Madam Speaker, a number of different points have been raised in debate and I think all members in the House share the opinion, the will and the want to ensure that pregnant and nursing women are well cared for and supported, as they should be.
From a Liberal perspective, our track record shows we have not just talked about this, but we have taken steps such as maternity leave through the employment insurance program and various undertakings over a number of years.
Bill C-307 is similar to a private member's bill put forward in the past by a member of the Bloc. I remember being in the House when it was debated. I do not see any changes from this legislation to the points that were raised the past legislation.
The concern then and the concern now is the impact this will have on provinces and how they have to respond to the legislation. It is really a case of dictating programs to the various provincial jurisdictions. I do not know if that is what our role and responsibility is here, and it was mentioned in the comments of my colleague, the parliamentary secretary.
I went through a process fairly closely with a former colleague, Ken Dryden, when he was a member of this chamber. We did cross-Canada contacts and stakeholders meetings when he worked toward the formation of a national child care program. What we took from those meetings and from that whole experience was that each province did things completely different.
The province of Quebec has a child care model that stands apart from other provinces. It is very well refined, whereas the province of Newfoundland is still trying to come to terms with and develop more of a broad-based system.
However, one thing Ken understood from his experience was that none of the provinces were willing to accept a national program. They could only do what they could do. They could improve what they were doing. They could support some of the initiatives they had undertaken. They believed in early education and child care, but they had to live within their means, as all governments do.
What had to be done was a series of one-offs, where the federal government embarked on a particular deal with each of the provinces. Investments were made. Those deals were certainly supported financially and dollars were transferred. However, it was not up to the federal government to dictate what a child care and early learning program should look like. That was clearly provincial jurisdiction. Ken and I took away from the experience that this was clearly within the purview of the provincial governments, but there was a role for the federal government to play.
As has been stated by the parliamentary secretary, and it is a belief that I share, there are provisions within the Canada Labour Code right now that protect the safety and security of pregnant and nursing women. Although well-intended and as noble as it might be, the legislation has the potential to further add to an inequality, where those women who work in a federal sector would have access to a higher level and a greater amount of support than other women who did not work in that sector.
The potential to add to inequality is real and I have not seen any changes in the legislation. That concern was raised when the Bloc introduced the legislation. I have not seen that change through this. If we were to go forward and support the legislation, I think we would constitutionally impinge on the jurisdiction of the provincial governments. It is tough enough to move legislation forward and be progressive in areas of federal jurisdiction, but when we try to impart that on the provinces, they are not all that willing.
The additional risk is it would further complicate an already complicated area, where we see provincial labour laws and provincial codes apply as well as an overlap of federal labour laws and labour codes.
We dealt with legislation four years ago. Cape Breton had a subsea mine and federal labour codes applied to that specific operation, the Cape Breton Development Corporation. When the federal government got out of the mining business, the province wanted to assume and further develop the coalfields in Sydney. To try to streamline that, we had to pass legislation in the House that would enable the province to assume responsibility to have that mine operate under provincial labour codes and to be monitored by provincial labour standards. It was a rigorous process, but nonetheless we were able to get through it.
However, when we look at all 10 provinces and the varying degrees of support that are awarded by each of those provinces and when we look at where the Canada Labour Code currently extends into this issue, then it calls into question whether it is wise or prudent or if it is our responsibility to move forward with this type of legislation.
Again, our caucus has seen the legislation before. We did not think it was the cleanest of legislation. Although we support pregnant and nursing women, we do not think the legislation is one that makes a great deal of sense to support. It further draws a greater inequality between those who are in federal sectors and those who are not.