Madam Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on the budget implementation bill. The amendments are being brought forward to try to take away some of the inequities that have been included in the bill, as previous members have stated. They are inequities that do not have much to do with the idea of having a package of financial measures to respond to the fiscal crisis, but rather adopts the government's approach to its agenda for our country, which varies considerably from that which our party supports.
I will review what has happened in the last few months in the country.
On November 27, we had the fiscal update, which to be fair and very polite ignored the fiscal reality. The government decided it was a good time to include three very prominent measures that caused quite a big furor in the House and across the country.
The first was an attack on the rights of women by declaring that pay equity was no longer something with which the Human Rights Commission was able to deal. It was to be eliminated from the remedies under the Human Rights Act and made something that would have to be bargained like any other item for collective bargaining.
The second was an attack on collective bargaining rights, for which workers across the country have fought for decades. The indication that the government would refuse to honour agreements with workers was an attack on collective bargaining.
The third was something that also caused a big furor as well, and that was the attack on the changes that had been made to party financing in the wake of the Liberal financial sponsorship program scandal. Imposed were fair rules for financing our political parties.
We and the Bloc were opposed to the attack on those fair rules. The Liberals were extremely opposed. In fact, as a result of these measures and the failure to address the problem, the Liberals agreed to enter into a coalition to replace the government to ensure that these things would not happen and that the government would be able to respond to the needs of the people.
If all the rest is taken away, that is really what happened in December, just a couple of months ago.
As we know, Parliament was then prorogued through the application of the Prime Minister. We came back again on January 26. What do we have? We have some changes to the government's attitude toward the budget, but what has happened to those three major irritants that caused the problem for the Liberals back in December? All but one of them are still there.
We still have an attack on women. We still have the removal of the pay equity provisions from the Human Rights Act remedies. Women in the public service can no longer avail of the rights that many other Canadians have to seek remedy from the Human Rights Commission for a violation of pay equity in the federal sphere. They now have to go and bargain along with every other item on the agenda of a collective bargaining session and play with the give-and-take of hardball negotiations on the part of the employer, or not, or whatever takes place. Pay equity becomes another bargaining item along with holidays, overtime pay, vacations and various other things. Pay equity is one of the things that as part of these negotiations is totally wrong. However, it is apparently acceptable to the Liberal Party of Canada and to the Liberal opposition in the House. I find it astounding that this could be the case.
The other issue is collective bargaining. Part of the implementation act are the changes that would be brought about to ensure all the collective agreements in the federal public sector would be changed, with pay increases that have been negotiated or agreed to wiped out. That is being done at the drop of a hat by the government, supported by the Liberal Party of Canada.
One of the three major irritants that has been left out is the one which would take away party financing for the Liberal Party of Canada. Now the Liberal Party is supporting the government and the measures it is implementing, including the attack on pay equity, the attack on women and the attack on collective bargaining.
It is kind of ironic. There was quite a furor in the House in December. Every single member of the Liberal caucus signed the letter declaring their lack of confidence in the government, declaring their willingness to form a coalition government to govern the country and prevent the very things that we see them complain about every day in this House.
I was a little encouraged the other day. The member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl was entertaining some protestors from the Public Service Alliance of Canada who showed up at her office on Friday. They were protesting the fact that the Liberal Party was supporting the pay equity changes. According to news reports the member invited them in and she was asked whether or not there was any opportunity of hiving off those pay equity provisions from the budget implementation bill and dealing with them separately. The member apparently was interested in trying to do that but was not sure that it could be done.
I want her and all members in the House to know that there is an opportunity to hive off those sections of the bill. There are opportunities in this debate through report stage motions and amendments to vote against particular provisions of the budget implementation bill and pay equity can in fact be taken out and members can vote accordingly. I would certainly encourage them in that regard.
I am glad to see that the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl has an interest in that. I look forward to her supporting the amendment which would remove that. For any member of the Liberal caucus who would wish to register his or her objection to the removal of pay equity rights for women, there will be opportunities for them to do that today. Whenever it comes to a vote, I look forward to seeing the member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl and others join with us in seeking to amend this legislation at least to the extent that it does not trample the rights of women when it comes to pay equity. It is a very significant issue for many people across this country and for the women who fought for pay equity.
Again and again I hear the President of the Treasury Board talk about how the Conservatives are fixing this. It took 15 years for women to achieve pay equity in the public sector. My question is, why is that? Who was in government forcing the women to spend 15 years fighting for pay equity? Who opposed these applications? Who opposed these measures before the Canadian Human Rights Commission? It is very obvious. Who was in power during those 15 years? During those 15 years, it was the Conservative government of Mr. Mulroney and then the Liberal government of Mr. Chrétien. Those were the governments in power. That is why it took 15 years, not because there was a problem with the system, but because both governments, the Conservative government and then the Liberal government, resisted every single step of the way to ensure that it took 15 years.
All the President of the Treasury Board has to do is say, “Hey, we are going to streamline this process. We are not going to resist. We are going to let the process take its course as it should”. All the Liberal members have to do is ensure that when the opportunity comes, they actually take this provision out of the budget implementation bill.