Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to arguments against my bill, particularly those made by the Liberals. I strongly encourage them all to listen closely to be sure they understand.
They say that we already have an employment insurance program that allows women to leave work 12 weeks prior to their due date. However, pregnancy lasts 40 weeks. That means women get nothing for 28 weeks. Miscarriages and congenital malformations are much more likely to occur during the first two trimesters, which is when there is no protection available to women.
That is why we need preventive withdrawal programs that provide an income for women, especially when other women in the same province have access to that kind of program. They argued that a woman living in Ontario would not have the same protection as a woman living in Quebec even if they worked for the same employer, but that is already the case for parental leave benefits.
A House of Commons employee who lives in Quebec does not get the same benefits as her colleague who lives in Ontario. One collects benefits under Quebec's parental insurance plan, and the other collects employment insurance. We already have different provinces doing different things when it comes to parental leave benefits, so why not adopt the same approach for preventive withdrawal? The same logic should apply.
Furthermore, I have been told that the only province where women could benefit from this is Quebec. That is true, but other ministers are currently working on similar programs, because they realize how important this is. Alberta and British Columbia have progressive governments that are examining this issue and understand just how crucial a preventive withdrawal program can be in family planning. Yes, it is true that only women in Quebec would benefit from this, but that could change soon. I hope things will change.
The government could introduce a Canada-wide federal program, except that 85% of employees work under provincial jurisdiction. That is why it makes a lot more sense to leave it up to the provinces to create their own programs and for us to align with provincial programs to ensure that all employed women in a given province can benefit from the same protections.
As members can see, there is clearly no reason to vote against this bill, particularly at second reading, when it still has to go to committee. Even the Conservatives understand that this is about women's rights and that the bill will protect pregnant and nursing women. They were able to put partisanship aside to support my bill, even though we all know that we have very different opinions on a number of issues. The Liberals therefore have no reason to play politics and deny rights to pregnant and nursing women. Women deserve to have a safe pregnancy and some assurance they do not end up in financial difficulties.
I hope that the Liberals will understand what is at stake and that they will send this bill to committee because it is a matter of women's rights. We need to take action.