November 7, 2006

LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

The Chair is now prepared to rule on a point of order raised by the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River on November 1, 2006, concerning Bill C-257, standing in the name of the hon. member for Gatineau, and Bill C-295, standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North. Both bills amend the Canada Labour Code in relation to replacement workers.

I want to begin by thanking the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River for having raised this matter and the hon. member for Vancouver East for having made a submission.

In his presentation, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River argues that these bills are substantially the same, except for some minor differences relating to fines. A decision was taken by the House on October 18 to adopt Bill C-257 at second reading and refer it to committee. The hon. member argues, in light of this decision, that debate should not continue on Bill C-295 and that the bill should be removed from the order of precedence.

The hon. member for Vancouver East contends that although both bills deal with the same subject, they are different and, therefore, Bill C-295 should not be removed from the order of precedence.

Let me first clarify our practices with regard to items of private members’ business which are similar. Standing Order 86(4) states:

The Speaker shall be responsible for determining whether two or more items are so similar as to be substantially the same, in which case he or she shall so inform the member or members whose items were received last and the same shall be returned to the member or members without having appeared on the notice paper.

When this Standing Order was first adopted, private members' business operated very differently than it does today. The Standing Orders provided for only 20 items of private members' business to be placed by lottery on the order of precedence and provided that, of those, only three bills could come to a vote. Realistically, then, there was little chance that bills considered substantially the same would ever be drawn together and placed on the order of precedence, let alone be debated and voted upon. Given those odds, Standing Order 86(4) came to be involved only rarely: only when a bill was identical to one already introduced would it be refused. This generous interpretation is referred to in a ruling of Mr. Speaker Fraser on November 2, 1989, at pages 5474-5 of Debates, where he states:

I should say that in the view of the Chair, two or more items are substantially the same if, first, they have the same purpose and, second, they obtain their purpose by the same means.

Accordingly, there could be several bills addressing the same subject, but if they took a different approach to the issue the Chair would judge them to be sufficiently different so as not to be substantially the same.

The intent...was to give members an opportunity to put before the House items of concern to them, but to prevent a multiplicity of identical bills being submitted....

As Mr. Speaker Fraser explained, this interpretation had the practical effect of giving a member an opportunity to bring forward a legislative proposal on any subject, regardless of what other members might be doing. This practice has served members well until the present case.

The current Standing Orders, which were first adopted provisionally in May 2003, provide for a single draw of the names of all members at the beginning of a Parliament. On the 20th sitting day following the draw, the first 30 members on the list who have introduced a bill or given notice of a motion on the notice paper, constitute the order of precedence. Following the draw, the subcommittee on private members' business needs to determine if any of the items should be designated non-votable pursuant to Standing Order 91.1. In determining whether any of the items should be deemed non-votable, the subcommittee considers whether or not any of the bills or motions are substantially the same as ones already voted on by the House of Commons in the current session.

In the case at hand, a careful examination of both bills reveals that they have exactly the same objective, that is, to prohibit employers under the Canada Labour Code from hiring replacement workers to perform the duties of employees who are on strike or locked out. The following minor differences distinguish them: First, Bill C-257 provides for a fine not exceeding $1,000 for each day that an offence occurs, whereas Bill C-295 provides for a fine not exceeding $10,000; second, Bill C-257 contains subparagraph (2.1)(f) in clause 2 concerning prohibitions relating to the use of replacement workers, text that is not found in Bill C-295; and third, subclause (2.2) in Bill C-257 appears as subclause (2.9) in Bill C-295.

Other than these three differences, both bills are identical in terms of their legislative and procedural impact. The only concrete difference between them relates to the sum of the fines. While this is an important matter, it does not make the bills into distinctly different legislative initiatives. The Chair must therefore conclude that both bills are substantially the same and achieve their objectives through the same means.

The question then becomes, should the second bill, Bill C-295, be allowed to proceed?

It seems to the Chair that there is considerable risk involved in allowing bills that are substantially the same to be debated. It puts at risk a key principle of parliamentary procedure, namely, that a decision once made cannot be questioned again, but must stand as the judgment of the House.

House of Commons Procedure and Practice, at page 495, explains that the principle exists for very good reason.

This is to prevent the time of the House from being used in the discussion of motions of the same nature with the possibility of contradictory decisions being arrived at in the course of the same session.

In the present case, we have an unusual convergence of circumstances. Not only were the bills sponsored by the hon. members for Gatineau and Vancouver Island North both placed on the notice paper, their names were also among the first 30 drawn for the order of precedence. Moreover, the subcommittee on private members' business faced with the fact that debate had yet to begin on items of private members' business could not deem one of the bills to be non-votable since the House had not yet taken any decisions on such business.

Today, the Chair has found itself in an unprecedented situation. I have concluded that Bill C-295 is substantially the same as Bill C-257. Ordinarily, I would order Bill C-295 to be dropped from the order paper in conformity with this standing order. However, given that this situation has never arisen before, I am reluctant to make a final ruling since this may be the only opportunity in this Parliament that the hon. member for Vancouver Island North gets to have an item on the order of precedence. At the same time, the Chair cannot allow the bill to go forward for its last hour of debate and the vote that would follow.

So, instead, in accordance with Standing Order 94(1), which provides the Speaker with the authority to make all arrangements necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of private members' business, I am ordering that Bill C-295 be dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence.

This delay in the consideration of Bill C-295 is designed to provide the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs with sufficient time to examine this matter and suggest some resolution to the situation for the sponsor of the bill. The committee should also consider whether our practices in relation to the application of Standing Order 86(4) continue to serve the House in an effective manner given that our rules respecting private members' business have changed since this Standing Order was first adopted.

In the absence of a solution to the predicament of the sponsor of Bill C-295, the Chair will have no option when the bill next reaches the top of the order of precedence, I will order that debate not proceed, that the order for the bill's consideration be discharged and that the bill be dropped from the order paper.

Once Again, I thank the hon. members for Scarborough—Rouge River and for Vancouver East for having brought this situation to the attention of the Chair and of the House. It is an important contribution to the evolution of private members' business.

I believe the effect of the ruling will be that there will be no private members' business taken up this evening.


Subtopic:   Points of Order
Sub-subtopic:   Alleged Similarity of Private Members' Bills--Speaker's Ruling
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CPC

Tom Lukiwski

Conservative

Mr. Tom Lukiwski (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's responses to four petitions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Government Response to Petitions
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I apologize for interrupting the hon. member for London--Fanshawe, but apparently the Chair was not notified that an hon. member wished to introduce a private member's bill today.

The hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques wishes to introduce a bill. I therefore seek unanimous consent of the House to revert to introduction of private members' bills, to allow the hon. member to introduce her bill at this time. I apologize to the hon. member for London—Fanshawe for interrupting her speech.

Is there unanimous consent of the House?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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?

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
Permalink
BQ

Louise Thibault

Bloc Québécois

Ms. Louise Thibault (Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, BQ)

asked for leave to introduce Bill C-380, An Act to amend various legislative provisions relating to head offices.

She said: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I apologize to my hon. colleague and thank her for giving unanimous consent. I would like to point out that my seconder is the hon. member for Gatineau.

I have the privilege of introducing a bill to amend various legislative provisions to remove the requirement that certain agencies, corporations and courts have their head offices in Ottawa. Federal legislation requiring of a number of federal entities that they have their head offices specifically in the national capital is out of step with the times.

This legislation unduly benefits Ottawa in terms of government procurement, property leasing as well as jobs, at the expense of other regions of Quebec and Canada, and the Outaouais region in particular. I hope that all my hon. colleagues in this House will support this bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Bank of Canada Act
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LIB

Peter Milliken

Liberal

The Speaker

I call on the hon. member for London—Fanshawe to continue her speech. I apologize for the interruption. I hope it has not distracted the hon. member from the serious remarks she was making.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Bank of Canada Act
Permalink

The House resumed consideration of the motion.


NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The arithmetic does not work for ordinary working Canadians.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This legislation should protect all employees.

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

Any new law should involve employees in pay equity plans.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also pointed to specific flaws in the current legislation:

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

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

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

David Tilson

Conservative

Mr. David Tilson (Dufferin—Caledon, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments with respect to establishing a pay equity tribunal and a pay equity commission. My immediate observation is we have an awful lot of commissions in Ottawa. We have an Ethics Commission. We have an Information Commission. We have all kinds of commissions and they all cost us a substantial amount of money. They all do good things.

At this point I am not denying anything that the member is saying. I know she sits on the committee that studied these issues. However, has she or the committee any idea what the pay equity tribunal would cost the taxpayers of this country and what the pay equity commission would cost the taxpayers of this country?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Irene Mathyssen

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

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

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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LIB

Judy Sgro

Liberal

Hon. Judy Sgro (York West, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, in discussions with the hon. member, as we are both on the status of women standing committee and deal with these issues, we all recognize the need for pay equity legislation in order to ensure that everybody is treated equally.

When we talk about the issue of equality, what does that really mean? That should mean that women can earn the same dollar that a man earns, rather than a woman continuing to earn only 71¢ at that point.

However, there are many people, possibly people watching and some of the members that are here with us today, who do not really understand what pay equity legislation is all about and why it is that the Standing Committee on the Status of Women and the previous Liberal government were very much committed to bringing in legislation.

Would the hon. member address the reason that she feels it is important and, more importantly, perhaps give a brief explanation for the some of the members in the House who do not understand the value and the reason for it?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Irene Mathyssen

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

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

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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NDP

Dawn Black

New Democratic Party

Ms. Dawn Black (New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I want to compliment my colleague from London—Fanshawe on her excellent presentation today with all of the facts and figures, and rationale for why we need pay equity legislation in this country.

I was here some 13 years ago working on this very file at that time. Women then were earning about 70% of what men earned for full time work in this country. In all those 13 years, what have we seen? A little, teensy-weensy improvement to 72.5¢ for every dollar that men earn and it is just not good enough for Canadian women. It is an issue of fairness, equity and human rights for women in this country.

After 13 years of a majority Liberal government, we are really no further ahead on this issue. Now we have a Conservative government that made some commitments in opposition to address this issue and refuses to be proactive on it. It is very discouraging for women in this country. I agree with my colleague that women have to continue to fight just as we have to continue to fight in this place.

I want to ask my friend from London—Fanshawe what she believes the actual impact would be if we did have appropriate pay equity legislation with targets, with timelines, and with a mechanism for enforcement? Just what would that achieve and how quickly for Canadian women?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen

New Democratic Party

Mrs. Irene Mathyssen

Mr. Speaker, the proof is in the jurisdictions where pay equity is the law. In the province of Ontario we saw a real benefit to women and their families in terms of respect for the work that they do, their ability to provide for their families, and the ability to provide for themselves in later years when they are receiving pensions.

My hon. colleague has made a very significant point that after 30 years our progress is marginal at best. Women across this country still face violence, poverty and systemic inequality. What is good for the women of Ontario is good for the women of this nation. Their economic contribution to the country and their contribution to the social fabric of this community has to be recognized and addressed by giving them the opportunity to earn at an equal rate to men.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

Mr. Bruce Stanton (Simcoe North, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today on the important topic of pay equity.

I would like to take a moment and thank the hon. member for York West for raising this important issue. It is a great honour to participate on the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, which the hon. member chairs. As she full well knows, we have many important topics for Canadians and, in particular, for Canadian women.

This topic has been a matter of debate in the House and undoubtedly within provincial legislatures across our country, as it relates to the provincial end of this important issue as well.

We all agree that the just and equitable treatment of women in our society is of paramount importance. In this day and age we know it cannot be denied that women have a fundamental and absolute right to be treated equally. In particular, working women deserve to be paid the same as men performing work of equal value. That is the baseline tenet of this legislation, of this initiative that began decades ago in our country.

It speaks to a fundamental human fairness, and we need to recognize that it is also the law. Yet we know there are still situations where we see women today underpaid and marginalized, trapped in job categories that are undervalued by their employer and diminished by their male colleagues.

Even though the work performed by women is as useful to the organization as work performed by men, there remain instances where women are paid less. This is wrong. It is a situation that has dragged on for too long. That is why our government is moving forward to correct discrimination where it exists. We are taking action to ensure that all employers under federal jurisdiction must fully comply with pay equity legislation that, after all, has been in place since 1977.

For nearly 30 years, section 11 of the Canadian Human Rights Act has banned wage disparities for men and women who perform work of equal value within the same establishment. Equal wage guidelines were passed in 1986 to prescribe the manner in which section 11 was to be applied and to outline factors that could justify exceptions.

At the core of this pay equity legislation was the elimination of wage gaps that were due to gender based discrimination that could not be explained by differences in factors such as education, labour market experience and seniority.

The pay equity law applies to the federal public service and also to some 12,000 private companies that fall within federal jurisdiction. With 875,000 employees, these private sector firms are engaged in industries such as air, rail, marine and road transportation, longshoring, banking, broadcasting and telecommunications.

Since the human rights law was passed, we have seen lots of progress. In terms of pay levels, women today are certainly much better off now than they were 30 years ago, but we recognize there is still much to do.

Even now some corporations are uncertain about how best to implement pay equity laws. Confusion and uncertainty has led to litigation and irritation. A pay equity task force was established to examine this situation, and in 2004 it recommended legislative reform. On behalf of the new government, we appreciate the hard work and the insights of the task force, but in all honesty we do not feel that a new legislative regime is the right solution at this time.

For one thing, women should not have to wait until a whole new law winds its way through Parliament. They deserve and need action now. My government has opted for a proactive package of changes that will strengthen compliance with existing legislation, not at some distant point in the future but now. Women should not have to wait any longer for fairer working conditions. They are entitled to them now, as a moral imperative and under the law.

The new action plan that we are putting forward will help enterprises under federal jurisdiction comply fully with their obligations under the existing pay equity law.

First, the labour program will produce educational materials that outline the roles and responsibilities of employers, employees and their representatives. This will help to address one of the key obstacles experienced by many companies, which is the full challenge of understanding their obligations and how to meet them. Labour officers will receive specialized training that will enable them to more effectively support employers and unions in rectifying gender based wage gaps during the negotiation of collective agreements. These labour officers will provide timely assistance through information, feedback and guidance toward cooperative solutions.

The second element of our action plan relates to mediation assistance. New specialized mediation services will be introduced to make the mediating efforts more efficient and effective on pay equity.

The third change we will see under our action plan relates to compliance monitoring and employer audits, which will help identify and correct problems in an effective and proactive manner.

The labour program that the government is proceeding with will conduct regular site visits to ensure that employers understand how to comply with equal pay requirements.

These are all important measures and I am confident they will prove to be effective. They will foster an environment where pay equity is achievable, measured and sustained. However, in the event that an employer fails to comply, additional recourse is available to enforce the pay equity obligations. Individuals who believe they are being treated unfairly can continue, as now, to file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission and any Labour Canada inspector has the ability to refer cases to the commission for further investigation and resolution.

I have one last point. From our perspective, this is not a one-off solution. We realize that the effect of these changes needs to be monitored. We need to ensure they are achieving the results we expect right away and for the long term. That is why my government intends to consult stakeholders further and assess the impact and the effectiveness of these measures as we move along.

I want to underscore that pay equity is a complicated policy. It requires change in culture and in attitudes. It requires a sustained good faith relationship between employers and employees, indeed, between men and women in the workforce.

I am sure we would all agree that changes like this just do not occur by themselves and they surely do not happen overnight. They need to be advanced through a thoughtful legislative regime, which we have, supported by effective education, monitoring and compliance.

I believe the action plan that we are putting in place will achieve those ends. It will help address the wage disparities between men and women. It will correct situations in which women are paid less than men in the same organization, even though they perform work of equal value.

The changes we are bringing forward will ensure progress toward ending an injustice suffered by too many women for too long. The best of all these changes is that they need to take effect now, not at some distant, unknown point in the future. Therefore, I call on all my hon. colleagues on both sides of the House to support these measures.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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NDP

Dawn Black

New Democratic Party

Ms. Dawn Black (New Westminster—Coquitlam, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from the government side for his sensitive comments about the status of women in Canada today and the issue of pay equity. I am glad he agrees that women's equality is of paramount importance to him and to his government.

He also says that the government is bringing in measures to strengthen compliance in terms of pay equity in Canada. As we said earlier, at this point Canadian women earn 72.5¢ for every dollar that men earn in full time work. This is a very damning statistic and one that has not improved measurably over the last 15 years, of which I am aware, and a very small amount over the last 30 years.

Could he inform the House and Canadian women exactly how the government will improve pay equity for women in our country? Will there be targets? Will there be a timeline? Will there be an enforcement mechanism? Without those tools in place, we know we will not make progress and women will not make economic progress without that kind of mechanism.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

Mr. Bruce Stanton

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. There is no doubt that the issue of pay equity is an important and complex question. It is an issue that the workforce has been dealing with for many years, both at the federal level, within federal jurisdiction, and also at the provincial levels, as workplaces begin to deal with how to redress these gender wage gaps that seem to prevail in the workplace.

Our approach to this is to put an emphasis on interventions in the workplace that will help employers understand and work within the existing legislation, which in itself is designed to redress this problem. As well, we recognize it needs to become a matter of culture and attitude within the workplace. This takes time, it takes intervention, it takes pressure and it takes training.

The kinds of measures we are talking about now, we are advancing right now, not at some point a year from now. To consider the opposition's idea of trying to get into yet a new round of legislation that is not needed could well take years or more. We recognize there is a certain importance in moving this along quickly. Therefore, we are talking about our program with labour inspectors, our labour officers, who will work with employers and their representatives in education and training, in mediation assistance, compliance monitoring and employer audits. These kinds of interventions will be positive and effect the kind of changes needed and effect them right away.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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BQ

Christian Ouellet

Bloc Québécois

Mr. Christian Ouellet (Brome—Missisquoi, BQ)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member who just described how the government views pay equity to clarify for us how the interest of employers will be sparked, how employers will be made to see that this is really their responsibility and that something has to be done. Are we talking only about incentives, as he seemed to be suggesting? Past experience has shown that, with incentives alone, employers tend to put considerations such as the profits they are expected to make to keep their financial backers happy first.

There is a contradiction between what my colleague on the government side hopes for and market reality. I would like him to explain how this leap can be taken. For now, I get the feeling that we are dealing with dreams and pious hopes, and that nothing will ever come of it.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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CPC

Bruce Stanton

Conservative

Mr. Bruce Stanton

Mr. Speaker, how employers should be dealt with on this question is certainly an important one. I am inclined to believe, as the hon. member has suggested, that compliance is of the utmost importance if we are to make substantive progress on this important issue. However, I do not believe that employers, when shown the full breadth of this issue and the full knowledge and understanding of what needs to be done, need incentives to do what is right.

These are important attitudinal and cultural changes. We will work with employers and have our labour officers show them the right way to work with their employers in their workplace, men and women. We realize that all members of the workforce need to be part of the solution. We need to work with them on the educational and training side. We recognize that there will be some employers who ultimately will not to comply with this. For that, there is recourse. Individuals and labour officers, on their behalf, can file a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission for those employers, or shall I say the bad actors, who do not comply. Unfortunately, we do encounter those who ultimately need that type of recourse, but hopefully it would be a last resort.

The importance of the goodwill in the workplace is necessary to make any advances on this issue, and that is where we need to work. We need to take a cooperative approach to this. That view is shared by the government. What is also shared is the urgency with which we need to move on this important issue.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Status of Women
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November 7, 2006