Motion No. 1
That Bill C-25, in Clause 107.1, be amended by replacing lines 7 to 14 on page 35 with the following:
“107.1 (1) No later than October 19, 2020, a comprehensive review of the provisions and operation of Part XIV.1 of the Canada Business Corporations Act, including an analysis of their impact on gender equity and diversity among the directors and among the members of senior management as defined by regulation, shall be undertaken by any committee of the Senate, of the House of Commons or of both Houses of Parliament that may be designated or established for that purpose.”
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to deal with Bill C-25, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act, the Canada Cooperatives Act, the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, and the Competition Act.
The essence of the bill is an attempt to provide some balance in Canada in terms of gender equity and racial and ethnic representation on boards of directors, especially in the corporate sector, as well as to end some practices in Canada related to the business sector that have been rather unscrupulous. There have been issues related to say on pay for shareholders. There have been issues related to bearer bonds, where there are issues of accountability. There is money laundering that could potentially take place, or is taking place, in Canada, which has become a snow washing destination for some money movement in our country.
The amendment we are debating, before we get to the main bill at a later date, is about providing some security that the very minimum the Liberals have promised is going to take place and that there is going to be accountability.
During the committee process, we heard testimony from experts from the business sector and the not for profit sector. We also heard expert testimony from the academic community and from Canadians.
The bill is supposed to improve gender equality on boards of directors, which has been championed by this government, but nowhere in the bill does it include the word “gender”. In fact, we had a number of witnesses who identified the weaknesses in the bill, and I brought forward several amendments based on that testimony. Some of the witnesses were from the legal sector and some represented groups and organizations. They had contributions to the bill that we later crafted into amendments. They were not even necessarily from the New Democratic Party. They were ideas and thoughts we thought would be helpful, but they were ones that were presented by witnesses. That is the reason we have public hearings at committee.
Sadly, they were defeated by the Liberals. There was co-operation with the Conservatives, and even when there was disagreement over language, there was a working environment to improve it. There was a recognition that there is a continual front, a quite disgusting front, by the Liberals to use nothing short of disguise and deceit to try to put one over Canadians, but they are not that naive. Today is about defending what the bill proclaims it should do by at least having an amendment in it on oversight.
One of the first things the government did not do when it tabled Bill C-25 was have any review process. For example, in corporate Canada, the representation of women is one of the lower percentages in a model called comply or explain used by the provinces. It does not actually work in many respects and has shown very little progress. Canada is stuck at around 20%.
The Liberals will talk about gender equality, talk about gender inclusion, talk about the so-called feminist Prime Minister, but when it comes to significant or specific actions, the bill is hollow. Not only that, the Liberals hollowed out any accountability for any future government in the legislation. Amazingly, this legislation has only been looked at twice in the last 40 years, and this time, the Liberals built a bill that would have no accountability.
Witness testimony from organizations that represent women in corporate Canada and women in general identified this weakness and the significant differences from what other countries were doing. How did the Liberals respond to this? They gutted further accountability. To be specific, they left out a review of the bill. They actually came through with an amendment for that, eventually, after they were shamed and embarrassed into this position, so there will be a five-year review after this bill gets royal assent.
However, the reality is that right now, in this day and age, the percentages are becoming more challenging. In fact, we have seen the representation of women on boards of directors shrink. That change should be looked at, and there should be some type of measurement, some impetus, to push the minister in a direction that is positive, if need be.
The Liberals changed their bill to include a review after five years, but if we go through the parliamentary schedule, we will find that it will actually take up to 10 years to conduct the review.
The first part of the legislation calls for a review of gender equality and diversity among directors and senior management, as defined by regulation, to be done by a specific date to make sure it is going to happen. We actually get diversity in the bill. If we look at representation on Canada's corporate boards, in some places, whether it be Toronto or Montreal, whether it be racial or gender diversity, we have seen some setbacks. There has been a reduction. That is important, because Canadians want accountability.
I will point no further, for a current example of accountability, than Bombardier. For its corporate board, there is say on pay, another amendment the Liberals made sure was not going to be part of the bill. There is some accountability to the shareholders. They have some say with regard to compensation for CEOs. The Conservatives have raised this in the House of Commons and have asked some very good questions. It is interesting that on the Bombardier lending file, the model of loan they built in for the CEOs of Bombardier encourages practices that could often lead to job losses for Canadians. It built that into the system.
The second part that is very important is that the word “shall” will be put in the bill. It will change the bill to make sure that this review takes place. Instead of “may”, we have “shall”, so that legally, it will set a predictable amount of time to review the current situation.
A series of things has taken place with regard to Bill C-25, which will come later, but most importantly, the accountability aspect will be in it. Without these amendments, the Liberals will get away with sending the bill in its final form and not having any oversight whatsoever. We have seen that as we go through electoral cycles, none of this will happen.
What is ironic is that the rest of the world, including the United States and other places, is acting on this much more significantly. We follow comply or explain. If we look at corporate boardrooms, currently the Canadian average is 20% for women. If they lower it to 15% or raise it to 22%, which is still very minor compared to the rest of the world, especially for countries like Canada, they will have to explain it. What is the consequence if five to seven years from now a company is still at a 15% or 20% rate and not even meeting the Canadian average of women on corporate boards? What is the penalty? It is nothing.
This bill would add an honest approach for accountability, a measurement for racial, ethnic, and women representation on boards of corporate Canada and make companies more accountable to their shareholders and to Canadians.