Mr. Speaker, I am really pleased to have this opportunity to rise again in the House today to continue the debate on my bill, Bill C-473, which proposes changes to the Financial Administration Act.
The purpose of the bill is to improve the representation of women on boards of directors of crown corporations and only crown corporations. I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate that gender equality must be a priority for Canadians. In its Constitution, Canada recognizes that men and women are equal. However, when it comes to economic independence, equality in decision-making, violence against women, pay equity and other issues, there remains a great deal of work to be done in order for men and women to be equal in economic, social and political spheres in Canada.
In previous debates, some of my colleagues raised a number of questions that should be clarified for everyone's benefit. I hope my responses here today will answer their questions. First, I would like to remind everyone that the heads of crown corporations—even though those corporations operate at arm's length of the government—are appointed by the ministers. The government therefore has the power to take the necessary corrective action to put an end to any undue discrimination currently practiced against women in the hiring process.
During my last speech, my main argument was that Canadian women are more qualified than ever, and accordingly, the government needs to bring in measures that maximize the potential of all that talent. Thus, I have to be critical of the parliamentary secretary's tactic of using misinformation when she stated the opposite of what I said. As I explained last time, the problem has nothing to do with qualifications, but rather with accessibility. Women have the skills needed, but they are not recruited as much because their resumés do not make it onto the minister's desk.
The solution is simple. We have to make sure that, during the appointments process, CVs from women and men with equal skill sets are provided to the minister's office. Quebec is a perfect example of how that can work. Contrary to what the parliamentary secretary said, there have been no problems and no negative repercussions on performance. There has been nothing rigid or arbitrary about this process, simply a pool of male and female candidates to choose from. My colleague opposite also presented an argument based on the effectiveness and benefits of the voluntary measures put forward by the government. Norway tried the voluntary approach, but it did not work. The Conference Board of Canada says that it will take another 150 years to reach parity if we rely solely on the voluntary approach.
I also want to mention the brave step that Morocco took in introducing legislation after the Arab Spring. Female representation in that Arab country went from 19% to 50%. Here in Canada, the voluntary approach has resulted in women being under-represented on boards of crown corporations and holding only 27% of senior management positions. How can the government claim to be doing everything it should be doing when the figures are clear and do not lie? There has been no progress on this issue. That is clear proof that the voluntary approach does not work and does not produce the expected results.
In a speech she delivered last fall, Christine Lagarde, managing director of the IMF, supported the introduction of quotas “because nothing has changed in the past 25 or 30 years!” I would therefore urge all of my colleagues to recognize the obvious and take appropriate measures to ensure that we achieve the goals Canada wishes to set for itself in terms of gender parity.
In response to other questions that some of my colleagues had, I would like to add that I am very aware that this bill does not fix all of the problems related to women's rights, especially not access to senior positions. However, I sincerely believe that Bill C-473 is a step forward, a corrective measure. Without it, a laissez-faire approach will change nothing.
I strongly suggest that we refer this bill to a committee so that we can give more thought to issues such as transgender individuals and sanctions in cases where boards do not achieve parity by the deadline. Experts, including people who were in charge of implementing the new process in Quebec, will be able to advise us on this matter.
It is our responsibility as parliamentarians to pass corrective legislation so that women can benefit fully from their rights. The NDP has always been and will continue to be a champion of women's rights.