That, taking into account the reports produced by the Standing Committee on Status of Women on the need for pay equity and the lack of economic security for women, the House call upon the government to develop a strategy to improve the economic security of all women in Canada and present this strategy to the House by February 1, 2008.
It is a pleasure for me today to support this motion and put it forward. The Status of Women committee has done a great deal of very hard work in this area in preparing the reports on economic security and pay equity.
I should like to say that I am splitting my time with the hon. member for Don Valley East.
Women have much to be concerned about with the direction in which the government is going, however, as women are not even mentioned in the Speech from the Throne, not at all, or in Tuesday's financial update.
No women's issues are being addressed by the Conservative government. It seems to be following an ideological path that is totally contrary to women's needs. For instance, it has shut down 12 out of 16 Status of Women regional offices in this country. There is no funding for equality-seeking organizations. In fact, the equality provisions have been eliminated from the mandate of the Status of Women Canada program.
There is no funding for groups that conduct research and advocacy work on behalf of women, but if people are lobbying the government on defence contracts they can get $500,000 from the Government of Canada to research and lobby. How sad is that? People can get money to lobby the government on defence contracts, but they cannot for research or lobbying the government to assist women in this country.
It is very sad indeed that the government is shutting out women who are fighting for the government to make changes in policies that affect them negatively, such as amendments to the employment insurance and pension system and structures, child care, et cetera.
The Conservative Party's Tom Flanagan has said that it is all part of the Prime Minister's long term plan to eradicate these so-called “Liberal outrider” groups. That may be true, but the reality is that organizations such as the National Association of Women and the Law, which have for decades worked hard to ensure women's equality in this country, are shutting their doors. Women's voices are being shut down in this country as we speak.
Meanwhile, we saw the government do a little bit of a trick in the last financial update. In the last budget, the Conservatives increased taxes from 15% to 15.5%. The other day they lowered taxes from 15.5% to 15%, to essentially where the Liberals were two years ago, so we are not moving ahead yet. They are playing a little game of “stay in your place”, which affects women very directly because of the disparity in income in this country.
The government is ignoring the vast poverty gap that exists in this country, especially for women, as well as infrastructure in our cities, lack of child care, and the list goes on. In fact, the GST cut will benefit no one and will not address the poverty gap in this country at all.
Countries with strong economies invest in research and innovation, human capital such as education, training and literacy, and physical infrastructure for our cities. These countries invest in health care and the environment. These countries realize the importance of social investments, something the government just does not seem to get.
We have significant challenges in addressing the gender differences in low income rates, particularly as they affect single senior women, single parent families headed by women, and women with disabilities. The committee paid close attention to women belonging to vulnerable groups in society, such as immigrant women, rural women, aboriginal women, women with disabilities, senior women and single mothers. One-fifth of immigrants who arrived in Canada in the 1990s faced chronic low income, a rate 2.5 times higher than that of persons born in Canada.
The financial economic update does not talk at all about any gender based analysis that was done in the mini-budget. It says nothing about it. In the Speech from the Throne, there was no gender based analysis that I am aware of, yet we as the Liberal government had set that kind of standard in the 2004 and 2005 budgets. The gender based analyses were done and we were hoping the current government would continue, because that is how we can see how policies affect women in this country.
For instance, on pay equity, the average income for all employed women is just under $25,000. That is only 64% of that of their male colleagues. The average income for full time employed women is $36,500, only 71% of that of male colleagues. In 2003, women accounted for 53% of all Canadians classified as low income.
The current system is broken. We need proactive pay equity legislation, but the government has said no to women. In its official response so far to the standing committee, the government has said no, yet Quebec and Ontario have legislation that is working very well. The Government of Canada should catch up and move on, but the Conservative government is following some sort of other agenda that I cannot understand.
Early learning and child care goes to the heart of women's economic security. The government's so-called child care program, which is the $1,200, is an income supplement. It is a joke as far as child care goes because it does not create one child care space, does not allow women to re-enter the workforce, does not give Canadians a choice and it sure does not promote women's economic security. In fact, not only does it not do any of those things, but the $1,200 is taxed in the hands of the recipients and, therefore, they do not receive the full amount. They may receive $500 a year but that does absolutely nothing to assist women in their situations and families in general.
According to Statistics Canada, in 2001 the poverty rate of single mothers was 42.4%. This is compared to single fathers at 19.3% and 9.5% for couples with children. This means that over one million women with children are living in poverty and that is not acceptable. These issues are magnified for women in rural areas who do not have access to child care, to training and education, to transportation or affordable housing. For new immigrant women, some of whom do not speak either of the official languages and whose credentials are not recognized in Canada, it is even more critical.
The government is not paying attention to women at all. All of the conditions and issues I mentioned need to be addressed but the organizations that would be speaking on behalf of women are being shut down.
Another example is affordable housing. According to Statistics Canada, in 2003, 72% of senior women who rented were considered to have housing affordability problems. Similarly, 42% of renters, families headed by female lone parents, and 38% of unattached female renters had housing affordability problems.
Instead of trying to help women with housing affordability problems, the Conservatives cut $700 million from affordable housing funding. They slashed $45 million from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation. This is so sad that it is actually pathetic. The housing crisis in this country is enormous. Homelessness is a major issue and yet the government has no plan whatsoever to address that issue, which again goes to the economic security of women.
The child tax benefit, which was established by the Liberal government, was cut by the current government. The young child supplement was cut in the government's previous budget and has not been replaced. It has not increased the child benefit at all throughout its term. That should go to $5,000 in order to assist families with children because the $1,200 just does not cut it. I challenge the government to do that because that goes to the heart of eradicating child poverty and it would also address women's economic security.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development recommended that federal financial support for early learning and child care should be equivalent to 1% of the GDP. The government to date has not created one child care space. It is relying on the private sector. More recently, we saw a report from the businesses in the country that have said that they are not interested in child care because it is not their job and they do not want to get into it. The government has been relying on that kind of hope for the last two and a half years or so and I think it is time it got off that road and got onto addressing the real needs of women.
Time poverty is one thing that affects women's economic security very drastically. What do I mean by that? Women are in and out of the labour force because women are the ones who are looking after the children. In most cases, women are the ones who are looking after elderly parents or members of the family who are ill. They lose jobs and, in many cases, they lose income, they lose the ability to pay into pensions and they lose promotions. They lose a great deal.
Eighty per cent of caregiving is being done by women. The caregivers of today will be the poorer seniors of tomorrow because we have no national caregiver strategy program at all to deal with women's economic security and women's position in our society. I challenge the government to do that at least.
Those are only some of the things. I have not even addressed the issue of violence against women or seniors' poverty, most of whom are women. These are critical issues that the government needs to address. I would ask that it to at least look at developing a strategy and to look at the recommendations made by the standing committee on those issues and come back to the House with some good directions for the future of women because women in Canada deserve it and are waiting for answers from the government.