New Democratic Party
Mr. Jack Harris (St. John's East, NDP)
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to join in the debate on Bill C-10, the act to implement the budget measures. For the public who are watching this, I am holding up a copy of the bill, which is about an inch thick. The bill was tabled in the House a number of days ago, I believe on February 6, and it contains some 500 pages of measures that are used to implement the budget and amend a whole series of acts. Also contained in these measures, as the previous speaker just indicated, not just budgetary measures, but measures that are designed to change public policy in important areas.
I will use a couple of examples referred to earlier in the debate as poison pills as part of the budget. One example is the change to pay equity. Pay equity, as we know, is an important human right. The importance of equality of men and women is recognized in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It is also recognized in the Canadian human rights code and the Canadian Human Rights Commission has been a vehicle for the achievement and the definition of those rights in this country for many years.
It is important to understand what the government has done. The Conservatives said that these rights were no longer subject to review, adjudication and enforcement by the Canadian Human Rights Commission but that they must be done through collective bargaining. Now that sounds on the surface reasonable, but I practised labour law for in excess of 25 years in this country and I will give a bargaining 101. Bargaining 101 is when one side puts its proposals on the table and the other side puts its proposals on the table and then both sides negotiate. Since when did human rights become negotiable? In every set of bargaining, people put their wants and their demands on the table, which could be 5, 10 or 12. They might want a pay increase, more holidays and so on, but now they are asking for equality too. The other side agrees but wants to know what the people will give up to get equality. The answer should be “nothing” because people are entitled to equality as a human right as recognized in the Canadian human rights code and embodied in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
However, the government has now made that a subject of negotiation. In the public sector there are men and women. The men are being told that if they want equal rights for women, then they must give up something in terms of pay, in terms of vacation or in terms of benefits. What are we doing here? Are we setting up a conflict between men and women in the public sector? Is that what the government wants?
Subtopic: Budget Implementation Act, 2009