Mr. Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak this afternoon. I am pleased that you are the one in the chair right now.
I am rising today to share some of my thoughts and, of course, those of Her Majesty's official opposition on Bill C-25, An act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.
It is important to begin by saying that this bill targets some 270,000 federally incorporated companies, which are, for the most part, small and medium-sized businesses that do not sell shares and to which the changes will not apply.
It is important to remember that the amendments proposed in Bill C-25 are the result of a legislative review that was conducted by a House of Commons committee in 2010, two Parliaments ago. Consultations were then held by our government and Industry Canada in 2014.
Like the majority of my colleagues who have spoken to Bill C-25, I think it is commendable and fantastic in many ways that the current government was open enough to use old legislation from the Conservatives' 2015 budget to develop Bill C-25.
However, what my opposition colleagues and I find a little unfortunate is the lack of substance in the bill we have before us at the current stage and, in fact, the lack of substance we see all too often in the current government's bills. I would even say the lack of bills, quite simply. No more than 50 bills have been tabled by the Liberal government since October 19, 2015. The minority government of the Right Hon. Stephen Harper had tabled three times as much legislation by 2007.
Certainly, the bills lack substance. In addition, there is a lack of real change. I will come back to the bill after this aside. The Liberals campaign slogan was “real change”. We can certainly change the things we say. That is obviously what the Liberals have done. However, Canadians expect legislative change, and that is not what we are seeing currently.
The Liberal government is missing several opportunities to do a good job in the House and bring in concrete measures for Canadian society, to address problems affecting workers, seniors, the unemployed, and corporate boards. This is how I am getting back to the bill.
We are delighted that the Liberal government is using legislation that the previous Conservative government worked very hard on. However, in committee, we brought forward two main amendments that, it appears, do not suit the opposition, or rather the government. Excuse me. I misspoke. I saw the future and called the government the official opposition. That will be two and a half years from now.
During the committee stage of Bill C-25, the Conservatives proposed amendments that would have strengthened the bill. First, we proposed to define the word “diversity”, which is an integral part of the bill.
It is one of the key components of the bill since the other side of the House wants to impose diversity, which is still undefined, within various federally regulated corporate boards and institutions.
The amendment we wanted to bring forward would define the word correctly. The need for this was also raised by a number of the witnesses who appeared before the committee. The official opposition critic responsible for this issue and several of my Conservative colleagues met with these witnesses.
The second amendment would require a review of the diversity policy in three years.
There is a reason why the Liberal government did not accept this amendment, which would define the word “diversity”. One of the things this government most often does is present sweeping concepts that they do not want to define. In this case, it is diversity. In another case, it is the 1%. For the next two and a half years I will repeat that the 1% does not exist. We are one of the world’s fairest societies, one of the societies where wealth redistribution is unparalleled in the history of mankind. I really find it incredible. I had the chance to go to university and I can say that any professor or academic would tell you that there is no such thing as the 1%.
I would like to give a parallel example that will explain why imposing diversity could have consequences that are not necessarily what the government intends. I will go out on a limb: I assume that by diversity, they mean cultural minorities of all kinds. Today it is rather fashionable to identify all kinds of minorities, when what really counts is protecting the political minority, first and foremost. I will give an example of some of the consequences that sometimes result from a desire found only in rhetoric. When the Liberals talk about a gender-balanced cabinet, I see rather significant consequences. It is not in law, thank God, but if by misfortune the next government decides to continue with that, this would then become a convention. We would have a sort of parliamentary convention to have a gender-balanced cabinet.
According to the Liberals, having a convention saying that cabinet must be gender balanced means that women will forever hold half the power in the cabinet that forms the government. From another perspective, this also means that from now on, women will never be the majority in cabinet. Is that not a bit ironic to think that for centuries, cabinet was composed mostly of men, and now, with this convention we end up never seeing a cabinet composed mostly of women?
I believe this is a first consequence of this rather dangerous convention, based on misconceptions, dangerous social interpretations, and political capital, which, furthermore, in a way endangers—to put it bluntly—the possibility of having the best cabinet possible. I am sure that my colleague from Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, across the way, would make a wonderful minister. I was with him on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. He is incredible, clever and has an outstanding mind. However, because of gender parity, he will probably never be as close to me on the seating plan as he could be. We will never get the best by relying on sweeping misconceptions.
Creating such misconceptions of social reality that can be interpreted differently can have consequences. We therefore need to define the word “diversity” to ensure that this bill will not have negative consequences on corporate administration.