Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in this debate on the eighth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women concerning the following motion:
That the government appoint an independent commissioner for gender budgeting analysis immediately to conduct a gender based analysis of governmental policies, including budget policies.
The standing committee, over the last several months, has undertaken extensive studies on gender budgeting. This has involved hours of meetings, hearing from witnesses from as far away as South Africa to non-governmental organizations and representatives from federal government departments and central agencies.
As I have already said, the committee has heard from a wide range of experts on this subject.
The Auditor General, Sheila Fraser, an agent of Parliament, when she appeared before the standing committee, said that her office could look and see if the government is actually doing gender based analysis and the quality around that analysis. The Auditor General also went on to give some caution to the committee when looking at broad-based cross-department policy initiatives. Ms. Fraser said:
Too often we see broad-based initiatives across government, but nobody is really accountable for the success of that project. It could be a central agency, it could be a department, but somebody who clearly has the responsibility and the accountability to make sure the program is implemented.
I would certainly want to hear and believe that we would all profit from the views of the standing committee on this as well.
This side of the House believes we need to take a more comprehensive approach to advance equality for women and their full participation in all aspects of Canadian life. Our government is indeed committed to the work we have already undertaken to advance opportunities for women and men, and we have more plans for the future.
In the 2008 budget we announced that over the next year our government will develop an action plan for women. This action plan will advance the equality of women across Canada through the improvement of their economic and social conditions, and their participation in democratic life.
The government wants to look at all the recommendations together and devise a thorough and complete strategy to move the agenda of equality forward for women. This would include consultations across all sectors of society.
Experience has shown that an action plan accompanied with indicators against which outcomes for equality for women and men can be measured is the most effective approach. This is the course that we are taking.
Since the 1995 fourth United Nations World Conference on Women, where governments committed to gender based analysis in the Beijing Platform for Action, considerable progress has been made.
In Canada, some federal departments have taken initiatives to create their own training packages and infrastructure. Such efforts include: departmental statements on gender based analysis; integration of gender based analysis in strategic and operational plans; and establishment of departmental focal points or networks of gender specialists.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada, for example, became the first department to have accountability for gender based analysis entrenched in law. This law requires the department to report annually to Parliament.
The Canadian International Development Agency has a comprehensive non-legislative approach to gender based analysis; one it uses with success in its development work around the globe.
Finance Canada has undertaken gender based analysis on its tax measures in budgeting and has now committed that future budgets will undergo gender based analysis.
The Treasury Board Secretariat requires that gender based analysis be undertaken uniformly as part of the submission process that departments go through to receive financial authorities, and others are working to integrate gender based analysis into their work.
Our government is creating opportunities and working hard to achieve concrete results for women by introducing the universal child care benefit, increasing the pension income credit, and changing the guaranteed income supplement, thus putting more money in the hands of older women.
We are addressing matrimonial real property on reserves, modernizing the federal labour standards, expanding business opportunities for women, taking action to ensure pay equity is achieved, creating special initiatives for women entrepreneurs, and increasing crime prevention, justice and security measures to protect children from sexual exploitation.
Over the last year 181 projects received funding under the women's community fund and the women's partnership fund for a total value of $33,000,993 over three years.
Impacting over 1.5 million women and girls through the projects funded, organizations are carrying out work in educating women on violence prevention, building women's financial literacy, encouraging networking, promoting women's economic security, prosperity, health and safety, and ending all forms of discrimination against women.
This year's theme of financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women at the 52nd session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women heard over and over again the value of putting in place plans of action and indicators to measure progress. This is the course action we are on.
Just as a business would not leave a new product half developed, the Government of Canada will not do only half a job. In the same way, we want to ensure that we have the best plan possible, an action plan that takes into account all Canadians, women and men alike.
Equality for women and their full participation in the life of our country are important not only for women, their families and their communities but also for Canada. We want to use the action plan to improve Canada's prosperity by enhancing women's active participation in the economy as well as in the overall social and democratic life of our country.