moved that Bill C-471, An Act respecting the implementation of the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force and amending another Act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I rise this morning to present private member's Bill C-471, which relates to putting into operation the recommendations of a 2004 working group on pay equity and modifying another law in consequence.
To come right to the point, hidden in the 2009 budget was a measure that undermined pay equity. This bill, which we support, restores pay equity as a human right. That is paramount for us.
Mr. Speaker, you may at this point, however, have a feeling that you have walked into Groundhog Day because I have been on my feet before on this very project. That is because the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament before Christmas, so we are having a Groundhog Day experience today as I reintroduce this legislation.
The purpose of the government's prorogation of Parliament, of course, was, as it said, to recalibrate. It seems to have now recalibrated its cabinet a bit, but it has not been able to avoid the questions that it sought to avoid when it prorogued Parliament, namely, the questions about Afghan detainees and the other urgent public matters on which it sought to avoid the scrutiny of Canada.
The prorogation attempt failed. All it has managed to do is set back the legislative agenda for several months and, unfortunately, the legislative progress of this worthy measure. That is why I am here today and the House will remember the experience of having lived through this whole thing once before.
Let me enter into the discussion of the matter. Budget 2009, in the dumpster bill aspects of the budget implementation act, introduced measures which would reduce pay equity to a chip on the bargaining table in labour relations. We on this side of the House believe, as a matter of principle, that pay equity is not a labour relations issue but a fundamental human right.
We need to see this measure in the context of a historical anniversary. The House will be aware that this is the 40th anniversary of the report on the status of women, the great commission chaired by Florence Bird, a great Canadian. It was commissioned under the Pearson government that set the agenda for women's issues and equity issues for the next 40 years. That agenda included, let us remember: child care, pay equity, maternal leave and more women in the House and the judiciary.
We can say after 40 years that some progress has been made, but there is an enormous amount of work still to do and on this side of the House we remain fiercely and passionately committed to that agenda. We remain committed to early learning and child care for every Canadian family that wants it. We remain committed to adequate and restored funding for Status of Women Canada.
We remain committed to the idea that it is a stain on our national honour that there are missing aboriginal women who have simply disappeared. We have not even taken the trouble as a country to give their families the answers they need as to what happened to these fellow citizens of our country. That is a wrong that must be righted and we stand for the righting of that wrong.
We also stand for the reintroduction of the court challenges program, which women have used to defend their rights and which the government has undermined. Finally, to put this measure in context, we stand for pay equity for women.
It is abundantly clear that we have a lot of work to do. Women in Canada earn 72¢ for every dollar a man earns.
In the case of a woman with children, it is 52¢.
We think this is in an inequity that must be corrected and it can only be corrected by proactive federal pay legislation. Men outnumber women by 330%. Yes, members heard me right. It is 330% among top earners. This is also a sign that in a country that claims equality, we have much more to do.
We must do better. We can do better. We will do better.
Let us review very briefly the government's record on this issue. It came to the G8 summit with the admirable objective of helping women and children in the developing world, but with nothing on the necessary reproductive health care that will actually make a difference and reduce death in pregnancy and improve maternal and child health. Nothing.
The government has cut the operating budget of Status of Women Canada. Just last week it cut the pay equity commission in New Brunswick. It has abolished the court challenges program. It has eliminated $1 billion of committed federal funding to day care since 2006.
This is the record of the government on the other side of the House. This is where we begin to see the larger design between taking pay equity off the human rights table and putting it on the labour regulations table where it can be traded away.
This is the grander design to which we object. We are taking the pay equity issue as an example of a wider failure of the government to advance the cause of women's equality in Canada.
What does our proposal specifically entail? It entails a federal pay equity commission with jurisdiction over the federal public service, crown corporations and the federally regulated corporations. This commission would have a proactive mandate. It would have a mandate to deliver judgments in a timely fashion. Above all, it would give women the right to advance their claims to pay equity within the framework of human rights.
This is an important matter because the Government of Canada is the largest employer in the country. The Government of Canada can set an example to all employers across the country and it must on the issue of pay equity for women.
In conclusion, this private member's bill will undo what we conceive to be a wrong. It will restore pay equity as a human right with a proactive federal pay equity commission. We urge all members to support it.