Mr. Speaker, I move that the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Status of Women presented on Wednesday, April 16, be concurred in.
I am very proud today to have the real honour of moving this motion for the appointment of an equality commissioner. This is a motion that I put forward in the Standing Committee on the Status of Women. As some members of the House know, the report on gender based analysis, or gender budgeting analysis, as tabled in this House by the standing committee, makes the same recommendation for an equality commissioner.
This has not happened at just the last minute. We have been discussing it for some time. Some people have asked why we are doing it now and not later. The reality is that we have been doing research and consultations and we have been discussing it for some time now.
In fact, in the fall of 2005, the previous Liberal government appointed an expert panel, which came back recommending a commissioner's position, with legislation attached, and it talked about how that would happen. Canada would not be the only jurisdiction to do this. In fact, the U.K. and South Africa have similar positions. This is a very important step for Canada. It is important because it deals with fundamental rights. Specifically, it deals with women's equality.
Many people say that women already have equality in the law. They say that the Charter of Rights and other pieces of legislation give women equality. That may be true, but if the legal document does not become real in everyday life and is not practised in everyday life, affecting all policies, then it really means nothing, and it does not help women.
We are talking about substantive equality, which is defined as women having the conditions for realizing their full human rights and their potential to contribute to national, political, economic, social and cultural development and benefiting from the results of these. We are talking about substantive and real rights that women can actually experience and benefit from.
An independent commissioner of equality is needed to report to Parliament. It is very important that he or she be an independent commissioner who reports to Parliament to ensure that governments are meeting their goals on equality, regardless of which government is in power and regardless of which policies governments are developing. It is very important that the commissioner be an officer of Parliament and therefore not subject to any government's change of decisions.
Again, the independent commissioner would be looking out for women in this country. This is very important. The commissioner would monitor discrimination in all government policies, including all legislation, budgets presented in the House, and all government policies practised and put forward by government.
As well, the commissioner would review all policies to see how government spends its money and who benefits. If the policies do not benefit women equally or actually hinder or are a detriment to women, they need to be addressed.
Women need this advocate because in many cases government policies to date have not benefited women. In fact, they have done the opposite. Therefore, it is very important that this happen.
In addition, the current government has put forward budgets that have actually silenced women in this country even more. Under the Status of Women Canada, we used to have funding for research and advocacy groups. That traditionally brought necessary research forward to the governments, research that governments relied on, or at least it brought forward analyses of where women were winning or losing in any way. This has been eliminated.
Funding for research and advocacy is no longer allowed at the national level, so women have lost a further voice. Again, this is all the more reason why we need an equality commissioner.
For those reasons, we need a separate entity to oversee the gender based analysis practices of the government. This would be an independent body. The commissioner would work not just within his or her own department but in the development of policies and on the impact of those policies across Canada.
The commissioner would be responsible for evaluating how the government is succeeding or not succeeding in doing proper gender based analysis from the time the policies are developed to the time the polices are actually implemented; that is, are all policies in government, including budgets, informed by gender analysis or not?
Many policies put forward by the current government and previous governments do not stand the test of a proper gender based analysis. Time and again, women are brushed aside in this country. Based on its commitment to and action on women's equality, Canada has dropped internationally in ranking, from first place in the mid-1980s to 18th place in 2006.
This is not something that we can be proud of in this country. We have dropped from number one in the mid-1980s to number eighteen in the world. That is pretty sad and is largely due to how we address women's issues in this country.
Canada's ranking has dropped because of a number of factors. I will go through some of those examples because they show where the commissioner in fact could be of great assistance and could have a major impact. Let us look at these examples, which show why women in this country actually have dropped back since the mid-1990s and are actually dropping further as we go.
Changes to the income tax system that were brought in by former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney in 1987 made women more vulnerable and economically insecure. For example, at that time, the lowest bracket for taxes paid was 6%, which was increased to 17%. Sixty per cent who lost in that--