Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleagues for their enthusiasm.
I am obviously very pleased to speak about this topic raised by the member about the appointment of an independent commissioner to conduct a gender-based analysis of the government's measures and policies in order to ensure that women are properly treated.
We know that this is nothing new. When the Standing Committee on Status of Women decided that this measure should be put forward, it was not without considerable thought. The committee members made this decision after carrying out an extensive and serious study and after consulting international experts. We learned about other countries where commissioners had already been appointed, and where they had had some success after these appointments were made.
It is also nothing new that the government is supposed to be doing something to promote gender equality. In 1981, the government undertook to promote gender equality in a CEDAW document, because we thought that the United Nations was the best place to ensure that men and women would one day be equals in law and in fact.
Furthermore, in 1995, at the conference in Beijing, the government at the time reiterated that commitment. It increased the budgets of Status of Women Canada to promote the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. It was a comprehensive action plan if there ever was one, and should have been fully implemented. Unfortunately, as with many other things in the government, things get lost and very few things happen.
We will also not forget the current Prime Minister's commitment. When I say “commitment”, I am choosing my words carefully. During the election campaign in January, he did not say he would ensure equality among men and women. He did not say he was promising that men and women would be equal under his government. He said he was committed to it. Commitment is a strong word. It is a word that the Prime Minister should have had the wisdom to respect. If there is one thing that he has not done over the past two and a half years, it is to honour the promise he made to the women of Quebec and Canada.
In the various policies and measures put forward by this government, this commitment has been completely ignored. The government began by cutting Status of Women Canada funding. It continued by eliminating grants to women's advocacy groups and telling women that they could no longer defend their rights. It then eliminated the court challenges program, which had allowed women to take their demands and their struggles to the highest authorities.
It also slashed funding for women who wanted to do research to ensure they were always on the leading edge in the defence of women's rights. It cut grants to women lobbyists and women's lobby groups. If women cannot lobby to assert their rights, how can they possibly do so? As we all know, there are only so many ways of going about this. Yet the oil companies that lobby here are very successful. The companies and big businesses that lobby here have a great deal of success. The reason they do not receive funding for their lobbying activities is because they are quite capable of using their own money to lobby.
Respecting commitments should be a prime minister's first priority. In the budget and the throne speech, the government indicated that it would produce a plan to ensure equality for women.
It is now June, the end of the session, and we have not heard or seen anything. There has been no talk of a plan. In fact, it is just a virtual plan that has been put on paper, but so far there is just a title, “A plan for women's equality”. There is no need to reinvent the wheel to come up with such a plan. Just take what is already being done quite well and has been validated by women's groups here and throughout the world. These groups have said that this plan would ensure that all women, throughout the world, are equal to men, can combat violence, have a roof over their head and achieve equality.
We asked the Standing Committee on the Status of Women to appoint a commissioner because we realized that despite the efforts by Status of Women Canada to educate, inform and train the various departments on gender based issues and gender specific budgets, these departments did not really understand what that meant. That was our impression.
The only analysis done was done after the fact. It was not done before the policy and measure were in put in place, but well afterward and it was wrong. Since the analysis was wrong even though it was done after the measure was implemented, we are entitled to wonder about the quality of the information received or interpreted. I believe that the problem stems not from the quality of information provided, but from how the information was interpreted by the people who received it.
Equity advocate positions were established in various departments, but the women who occupied those positions were replaced one after the other over a period of a few months by others who had fresh experience and expertise. They had to start over from what the others had done without getting any extra support. And when those women started to master the job, they disappeared and were transferred elsewhere. Some departments did not even replace the equity champions after they left.
This makes us wonder whether the government truly wants this equality to become a reality because we are not seeing that in any of its actions, policies or measures.
If the government had really wanted its policies to advance women's equality, we would not be debating Bill C-484. If the government had really wanted women to be equal, it would not have given them a child care allowance of $100 a month. Instead, it would have created a program that allowed women to choose to send their children to a specialized day care centre with specialized teachers and caregivers. Quebec is fortunate enough to have such a system. If the government had really wanted women to be equal, it would not have chosen to leave pay equity measures and programs at the point where they are now, unfortunately.
We know that pay equity measures are not worth it. In fact, some companies and their employees have been in court for more than 20 years over pay equity for women. These women come under the aegis of the federal government. It is terrible.
The government says it wants equality for women, but it is not doing anything to make that happen. All we are getting from this government is fine words and empty promises.
Different tax measures have also been mentioned.
For example, the government has introduced the tax-free savings account or TFSA. This is great for people who have money, but women, who still today earn only 70% of what men do, do not fall into that category.
When the government says that these measures were put in place for women and will benefit women as much as men, I wonder who thought about that. Was it men? Because if it was women, I am sure they would have seen the problem with that sort of thinking and I am sure they would have realized that it did not make sense.
A tax-free savings account is an attractive idea, but it will not benefit 80-year-old women. If the government had really wanted to introduce measures that would benefit 80-year-old women, it would have increased the guaranteed income supplement and made sure people who were entitled to it received full retroactivity.
For years the Bloc Québécois has been fighting for real people, real equity measures and real policies, whether in connection with employment insurance, seniors, women or children. No matter what anyone says, the Bloc Québécois is fighting real battles for real people. That is what we have always done and what we will continue to do.
When we talk about equality, we must also talk about social housing. There is no equality for single mothers if there are no special social housing measures for them.
Miloon Kothari, the United Nations special rapporteur, came to Canada to study what is being done in terms of social housing here in a supposedly civilized and advanced country. He learned of the existence of a tent city in Edmonton where people who work 40 hours a week do not have enough money to pay rent. Women, families and children live in tents in the middle of downtown Edmonton. He realized that many people did not have comfortable and adequate social housing in which to raise their children responsibly and decently.
He also realized that Canada had taken a step backward. He found out that the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation has astronomical surpluses in excess of $12 billion. It is shameful that this government has not given a portion of that money to provinces that have social housing programs to ensure adequate housing everywhere for people who need it.
The concept of equality and equity encompasses all of these programs. Unfortunately, I believe that unless an independent commissioner is appointed—as my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville was saying—that will never happen. We will never see the day when women can finally breathe easy and say that they have the same working conditions, living conditions and benefits as their male colleagues, and that they can finally look forward to and work together toward a better future.
Only then will we be able to say that we have succeeded. I do not think that a government like this one, which is always trying to crush low income earners, such as those in the manufacturing and forestry sectors, will give us the measures we need to ensure equality between men and women.
I can guarantee that we will study the action plan that the government says it will put forward very thoroughly. We will take a very serious look at it. But I do not think we will have a chance to do that before next year. It seems to me that the plan is all in the minister's head and is not about to come out anytime soon. She has too many things on her mind.
It is true that nowadays, Conservative Party members are having a hard time remembering their responsibilities to the voters. We see evidence of that every day. We have been hearing all kinds of nonsense about all kinds of issues here in the house, despite the fact that we have serious questions about issues that are important to all Quebeckers and Canadians. The only thing the Conservative Party ever does is get one or two people to give utterly vague answers that are completely unrelated to the questions we ask.
Given this party's track record, we do not imagine that it has time to think about action plans for women's equality. It does not have time for that; it thinks about the strategy of the moment to try to confuse people a little more. And that is what we are seeing.
Unfortunately, the only way to achieve equality between men and women is to ensure that the government appoints an independent commissioner for gender budgeting analysis and that these recommendations are carried out.
In recommendation No. 20 of the report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, we are asking that when the Department of Finance brings down its budget, and with all subsequent budgets, it publish its gender-based analysis of the measures included therein. Mr. Speaker, do you think I believe this will be done? It is a very good report. It is not a rosy report as they said it was at last week's press conference. It is an excellent report. Unfortunately, I do not believe that this government has the will to implement it.
In coming here to the House of Commons to represent the citizens of Laval, I thought I would be surrounded by people who all wanted the same thing: to represent those who elected them in a responsible and respectful manner. Women live in the ridings where Conservatives were elected. We know that most women do not want to elect Conservatives—we can understand why—but they do live in those ridings. In my opinion, once elected, we represent everyone, not just those who voted for us.
The government should think twice about shelving this report. This report was prepared with a great deal of conviction, hard work and cooperation. All the hon. members who worked on preparing this report have spoken to one another. It deserves to be studied by the government and for the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women and Official Languages to take into account and carry out our recommendations. There are a number of them, but if she carried them all out, we would finally achieve equality between men and women.