Mr. Speaker, we are talking about budget priorities and spending by the federal Liberal government.
Being elected in British Columbia and representing Nanaimo—Ladysmith, a coastal region, the Prime Minister's tease last weekend, that he was considering putting taxpayer dollars into the Kinder Morgan pipeline, was certainly a shock to voters who thought he was campaigning on a climate change initiative, not to mention his other broken promises on reviewing the Kinder Morgan pipeline process. There certainly was no mandate for that from voters. I am sure it was quite a shock to the people who believed his promises around climate change, indigenous assent, and new environmental reviews before threatening our coastline with any bitumen oil tankers.
That said, I am going to talk about the gender provisions missing from the budget implementation bill and missing from the government's budget. Women are named hundreds of times, but very little is delivered that will actually affect the lives of women on the ground right now and next year. There is no money for pay equity. There is no money for universal affordable child care.
How can the government think it is for women's equality, when it has not funded universal affordable child care and when it has not reformed unemployment insurance so all women are able to get access to parental leave? These are all serious goals. The government had lots of advice from lots of activists in the women's movement, including international organizations like Oxfam, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, CUPE, and Canadian Labour Congress. The government has been getting the best advice out there, and I am discouraged that it has not taken it up.
On Tuesday, with two of my NDP colleagues, I issued a report card on Canada's equality day, the anniversary, 33 years after the equality provisions were introduced into the charter by the Conservative government, forced by the courts. We are still waiting. In our Tuesday analysis, we found the gender provisions of the budget and the budget implementation bill very disappointing.
Speaking to Bill C-74, one of the first pieces is the child care crisis. There is still no universal affordable child care system. The current system barely serves one in four children. My sister had to move out of Toronto because she could not find affordable child care. She was paying more for child care than she and her husband were paying for rent. This is the same story for families across Canada.
The International Monetary Fund recommended that the Liberal government invest $8 billion a year into a universal affordable child care program and said that it would pay for itself. It would allow working women to return to work, to earn more money, to spend more in the economy, to be taxed on their income. Countries that have taken on a bold, new, progressive program like universal affordable child care find these programs pay for themselves. That is certainly the Quebec example.
In March, the Conference Board of Canada gave similar advice, as has the Governor of the Bank of Canada. They all recommend it. There is no more credible economic advice the government could get, yet no new dollars.
My colleague, the member for Parliament for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, has been doing good work on this in her critic role for children and families. We are going to continue to push for this most fundamental investment. This would be the first thing the government could do to help get women further ahead.
Pay equity is another big hole. These are the words of the finance minister when he made his budget speech. He said:
In this budget, the government is taking a historic and meaningful step by moving forward with proactive pay equity legislation in federally regulated sectors....What we can do is lead by example...
However, there is zero money for pay equity in the budget, not even the very simple ask of the Canadian Labour Congress and other labour partners made, which was to establish, right now, a pay equity commissioner, an office of gender equality to be able to put the infrastructure in place, the program and administrative infrastructure, so the government could make a program like pay equity run. Still there is no legislation for pay equity, although the Pierre Trudeau government promised it 42 years ago.
The current Liberal government promised it, under pressure from me and my colleague, the member of Parliament for Jonquière, on our very first opposition day motion in the House. We were so glad to have agreement from the government that it would implement pay equity. However, here we are. The Liberals are ragging the puck until the very end of the term. Surely if they had wanted to campaigned in the 2019 election on true feminism and truly investing in women, they would have done this most fundamental thing. There are zero dollars in the budget, and still no legislation.
Under questions in question period, the status of women minister said that the bill would not be tabled until autumn. That is not consistent with the advice it got from the consensus all-party pay equity task force. It is not consistent with advice from any NGO partners. It is a great disappointment.
We did see some movement in the budget, which I am glad to see, about federal leadership on coordination of policies for preventing on-campus rape and sexual assault. That was good news.
However, a piece that was missing, and mentioned in my gender report card, was an analysis of the New Democrats' repeated ask that the Liberals fund front-line women's organizations that were doing the bulk of the work around immediate servicing for women. They are answering the 24-hour hotline. They are giving shelter to women who are victims of domestic violence. They are helping homeless women who are in terrible economic trouble.
Again and again, we have heard these front-line groups say that they do not want program funding that has groups writing grant applications and competing with their NGO partners, hoping they might get the funding. They do not want to have to do something innovative, then having their funding expire at the end of the year and having to lay off people. Instead they want operational funding so they can keep the lights on and keep the staff they have hired. The budget might have gone some way in that direction, but we could not tease out the wording.
Since February, I have been asking the minister, in private correspondence and by getting her to make a commitment at committee, to please clarify what this funding will do. Is it operational funding for these front-line women's organizations that keep women safe and fed? There is still no clarification.
In the House on Tuesday, in response to my colleague, the member of Parliament for Victoria, when he said that in Victoria the sexual assault crisis hotline had to close because it could not get operational funding, the minister said that our report card was unkind, which was crazy language. Her budget was unclear. We have been giving her the opportunity to clarify. I really hope she has heard women's organizations. If she is going to give them operational funding, if that is being provided for in the budget, then I thank her, but we cannot tease it out. If it is still speculative, competitive only program funding, then that is a big disappointment.
Public transit is another piece that is an emerging part for rural women in particular. If there is no public transit, it makes them unsafe in British Columbia, and the Highway of Tears is a prime example of that. It also keeps women from saying yes to jobs. It is a true limiting factor. We urge the government to make deep investments in rural public transit infrastructure. It keeps women safe and keeps them better ahead economically.
We still found no measures to include equity hiring provisions in infrastructure projects. There have been great examples. In the 1990s, the NDP government in British Columbia put that as a condition on infrastructure investments. Employers have to hire 20% women and equity employees and indigenous employees. That worked very well on the island highway on Vancouver Island, where I was elected. It is such an opportunity. With the government making unprecedented spending in infrastructure, the Liberals should be tying in those conditions. That was absent from the budget.
We are glad to see gender-based analysis legislation being committed to, but it really needs to be now. Our all-party status of women committee asked for it two years ago. It still has not happened. That would make, in a transparent way, all budget decisions come through a gender lens.
We are glad to see the status of women ministry become a full department. The NDP has been advocating for this in many election platforms. My colleague, the member of Parliament for Elmwood—Transcona, advocated for this at committee. Two and a half years later, the government has taken our advice, which we are pleased to see.
In summary, this is a lot of talk, not enough action, and not enough delivery for women on the ground. I urge the government to accelerate and make real investments in women now. The economy will be better off. We will all be better off. It will be more fair.