Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-473, which was introduced by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles. Because I am fortunate enough to share a desk with her, we have had a number of discussions about this bill.
This bill would introduce progressive measures to address the under-representation of women on crown corporation boards of administration. This bill is about professional equality between men and women. Equality in every dimension results from a long process of democratization that leads to recognition that both sexes have the same rights.
Nevertheless, women with the same skill sets as men still do not have equal access to senior positions. This problem affects both boards of directors and senior management teams.
This bill expresses the political will to fight this type of inequality. Politicians can commit to taking meaningful action to foster gender equality in the realms where it is possible for them to do so. I want to emphasize that it takes political will to walk the talk and pass this bill, a bill that can change things.
Women entering the workforce was a major change for our democracy. Our country is relatively young, but in its early days, there were hardly any women in the labour force. Things changed very fast. Now women are in the workforce. The labour market has also become more democratic over time. We have to keep up the fight and take meaningful action to conquer this kind of inequality.
Economically, implementing social policies that encourage women to join the labour force is a win-win situation. It is a technical win because when there are more women in the labour force, there is more taxable income, which means higher tax revenues for the state.
It is also a win because when men and women play an equal role in governing public corporations, their decisions take a much wider range of perspectives into account. Influenced by different viewpoints, their decisions are more thoughtful and effective. It is no secret that men and women often see the same problem from different angles.
When we have the views of both men and women on how to address specific problems, the outcome is more effective. Companies are usually at an advantage when they choose to include more women on their boards of directors or management teams. In fact, research conducted by Catalyst has shown a positive correlation between a company's sound financial results and a high number of women in its executive ranks.
For instance, the crown corporation Canada Post says it has financial difficulties, but its vision is probably more masculine. If more women had been on its board of directors, the visions would have been more varied and the corporation would have taken more acceptable and effective actions.
The vision of Canada Post would have been much broader. As we can see in the case of private companies, such a vision leads to better financial results. I think the government would benefit from adopting this type of policy, since it has a positive effect on financial results.
This legislation remains an effective tool for achieving the goal of gender parity. By examining international experience in the area, we can see that, unfortunately, voluntary incentives in no way lead to the expected results. When you rely on people's goodwill and you encourage them without putting legal measures in place, you will not achieve the desired results. In our example, what really matters is the outcome. Once we realize that a voluntary approach does not work, I think it is very important to take a stand and pass the appropriate legislation.
In addition, when legislation is not passed, inaction often seems to reinforce inequalities. The longer we wait to pass a piece of legislation, the more the situation worsens or at least does not improve. I think this clearly demonstrates the need to pass this legislation.
Once the bill comes into force, the objective of ensuring gender parity on the boards of crown corporations must be achieved within six years. Practically speaking, this means that it is important to pass such legislation quite quickly.
A gradual approach is used so as not to shake things up too much all at once and to allow people to adapt and slowly achieve their objectives. Quite often this means there will be one or two more women a year. At the end of six years, the target will be met. This is done gradually to give the organizations the time to develop new recruitment strategies. They will definitely need it. Often, women need to be encouraged to join boards of directors and they have to be sought out. Nonetheless, there are just as many well-qualified women as men. Sometimes women need to be sought out and encouraged to join boards of directors. The skills that these women have acquired and developed throughout their careers would be taken into consideration. This timeframe would allow the crown corporations to explore new labour pools and adjust their recruitment policies in order to bring qualified executives into their boards of administration.
The NDP has clearly demonstrated that it is leading the way in Canadian politics, and one way we have proven that is with our nominations. Fifty percent of NDP candidates are women. This has been good for democracy. I think I am a good example among my peers. By doing something tangible we are leading by example. The NDP currently has the largest female caucus in Parliament. It is important to do something tangible.
If women do not make up 50% of the parties' candidates, then it will be hard to have more female members of Parliament. We have to force the hand of the authorities in place. By having female candidates, we are able to have female MPs. The same goes for boards of directors. By passing legislation and forcing their hand a bit, we will end up with excellent women contributing to our crown corporations. The government can then also contribute to the increased use of professional practices that are based on balanced representation and that, I hope, will go beyond those of the public enterprises in question.
In other words, the bill before us can truly provide a concrete strategic advantage to our crown corporations. What is more, considering that some crown corporations are in financial difficulty, this might even help them face the future much more effectively.
I think this bill will truly benefit Canada, and I recommend that all members support it.