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Track Rodger

Your Say


Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word is workers.

Liberal MP for Cape Breton—Canso (Nova Scotia)

Won his last election, in 2015, with 74% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, I know the member was here in the last Parliament, so she would see the impact of the additional funding in the program. Since we came to government, we have doubled the number of students who receive support. There were $330 million in the program, and we have infused another $350 million in that program. I am sure the member has seen it in her riding.

The member ran on a platform that included an investment of $25 million between 2017 and 2019. Does she see that investment we have made has a greater impact than the $25 million the NDP had promised?

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, going back to the clarification, the program had been abused in the past, and they felt that it was imperative that this summer money, this support and grant money, not be used in any way that would attack the rights of Canadians who had long fought for those particular rights. This is a clarification to make sure that the groups accessing these very important funds providing very important opportunities for young Canadians have them go toward the types of activities Canadians have come to expect, not ones that are politically motivated or are trying to limit the rights of Canadians. That is why we support this particular attestation.

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, my colleague and I go way back. We have been in the House for quite some time. The benefit of that is that he would have the memory of when he sat on this side of the House and I sat pretty much in that same seat in opposition. The prime minister of the day, Stephen Harper, wanted to cut the Canada jobs program completely and cut 35,000 places. Mike Savage, the current mayor of Halifax, Maria Minna, and I fought like crazy to make sure that it did not happen. Monte Solberg sat right here, and the former prime minister went up and said, “Whatever you guys are doing with the Canada summer jobs, stop it”, so they returned to the program. The member sat on the bench when his government was going to shut the whole program down completely.

Members should know this. This attestation is about protecting the rights of Canadians that have been hard fought for. Canadians expect their government to defend them, and that is what we are doing.

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, had it been December when we were having this debate, I might have agreed with the member that the wording on the particular issue was murky. That is why a clarification was issued. It has been well received. If the subscription rate under this program is any indication, we are above the number of applications we had last year for this program.

The member does not have to take my word for it. If she did not have an opportunity to listen to my speech, I will read this into the record once again for her benefit. It is from the National Association of Women and the Law, which states:

Significant misinformation has been widely circulated in the media about the nature of the attestation that is now required by organizations.... We are absolutely confident that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy.

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the member sharing the correspondence she received from a constituent. However, I am sure she would have taken the time to contact that constituent, as many of us have done, to clarify. We have made those individual phone calls to clarify that the core mandate is specifically about the program being offered by that host community, as is clearly identified in the clarification. I have a number of faith-based communities that have all reapplied. They received those types of grants in the past and have delivered tremendous programs to our community. Once the clarification was made, they were very comfortable with it.

It is part of our responsibility as elected officials, as members of Parliament, to serve our constituents. I think the clarification would certainly have gone a long way in easing the concerns of that applicant. However, in no way should that have an impact if the—

Business of Supply March 1st, 2018

Madam Speaker, as parliamentary secretary, I am very pleased to stand today and join in this debate.

I want to recognize my colleague from Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas for, even in her question, providing that clarification had been circulated. The NDP has identified that as well. The clarifications were provided quite some time ago to all members of Parliament and community groups.

My friend and colleague from Elgin—Middlesex—London, a member whom I like a great deal, referred to the attestation as “BS”. If the “BS” stands for a “brave stand”, then I agree with her. This is all about a government that is standing up for the rights of Canadians, rights that were fought for by women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ2 community. These rights have long been fought for, and there is an expectation of the government of the day to stand by those citizens and defend those rights, which is exactly what we are doing through this initiative. Therefore, I am very happy to stand and speak to the motion today.

It is not news to any Canadian that prosperity depends more and more on a solid start for the next generation of workers. It also depends on the work experience they can gain to succeed in their careers to continue to boost our national economy and help our middle class prosper.

A summer job is an important opportunity for young people to get that kind of valuable work experience for which employers are looking. We hear time and time again that, “Yes, we'd like to give you the opportunity, but you have no experience”. Well, it is tough to get that experience if young people are not presented with that opportunity. This type of job also enables students to earn some money to help offset the cost of the school year ahead.

This is why our government is taking action right away. As a result of our government's increased investments in 2017, the number of jobs offered to young Canadians through the Canada summer jobs program nearly doubled compared to 2015 with the outgoing Conservative government.

The Canada summer jobs program is about creating quality work experience for young Canadians right across the country. When we learned that funding through the Canada summer jobs program had been used to undermine the rights of some Canadians, we took the necessary steps to ensure those rights were respected.

In the past, funding was used to support organizations like the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, which put kids to work distributing graphic images of aborted fetuses, and other organizations that did not welcome youth from the LGBTQ2 community in their summer camps. We know the Conservative Party has a different opinion on some of these issues.

On April 26, 2017, weeks before the Conservative leadership vote, Jonathon Van Maren, the communications director for the Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform, wrote in a blog post endorsing the current leader of the opposition as one of the top three choices in the leadership race. He reached out to the leader and gave him a statement in which he affirmed that the leader of the opposition had always voted in favour of anti-choice legislation.

The leader of the opposition is against our $650 million investment in maternal health so women around the world can have safe access to the abortion health services they require. The leader of the opposition affirmed that he voted against transgender rights in Bill C-16. He believes that Jordan Peterson is correct on his views of gender pronouns. We know the leader is against LGBTQ2 rights. He is against women's right to choose and against transgender rights, as his own words have confirmed.

The Government of Canada is committed to respecting the fundamental rights of all Canadians, including the LGBTQ2 and women's rights. We also support the freedom of conscience and religion guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is nothing controversial about that.

We have taken concrete steps to prevent federal funding from going to create jobs that do not respect the rights of all Canadians.

As a result, the Canadian summer jobs 2018 application form asks organizations to confirm that both their core mandate and the jobs in question respect individual human rights and labour laws and do not support discriminatory practices. It is a question of justice and equality for everyone, not a question of beliefs. It is another example of the traditional Canadian approach of diversity and inclusion.

The opposition keeps talking about critics, but let me take a different view.

We want to talk about the many supporters of the attestation. Major Canadian organizations are supporting our approach. In fact, our government received an open letter from the National Association of Women and the Law saying how supportive it was of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. A number of my colleagues in the House today know that the women in law group testified yesterday at committee on Bill C-65. They know that it is a highly regarded organization nationally, if not universally.

The association wrote, in black and white:

Significant misinformation has been widely circulated in the media about the nature of the attestation that is now required by organizations that wish to apply for federal government grants for student jobs through the CSJ program. We are confident that the safeguards introduced to the CSJ program are not discriminatory, and do not represent any infringement on freedom of religion, conscience, or any other rights that people in Canada enjoy.

This comes from an organization that promotes the equality rights of women in our country. This organization has played a major role in major milestones toward women's equality in Canada, such as the inclusions of sections 15 and 28 in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; amendments to sexual assault laws, positive changes to family law and to the divorce act; rape shield legislation; and criminal harassment legislation.

There is more.

An open letter of support was signed by 80 major organizations from across Canada. Let me name a few. There is Oxfam Canada, YMCA Canada, The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, Women's Human Rights Education Institute, Abortion Support Services Atlantic, Alberta Pro-Choice Coalition, the Network of Black Business & Professional Women, Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, Canadian Health Coalition. The list of supporting organizations goes on and on. Strong voices across the country are raising in support of this year's eligibility requirements for CSJ applicants. Who is in a better position than these organizations to speak out on the issue that concerns us today?

This display of support is just one example. There are many more supporters of the attestation that is required by CSJ applicants.

However, people may ask what the Canada summer jobs program consists of. It is a federal program that aims to provide salary subsidies to employers so they can create jobs for high school and post-secondary students. It provides financial aid to the not-for-profit organizations, public sector employers, and small businesses with up to 50 employees. This funding enables the creation of summer job opportunities for youth between the ages of 15 and 30, who are studying full time and are planning to go back to school for the following year. As was the case in years past, religious and faith-based organizations are eligible for funding through the program and are invited to apply.

To better meet the changing needs of the new increasingly globalized economy, our youth employment strategy helps young Canadians receive valuable work experience and skills development in support of their future career. It includes three program streams.

First, the skills stream helps youth facing barriers to employment develop the skills they need to find a job or go back to school. The focus is on single parents and newcomers, as well as youth with disabilities, indigenous youth, and youth in rural and remote areas.

The second stream, career focus, helps post-secondary graduates find a job through paid internships. It provides these youth with the information and experience they need to make an informed decision about their career, find a job, or pursue graduate studies.

Finally, the summer work experience stream offers subsidies to employers for them to create summer jobs for high school and post-secondary students and includes the Canada summer jobs program. Each year we invest over $330 million in this strategy and we have committed to investing an additional $340 million over three years to create up to 35,000 additional summer jobs for youth.

In fact, I would be remiss if I did not mention that in budget 2018, our government proposes to provide an additional $450 million over five years, starting in 2018-19, for the youth employment strategy. This funding will support the continued growth of the number of job placements funded under Canada summer jobs in 2019-20. It will also provide additional resources for a modernized youth employment strategy in the following years, building on the input of the expert panel on youth employment. As well, a renewed youth employment strategy will be announced over the course of the next year.

All this to say, we are doing this for Canadian youth.

Let us go back to the issue today.

Under Canada summer jobs, employers are invited to submit an application that meets the program's national priorities, which were established to better meet the current and future needs of the labour market and improve the situation of youth in the labour market. This means that we prioritize jobs created by employers that intend to hire youth from under-represented groups, including new immigrants or refugees, indigenous people, people with disabilities, and visible minorities.

The program will also favour small job creating businesses, organizations that support employment opportunities for official language minority communities, and organizations that offer services or support to the LGBTQ2 community.

Canada summer jobs will also place a particular focus on organizations that support job opportunities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematic sectors, as well as the information and communications technology sectors, particular for women.

For this reason, the CSJ program will not provide funding to organizations whose main activities include partisan political activities or seek to remove or undermine established individual rights for Canadians. To clarify, our government has taken the principled stand that we will not fund groups that distribute graphic pictures of bloody fetuses to school-age children. Any organization whose activities aim to limit women's existing reproductive rights will not be eligible for this funding. The same goes for a summer camp that would submit an application to hire students as camp councillors at a camp that would not welcome youth from the LGBTQ2 community.

On the other hand, many other faith-based organizations would be eligible for the program. Say, for example, a faith-based organization with anti-abortion beliefs applies for funding to hire students to serve meals to the homeless. The organization provides numerous programs in support of its community. The students would be responsible for meal planning, buying groceries, serving meals, etc. This organization would be eligible to apply.

Say another faith-based organization that embraces the traditional definition of marriage but whose primary activities reduce social isolation among seniors applies for funding to hire students. The students would be responsible for developing and delivering programs for all seniors, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression. This organization would be eligible to apply.

Another example would be an organization with anti-abortion beliefs that runs a summer camp for underprivileged youth. It would be eligible to submit an application. This would enable it to offer students summer jobs as camp counsellors.

Applicants have to confirm that they meet the new requirement through an attestation included in the application form. They are not required to share their points of view, their beliefs, or their values, because these are not taken into consideration in the program application process. That an organization is affiliated with a religion does not make it ineligible. Service Canada evaluates the applications based on the eligibility and assessment criteria, including national and local priorities. All the eligible applications in a constituency are ranked accordingly.

Each year, members of Parliament are invited to take part in certain activities related to the Canada summer jobs program. This means that elected officials can help promote the program, establish local priorities, confirm the list of projects, inform the selected employers, and take part in announcements related to those programs. Members of Parliament are invited to take part in these aspects of the CSJ program, but their participation is, of course, voluntary.

In cases where members of Parliament do not take part in the process, Service Canada establishes the list of projects for their constituencies. Summer job priorities will not be the same in Nunavut as they are in Toronto or Calgary or Vancouver or Cape Breton—Canso. They will not be the same in Prince Edward Island as they are in Saskatchewan.

The Canada summer jobs program is not a government program just like any other. It meets the needs of a young, dynamic workforce while at the same time meeting the current needs of each region across this country during the summer period. Above all, it meets young people's need to get rewarding summer work that will help them gain much-needed experience to start their professional lives.

Our government is committed to ensuring that government funding respects Canadians' hard-won rights, particularly those of women and the LGBTQ2 community. We have taken the principled stand that we will not fund groups that distribute graphic pictures of bloody fetuses to school-age children or any groups whose jobs will limit the protections Canadians depend on.

We know that religious- and faith-based organizations, which are primarily focused on compassion and helping those in our society who are most in need, offer valuable services to our communities. The changes we have made to the CSJ program will ensure that youth who get jobs funded by the government will be working in an environment that respects the rights of all Canadians.

Canada Labour Code January 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the intent of putting the definitions in the regulation is to give it flexibility. When we see how society has evolved and changed over the last number of years and we look at electronic media and other sources, we see there is a benefit to having it in the regulations, in that it would make it more nimble, more flexible, and more adaptive.

We do not know what is down the road. We do not know what we would have to respond to. The thinking is that, in legislation, the definition would almost be too restrictive, and in regulation, it would have additional adaptability.

Canada Labour Code January 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the member is committed to contributing to the development of this process so that we do get it right.

As an employer, a member will be responsible for putting together the policy and will be responsible for making sure that the training is in place. I would think that the pooled resources through the Board of Internal Economy will be able to get best practices. People will be on hand to whom staffers will be able to go. If the member of Parliament is the perpetrator, the individual will not have to go to that member. An independent person will be in place to whom the staffer can go.

We have to respect the victim and make sure a process is in place that does not further victimize the staffer. I am sure the process that is finally agreed upon will not include going to the employer first.

Canada Labour Code January 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Edmonton Centre.

It is a great pleasure to join the debate today. It is not every day we get to stand and speak on a bill that we are quite certain will receive unanimous approval to move forward to committee.

I have been here most of the day and listened to some very well-informed, very impassioned speeches on this legislation, led first by our minister. I thought she did an outstanding job with the introduction of this legislation. The member for Calgary Nose Hill gave a very impassioned statement. The member for Oakville North—Burlington shared with the House and with Canadians her own personal experiences with this particular issue and the issue of sexual harassment when she worked here on the Hill. The member for Jonquière made a very powerful statement. It has been a pretty special day here in the chamber.

I was disappointed with the comments from the member for Lethbridge, who said that this is not partisan but then tried to make it partisan. It is not that often that we have the opportunity to stand in unison on a particular issue, and for the member to try to imply that there are shortcomings in the legislation being sent to committee, which are just not there, was unfortunate.

The point the member for Lethbridge tried to make was that this was all going to fall back on the minister. She said that it falls on a Liberal minister, and if it was one of her colleagues who was in fact accused, the minister could dismiss it and sweep it under the rug. That is absolutely not factual.

This legislation would empower each and every one of us as a member of Parliament, who will be deemed an employer, with the responsibility of having in place a plan and a policy within our office, making sure there is a training component to it, so that all employees understand the process to follow should an incident arise.

We believe the Board of Internal Economy, which has representation from all parties, will be able to come together. They will look at this, so that as employers we can pool those resources and have best practices in order to make sure that we get this right.

Once that process is in place and once each of our offices, and we as employers, have that in place and we go through the training, if an incident does arise, there will be a process the employee can then follow. There is a list of independent arbiters, trusted persons, who can be drawn upon, and which would have to be agreed to by the employee, to find a way to deal with the particular issue or incident.

There will be an entire process that is mapped out to, hopefully, find a resolution that absolutely respects and protects the victim, and that gets to the truth of the matter. It is then and only then, after that process is followed, with the advice from the independent overseer of the process, once that resolution is found, then, if there is a problem with the process, the victim can go to the minister. The minister does not have to deal with it. The minister can turn that over to the deputy minister. However, that is only on the process. They would only weigh in on the process.

If they are not prepared to accept that decision, they can go to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations and Employment Board and it can render a decision. If they are not totally pleased with that outcome, they can refer it to the Speaker, and the Speaker can take it under advisement.

There is a process in place. However, it is important that when we have this debate and move forward in dealing with the reality and the great challenge we are faced with, we try to come forward with the very best process we can. With this proposed legislation, our government is taking a firm stand and strong action against harassment and violence, including sexual harassment and sexual violence in the workplace.

My honourable colleagues I know will surely agree that this behaviour is not acceptable nor tolerable, and it needs to stop. These experiences are all too common, and they take place in workplaces of all types. An Abacus Data study on harassment and sexual violence in the workplace found that just over 10% of Canadians believe that sexual harassment is really quite common in their workplace. Another 44% said that while it is not frequent, it does happen.

The social media campaigns we have all talked about have gained so much traction over the past few months, and the headlines splashed across papers in this country week after week serve to back up the statistics I just shared. The issue is systemic, rooted in an imbalance of power that is steeped in our culture. It is everywhere around us. It is in the media, entertainment, academia, business, and politics. Most of us have followed the stories on what is taking place on both sides of the border in sport and how we have had perpetrators take advantage of that power imbalance in the realm of sport. With story after story, we are hearing accounts about inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, shedding a very public eye on an issue that for too long was only discussed in whispers and rumours.

The fact is that these social media campaigns, these movements, are more than just a hashtag. They are a catalyst for a much-needed cultural shift, which is good news. Perhaps it is the only good news in an otherwise bleak picture. Women and others are coming forward and saying enough is enough. This is an important first step, but what happens next?

Employers have a responsibility to ensure that their workplaces are free from harassment and sexual violence, and employees need to know that if something does happen, they can report it without fear of reprisal or fear of being shamed. They need to know that there will be some kind of resolution. The bottom line is that people need to feel safe at work.

On the subject of keeping workers safe and healthy, I would like to note that we are also strengthening compliance and enforcement mechanisms under the Canada Labour Code, as announced in budget 2017. The use of monetary penalties and the authority to publicly name violators are just some of the changes announced to increase workplace health and safety and better protect workers' rights.

To get back to the subject at hand, I am not suggesting that harassment and violence exist in every workplace or that there are not employers out there who are genuinely committed to protecting the well-being of their employees. In fact, there are many companies who have led on this. I am suggesting that it is in everyone's best interest to tackle this problem head on. It is about doing what is right for people, and it also has an impact on the economy.

Members might think that today's debate is overstating the issue and may be drawing too many conclusions, but what happens when someone experiences harassment or sexual violence at work? Eighty per cent of people do not report it. There is a victim left behind. I hate to put it so bluntly, but if they have already reported the incident or incidents and nothing has been done to resolve the situation, there are two choices left, practically speaking. They can either put up and shut up, or leave. These are not the right choices.

By working together in this House, I look forward to sending this legislation to committee.

The minister has said clearly that she is willing to look at amendments coming forward. I would hope that what comes out of that committee report will be something we can all support and certainly do a better job here on the Hill.

Canada Labour Code January 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, to press the member across, it was an absolutely legitimate question. She implied there was no appeal process. Clearly, there is an appeal process. Would she like to correct the record?