Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by saying that I will share my time with the member for Laval, the Bloc's status of women critic. I am counting on you, Mr. Speaker, to let me know when I have one minute left, since I have only 10 minutes and I would like to be able to fit in as much as possible.
Since the Conservatives were elected in 2006, the members of this House have been able to see how this government completely ignores the women of this country. I am very tired of rising over and over to make the government and the minister listen to reason. Unfortunately, I do not think they care at all about we have to tell them about women.
The budget tabled on February 26 gave us a good idea of what the Conservatives think about women and their problems. With just five short lines in a document of over 400 pages, the Minister of Finance and his Prime Minister clearly showed that if women want a government that understands their everyday reality, they should show their dissatisfaction at the next election.
I would like to clarify some things about my Liberal colleague's motion.
Women's equality is a matter of human rights and, since the court challenges program was a useful tool in achieving that end, it should be reinstated.
The court challenges program was certainly perceived by the government as a thorn in their side, an obstacle to their medieval policies. It comes as no surprise then that the Conservatives got rid of the program at the first opportunity. Think of the negative impact this has had on women, francophone minorities outside Quebec and the first nations.
Ever since the program was abolished, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for its reinstatement. In the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, a majority of witnesses have underscored the importance and unique nature of the program. During those sessions, the witnesses told us that the program served the public interest and they explained its benefits to certain women's groups, including aboriginal groups, members of minority groups and disabled people. According to the witnesses, this is essentially an affirmative action program for vulnerable people in Canada. I will provide some examples of the benefits described by the witnesses.
The program helped women challenge unconstitutional federal legislative provisions and the government's inaction; the program offered marginalized people a way to challenge discriminatory practices, guarantee their rights to equality and defend their human rights; and the program assured an approach that is both methodical and respectful of the law. The government cannot now tell us that this program was no longer useful.
To provide a legitimate and necessary voice to the needs of women, research and advocacy should be restored to the government's women's program.
The Conservative version of the women's program has been so stripped of its meaning and means that unfortunately it is now just a shadow of its former self. Once known throughout the country as a practical tool to promote women's rights and a lever for research into their situation, today it is just a colourless, odourless shell.
With the changes made to the women's program, it has become so difficult to qualify for funding through that program that many groups, especially in Quebec, no longer bother to apply, since they know from the outset that their applications will be denied.
The research conducted by these groups is essential if the government wants to understand the reality facing everyday women, as well as the repercussions that these ultra-conservative policies have had on women over the past two years. By changing the access to funding guidelines for the women's program, the Conservatives have made sure that they will never again have to deal with a study demonstrating that their policies are bad for women.
Although the Bloc Québécois asked the minister to apologize for her dismissive attitude towards women's groups, the minister instead accused us of playing petty politics.
Pay equity, combating violence against women, abortion rights and economic security: is that playing petty politics?
The Liberal motion states:
(c) an adequate supply of high quality childcare spaces is essential to ensuring women’s participation in the workforce and the government should take the necessary steps immediately to create 125,000 spaces as it promised;
On this issue, I must say that I disagree completely with my Liberal colleague. Once again, when it comes to child care, Canada lags way behind Quebec.
For almost a decade now, everyone in Quebec has had access to child care services for $7, regardless of their economic status. Furthermore, this issue of child care falls under provincial jurisdiction, and everyone knows how vehemently we, of the Bloc Québécois, oppose any interference by the federal government in areas of provincial jurisdiction.
After the Conservatives were elected in January 2006, they began issuing cheques for $100 per month per child—a fine example that this government, like all federal governments before it, could not care less about respecting provincial jurisdiction. Had it taken the Prime Minister's speech about respect for Quebec to heart, this government would have transferred the money for this measure to Quebec so that we could improve our own child care system. The Bloc Québécois will always denounce federal meddling, especially with regard to our child care centres.
An OECD report stated:
There are...positive developments...to underline: The extraordinary advance made by Quebec, which has launched one of the most ambitious and interesting early education and care policies in North America. —none of [the Canadian] provinces showed the same clarity of vision as Quebec in addressing the needs of young children and families—
The Liberal motion continues:
(d) since access to government services is essential in rural areas and the government’s closure of 12 of 16 regional offices of Status of Women Canada further isolates rural women, the government should take immediate steps to improve access for our most isolated Canadians;
This government decision clearly proves that it does not have a clue about the difficulties many women in this country experience even today. How can the minister believe that she has a true understanding of the realities facing women when there are only four offices from coast to coast? The truth is simply that the minister does not wish to know about the distress of women in certain areas because that would force her to acknowledge that her Conservative government's actions, since coming to power, have definitely been mediocre.
From the very day that the 12 Status of Women Canada offices were closed, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for them to be reopened, especially the Quebec office. It is unbelievable that a Quebec minister and MP supported the closing of the organization's office in the Quebec capital. Knowing the importance of this office to women in the regions of Gaspé, the Lower St. Lawrence, the North Shore, Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, Chaudière-Appalaches and Quebec City, we realize that the Conservatives have no consideration for women in Quebec regions.
The Liberal motion continues:
(e) there is a growing need in Canada for a national housing strategy designed to assist the most vulnerable in our society and to treat them with the respect they deserve; and
that, therefore, the House condemn the irresponsible and self-serving actions on November 28, 2005, by the New Democratic Party and the Bloc Québécois which led to the installation of a government that is hostile to the rights and needs of vulnerable Canadians.
My goodness. It is clear from this part of my Liberal colleague's motion that even after being defeated in 2006 and spending two years in opposition, the Liberals are just as contemptuous and still have that culture of entitlement.
I would like to remind the House of why the Bloc Québécois decided to throw the Liberals out in November 2005.
Between 1993 and 2001, the Liberal government completely withdrew from funding new social housing. As a result, in Quebec, the homeless and people without adequate housing were deprived of nearly 43,000 social housing units.
The Liberal government's reduction of federal transfers to the provinces for income security had a direct impact on the poorest members of society in Quebec and Canada.
The cuts made to employment insurance by the member for LaSalle—Émard, the former head of the Liberal Party, forced hundreds of thousands of people onto welfare.
The federal government's withdrawal from funding social housing pushed tens of thousands of people onto the streets.
The Liberals' refusal to negotiate an agreement on parental leave hampered Quebeckers' efforts to balance work and family.
The Liberals' refusal to amend labour legislation in order to allow a real preventive withdrawal program created two classes of workers in Quebec.
The Liberals' refusal to substantially increase old age security meant that thousand of seniors were left to live out their days in poverty.
Do I have any time left, Mr. Speaker?