Gerry Byrne spoke about Private Members' Business > Financial Administration Act
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-473. It is clear to the House that the intention of the proposed act is to amend the Financial Administration Act to provide some method of balance. It is a laudable goal of a Canadian just society to ensure that gender equity is not a slogan but a commonplace action within our society. ... more
The fundamental goal, recognition of equality and respect of everyone, is very commendable, and so I am pleased to speak to some of the strengths of the bill. There are some issues that need to be addressed, obviously. The bill does not prescribe any method of attaining the gender equity it attempts to achieve. There is no method laid out as to exactly how this statutory provision would be enacted, controlled and monitored.
That said, I will speak to the general parameters of the bill.
It has been a long-standing and well-established practice that we move, wherever reasonable and possible, to bridge the gap, to prevent an unjust or unfair and disproportionate imbalance in gender within our own federal jurisdiction. We have long moved toward gender equity with pay equity issues. We have seen the value of ensuring that there is gender equity and the recognition of gender equity within hiring in the federal public civil service. Therefore, it only stands to reason that we would also incorporate gender equity within the governance of our major Crown corporations, which are governed by the government and accountable to this House through various ministers.
Primarily, Bill C-473 proposes to require that the composition of the boards 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 following the coming into force of this proposed section, not less than 40% the fourth year and not less than 50% the sixth year following the coming into force of this section. The proposed bill clearly outlines these requirements and stipulates that the aforementioned numbers may vary when the board of directors of a parent Crown corporation consist of no more than eight members, and so there is latitude and flexibility built into the bill.
For example, in such instances, it is proposed that the difference between the number of directors of each gender may not be greater than two. For small governed boards, obviously it is a little more difficult at times, such as in the immediate aftermath of the coming into force of the proposed legislation, to be able to reconstruct the board, and the bill does provide that flexibility. However, there are no specific requirements or criteria as to how this would get done exactly. We would like to see a little more detail on that.
It is worth noting that Bill C-473 is premised on Bill C-407, but this new legislative proposal seeks to elevate the percentage to 50% from the current of approximately 30% non-legislated average commencing in the sixth year.
Prior to endorsing Bill C-473, we would like to better understand whether or not the breakdown of gender numbers cited in the legislative preamble are indeed accurate and if there is an appropriate reason for the current levels. However, these issues would come out if the bill were to be passed at second reading and sent to committee.
We would like to know what the real-world impact would be on business if mandated quotas of this nature were established within the timeline suggested, 30%, 40% and 50% within two, four and six years respectively.
We would also like to know what specific penalties would be imposed upon non-compliant boards and agencies. Legislation that is absolutely toothless just merits a public rebuking and does not go beyond that, with no scope of arbitration, no scope of determination of whether or not proper compliance requirements are being met and if not, what the consequences are of such decisions.
It becomes a bit of a fool's errand in the sense that we actually institutionalize non-compliance, even though we could enact laws to prevent this. If it is absolutely baseless and there is no consequence whatsoever except for a public rebuking, which may or may not be scoffed off by those who have been cited, the legislation becomes somewhat worthless. It speaks to a platitude but not to an action. That is really not where we necessarily need to be.
If concrete proposals could be brought forward as to how this could be done and what the consequences of this being done would be, greater comfort would be provided to all of us, I am sure. We should be prepared to say here and now that the concept is not only valid but that it is necessary. It is necessary to work toward gender equity at the highest echelons, in the most prominent and largest profile of organizations within the federal jurisdiction.
We have not had very much feedback from stakeholders at this point in time; in fact, very little. One of the opportunities at second reading is to be able to receive input from stakeholders as to how exactly they feel about this, what they would offer in terms of strengthening and criticizing and in terms of impacts, and receive their other views about the nature of this legislation and what it would do. That would be extremely helpful.
There also has not been a huge amount of feedback in terms of the real-world analysis of the consequences of this. There are many organizations that can offer that. We look forward to hearing from them so that we have a better idea of exactly what the legislation could present to us.
Finally, it would be helpful at this point in time for the parties within the House to pronounce where they stand on the general principles of the bill. I have pointed to the fact that there are obviously some inherent issues, some concerns, some information that is not contained within the bill, which may be necessary for the enactment of legislation, in the opinion of some. If we are going to pose a statutory requirement on somebody to do something, that statute should also lay out a process as to how that would be done and what the consequences of not adhering to it would be.
While we can all recognize that there are some issues surrounding this, it would be helpful if we could understand a bit better whether or not the parties within the House support the concept of gender equity within the governance structure of our Crown corporations, boards and their directorships, instead of just simply saying this is not a piece of legislation that can be supported. That would be very helpful.
I appreciate the work done by the mover of this particular piece of legislation. I look forward to hearing the debate. I also look forward to, hopefully, having this piece of legislation before committee, so some of these questions can be given proper answers.June 17, 2013, Parliament
Judy Sgro spoke about Private Members' Business > Financial Administration Act
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.April 23, 2013, Parliament
Irene Mathyssen spoke about Routine Proceedings > Financial Administration Act
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-407, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (gender balanced representation). ... more
Mr. Speaker, I would add my congratulations to all women on this International Women's Day.
Volunteerism is a wonderful thing in all of our communities but it does not promote the equality of women, which is the reason for my bill. It would require that federally regulated boards be made up of at least 40% women.
The reality is there is a growing body of research that shows that gender-diverse corporate boards are more effective, perform better, access the widest talent pool, are more responsive to the market and lead to better decision-making.
Because women are active participants in the democratic governing of the country, both as voters and as politicians, they should have balanced representation in the management of crown corporations.
According to a report from the United Nations on the status of women, there is a growing body of evidence demonstrating that investing in women and girls has a multiplier effect on productivity, efficiency and sustained economic growth.
The reality is that, despite our best efforts in regard to federal organizations, only 32.43% of those boards have women as active members despite the fact that women make up 47% of the workforce.
We have been criticized quite significantly by the United Nations in terms of CIDA because we have not promoted the equality of women. Many industrialized countries have enacted legislation to achieve gender parity. Countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Spain have passed a law requiring that women's representation on boards reach 40% within the next six years.
We have a lot of catching up to do and this bill aims to help Canada to move in a positive direction.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)March 8, 2012, Parliament
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An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (gender balanced representation)
This bill was tabled by Irene Mathyssen on March 9, 2012.
How does a bill become a law?
Don’t trust Schoolhouse Rock – that’s for Americans. To become a law, a bill in the Canada’s Parliament needs to go through the following steps, and pass when voted on during each step:
- It all starts with the first reading, when the bill is introduced.
- Next comes the second reading, when other MPs or Senators get to debate the bill.
- After that, the bill goes to a committee that studies and amends it line-by-line. Once they finish, the bill goes returns to the House or Senate for the report stage, where anyone can propose amendments.
- The third reading is the moment of truth: no more changes, just a debate and a final vote on whether or not the bill should pass.
- If a bill makes it through all of those steps – in both the House of Commons and Senate – it’s ready to get Royal Assent and become a law.
Status of this Bill
Introduction and First Reading
Gerry Byrne spoke about Private Members' Business > Financial Administration Act
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to Bill C-473. It is clear to the House that the intention of the proposed act is to amend the Financial Administration Act to provide some method of balance. It is a laudable goal of a Canadian just society to ensure that gender equity is not a slogan but a commonplace action within our society. ... moreJune 17, 2013, Parliament
Judy Sgro spoke about Private Members' Business > Financial Administration ActApril 23, 2013, Parliament
Irene Mathyssen spoke about Routine Proceedings > Financial Administration Act
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-407, An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act (gender balanced representation). ... moreMarch 8, 2012, Parliament