The hon. member for London—Fanshawe will have five minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next returns to this question.
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
The hon. member for Winnipeg North not being present to raise the matter for which adjournment notice has been given, the notice is deemed withdrawn.
The motion that the House do now adjourn is deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 7:11 p.m.)
Before we resume debate, I would like to let the hon. member for London—Fanshawe know that there are only about five minutes remaining in the time allowed for private member's business, so we will have to interrupt her.
Of course, she will have the remaining time when the House next gets to this business at some point in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to lead off the debate for the Liberal caucus and to speak in favour of Bill C-473 at second reading.
Of course, the Liberal Party has a long and well-established reputation as a leader and an advocate for gender equality, as many in this House do, in all areas of society and our parliamentary caucus continues to be committed to this legacy.
On April 17, 1982, Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms into law and, with it, section 15 took effect. As a result of Mr. Trudeau's quest for a just society, section 15 assured that every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination.
So, while the charter-signing ceremony took place under the capital's cloudy skies, its impact was to provide a fledgling ray of sunshine for women and girls struggling against the odds. For the first time in our history, the Constitution of Canada formally recognized that men and women were viewed as equals in every way, under Canada law. However, there was still much yet to be done along the road to full equality for Canadian women. Today, three decades after Mr. Trudeau's historic move, Canadian women and girls continue with their efforts to attain full gender parity.
For most people, myself included, particularly those within the Liberal Party, there is a clear understanding that inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for the nation as a whole. Canada's economy can be strengthened immensely by employing more women and by ensuring their entrance in vocational fields traditionally occupied only by men. That is why I am speaking to this issue today.
Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the board of directors of a parent crown corporation shall be such that the proportion of directors of each gender is not less than 30% the second year, 40% the fourth year, and 50% the sixth year. The legislation does stipulate that the numbers may vary when the board of directors consists of no more than eight members. In these instances, Bill C-473 proposes that the difference between the numbers of directors of each gender may be not greater than two.
Now, these are laudable objectives that I applaud but, prior to committing to support Bill C-473 at all legislative stages, I would like to have a few specific questions answered both here and for discussion at our committee.
First, are the gender breakdown numbers being cited in the legislative preamble accurate, and is there a reason for the current levels?
Second, what would the real world impact be upon business if mandatory quotas of this nature were established with the timelines suggested?
Third, what penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies?
I am a lifelong and strong advocate for gender equality, as are many in the House. However, I believe that the standing committee would be an appropriate venue for us to have a full discussion on the implications of Bill C-473, and I think the appropriate place for that is, of course, with the status of women.
I also have questions that the sponsor may be able to answer. On March 8, 2012, the member for London—Fanshawe introduced Bill C-407. That legislation is nearly identical to Bill C-473, with one notable exception. Bill C-407 would have required that federally regulated boards be made up of at least 40% women. Bill C-473 is premised upon Bill C-407, but the new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% commencing in the sixth year following the coming into force of the section. I am not suggesting that the change is good or bad, but I would like to know why Bill C-407 and Bill C-473 have proposed different target percentages. I am quite sure that the mover of the bill will be able to explain that further at committee level so that we can have further debate on it at our committee.
There are also considerations on the business side of the equation.
Bill C-473 seeks to rapidly modify the environment in which crown corporations must function. As such, consideration must be given to ensure that both gender equality and corporate success can exist simultaneously under the proposed rules set out in this legislative package.
Perhaps we can all agree that Bill C-473 establishes a legal goal without speaking to the methodology necessary to attain that important goal. As it seems this portion of the discussion has been forgotten or omitted by the sponsor, the Liberals on this side of the House believe it is prudent to explore the issue at committee prior to determining amendments and voting intentions at report stage or third reading in the House of Commons.
This is not to say we will lend our support to Bill C-473. In fact, I am asking all members of the House to support it at second reading and to send it to the standing committee so we can explore all of the avenues.
Gender inclusion promises tangible benefits, both socially and economically, for Canada. I am hopeful that Bill C-473 is just one more step along that path. Hope is important because Canada has clearly been slipping as of late.
In October 2012, The Globe and Mail reported that when compared globally, Canada had fallen three spots and was no longer in the top 20 nations when it came to those making progress on equality issues. In fact, the World Economic Forum's annual gender gap ranked Canada in the 21st spot, behind the Philippines, Latvia, Cuba and Nicaragua. When the study was first conducted in 2006, Canada was in the 14th place out of 115 countries. That was leadership.
Although Canada landed in the 12th spot regarding economic opportunity for women and girls, with high levels of income, labour market participation and professional workers, it must be noted that wage equality still lags behind international benchmarks.
On April 17, 1982, Canada emerged as a global leader in the fight for gender equality, but in the 31 years since our lustre has been somewhat tarnished. Today, as in 1982, there is much to be done to help Canadian women and girls and that work must begin in earnest.
I thank the sponsor of this bill and I look forward to working with all members of the House and with our status of women committee to thoroughly debate the pros and cons of Bill C-473 that is before us.
Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I would like to congratulate my colleague for her visionary private member's bill. She acknowledged the work of other NDP women, including the MP for London—Fanshawe, who put this idea forward.
It is time for Canada to show leadership. We hear about an advisory committee the Minister for Status of Women has put together. We hear about some interest from the government. How important is it that the government support the private member's bill she is putting forward?
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for London—Fanshawe for her question and her work. I was recently in her riding and I know that she has done a remarkable job of connecting with the constituents within her riding and, in fact, had a meeting with members of the Arab and Muslim community after they went through a very difficult time. She has shown real leadership on the ground in her riding.
However, to answer her question, one should invest in the very people who are our eyes and ears in preventing terrorism or extremism. It is quite surprising to hear the audacity of the Conservatives when they say on the one hand that we have to move on this issue because it is so important while on the other hand they are cutting the budgets of the very people who would prevent extremism and terrorism. The answer is that we invest in people to ensure that we prevent acts of extremism and terrorism. One does not just talk about it; one actually does it.
In the budget put in front of us and in previous budgets, we have seen cuts, so it is inconsistent for the government to say that it is serious about this issue when it actually cuts the budgets of the very people who help prevent extremism and terrorism.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-48, the technical tax amendments act, 2012. It is a very important piece of legislation. While the legislation may be technical, it is nonetheless important legislation that would benefit all Canadians, providing the clarity and certainty to Canada's tax system.
Our government has conducted extensive consultations on the provisions of the bill, some provisions having been announced over a decade ago. As previous parliamentarians' efforts to pass these amendments were unsuccessful, the backlog has increased over the years, and it is more important than ever to pass these technical amendments. In fact, among those calling for Parliament to quickly pass the amendments includes the Auditor General of Canada, who in a 2009 report stated:
Taxpayers' ability to comply with tax legislation depends on their understanding of how the rules apply to their own circumstances. [...] Uncertainty about how the law should be applied can also add to the time taken and costs incurred by tax audits and tax administration.
I could not agree with the Auditor General more. However, it is not just the Auditor General who is saying this; it is all the other parties in the House, as the bill has all party support. In fact, earlier this week, during the finance committee study of Bill C-48, the NDP member for Parkdale—High Park, and finance critic for her party, said, “Obviously we support the goal of closing tax loopholes and making the tax system in Canada clearer and easier to understand for Canadians”. The NDP finance critic went even further, on Bill C-48's first day of debate, saying, “the official opposition [New Democrats] will be supporting the bill”.
One would think that after making such an unequivocal statement of support for the legislation that she and all NDP members would be eager to vote on this important piece of legislation and ensure its timely passage through the House of Commons.
Alas, the actions of the NDP seem to be at odds with the NDP finance critic's statement. I have to ask: What is the reason for the NDP delay? Even more puzzling, it is not simply the NDP finance critic who is displaying these bizarre tendencies; it is every member of the NDP. My hon. colleagues have all declared their support for the bill while at the same time trying to filibuster second reading, for over 100 days. This attempt to disrupt what is only the first stage in a long legislative process continues to delay the finance committee's opportunity to formally study the bill.
I have taken the liberty of reviewing the debate on the bill and, time after time, the NDP MPs are vocal in their support for this piece of legislation. For example, the NDP member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques said, “We will support this bill because it eliminates some tax loopholes and other measures that lead to fiscal inequity”. The NDP member for Beauport—Limoilou said, “It will be a great pleasure for me to support this bill”.
The NDP member for Manicouagan said, “We support the changes this bill makes, and particularly those aimed at reducing tax avoidance”. This sentiment was echoed by the NDP member for Surrey North, who said: “We support the changes being made in the bill, especially those aimed at reducing tax avoidance”.
The NDP member for London—Fanshawe said, “The bill makes important and long-overdue changes to the tax laws” , and then went on to say, “New Democrats support the bill..”. The NDP member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said, “As the House is aware, the New Democrats are supporting the bill...”.
The NDP member for Scarborough—Rouge River even highlights that her reason for supporting the legislation is that many of the provisions have already been announced, declaring, “Once they've been announced, people accept them as adopted. It's for these reasons that we are supporting the bill”.
These kinds of comments from the NDP continue and continue. NDP member after NDP member have all voiced their support for this piece of legislation, which has been in Parliament for more than 100 days. Furthermore, all of these statements of support came on the very first day of debate; yet more than 100 days later, we are still debating the bill at second reading.
This is simply unbelievable. Why would members of the NDP support the legislation, but not ensure its passage at second reading to the finance committee for closer examination by their own NDP colleagues? One wonders what the NDP hopes to gain by prolonging the debate. Again, perhaps the members are unaware that many of the measures have already undergone extensive debate in this House.
In fact, Bill C-48 has been before Parliament for five months now, as it was introduced in November of last year. Do members know what this means? Clearly, the NDP members do not, and so I will spell it out for them.
Let me state again that the House of Commons has had more than 100 days to examine and debate this bill at second reading stage already. We have already had days and days of debate and heard hours and hours of speeches, but what has all this debate yielded from the NDP benches? As I have highlighted, it is repetition upon repetition of support and praise for this legislation.
Well, if NDP members truly do support it, I plead with the NDP to not stall second reading in debate. Let us work together and pass this important legislation that would help Canadians. Let us make Parliament work. That would be an important change for the NDP, as its members have repeatedly shown that they have a track record of delaying and opposing legislation that would be beneficial to Canadians. For an example of this, we need look no further than our Conservative government's economic action plan legislation in these recent years.
What is more, NDP members have shown time after time that they would prefer to vote against tax relief measures that help Canadians and our economy, such as the hiring tax credit for small business and the introduction of a tax-free savings account. They even voted against a reduction of the GST to 5%.
However, we all know what the NDP does support: a carbon tax. I find this very puzzling. On the one hand, the NDP would gladly support a reckless $21 billion carbon tax that would raise the price on essential goods and services for Canadians, but it would stall well-reasoned and thoroughly examined legislation like Bill C-48.
While the NDP finds these partisan procedural games amusing, Canadian taxpayers and businesses, who are waiting for these technical amendments to be passed, certainly do not.
Despite the NDP's bizarre position on this bill, Canadians can rest assured that their Conservative government will work to ensure the passage of Bill C-48 through Parliament so that taxpayers' confidence is not lost in Canada's tax system.
It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Etobicoke North, Public Safety; and the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Veterans Affairs.
Resuming debate, the hon. member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for the tone and content of his remarks. I think he has summarized our objections to the bill in a very comprehensive way, from the heart and out of principle.
Given the nature and subject matter of the bill, I also want to recognize and pay tribute to my colleagues from London—Fanshawe, Churchill, Halifax, and the many others who are volunteering to be recognized today, with the notable exception of the member for Kings—Hants, for the contributions they have made to this important subject matter, which includes not only the serious issue of sexual harassment in the workplace but also the issue of restoring confidence and pride in our national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
For whatever reason, we know that the image of the RCMP has suffered in recent years as a result of unresolved allegations, investigations and complaints regarding the operations and functions of that workplace in the context of harassment and in the broader context of bullying, a word that has come up a number of times in comments by learned members in the House. Bullying has almost become a motif or theme throughout a great deal of the objections we have heard, and I think we cannot separate the two.
I am also proud of the opposition day motion that my colleague put forward, the motion regarding an anti-bullying policy or strategy for this country. It is a shame that the anti-bullying initiative was turned down, because the issue we are dealing with today could be quite appropriately dealt with in the context of that anti-bullying legislation.
The reason I wanted to compliment my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore is that he got to the root of the problem, which is that it is actually too late to be debating the merits of the bill now that it is at third reading.
We tried to amend the bill at committee stage. We supported the bill at second reading in the hopeful belief that there was an intention of co-operation by the government side members to accommodate some of the legitimate concerns we brought forward. The theme of the speech by my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore was with respect to an arrogance in this place, the likes of which we have never seen in the government, as it has refused to allow a single amendment to a single piece of legislation in the entire 41st Parliament.
I was a member of Parliament during the majority Liberal government. We were a small party, about the size the Liberals are now, and almost as irrelevant as the Liberals are now. However, we did have one member on each committee, just as the Liberals have now. I can say without any fear of contradiction that during the Liberal majority years, my colleagues and I used to get amendments through on pieces of legislation at committee. That is only reasonable, because in a Westminster parliamentary democracy there is an obligation on the ruling party to accommodate some of the legitimate issues brought forward by the majority of Canadians who did not vote for the majority party.
Before we move on to questions and comments, it is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, Veterans.
The hon. member for Edmonton—Leduc for questions and comments.
Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe will have two and a half minutes remaining for her remarks when the House next resumes debate on this question and the usual five minutes for questions and comments.
Before we resume debate with the hon. member for London—Fanshawe, I will let her know that we do not have quite enough time for the full 10 minutes. When we get to 6:30 p.m., we will come to the end of the usual time allocated for government orders for today. However, I will give the hon. member an indication of when we need to wrap up.
The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right about the difficulties facing people not only in all of Canada but particularly in ridings where multinational corporations have taken and taken and taken, whether tax benefits, resources, consuming infrastructure, or utilizing the expertise of the workers who made them wealthy and competitive industries and simply walked away, leaving the country high and dry, as we saw with the community of London—Fanshawe when the offshoot of Caterpillar left.
The future of this country is very clearly with small- and medium-size businesses. They are part of the community. In fact, last week I had the profound pleasure of speaking to members of the Rotary Club, made up of members of the small- and medium-size businesses that employ people, that are contributors to the community. They are not just there to take, take, take; they are there to give back and make for strong neighbourhoods. Therefore, we need a tax system that suits their needs. We need to stop these huge and ridiculous tax breaks for multinational corporations, the polluters, the banks, which are giving back very little, if anything at all, and we need to look very closely at small- and medium-size business and in that process make it as easy and expedient as possible for them to do their jobs as we would like.
Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, Aboriginal Affairs; the member for London—Fanshawe, Pensions; the member for Vancouver Kingsway, International Trade.
Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for London—Fanshawe for being such a passionate advocate on seniors' issues over the last number of years that I have been honoured to work with her.
We have a number of shortfalls in the overall system. Part of it is federal and part of it is provincial. There is the issue of a lack of access to home care. When people do not have the proper home care they need, they have accidents, such as a broken hip, and end up in emergency. However, there is no place to put them and the emergency rooms are backed-up.
When I go into my communities of Englehart, Kirkland Lake, Larder Lake, Cochrane, Timmins and Iroquois Falls, I hear from seniors all the time. There is no housing for them to move into. They cannot afford the places they are staying in and they cannot move into places with dignity. We see this issue of the need to have enough qualified staff to be there to work for them when they are no longer able to stay in their houses.
Yes, this is a big issue and I am glad that we are debating it within the House. Obviously, it seems to be a discussion only among New Democrats, but we have always been the party that has said that seniors are a major priority. No wonder my grandmother was such a strong New Democrat.
Order, please. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.
Mr. Speaker, I asked the member for London—Fanshawe to speculate on the thought process behind some of the changes made in the budget by the government and I would ask that presenter to do the same.
With regard to the changes to OAS and the increase of the age for receiving OAS, it seems like the government fabricated a crisis. We see now with the document tabled by the Auditor General that there was no crisis and that any savings at all would have been minuscule. I would appreciate the member's thoughts on this change, a change that would have a negative impact on so many, especially those Canadians who live with disabilities on whose lives it would have a substantive negative impact. What would have motivated the government to embark on this wrong-minded manoeuvre?
Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it very much if the member would understand that I am the member for London—Fanshawe and I am here to serve my constituents. I will do it with every effort, unlike the members opposite who have basically taken a strong economy and put it into the ditch.
In terms of the recession of 20 years ago, I would like to remind the House, and the member, that at the time we were elected in Ontario we were in the fifth quarter of an economic downturn. The Conservative government of the time's response to that was to cut transfers and shift the burden of unemployment from the feds to the provinces. It created a very difficult time.
Also, the member needs to be very careful about what he says. He is getting his facts mixed up. We support cap and trade. I wish that they would understand that.
The electoral district of London--Fanshawe (Ontario) has a population of 107,218 with 74,810 registered voters and 183 polling divisions.
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