Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Shefford for this opportunity to speak on this issue to which we are committed and which we are very proud to support. Allow me to acknowledge the skills of the hon. members for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and for Shefford in this area. I congratulate them both on the outstanding job they have done and their insight since the beginning of this 38th Parliament, particularly where this bill is concerned.
Believe me, I am familiar with the provision being sought; as a labour relations advisor, I made representations concerning this provision when it was being developed, and I was later involved in its implementation.
I was very proud and satisfied when those who benefited and their loved ones expressed their appreciation to me. In most cases, I also observed that they had acquired the serenity that women need when pregnant or nursing.
What we are seeking today is to have that part of Quebec's legislation apply in Quebec, to all female workers in Quebec who are subject to the Canada Labour Code, as well as every other provision this government recognizes and applies for the benefit of its own employees, among others.
Obviously, we realize that most of the other provinces have their own legislation respecting occupational health and safety, which this government also applies for the benefit of all workers within its jurisdiction.
It is amazing, in this day and age, that this government—which preaches equity and boasts about being a global model and able to speak with a single voice for all the provinces which have already demonstrated that they have much greater insight and understanding within their jurisdictions and areas of jurisdiction—will never be able or allowed to practice what it preaches.
One need only look at the contempt shown for members of the military, who are discarded like old rags whenever they become unusable due to an accident or to extreme service. The same is true of female employees of this government, whom it excludes from the application of this particular part of most provincial legislation which it applies and which ensures that pregnant employees and their unborn children have a safe pregnancy and nursing conditions, including a decent income.
We certainly would not want to force the provinces that feel they do not need such protection—and this decision should be made by their taxpayers—to use these provisions. However, we must ensure that all female workers who come under the Canada Labour Code enjoy the protection to which a pregnant employee is entitled in those provinces where such protection may exist.
Unlike this government, customs and responsibilities evolve with markets, economies and demographics, and the scenario in which man was the provider has also been evolving rapidly since the sixties. Indeed, women have increasingly become providers too. Instead of merely trying to interfere with provincial jurisdictions and to blindly try to create this model of nation-state—which, obviously, the government has neither the qualifications nor the mandate to achieve—it would be well advised to take into consideration the knowledge gained by its counterparts and to cooperate with them by giving its employees all the protections deemed necessary in each of the programs set up in the various areas.
In this modern day and age, it is necessary to guarantee a safe pregnancy and nursing period to female workers, and to provide them with monetary conditions that will allow them to maintain their quality of life and that of their families, whenever the work being done jeopardizes the health of the mother or of the unborn or nursing child.
It is unfortunate that, despite all the modern and attractive legislation relating to family policy and to health and monetary protection for workers in the Canadian provinces, this federation, which seems unable to operate in an equitable fashion, is still implementing—despite incredible and indecent budget surpluses—pilot programs and other programs that adversely affect its workers.
It is utopian to think that a woman who is supporting her family would leave her job because she is pregnant and it is dangerous to her health and that of her unborn child, when she has to provide for two or three other children in her family and knows that she will have a two-week penalty without this precious salary. In addition, she will only get a taxable 55% of maximum insurable earnings of $39,000 a year, just when she was starting to earn a reasonable wage. These measures are clearly insufficient and barely worthy of a third world country, in addition to failing to provide any job security.
In this modern, civilized world, a pregnant worker is often the person who provides for the family and is certainly contributing to our population. Therefore, when she is pregnant or nursing, she should be entitled to decent conditions that make her feel valued if she has to cease work for precautionary reasons because her health or that of her unborn or already nursing child are endangered, so long as she meets the following conditions.
She must be a worker within the meaning of the act. She must be pregnant, of course, and exposed to working conditions that involve a risk of infectious diseases or physical dangers for her or her unborn child. She must be nursing and exposed to working conditions that are dangerous to her breast-feeding child. She must submit a medical certificate from the attending physician after consulting with the public health branch of the regional health board attesting to the risks or dangers of her work. It must be possible for her to be assigned to other duties that do not involve this danger or these risks.
Contingent on these conditions, the woman will be entitled during the first five working days following her cessation of work to payment of her regular wages by her employer. This is not reimbursed by the CSST.
The employer will also pay for the next 14 working days that would normally have been worked at a rate of 90% of her net wages; for this, the employer will be reimbursed by the CSST.
Thereafter and until the time when the woman is reassigned, has her baby, or stops breast-feeding, the CSST continues to pay her benefits amounting to 90% of her net income.
In these cases, it might be necessary to amend section 19(2) of the employment insurance legislation to free women from the requirement to draw on their employment insurance benefits and thus avoid penalizing them unduly, as was already shown in previous remarks.
At the time of the last available survey in 2002, there were 225,000 Quebeckers in the federal public service working in areas of federal jurisdiction, such as telecommunications, banks, ports, bridges, and air transport. These areas fall under the Canada Labour Code. As a result, Quebec women who are subject to the Canada Labour Code are not entitled to the precautionary cessation of work in Quebec that is covered by the CSST.
For these reasons, I hope to see all members of Parliament support this bill, which is absolutely essential for the progress of our society.