House of Commons Hansard #52 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was women.


Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is not working here. All parties failed to promote gender-balanced candidate lists. Only 26% of the folks in this place are women, and that is the highest level we have ever had.

We are ranked 61st in the world when it comes to gender equity. Places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kazakhstan have all passed us on the list because they have undertaken similar measures.

The bill that I have put forward is a small nudge for political parties. It is not at all controlling for internal party processes. I would urge my colleague and everyone in the House to look at this and show that the face we are showing the world needs to change in the House.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, certainly the majority of parties in Parliament ran on an electoral reform platform. I would like hear more from the member about how his initiative might interface with a change in the way we elect members of Parliament.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question and all of her hard work on this exact issue.

When I heard the Prime Minister say that this would be the last election with first past the post, of course, I took this into consideration and made sure I designed this bill so it would work with any type of electoral system. I mentioned in my speech that it is used in countries like Portugal, France, and Ireland, which use a variety of different systems, such as STV, proportional representation, and even single member. It would even work with an AV system, as proposed by the Liberals.

This exactly matches our plan for electoral reform in the House, and in fact, it would be a great first step to say our new electoral system is designed so that we have a House of Commons that is gender balanced.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Ajax Ontario


Mark Holland LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise today to speak to an issue that is incredibly important. I really want to thank the member for Burnaby South for his work with his private member's bill and generally for raising the issue of gender parity, which is so important.

When we think how far we have come since Agnes Macphail was first elected to this place and the progress we made, when we think this is the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canada's history, and when we see the largest number of women ever elected to the House of Commons, that is indeed phenomenal progress. However, the member is absolutely right that it is not enough.

I often get the opportunity, as most members do, to go into schools and talk with students. I ask them to reflect on the name of the place in which we serve, the House of Commons. It is the house of the common people. It is so important that this place reflect and look like the people we represent.

Historically, we have done a poor job, as the member for Kingston and the Islands mentioned, not just in representation of women in this place, but also other demographics and so, thinking about the processes we can engage in to ensure that this is a place that is truly reflective of the Canadian population is essential.

There are a number of processes we are engaged in right now to do precisely that: look at some of the underlying reasons why it is, as an example, women are not participating to the degree that we would like them to participate. What are the impediments? What are the things we can change to make this place more friendly to the Canadian populace as a whole?

We are also certainly engaging in a process that I am very excited to be part of to change our electoral system in looking at the way we vote and how that process engages and enfranchises Canadians. I think that process will no doubt inform this question of gender parity and equality.

Notwithstanding all of that and notwithstanding a deep appreciation for the efforts of the member for Burnaby South, I have a number of concerns with the bill.

I will start with the issue of small parties. In the last election, there were six parties which only ran one candidate. By definition, each of those parties would be in a state of gender imbalance because they only had one person that ran for them. We may say to just have another person run, but the reality for a political party that is small is that it can be a monumental feat to get somebody else to run.

We know in the decision that was passed in Figueroa the importance that courts, and I think Canadians generally, place on the participation of smaller parties. They have a very important role in our democratic process. While I appreciate the member might be willing to do that at committee, it is certainly one big problem that I have today which I think is important to point out.

I also want to think about freedom of expression, generally.

Let us conceive for a moment a situation where a party decided that it wanted all female candidates, as an example. That party would actually be penalized under this mechanism by not being able to run all female candidates.

In general, parties should have the ability to organize their affairs as they see fit. There are many parties, including in this House, which have positions that I disagree with or that conduct a nomination process in a way that I would not concur with, but that is their democratic prerogative. We have to ask what the implications of the bill and these penalties would put on that process.

We also have to think about, as was raised earlier in the debate, the potentiality of where this might lead. If we put in penalties for parties that do not meet certain quotas or certain targets, would we do that across the spectrum to ensure there is equality in representation of all of the different faces that populate Canada? If we do that, what is the implication?

There is an issue of constitutionality, I think, that very much remains. We could imagine a scenario where a local riding association is having a nomination meeting and where there is enormous pressure to hit a target and the question on the minds of the people voting in that nomination meeting could be torn between, on the one hand, voting for the person most qualified and, on the other hand, having to meet a quota so that their party is not punished. Could there be a situation where maybe the best person is not chosen as a result? That certainly is a serious concern.

As an extension of that and nominations generally, we want to ensure that the process is set up so all people are encouraged to run, that we not only look at the barriers that stop them from running, but also that we do not build into the system ways that shut down our nomination process or shut out certain individuals because of the structures we put in place.

On that basis, notwithstanding this bill succeeding or not succeeding, we have a lot of work to do. We need to look at the barriers stopping women or other individuals who want to come forward, who are under-represented in this Parliament, and work to fix those barriers. They need to work with us in the upcoming process to reform our democratic institutions and our voting. At the end of it, we want to ensure we have a House of Commons that is truly reflective of its name.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

May 10th, 2016 / 7 p.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand here today to debate Bill C-237, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act (gender equity).

In Elgin—Middlesex—London we have it right. Although I am the first woman to be elected federally in the riding, I am definitely not the first candidate to run for this position. My cousin Luella Watson was the PC candidate in 1997 and the trend for female candidates continues at all levels of government.

To start let me share with the House my run for the candidacy to represent the Conservative Party in the 2015 general election. In December 2014, I was part of a highly contested nomination that included four women and two men. Ms. Catharine Sloan, Ms. Suzanna Dieleman, and Mrs. Kathy Cook were the three other women who put their names forward along with two male candidates, Mr. Dean Kitts and Mr. Bill Denning. This was democracy at its best. All of the women and men who ran in this race were either successful business people or executive level staff for the municipalities or the banking industry. The membership had a choice.

Then moving on to the federal election, I was part of a five-person race that included Liberal candidate Lori Baldwin-Sands and Green Party bro as she called herself, Bronagh Morgan, as well as male candidates Fred Sinclair for the NDP and Michael Hopkins for the Christian reform party. In this situation 60% of the candidates in the federal election were female.

In the surrounding ridings both London North Centre and London—Fanshawe had female candidates representing the Conservative Party and following the general election, three out of the four members of Parliament are female, albeit from three different parties.

My point truly is that this is about democracy. When taking this discussion back to the members of my board, I received great feedback from many individuals. I feel that the bill is not only undemocratic but actually belittles my own victory of becoming the candidate for my party and then the member of Parliament. I do not see myself as a second-class candidate but the bill would potentially make me feel this way and this should not be just about gender. Does my merit and hard work not count?

A survey completed in 2014 over a six-year span by Abacus Data observed the following. Among the 1,850 Canadian respondents in the online poll, 28% of men said they were more inclined to run for office as compared with 15% of women. As one of my board members said, it is upon us to provide opportunity rather than to mandate opportunity. Another member of my board, stated that they want the most qualified person in office, not some token woman there to fill a quota. Another stated that it isn't a quota; it is the best person for the position.

Now here is a breakdown of my own EDA. The president is male. The vice-president is female. The fundraising chair is female. The secretary is female and the CFO is male. The board has a very equal number of men and women and that allows us to have incredible discussions. Let me be straight, with women like Betty Crockett, a true pioneer of the banking industry as one of the first female bank managers, on my board women are listened to. Their experience and expertise is heard. Their ideas are part of a constant discussion.

Now when I look at the provincial level in my riding similar things occurred when comparing them with my federal nomination. Two of the five candidates were women: the mayor of the Municipality of Bayham, Lynn Acre, and the deputy mayor of Thames Centre, Delia Reiche. Both candidates were excellent options but conceded to our current MPP Jeff Yurek, an exceptional legislator at Queen's Park. Would I want to replace Mr. Yurek because he was male? Absolutely not.

I will tell the House on an aside that he is going to be laughing right now because every day I tell him, let us get rid of him. He is an excellent member of the legislature representing the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London, and as the health critic for Ontario. He is an incredibly reliable representative and an excellent counterpart to my role as the federal member. This is about democracy.

It gives people the right to run for nomination, the right to run as a candidate in the federal election, and the right to serve as a member of Parliament if elected. Here in the House, I am proud to stand with our interim leader, the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland. She was elected from a slate where one-half of the candidates were female. Members of our caucus elected her because they believed she would be the best leader.

As we start moving toward a leadership race many names are circulating, including many excellent female candidates. At the end of this, regardless of the gender of the leader, we need the best leader to lead our party. This is not about men versus women. It is about leadership for our communities, our ridings, and our country.

Let us look at some of the women who currently sit in the House of Commons representing their ridings. I believe that the member for London—Fanshawe was not elected because she was a woman, but because the people in her riding believe in her. The same goes for my colleagues in London West, Sarnia—Lambton, Haldimand—Norfolk, Simcoe—Grey, Milton, Essex, Repentigny, Saanich—Gulf Islands, and South Surrey—White Rock. These are representatives from all parties, currently sitting and elected to the House.

I believe that if we asked each and every one of them, they would say that they were elected, not because of their gender, but because they were the best for the job and their constituents believed in them. We are talking about people making some people eligible for a job; therefore, making some people ineligible for a job.

As with my own nomination race, and I believe that of many others, it was about growing support in one's riding, selling memberships to make people eligible to vote, and getting the vote out. Why should this be any different for men than it is for women? Why should we make men ineligible to run in to order to meet our quota?

All of this being said, I do know that statistics indicate that we need a minimum of 30% sitting at a board table to make a real difference. In a country where our population is 52% women and 48% men, would the simple math not put women in the majority for making the decisions of Canadians when voting? This is truly just a general idea, but that would go for party politics and federal elections.

Going back to my own nomination for the party, I believe that the two male candidates had female campaign managers, and the three female candidates had female campaign managers as well. Now there was a total imbalance if we are looking at it to be gender-based. Even the nomination committee had a majority of females on the board, three out four members, and not once because of their gender, but because of the talent and expertise and what they had to offer to the nomination process.

I fully believe in gender equality, but this is undemocratic. We need the best people for the job, female or male.

As everyone knows in the House, this job is the furthest thing from normal. Some days we start breakfast with stakeholders, followed by committee meetings, and one-on-one meetings in our office. We do question period and debates, and continue with our day, many times late into the evening. Last week, for instance, we were here until 12 a.m. on two nights. On weekends, we attend community events, meet with constituents, and hopefully get to sleep in our own beds.

For me personally, I know that I would not be able to do this job if it were not for an extremely supportive family. My job has changed my own family's life. The other day, my husband Mike's boss asked him how he was managing with his new life. While I am here serving my constituents and country, my husband is home, working full time, grocery shopping, organizing and helping with the children's needs, keeping in contact with both my parents and his own, and attending events in my absence.

Every day that I am here, I miss my children, but with current technology, I get to speak with them and watch what they are doing at the time. It is not an easy decision to go into politics. All of us make sacrifices, and that is probably why the results from the poll only had 28% of men and 15% of women who would enter politics.

At the end of the day, our job is to encourage people to run for public office, not to mandate it.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

7:10 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured in this moment to thank the people of Nanaimo—Ladysmith for supporting me, working hard for my election, and electing me. I have many allies throughout the riding, and it does make all the difference around who prevails. For us, with the nomination and election, it was almost a two-year campaign. I am thankful.

I am going to talk first about the imperative for the bill. In 97 ridings across the country in last fall's election, voters had no opportunity to cast their ballot for a woman from a major party. That is a significant gap. Even if people wanted to vote for women who had a chance of forming government, they did not have that opportunity.

Election after election, the uneven addition of women to ballots throughout our country means we are not electing enough women to Parliament. That is why we are getting these tiny incremental gains. This is supposed to be the parity Parliament. We have 26% of women elected, with 52% of the population being female, and we have only made a 1% improvement from 2011. Canada, embarrassingly, ranks 61st in the world. We have to get to almost page 3 of the international list before we can find our country's name. I want us to change that.

At this rate, Equal Voice, which is a terrific advocacy, non-governmental organization, calculates that it will be 89 years until we reach gender parity in Parliament. That is a change that is painfully slow.

That is why I think this is a problem. When Parliament does not reflect us, then sometimes it is possible for voters to disconnect from the parliamentary process. It might be that a parliament that does not reflect the country perhaps has priorities that are a little different from what people sitting around the kitchen table would like to see. That is perhaps why we do not have universal child care in our country. That is perhaps why we do not have affordable universal pharmacare. That is perhaps why we do not have a good palliative care program.

We know that women disproportionately end up looking after their families, both at the beginning and the end of life. If we could get them here in these seats, they might help us to adopt the policies that would take the pressure off everyone.

This is perhaps why first nations kids are so embarrassingly discriminated against at budget time. Even now, we have had the human rights tribunal say that Parliament over decades has had the wrong priorities.

In turn, these lack of policy supports may well be keeping women out of both community life and off the ballot, so there is an interesting circularity of this argument. When woman are squeezed by family obligations, they decide not to run, and then they do not get into these seats and they do not vote for front-line family support issues.

Parliament was conceived well before women had the right to vote, and it has been fairly static for over 100 years. Parliament has just not innovated, and the bill is an innovation. Therefore, I appreciate the people who are here for the discussion and are willing to bite into this to see how it could work.

Much has changed in the hundred years. We got the federal right to vote in 1918, the right to run for office in 1921, the Persons Case in 1929, admission of women into the army in 1980, and inclusion of women's equality in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in 1982. Also, just a few years ago, we got changing tables added in the parliamentary bathrooms. We innovate where we can. All of these changes reflect the evolution of our society.

There is a lot of attention being paid to the gender-based cabinet, and I applaud the Prime Minister for appointing men and women equally to his cabinet. It is not the first time that this has happened, though. In 2008, Quebec made that commitment. In 2015, Premier Notley, in Alberta, made the same commitment. That did not get more women on the ballot. It was a good move, but we want to at least have a chance to elect women. We want equal opportunity.

Canada still has no laws in place to promote gender equity in our democratic process. How can we make it change? I have a list of programs, such as Equal Voices' Daughters of the Vote, which is a fantastic way to get young people thinking early about what it would look like for them to be sitting in these seats. I applaud that work.

Second, we can support women in nomination and election processes, and I am very grateful for the people who got all of us here to the House.

Third, proportional representation would help. In countries around the world and in almost every western democracy people are elected using proportional representation. They all elect more women than we do.

Fourth, when I was at the United Nations this spring, I heard a fantastic presentation from Italy, a country that was so proud that because it had legislated gender equity on candidate slates, it went from 21% women in just one election to 31% women. That is 21% to 31% just by virtue of getting a balance on who was on the ballot.

My colleague's bill is not that kind of legislation, but it does tell us what our options are.

Turning to my colleague's bill, Bill C-237 would give parties incentives to nominate more women. It would not take away freedom. It would not tell anybody how to do it or even whether to do it. However, if they do choose to nominate an equal slate, then they would have a financial incentive to do that. The fine print is 45% female, 45% male. Members will notice that the math adds up so there is a 10% fluidity there, whether that is transgendered or gender-fluid, people who just do not identify, that gives them flexibility.

Again, this would be an incentive for people to put gender equity measures in place. They would determine how and whether to do it. This would also work in any voting system: first past the post, proportional representation, anything.

The idea of linking public subsidies to gender equity measures is not new. Canada had a royal commission in 1991 that recommended just this thing. This has since been implemented in quite a few western countries.

If we do get to this point that we are electing more women to Parliament, what might the impact be? We could enact policies that would appoint equal numbers of women to our crown corporations and agencies. We could establish a national action plan to end violence against women, something that embarrassingly the country has not done yet. Even Australia and places that we do not think of in this way have already made this connection. We can support more work on domestic violence. We can take action to close the pay gap between men and women. We can ensure safe and equal access to reproductive rights and reproductive health care. As well, we can address those policies that might be keeping women off the ballot or out of participating in public life: daycare, home care, palliative care, early childhood education support.

The United Nations Security Council did a study a few years ago on peace, security, and women. Part of the conclusion was that when women's groups were able to influence negotiations or push for a peace deal, an agreement was almost always reached. Agreements reached with the participation of women were 35% more likely to last for 15 years or longer. We want to have women involved internationally around the table, and advocating for peace and security as well.

I was so honoured to be part of the Canadian delegation at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. I am grateful to the Minister of Status of Women for including me in the delegation. We heard from every woman leader all over the world that we had an unprecedented opportunity in the world right now to bring gender equality. It is not just about Canada. As well, we heard again and again that women's rights and social justice were key to global sustainable solutions. If we empower women, if we end violence against women, and if we bring and educate young girls into the system, we would solve some of the difficult problems this planet faces, whether environment, food security, or anything. We need all hands on deck, full participation, all intellect, and all diversity and opinions to solve the problems that face us.

As Equal Voice says, women got the right to vote 100 years ago. It should not take another century for women to have an equal voice.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.


Anita Vandenbeld Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Burnaby South on bringing forward Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act, and initiating a very important conversation about how to achieve gender parity in politics in Canada.

Having spent much of my professional career working with women around the world, I have studied best practices in how to increase women's representation in parliaments. Legislative solutions, such as those outlined in Bill C-237, including financial incentives or penalties to encourage political parties to nominate more women, are considered by UN Women, UNDP, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, and other major international organizations to be commonly recognized methods to achieve greater gender parity. In fact, I facilitated an international round table in Oslo on financing rules for women in politics in 2009, and this was one of the key recommendations.

Many countries around the world are going much further than this bill in their legislative frameworks. Today, Canada ranks 61st in the world when it comes to women in Parliament. We rank behind countries like Sudan, Iraq, and Cuba.

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 speak in Parliament with men and women who are fighting for gender parity and equality. More women are serving in this Parliament than ever before. We have an unprecedented cabinet that reflects and represents all Canadians. The political parties took new measures to encourage more female candidates to run, and many of those who were elected worked tirelessly to establish new support networks and systems.

However, as a nation, we are not leading the way and we cannot trust that we will improve things voluntarily or that we will always have the right leadership.

Women have never held more than 26% of the seats in the House. We have not seen a dramatic increase in representation since 1993. It is true that we have seen progress, but we cannot just assume that progress will be inevitable. If we choose to settle for the incremental, then we risk losing everything we have accomplished.

Globally, in the period following the 1995 Beijing Declaration, there were significant increases in women's representation, largely as a result of the introduction of quotas and other temporary special measures in many countries. However, since 2010, many countries have reached a plateau between 25% and 30%, and in some regions they have even regressed. Canada is falling further and further behind as countries outside of Europe and North America begin to advance beyond the 30% mark.

Confronting inequality demands the deployment of unequal measures. As a demographic, women in Canada continue to become highly educated and still continue to make only 73¢ for every $1 that men make. Women in Canada have less access to money networks from which to fundraise for political campaigns, but studies have found that elected women in Canada outspend their male opponents by about 10%. This means that women in Canada need to work harder and spend more money than men to achieve the same results.

Financial incentives to political parties for nominating more women would only be rectifying an existing imbalance. This is the reason that in 2003, under the Chrétien government, the Liberal women's caucus was so active in ensuring that nomination contests were included in the spending limits and disclosure requirements in the 2003 electoral financing legislation.

I am proud of our government's historic and ongoing commitment in this area. It introduced legislation that had a real impact on women during the election. The importance of the 2003 election financing act cannot be overstated.

During the last election, 29.7% of candidates were women. These same women won 26% of the seats in Parliament. Studies conducted by Equal Voice showed that, when a woman's name appears on the ballot, she is elected almost 50% of the time. Canadians are not what is holding women back. The problem is getting women's names on the ballot in the first place. Elections are not where women face the greatest inequality.

Women have a disproportionately small number of opportunities and unique financial constraints. They lack access to informal political networks. Despite all proof to the contrary, they have to overcome the preconceived idea that they will not be elected. They tend not to volunteer and tend to be discouraged by what is still a very male-dominant political culture .

It is true that Bill C-237 does not propose a solution to all of these problems. It is not all encompassing. In fact, it is by necessity minimalist in its scope. However, it does initiate an important conversation, and it would be a true disservice for us to allow that conversation to end without being studied at committee.

As I travelled the globe, talking to women on five continents, managing a network with staff spread over eight countries, the barriers faced by women were the same, differing only in degree. Women, even in Canada, still carry a larger responsibility for caregiving than their male counterparts. That is why the procedure and House affairs committee is studying how to make Parliament more family friendly.

We have heard from several witnesses who have indicated that measures such as a more efficient work schedule, better child care facilities, and reducing heckling would lead to more women on the ballot. Women still face stereotypes and biases in the media that men do not face, and female leadership characteristics are not given the same weight as male leadership styles. Part of this is because of the lack of strong female role models in powerful positions, something that is finally starting to change now that the Prime Minister has appointed a gender-equal cabinet.

Recruitment and training are essential for women in politics, and several parties have implemented measures to ensure that women are being recruited, including mandating that women be included in the candidate search committee, or refusing to allow a local association to hold a candidate selection meeting unless there are women on the ballot. Many parties also have specific funds to raise money for women candidates.

The electoral system itself also presents a major obstacle to more women getting elected. The 10 lowest ranked countries in the world in terms of the number of women elected to public office are all countries that use a first-past-the-post system. That should be a major point to consider if and when consultations are held on changing Canada's electoral system.

Despite all the other reforms that can improve women's representation, the evidence continues to show that, regardless of the type of electoral system, there are limits to the effectiveness of voluntary measures by political parties. The most common argument against mandatory legislative solutions is autonomy of political parties. However, the overwhelming evidence goes against this.

Sweden is the only country I am aware of that has achieved parity by relying only on voluntary measures. In that case, the parties have willingly adopted a zipper system, where every second candidate must be a woman, something that is not possible under our current electoral system.

This bill is not about putting Canada ahead of everyone else. It is about helping Canada to catch up. Financial incentives are one of the least intrusive measures that can be used to achieve political equality. Under this approach, the political parties will still be free to select candidates and make appointments.

Equal representation is more than a matter of justice or optics. Equal political participation is a pre-condition for policy and principles that are truly democratic and inclusive. This is not a matter of symbolism. I have seen women the world over risking the security of their own person, their families, their bodies to take their place at the table and I have personally experienced what a difference it makes having women in the room. Different experiences, different perspectives, must have a voice at the table or they will not be represented.

I believe that Bill C-237 is a positive contribution to the ongoing dialogue that will lead to a future where women's voices will be equal to men's in this House and in the country.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


Dianne Lynn Watts Conservative South Surrey—White Rock, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on this private member's bill, Bill C-237, the candidate gender equity act.

Let me begin by clearly outlining what this bill would do. Clause 4 of this bill would change the Canada Elections Act to require political parties to run an equal number of male and female candidates. If the party failed to keep the difference between male and female candidates to fewer than 10%, then the party would be punished by being provided with a reduced subsidy following an election.

We want to encourage more women to seek office. I do not think there is any doubt about that. Of course we want to see women in positions of power who are engaged in business, politics, in the private sector, and in the public sector.

When I heard my colleague say that we now have women role models because the Prime Minister appointed a gender-equity cabinet, I would argue that there are many women, not only in this House, on both sides of this House, but within the private sector and the public sector who are excellent role models.

When I ran in the federal election, there were five candidates, four women and one man. As the first elected female mayor of the City of Surrey, along with a majority of women councillors, in fact, my political party had more female candidates than male candidates. We were all elected as a majority of women since 1996.

I have had the privilege over the years to work with many young women. In fact, I felt that it was incumbent on me as a woman to make sure that younger women and younger girls had the opportunity, and had every opportunity we could afford them; and incumbent on me to make sure that we were empowering them and encouraging them to pursue their dreams, and to help them reach their full potential.

In fact, I am sure that all of my female colleagues in this place, regardless of political affiliation, would agree that we all have a distinct privilege of being in positions where we can provide support, mentorship, and guidance to women, not only within our own country but around the world as well.

All of my female colleagues stand in this House today not because a political party was required to fill a female quota to get its expenses covered, but rather because they earned the respect and the trust of their constituents who believed that they were the best candidate to represent them in Ottawa.

I want to see more women stepping forward in politics, not because a political party wants to make sure its expenses are covered to the full amount, but instead because they believe they are the best people to represent their community. I want to see people from all walks of life, regardless of age, ethnicity, or gender, representing Canada in this House.

The Conservatives appointed the first Canadian female cabinet minister in 1957. Half the candidates who ran for the position of Conservative interim leader last year were female. At present, the Conservative Party is the only party with official status in the House of Commons that has a female leader.

All of these successful women got to where they are because they were the best for the job, not because there was a female quota to be filled. Furthermore, this bill would erode democracy by forcing political parties to have a hand in local nomination races. This would do nothing to encourage parties to run the best person to represent the people in the riding.

It is for this reason that I cannot, as a woman, support this bill. I support the efforts of women who want to make their lives better, whose lives we should help make better, but I cannot support a bill that would force me and my colleagues into a quota system. It is not democracy, and that is not progress.

Candidate Gender Equity ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, the collapse of commodities has led to layoffs in resource industries. Statistics Canada's latest labour force survey indicates that, over the past year, the number of unemployed Saskatchewan workers jumped by 49%, by far the largest increase of any province.

Statistics Canada's latest employment insurance figures indicate that claims have increased more in Saskatchewan than in any other province over the past year. It also indicates that fewer than half of unemployed workers in Saskatchewan and across Canada are receiving EI benefits. This is the result of previous Conservative and Liberal governments cutting benefits and draining the EI fund.

We need to ensure that workers who paid into EI have access to decent benefits and help struggling Saskatchewan families. That is why the first issue I raised in question period after being elected was improved EI for laid-off resource workers.

I am proud that the NDP used one of our three opposition days after the election to propose protecting the EI fund to finance increased access based on a national entrance requirement of 360 insurable hours. Despite campaigning to fix EI, and having previously promised an entrance requirement of 360 hours, the Liberals voted against the motion. Despite presenting themselves as the champions of the oil and gas sector, Conservatives also voted against improved EI for laid-off resource workers. However, that was a couple of weeks before the budget.

In the budget, we got an extension of EI benefits supposedly for areas hit hard by the collapse of oil prices, but the measure left out Edmonton, Regina, and southern Saskatchewan, where most of our province's oil patch is located.

I asked about this exclusion in the first question period after the budget. The only thing stranger than the lack of response from the Liberals was the silence from Conservatives. Not a single Conservative MP from Edmonton or southern Saskatchewan stood up to ask why their constituents were excluded. Then, 10 days after the budget, the member for Regina—Qu'Appelle sent out a press release belatedly questioning the exclusion, but this past Friday, the member for Saskatoon—Grasswood stood up in question period and declared, “EI is not the solution”.

We can all agree that EI is not the ultimate solution. In the long run, we must build an economy in which meaningful and gainful employment is available to everyone who wants it. However, right now, Saskatchewan families need all of our elected representatives speaking with one voice to have all parts of our province included in the EI extension. When Saskatchewan Conservatives declare that EI is not the solution, it undermines our efforts and undermines our province.

I implore the government to ignore the dissonance on EI from the Conservatives. The government should listen to the NDP, but more importantly, it should listen to the evidence and apply extended EI right across Saskatchewan.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

7:35 p.m.

Cape Breton—Canso Nova Scotia


Rodger Cuzner LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from the member for Regina—Lewvan.

I just returned from the conference. The Canada Building Trades Union is hosting a conference in town this week. I had an opportunity to speak with a number of trade unionists, building trades representatives from Saskatchewan and Alberta. Obviously, there is a great deal of concern around what has taken place in the commodities with the commodities downturn.

I spoke with a couple of guys from Fort McMurray. Kevin Thomas, a buddy of mine who represents the operating engineers, lost his home in Abasands. Certainly the situation there is one that is not exclusive to the ministry. All members of this House and all Canadians are very concerned.

The question goes to what is going on with southern Saskatchewan specifically. The minister was in southern Saskatchewan recently. He had an opportunity to speak with workers, employers and labour leaders with regard to the EI rates.

Certainly, as my colleague referred to, the most recent numbers that have been published show the national numbers have been fairly steady. There has been a 0.1% increase in unemployment in Saskatchewan. Specifically in southern Saskatchewan there are a number of concerns.

As we get into some of the information, most of the jobs that have been lost have been part-time jobs, and my colleague would know that. Saskatchewan still remains below the national average. I do not want to dismiss the comments my colleague referred to. We want to see the workers in this country back to work and certainly that is what the government is focused on, but the employment insurance program has to be there for workers who find themselves without employment through no fault of their own.

My colleague did make comment about what was talked about in the platform and what was delivered in the budget, but in fact, as a government we came forward with $2.5 billion of investment in the EI program, which I know all workers in Saskatchewan will benefit from. It is going from a two-week to a one-week waiting period. There are also the working while on claim provisions and the provisions around work sharing. Those are all very important investments that this government has made.

I would assure the member that the most recent statistics are being assessed by the department. I look forward to working with him going forward.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Erin Weir NDP Regina—Lewvan, SK

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the government's response.

Unsurprisingly, there was a mention of some EI measures in the budget. I would make the point that the budget document itself projects that employment insurance benefits will be held below employment insurance premium revenues for four out of the next five years. I believe there is room to do more. I think one of the obvious ways to do more is to include Saskatchewan's oil patch in this temporary extension of EI benefits.

Another one of the points we heard is that Saskatchewan remains below the national average in terms of the overall unemployment rate, which is fair enough, but this temporary extension of benefits was not about an extension for those regions that had the highest unemployment rates. The duration of benefits already varies based on the regional unemployment rate.

The stated objective was to provide additional help to regions that had seen a particularly large increase in unemployment, and southern Saskatchewan—

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour.

Employment InsuranceAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is correct in stating that the adjustments that have been made for the 12 regions were to address that sudden, significant, and sustained spike, the shock within the employment numbers.

Again, these numbers are fresh. These numbers are being assessed by the department. The minister is fully engaged and will continue to monitor the situation and continue to make sure that employment insurance is there for Canadians when they need it.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:40 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am picking up on a conversation we had with the government back in March in relation to a failure to respond to first nation leadership letters around the federal process on the Site C dam.

The New Democrats, along with many other Canadians, have believed that the Government of Canada has an intense, responsible, and heartfelt requirement to engage in a true nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples to work together and to protect the environment. The Liberal Party campaigned along the same lines. Therefore, I want to delve into this a bit more.

In the mandate letter to cabinet ministers, the Prime Minister indicated this was their highest responsibility. He has repeated this deep commitment to the nation-to-nation relationship being the most important relationship to him, a deep commitment of the government, that as a country we need this to work well. I stand here in support of that intention.

Back in March, along with a number of other New Democrat colleagues, we met with representatives of Treaty 8 first nations. Among them was Helen Knott, the great great-granddaughter of Chief Bigfoot, the last chief to sign Treaty 8. She spoke with us about concerns around work camps, around a megaproject like Site C. She spoke about violence against women, and what made people more vulnerable in those situations.

Some of her colleagues spoke about fisheries violations at the Site C dam. They had a deep concern about the federal government not stopping its practice of issuing fisheries permits. They wanted the government to sit back, pause and take the time to investigate those reported fisheries violations. They felt the whole process needed a bit of a time out. The leaders, at that point, indicated very much that they had an expectation of that engagement and correspondence following the election.

When we spoke in March, the question was why the letters had not been answered, what the process was, whether the government would suspend federal decisions on Site C at the time so there could be a time out and some back and forth conversation. I would like to know what has happened since March. Has there been any further correspondence between the government and the chiefs? Has the government suspended its issuance of further fisheries permits around the Site C dam?

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:45 p.m.

North Vancouver B.C.


Jonathan Wilkinson LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, our government, as the Prime Minister and others have said many times, is committed to working collaboratively with Canada's indigenous peoples to achieve results that will be beneficial for all Canadians. We made this commitment during the election campaign and we have made it a key priority for the early months of this government.

When we unveiled our budget in March the member opposite may have seen that it contained important investments relating to ensuring that indigenous peoples have similar opportunities and prospects for the future as do all Canadians.

Our government is committed to building a renewed nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples that is based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

Our government has also made it a priority to review Canada's environmental assessment processes. Our goal is to develop and implement a robust federal process that is based on science, protects the environment, provides certainty for the resource sector, and importantly, respects the rights of indigenous peoples.

As such, this review, which we will launch later this year, will be conducted in close consultation with indigenous groups. One of its aims will be to enhance consultation, engagement, and the participatory capacity of indigenous peoples in the review of proposed major resource development projects.

On the specific matter of Site C, the member opposite is currently aware that the matter is in front of the courts, and as such it would be inappropriate to comment in great detail. What I can say in response to the hon. member's question are a few notes relating to how we arrived here today.

In the fall of 2014, the former government approved the project and set legally binding conditions with which the proponent must comply. Permits were issued in the fall of 2015 and the project is now in the construction phase. BC Hydro, the project proponent, is required to meet the conditions set out in the decision statement. I can assure the hon. member that Environment and Climate Change Canada is active in verifying compliance with the conditions.

Our government is fully committed to engaging in discussions with indigenous leaders on how we can work together on issues related to consultation, natural resource development, and environmental protection.

Consistent with this commitment, the minister met recently with Roland Willson and Lynette Tsakoza of the West Moberly and Prophet River first nations to discuss their concerns about the Site C project. During that meeting she had the opportunity to hear their suggestions and their concerns.

In closing, I would reiterate to the House that this government takes environmental assessment matters very seriously. We are also firmly committed to a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with indigenous peoples based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, we heard from a number of first nations leaders, the Assembly of First Nations, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, that have written letters of concern to the Prime Minister.

Could the parliamentary secretary please let the House know whether those letters have been replied to, and if so, is he willing to table them in the House for all of us to see?

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


Jonathan Wilkinson Liberal North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, there have been numerous meetings and engagements with first nations communities relating to Site C and a range of other resource projects. As I have outlined, there is an intent to engage robustly in the development of new environmental assessment measures going forward. We remain committed to the development of a nation-to-nation relationship going forward. That is a solid commitment made by this government and something we intend to carry on with.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7:50 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again this evening, I am continuing my crusade to get pyrrhotite victims in Trois-Rivières the financial help they are entitled to.

I put this down as an adjournment debate just a few days before the budget. At the time, I was expecting the worst, and I think the worst is pretty much what we got. It all started during the election campaign, when I felt like Thomas, the biblical character who refused to believe until he saw the holes in Christ's hands. I found it hard to believe that the Liberals would really do anything to help all pyrrhotite victims.

I do not know how to describe the offer in the budget. Objectively, it is a final offer for $30 million, or $10 million per year over the next three years, to help pyrrhotite victims. What does this really mean for people affected by pyrrhotite? That $30 million will help about 75 people per year over three years. That is 225 people out of as many as 4,000 families afflicted by this terrible problem.

Furthermore, I imagine that the approach, which requires this $30 million to be channelled to the provincial assistance program, will vaguely seem like charity and that the federal government will not accept any responsibility for this disaster. I am anxious to hear the government's response.

By way of explanation, I will provide two quotes from the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, who is the MP for the riding next to mine. Oddly enough, his views during the election campaign and after the budget was tabled were rather different.

During the campaign, he said, “We will help the victims because human misery knows no borders or jurisdictions.” After the budget was tabled, my colleague said, “It is primarily a provincial matter.”

That was the answer I heard for four and a half years from the Conservatives. It was their main justification for not paying a dime. They said that this was a provincial jurisdiction. The difference is that the Liberals are paying out $30 million, while saying that this is a provincial jurisdiction.

Therefore, here is the most crucial question, and I would like to get a clear, straight, precise answer: does the Liberal government recognize that it is in part responsible for the disaster that has affected almost 4,000 families in Mauricie?

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.

Winnipeg South Manitoba


Terry Duguid LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for Trois-Rivières for his question and for his commitment on the pyrrhotite issue.

Our government recognizes that this is a very important matter for people in the region of Mauricie, and for other regions of Quebec. The pyrrhotite problem has been known for some time now, since the mid-1990s, when contractors in some parts of Quebec began to use concrete containing this mineral to build foundations. Pyrrhotite can cause swelling over time, as concrete slabs are exposed to water. This has led to deterioration of the foundations of homes where pyrrhotite is present in the concrete, along with some commercial and institutional buildings.

In June 2014, the Québec Superior Court concluded that the technical consultants, suppliers, and contractors involved in the supply of the faulty concrete were responsible for this calamity. Nevertheless, it is the individual homeowners who continue to suffer financial hardship. This is not a problem that can normally be repaired with caulking or sealant; it is usually necessary to replace the foundation.

We can all understand the distress that a homeowner would feel after making the most important investment of his or her life, only to find that the home's foundation is falling apart. The Government of Canada recognizes this distress, and we are committed to working with the Government of Quebec to help the people of Mauricie affected by this problem.

That is why, in budget 2016, we provide up to $30 million over three years, starting this year, to help homeowners who are dealing with the consequences of pyrrhotite. The responsibility for regulating the design and construction of new homes and buildings, and for enforcing the existing building codes and standards, falls under provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

As honourable members may know, the Government of Quebec has already provided $30 million in funding to help homeowners repair or replace foundations damaged by pyrrhotite. I would encourage members from across the way to join with this government and support the budget implementation act that sets forth budgetary measures that benefit Canadians from coast to coast to coast, specifically the middle class.

Our government cares about Canadian homeowners and is investing in their well-being. Although the Government of Canada bears no responsibility or liability for this situation, this does not mean that we are willing to ignore the plight of affected homeowners. When the Prime Minister visited the Mauricie region, he acknowledged that the people struggling with pyrrhotite were victims of both a human and economic tragedy. This is a situation that they did not create, nor do most homeowners have the financial means to extricate themselves from it. The Prime Minister promised to make the necessary investments to help affected homeowners, and budget 2016 fulfills that commitment.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.


Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his presentation on pyrrhotite, a topic with which I am quite familiar.

I am particularly interested in support for the victims. We just heard the exact same argument that the Conservatives used. The building code falls under provincial jurisdiction. Yes, we know. The problem is that the standards in the building code are federal ones, such as the quality standard for aggregates used in concrete. This is a federal responsibility.

Will the government commit to amending the standard to ensure that this never happens again in Mauricie or anywhere else in Canada? In the meantime, while the legal proceedings take their course, can we agree to provide support for the victims? No one is going to get rich off this problem. If the private company ever pays, the homeowners will return the money to the government. We are not talking about a lot of money.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

7:55 p.m.


Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the previous Conservative government did not allocate $30 million, as we have. However, I want to thank the hon. member for his concern for homeowners in the Mauricie region, whose foundations have been damaged by the presence of pyrrhotite. I can assure him that we are also concerned on this side of the House, and we intend to take action.

We applaud the Government of Quebec's commitment to helping these homeowners and have pledged to work with the province on this pressing issue. By providing up to $30 million over three years to help homeowners who are dealing with the consequences of pyrrhotite, the Government of Canada is effectively doubling the financial assistance that has been offered to affected families and individuals. This is the right thing to do, and I am proud that our government is contributing to the solution.

HousingAdjournment Proceedings

8 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

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

(The House adjourned at 8 p.m.)