Mr. Speaker, I must say I was really impressed with my colleague's comments on the issue.
Whether it is in the comments of my colleague or the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women, the way they articulate the issue shows it is something which they genuinely believe in. In good part, there are issues that will come and go in terms of debate in this chamber, but there is a genuine appreciation that we can do much better on the file of gender equity. Over the years, we have seen significant progress.
Sharon Carstairs was a very important woman in my life, someone who was quite inspirational. I had a big decision to make back in the mid to late 1980s regarding the direction in which I was going to go and putting it in the perspective of a time frame. Sharon Carstairs played a significant role in my making the decision to get involved in politics. At the time I was in the military, trying to determine whether or not to go into politics. We had this wonderful leader who was elected for the Liberal Party in Manitoba. It was something very different. Back in 1988, Sharon Carstairs was the first female to be elected as leader of one of the three main parties, at the provincial or national level.
If we were to canvass members of the House for their opinions, we would find that all of us have had individuals who have impacted our lives.
When I look at this whole issue of gender equality and the amount of inequity that is out there, this is a very powerful motion that we are talking about today. Designating a week could lead to all sorts of things being talked about in classrooms, in the business community, at corporate tables, in union rooms, in different levels of government, in non-profit organizations, or in individual homes. There are many stories that need to be told.
I have talked about Sharon Carstairs because of the profound positive impact that she had on me, but there are other women in my life who have had a huge impact also. We owe it to all to move forward and advance the issue of gender equity.
I am very proud of the fact that we have a Prime Minister who is a feminist. The types of actions he has taken since the last federal election have been very significant. One of the first initiatives he announced was that he was going to have gender parity in the cabinet. That was a first in Canadian history. Governments around the world recognized that particular initiative.
The Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women talked about that gender lens. Those are two words that we often use now. I have seen the term “gender lens” being used more in the last year than in the previous 20 years. There is a heightened sense of awareness when developing public policy, whether it is a budget or a piece of legislation, that we need to apply that gender lens.
I know our Prime Minister pushed heavily on this. We have seen the cabinet respond to that. The Minister of Finance, as the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women indicated, applied the gender lens to the most recent budget, which we have been debating for the last couple of months. That in itself will have a significant impact on the types of decisions we are making.
Quite often we hear criticisms about the government's appointments, from opposition members. I am actually quite happy with the way in which the appointments have been taking place. The other day, when I was responding to a question from the opposition in regard to appointments, I made reference to the fact that, of 122 appointments, 60% were females. I do not have at the top of my head the number of appointments and the actual gender breakdown with Stephen Harper's government, but I suspect we would find that, through this Prime Minister, this is yet another initiative that does not just talk about it but actually is a tangible action toward gender equity. We have the cabinet, we have the gender lens, and we have the appointment process. Through that appointment process, we talk about the importance of transparency and accountability; we talk about the level of expertise among the individuals who are out there. The government needs to make that extra effort in ensuring that we take down some of those barriers, because there are barriers in place. Some of them are more difficult to recognize than others, but the bottom line is that barriers are in place. I appreciate those individuals who have brought us to the point where we are today.
Now, my colleague brought in a motion that ultimately would see recognition being given on an annual basis for a duration of one week. The question I posed for him was in regard to how we can incorporate it into school classrooms, possibly. When we have awareness bills, resolutions, or motions that come to the floor, one of the primary reasons for them, I would argue, is that they allow for all the different stakeholders that we could possibly imagine to take advantage of the sort of leadership that is coming out of the House of Commons on an issue such as this and to actually utilize it. The example I used for my colleague is that a progressive teacher would say, “In Ottawa we have recognized a national gender equity week, and we want to talk about that in our classroom”. Those are the types of actions that I believe we will see take place.
I also believe that, as members, we will often talk about the different issues, and this is one of those issues on which we have the opportunity to do so, whether through ten percenters or householders or just discussions we have with our constituents, where we can actually promote some of the good work that is done inside the House of Commons. By doing that and by raising this around different individuals and groups whom we meet, we can in fact influence and ultimately, hopefully, raise the profile of the issue. The bottom line is that it is about education; it is about looking for barriers and coming up with creative ways to take down some of those barriers, so that there is a more equal playing field.
We have heard some statistics even in this evening's debate in terms of the percentages in education and the types of marks and different types of professions. Earlier today we heard the leader of the Conservative Party, a very bold leader who has done so much and no doubt has inspired many women to take hold of what has been accomplished, knowing full well that they can be just as engaged and that women play an absolutely critical role, an equal role, and some would argue, even a larger role. If members talk to my daughter, she will tell them about that.
I appreciate the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts on this important issue.