as the extending of maternity or parental leave from six months to one year, have greatly benefited women.

Improved parental and maternity benefits under the employment insurance system have been a huge success and well received by Canadians. These benefits allow workers to remain home for their child's first year, which, as we know, is a time when parents play an essential role.

Since January 2001 parents have had the possibility of staying at home with a little one for a year, and I can tell you that recent figures show that a lot of Canadians are taking advantage of this. We are pleased to see that our efforts to help out working parents are having some success.

I will provide a few figures to back up my statements. Over 200,000 Canadians received maternity or parental benefits in 2001. Applications for parental leave rose from 173,790 in 2000 to 216,010 in 2001, an increase of 24.3%. Applications for maternity benefits also rose 16.1%, from 170,950 in 2000 to 198,420 in 2001.

In 2001, 8,240 more Canadians were able to draw maternity or parental benefits because of the reduction in the required hours from 700 to 600.

The 2001 Monitoring and Assessment Report clearly indicates that 88% of workers would be entitled to EI benefits if they lost their jobs or left them for just cause. For full time female workers, the percentage rises to 96%. Among part time workers, more women—55%—would be eligible than men—40%.

The labour market situation is, therefore, favourable to women. In January 2003, the unemployment rate for adult females was 6.1%. SInce we became the government in 1993, the number of jobs held by women has risen by 1.4 million.

All in all, the employment insurance program helps women when they need help, and we will continue to see that it remains accessible to Canadians in need.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, with all due respect, the parliamentary secretary and the government have missed the point and continue an injustice against Canadian women.

Let us be perfectly clear that Kelly Lesiuk today would not be eligible under EI for legitimate benefits as a part time worker who has established attachment to the labour force. Yes, she might be eligible for special benefits under the sickness, maternity or parental leave provisions. That is not the point. She ought to be entitled to benefits because she has a legitimate right to regular benefits.

The government continues to hide behind court cases to deny women justice. Court cases and the legal wrangling of the government should not be an excuse for not making specific amendments to the act that would meet this concern.

My questions remain. When will the government act to recognize the real circumstances of women in the workforce? Why has the government chosen to postpone justice for Canadian workers? What is the government prepared to do to address this particular situation? Will the government change the eligibility--

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development.

Criminal CodeAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Madam Speaker, let me assure you that the numbers that I mentioned a few moments ago prove one thing, namely that this government has the best interests of workers at heart, particularly women who must balance work and family responsibilities. We will always work toward allowing women access to the job market while taking the family aspect into consideration.

But beyond the numbers, we have here a program that is effective and transparent. Through several programs and various initiatives that were introduced, the government has adopted a human approach that is tailored to the needs expressed by working mothers over the last few years. And we have every intention of continuing down that road.