Mr. Speaker, it gives me no pleasure to rise today in the House to speak to this private member's bill.
In 2009, we did not agree with the budget and we voted against it because it did irreparable harm to women who have done an outstanding job working in the public sector for many years and yet are not given their due.
These women, who have worked for many years in government departments and federally regulated corporations, had the right to expect that all the opposition members would vote against the budget bill that stripped them of their rights.
Unfortunately, over the past four years, the government has chipped away at their rights. The same thing has happened with a number of other status of women issues. Members of the Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party stood up in the House to vote against the bill that day because we had no doubt that if we voted for it, we would betray the trust of all of those women. Those women are Quebeckers and Canadians. I want to emphasize that they are Canadians because the opposition leader seems to think that the Bloc Québécois stands up only for the rights of Quebeckers, not those of Canadians.
I want to point out that the opposition leader and his party members were not among the members who dared vote against this bill. When the time came to vote, they were not considering the Canadians this bill would hurt. He did not do what he should have back then, which is why we have to debate another bill today to give the right to pay equity back to these women.
Pay equity is not complicated: it means receiving equal pay for work of equal value. Work of equal value is easy to define if we have the proper tools to define it. A task force began studying the issue in 2001, and in 2004, it produced a comprehensive report over 500 pages long. The report recommended very specific steps to take to achieve pay equity and ensure that all women working for an organization under federal jurisdiction benefit from pay equity.
People have been fighting for this for years. For example, the rights of a number of women working for Bell Canada and various federal organizations were infringed upon. In Quebec, pay equity has already been achieved. These women were aware that their situation was not the same as that of Quebec women working for organizations under Quebec jurisdiction.
In the early 2000s, there was enough money to meet these needs, but sadly, the Liberal government of the day did not meet the needs of public and private sector employees under federal jurisdiction.
We could spend all day wondering. But the answer is in the question. As soon as an opposition party takes power, its convictions and perceptions of things change. It suddenly realizes that it is not possible to achieve pay equity, because it would be much too costly. But when these parties are in opposition, their convictions are much more in tune with the needs of the workers, ordinary human beings working from 9 to 5 every day. We meet these people in our ridings.
They trust us. They develop a bond with us. We listen carefully and then we are supposed to share their concerns here, in the House, to show them that they have been heard and that we will listen to them. Unfortunately, as it stands, neither side of this House seems to be listening.
The government is not listening. Since it took power, the government has made cuts to women's programs. It cut the court challenges program, it made shameless cuts to programs in Status of Women Canada, and it took away the right to pay equity.
Earlier, the hon. member was saying that anyone who now wants to seek pay equity can go before the labour court. How can a woman go before the labour court all by herself if she does not even have the right to be accompanied by a union representative? She does not even have the right to be accompanied by someone who knows all the rules and all the labour laws to defend her. If someone from her union decided to support her and defend her, the union would have to pay a $50,000 fine. Can you believe that? Have we ever seen such a glaring inequity? I have never seen anything like it, and I hope I never will again. I hope to never see such glaring inequities in this House again.
All women working in the public sector have called on us to return to the House and prepare a much more detailed and complete bill that will restore their right to pay equity. For these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will definitely be supporting the bill presented by the Leader of the Opposition.
However, we will examine this bill with a fine-tooth comb. We will ensure that it meets all needs, and that its application and implementation also conform to what is decided by Parliament.
All too often it is easy to draft a bill. It is easy to vote in favour of a bill. However, once the bill has been passed, things may be different.
Take, for example, the Immigration Act and the Liberal Party promises with respect to immigration. To date, these promises have not been kept, even though they were enshrined in legislation. They were made and voted on.
I would be surprised, even astonished, to see a bill on pay equity passed by the House. We know that the Conservatives will oppose this bill. I would be astonished if such a bill contained all the measures required to give women true pay equity.
Working women in Quebec who fall under federal labour laws are not entitled to preventive withdrawal, a measure extended to all other Quebec women. That is also part of equity.
Quebec women who work in federally-regulated undertakings do not have the right to the same parental leave as other women in Quebec. If, unfortunately, after taking parental leave, their employer fires them when they return to work, they are not entitled to employment insurance benefits. They are not entitled because they were sick during their parental leave.
In fact, according to the employment insurance system, a woman who gives birth to a child is sick. She qualifies for sick leave. Even if the Quebec government pays for parental leave, the woman fired when she returns to work is considered to have been sick. These are issues that must be clarified.
I hope that when this bill goes to committee, given the great wisdom of this House, we will be able to ensure the pertinence of all items contained therein.