Madam Speaker, I would like to start by saying how happy I am to begin my remarks in this House with the words “Madam Speaker”. I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Trois-Rivières. I would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the voters in the riding of Laval who resisted the siren song of my Conservative opponent, who was most loquacious, and placed their confidence in me for the third time.
I wanted to say a few words in the House today about the throne speech, but I do not have good things to say about it, nor am I happy with it, nor will I be voting for it. Those who know me well know how important women's issues are to me and to the members of the Bloc Québécois.
Yesterday, in her remarks, my colleague from Laurentides—Labelle referred to those who were left out of the throne speech. Today, I would like to spend some more time talking about those people, particularly women. I was not surprised to find no references to women in the throne speech.
The week before that, my colleagues from Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert and Gatineau and I were observers at the Conservative Party convention in Winnipeg. When I arrived in Winnipeg, I was excited and all fired up. I was eager to see what would happen, to hear what people had to say about various things, to see how people would use the meetings to set their party's agenda and priorities. I wanted to get some idea of what we would be talking about here in the House once we all came back.
I was surprised to find out that observers were not allowed to observe. I was surprised to learn that, as observers, we were relegated to a little coffee shop on the second floor and were not allowed access to any of the rooms in which meetings were being held. Even so, there were leaks. Even parties governed by a culture of secrecy are prone to leaks. Thanks to those leaks, we were kept up to date throughout the day about decisions made during the meetings.
The first decision was made following a debate, and I was very disappointed to learn that it was about Resolution P-207, a resolution that reopened the abortion debate.
Then another resolution was passed and it stunned me completely. The resolution called for equal pay for equal value. It did not stipulate equal pay for work of equal value. What a giant step back for women.
All day long, we heard about similar kinds of resolutions. We could not believe it and wondered what was happening. We were anxious to see what was really happening and to get to the plenary meeting, which we were told we could attend.
When we left Winnipeg—I left on the Sunday morning—I knew this government would do no more for women than it has done over the past two and half years. The rights of women in Canada and Quebec have suffered a terrible setback.
This was confirmed last week when the World Economic Forum, which is based in Geneva, announced that Canada now ranks 31st out of 130 countries that were assessed based on whether the gender gap is increasing or narrowing. In 2006, we were ranked 15th. In 2007, we were 18th and now in 2008, 31st. It will not stop there. This is not surprising. We saw the cuts to Status of Women Canada; we saw the cuts to the court challenges program; we saw the changes to the Women's Program at Status of Women Canada, which made funding available. This will not stop here.
The United Nations commission charged with eliminating all forms of discrimination against women published a report indicating that Canada lags far behind and is struggling with serious problems of violence against women.
When all is said and done, the fact remains that, in last year's throne speech, the Prime Minister stated that there would be a plan for women, a specific and special plan of attack, which would advance the rights of Quebec and Canadian women. There is not a word about that in this throne speech. Evidently, because last time around nothing was accomplished. They only talked about it, nothing was done, they did not take action and things have not changed.
In times of economic uncertainty such as these, when we do not know what will happen in two or three months—because things are changing so quickly and there is a new surprise or disappointment every day, and something else turns up each day—a government must make investments that will yield the greatest return. It must invest in people, in infrastructure, invest in what will yield a return as quickly as possible.
This government could not be bothered to come up with a social housing plan, when there is $8 billion available in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation fund. This government could not be bothered to make changes to employment insurance so that seniors who lose their jobs have access to a program that will help them transition into retirement after stopping work.
This government also could not be bothered to change the eligibility criteria for employment insurance. Yet there is currently $44 billion in the employment insurance fund, money that could be used to help the people who earned this money and invested it in an employment insurance fund, so they would have something to fall back on if they were to lose their jobs.
When we want the economy to run smoothly, we invest in infrastructure. Of course, the Prime Minister told us that he would invest in infrastructure, but between saying and doing, between talk and action, months go by and nothing is done. We have already thought about programs that should be put in place immediately, and not in three months come budget time.
The situation with the economy requires us to start thinking about people and the economy and to invest now where it is most important. Infrastructure projects are a source of many jobs and opportunities, and this would ensure some short-term jobs, which would get the economy rolling.
Furthermore, if a woman loses her job and is not eligible for employment insurance or welfare benefits because she has assets, then she is really out of luck.
The Speaker has informed me that I have only one minute remaining. I do not know which direction to take, because I have so much to say about what is lacking in this throne speech. There is so much to say about this government's lack of social conscience. The word “equality” was even removed from Conservative Party documents. They did this at their convention last week. This goes to show the ongoing contempt that this government has for women.
I am not wrapping up on a very encouraging note, but I certainly hope that the government will show some openness this time and try to go a bit further towards fixing the mistakes it has made in the past.