Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.
I am proud to rise today as the member of Parliament for Parkdale—High Park to speak on behalf of my constituents in support of Bill C-86, legislation that would entrench, among other things, pay equity throughout federally regulated workplaces in this country.
My constituents in Parkdale—High Park are dedicated advocates of women's rights. They include many who work hard in the federal civil service, in Crown corporations, in the transport sector, in banking, in telecommunications companies and in the Canadian Armed Forces. These are women whose request is very simple: equal pay for work of equal value. This is not a complicated ask. This is not a controversial ask. It is an ask simply for fairness. It is an ask to be treated equally.
This is what Bill C-86 would deliver: equal pay for work of equal value. It would deliver, at long last, a system that compensates women in federally regulated industries at the same level as men. My constituents in Parkdale—High Park deserve no less. The women in this country who have been fighting for equality for so long deserve no less.
Importantly, this is not a zero-sum game. When women receive the salaries they have deserved for so long, that does not come at the expense of men. To the contrary, men and women both gain when salaries are paid equally. Canada benefits when fairness applies throughout our federally regulated industries. Indeed, pay equity will spur economic growth in which all of us will share.
Let us start with where we are now. In Canada, women earn 31% less than men. Extensive research has shown that women with the same experience and the same socio-economic and demographic background earn approximately $7,200 less than their male counterparts on an annual basis. Years of inaction in the field of gender equality have only compounded the problem. Policies implemented a decade ago are now outdated and limit our potential to effectively include women in our nation's growth. Our government is committed to changing this, and that is why we are moving forward with proactive pay equity legislation through Bill C-86.
It is pretty straightforward to get a basic grasp of how flawed the current system of pay equity in Canada actually is. For example, the model we currently use is based on responding to complaints. This has proven to be ineffective for current times, because it puts the onus on workers to challenge pay discrimination. Bill C-86 would remove the complaint-based reactive system and replace it with a new regime that was proactive and that placed responsibility on employers to ensure that their compensation practices were balanced.
Second, as an additional obligation, the proposed legislation would require federally regulated public and private sector employers to establish and maintain a pay equity plan. This is because we understand the necessity of redressing the systemic gender-based discrimination experienced by employees who occupy positions in predominantly female job classes.
Bill C-86 lays out two sets of requirements, one for employers with between 10 and 99 employees and one for workplaces with 100 or more employees. According to this bill, federally regulated public and private entities would be obliged to set out specific timelines for implementation and do a compulsory review of their pay equity strategies. The bill would also permit the government to apply accountability measures to ensure that the compensation practices were consistent with the new requirements.
Further, the proposed legislation would require federally regulated employers across the banking, transport and telecommunication sectors, for example, to review their pay equity plans every five years to ensure that pay gaps had not surfaced since the plan first came into effect. If a pay gap was created, the employer would be expected to retroactively pay those female employees who were making less than they deserved.
I want to turn now to a third important component of Bill C-86. The bill would create the position of pay equity commissioner, who would have a professional team to assist in enforcing the new approaches to pay equity entrenched in the proposed legislation. This pay equity commissioner would facilitate the resolution of disputes, conduct compliance audits and investigate objections and complaints. The pay equity commissioner would have the means to impose fines should an employer be found to not be paying employees equally, and he or she would then report annually to Parliament on the administration and enforcement of this proposed legislation.
Fourth, Bill C-86 would establish pay equity standards, from the Prime Minister's office to all parliamentary workplaces throughout Canada. This is part of our whole-of-government approach to addressing gender inequality. Through this bill, for example, we would formalize our commitment to promoting gender equality and increasing the participation of women in the labour force by establishing concrete reporting requirements for analyzing budgets through a gender lens.
As the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice, I am also proud of the whole-of-government work we have done under the Minister of Justice and the Department of Justice to ensure that a gender lens is applied to efforts to increase access to justice and legal reform.
Bill C-78 is a case in point. That bill, as part of our whole-of-government approach towards gender, takes specific aim at the plight of middle-class women struggling to access spousal and child support they are owed after a marital breakdown. Via Bill C-78, we would be taking steps to facilitate access to information about a former spouse's assets via the Canada Revenue Agency and their records. That would prevent spouses from hiding assets and ensure that more women were paid the spousal and child support they rightly deserve. I say “women” in this context, because we know that in this country, over $1 billion is owed in enforcement arrears to those owed spousal and child support. We also know that among the entire group in an enforcement arrears situation, 96% of the people owed money are women who are owed money by men.
I outline this example of Bill C-78 as a further example of the whole-of-government approach we have taken on this side of the chamber in terms of our approach to addressing gender inequity.
Bill C-86 is clearly an example of such legislation. It would make Status of Women a full department, called the department of women and gender equality, or WAGE.
It is well established that gender equality creates economic growth, thus entrenching the department of women and gender equality would strengthen our capacity to advance gender equality and grow the middle class through policy, programming and the support of equality-seeking organizations and community partners. The mandate of this new formalized department would further promote gender equality by breaking down barriers in respect of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.
Status of Women has been working on the issue of pay inequity for decades, but Bill C-86 would secure the department's place as a centre of gender expertise. It would recognize its work as a driver of economic growth and make it less vulnerable to alterations without widespread public debate and discourse. In addition, we are determined to formalize this new department to ensure that no future government ever again questions the importance of equal pay for work of equal value in Canadian society.
As I mentioned at the very outset, pay equity is not a zero-sum game. Giving to one gender is not about taking from another. To the contrary, pay inequity that has persisted for so long is actually limiting our growth. It is damaging to the development of our nation. I know this, my constituents in Parkdale—High Park know this, and our government knows this.
The “Global Gender Gap Report 2017”, from the World Economic Forum, substantiated that it will take approximately 217 years to close the economic gender gap worldwide if present trends are allowed to continue. They will not be allowed to continue, not under our government's watch.
It is essential for us to implement policies that will remove barriers that prevent women in the labour force from being fairly compensated for their work. It is critical that the Government of Canada uphold the basic principles of equality and fairness and continue to build a country and an economy that works for all genders.
From appointing the first gender-balanced federal cabinet and the first federal minister fully dedicated to gender issues, to tabling Canada's first-ever budget analyzed through a gender-based lens, to launching Canada's first-ever strategy to prevent and address gender-based violence, to an unparalleled focus on women and girls in our international development assistance, our government has demonstrated that it is committed to advancing gender equality within Canada and around the world.
Pay equity for women is long overdue. I am proud to support this bill, and I encourage every one of my colleagues in this chamber to do the very same.