House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trans.


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5:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, in fairness to the member, I will give the Harper government credit for the Honduras and Panama agreements. However, it is wrong for the Conservatives to believe that they actually completed something in regard to CETA, because it is not a done deal. This is something that our current minister is aggressively pursuing and is constantly being requested by countries abroad to cross the Atlantic to try to remedy the many different issues that are still outstanding. Therefore, to try to give Canadians the impression that this is a Conservative agreement is wrong. The member also made reference to 60% of trade around the world being done through the Harper government, which is just not true.

However, not to fear, we understand that in order to get the job done we have to put all the players on the ice in order to score a goal. Under this government, we have a number of players who are quite keen to be on the ice to make sure that the puck gets into the net. We all hope, because it is in Canada's best interests, that we are able to accomplish something that the former Harper government was not able to.

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5:25 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, the member talks about wanting to be on the ice, but the Liberals have not even decided which net they are trying score in here. One has to know which direction one is going if one wants to achieve results when it comes to trade.

I would ask my friend one more time. If he cannot tell us what the government is going to do with respect to the trans-Pacific partnership, can he at least tell us when it will make up its mind? When will this process of never-ending consultation actually be complete?

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5:25 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the bottom line is that we can talk about the TPP, CETA, and all the other trade agreements, but when the Harper government took office, the Conservatives had a multi-billion dollar surplus in trade. They converted it into a multi-billion dollar deficit. The bottom line is that the Conservatives are not that great at trading.

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5:25 p.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, it is great to come up and speak to Bill C-13. Before I go on, I want to recognize that I am sharing my time with the member for Chatham-Kent—Leamington. He is such a great member, and another good member of the committee. I will talk a bit more about him later.

Being a member of the trade committee, I do want to compliment the committee on how well the members worked together in getting this agreement done. I want to compliment the committee because this is something that we actually worked on together and got it through.

I also want to highlight the fact that there has been lots of discussion of Bill C-13. I do not think I need to repeat all that. I think we all know what Bill C-13 is, but I do want to highlight one thing. This agreement would just enforce things that we are already doing at our borders and customs. It would bring the world level up to the Canadian level. It is very important to highlight the fact that other countries in the world looked at the Canadian system that was, under the Conservative government, pretty good, and said that they agreed and they were going to bring their systems up to the Canadian system as it was under the Conservative government. Let us hope the Liberals do not drop the ball on that one.

Sixty per cent of our GDP is reliant on trade. Canada is a trading nation. In order for Canadians to succeed and thrive and have strong families and the quality of life they deserve, we have to sell things abroad. However, people love what we have to offer. The parliamentary secretary talked about tractors out of Winnipeg. Ukrainians love those tractors. Americans love those tractors. There are so many Versatile tractors in Australia it is unreal, and so many Versatile tractors in Ukraine. I know first-hand because I worked in that sector.

However, the member could have also talked about MacDon Industries out of Winnipeg. Again, the machinery it makes is sold all over the world, and it is so good at it that big companies like John Deere, New Holland, Case, and AGCO would rather just buy from these guys. They know they do it so well, so why compete? Just let them do it. That is a great company out of Winnipeg.

Then manufacturers out of Saskatchewan are Bourgault Industries, Morris Industries, Seed Hawk, Conserva Pak, and Flexi-Coil, the company I used to work with, which is part of New Holland now. These guys sell machinery around the world.

The interesting thing about this machinery, and it kind of ties into the carbon sequestering comments, is that they have been sequestering carbon with no-till probably for 12 to 15 years now. They have been sinking that carbon in the soil by going no-till. They have reduced erosion. They have reduced their chemical and water usage. It used to be that a crop in the Prairies needed about 12 to 15 inches of rain to go from planting to harvest. If there was not that amount of rain, the farmers would not get a crop. I was talking to a farmer this past summer and he said that if he had four inches, he would get a crop. He said he had such great organic material in his soil it was second to none, so his fertilizer use is going down and his chemical use is going down, and his yields are going up. That is all based on innovation in Saskatchewan and in western Canada, which now the rest of the world is embracing and wants to buy. We have to make sure those people get access to it.

Bill C-13 will go through the House I assume unopposed, and it should. All the heavy lifting was done in the committee, and the committee did a great job. That is where I want to talk about the member for Chatham-Kent—Leamington. He was sitting there and he was so co-operative, providing positive input, and moving the bill forward. This is the type of co-operation that Canadians want to see on something as simple as this, because it is so good for all of Canada to have it go through. There is no reason to play politics with it and it never happened. There were no politics played with this one. It actually moved forward and came back to the House. I assume it will go through very quickly here also.

However, I do have to talk about CETA and about TPP. It would be a shame to let the parliamentary secretary get away with some of the comments he made there.

On CETA, we gave the Liberals the playbook. When the Liberals took government, CETA was done. They had to make a few little adjustments and then they had to get it across the finish line. To say that they are out renegotiating the CETA deal is just not right.

TPP is one thing that I think we need to really embrace. When we have CETA and we have TPP and Canada is in the middle, look at the customers we have and look at the spending power that the customers have to buy our products.

When I was the marketing manager for seeding equipment in eastern and western Europe and into the Ukraine, one of the problems we always had was getting cash for our product. These markets in western Europe are rich markets. These markets in Asia are wealthy markets. They have the money to buy the goods that we build and create, and to buy our technology. They want it. We have to give them access to it. We need to have trade agreements like CETA and TPP to do that.

What is really confusing for our manufacturers, farmers, and other service sectors here in Canada is when they see something like TPP they say, “It is great. It is going to open up this whole market. The Japanese are going to be in it now. I am going to have access to sell my beef into that market tariff free”. Then they see the Liberals just saying that they are going to restudy it.

I find that really interesting. They say we did not consult; Conservatives did not consult. I asked who was told they could not participate in the consultations; who asked if they could be involved in the consultations to whom we said no. I cannot find anybody. Anybody who wanted to be consulted, who wanted to consult with us and be part of the process, could have. The process was there.

The witnesses who come in front of the committee on TPP—because we have been studying it now for almost a year—are saying that this is the third or fourth time they have made their presentation on this topic and are asking why they are doing it again.

The sad thing about it is that we will do the report, it will come back into the House, hopefully the Liberals will see the light of the day and actually bring in legislation, and then it will go back to the committee. Then we will do it for a fifth time.

Is that a good use of resources? I do not think so. I think Canadians would be very upset if they realized what a dog and pony show is going on with these TPP consultations.

It is one thing to talk about the importance of trade, and it is one thing for some parties to say that they are pro-trade when they are not, and it is quite obvious in how they go about conducting themselves. It is quite obvious in how they go and ask the questions, how they conduct themselves in committee, and how they conduct themselves here in the House.

Some parties just do not understand the importance of trade. They do not understand that Canadians can compete with anybody in the world. They are not scared to compete. Our small and medium enterprises are not scared to go out and compete with anybody in the world. If they are given a level playing field, they will compete.

What they are concerned about is having things forced upon them, like a carbon tax that brings up their costs and that their competitors do not have. Look at a situation where there is a product made with hydro out of Manitoba, which is very green power, and yet they are competing against somebody making something in China, using coal. They can look at that and say they are paying a carbon tax with green power and losing market share because their costs are so high, but the same product made in China with coal power is now coming in and taking their market. That is what is concerning them about this carbon tax.

That is why it is very dangerous for one jurisdiction to move into situations like this, on a carbon tax or a green power program like the one they did here in Ontario, by itself without having other jurisdictions follow. If we have a true commitment to reduce global warming and carbon, then we have to do it as a globe. That means it has to be a level playing field across the globe. We cannot give preferential treatment to other areas of the world and expect Canadians to bear the brunt of it.

When I look back to trade, I also want to highlight some of the other things that are very important about trade. We can talk about the Honduras deal. That is a deal that will hopefully help Honduras and the people of Honduras establish themselves in a quality of life that actually will help them raise their families, get educated, and get good jobs, so they can turn away from violence and crime and just have a good job and be able to go home and spend time with their family, go to church on Sunday morning. That is what they really want, but when they are not given the opportunities to sell what they have and they do not have the opportunities to have investment into their country, then that does not happen. What happens is they relate to crime and other things.

I will stop right there and take questions on this. The reality is that Bill C-13 should be done. It should go through here with no problem at all. I look forward to seeing TPP come forward. I am looking forward to CETA coming forward. I think that is a trade deal to which everybody in Canada is looking forward.

As one last point, I was talking to some lobster guys in Nova Scotia. Do members know how much lobster is being shipped because of TPP and other trade deals now? The impact of trade deals and what they do for people's quality of life is amazing. Do members know who is driving the new trucks in Nova Scotia? It is lobster fishermen. That tells us of the impacts of trade deals. These guys have a better quality of life, and they buy a truck. Where is the truck made? It is made in Ontario. I cannot see how that can be a bad thing.

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5:35 p.m.


Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Prince Albert, whom I hold in high regard. We share some ideas that are not entirely opposed.

During the last session of Parliament, I sat through a few meetings of the Standing Committee on International Trade. We had a few discussions and debates on what constituted support for various treaties or trade agreements. I attended a few meetings during which we discussed the free trade agreement with Honduras. One thing that concerned us in particular was that there was no mention whatsoever of the issue of human rights in the trade agreement.

My colleague talked about the fact that we can always hope that signing an agreement and implementing it will improve the political and economic situation of the country concerned. It is very likely that that is the case, at least economically speaking.

I would like my colleague to tell us about political situations that improved in countries where this was a problem, such as Honduras, for example. Is there any evidence that our trade agreements with these countries have brought about any sort of improvement?

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5:40 p.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, again it comes back to the NDP being anti-trade and using any type of excuse at its disposal as to why not to do a trade deal.

In regard to human rights, the member was there when we heard from the ambassador of Honduras in committee. She said, if we want to see a human rights improvement in Honduras, let them make a good quality of life, let them have a good job, let them sell the products they make, and let them receive investments from companies like Gildan, the t-shirt company out of Montreal that has a great manufacturing facility. Those are the things that are going to address human rights. It is that engaging in trade that will make that quality of life and deal with those issues.

The NDP approach is to do nothing, but to do nothing would do nothing to help human rights, and that is the reality. The status quo was not working, so why not engage with the people of Honduras, why not raise expectations as we talk to them on what we expect? We know Honduras would be a stronger country; just give it some time. If we were to look back in 10 years, we would see what this trade deal had done for Honduras.

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5:40 p.m.


Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the work he does in this Parliament as well as the work he did in the last Parliament on trade issues.

I want to pick up on the question from my NDP colleague about the issue of trade deals and human rights, because this is perhaps not discussed enough, the fact that oftentimes we here in Canada would sign associated agreements in terms of environmental protection and labour co-operation, and those presented an opportunity for significant progress on human rights. As well, it has to be recognized in the context of the trans-Pacific partnership agreement. This is a strategically important deal. It seeks to set terms of trade in the Asia-Pacific region in a way that reflects our values, that protects intellectual property, and that protects environmental considerations and labour rights, as well as other kinds of human rights.

My colleague was right when he said that we cannot just take a passive wait-and-see approach and hope things get better. We need to take an active approach. Engaging at a trade level gives us an opportunity to bring about these improvements.

I wonder if the member could comment, with respect to the work we have done in the past, on how the trade agenda also helped to advance Canadian values around the world.

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5:40 p.m.


Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I will use the example of the TPP. The TPP is a multilateral agreement. Once signed and in force, this agreement would set out the rules for trade in Asia. It would actually give us leverage to springboard into China and other countries like India and say that these are the rules. It would also give us the clout to enforce those rules.

Bilateral agreements are great for reducing tariffs, but they are not great for non-tariff trade barriers. We have seen that, even with our agreements with the U.S. and country of origin labelling. How long did we have a WTO ruling saying that the U.S. was offside? How long did it take until we were able to get over that ruling and get the results we needed for Canadian farmers?

If a country were to do a bilateral trade deal in China by itself, that country might get tariff reductions but it would not get anything like environmental protection or anything on human rights. If that deal were to be done through TPP countries with a multilateral setting as a base, then the country can insert those in the agreement and then they have to be respected and then they can be enforced.

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5:40 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Prince Albert for an excellent speech. I understand why he is so passionate when he talks about free trade, because it is a subject that is near and dear to all of us who serve on the committee.

To paraphrase Patrick Henry, I regret that I have but 10 minutes to give to this because I think I could speak about this for a long, long time. Why do we benefit from free trade? We had the foreign affairs committee in front of us and it gave us a great tag line: simplify, modify, and standardize. Let us get a quick overview of Canada and why reducing trade costs by 14%—or 17% for the least developed nations—makes a big difference to Canada.

In 1970, Korea was one of the most impoverished nations in the world. Today, we know that Korea is one of the most advanced nations, with an advanced economy. It did that with virtually nothing but produced exports.

Canada, on the other hand, has very much to offer, very much to export. Let us begin with mining. We have large reserves of coal; 32% of the mining in B.C. is coal, 32% is copper, and there is silver and gold. In Alberta we have vast fields of oil and gas. Saskatchewan is the second largest producer of potash. Uranium is also there. I am just nabbing a few; there are so many others as well.

In Manitoba, copper, zinc, gold, silver, platinum, and a number of rare earth minerals are so important to today's market. In Ontario, we have the largest gold mines and nickel and copper as well as platinum and these same rare earth groups as well. Quebec is an amazing story as well. For a while it put the lid on mining, and today 1% of that vast province is mined and 5% is available for mining. The mining there is just incredible. There are so many opportunities. It has re-established itself as one of the world's most attractive mining jurisdictions in the world. I mentioned the minerals that are found there.

We can go on to the Maritimes: Nova Scotia where there is gold being mined; New Brunswick where lead, zinc, copper, and potash are also being mined; Newfoundland where iron ore, nickel, copper, cobalt, and gold are being mined and many others are being discovered.

We could go on to forestry, and every province in this country has a forestry industry. It is a huge industry in B.C., Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

My colleague was talking about farming, and many of us have mentioned the importance of farming. In my riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington, we are the number one producers of wheat and the second for soybeans.

We could go on across this country. We have huge beef and pork industries, and in the west canola is being produced. Pulse crops are an amazing story: 25 years ago there were virtually no pulse crops grown and today the prairie provinces, particularly Saskatchewan, are becoming the world leader in pulse crops.

I talked in my last speech about the greenhouse industry, and I will do a little more bragging about my riding in Leamington, which has the largest collection of greenhouses in North America. Think about that. It is expanding in Chatham-Kent as well. It is larger than the greenhouse industry in California.

There are potatoes in P.E.I. and blueberries in the Maritime provinces as well. Cranberries are beginning to be an important crop in B.C., Quebec, and Ontario as well.

As we travelled with the committee, we had the opportunity to speak to Maritimers to see how important seafood is. It has been mentioned here before. The U.S.A. was our biggest customer, but today the Asian market is representing huge opportunities. There is Japan, with 120 million people, Korea, and Vietnam, with 90 million people.

Fish, of course, is what we think about with seafood, but snow crab, shrimp, lobster, and scallops are all beginning to be important industries as well.

A lot of times, we like to give up on manufacturing. We think we have lost our manufacturing, and we have suffered. My colleagues from my neck of the woods will tell members about that too.

However, we still have a strong manufacturing base, and we still are growing that base. We have a strong Japanese presence in manufacturing, in the auto industry, in my neck of the woods. The Detroit three are still producing: Ford, Chrysler, and General Motors.

Ford, as a matter of fact, in Oakville, is now going to produce a vehicle for the entire world. Think of the opportunities that will represent when we continue to expand our free trade agreements.

The Honda CR-V, in Alliston, which was moved, incidentally, from the United States, will be expanded to Europe.

We are a trading nation, and we all benefit from it. However, there is another that benefits that we can never forget, and that is the consumer. The free market system has created something for the consumer that rivals anything since the beginning of time.

Free trade, I should add, is the engine of the free market system. The unguided hand is released. Businesses can begin to expand, whatever the opportunity.

When we were travelling with our trade committee, I sat beside a businessman on the airplane who told me he saw an opportunity because of the expanded trade in the oyster industry. He was taking those shells and crushing them and had created a whole new industry in fertilizer. He was telling me how many people were employed as a result.

That is just one story in so many.

If we think back, in North America, to the turn of the 20th century, 40% of the workforce was on the farm. When that 40% was released, men like Henry Ford began to take their ingenuity and what they had learned on the farm to create a whole new industry. Here is a mechanic, from my neck of the woods, again, in Detroit, Ann Arbor, who created the Ford Motor Company. Along with that came so many other industries. The Goodyear, Goodrich, and Dunlop families all produced tires for the auto industry. The many fuel companies began to produce fuel for that industry. There was transportation, shipping, trains, trucking, and the roads. This is just a small piece of what the auto industry did for the North American market. The average American, the average Canadian, could own an automobile.

Competition ensued as a result of that. We had new companies that started up, with improvements and better cars, and it spread to other sectors.

We mentioned our food industry. We talk so much about food, better farming practices, healthier foods, and lower prices. Today about 10% of what we make is spent on food for the average family.

We could go on and on. I think we all agree that what has transpired as a result of the free market system and the free trade that has ensued has been good. It has been good for Canada, but it has not only been good for Canada; it has been good for the world.

As we close this debate, as we move on to vote, I encourage everyone to strike a yea vote for Bill C-13. Let us get this passed, and let us keep on down the road in a direction that we all know is good for this planet and for everyone who lives here.

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5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The motion is carried.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the third time and passed)

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5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Is it agreed to see the clock at 5:57 p.m.?

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5:55 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It being 5:57 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from May 10 consideration of the motion that Bill C-237, An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

5:55 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, debating a matter as important as gender parity in politics in order to defend this fundamental right should be an honour and a privilege. Sadly, however, I am somewhat embarrassed to note all the missed opportunities over the years. Therefore, I hope that we will get the job done this time and that all members of our respective parties will seize the opportunity to turn words into action.

Madam Speaker, the fact that I am addressing my comments to you, a female speaker, gives the impression that the problem is practically solved. Without taking anything away from you, that is not the case. We must continue to work very hard so that there are more women working in various capacities in this Parliament.

No one questions article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that “all human beings are born free and equal”. Therefore, we must acknowledge that political parties should be instrumental in upholding and applying this fundamental principle.

With the election of a Liberal government came a few glimmers of hope. The gender-balanced cabinet was probably the most tangible sign of that. When our Prime Minister saw fit to sum up the facts and his thoughts by quipping that it was, at the time, 2015, I hope I was not mistaken in reading between the lines that the answer was self-evident and the question no longer bore asking. Unfortunately, the question does bear asking, and we must not back down from asking it because women currently hold just 26% of the seats in the House. We are clearly still a long way from achieving the ultimate goal of parity.

I would like to put a fine point on the situation by sharing one figure. Is Canada in 10th, 20th, or 30th place? No, Canada ranks 60th in the world on the proportion of women in Parliament. Without new measures like Bill C-237, it is unlikely that we will achieve parity before 2075. Looking ahead to 2075 means relying on statistical projections, but without meaningful measures to bring about equity, there is little reason to believe we will hit that 2075 target.

Stereotypes are hard to break and I am making it my duty to dispel myths such as the one where women are not interested in becoming actively involved in public affairs, or that they are less interested than men. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, during the 2011 federal election, more women turned out to vote than men, or 59.6% to 57.3%. Back home in Trois-Rivières, if further proof is needed, the majority of volunteers involved in my election campaign were women. The issue is not whether women are interested in becoming politically involved, but rather ensuring that the political parties are not an obstacle but rather an incentive for women to become involved in our democratic institutions.

We need to put measures in place to encourage the political parties to recruit more women candidates. That is the foundation of the entire structure of equitable representation of men and women in this Parliament.

One might wonder how the NDP has always successfully managed to recruit more women candidates than the other parties and have more women elected to the House of Commons than all the other parties. Quite simply it is because in our approach to this issue we go beyond the rhetoric and we put policies into practice that are conducive to having more women candidates and electing more women. It is one thing to ask women to run in the ridings, but we must also ensure that these women can run in ridings where the success rate or the chances of winning are also equitable.

By establishing proactive policies on this issue, our party is getting results, getting more women involved in politics, and promoting balance between men and women in the House.

For instance, we introduced our policy of freezing candidate nominations until the riding associations could prove that every effort had been made to recruit women, and that approach was successful. In 2015, 43% of NDP candidates were women. That is nearly 50-50. We are not quite there, but it is pretty close to gender parity. While 43% of our candidates were women, 41% of the elected members in our party are women. That means 41% of the NDP members in House are women. This is the result of our party's concrete policies.

Bill C-237 goes even further and addresses a key element: it interferes with political party financing to give parties an incentive to recruit more female candidates. This serves to confirm the desire to affect representation in the House and improve gender parity.

Under the provisions of the bill introduced by my colleague from Burnaby South, political parties will receive less in public subsidies when women do not make up at least 45% of their list of candidates. For instance, if a party has 25% female candidates and 75% male candidates, its post-election rebate would be cut by 10%. Of course, this version of the bill also offers the various political parties the opportunity to freely choose the rules and measures they wish to use to achieve the desired result.

Our proposal would correct the systemic under-representation of women in politics and introduce gender parity. Our democracy would be stronger and would better respond to our aspirations if the House of Commons was more representative of the makeup of Quebec and Canadian society.

Some international experiences show in no uncertain terms that my colleague's bill is a step in the right direction. It must be said that, compared to other democracies, Canada is lagging behind. Eleven democracies have adopted laws similar to our proposed legislation, which makes public funding of parties conditional on gender parity.

In France, parties lose a portion of their subsidies if the spread between the percentage of male and female candidates is greater than 2%. Oddly enough, when this incentive was increased in 2008, the number of women elected rose by 46%. Ireland is another example. In 2012, Ireland passed legislation whereby annual public funding of parties would be cut by 50% if both men and women did not make up at least 30% of their candidates. In just one election, this law led to a 90% increase in the number of female candidates and 40% in the number of women elected.

A number of studies show that Canadian voters do not discriminate against candidates based on gender. In Canada, a woman who seeks public office has about the same chance as her male colleagues of being elected. Therefore, we have to ensure that women enter the race.

Therefore, I am asking once more why only 26% of the members of Parliament are women. We could think about this at the same time that we consider an entirely different matter, one that has been debated for weeks and months, and which we will continue to debate, namely the long awaited reform of our voting system. If we had a proportional voting system, the lists of the different parties might result in gender parity and also, why not, correct the balance between cultural communities.

I would have liked to talk about our international obligations with respect to sustainable development because expecting the countries we are helping to meet particular objectives is at odds with a lack of effort on our part to meet those same objectives.

My time is running out, so I will conclude by saying that I hope all parties in the House agree that under-representation of women in our political institutions is an impediment to our democracy. It is our duty to do better when it comes to increasing the proportion of women in Parliament.

If this Parliament's priority is to ensure gender equality, I encourage all members of the House to support this bill and help improve it in committee.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:05 p.m.

Dorval—Lachine—LaSalle Québec


Anju Dhillon LiberalParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-237, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity), at second reading.

I would like to begin by congratulating my colleague, the member for Burnaby South, on preparing this bill and on his hard work on this issue.

Bill C-237 proposes reforms to the Canada Elections Act by reducing reimbursements for eligible parties based on the difference in the percentages of male and female candidates for a general election. The bill would allow for no greater than a 10% difference in the number of females and males run by a party in a general election. Any difference beyond this threshold would result in reductions to an eligible party's reimbursement.

I am pleased that the 42nd Parliament ushered in the highest number of female members in Canada's history, with 88 female candidates elected. We also saw a record number of female candidates participate in this federal election. Unfortunately, this record number of elected female members represents only 26% of the seats in this place, placing Canada 60th in the world in terms of gender equality in a lower house.

In light of these figures, I would like to thank my colleague opposite for raising this issue in the House of Commons. Our government is committed to fostering gender equality in Canadian institutions and all aspects of civic life. I am proud that we can have this very necessary debate.

Gender equality is a noble and necessary goal that we support. However, we must decide how best to achieve it. I am not convinced that the mechanism in this bill, imposing a legislated gender quota, is the best way to achieve that goal.

I would like to talk about the government's current electoral reform initiatives and discuss other measures that we as MPs can take that might be more effective at increasing the number of female candidates and women elected to Parliament.

As all members know, the House has struck a special all-party parliamentary committee to examine a variety of reforms to our electoral system, including a wide-reaching and comprehensive study on the use of preferential ballots and proportional representation. Our government would like the view of the committee before introducing legislation.

I would like to point out that Canada's electoral system for the next election is still unknown. It is premature to impose a legislated gender quota designed for the first-past-the-post system.

Gender quotas, such as the one proposed, operate differently under different electoral systems. In fact, of the few countries in the developed world that continue to use the first-past-the-post system, there are none which impose legislated gender quotas on parties, and therefore none which provide useful examples to show how such a quota may function in our current system in Canada.

There are many reasons why it is hard to impose such a quota in a first past the post system. In Canada, one of those reasons is the impact that such a quota would have on internal nomination contests within parties. Aside from the control measures that apply to party financing, nomination contests are usually treated as an internal party matter.

During the previous Parliament, this was debated extensively as part of the debate on the Reform Act, 2014, which amended the provision of the Canada Elections Act on endorsement of candidates to allow parties to choose the people responsible for endorsing candidates, instead of this responsibility always falling to the party leaders.

Under the provisions of Bill C-237, parties could now be forced to impose candidates in some ridings to ensure that their subsidy is not reduced, as it would be if they do not achieve the quota. Despite the pressure to promote open nomination contests, this measure will instead work against the parties' financial interests, their commitment to open nomination contests, and the desire of their riding associations.

I would much rather see my party work with the riding associations to invite more women to run, instead of encouraging the parties to centralize the nominations.

I am sure all can imagine a situation where parties would begin to incrementally stage nomination contests across the country in order to evaluate progress toward the gender quota. The later nomination contests get, the more acute the situation becomes.

We must look to what other like-minded countries are doing, or have done, to work toward gender parity in their legislatures. There is both domestic and international evidence that voluntary gender quotas within parties can be an effective mechanism for increasing the number of female candidates.

I would like to applaud the NDP in this regard. As I am sure the member opposite is aware, the NDP has had a voluntary gender quota at the party level of 50%. In the last election, the NDP fielded the highest percentage of female candidates of any party in the House at 43%, and more than 40% of the current caucus is female. This is an achievement and it brings the NDP very close to the threshold the member seeks in Bill C-237 to implement between 45% to 55% female candidates without incurring a penalty. It also demonstrates that this level of gender equity can be accomplished without the introduction of a legislative amendment.

Likewise, European nations with the highest percentages of female parliamentarians, such as Sweden, Iceland, and the Netherlands, have largely adopted voluntary gender quotas at the party level with great success. Without resorting to legislative means, these countries have some of the highest levels of female participation in the western world.

This demonstrates two things. First, since we still do not know what Canada's voting system will look like in 2019, it would be premature to adopt a legislative measure designed for a first-past-the-post system. Indeed, as the NDP demonstrated, the issue of gender inequality can be resolved without resorting to mechanisms governed by legislation.

Gender equality and gender parity in every aspect of political and civilian life are objectives that we must strive for in any way possible.

I thank the member opposite for the exemplary work he did to raise this matter in the House. Nonetheless, I hope I adequately explained the reasons why I cannot support this bill at second reading stage.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:15 p.m.


Shannon Stubbs Conservative Lakeland, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-237, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity).

Today, 87 years ago, women were recognized as persons in Canada. The fight to get the right to vote was led by five trail-blazing pioneering Alberta women who changed history for all Canadians, paving the way for women's increased participation in public and political life.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary that voters in Lakeland elected me to represent them as their member of Parliament, and I am proud to serve them and to fight for our communities and our priorities.

The Liberals talk about progress for women, gender parity, and equal opportunity, but it is often just a lot of talk. They seem to really care mostly about appearances. They promote quotas for cabinet. The Prime Minister quips about it being 2015.

However, Conservatives really have the strongest track record of promoting and electing women to powerful positions of leadership, and that is something about which we are proud. Conservatives treat men and women equally because of our conviction that we are equal as individuals, as human beings, in dignity, in capacity, and in potential. Women can compete, we can deliver, and we can win.

Quotas were not needed to elect the first female prime minister, a Conservative. Quotas were not needed for my former boss and long-time friend, Deb Grey, to become the first woman leader of the official opposition in Canadian history. She did not want or need quotas. It is very special for me to represent much of the riding where Deb was elected as the first Reform member of Parliament.

As Conservatives, we will not tell women what they should be, what they should aspire to, or what should animate their dreams. If women want to be mothers, we will support them. If women want to be entrepreneurs, we will support them. If women want to do both and anything else, we will support them.

We are the party of the first female engineer MP, the first female minister, the first female foreign affairs minister, and the first female prime minister. As Conservatives, we believe women's individual ambitions and efforts are what matter, not what society expects or progressive collective quotas demand.

Conservatives support women in all walks of life, and that is why the Conservatives, especially Conservative women, have always been trail blazers. In fact, it was under a Conservative prime minister that women finally got the right to vote.

Today, we Conservatives are the only party with official status in the House of Commons to have a female leader, and she is the fourth female leader of our movement. That happened because the Conservative MPs knew that the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland was the best person for the job, not because of a quota or because there was an expectation.

I have been involved in politics in many different ways for many years. My experience is that men, younger, the same age, and often much older, have always supported me wholeheartedly, when I was the youngest volunteer, or a staff member, and now. They have knocked on doors with me, promoted me, donated to my campaigns, and volunteered countless hours to help get me elected in the nomination and in the general election.

My Conservative male colleagues, incumbents and rookies alike, always encourage and lift me, and support me tirelessly. My volunteer board is half women and half men, and 20% youth. The full-time staff in both my offices are all women, but they are the best people for the jobs.

When I walk into a room of Conservatives, I know they are assessing me on my merit, work, skills, expertise, knowledge, and character. They judge me on my ability and my competence. They do not fixate on just one of my traits, as if it defines my whole identity or who I am. That is what I prefer. What Conservatives care about is how hard people are willing to work. Conservatives care about action. They prioritize what people do, not what they say or promise.

I know I earned my position in this party and my role for Lakeland, and I will keep earning it. I believe it is my job to do my best at whatever I do. That is what counts.

This bill is undemocratic and it is demeaning. It assumes Canadians are too sexist to choose the right people to represent them, and that parties should be punished for allowing local nomination processes to determine the best local person for the job. This belittles my work and my accomplishments as a candidate, as a member of Parliament, and as a woman, just like all of my formidable Conservative women colleagues and all the strong women here.

I do not want to be treated like a victim who requires a quota to succeed in life. Frankly, the notion that I need legislative coercion to succeed is utterly condescending, and this is the reason why.

My grandmother was the first female mayor of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, elected in 1973. She was a councillor, a journalist, a wife, and a mother of eight. She was always described as expressive, passionate, “voluble and aggressive”, a firebrand. Therefore, my colleagues will forgive me for coming by it honestly.

My Missy Nan never wanted special favours or treatment for being a woman. She told me that the best way to succeed was to work harder and to be more prepared.

As a new opposition MP from rural Alberta, like me now, the hon. member for Sturgeon River—Parkland once said that working women did not need men in Ottawa telling them how to live their lives. Today, as then, I agree. This bill is typical of an ideology that government is always the fix. I would love to see more women run for political office, but the idea that parties should be forced to choose women over men under threat of financial punishment does a disservice to women everywhere. It says that Canadian women cannot achieve success on their own merit.

I want people from all walks of life, all ethnicities, ages, or genders running for office. I want the best possible representatives from every community to be elected, so we must forever be vigilant for freedoms and for our belief in the equal sanctity and dignity of every individual as a human being. The task is monumental.

Before the Taliban took over Afghanistan, girls were allowed to go to school; afterward, they were not. Before the Iranian revolution, women were free to wear what they wanted; afterward, they were forced to cover their hair. It is possible for societies to go backward on women's rights, so we as citizens of free democracies must embolden the inherent equality and liberty of all individuals everywhere. It underlines how privileged and fortunate we are here.

The NDP believes that gender parity of Canadian political candidates is the most pressing issue today when women in other countries face almost unimaginable oppression and harm. In Niger, 76% of women between the ages of 20 and 24 reported marrying before the age of 18, and 28% before the age of 15. In some African countries, women and girls are brutalized by ritual female genital mutilation. In Tanzania, 50% of women are pregnant before they turn 18. Many women in developing countries either die from childbirth or lose their babies. That is why the former prime minister and Conservative government focused Canada's foreign aid on maternal health in the developing world, because while Liberals talk about their support for women, Conservatives act.

I am incredibly proud of the hon. Leader of the Opposition. I first met her in university. I was immediately inspired by her intelligence, her work ethic, and her integrity, and I volunteered on her first nomination campaign. From the moment I met her, I have seen that she always works harder than anyone else. She inspires those around her to do the same. That is how she leads us. She is a constant champion for the rights of all women and girls, and against violence and persecution in Canada and around the world. She succeeded with Plan International to establish the International Day of the Girl.

Just two weeks ago, she addressed a gathering of 11,000 Conservatives in the U.K. about the serious issues facing women and girls around the world. That is leadership. She lifts women up, recognizes their strengths, and promotes their talents.

At the time she was appointed in 2006, she was the youngest female cabinet minister ever, a record later broken by another Conservative, the member for Calgary Nose Hill. She held 10 different senior portfolios under the previous government. She kept the confidence of a demanding leader and has earned her well-respected place here in the chamber and in Canada. She will leave our party in a stronger position and has built an admirable legacy. I consider her an outstanding role model for Canadians, especially women. She is exceptional.

I am a Conservative. I believe in democracy, personal responsibility, freedom, and equality as the fundamental values of civilization. This bill would simply use taxpayer dollars to interfere in local democratic processes. So I say to women, as Nellie McClung once said and my mentor Deb Grey reminded me often when I worked for her and continues to now, “Never retract, never explain, never apologize—get the thing done and let them howl!”

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:25 p.m.


Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Madam Speaker, it is my distinct privilege to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-237, sponsored by my colleague from Burnaby South. It is a bill whose time has come, and I encourage all my colleagues to support sending Bill C-237 to committee.

Studying this bill at committee will send a powerful message to the electorate that says that this session of Parliament has the courage and conviction to assess and remedy why in 2016 our Parliament is not representative of the electorate. It will send a message that we have finally moved beyond blaming individual women for not running for office, and it will examine how the current structures, systems and institutions present barriers to women seeking to be elected as members of Parliament.

Bill C-237 would make it possible for more women candidates to present themselves in the electoral process and therefore help more of them get elected. As they say, one cannot win if one does not play, and so it is in electoral politics, one cannot be elected if one is not able to run.

We know from research that it is not the electorate that does not vote for women candidates. Women candidates win elections at the same rate as men candidates. It is not the electorate but political parties that fail to nominate a representative slate of candidates to the electorate.

We also know from research that women candidates need to work harder and have to spend 10% more money on average than men candidates to get elected.

Many of my colleagues hear the phrases “gender equity in candidacy” and “financial incentive” in the same sentence and instinctively shy away. They have a fear that somehow levelling the playing field could have a disruptive implication on the system, and it will. The system will be fairer for all candidates. Personally, that type of disruption I look forward to.

The bill is not about limiting the number of male candidates. I will repeat what the member for Burnaby South said earlier and clarify that the threshold of 45% of candidates identifying as female was chosen to allow for the flexibility to choose the most qualified candidates.

The bill is not about marginalizing other minority groups seeking representation. I would suggest it could seek to address one aspect of an issue that has many intersections and could potentially serve as an incentive for political parties to nominate more indigenous women and women of colour.

Finally, the bill does not seek to minimize the hard work that every woman currently in the House has put into getting elected. Rather, gender equity in candidates is about recognizing that women face barriers within political parties that their male colleagues do not

The bill offers the opportunity for this Parliament to acknowledge systemic discrimination within the current candidate selection process and provide a remedy to address it. Without dismantling the barriers that prevent women from running, we cannot truly encourage or expect qualified women leaders to participate in our democracy to their fullest capacity.

Being able to sit in the House of Commons as a woman was a hard-won achievement for each and every one of my female colleagues, from the very early stages of winning their respective party nominations, through all the different aspects and phases of a long campaign. However, many women who had the courage to even begin the process have found themselves pitted against a whole array of obstacles that makes winning even the nomination an uphill battle.

In a post entitled “Where are all the women (candidates)?”, Kate McInturff from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives lays out just a few barriers that women face.

She discusses work and life balance, how elected office at any level demands long hours on an irregular schedule, and how for women with young children and dependent family members, this poses a real challenge. She says:

Women still perform double the number of hours of unpaid childcare work as do men, they are three times as likely to take time off from work for family reasons and they are more than ten times as likely to cite childcare as a reason for not working full time. Even if you can manage a full time schedule and find a childcare spot, there’s still the problem of what to do when there’s a council session that runs until 11pm or a community consultation on a Sunday.

The second is that women are told not to be bossy. She says:

Study after study demonstrates that, as a society, we don’t always respond favourably to women stepping into public leadership roles. Female politicians, in particular, are often portrayed as overly aggressive...At the same time, female politicians are subjected to questions about their hair and clothes that have no parallel in interviews with male politicians. Or they get what [is]...referred to as “the princess treatment”—all hair and no policy.

Finally on violence, she says:

From the time they are teenagers, girls are subject to harassment in public. That’s a lesson young women are learning about the risk of being in public.

And it’s an accurate lesson.

Again, the presidential race in the U.S. provides compelling and distressing evidence that women are objectified, ridiculed, dismissed, and subjected to unequal and disrespectful treatment. Lest we feel too smug, closer to home, the female premier of Alberta has been subjected to death threats, misogynistic slurs, and other threats of violence. This has to stop.

The statistics on this issue are familiar to all of us. It is 2016 and women still hold only 26% of the seats in the House of Commons, an all-time high. It is clear that we must do better.

This past International Women's Day, I had the privilege of participating in the women in the House program. It was a pleasure to have two students from McGill University and the University of Toronto shadow me on March 8th and 10th respectively.

The young women who shadowed me in March were bright and capable, and they have much to offer in service to their communities and to this great country. I want to make sure I do whatever I can to level the playing field so that these young women can one day take their seats in the House of Commons. However, at the current rate women are being elected to the House of Commons, a gender-balanced House is not projected until 2075. I am sure that none of my colleagues think this is desirable or acceptable.

Of course, the unequal playing field in the candidate selection process is not the only form of systemic discrimination to which women of Canada are subject. As vice-chair of the Special Committee on Pay Equity, I am extremely disappointed that this so-called feminist government has decided to make working women wait another two years for a fundamental human right. This is completely unacceptable. There is no reason to postpone fairness. Canadian women have been waiting for decades to receive equal pay for work of equal value, and it is way past time for the government to correct this injustice.

This is just another example of how women are systemically discriminated against. It is realities like the widening wage gap that make bills like Bill C-237 necessary. It is only logical to assume that higher numbers of female candidates will lead to more female representation and with that, perhaps, a Parliament that feels a greater urgency to tackle long-standing gender-based issues such as the wage gap. The time has come for the government to stop talking about its feminist values and start acting like feminists. Supporting Bill C- 237 would do just that.

Bill C-237 is not about guaranteeing 50% women in the House. The bill is not about guaranteeing anyone a seat in the House of Commons. The bill is about offering the electorate the opportunity of electing a House of Parliament that is more representative and reflects them in the House of Commons. Canadians are not holding women back from being elected. It really is the systems and structures of our political parties that are.

It is naive to say that somehow institutions and systems like political parties will somehow magically evolve over time to be free of sexist and racist barriers. There are limits to voluntary measures and good intentions.

As my colleague from Ottawa West—Nepean stated in her excellent speech to the House on Bill C-237:

In virtually every case where countries have achieved gender parity in Parliament, it has been done using mandatory legislated measures, regardless of the electoral system. In Canada, at the current rate, even with party leaders who have a strong commitment to electing more women, we will not achieve parity for another 90 years, unless we make some changes, which in my view cannot be left solely to the goodwill of political parties.

I am proud to say that the NDP has always had the highest percentage of female candidates, and that is because we have worked very hard to remove the barriers to women's participation, but we can and must do even better.

It is my hope that my colleagues will vote in favour of sending this legislation to committee so that the day will come sooner rather than later when we will elect a truly representative Parliament.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:35 p.m.


Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to this bill introduced by my colleague from Burnaby South. This issue is important to me because I truly believe that we need to have more women in politics.

I will provide a brief overview of the situation in Abitibi—Témiscamingue. It was not until the 28th election in Canada, in 1968, that we had our first female candidate in Abitibi—Témiscamingue, Aurore Charron-Labrie.

In 2011, I was the first woman elected to be the federal member for the riding of Abitibi—Témiscamingue. Sadly, we have also had only one female provincial member and that was Johanne Morasse. We do not have a strong history of female elected members in my region. I am pleased to have changed that.

Let us now look at the elections held after fairly major changes were made to the electoral boundaries in 2004. There were no women candidates in 2004. In the 2006 election, which was my first election campaign, there were two women, and that represented roughly 30% of the vote. In 2008, there was only one woman, representing about 10% of the vote. In 2011, for the first time, women garnered more than 50% of the vote with two candidates. I have to admit that I was a big part of that because I garnered more than 50% of the vote, or 51.22% to be precise. For the first time, we got 50% of the vote. Finally, in 2015, women had just over 70% of the vote. It was the first election where there were equal numbers of male and female candidates. We can see that it took some time to happen.

I would now like to go back to some comments made by different speakers, which shocked me.

First of all, people talked about quotas, but my colleague's approach is completely different. Knowing that quotas tend to be polarizing, he decided to propose a mechanism that rewards parties whose slate is more than 40% female. That does not prevent parties from not having female candidates. It is not a quota because it does not prevent a party with no female candidates from nominating a candidate in a riding. This approach includes a financial penalty because that can be an incentive. Nevertheless, it is not a prohibition. It is not inconceivable that a party would do so. Unfortunately, it happened in France, where there was a similar measure, and the UMP decided to pay the fine and not worry about it.

This is not a quota system. It is a system that offers a reward to motivate people without forcing them to do anything. Parties still have room to manoeuvre as they see fit. If they are not concerned about the financial aspect, they can do as they please. I think this is a better approach than imposing quotas, which would have further polarized the debate.

I also heard some of my colleagues mention the impending electoral reform, the reform of the voting system, saying that this bill is premature. In every potential voting system, the parties still have one candidate per party. In every voting system that appears worth considering in the discussion on electoral reform, we are talking about a system in which the parties have candidates to fill the positions. Therefore, no matter which voting system we end up with, my colleague's bill still applies.

I would now like to talk about one interesting example, because I think it is worth mentioning. I am the vice-chair of the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We regularly receive people from other countries who come to speak to us. I would like to talk about a situation in Rwanda, because it was the first country to have more than 50% women MPs.

During the 2013 election, women won 64% of seats in the Rwandan parliament. It is important to mention. Here is an article on the subject:

Kigali, Rwanda – The 2013 Rwandan Parliamentary elections ushered in a record-breaking 64 per cent of seats won by women candidates. The Government of Rwanda, with the UN as a key partner, has been pursuing gender equality since 1994. The political participation of Rwandan women has been facilitated by a constitutional mandate and the work of key institutions, notably the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, the Rwanda Women Parliamentarians Forum (FFRP), National Women’s Council (NWC) and the Gender Monitoring Office (GMO). Rwandan women have created a remarkable political space for themselves in just twenty years.

It is important to take the time to understand the situation. These women probably have many other concerns. They are sometimes victims of violence and might even live in poverty. Indeed, the daily life of a woman in Rwanda is probably not easy.

Still, the people of Rwanda decided that it was important to work on gender parity in their parliament. They decided that in order to give women's issues greater priority within their parliament, they had to introduce concrete measures. That worked, because women managed to secure 64% of seats, and that happened in a country like Rwanda.

There are still people who would have me believe that this is not important, that we need not take any action on this, and we need not be concerned about it, even though this is Canada and we have the ability to do something. It makes no sense. Even Rwanda was able to do it.

Action must be taken in this regard. There are real-life examples where this has worked. The Rwandan Parliament changed its way of doing things. I am impressed every time I talk to my Rwandan colleagues, who sometimes visit me in Canada through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. They have come a long way, despite everything that has happened in the history of Rwanda. They succeeded against all odds.

In 2015, only one-third of the election candidates were women. In 98 ridings, there were no female candidates running for any of the three main parties. Nevertheless, the NDP decided to take a practical approach to recruiting female candidates, and 43% of our candidates were women, as opposed to only 31% of Liberal candidates and 20% of Conservative candidates.

I mention that because, at this rate, if we do not take more concrete measures, we may not achieve gender parity until 2075. That is 60 years from now and even that is not a given.

Can we afford to wait another 60 years to achieve parity when a country like Rwanda was able to make the necessary effort and reach parity in 20 years? That is completely absurd.

My colleague has introduced a very worthwhile bill. He chose a different approach, one that does not involve quotas, in order to give the political parties some wiggle room. This bill is worth sending to committee. I am sure that my colleague is open to suggestions to improve it, as he has always been. It is so easy to talk to him. If any of our colleagues have questions, they just have to ask him.

If we do not want to wait 60 years, we need to send this bill to committee. Women have waited long enough and we have concrete evidence that proves that we can take action.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure to stand here today, and it has been a pleasure listening to the debate, or most of it, on my bill.

I would ask members to take a look around the House of Commons. This is a place of moments. This is the place where we decided women should get to vote. This is the place where we decided that women should become people in the eyes of the law. This is where we decided that first nations people should get to vote. This is a place of moments, and we are having a moment right now. The bill that I put before the House, Bill C-237, is an effort to move us out of the 64th place in the world in terms of how we sit in representing women being elected to this place.

We have had some extraordinary moments around the debate. For example, we have had the Minister of Democratic Institutions and the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women stand up in the House and say that they were not feminists. We have had women on the other side of the House stand up and reveal that they are not feminists. They actually side with the social Conservatives on this side of the House, which is strange to see, because this is a moment where the feminists in the House will stand up and vote for the bill. That is what will happen tomorrow, or will not happen, and it is a fairly serious moment.

Tomorrow marks the one-year anniversary of the election, so we have been here a year. We only have 36 months left. I wonder how many bills of this nature will come forward in the House. How many chances will members get to stand up and say, “I am a feminist and I agree that there should be more women in the House of Commons”. When will that happen? It will not happen.

This side of the House has put up all kinds of arguments, especially from the government side, as to why the bill should not be passed. They said that it is a quota, but it is not. It is an incentive scheme that is used in other countries very successfully. They said that there are constitutional reasons and that it would be struck down by the courts, and of course, they quickly retracted that because they actually did not have a legal opinion to counter the very facts of my bill. In fact, I have a legal opinion from the House of Commons legal team that says that not only would the bill meet all the requirements of the charter; it would actually help us meet our charter goals.

We have nothing from that side of the House as to how we are going to move from having 26% of women MPs elected in the House. We have a Prime Minister who goes all around the world saying how much of a feminist he is, but there is no concrete action. We have rhetoric from that side of “I'm a feminist”, and we have some symbolism, which I think we should be proud of with having a gender-balanced cabinet, but what we do not have is any real, concrete action.

In the world, we have over 100 countries that have legislated some laws to make sure that there are more women in their legislatures, and Canada has not done that. As a result, when the Prime Minister was elected, we were 60th in the world in terms of the percentage of women in our legislature, and we have already dropped to 64th. Four years from now when we have our next election, I bet we will be around 70th or 75th. We are dropping like a stone in this ranking, and it is disconcerting.

There is a chance tomorrow for the bill to pass. Again, I know the Conservatives will not vote for it, because they are opposed. They will not stand up and say that they are feminists. However, the Liberals have.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members’ Business

6:45 p.m.


Kelly Block Conservative Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek, SK

You don't get to define feminism.