House of Commons Hansard #238 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was s-7.


Combating Terrorism ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

Accordingly, the recorded division stands deferred.

The House resumed from April 19 consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion—First Nations, Métis and InuitBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker NDP Joe Comartin

It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to order made Friday, April 19, 2013, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion relating to the business of supply.

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Vote #665

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion defeated.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, given the good news that we have concluded debate on the final stage of Bill S-7, the combating terrorism act, and given my statement Friday regarding the rescheduling of business, I would like to officially designate tomorrow and Thursday as allotted days.

Business of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

April 23rd, 2013 / 6:10 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

moved that Bill C-473, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (balanced representation), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present Bill C-473 to the House today.

The issue of equality between women and men in a fair and equitable Canadian society was always at the heart of my previous professional life and now, today, as a politician, I am truly proud to be able to contribute to this cause.

Bill C-473 proposes a simple but effective improvement in the current legislation governing our public financial administration. Specifically, the bill wishes to offer balanced representation to Canadian men and women on the boards of directors of crown corporations.

The question of gender equity in the management of our crown corporations is not unknown to Canada's Parliament. In the House, the Senate and committees, the fact that still too few women are involved in the management of our political institutions and Canadians businesses remains an important problem that we must consider if we want to be able to say we live in a society with equal rights.

I would like to thank all the pioneering women who worked so hard to advance women's rights, especially in the sectors that traditionally were the preserve of men, such as politics and management.

Among others, I think of the phenomenal work done by the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, on which the spirit of my bill is based, and of my colleague from Churchill, who has been so lively in her defence of the issues affecting the status of women, and of the Senator from Bedford who has been trying for many years to make the infamous glass ceiling vanish.

Despite all their hard work, and while Canadian society has made many strides toward women's rights in recent decades, the numbers speak clearly: there is still a lot of work to do. That is why I decided to introduce Bill C-473.

The most recent data show that over 2,000 Canadians occupy positions in more than 200 crown corporations, organizations, boards of directors and commissions across the country.

Of all the positions available on the boards of directors of these organizations, only 27% of senior management positions are occupied by women. The situation is even worse for presidents of boards of directors. The most current figures show that only 16 of the 84 presidents are women.

Sadly, we are a long way from equal representation that would reflect Canada's demographic makeup and would offer professional growth and development opportunities to our talented women.

With women as 27% of boards of directors of crown corporations, we are far behind the 40% reached in most Scandinavian countries. Other countries such as Spain, France and the Netherlands have introduced measures to encourage more equity in their institutions.

Canada even lags behind the 30% quotas imposed by South Africa and Israel—quotas that have been exceeded for a number of years.

As our country has evolved, it has established a robust democratic process for nominations and appointments to fill the positions on the boards of our crown corporations.

Ministers manage the appointments within their own portfolios, and present their nominations to the Governor in Council.

In the selection process, criteria are established to define the essential qualifications for a given position. In order to attract a large number of potential candidates, a number of mechanisms are used, such as the Governor-in-Council appointments website, executive recruiting agencies, newspapers and specialized publications. Candidates who express an interest are evaluated on the basis of the requirements of the position they apply for.

With regard to the issue of balanced representation, one of the problems—not to say prejudices—our society has had to deal with was that there were not enough women with the necessary qualifications to meet the requirements of the position. This problem disappeared over the years, with mass education for Canadians and access for women to post-secondary studies.

These days, and this is the opinion of a number of experts who have looked at the issue, one problem that persists is that we are still using the traditional recruitment pools to find candidates, where men are still in the majority.

Yet two factors we thought had almost disappeared from contemporary society are still very much in place: the “old boys’ club”, the traditional recruiting network for executive positions, and the familiar “glass ceiling” which is unfortunately difficult to break through for women aspiring to professional careers at the highest level.

My bill proposes an indirect approach to getting rid of these two stereotypes. Through the imposition of a gradual quota for representation of both sexes on the boards of our crown corporations, those responsible for suggesting appointments will be compelled to extend the boundaries of their recruiting methods, and open up the search for candidates with the necessary skills to include a non-traditional recruitment pool.

Canada can rely on a highly qualified female workforce. We can be proud of that. Its ranks include more than 60,000 women who are professional accountants, 20,000 women lawyers, more than 16,000 women engineers, thousands of women university professors and hundreds of women actuaries. There are thus plenty of women with the talents and skills to fill these positions. As a society, all we need do is give ourselves the resources to go out and recruit them.

Another point I would like to address concerns the proposed choice of quotas rather than voluntary incentives.

It must be said that some groups and organizations have come out against this kind of mandatory reinforcement measure. The justification usually given is the fact that the government should not become involved in the choices of outside organizations, like businesses.

Let us not fret. Let us remember, first, that my bill in no way affects organizations of a completely different nature from crown corporations.

It is also important to understand that the proposed choice of quotas is based on the results of careful reflection by experts, published studies and consultations with professional organizations. That reflection also took place in the light of results observed in other countries, where the problem of balanced representation has been addressed in one way or another.

On this point, I would like to share with my colleagues some more enlightening remarks by Anne Golden, chair of the Conference Board of Canada from 2001 to 2012, who noted that at the current pace, it would take 150 years to achieve equity at the top of the organizational ladder if the government did not step in with a mandatory measure.

One other blatant example justifies the establishment of quotas rather than voluntary measures. I am referring to Norway’s failure when it took its first steps in this area. In 2003, Norway was the first country to pass legislation providing for gender equality on the board of directors of public limited companies. The legislation extended to crown corporations and came into force in January 2004. However, in getting to this point, the government had first attempted to negotiate with the private sector so-called voluntary quotas calling for 40% of seats on boards of directors to be held by women, warning that restrictive legislative measures would be brought in should the desired representation not be achieved by July 2005.

A survey of businesses conducted by Statistics Norway revealed that only 13% of businesses had established voluntary quotas and that women held only 16% of the positions on boards of directors as of the 2005 deadline.

That is why this kind of legislation is needed.

Norway went on to extend the scope of the legislation to public limited companies effective January 2006.

This proves that basic measures must be taken and that voluntary quotas do not work.

Another noteworthy example is Quebec. In this instance, theirs is a success story. Quebec is the only province to have adopted legislation aimed at achieving gender equality on crown corporation board of directors since 2006. Efforts in this regard have, to say the least, proved successful. In December 2011, the deadline by which crown corporations were to have achieved gender equality within the five-year period, 141 women and 128 men held positions on the board of directors of 22 Quebec crown corporations. Women made up the majority, or 52.4%, of directors appointed. All that remains is to ensure balanced representation in the number of women and men appointed to the board of each crown corporation subject to the act.

In the case of both Norway and Quebec, the legislation did not cause any problems or result in any additional paperwork. And needless to say, crown corporations are obviously very well managed.

Summing up, I would like to use my speaking time to mention the government’s proposal to set up an advisory committee to look into ways of increasing the proportion of women appointed to company boards of directors, while working with the private sector to come up with concrete solutions.

This is a positive step forward and I can only agree with my colleagues opposite when they say that improving women’s prospects of serving on the board of directors of companies is beneficial for Canadian women as well as for the country’s economy. I assume their logic also extends to the board of directors of crown corporations.

However, in the case of the latter, I think the government needs to set the example and send a strong message about balanced representation in the management of our public finances. Such a message would open the door to many women with latent potential and could inspire companies to do likewise.

That is why I believe quotas are the most appropriate solution for crown corporation boards of directors. We are seeing a real success story in our own backyard. I am referring, of course, to Quebec.

I may have focused till now on the legislative measure proposed in my bill, but I would now like to discuss the time it is taking to achieve equality between the sexes when it comes to our financial administration.

Various approaches have been adopted by countries that have implemented similar measures and, in the case of Quebec, the provincial government gave itself a five-year timeframe. In light of the examples we are familiar with and in order to maximize the chances of success, Bill C-473 proposes a realistic six-year timeframe.

The current figures have female representation hovering around 27%, so it would be realistic to put in place the tools necessary to reach 30% in the next two years, 40% in four years and, ultimately, parity in six years. Obviously, if a board of directors were composed of an uneven number of members, it would stand to reason that there would be an imbalance in the female–male representation.

Before concluding my speech and moving on to questions and comments, I would like to take the few minutes remaining to invite my colleagues from all parties to take advantage of this unique opportunity to showcase the skills and aptitudes of female professionals across Canada.

It is my profound belief that, with this bill, Canada has an opportunity to emerge from the dark ages and position itself as one of the global leaders in gender equality, thereby catching up with many other G20 countries.

Giving competent women an opportunity to realize their full potential and contribute to the development of our community is a question of fairness, rights, democracy and economic prosperity. Everyone wins.

The NDP has always been, and will always be, the staunchest advocate of policies that enable women to fully participate in the stewardship of public finances, and we believe that women should have the same opportunities as men when it comes to serving on boards of directors.

Moreover, in light of the evidence, the NDP strongly believes that diversity among boards of directors is crucial for the good governance of organizations, and that it benefits everyone concerned.

As a woman, fairness and justice are among the fundamental values at the heart of my philosophy and my engagement. In my opinion, this bill is a concrete measure that will help to strike a balance in gender representation when it comes to the management of public finances, while at the same time better reflecting Canadian demographics. I hope, therefore, that my colleagues will come to the same conclusion, and that they will listen to the demands of thousands of women who wish to bring down the glass ceiling and contribute fully to Canadian society.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I would like to congratulate my colleague for her visionary private member's bill. She acknowledged the work of other NDP women, including the MP for London—Fanshawe, who put this idea forward.

It is time for Canada to show leadership. We hear about an advisory committee the Minister for Status of Women has put together. We hear about some interest from the government. How important is it that the government support the private member's bill she is putting forward?

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend the hon. member for Churchill for her question. She has done a lot of work for the status of women. It is always important to hear what she has to say.

I have here a photo of the minister and an article that says that Ottawa wants more women serving on boards of directors. I am issuing the minister the challenge and giving her the opportunity to make that happen. Ministers have a strong political influence over crown corporations, our corporations. If the opportunity arises and the minister is serious, she can prove it in the coming years, first by passing this bill.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be interested in hearing from my hon. colleague as she moves forward on Bill C-473. She clearly is interested in seeing the kind of progression that we all want to ensure happens for Canadian women. Has she reviewed, or had any contact and discussion on, the bill currently before the Senate dealing with the same issue?

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes. I met with a senator who is involved in many issues and who introduced a similar bill in the Senate. I also met with many women's groups.

In 1988, I got involved with the status of women and it became something that has been close to my heart ever since. I have had the opportunity to interact with many people who help women enter the labour market, as well as those who want to get women more involved in decision making and decision-making bodies in this country. I think it is important to start at the beginning. Crown corporations belong to us, which opens an important door.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

London North Centre Ontario


Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, we believe that senior executive positions on crown corporations should be based on merit. We understand that women are under-represented on these boards. That is why budget 2012 launched the Government of Canada's advisory council on women on corporate boards. We believe in promoting the qualities of talented and capable women, without the need to create legislated gender quotas.

Also, in my riding of London North Centre I hosted a round table for women on boards. These were leaders in non-profit and for-profit businesses. The consensus was that we do not put quotas on corporate boards or on any boards.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Anne-Marie Day NDP Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for allowing me to answer this question, because it is of the utmost importance.

The people in power often tell us this, but it is absolutely false. I said it in my speech. The Conference Board of Canada and others have said that it will take at least 150 years if nothing is done. I do not think that, as a civilized country, we can stand back and make young women wait 150 years.

More women than ever are taking business administration in college and university. We have female lawyers and actuaries. I am certain that the members opposite know young women who hope to become leaders in our society. These large boards of directors are limited. Females represent only 27% of their membership when most business administration graduates are women. Perhaps we should stop wondering whether these women are competent; they are.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.


Stella Ambler Conservative Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-473, an act to amend the financial administration act. As we know, women are significantly under-represented on corporate boards and our government certainly believes that having more women on corporate boards is smart for the economy, our government's number one priority.

Research shows that businesses with more women on their boards are more profitable. They routinely outperform those that have fewer women.

With economic uncertainty still ahead, that is the kind of business performance Canada needs if we are to grow our economy. It makes sense to recruit from the whole talent pool, not just part of it. However, when it comes to increasing the gender representation on boards of directors of crown corporations, the proposed solution in the bill is not acceptable. Legislated quotas are rigid and arbitrary thresholds that would adversely affect the appointment process.

That said, we agree that increasing opportunities for women to serve on corporate boards, including those of crown corporations, makes good sense for Canadian women and for Canada’s economy.

That is why economic action plan 2012 called for the creation of an advisory board, which the member opposite mentioned. It is a council of leaders that will link organizations to a network of skilled and experienced workers. Its goal is to increase the representation of women on corporate boards. By increasing opportunities for women's leadership, the council will also help to keep Canada's economy strong.

Hon. members may know that the Minister for Status of Women recently announced the membership of the advisory council. We are talking about such distinguished individuals as Isabelle Hudon, president of Sun Life Financial, Quebec; Arlene Dickinson, owner and CEO of Venture Communications and an entrepreneur and host of Dragons' Den; John Ferguson, chair of the board of Suncor; Murray Edwards, president and owner of Edco Financial Holdings Ltd.; as well as Janet Ecker, former finance minister for the province of Ontario.

These are only some of the who’s who of women and men with a wide range of experience in our country’s boardrooms.

The advisory council will come back with recommendations by the fall of 2013. This is an important measure to help support increasing women's representation in leadership roles. In fact, there are countless qualified and ambitious women in Canada who want to contribute to our economic success. Promoting the increased representation of women in all occupations, including skilled trades and other non-traditional occupations, will allow women to participate fully in a stronger Canadian economy.

The government is moving forward with a three-point plan to address challenges in connecting Canadians with available jobs. The focus is to equip Canadians with the skills and training they require to obtain high-quality, well-paying jobs.

First, economic action plan 2013 announced that the government will transform skills training in Canada through the introduction of the Canada job grant as part of the renewal of the labour market agreements in 2014-15. Upon full implementation of the Canada job grant, nearly 130,000 Canadians each year are expected to have access to the training they need to fill available jobs. The government would also renegotiate the labour market development agreements to reorient training toward labour market demand.

Second, economic action plan 2013 proposes to reallocate $4 million over three years to reduce barriers to the accreditation of apprentices. The government would work with provinces and territories to harmonize requirements for apprentices and to examine the use of practical tests as a method of assessment in targeted skilled trades. This work would ensure that more apprentices complete their training, and it would encourage mobility, as well. Economic action plan 2013 also proposes to support the use of apprentices through federal procurement, the investment in affordable housing, and as part of the new building Canada plan for infrastructure.

Third, economic action plan 2013 supports under-represented groups. Aboriginal women, for example, are generally less likely to be part of the paid workforce. They experience lower income levels and have less education than their non-aboriginal counterparts. This situation is likely to increase their vulnerability to violence and abuse.

Economic action plan 2013 proposes $241 million over five years to improve the on-reserve income assistance program to help ensure that first nations youth can access the skills and training they need to secure employment. The government will continue, with first nations across Canada, on the development of a first nation education act. It is committing to sharing this draft legislation with first nation communities for their input.

Economic action plan 2013 also proposes $10 million over two years that would provide post-secondary scholarships and bursaries for first nation and Inuit students.

Immigrant women also often face gender-based obstacles to employment, including challenges in foreign credential recognition, resulting in their greater vulnerability to economic insecurity.

Compared with immigrant men, immigrant women in 2009 had lower employment rates, no matter how long they had been in Canada.

Economic action plan 2013 announced the government's commitment to improving foreign credential recognition for additional target occupations under the pan-Canadian framework for the assessment and recognition of foreign qualifications.

Our actions to increase women's economic prosperity and security do not end there. As members know, Canada's economy is one of the most stable in the world. This provides rich opportunities for the largely untapped potential of women as a well-trained and highly educated sector of Canada's workforce. Canadian women entrepreneurs and small business owners will benefit from the following action. Budget 2013 will expand and extend the temporary hiring credit for small business available to a significant portion of women small business owners. This will encourage small business job-creation and reduce small business costs.

The government further proposes to provide $60 million over five years to help outstanding and high potential incubator and accelerator organizations in Canada expand their services to entrepreneurs. We also propose making available a further $100 million through the Business Development Bank of Canada to invest in firms graduating from business accelerators.

Budget 2013 proposes to provide $20 million over three years to help small and medium-sized enterprises access research and business development services at universities, colleges and other non-profit research institutions of their choice.

This will be done through a new pilot program to be delivered through the National Research Council’s industrial research assistance program, which will provide women entrepreneurs with greater access to valuable support.

Rather than relying on one method, as the bill in question proposes, our government has been taking a multifaceted approach to increasing the participation of under-represented groups in the workforce. It is an approach that supports opportunities for every under-represented group in the workforce and that reflects Canada's linguistic and regional diversity.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate for the Liberal caucus and to speak in favour of Bill C-473 at second reading.

Of course, the Liberal Party has a long and well-established reputation as a leader and an advocate for gender equality, as many in this House do, in all areas of society and our parliamentary caucus continues to be committed to this legacy.

On April 17, 1982, Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into law and, with it, section 15 took effect. As a result of Mr. Trudeau's quest for a just society, section 15 assured that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.

So, while the charter-signing ceremony took place under the capital's cloudy skies, its impact was to provide a fledgling ray of sunshine for women and girls struggling against the odds. For the first time in our history, the Constitution of Canada formally recognized that men and women were viewed as equals in every way, under Canada law. However, there was still much yet to be done along the road to full equality for Canadian women. Today, three decades after Mr. Trudeau's historic move, Canadian women and girls continue with their efforts to attain full gender parity.

For most people, myself included, particularly those within the Liberal Party, there is a clear understanding that inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for the nation as a whole. Canada's economy can be strengthened immensely by employing more women and by ensuring their entrance in vocational fields traditionally occupied only by men. That is why I am speaking to this issue today.

Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the board of directors of a parent crown corporation shall be such that the proportion of directors of each gender is not less than 30% the second year, 40% the fourth year, and 50% the sixth year. The legislation does stipulate that the numbers may vary when the board of directors consists of no more than eight members. In these instances, Bill C-473 proposes that the difference between the numbers of directors of each gender may be not greater than two.

Now, these are laudable objectives that I applaud but, prior to committing to support Bill C-473 at all legislative stages, I would like to have a few specific questions answered both here and for discussion at our committee.

First, are the gender breakdown numbers being cited in the legislative preamble accurate, and is there a reason for the current levels?

Second, what would the real world impact be upon business if mandatory quotas of this nature were established with the timelines suggested?

Third, what penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies?

I am a lifelong and strong advocate for gender equality, as are many in the House. However, I believe that the standing committee would be an appropriate venue for us to have a full discussion on the implications of Bill C-473, and I think the appropriate place for that is, of course, with the status of women.

I also have questions that the sponsor may be able to answer. On March 8, 2012, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-407. That legislation is nearly identical to Bill C-473, with one notable exception. Bill C-407 would have required that federally regulated boards be made up of at least 40% women. Bill C-473 is premised upon Bill C-407, but the new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% commencing in the sixth year following the coming into force of the section. I am not suggesting that the change is good or bad, but I would like to know why Bill C-407 and Bill C-473 have proposed different target percentages. I am quite sure that the mover of the bill will be able to explain that further at committee level so that we can have further debate on it at our committee.

There are also considerations on the business side of the equation.

Bill C-473 seeks to rapidly modify the environment in which crown corporations must function. As such, consideration must be given to ensure that both gender equality and corporate success can exist simultaneously under the proposed rules set out in this legislative package.

Perhaps we can all agree that Bill C-473 establishes a legal goal without speaking to the methodology necessary to attain that important goal. As it seems this portion of the discussion has been forgotten or omitted by the sponsor, the Liberals on this side of the House believe it is prudent to explore the issue at committee prior to determining amendments and voting intentions at report stage or third reading in the House of Commons.

This is not to say we will lend our support to Bill C-473. In fact, I am asking all members of the House to support it at second reading and to send it to the standing committee so we can explore all of the avenues.

Gender inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for Canada. I am hopeful that Bill C-473 is just one more step along that path. Hope is important because Canada has clearly been slipping as of late.

In October 2012, The Globe and Mail reported that when compared globally, Canada had fallen three spots and was no longer in the top 20 nations when it came to those making progress on equality issues. In fact, the World Economic Forum's annual gender gap ranked Canada in the 21st spot, behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua. When the study was first conducted in 2006, Canada was in the 14th place out of 115 countries. That was leadership.

Although Canada landed in the 12th spot regarding economic opportunity for women and girls, with high levels of income, labour market participation and professional workers, it must be noted that wage equality still lags behind international benchmarks.

On April 17, 1982, Canada emerged as a global leader in the fight for gender equality, but in the 31 years since our lustre has been somewhat tarnished. Today, as in 1982, there is much to be done to help Canadian women and girls and that work must begin in earnest.

I thank the sponsor of this bill and I look forward to working with all members of the House and with our status of women committee to thoroughly debate the pros and cons of Bill C-473 that is before us.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in the House and speak to the important work that my colleague, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, has done to present this private member's bill.

I thank the member for the work she has done on this issue and also for her leadership and vision on gender equality. She shows us how to increase management opportunities for women from all walks of life.

Based on the work this member did before being elected to the House and the work she does here, it is evident that her vision is based on experience, including Quebec's experience. She has shown that it is possible for women to have leadership roles in crown corporations.

We can make a change to increase opportunities for women to hold these jobs.

We have seen so many examples of the bar being raised by the many feminist women who have come before us, women who have really changed the quality of life that women and men have in our country.

I want to pick up on one of the important points my colleague raised, which was the argument about how long it will take, if everything stays the same, for women to play a greater role on corporate boards, on boards of our crown corporations and in the upper echelons of business.

The Conference Board of Canada and others have said that it would take, I believe, 150 years for women to have an equal position at such a level. That is clearly unacceptable. Not only that: the response of the government in failing to provide leadership in this area and using this language about consulting and waiting and trying to figure out some way instead of actually taking direct action on quotas or bold goals when it comes to women on corporate boards is reminiscent of what women have been up against in this country for a long time. Whether it is on the right to vote, on choice, or on pay equity, women have often been told to wait.

The issue here is that through crown corporations, we have an opportunity to effect change and to set the bar high for corporations that are ours as Canadians, corporations that do critical work in terms of basic services or research or foundational work in Canada. We have the opportunity to give leadership to crown corporations and to say that women ought to play an equal role in the management of these corporations.

That is really what we are talking about today, the opportunity to take leadership. Unfortunately, the government has dropped the ball when it comes to women in Canada time and time again.

In fact, today I had the opportunity to be in the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, where we saw the government try to impose paternalistic legislation on indigenous women in Canada through Bill S-2. We saw it some months ago, when members of the government repeatedly wanted to reopen the abortion debate in Canada. We have seen it in the cutbacks to Status of Women Canada and in the elimination of funding for research and advocacy by women's organizations. We have seen it through the removal of the mandatory long form census that provided key research when it comes to women's positions in Canada. Unfortunately, we are seeing the government drop the ball for women once again through its remarks with regard to this bill.

Thankfully there is a chance for them to change their minds on this. We are at second reading. Obviously today there will be some debate and I hope the government will choose to seize this opportunity, be bold and set the bar high like other countries have done.

Often on this side of the House we talk about the equality that women enjoy in Nordic countries. Once again, Nordic countries have beat us to the punch on something as important as the place of women on boards.

Norway was the first country to legislate gender balance on boards of public limited companies with its 2003 gender equality act. That, of course, was 10 years ago. The legislation applies to state-owned companies, and it entered into force in January 2004.

The government had originally tried to negotiate voluntary quotas with the private sector, with an ultimatum that legislative measures would be introduced if the desired gender representation were not attained within two years.

A survey of these companies by Statistics Norway showed by the July 2005 date, only 13% of the companies complied with voluntary quotas, with women representing only 16% of board members. As a result, legislation was applied to public limited companies.

Since its introduction in 2003, the number of women on boards in Norway has reached 40% as required by law.

It can happen. Norway has made it happen as have Spain, France, Iceland, Germany, the Netherlands. In fact, on April 18, just earlier this month, after much debate and even reluctance, Germany legislated a binding quota of 30% women in boardrooms starting in 2020.

These are countries we look to on common issues. Why not on this issue? Other countries have carved the path. Norway, as far back as 10 years ago, set the bar high for all of us. Instead of following suit, Canada is once again not just trailing behind, but actually running backward.

Here we have an opportunity to change that direction, to say that today, and through Bill C-473, we have the opportunity to be leaders. Our hope is that the bill will come into effect, that the government will support it and that crown corporations will be able to show the rest of corporate Canada what it means to have highly qualified, intelligent, competent women working with men of the same calibre to take businesses forward, to take our country forward and really to show that this can happen.

As a young woman, I also want to recognize how important this legislation is to so many young women looking at career opportunities in business, in management, in working in crown corporations. The reality is that the glass ceiling still remains. We see a lot of gains have been made in many workplaces. Women have reached senior management levels in many sectors, but the higher up women go, the power remains with men.

A lot of women my age in my generation know a lot of challenges have been overcome, that change has been made, but they are still seeing that the glass ceiling exists in certain sectors.

This is an opportunity for us as a Parliament to say that we want to change this for young women in Canada. We want to ensure there is a clear message that young women looking ahead have a key role to play at all levels, including the upper echelons of our crown corporations and in the corporate sector.

We believe this is not the time to tell women to wait again. We believe this is not the time to continue the pattern of going backward, as we have seen the Conservative government do when it comes to women's equality in Canada. We believe this is the time for Parliament and the government to stand with the NDP, show leadership and carve out the path for women to be equal in all areas of our society.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak about the government's position on Bill C-473, concerning the balanced representation of men and women on boards of directors of federal crown corporations.

This government wants to see women fully participating, not only in the senior ranks of crown corporations, but also throughout the public service and the private sector.

In a modern, progressive democracy like Canada, women contribute in every respect to corporate enterprises and it has long been acknowledged that the presence of women on corporate boards brings a different perspective and a very important voice to Canadian corporations.

It makes perfect sense that increasing opportunities for women to sit on boards of directors would be good for Canadian women, for Canadian companies, as well as for the economy and economic growth. Not only does it make sense, but it is also the right thing to do.

However, we know that, despite the ever-increasing numbers of women with higher levels of education and significant professional experience, they are under-represented on boards of directors and in senior leadership positions in Canada.

That is exactly why we have taken concrete action to change the situation.

On April 5 the Minister for Status of Women announced the launch of the Government of Canada's Advisory Council on Women on Corporate Boards. This advisory panel will include such notable Canadian women as the president of Sun Life Québec, Isabelle Hudon; Venture Communications CEO Arlene Dickinson; former Ontario finance minister Janet Ecker; Canadian Federation of Independent Business chairwoman Catherine Swift; and Senator Linda Frum.

This panel will advise the minister on how industry can increase the number of women on corporate boards. It will also be asked to find the best way to measure the participation of women on boards and in senior management positions and whether the government should be involved. What is more, it will be asked to suggest ways of recognizing or rewarding companies that have met their own targets for increasing the representation of women, and it will report back with its recommendations this fall.

We welcome the minister's announcement. We applaud it because we support equitable representation of women at all levels in the workforce and broader diversity on corporate boards.

Of course, as economic action plan 2012 confirms, we have committed to supporting the creation of opportunities not only for women but also for all under-represented labour groups, including visible minorities, aboriginals and people with disabilities.

Having said that, Bill C-473 would achieve its objective of enhancing gender balance on boards of directors and in crown corporations through legislated quotas.

Here are the facts about Bill C-473.

Bill C-473, as proposed, would amend the Financial Administration Act to impose gender quotas for the boards of directors of crown corporations. The rollout would be 30% in the second year, 40% in the fourth year and 50% in the sixth year and onward. For boards of eight members or fewer, the difference between the number of directors of each sex could not be greater than two.

The bill also states that appointments that violate these quotas would be invalid, and the responsible minister, with the approval of the governor in council, would need to fill the position immediately in order to respect quota levels and ensure boards have the required number of members for decision-making purposes.

In addition, we believe Bill C-473, when combined with the existing provisions of the Financial Administration Act, could provide grounds for rendering decisions of boards invalid, with the potential to disrupt crown corporations' operations.

There are a number of problems with legislated quotas. The most obvious is that legislated quotas are rigid and arbitrary thresholds that would negatively affect the appointment process. The appointment process has to remain flexible enough to attract qualified men and women who have the range of skills, expertise and experience needed by the boards of directors to effectively fulfill their mandates. The process also has to be flexible enough to allow us to fulfill our commitments to reflect Canada's linguistic and regional diversity on these boards.

Yes, we want to advance the representation of women on boards, but we are also committed to fair treatment for all under-represented employment equity groups. That includes not only women but also visible minorities, aboriginal people and people with disabilities. Legislated quotas may constrain our ability to meet our goals in these areas.

There is a better way to achieve gender balance on the boards of crown corporations.

Key Canadian groups that promote gender equality on boards of directors—for instance, groups like the Canadian Board Diversity Council, the WXN community, the Institute of Corporate Directors and Catalyst Canada—do not support legislated quotas. I repeat, those groups do not support quotas. They believe that efforts to promote qualified candidates in the business community and to recognize and encourage business leaders are more effective.

Allow me to reiterate our position in this matter. Women are truly essential to the business success of the country's corporations, in both private and public sectors. That is why, in economic action plan 2012, we created an advisory council to promote and boost the participation of women on corporate boards in the private and public sectors.

However, in the public sector, legislated quotas are not in the best interests of women or the corporations they would serve. It is always interesting when legislation and private member's bills of this nature come forward and it is clear that the solution that has already been taken by government was voted against by the presenting member.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Before we resume debate, I would like to let the hon. member for London—Fanshawe know that there are only about five minutes remaining in the time allowed for private member's business, so we will have to interrupt her.

Of course, she will have the remaining time when the House next gets to this business at some point in the future.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice of support for this legislation and thank its sponsor.

A growing body of research has shown that gender-diverse corporate boards are more effective. They perform better across the widest talent pool, are more responsive to the market and lead to better decision-making. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, that in your own home you have seen that a good decision was probably a balanced decision made with the influence of a woman.

Because women are active participants in the democratic government of the country, both as voters and as politicians, they should have balanced representation in the management of crown corporations. According to reports based on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth. According to this information, an investment in women is an investment in Canada's future and will undoubtedly lead to economic growth and prosperity.

To create and maintain gender-diverse corporate boards, every opportunity to recruit new board members must ensure that the appointment process facilitates the consideration of qualified women. It is evident that women are actively involved in the corporate community as business owners, shareholders, executives, managers and employees. They play an equally important role in the marketplace as consumers. Women, however, are not yet equally represented on the boards of directors that make the decisions that impact the lives of these same women.

Although women are excelling and represent 47% of the Canadian labour force, they still represent only 14% of board seats among the 500 largest Canadian companies surveyed in 2010. The same survey also indicated that organizations that have a higher representation of women on their boards have much stronger financial performances.

Going hand in hand with corporate boards is the representation of women in this Parliament, and in any parliament. We women have great ideas and a lot to offer here in Canada and around the world. Yet all too often, women are left out of the decision-making process. Globally, women make up only 20% of elected officials. Only 14 heads of state are women. In 2011, Canadians elected 76 women to Parliament. Now nearly 25% of Canadian MPs are female. However, this is still far from the 30% minimum recommended by the UN as necessary to ensure a critical mass of women able to influence policy and needed change. I suggest that it is important that women be there to influence policy. We do not often see that from the government.

Our Parliament now ranks 45th in the number of women elected to Parliament, behind Rwanda, Iraq and Afghanistan. In Canada, women represent more than half of university graduates and comprise half the workforce. However, statistics indicate that only 25% of Canadian MPs are women, a rate that has changed very little over the last five election cycles. This must change.

We need women in leadership roles, be it in Parliament or on the boards of corporations. It is important to note that many women work in occupations requiring higher levels of education and that provide better levels of pay, but these women are still relatively concentrated in the public service and social services. We need women to contribute their remarkable talents across the job spectrum. We need to encourage women to break the patterns that have been established on boards across this country.

This bill would be a step in the right direction. It is not a new idea. As we have heard, many industrialized countries, such as Switzerland and Norway, have enhanced legislation to achieve greater parity in the corporate world. We should, as Canadians, be added to this list. As others have said, let us move forward instead of allowing the status quo to hold us back.

Financial Administration ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for London—Fanshawe will have five minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next returns to this question.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.

The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7:11 p.m.)