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Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as NDP MP for London—Fanshawe (Ontario)

Won her last election, in 2015, with 38% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Committees of the House November 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, very clearly, pay equity is important to all Canadians. It exists now in two provinces, one of them being the province of Ontario. I had the privilege to serve in the Ontario Legislature when we brought forward and ensured pay equity.

Very clearly, the problem is that many women are locked into what we call job ghettos. They are in professions or in jobs that are traditionally regarded as female. As such, they have not been able to make the kind of wage advances that their male counterparts in similar jobs have been able to make. That simply is not fair, particularly, given the fact that the reality of modern life is that many women are the heads of families and they need to be able to provide for their children in an equitable way.

Committees of the House November 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, certainly, the member has made a point that the things that we value, that are important to us, need to have oversight through commissions and tribunals. I would suggest that is the same for equal pay for work of equal value.

I am not sure what a commission or a tribunal would cost, but I do know what not having one has cost. I know it has cost women their ability to earn enough to look after their families, particularly in the case of single-parent female-led families. I know it has cost the children in this country to live in poverty. Some 20% of the children in this country live in poverty. I know that women have been left to live in violent situations because they cannot afford to get out. I know that senior women receive less in terms of pensions.

This is a cost that none of us should ever be willing to accept. What is the cost? It is a cost in human dignity and human life, and I am not prepared to accept it.

Committees of the House November 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, as I was indicating to the House, the 570 page report of the task force on pay equity received a less than adequate response from the government. The response was two pages in length and certainly not comprehensive.

It is our hope that the situation will be addressed, because the task force report clearly outlines that there is an issue with pay equity in this country and that the current complaints based system is not working. The proof, as I said, is in the numbers. Today a woman earns 72.5¢ for every $1 that a man earns. For aboriginal women, women of colour and racialized or new immigrant women, the wage gap between their earnings and the earnings of white men is even greater than the wage gap between white men and white women.

For pay equity to be truly realized, which is equal pay for work of equal value, comparisons between different types of female predominant and male predominant jobs need to be made in order to locate and remove wage discrimination.

The impact on women of sex-based wage disparities is reflected in the rate of female and child poverty, with its adverse consequences on the health, well-being and future of Canadian women and their children. Since pay inequity contributes to poverty, it can have devastating health and social consequences for children, such as poor nutrition, inadequate housing, and poor concentration and performance at school, as well as social isolation.

Pay inequity is also related to economic dependence, which affects a woman's ability to leave an abusive relationship. Many women are compelled to face beatings, threats and even the possibility of death at the hands of their abusers because they are unwilling to condemn their children to poverty if they leave the relationship.

It is also true that women bringing home lower paycheques also receive lower retirement incomes. Too often, senior women live hand to mouth until the end of their lives.

Interestingly enough, achieving pay equity can have a number of benefits for employers. In addition to the reduction of wage discrimination, it facilitates the rationalization of compensation systems, which frequently become convoluted and cumbersome over time. It also demonstrates to employees in female predominant occupations that the organization is committed to the fair treatment of all employees performing different types of work. In these ways, pay equity can contribute to more efficient management and improved morale among employees.

I would like to point out why our current pay equity legislation does not work. According to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, complaints are not particularly well suited to addressing forms of discrimination that are subtle, largely unintentional and integrated into complex systems--in other words, systemic discrimination.

In February 2001, Michelle Falardeau-Ramsay, the chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, stated: “Major pay equity cases are at a virtual impasse because of the current system. We believe it is time the government made the necessary changes to ensure that pay equity becomes a reality”.

Allegations of human rights violations tend, by their nature, to generate a defensive reaction and lead to litigation and delays. A complaints based approach produces uneven implementation since employers not targeted by complaints often choose to keep a low profile and refrain from taking any initiatives on pay equity. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that it takes significant knowledge and resources to mount major pay equity complaints, which generally means that they are filed only by unions. The end result is that people performing female predominant work in non-unionized, federally regulated settings have benefited little from the federal pay equity provisions.

There are also potential competitive disadvantages. If an employer voluntarily launches a pay equity study or is the only organization in a specific sector to be the focus of a complaint, perhaps because it is unionized while competitors are not, the result may be that it is the only player in the industry to pay the price of correcting wage discrimination.

While competitive pressures are no excuse for maintaining discrimination, it does not seem sensible that a business should in effect be penalized for implementing pay equity. Also, according to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, there is ambiguity with respect to standards and concepts. More complete guidance on the meaning of terms and criteria for assessing compliance can usually be provided in the context of a proactive legal regime that is applicable to all employers.

The Canadian Labour Congress is also critical of the current legislation. It maintains that there is a lack of clarity about the nature of employers' obligations and consequences of non-compliance with pay equity obligations. Current legislation does not provide enough guidance on acceptable standards and methods for achieving pay equity.

Ken Georgetti, the president of the CLC, outlined the critical need for pay equity. He stated:

The arithmetic does not work for ordinary working Canadians.

The government squanders huge surpluses while workers can't find child care for their kids, can't get training to do their jobs better, can't protect their pensions when companies go bankrupt or can't get the money promised for pay equity.

Furthermore, the CLC contends that the current legislation is, instead, vague legislation that encourages and prolongs costly litigation, which women, especially non-unionized women, women of colour and poor women simply cannot afford. Consequently, the model fails to ensure that the average woman worker will see her pay equity complaint resolved and actually be paid equal pay for work of equal value.

Pay equity is a human right protected by the Canadian Human Rights Act. The current law prohibits differences in wages between female and male employees who work in the same establishment and perform work of equal value. We need to live up to our obligations outlined by the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Canada also needs to live up to its international obligations on pay equity. Convention No. 100 concerning equal remuneration for men and women workers for work of equal value, the equal remuneration convention adopted by the International Labour Organization, ILO, in 1951 and ratified by Canada in 1972, requires that governments take active measures to achieve equal pay for work of equal value.

The international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1966 and ratified by Canada in 1976, lists equal pay for work of equal value as a fundamental right and stresses its importance to the achievement of fairness in conditions of work. The convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, adopted by the UN in 1979 and ratified by Canada in 1981, commits signatories to removing employment discrimination against women, in part by ensuring equal pay for work of equal value.

It is quite clear what needs to happen. Canada needs to adopt a new pay equity law. The federal government should develop a new, proactive, stand-alone pay equity law. The law should meet all domestic and international obligations and should frame pay equity as a fundamental human right.

The proactive components of the legislation should include an employer's obligation to review pay practices and identify gender based wage discrimination gaps. Employers would also have a duty to develop a pay equity plan to eliminate pay inequities within a specific timeframe.

Canada also needs to expand coverage of pay equity to aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and visible minorities. Pay equity legislation should apply to aboriginal people, persons with disabilities and visible minorities as well as women. New pay equity legislation must create mechanisms to measure and eliminate documented systemic wage discrimination against these disadvantaged groups.

This legislation should protect all employees.

All employees in the federal jurisdiction should be covered by a new pay equity legislation act, including non-unionized employees, part time, casual, seasonal and temporary workers, employees of Parliament, and federal contractors covered by the federal contractors program.

Any new law should involve employees in pay equity plans.

All employers should have the obligation to work with unions and employee representatives through a pay equity committee. The committee would be responsible for developing a pay equity plan and monitoring any progress made to eliminate the wage gap. At least half of the representatives on the pay equity committee should be women workers from predominately female job classes.

This legislation would also need to have non-sexist evaluation methods. Evaluation methods used to review predominately female and male job classes should be equal and free of gender bias.

The legislation should ensure that pay equity is not negotiable. Pay equity is a non-negotiable human right. It should not be included in the collective bargaining process. Pay equity needs to be addressed separately to identify and remedy past pay discrimination against women and other equity groups.

Canada's legislation should have sustainability. An employer should have an obligation to maintain pay equity once a plan has been implemented. Where there is a union, the union would share the responsibility to ensure that pay equity is being respected in the workplace.

There also needs to be a pay equity commission. A new Canadian pay equity commission should be created to administer the pay equity law. This commission would provide education and assistance to employers, unions and employees, review complaints, conduct investigations and conduct random workplace audits. It would offer advocacy services for unrepresented workers, conduct research, and issue orders to ensure the law is enforced.

The government should provide enough human and financial resources to allow the commission to effectively administer the pay equity legislation.

Finally, we need to create a pay equity tribunal. A new Canadian pay equity hearing tribunal would need to be set up to adjudicate disputes on any issues which arise in the implementation or maintenance of pay equity. It should be an expert tribunal, knowledgeable about pay equity and equality rights.

The Conservatives have clearly ignored the 500 page pay equity task force report saying that there is no consensus when there has been consensus to this report, a very clear consensus. The government has no intention of addressing inequality between the sexes in this country. This has been proven by its reaction to this report, its cuts to Status of Women Canada, its changes to the mandate of that department, and the elimination of the court challenges program.

Conservatives want to take Canadians back 25 years instead of moving Canada ahead. They are also eager to waste taxpayers' money by holding more consultations with stakeholders when the 2004 report was not only very thorough but is available for action now.

The Liberal Party's record is not much better. It had the chance to act on the 2004 task force report and failed draft legislation. It did not take the initiative to implement proactive pay equity legislation even after very high profile court cases.

It is not very clear to me why the Conservative government refuses to draft new legislation. In 1998 the now Prime Minister described our current pay equity law as follows:

For taxpayers, however, it's a rip-off. And it has nothing to do with gender. Both men and women taxpayers will pay additional money to both men and women in the civil service. That's why the federal government should scrap its ridiculous pay equity law.

He also pointed to specific flaws in the current legislation:

Now “pay equity” has everything to do with pay and nothing to do with equity. It's based on the vague notion of “equal pay for work of equal value”, which is not the same as equal pay for the same job.

Just to be clear, in 1998 the member who is now our Prime Minister did not support the complaints based pay equity legislation now in place. Now that he is in government his party refuses to draft new legislation to remove the complaints based model. I am wondering if the Prime Minister has reversed his position or does he not believe in pay equity at all. It is my great fear that it is the latter.

Considering the Conservative government's recent attack on women's rights, it has become clear that Canadian women are going to have to fight. Women, sadly, have not achieved equality in this country. I promise to fight for equality and fight for proactive pay equity in this country. We need it now.

Committees of the House November 7th, 2006

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure this morning to ask my hon. colleagues in this House to concur in the fourth report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women which essentially is comprised of the motion adopted on May 19 by a majority of committee members, which reads:

That the Departments of Justice and Human Resources and Skills Development draft and table legislation based on the recommendations of the Pay Equity Task Force by 31 October 2005 and that the legislation be referred to the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

The report calls upon the government to move forward on the pay equity task force recommendations from May 2004. The task force had over 113 recommendations and the report from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women highlights four of those recommendations.

First, replace the current complaint based model of pay equity with new, stand-alone, proactive legislation that would frame pay equity as a fundamental human right.

Second, expand the coverage of pay equity legislation to cover all federally regulated employers, including Parliament and federal contractors.

Third, extend pay equity protection to members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities and aboriginal people.

Fourth, require all employers to develop and implement a pay equity plan.

The committee specifically asked the government for a comprehensive response to this report and the committee received from the government a response to the 570 page pay equity report in the form of a one and a half page letter. The government's comprehensive response was less than two pages. This is not good enough, nor is it comprehensive.

The government made it clear that it would not address the need for new pay equity legislation and that it was satisfied with the current complaints based model. The government also indicated that it would meet with its key stakeholders on the issue. The government further argued that there was no consensus for the implementation of many of the recommendations.

The task force report clearly outlines that there is an issue with pay equity in this country and that the current complaints based system is not working. The proof is in the numbers. Today, a woman earns 72.5¢ for every $1 that a man earns. For aboriginal women, women of colour--

Business of Supply November 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, there are 200,000 homeless Canadians in this country and we need something more substantive than that.

I would like to ask the minister about a program in Toronto that I am very concerned about. It is called the PAID program, which stands for Partners for Access and Identification. It was funded under SCPI but those funds have evaporated. As a result, it will be scaling back and laying off workers as of December 1.

This project serves 1,200 people each year and it is crucial. It is an identification replacement program. As I am sure the minister is well aware, without ID, people cannot work and they cannot find a place to live.

By allowing such a program to shut down there will be more people on the streets of Toronto this winter, leaving the burden of housing to the police and the hospitals. This is much less cost effective than funding the program that helps people get off the street and participate in society.

By allowing--

Business of Supply November 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I heard the list but this is piecemeal. I want to know when we will have a national affordable housing program that is cohesive and that actually prevents and helps those who are homeless.

Business of Supply November 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I could not agree more. Let us get to the root of the problem.

I would suggest that one of the most salient solutions is a national affordable housing program for this country, very much like the one that we had beginning in the early seventies when a minority NDP government pushed the Liberals to bring in a national housing program.

When can we expect that permanent solution? When can we expect to get at root causes of homelessness by installing a national affordable housing program in this country?

Business of Supply November 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I am still looking for answers.

I have two additional questions on housing that came out of the parliamentary secretary's comments last night. The parliamentary secretary stated that the Conservative government is now reviewing policies, approaches, partnerships and delivery models and that Conservatives are taking action. I understand that reviewing programs is important and that the Conservative government is trying to desperately differentiate itself from the former Liberal government.

The SCPI program won an award at the United Nations for best practices. This is an international award winning program. How many more months does it need to be reviewed? Is the Conservative government stalling and what does it hope to achieve by prolonging this review?

Business of Supply November 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I did not ask the minister to divulge anything personal and private. I just asked who these groups were that she met with. I simply want to know if she is talking to the same people that I am talking to because I am getting an entirely different message than what is being indicated here.

Business of Supply November 1st, 2006

Mr. Chair, I can see I am not getting anywhere with this line of questioning. The minister does not seem to understand that these so-called better programs will not exist if all of the agencies close their doors in December of this year. At any rate, I will continue.

The minister has also claimed that she met with homelessness advocates and groups. I would like the minister to tell me which groups she has consulted. I also held a round table just last week and no one at the round table mentioned meeting with the minister. These were groups that work on the ground every day to help the homeless and people at risk. Who were they and when did she consult with them?