House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • Her favourite word was income.

Last in Parliament March 2011, as Liberal MP for Beaches—East York (Ontario)

Lost her last election, in 2011, with 31% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 23rd, 2010

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the motion but, as other members have said, I wholeheartedly wish that we did not need to debate it at all.

The government does not understand the issue of infant and maternal health in the slightest. In fact, the Conservative ministers have been directly contradicting each other on this issue all over the place. It suggests to me that they are trying very hard to fudge something that they are worried will upset the base that they represent. They believe very much that reproductive technology is taboo.

I was absolutely shocked when I learned that the Minister of Foreign Affairs stated, “This does not deal in any way, shape or form with family planning. Indeed the purpose of this is to be able to save lives”.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs not understand that the very thing he is denying women in developing countries is the thing that will in fact kill those women? He had to have known that by the government doing and saying that, it was literally condemning certain numbers of women to death. That sounds horrible and harsh but that is reality. That is what Mr. Bush did in America.

The purpose is to save lives but the government's plan will not save any lives. Instead, it will condemn women to death. No maternal health policy can be effective without proper family planning and the ability to space out pregnancies. Everybody in the developing world and everybody in our country knows that. As the former minister of CIDA, I have seen that in the countries I have visited and it is a fact.

However, the current CIDA minister then said, “We have chosen to focus the world’s lenses on saving the lives of mothers and children,” but not birth control. Does the minister really think she is doing her job? How can a development minister of Canada say that she is saving lives by denying contraception and birth control when she knows full well, if she bothered to visit any other developing countries and looked at any of the programs, that she is doing exactly the opposite? As a former minister of CIDA, I suggest that the minister resign from her job because she is not looking out for the people she is supposed to be representing and protecting in this country.

We all acknowledge that promoting infant and maternal health is an admirable one but when ideology trumps health policy and politics trump common sense, the Conservative government only accomplishes relegating Canada to the backbench on international development and causes us a great deal of embarrassment, which is totally unacceptable.

We need to look at some of the facts. Improving the lives of women and children in the developing world requires more than immunization, access to clean water, better nutrition and improved training for health care workers. All options must be made available to promote educated family planning and gender equality. All of these things are needed, but we need that and more.

The reality is that 80% of maternal deaths are caused directly by complications during pregnancy, delivery and after delivery. The four major killers are bleeding, infections, unsafe abortions and obstructed labour. Contraceptive services in developing countries could avert 52 million unintended pregnancies. I am not talking about one or two. This is huge. They could save 1.5 million lives and prevent 505,000 children from losing their mothers.

Investment in family planning could slash maternal deaths by 70% and cut newborn deaths by nearly half. Children without mothers are three times as likely to die before their fifth birthday. They often enrol in school late and leave school early. Spacing between pregnancies is important for the health of mothers. Two hundred and fifteen million women who would like to delay or avoid childbearing do not have access to modern contraception, 20 million have unsafe abortions every year, and 8.5 million need hospital care for complications but it is not available for 3 million of them.

The government is concerned that we are talking about abortion. Everybody wants to stay away from that word, but by denying birth control, it is forcing women to either abort or to die, and many of them do die, including their children afterward. That is the reality. I saw it on the ground, I have lived with it and I have seen the data.

We are dealing with that reality and for the government to ignore that reality because of its own personal ideological beliefs is totally unacceptable in this country. We have signed agreements at the international level with respect to women that commit us to doing exactly what the government is denying it is going to be doing.

Women who cannot access reproductive health services are more likely to obtain unsafe abortions and more likely to die as a result of pregnancy, childbirth or unsafe abortions. Ninety per cent of maternal deaths are preventable with better nutrition, but also by spacing out pregnancies.

The main reasons for infant and maternal deaths are the poor quality of care, with unsafe, outdated equipment, and the lack of midwives and trained professionals. I have travelled to many of these countries and have met with the midwives and have seen just one or two of them responsible for thousands of women, with very little medical equipment available. Yes, we need to provide more medical assistance and better nutrition and better health supports and to ensure there is not just one midwife for thousands of women, absolutely, but we also need to provide contraceptive and birth control assistance, because those mothers do not choose.

What I have been told sometimes by people is that the women should abstain. It does not work. Women in these countries do not have the option of abstaining, just as young women in some parts of Africa do not have the option of abstaining and end up with AIDS, which is a whole other issue that we are not even talking about.

Of course, contraception also helps in preventing deaths in the other direction. It helps women who are already malnourished, who are already anemic in many ways because they are very poor, and who are not able to withstand pregnancies that close together and end up dying in childbirth. That is why birth control has to be part of the program. It is unconscionable for the government to even consider denying and eliminating that. To me, it is nothing but pandering to a certain political level in this country and it is totally unacceptable from a government that purports to lead a modern, progressive nation in this world, which I consider Canada to be.

Regarding the cost of care, women bear the brunt of the fees for health care. Their reproductive roles mean they have the greatest need for health care. Even in places where health care is free, they still have to get to the facility and sometimes must pay for the equipment and supplies needed, which they do not have money for.

We made a commitment to the fifth millennium development goal to reduce maternal mortality by 75% before 2015, and if the government thinks it is going to accomplish that without birth control and contraception, then it is wrong. Even abortion, which is not something that anybody advocates for, is still part of the program and should be allowed. Those women have a right to choose and a right to survive. It is not for us to impose our situation on them.

Canada has provided long-lasting support for contraception and reproductive health services through CIDA. The government's ideology is getting in the way of good health care and gender equality, both here in Canada and abroad, where the government is now pushing its ideology. As members know, it has eliminated equality for women in this country, shut down offices that serve women in this country, and now is trying to impose its ideology on women abroad.

I could go on for a long time on this issue, but what is most important to me is this. If the Minister of International Cooperation and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister of this country know, and I believe wholeheartedly that they do, that without contraception and birth control being part of the program it will in fact condemn 500,000 to one million poor women in the developing countries to death, and are still prepared to put forward this kind of policy and have only backed off slightly after being pushed by the House and the media, it is unconscionable. It irresponsible and it is not Canadian. As leaders of this country, I expect better from them. I expect them to represent the values of this country and to support us abroad.

December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, I rise tonight and am glad to speak on Bill C-343, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code and the Employment Insurance Act (family leave).

First, I want to say that while I have some concerns about the bill, they are things that could actually be better addressed at committee, so I support sending this bill to committee.

We definitely all understand the crises and trauma that families and individuals can go through when a crime is committed. This is something for which victims in this country do not get a great deal of attention, and this is critical.

The main provisions of the bill, I noticed, mirror to some degree the legislation that already exists in Quebec. I know the hon. member has obviously taken the information and used the Quebec model to draft her bill, which I believe was a good direction to go.

The bill allows employees to take unpaid leave from work for family-related reasons, specifically when there is a criminal offence. Some of the provisions, as others have mentioned before, are there to allow the minor child to carry on activities because the child suffers a serious physical injury. Again, the parent could take time off if that had happened because of a criminal offence.

We need to talk about the trauma that families have when these kinds of things happen. The bill, as I mentioned earlier, addresses the spouse, common-law partner and the child, but does not mention the mother or father. I note that it did not much refer to those issues, and that is something that we may want to look at, as other members of the family are certainly victims of acts of crime at times, and I just wondered why that particular aspect was not mentioned or is not in the bill at this point. However, the bill goes on to cover things such as the death of a spouse or common-law partner as a result of a criminal offence.

According to the bill, in the case of a minor child, the child must be under the age of 18. This is what the hon. member was mentioning as a concern, although I think that is a reasonable thing to do. Unpaid leave of up to 104 weeks is granted if the child is injured as a result of a criminal offence and if the presence of the employee is required by the child.

There are different times mentioned in the bill. Fifty-two weeks of unpaid leave is granted if a minor child is missing. However, if the child is found, the leave ends after the eleventh day following the return of the child. So there are some parts of the bill that actually take into account different situations or possible different scenarios, and that is helpful.

The 104 weeks of unpaid leave are granted if the child, spouse or common-law of the employee dies during the commission of, or as a direct result of, a criminal offence. This bill is very much tied to addressing the issue of victims of criminal activity, and the bill is very clear, in case anyone is concerned about it. The employee may not benefit from these provisions,

if it may be inferred from the circumstances that the employee—or...the deceased person, if that person is the spouse, common-law partner or adult child—was probably a party to the criminal offence....

This again reflects very closely the provisions in the Quebec legislation, if I am not mistaken from having taken a brief look at it earlier today.

Losing a child or a spouse is one of the most difficult circumstances anyone could ever face and has a traumatic effect on all members of the family. In my riding, about a year ago on New Year's day, a young woman by the name of Stefanie Rengel was killed, stabbed practically next door to her own home. Her mother did not hear her cry because it was late and it was outside. She died on the snowbank a couple of doors from her own home. It was a horrible crime and I still remember going and meeting with the parents and discussing the situation.

It was one of those things where no one could ever say anything that would help. Being sorry would not cut it. The trauma suffered by the mother, father, brother and other family members has been tremendous. They have been through a difficult time.

We all know that criminal offence victims who face serious injuries require the help and support of their families. All efforts should be made to ease the challenges in meeting those needs. Those who survive injury need time to deal with the trauma. The family, children or spouse of a victim also need time to rebuild their lives and get back to a normal life. This is something that is extremely important. We take our safety for granted sometimes. No one believes that it will hit us, but unfortunately it can and it does, as some of us have seen.

As I said earlier, there are areas of this bill that need study. I believe the committee needs to look at a couple of things, but those are not insurmountable or things that cannot be addressed.

I am going to highlight some of those areas. For instance, in the case of a physical injury to a child, an injury is deemed serious if it renders the child unable to carry on regular activities. I am not sure that the bill is clear on what regular activities are and whether it is limited to attending school or it includes other activities, but I think it is important to be clear so the interpretation is not wrong.

In another section, as I mentioned earlier, family leave is restricted to an event that happens to the child or spouse. However, what about a father, mother or any other family member? I do not want to expand on it too much, but mothers and fathers are obviously considered to be immediate family members.

I am going beyond the age of 18 and 19, and maybe there is something to be said about the age equation. I am not quite sure that the impact is much different if somebody loses a child at the age of 19 or 20, especially if they lose that family member through a criminal offence. I think that is worthwhile to discuss at committee.

There is another aspect to this. We have the question of the cost of allowing employees on family leave to receive EI special benefits. That is very important. The bill allows for a maximum of 52 weeks of special benefits, compared with six weeks on compassionate leave and 15 weeks for sick leave. I think we might want to look at expanding compassionate care or compassionate leave.

We are going to have different categories, and maybe this type of legislation could be in one category. I know that the Standing Committee on the Status of Women did a study with respect to the reform of EI specifically. Some of the recommendations dealt with compassionate leave.

We are looking at increasing and expanding compassionate leave. This might be something that would fit into that area. I think it would be worthwhile to look into it. It is certainly something we may want to discuss and potentially change. Compassionate care and compassionate leave is something we already have in the EI legislation, and it may be something we could expand.

The committee also looked at taking some of these things out of EI. That is something important that we would want to look at.

The Canada Labour Code currently does not specify that an individual can take unpaid leave when his or her family has suffered a major loss, including the death of a spouse, common-law spouse or child as a result of suicide or criminal offence, nor if a child has gone missing. As I said earlier, it is not there. I understand what the hon. member is trying to accomplish with this bill. However, there are some clarifications that I think the committee should look at.

We will support the bill, but some of these things could be looked at in committee to clarify them further and ensure that when the bill comes back to the House it will have more clarity.

December 10th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, first of all I want to commend the hon. member on the bill. It is something that needs to get done.

Perhaps the member could clarify something. The bill refers to “children” and “spouses” but not to “mother” and “father” and even the individuals themselves if they were attacked. A person may be single. Under compassionate care or sick leave a person only gets 15 weeks. Here there is potential for getting more. I just wondered if there is a reason for leaving out those particular aspects.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act December 9th, 2009

Madam Speaker, I do get rather tired of the constant self-righteous talk of the NDP. The Kelowna accord was negotiated for two solid years. It is not something that was taped together in two minutes.

Number one, the minister brought every single provincial and territorial government and first nations to the table and negotiated it, and finally negotiated something that was acceptable to everybody.

Number two, let us get back to some of the self-righteous comments with respect to what we did or did not do on child care. In 2004 the Liberals put forward a $2.2 billion program for child care. We could not get the provinces on side. For example, in Ontario, Harris would not talk about child care. He would not have it. In fact, he used the money for something else which is now called the early years program and eliminated the child care program. That was a struggle we had constantly.

We continuously added to the child care program. In 2005 we finally negotiated an agreement with every province and territory to establish a national early childhood education and child care program. I know because I was very involved with that whole process for a very long time.

For someone who wants to set the record straight and is so self-righteous about things, it was the NDP who chose to abandon child care in this country by voting for the Conservatives and putting them in power. It was the NDP who chose to abandon a national housing strategy in this country, and at the same time pay equity because at that time we were ready to table legislation.

We could point fingers in this House forever. I see my colleague, the former minister of justice, who was going to table that bill. It was ready to come to the House. It was a Liberal government that brought in parental leave, compassionate leave, and other programs. They were on the table, progressive programs for women in this country. There were programs for housing, early education and child care, but members of the NDP chose to take us out. That is fine. That is a choice they can make. That is their choice. Nobody can say anything about it. This is a democracy. But let us not stand in this House and rewrite history every time we speak, because it is a waste of everybody's time, not to mention the misinformation.

More recently the NDP was quite prepared to allow $50 billion in corporate tax cuts when we were talking about a coalition in which the NDP would have some cabinet seats. There are times when there are compromises, and there are times when decisions are made and people do things they normally would not have done.

This brings me to the minister's earlier comments, and also to the comments of my colleague who just spoke with respect to the budget and how we voted for it and now we are trying to change it. It was made clear from the very beginning that we did not support the pay equity bill which the government unnecessarily and disingenuously attached to the budget bill.

It was not part of the budget. It was never part of the budget when it was tabled. The Conservatives did that in order to ram it down the throats of the House. They knew the rest of us on this side of the House did not support their pay equity bill. However, the other choice was to have an election in the middle of a recession. I guess the NDP was quite prepared to do that, although now I see that those members are singing a different tune.

We had to make a choice. Would we have an election, or vote for a bill that was being shoved down our throats whether we liked or not, when we did not like the bill? We chose to not have an election. However, we decided that at the earliest opportunity, we would address the issue that was very close to our hearts and we are doing so here today.

Let us set the record straight here, and let us talk to each other a little more frankly than we normally do in this place. I am tired of the rhetoric. Quite frankly, I am also tired of the government constantly shoving things down the throat of the House and holding the House hostage on bills that the government knows the House does not support, namely the pay equity bill which was attached to the budget, and others before it.

Earlier the minister was talking about how this was much better because we did not have to wait for 25 years, that women had been waiting too long. But what was his option? Instead of waiting 25 years, the Conservatives are taking away the right altogether. That solves the problem. We no longer have to worry about that because now it is off the table. Women no longer have rights. We have taken away the right for them to appeal to the human rights commission because it takes too long. That has been taken away instead of being replaced with something that would be helpful for them and that would actually make a difference. That is something I have never seen.

We talk about the economy. It has been raised by the Conservatives that women are earning 72¢ on the dollar compared to what men earn, and they worry about the economy. Does this mean that women do not have to put food on the table, pay rent for their children and put clothes on their backs? Why should they, their families and their children have to carry the rest of us on their backs? Why should they be the only ones to pay for our economic situation?

This is about real food, real rent, real survival and real stuff for people. It is not something that is esoteric that people do because they have nothing else to do. This very real for women out there who are earning 70¢ on the dollar and go home in this economy, like everyone else, and try to pay their rent, buy food and put clothes on the backs of their children. That is what we are talking about and that is what this is about. It is real.

Yes, by all means, let us fix the economy, but let us not do it on the backs of the children and women who are affected very directly.

The government has decided that this should be put on the bargaining table. Since when do we bargain human rights away at the bargaining table? When collective bargaining takes place, there is usually a series of things on the table. There are pensions, sick leave, income, pay raises and all kinds of other things on the table. The government has said that women's rights should also be on the table to be bargained away one way or the other.

Now women and their colleagues in the companies they work for are being asked to choose a little more money and equity for women, or their pension, or health services or something else. We do not know what will fall off. It will probably be the pay equity issue again. This should not be put on the table in that manner.

That does not happen in Ontario and Quebec. Ontario has a commission that deals with pay equity in the private sector. It is the same in Quebec as well. In those two provinces it is working very well in the private sector. In fact, Quebec has done an evaluation of its program. I read that about a year ago.

Not only has Quebec found that it works extremely well, but private sector companies told the government in their assessment that their employee relations and productivity had actually improved as a result of a better environment as a result of recognizing the value of the work being done by all the employees in the companies. At first the private sector companies had problems and difficulties with this issue. They now have said that it works very well for them, that it in fact has made a difference in the positive.

We should learn from that. Why do we not look at best practices? During the debate on the government's bill, it insisted that this was the same as the Ontario legislation. It is far from it. There is absolutely no comparison at all.

This is what the legislation of the Conservatives does.

First, it restricts pay equity to a smaller group of women. It will limit the number of female-predominant groups that can claim pay equity by requiring evidence of 70% of women in a group. In other words, if there is fewer than 70% of women in a company, then it does not apply. Therefore, a whole group of women are not even covered.

Then the government has made it part of the bargaining process. To make matters worse, if a union tries to help the woman who is being discriminated against, she is charged $50,000. Women are now no longer able to even have representation to help them. They are being denied that.

They cannot go to the Human Rights Commission at all. They cannot go to the Human Rights Commission, they cannot use their union representatives to help them because they will be charged and most of them will not even be represented in the legislation. The government calls this pay equity and progressive. This is anything but progressive.

It is about real survival on the part of a lot of women. It is about equality. It is about respect. It is about human rights. We do not bargain them away at the bargaining table. As Ontario and Quebec have done, they are not part of the bargaining process. They have established a pay equity commission. This is proactive and companies work with the government to identify whether they have met the requirements. They have deadlines and so on, but they have to meet the legislation.

The legislation corrects a horrible action on the part of the government.

Pay Equity Task Force Recommendations Act December 9th, 2009

Madam Speaker, we have talked a great deal in this House about a lot of things, but I want to put faces and real facts on this.

Women earn 72¢ for every dollar a man earns. Women have to put food on the table and pay bills just like everybody else. They have families to feed. I would like to ask my hon. colleague, how would this bill help that situation?

Since people want to talk about economics, let us talk about women's real economics.

Museums December 9th, 2009

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in a letter to the minister, if the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum agree to binding arbitration, the museum workers' strike will be over.

In the CN strike the minister pressured the union to accept binding arbitration. This strike has gone on far too long and with Christmas coming, the workers want to go back to work.

I know that the Canadian Labour Congress has spoken to the minister, asking her to put both sides in a room and deal with them. Is the minister prepared to do that?

Canada Labour Code December 3rd, 2009

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to discuss Bill C-386 again tonight. I say “again” because, as members know, there have been 14 private members' bills and motions on this subject in the last 10 years alone. I supported many of those bills in the past, even though I thought at the time that there were shortcomings with the bills because of the concept or the idea.

However, I think it is important that we look at the history of this particular issue. The Sims report in 1999 reviewed part I of the Canada Labour Code. Most items at that time were agreed upon, except for the replacement workers, between the union and the employers. This was an area that they were not able to come to consensus on. I think we all know that, and it has been discussed in this House for some time.

It is important to note that under the current labour code there is no general ban on replacement workers. However, they cannot be used to break a union. This is an important thing to note.

There is always an attempt to create an important balance in the collective bargaining process. This is what the labour code tried to achieve at the time, but as I said, there was one area on which there was not agreement.

B.C. and Quebec have replacement worker bans. Maybe we need to start looking at some of these other examples that we have around the country.

In Quebec, for instance, the average work stoppage, according to the data that I have been looking at, was 43.8 days between 2005 and 2007. This is an area in which there is a great deal of debate as to the impact of this type of legislation, with respect to work stoppage. These are some of the figures.

Under the Canada Labour Code, the average stoppage was 41 days. As we can see, there is not a great deal of difference between the two.

In Quebec, there were 25 complaints to the Labour Relations Board regarding unfair use of replacement workers. Of those 25 complaints, 10 were upheld. Again this is another area that people raise as an area of contention. Since 1999, under the Canada Labour Code, there have been 23 complaints. None were upheld and one is still pending. So again, the numbers are really quite comparable. There is not a whole lot of difference between one or the other in terms of the arguments that one system would cause more of a burden than the other.

Under the proposed legislation, managers and directors could still be used as replacement workers. I think that has been made very clear in the bill. However, other replacement workers cannot be brought in. For instance, I think CN would have been eligible to bring in retired workers or retired engineers. I do not think that would be allowed under this legislation.

The arguments for and against this legislation have been made for quite some time. I just want to remind members of some of these arguments because I think they are important to note, and then I am going to talk about a couple of other specific things.

One argument against banning replacement workers made by people who do not support this is that there is a possibility of more strikes, that this would create more strikes in the system. This has not happened in Quebec. I know we have looked at that, and I have looked at it, and that does not seem to be the outcome of this type of direction.

Another argument is that it will upset the balance in collective bargaining, giving more power to the unions. Again, I do not know that it would necessarily be the case, but that is an argument that is made by many people.

Another is that it does not allow for an employer to continue operating his or her business during the strike. Again, I do not think that is case. Of course, the bill does mention that management would be allowed to replace workers, but of course, as I said, other workers cannot be brought in.

One argument also is that services that do not necessarily have an immediate threat to the health and safety of the public but have economic consequences could not function.

This model is quite different from the Quebec one in that it is true that if one looks at the function of telecommunications, transportation, and so on, they could be deemed essential services, but not for the purpose of health and safety necessarily. I do not think that CN, in the most recent strike, would have fallen under that category.

The arguments for banning replacement workers, made by those who support it, will talk about the fact that unions argue that it would encourage employers to bargain fairly, that by having this legislation, employers would be more likely to bargain fairly at the table rather than unfairly, as I guess is assumed to be the case right now.

These are some of the arguments that go against this type of legislation, which has been coming back to the House for quite some time. I think it is important for us to look at the one point that seems to come up over and over again. It seems to be the one that creates very strong differences of opinion on one side or the other, and that is the issue of essential services.

Under the current labour code, the definition of essential services is very limited. It is limited to immediate threats to public health and safety. That is quite restrictive. It is not as broad as what we have seen in Quebec. I will come back to that again in a little while. It is restricted to immediate threats to public health and safety. This is the definition in the Canada Labour Code.

During the OC Transpo strike here in Ottawa, for instance, it was not deemed a threat to health and safety; therefore, that strike, as we recall, went on for quite some time. Under the labour code, it was not deemed to be a threat to health and safety, therefore the strike went on for quite some time and there was no intervention on that.

The CN strike that we just averted or came out of recently in the last day would not have qualified for it either. It would not have been deemed a situation that posed an immediate risk to health and safety. Therefore, the strike got started and was going on, and again, in that instance, it would not have affected that.

In Quebec, the definition of essential services, which is where we come to the nub of all this debate, is quite broader. That changes the debate and the discussion altogether. This is very important to note, because if we ever come to some conclusion on this type of legislation in the House, we need to grapple with this particular issue in terms of the definition and then how we apply it and how it is structured.

As I said, in Quebec, this is very different. The definition of essential services is broader, but they also have an establishment called the Essential Services Council. I believe that is part of the legislation in Quebec. In this case, the employer and the union both come before the council if there is a strike. They both need to appear in front of the council if they have reached an impasse, as we have seen in other cases. The employer will state its case, that it is an essential service and that it cannot function without a certain number of employees without causing undue hardship, or something to that effect. The union then either states that it is not an essential service and tries to make that argument, or if it is and it agrees with that, it indicates how many employees it would need to provide that service. They both make a representation to the council. This is a very formal thing.

The council then makes a ruling on whether the service is essential and the number of employees who must work. They make that decision. So this is a very important thing.

It is not a threat or danger to the public, but rather, an economic issue. So it is broader. The issue is not just health and safety but also includes an economic issue in this case. An economic argument can also be made.

If the replacement worker ban were implemented in Canada, we would need a similar framework. I think we need to look at the way it has worked in Quebec. After 14 times in 10 years, the issue is not going away. Now is the time to work together to try to reach a consensus, and I think we need to do that. I would suggest that we come together in the House and try to have a discussion around some of that and see if we can come to some consensus.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns December 3rd, 2009

With regard to the Fair Wages and Hours of Labour Act (FWHLA): (a) how many complaints were received from January 1, 2004 to October 20, 2009; (b) what is the number of complaints in (a) that required investigation; (c) what is the annual budget to carry out investigations of complaints received under the Act; (d) how many inspectors are employed to carry out these investigations; (e) are third party complaints allowed under the Act and, if so, how many complaints in (a) were made by third party individuals; (f) how many complaints in (a) were made by employees of the company they are making the complaint against; (g) how many complaints in (e) were investigated; (h) how many investigations of (b) resulted in a monetary payment from employer to employee; (i) what was the timeline of each of the investigations of (h); (j) how many investigations are currently ongoing; (k) after the 60-day holdback mentioned in the Act is over, is there any way to recuperate unpaid wages for the employees or to have the company found in violation pay penalties; and (l) who, or what department is responsible for ensuring these payments are made?

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act December 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, we can always have this mirror if we like, but the reality is that in good economic times when unemployment was down to 6% it was a totally different environment than when we are looking at unemployment rates of 8.9% across the country, nearly 15% in my city. It was a totally different situation for people and so, we are talking about different times.

Also, maybe we did not get everything we wanted, but parental leave was established under our watch. The compassionate leave was established under our watch. What I said earlier, just to correct the hon. member, was that 80% of compassionate care is done by women in this country, and this is why I am talking about this particular part.

It is important to remember that EI is a system that has been there for some time and has been changed over time to accommodate different things, but it is critical that at this time it addresses the current economic situation and not that of the past.

Fairness for the Self-Employed Act December 2nd, 2009

Mr. Speaker, the government did tell us at committee, and members will recall, that there was supposed to be a task force set up to look at this before it was brought to the House. The task force was actually never set up and the government, I think, got to doing it in the fall. The Chief Actuary told us that he only just got involved in September. And even then, he was ill. I do not think that he was all that involved. So, these issues were not threshed out properly.

As the hon. member said, I do support the bill. We need to support the bill and we need to move on it, obviously. However, we do need to also do the other work to ensure that the problems, that I expect will crop up because of it being a voluntary program, are addressed earlier rather than later, so that they do not become entrenched.