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House of Commons Hansard #24 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada has an excellent record on pay equity, but the minister has proposed improvements to ensure that in the future, we will have pay equity decisions much faster than in the past. This is a good change, and I regret the Bloc's decision to oppose this change.

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not just the Bloc. All women's groups are opposed to this change.

Quebec's pay equity legislation is proactive, whereas the federal legislation turns back the clock. For example, the federal legislation makes pay equity a right that has to be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process, which is not the case in Quebec's legislation.

Should the Prime Minister not take advantage of International Women's Day to do his homework again and introduce a real pay equity law?

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, what is happening today under the current legislation is that women's rights are being negotiated away. This proactive system will ensure that both employers and unions have an obligation to ensure that women's equity is achieved in the workplace and that exactly like in the Quebec provincial legislation, there is an independent tribunal that will look at that to ensure that women's equity is achieved.

We stand behind pay equity. We stand up for the rights of women.

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the Conservative government had any respect for women at all, they would not have tried to hide the pay equity issue in the Budget Implementation Act. This is just a strategy for avoiding public debate on the backwardness of the Conservative way.

Does the Prime Minister realize that in passing legislation to limit the application of pay equity to employment categories that are at least 70% female, he is setting the cause of women back?

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, what astounds me is why that member has not stood up before this whole issue and asked, why do women have to wait 15 or indeed 20 years in order to achieve pay equity in the workforce? That is simply not correct.

We are ensuring that women achieve pay equity on an ongoing basis, so that unions and employers cannot bargain away pay equity in the course of a collective agreement. That is why we are bringing this legislation forward and that is why that member should support this legislation.

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister should do his homework and find out what the legislation is in Quebec.

The legislation passed with the connivance of the Liberals threatens unions with a $50,000 fine if they encourage women to file a complaint. It forbids personal and collective grievances and makes the right to pay equity negotiable.

Will the Conservative government finally admit that it is on the wrong track here and should immediately introduce real, proactive pay equity legislation?

Status of WomenOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Provencher Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the member is twisting what the legislation says. What it means is that women are entitled to go to the independent Public Service Labour Relations Board in order to ensure that pay equity is achieved. There can be no prosecution of an employer or of a union without the consent of that independent board.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we learned that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has called for an international high level meeting to find a global consensus on the future of Afghanistan.

Could the Prime Minister tell us whether the Government of Canada would be participating in such a meeting? Given Canada's important involvement in Afghanistan, would the government consider hosting such an important event?

Will the Prime Minister accept the American government’s suggestion and offer to hold this summit here in Canada?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:25 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the leader of the New Democratic Party.

I did read the comments made by Secretary of State Clinton. We have no details beyond those comments. Obviously Canada would be delighted to participate in any such gathering. At the same time, as the leader of the NDP would know, I had good discussions, indepth discussions, with President Obama on this subject when he was here.

All of our NATO partners will be discussing this at the summit in April.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, let us hope that it can produce a comprehensive path toward peace.

In regard to the $3 billion slush fund, the Prime Minister does not have a blank cheque just because the Liberal Party supported his government for the 62nd confidence vote in a row. It really was the 62nd in a row.

Why does the Prime Minister refuse to be transparent? Why does he want to break his own law on accountability? And why does the Prime Minister want to betray people by using the same tired old recipe—

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The right hon. Prime Minister.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, quite to the contrary, this government follows accountability principles. There will be reports on the expenditures from these funds in the June report, for example, before the House.

I do have to take issue with the leader of the NDP and quote what his member for Winnipeg Centre said this morning with regard to an infrastructure project in his riding, “I think all the rules should go out the window--”.

Let me assure the leader of the NDP that we will not be doing that on that project or any other project.

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Layton NDP Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the President of the Treasury Board stated in the House, in reference to the $3 billion slush fund, and I quote, “The Auditor General is not opposed to this--”. There is only one problem: it is not true. The Auditor General confirms that a discussion took place, but her office is unequivocal that she has not approved the slush fund.

Could the Prime Minister explain why the President of the Treasury Board is misleading the House and instead of making things up about accountability, why not just make things happen on accountability?

Government ExpendituresOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, one minute the leader of the New Democratic Party wants every single project to come before the House of Commons for approval and then in the next minute his own member is saying he does not want any rules at all if a project is in his riding.

We will make sure there are good, broad rules that hold us accountable, not just to the Auditor General but of course to the people of Canada who want this money to flow to stimulate our economy.

AfghanistanOral Questions

March 5th, 2009 / 2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the latest report on Afghanistan the government has said, “No prospects for early and meaningful reconciliation were apparent during the quarter”. We have just heard that Secretary of State Clinton has asked for an international conference.

I would like to ask the government once again, why is it refusing to appoint a special envoy to Afghanistan to make sure that the sacrifice of our troops is matched by our political efforts at finding a solution?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, I answer as I did yesterday. We do have a special envoy in Afghanistan; he is our ambassador. Our ambassador has direct access to the highest authorities of the host government.

We have a high commissioner in Pakistan.

This government has confidence in our foreign affairs professionals if the opposition does not.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, that will not work. The situation is clear: Italy, the United States, Germany, Great Britain and France all have special envoys attempting to reach a political conclusion to the situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran and the entire region.

That is why we need someone in charge who has the kind of political imagination that is clearly lacking on the other side of the House.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, I can only repeat that we do have confidence in our foreign affairs professionals. We heard the answer of the Prime Minister. The Government of Canada is confident that we are well-represented in the region.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:30 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, here are some facts about the Afghan detainees.

One, the last U.S. human rights report on Afghanistan reported that there is still torture and abuse of detainees.

Two, the UN Secretary-General report noted also that detainees continued to complain of torture.

Three, CBC reported last May that there is still torture at the National Directorate of Security—which is the secret service—detention centre.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Last May, Canadian Forces transferred 42 Afghan prisoners. Of those 42 prisoners, 10 went to the NDS detention centre. Why?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, as we know, Canada transfers Afghan prisoners to the Government of Afghanistan. We continue to work closely with that government to strengthen its capacity on the treatment of prisoners.

Since modifications were made to that process in December 2007, there have been no allegations of abuse received by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is a new definition of the word “pathetic”.

The government knows very well that it is against the Geneva convention to transfer Afghan prisoners to local authorities who practice torture. The Americans, the United Nations and humanitarian organizations all recognize that there is torture in Afghanistan and have all demonstrated transparency in publicly tabling their reports.

Is the Prime Minister prepared to do the same and table the uncensored reports from National Defence and Foreign Affairs on torture in Afghanistan? If not, why not?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Thornhill Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent ConservativeMinister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his question.

I repeat: no allegations of abuse have been reported to the Minister of Foreign Affairs since December 2007.

The May 2007 agreement between Canada and Afghanistan makes explicit that Canada has full unrestricted and private access to any person transferred to an Afghan prison by the Canadian Forces.

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Bloc Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is using the economic crisis as a pretext for acting on its ideological bias against women. However, even during prosperous times, it shirked its responsibilities and, as a direct result, now that the crisis is hitting hardest, only 33% of unemployed women can access employment insurance.

As we celebrate International Women's Week, does the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development not think it is crucial that we improve access to employment insurance for women?

Employment InsuranceOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, the fact is, 82% of women who contribute to employment insurance can receive it. That is the reality. We want to help everyone who needs it during these tough times. That is why, in our economic action plan, we extended the benefits period by five weeks and we are offering more training, so that people can find long term employment.

Guaranteed Income SupplementOral Questions

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government has shown very little empathy towards older workers. Despite our persistent efforts in the guaranteed income supplement file, it continues to stubbornly refuse any improvements to the system.

Knowing that older women are among the poorest people in our society, does the government plan to introduce a bill, as proposed by the Bloc Québécois, aimed at improving the legislation by increasing the guaranteed income supplement by $110 a month and ensuring retroactive payment to the older women it has abandoned?