June 1, 1993

?

Some hon. members:

Yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBIois):

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
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?

Some hon. members:

On division.

Motion No. 1 negatived.

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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBIois):

The vote on Motion No. 1 applies to Motion No. 4. We now proceed to Motion No. 6.

The next question is on Motion No. 6. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Agreed.

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?

Some hon. members:

No.

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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBIois):

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Yea.

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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBIois):

All those opposed will please say nay.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Nay.

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?

Some hon. members:

On division.

Motion No. 6 negatived.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-101 be amended in Clause 26 by adding immediately after line 9 at page 16 the following:

"205.3 The Minister may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into an agreement with the government of any province where a compensation plan respecting the modification of job functions, or reassignment, of employees who are pregnant or nursing is in force, to make such employees eligible to the benefits provided for by the compensation plan established under the laws of the province."

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He said: Mr. Speaker, Bill C-101 makes positive changes, especially for injured worker as provisions made on their behalf are improved. From now on those who are not covered by a provincial law on this subject will have their income maintained at a level equal to the benefits provided by the provincial plans, their rights and benefits maintained during their disability and a guarantee that they can return to their job when they have recovered.

Although this bill substantially improves parental rights, pregnant and nursing women workers in Quebec who are covered by the Canada Labour Code will have fewer rights, partly because the minister chose to include them in part III of the law under labour standards rather than in part II dealing with occupational health and safety. This puts emphasis on someone's condition instead of on dangerous working conditions.

This bill gives employers much more latitude than they have under Quebec legislation. In particular, it affects reassignment to another position and changes to tasks and economic conditions for pregnant or nursing women who opt for precautionary cessation of work. These would have the effect of penalizing pregnant or nursing working women in Quebec.

General rights of injured workers are adjusted to coincide with provincial legislation, but for pregnant women this adjustment only goes half-way.

Workers whose health is endangered or jeopardized by their working conditions have the right to refuse dangerous work without penalty. Women who have the same problem due to a pregnancy threatened by dangerous working conditions do not have the same right.

Implicitly, pregnancy is considered a private and not a social matter; thus pregnancy is not considered a natural human function for all women. The refusal to integrate women's specific nature in the work place lies at the root of the systemic discrimination experienced by women.

Working women in Quebec are entitled to be reassigned or to opt for precautionary cessation of work with an income equivalent to 90 per cent of their net salary if the job is dangerous for them or for the unborn child.

Now that we are amending the Canada Labour Code it is a good time to recognize the same rights and protection for all working women in Quebec, whatever jurisdiction they come under. A proper program of

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precautionary cessation of employment is a way to improve public health.

In Quebec the rate of perinatal mortality is one of the lowest in the world. Only Japan, Sweden and Finland have lower rates. This situation is largely due to the quality of Quebec's health care system. I believe that the protection given to pregnant working women is a significant factor for several reasons.

In Quebec one out of three pregnant women takes advantage of a precautionary cessation of employment. Furthermore, very many women of child bearing age work and many more married mothers with children under age two work than before this legislation was passed.

Nevertheless, the number of children bom with congenital abnormalities is still a major problem. One of the causes for this phenomenon is environmental. We have not yet explored and understood the impact of environmental conditions-far from it. These are especially important for pregnant women working in dangerous conditions, since we know that the presence of certain substances affects foetal development at a very early stage.

Finally, giving employees a new right without providing penalties for non-complying employers is meaningless.

These new provisions would put the burden of making a choice on women when often they do not really have a choice. As we know, those who quit get only 57 per cent of their pay. For many, quitting can jeopardize their future right to maternity leave. In some cases, they might use up all the weeks of benefits to which they are entitled even before they take maternity leave. Others who use all 15 weeks of sickness benefits under the unemployment insurance plan while they are pregnant and not working lose the right to parental leave benefits. No one can take more than 30 weeks of special leave in one year. Benefits for sick, maternity and parental leave total 40 weeks.

Therefore the alternative facing working women is to take a considerable loss of income and become poorer or stay at work to protect their income and carry a pregnancy to term under dangerous conditions.

That is why I proposed this amendment which is feasible even in the federal context. Under this amendment the minister can, with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into an agreement with the government of a province having such a compensation system for reassigning pregnant or nursing employees or changing their tasks so that these employees can enjoy the benefits of the compensation plan established by provincial legislation.

Under this motion, all working women in Quebec, whether they come under the Quebec or federal Labour Code, would have the same benefits and the same conditions when they are pregnant.

This would eliminate the double standard in Quebec where 75 per cent of the women workers come under the Quebec Labour Code and the other 25 per cent under the federal Labour Code. The working, living and maternity conditions for these women are inferior to those for women covered by Quebec's legislation.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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PC

Guy St-Julien

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Guy Saint-Julien (Abitibi):

Mr. Speaker, further to Motion No. 3 standing in the name of the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie, when I look at this proposal I think there are a few things we should query. In 1989 Ms. Joanne Moisan, one of my constituents, came to my Val-d'Or office. She had been turned down by the Commission de la sante et de la securite du travail du Quebec because she worked for Voyageur Bus Lines, a federally chartered company.

She came to my office to tell me she had been treated unfairly. We immediately started looking for ways to deal with the problem. I tabled a petition and on May 17, 1990, I presented Motion M-655. The motion was debated when we came back the following year.

For a number of weeks the Minister of Labour has been working very hard with federal employees and the unions to come up with a solution. The provisions on maternity related reassignment cover all pregnancy related health problems as well as working conditions that may be harmful for the employee, the foetus or the nursing infant. It is a fact that part II of the Labour Code is most often invoked in the case of pregnancy related health problems. However, it must be demonstrably clear that a specific health problem or risk to the health

June 1, 1993

of the employee during pregnancy or nursing is caused by the job environment.

That is why we went to Part III. Women will have potentially better protection by having maternity related reassignment considered under labour standards instead of under occupational health and safety.

How do these provisions compare with provincial legislation? At the present time Quebec is the only jurisdiction in the process of legislating a specific provision to protect pregnant employees in the work place. I agree with the hon. member that Quebec has an excellent program. Some collective agreements also contain similar provisions.

How does this proposal compare with Quebec's program? Our proposal is based on the strong points of that program. The program proposed by the federal Conservative government provides protection in the case of a health problem strictly related to pregnancy, such as nausea. The Quebec program does not make this provision. In Quebec, a pregnant or nursing employee must provide a medical certificate stating that her job duties pose a physical threat to herself, the foetus or the nursing infant. There are several levels of appeal. In Quebec it takes two medical certificates, while at the federal level only one is necessary.

The proposed federal program will make it possible for the pregnant or nursing employee to be reassigned to another job if her physician believes there is a potential risk to her health, that of the foetus or that of the nursing infant.

Under the Quebec program, the employee must be able to perform a certain number of tasks to be eligible. Under the federal program the pregnant or nursing employee who is unable to perform any of her duties for reasons related to her pregnancy or to the fact that she is nursing is entitled to leave. [DOT]

The Quebec program provides for replacement income, while the federal program provides for a leave entitlement for the duration of the risk. This provision is compatible with entitlement to other types of leave provided under the Canada Labour Code. As in the case of other types of leave, the employee will be able to draw on unemployment insurance and the supplementary

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benefit programs for which she is eligible. The Quebec program provides 90 per cent of net earnings. The income replacement program included in the federal government's proposal will provide between 57 and 95 per cent of insurable earnings, depending on the system of benefits.

The motion presented in the House by the hon. member for Laurier-Saint-Marie says: "The Minister may, with the approval of the Governor in Council, enter into an agreement with the government of any province where a compensation plan respecting the modification of job functions, or reassignment, of employees who are pregnant or nursing is in force, to make such employees eligible to the benefits provided for by the compensation plan established under the laws of the province."

For several months the Liberal Party, the New Democratic Party, the Bloc Quebecois and the Conservative Party have been working very hard to try and find ways to deal with this problem. Quebec leads the country with one of the best programs for safety related withdrawal of pregnant employees. There have been cases of unfair treatment by federally chartered businesses of women working in banks, television, radio and transportation. Today's proposals are a first step. I agree, it is just a start. It is a first for the Canada Labour Code. Federal public servants are very pleased. It is a first step but we will have to improve on it.

I agree this motion has merits, but I think we will have to look at what the provinces are doing. If we give 57 per cent and one province gives 90 or 95 per cent, we will have to agree on a common standard in Canada to avoid creating two classes of citizens: women who are rich and women who are not. I think we must find a way. We will improve on this legislation although it may take one or two years. Meanwhile I support this motion.

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Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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NDP

Joy Langan (Deputy Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Ms. Joy Langan (Mission-Coquitlam):

Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the motion of the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie. The reason I support it is that I think it is important for us to note and for the government to consider that historically the Canada Labour Code led all of the provinces in terms of the progressive kind of protection that it gives to workers.

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However, in the last number of years we have seen the Canada Labour Code fall further and further behind the protection provided to workers by provincial labour codes.

Therefore, when we look at the amendment put forward by the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie we think about the fact that in the province of Quebec and in other provinces there are other jurisdictions that have improved protection, but in this particular instance it is the most notable protection in the province of Quebec. It is important that the minister consider incorporating into the Canada Labour Code a provision that will ensure that workers under federal jurisdiction do not in fact find themselves with less protection than if they worked in provincial jurisdiction in the company next door.

It is important for us to acknowledge that provinces in many instances do have much enhanced legislation and that workers should not find themselves being covered by the lowest common denominator but in fact covered by the highest common denominator. In the case of Quebec this would mean that workers would be protected and covered by the provisions in the Quebec Labour Code that provides for a compensation plan respecting the modification of job functions or reassignment of employees who are pregnant or nursing, for example, to make such employees eligible for benefits provided for by the compensation plan established under the laws, in this case of Quebec but certainly in other provinces as well.

One of the arguments against this motion has been that the costs are too high. I would suggest that the employers and the employees in Quebec are paying the cost for this protection and it is wrong for us to suggest that the cost is too high for federal workers but not too high for provincial workers.

I would ask that the cabinet consider this amendment. Surely the government would find it very difficult to suggest that federal jurisdiction workers should be protected or compensated to a lesser degree than workers in the provinces.

The federal government used to provide the highest minimum wage standards in the country. Those standards have fallen to virtually the lowest. The machinery

of the federal government has ground slowly and there is a lack of interest in how Canadians are suffering under a government which says it is going to address and eradicate poverty by the year 2000, but has not increased the minimum wage for years. It is a bit of a hypocrisy.

I support very strongly and my caucus supports the amendment of the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie. We hope the government will consider this as a positive amendment.

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LIB

Ronald MacDonald

Liberal

Mr. Ron MacDonald (Dartmouth):

Mr. Speaker, I support the amendment that has been put forward by my colleague from Quebec.

The amendment certainly would add to the bill provisions dealing with pregnant women and women on maternity leave. Indeed I think this has probably come forward as a result of legislation in the province of Quebec which is model legislation in Canada. It provides a level of compensation that is not afforded in any other jurisdiction in the country.

The amendment would ensure that in the case of Quebec or any other jurisdiction where there was a better compensation plan under provincial labour law that the Governor in Council, which means the cabinet, would be authorized to enter into negotiations to cover those individuals residing in that province who would come under the Canada Labour Code or the Public Service Staff Relations Act with the same level of coverage in the province as people covered by the provincial labour code.

Clearly this is the type of amendment where the government can lead. It can lead by ensuring that employees who fall under federal jurisdiction get the same level of compensation as people who live in the same province that come under the provincial labour code.

It would lead for two reasons. First, it would make sure that all pregnant women and women on maternity leave in that particular province are treated the same way in the province in which they live with the best compensation package available. Second, by having some public servants, for example those living in the province of Quebec, being afforded a much higher level of compensation during this particular period, it would probably put some pressure on other governments in other jurisdictions to provide a similar level of compensation and that would be a very positive thing.

June 1, 1993

The Liberal Party supports the amendment. We think it is one of these rare occurrences where the government can lead. We can lever other governments, which is normally a hard thing to do, to look toward provinces like the province of Quebec which have taken the lead in this type of compensation package and maybe force some of the other provinces to bring in similar legislation. The Liberal Party would support the initiative of the hon. member from Quebec.

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NDP

Brian L. Gardiner

New Democratic Party

Mr. Brian L. Gardiner (Prince George-Bulkley Valley):

Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a very brief intervention on this amendment and say that we will be supporting the hon. members the amendment.

In reference to some of the comments I made earlier at the start of the debate, my colleague from Mission- Coquitlam has a private member's bill that would do just what this amendment is proposing.

It is an indication by the member from Quebec and also the member from our caucus of the general support there is in this area. I think it opens up some interesting opportunities for the federal government to lead in this area. We want to ensure and put on the record those comments so that hopefully the government will consider supporting this very important amendment.

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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

Is the House ready for the question?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Question.

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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBlois):

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   MEASURE TO AMEND
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?

Some hon. members:

Agreed.

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June 1, 1993