Mr. Chair, first, I would like to salute my colleague, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, and the hon. members who are here this evening for this debate.
I am also pleased to inform the House of our latest achievements through my department's work program. I want to tell the House about Canada's workplaces, their importance, and the measures that our government is taking to ensure that they remain competitive and continue to meet the needs of workers and employers.
Canada's wealth is generated in the workplace, whether it is in an office or in a plant. The workplace is also where most of us spend the better part of our lives. This is why creating ideal conditions in workplaces has major repercussions on our economy, our lives and our society.
As Minister of Labour, workplaces remain my main objective, and my responsibilities involve labour-management relations and also working conditions in businesses that are under federal jurisdiction.
My responsibilities are as follows: first, mediation and conciliation relating to collective agreements and industry disputes; second, implementing a regulation and enforcement program to support the primary provisions of the Canada Labour Code, especially with respect to health and safety; third, monitoring and providing advice about new labour developments at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, as well as representing Canada abroad in issues related to labour policies; and fourth, conducting research and analysis on the evolution of the workplace, including contributing information to discussions about industrial relations.
When the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development listed her department's priorities, she mentioned the importance of being decisive and making good choices. I share this approach. Allow me to discuss five areas in which we have been particularly active recently.
First, we have worked to promote and guarantee safe and healthy workplaces. Canada's health and safety officers continue to do excellent work ensuring that businesses respect the Canada Labour Code, particularly the health and safety provisions.
Second, I am taking concrete steps with respect to the Joint Statement on Healthy Workplaces, a statement I signed recently along with my provincial and territorial counterparts.
Nearly 40% more members of these groups are now in workplaces covered under the legislation. Our efforts seem to be bearing fruit, but we know we will have to keep working to eliminate disparities, particularly for aboriginals and the disabled.
The Strategy for a Racism-Free Workplace is our third sphere of activity. By promoting equality and eliminating discrimination in the labour market, Canada can provide the world with a very competitive labour force trained to respect diversity and inclusiveness.
Let us be clear. This is a shared responsibility. This is why we are offering educational tools, recommending best practices for employees and employers, establishing creative partnerships and launching programs to fight discrimination.
In addition, I recently visited five cities to promote racism-free workplaces and the elimination of barriers to the employment of visible minorities and aboriginals.
On the subject of racism in the workplace, I would like to remind the House that 1.8 million Canadians say they have experienced racism in their lives, and for most of them, it occurred for the first time in their workplace. I would also like to remind the House that, within seven years, half the population of large cities such as Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal will be made up of visible minorities. This is an important statistic, which is why we must put an end to racism in the workplace in Canada. My recent tour to promote had just that goal.
Next, I would like to report on the work that has been done with respect to pay equity.
I recently announced new measures to ensure that our partners in the workplace are well informed of their obligations and responsibilities regarding pay equity. We are also establishing additional measures to guarantee compliance with these obligations.
Working women deserve immediate and significant results in this regard, and I am proud to say that we have taken decisive measures based on relevant comments we have received over the years.
I would also like to address another area of activity, that is, our role on the international stage. Indeed, we are very active in the promotion and protection of workers' rights around the globe. For example, our exemplary practices serve as a model for other countries.
In this context, I would like to mention that my counterparts from China, Mr. Tian Chengping, and from Chile, Mr. Osvaldo Andrade, recently came to Canada to become acquainted with the government's policies on work environments. The labour program offers training in mediation and conciliation to Chilean officials and both the training they receive in Canada and our expertise carry over to neighbouring countries. I think we are showing leadership and that this work is very much appreciated by our colleagues from China and from Chile.
Since I have spoken about the measures taken so far to support the Canadian work environment, I will now turn my attention to the work we have ahead of us.
First we have the report of the Federal Labour Standards Review Commission, which is the first review of this kind in 40 years.
For over two years, the Arthurs commission conducted extensive research and public consultations on work environments. It closely examined the point of view of individuals and addressed certain problems such as new employment relationships, the balance between work and family and the impact of labour standards on productivity.
I received Professor Arthurs's report recently, on Monday in fact, and as minister, I am currently reviewing his findings and recommendations. We are seeking the points of view of employers, unions and employees on overtime hours, hours of work, vacation and recovery of wages, and on many more recommendations, since Professor Arthurs made 172 of them in his report.
I would also like to mention the Wage Earner Protection Program. I know that the hon. members of this House voted unanimously, under the previous government, for wage earner protection legislation when a company goes bankrupt. The purpose of this important program, as I was just saying, is to protect those who are most vulnerable in a bankruptcy situation. We anticipate being in a position very shortly to table a bill in this House to protect workers.