Mr. Speaker, without pay equity, women are robbed of an estimated 23% of their earnings. The government is an accomplice to that robbery.
Thirteen years have passed since the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force report. It was a comprehensive blueprint for pay equity. It was a three-year study of a proactive pay equity regime, consisting of 596 pages and 113 recommendations. Again, that was in 2004 when the Liberal government was previously in power.
If those recommendations had been implemented in 2004, women would have had $640 billion more in their pockets, money they are now owed. The wage gap has cost Canadian women $640 billion in lost wages since 2004. Imagine for a moment the improved quality of life women would have had if they had not had to wait. Imagine the boost to the economy if that money had been in their bank accounts or spent in our communities that whole time.
As Barb Byers, secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, who very recently retired, and I thank Barb, testified at committee hearings held a year ago:
Let us also be mindful that women have been waiting for longer than 12 years. We've been waiting for decades and decades, and while we wait, the debt owed to those who are caught in the wage gap continues to mount. These are women with children to raise, women who deserve a dignified retirement, and many are women who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination both in the workplace and in the community.
In June 2016, almost a year ago, the Special Committee on Pay Equity, created by a New Democrat motion, tabled a report called “It's Time to Act”, but the government decided not to act. It is not a hard fix.
There is no reason for the delay. Women are still being denied pay equity. We have models and best practices within our country. There has been proactive pay equity legislation for public sectors for several decades: Ontario since 1987 and Quebec since 1996. Those regimes also include the private sector. Ontario and Quebec found that the cost of these provincial proactive pay equity laws was not significant and not as costly as employers had initially feared when the regimes were introduced. Plus it is a human right and it is the right thing to do.
This year, the Liberals sent a delegation to the 61st session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Interestingly, its focus was #stoptherobbery and #payequity was everywhere. The United Nations asked all countries to #stoptherobbery, but justice has not happened in Canada. We have just learned through the media that a senior ministerial staffer to the former employment minister lost classified documents going to cabinet that explained why pay equity legislation was still being hung up.
I want to know when the government will table those lost documents so we can learn what possible excuse the government has for failing to deny women legal pay equity.