STANDING COMMITTEE ON PROCEDURE
AND HOUSE AFFAIRS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA PROCÉDURE
ET DES AFFAIRES DE LA CHAMBRE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Monday, November 22, 1999
The Chairman (Mr. Derek Lee (Scarborough—Rouge River,
Lib.)): Colleagues, I see a quorum.
I call the meeting to order.
We are continuing our
consideration of Bill C-2, the Canada Elections Act.
Before we get into that, we have one minor business
item, which I think we can knock off very quickly.
As you're aware, we are required to adopt a budget, which
is forwarded on to the liaison budget subcommittee for
approval by the House. You have in front of you our
draft budget. You will see it is a budget totalling
$14,300, the greatest part of which relates to witness
expenses. There are other expenses, including meeting
expenses, shown in there. The total is $14,300. Are
there any questions or discussion? I see none.
I'll take a motion to adopt.
Mr. John Richardson (Perth—Middlesex, Lib.): I so
The Chairman: Yes, Mr. Bergeron?
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes, BQ): Thank
you for your boundless enthusiasm, Mr. Chairman. I'd simply like to
know the reason why we have before us today this budget which
hasn't even been examined yet by the Subcommittee on Agenda and
Procedure. Perhaps this is exceptional case. If so, I'd appreciate
confirmation of that fact.
The Chairman: There's nothing unusual about the
budget, unless you're interested in the travel costs of
Canadians by normal means. It's a very small budget
relative to other committees. Two-thirds of the budget
is comprised of witness expenses.
Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): I'd just
point out that $14,300 from now until March
31, 2000 is very small.
The Chairman: The point has been made. It's a very
Is there any other discussion?
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, the issue isn't whether
the budget is important or not. It's a question of principle. We
could be talking about a $500 budget. It would make no difference.
Shouldn't the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure have had a
look at this budget before it was presented to the standing
committee? That's what I'm asking you.
The Chairman: Mr. Bergeron, you believe this routine
budget should have been taken up at budget
subcommittee. This is an annual exercise. There is
nothing extraordinary, out of the ordinary, or out of
routine in the budget. It is composed of two items.
I have no doubt that throughout the course of the
year, there may be the need for us to go back to the
budget subcommittee with requests for additional
supplementary budget, but this is the... I can only
describe it as a very basic budget that will take us to
the end of the fiscal year. It's a short fiscal year
because of the prorogation, so it's essentially five
months' worth of budget.
Mr. Bergeron, if you feel strongly about having the
steering committee discuss the issue of whether or not
we should proceed to adopt the budget, and if there's a
consensus, we could refer it. I really strongly
suggest to you, though, that it is a routine budget
that can be passed in very short order here, and we can
then get on with the rest of our business.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, as I see it, we've been
presented this afternoon with a fait accompli. It would be rather
complicated to take this budget, now that it is before the
committee, and ask that it be referred back to the sub-committee
which would then send it back to the standing committee. What's
done is done. Let's review it and quickly move on to hear from our
Mr. Raymond Bonin (Nickel Belt, Lib.): Call the
The Chairman: Mr. Bergeron, if you have an
intervention, I've invited you to stake out your ground
on this. If there is a matter of substance, colleagues
might be prepared to hear it. In any event, the
question has been called. I take your point that the
steering committee of this committee has not discussed
this, but the question has been put.
(Motion agreed to)
The Chairman: We'll now get back to our main item of
business, which is witnesses on Bill C-2.
Colleagues, we have a slightly out of the ordinary
procedure here today. We have one witness who will be
joining us by teleconference.
Madam Clerk, where is the witness located?
The Clerk of the Committee: She's located in Sudbury.
The Chairman: She's located in Sudbury, and she will
be joining us by telephone line. We may therefore
communicate with her through the telephone line.
There's no video-conference, and there's no video. In
order to pick her up, we would listen and communicate
through the earpiece and with the microphone here.
Mr. Raymond Bonin: Mr. Chair, I'd like to remind
the committee and those who organized these sessions
that Sudbury and its region are very well equipped with
video-conferencing equipment. Contact North is
established in Sudbury, and the local community college
does the most distance education by video in Canada.
I'd just like to remind the people of Ottawa that we do
have the technology in northern Ontario, and we take a
bit of offence at doing things by telephone when we
have such excellent equipment to do it by video.
The Chairman: Yes, our colleagues are aware that
Sudbury is a very high-tech, plugged-in city.
Madam Clerk, could you explain to Mr. Bonin and the
good people of Sudbury why we're not able to use
The Clerk: We were simply unable to get it set up
in the short period of time we had, Mr. Bonin. We
would have gone with the video-conference except for
that. It was on our end, not the Sudbury end.
Mr. Raymond Bonin: In the future, give me two
hours and I'll set it up for you.
The Chairman: Yes, it just might be useful to check
with the local MPs sometimes. They often know their
way around locally a lot better than some of us do.
A voice: Hear, hear.
The Chairman: We regret that we believed we did not
have sufficient time to arrange video-conferencing, but
we won't make that mistake again.
Are there any other questions before we proceed?
Mr. Ted White (North Vancouver, Ref.): I'd just
like to make the observation that the fact that the member
is embracing technology indicates to me he'll probably
vote for my amendment to put electronic voting in the
A voice: Hear, hear.
The Chairman: Hope reigns supreme, Mr. White, and
that is the order of the day.
Can we confirm that Miss Proulx is on-line?
Ms. Rachel Proulx (President, Canadian Federation
of Business and Professional Women's Clubs): Yes, I am.
The Chairman: Hello, Miss Proulx.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Good day.
The Chairman: Okay, we'll now commence hearing submissions on the
legislation, and we will begin with Miss Proulx. She
is the president of the Canadian Federation of Business
and Professional Women's Clubs.
Miss Proulx, we would allow you the usual ten minutes
or so to make a representation. After your
representation, we would allow the other witnesses
present with us here in the room today to make their
submissions. After all the submissions are made, we
would then move to questions. Is that okay?
Ms. Rachel Proulx: That's perfect.
The Chairman: All right.
You appear to be bilingual, so you may address the
meeting in whichever language suits you. My colleagues
are ready, so you have the floor.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Thank you very much, members of
the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs,
members of Parliament, and certainly a great ambassador
for northern Ontario, Monsieur Bonin.
I would like to give you a bit of information on the
Canadian federation, but also list a few of the motions
that we have submitted in brief format to the
government of the day since 1930.
Since 1930 the Canadian Federation of Business and
Professional Women's Clubs, further on referred to
as BPW Canada, has worked to elevate the economic
and social status of working women in Canada. Our
members are women who are employed in the professions,
in traditional and non-traditional work, and in
business ownership that includes home-based enterprise.
BPW Canada is a member of BPW International, one
of the world's most influential organizations. We are
in 108 countries on five continents. BPW International
is a non-partisan and non-sectarian network of business
and professional women who share common objectives for
all working women.
The Canadian Federation of Business and Professional
Women's Clubs is pleased to present a submission
covering the resolutions passed at a recent biannual
convention in Lethbridge, Alberta, from July 13 to 18,
1998, and others dating as far back as early as 1930.
The delegates of the more than seventy clubs that
comprise our federation consider and approve these
resolutions, which stay on our books until such time as
the government acts upon and makes these resolutions
We are in eight provinces in this country, and we have
a number of francophone clubs, specifically in the
province of Quebec.
BPW Canada, which has its primary concern the
improvement of the status of women employed in Canada,
was incorporated on June 7, 1930. For just under
seventy years, BPW Canada has worked to improve the
economic, employment and social status, and conditions
of working women; to stimulate interest in federal,
provincial, and municipal affairs; to encourage women
to participate in the business of government at all
levels; and to assist women and girls to acquire
education in preparation for employment.
As you are aware, BPW Canada has been accorded the
privilege of meeting with the Prime Minister and other
members of cabinet in years past. We are now pleased
to submit and discuss our submission as it relates to
Bill C-2, the Canada Elections Act. This is
submitted by the Canadian federation, of course.
I'd like to recall one of the resolutions that we
passed in 1935, actually, as it related to the
Elections Act of Canada and electoral candidates. It states
that BPWC—which is BPW Canada—urge the political parties
of Canada, in particular the three main political
parties, to put in place the necessary mechanisms and
decrees to encourage them to ensure that an equal
number of electoral candidates are women and therefore
the candidates are more representative of the general
population of Canada.
We have a number of them, and we consistently
developed resolutions dealing with education and
leadership opportunities for women. The federation
gives leadership to the member clubs by providing
extensive leadership programs. We also have a
resolution dating back to 1992—it was submitted in
brief format—that the BPWC issue a press release and
send an urgent recommendation to the Prime Mister as it
related to gender equality in the Senate by a system of
proportional representation, proactive applications of
gender equality and an equality
proposal being discussed, and that recommendations made
by the constitutional conferences be better applied
throughout the proposed amendments.
We have resolutions as they relate to women
candidates. We urged and we sought support to promote,
whenever possible, competent candidates who have
established solid backgrounds in promoting the status
of women. We've urged all parties to do that. We have
a number of resolutions that relate to women in civic
office. On women's appointments to UN committees, a
request was sent by a convention to the federal
government asking that qualified Canadian women be
appointed to Canadian committees of the United Nations,
especially the Commission for the Status of Women.
On women's appointments to the Department of
Foreign Affairs, when the Department of
Foreign Affairs is recruiting its future diplomats and
ambassadorial staff, the most promising young men
graduating from university are taken into the
Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade,
where they are trained after they have done some
post-graduate work. There are women in the same
superior positions. We are urging the government that
when it is choosing candidates, the choice be made on
merit alone, regardless of sex, so that in future those
services would be staffed in some proportion by women.
On women's appointments to policy-making levels of
government, the organization urges the Government of
Canada to improve its present practice of mere token
appointments of women, and to appoint qualified women
in numbers to such offices so that the women of Canada
will be adequately represented on policy-making bodies.
We have a number of other resolutions relating to the
justice system, looking at gender equality. It would be
very lengthy for me to read all of them, but I will be
sending them to you in a written format.
On women's appointments by governments of Canada, we
would like you to continue to strenuously press the
appointment of a due proportion of qualified women to
the Senate, the judiciary, the diplomatic corps, and to
all government boards and commissions, and as
representatives on United Nations commissions.
On women seeking nomination for public office, again
this is an older resolution, dating to 1972. We
appealed to all governments at all levels—the
provinces and the national level—that women who are
qualified and willing to be nominated for elections at
all levels of government should be encouraged by the
government of the day.
Certainly we have encouraged the government to look at
nominating women to the Senate. One of our members, the
Honourable Muriel McQueen Fergusson, was one of the first
females appointed to the Senate, of course.
I believe my time is almost up, but we have a number of
resolutions that deal with accessibility to
decision-making. This is one of our most recent ones: that we
continue to encourage women to become involved in the
decision-making process at all levels of business,
industry, and the political scene. We therefore urge
the Government of Canada to unanimously pass the
following measures: first, to support training and
information initiatives aimed at demystifying the ways
of access to decision-making positions in order to
interest women; and second, to establish formal
communication networks aimed at publishing on a large
scale the decision-making positions available in
different areas, including politics, business,
communications, the civil service, and community
We further urge the Government of Canada to adopt
precise policies aimed at increasing the presence of
women within decision-making positions in the field of
activities mentioned above by at least 10% in the next
That would be the end of my formal presentation.
The Chairman: Thank you very much. Your submission
came through loud and clear.
Mr. Ted White: On a point of information, Mr.
Chair, because Ms. Proulx is coming in by telephone
line, I don't know whether it's more practical for us
to ask her questions and then allow her to get off the
line, or whether it's more practical to keep her on for
the whole time.
The Chairman: Let's try to keep it a happy
family—unless you'd like to wrap up with
us, Ms. Proulx. Or would you like to stay with us?
Ms. Rachel Proulx: I would like to stay on. I can
tell you that I have a lot of experience in
teleconferencing. Monsieur Bonin referred to Collège
Boréal as the key high-tech facility in northern
Ontario. I was chair of that college. We set it up
greatly by telecommunication in order to facilitate our
discussions, so I have no problem staying on the line.
The Chairman: Okay, thank you.
We'll proceed to our next witnesses, then. From the
National Council of Women of Canada, we have Ms.
Laidlaw-Sly and Ms. Brown, not
necessarily in that order. It's in whatever order you
wish to present.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly (Vice-President, National
Council of Women of Canada): Could I ask how much
time we have, Mr. Chairman?
The Chairman: About ten minutes.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: About ten minutes? Fine.
Mr. Chairman, members of this standing committee of
Parliament, I wish to speak on behalf of the National
Council of Women of Canada, the oldest umbrella group
for women, founded in 1893, before Canadian women had
the vote. We appreciate and thank the committee for
this opportunity to address some of the proposed
changes to the Canada Elections Act.
I should say that the National Council of Women has
long experience in attempting to advance women's
current concerns through advocacy at the local,
provincial, and national levels, and internationally
through our historical membership in the International
Council of Women. The national council became a
non-governmental organization in consultative status
with ECOSOC in 1997, adding an important new
dimension to our work. I could add, too, that BPWC
members in many communities belong to our organization
We have a historical position asking all parties to
seek the election of an equal number of women as
members to the House of Commons. We want to stress
again that it's only fair and just. Women are roughly
52% of the population, and we are presently woefully
underrepresented in the House. For example, I believe
only 12% of the elected members are women here in
Canada. Some 30% are women in the Senate, but that's
not the same thing. We understand that only 7.2% of
the elected members in the Commonwealth are women. And
12% is hardly one-third, which is the critical mass
that we would like to see this legislation facilitate
We therefore commend the proposed changes that are
designed to overcome the impediments that make it
difficult for women, particularly women of modest means
or with children, to stand for election.
The proposal to have child care expenses considered in
all cases as part of candidate expenses will be a
positive factor. Males with young children have always
counted on their wives, their spouses, to look after
the children. It's just part of the uncounted, unpaid
work women have always done. But women cannot be so
sure that they will get the same support from a spouse,
a husband, or a partner.
Also, we want to add that it is commendable and
encouraging for a woman to stand for election if she
knows she can recover the $1,000 deposit if she is
unsuccessful. For a lot of women, that amount of money
is a considerable cost. It has to be remembered that in
spite of all of the advances women have made in the
last 25 years, women across the board still only earn
about 79% when compared to men's relative pay. They
have less disposable income and fewer savings.
We wanted to note the reference to the Lortie
commission's recommendation on rewarding parties
for attracting a greater number of female candidates.
In discussing this with some of our members, it was
pointed out that this hardly achieves anything. Just
nominating women to run is not guaranteeing that women
are elected. They can be encouraged to run in ridings
where they have no chance of election historically or
traditionally. We therefore think that perhaps the
reward for a party should be tied to the number of
actually elected female members of the House. We think
that would be a more realistic way of implementing that
recommendation and we strongly urge it.
The members of council that we consulted spoke very
much about the real difficulty women have in seeking to
be the nominee for a party in any riding, particularly
in one where the nomination is hotly contested.
It takes money, lots of it, and
women, usually younger women with or without family
care responsibility, simply don't have those financial
resources. They don't have access to a relatively
wealthy network of friends and associates,
as do the men. In
fact, unless the family of the would-be candidate has
very deep pockets, the high costs of campaigning for a
nomination in a winnable riding are far too costly for
most women to assume.
Therefore, the next paragraphs deal with this issue.
I want to inform the parliamentary committee that last
month, in October, at the joint Canada-U.K. conference
held at the Canadian high commission in London marking
the 70th anniversary of the persons case and
headed up under the title “Women's Equality and
Participation in Public Life”, this very issue was
addressed. The principal speaker on the issue was
Baroness Crawley of Egbaston, who is the chair of
the U.K. Women's National Commission, and she was speaking about
the way different parties in the United Kingdom had
changed their processes to ensure that women got an
We wanted to also mention that, interestingly, the new
Scottish Parliament has 37% elected female
members. We thought that was a really good
We strongly urge that the committee look at some of
our suggestions. For example, if the
rewards to a party for electing women are not tied to
the actual number of females elected, then we would
like to suggest that they look at bringing in
limits to the amount of spending for nomination
contests that would be clearly set out and would be
equally applicable in all ridings for all candidates.
Failing that, we also suggested something a little less
meaningful, but perhaps an increased tax receipt value
for people who are making donations that are earmarked
for a female candidate.
These were just two of the suggestions that came up in
our discussions in the last week.
We recognize this is a difficult issue, but we
challenge the committee to address it. We think it is
the real barrier to having more women elected and
representing what is, after all, over 50% of the
When our members were questioned about receiving 75%
of an increased political tax credit, they expressed
general approval, but it was remarked that they
wondered how many women this would really be relevant
for, how many of them had enough money to make these
political donations. They thought that probably a lot
fewer than men did, which is maybe one reason why women
don't get considered as often by political parties as
possible candidates, because they're not known and they
haven't paid their way, so to speak.
I'm putting that in, but it was one of the issues that
was raised, and that was the way it was raised by
somebody with experience.
In referring to the proposed limits on third-party
spending, the national council commends the attempt to
even the playing field during an election by limiting
Some of our members noted that as a women's advocacy
group, we share with our sister groups a lack of financial
resources to allow us to engage in third-party advocacy
during an election. This was done on our behalf for a
short time by the now defunct Canadian Advisory Council
on the Status of Women. And I want to point out here
that I was reminded that the Canadian advisory council
never had the same financial resources as those
available to some advocates for business coalitions,
but it was the only access women had to an effective
third-party advocacy group.
Per capita, it seems manifestly unjust that a
relatively small number of citizens, namely those
connected with the business community—who in effect
are a real special interest group, not a designated
special interest group but a real special interest
group—have access to large amounts of money, some of
which has been raised through donations to campaigns
for which they got tax receipts, but women's groups
like ours do not have that luxury or privilege. And we
asked why they should enjoy such an advantage in
putting forward their agenda when women are over 50% of
the population and they simply don't have the equal
means to advance their agenda as effectively or on as
broad a basis.
Therefore, we strongly urge that there be
across-the-board limits to third-party spending.
After consulting with member organizations,
particularly our shelters working directly in the field
with battered women, they approved the suggested
changes to protect women electors, particularly the use
of their previous address when registering to vote.
However, it was pointed out that women who are in
extreme danger would appreciate and, as our counsellors in
shelters advised, should have the opportunity to
elect to vote by mail. We know that Canadians learned
last year, for example, that shelters in small or rural
communities don't have the same anonymity as shelters
in large cities, and everyone knows where the shelter
is. Therefore the mail-in ballot would be the only option
for a truly threatened woman in such a situation.
We have to remember that when a woman is leaving or
has just left the family home and is re-establishing
herself on her own, she is in maximum danger. We know
if we followed the news over the years that this is when
most of the women are either attacked or, sadly, killed.
Most women who are killed are killed by someone to
whom they were attached by a strong close emotional
This being the United Nations year of the older
person, some members mentioned concerns about the
present arrangements for facilitating the franchise of
elderly citizens. They wondered, for those who
are living in the home of their caregiver
and have to be brought to a poll to vote, if it would
be available to them to use a mail-in ballot as well,
provided there was a notarized statement validating
They also—actually it was one person, but she had
experience—wondered if it would be possible to have
available in constituencies a person or persons trained
and sworn to assist the handicapped in voting, in much
the same way that a person can go into a voting booth
with a blind person. This would apply to all the
differently abled people, whether old or given physical
handicaps of whatever nature and of whatever age.
I think my time is nearly up, but we wanted to just
stress that we approve of the idea to permit canvassing
and posting of signs in apartment buildings. Our
members had no objection to bringing in new parameters
governing the processing of small expense vouchers. You
should understand we were talking to people who have
some experience in elections. But the one issue they
brought forward that we didn't see addressed at all was
the inequalities presently tolerated between the number
of electors in urban ridings and those in sparsely
populated rural constituencies. It concerns some of
our members because they feel that the urban voter has
the vote devalued proportionately. They hope that
redistribution will be brought in on a more compulsory
basis with closer norms for differentials and
Overall, Mr. Chairman, we commend the minister and
this committee for addressing these issues. We felt the
revision certainly has to be done. It is
necessary for Canada to address this most basic of its
national machineries and institutional mechanisms for
facilitating greater equality of all Canadians. In
particular, council members look forward to seeing
changes that will make the Canada Elections Act gender
The National Council of Women of Canada hopes the
suggestions brought forward will be accepted and
considered positively, thereby maintaining Canada's
reputation as an international leader in implementing
the promises and programs devised since the first
international conference on the status of women, which
was held in Mexico in 1975, almost 25 years ago.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Ms. Brown, you second the
submission of Ms. Laidlaw-Sly?
Ms. Ruth Brown (Past President, National Council of
Women of Canada): Yes, absolutely.
The Chairman: Thank you.
We'll go to Susan Russell, who is the executive
director of the Canadian Federation of University
Women. Ms. Russell, we would invite you to make a
submission of approximately ten minutes and then we would
engage in five-minute rounds of questions and answers.
Ms. Susan Russell (Executive Director, Canadian
Federation of University Women): I understood that I had
five minutes, so mine will be somewhat shorter.
The Chairman: You can take your time then.
Ms. Susan Russell: Mr. Chair, members of the
standing committee, the Canadian Federation of
University Women welcomes the opportunity to appear
before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Procedure and
House Affairs with respect to Bill C-2, the Canada Elections
I speak on behalf of 10,000 anglophone
and francophone women, university graduates, from 125
clubs across Canada. We are a national non-partisan
organization founded in 1919 and affiliated with the
International Federation of University Women, working to
improve the status of women in human rights, education,
peace, justice, and the environment. Members actively
promote the full participation of women in public
affairs and work for equality rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that
everyone has the right to take part in the government
of his or her country. The empowerment and autonomy of
women and the improvement of women's social,
economic, and political status is essential to the
achievement of transparent and accountable
government, administration, and sustainable development
in all areas of life. The power relations that prevent
women from leading fulfilling lives operate at many
levels in our society, from the personal to the highly
public. Equality in political decision-making performs
leverage without which it is highly unlikely that a
real integration of the equality dimension of
government policy is possible.
In 1995, at the fourth
United Nations world conference on women, the leaders
of the world made commitments to take
action for development, equality, and peace.
The platform for action
from this conference states that governments are
committed to acknowledging the voices of all women,
taking note of their diversity. As well, the platform
for action outlines governments' commitments to
integrate women's perspective and knowledge on an equal
basis with men in decision-making.
Without the active participation of women and their
incorporation of their perspectives at all levels in
decision-making, the goals of equality, development, and
peace cannot be achieved. It was not until 1928 that
Canada realized the legal personhood of women, paving
the way for their entry into the political arena. It
is now time to consider how to further increase the
participation of 52% of the population in the political
The dramatic increase in the number of
two-income families indicates that women have indeed
taken their place beside men in the workplace. Recent
decisions with regard to pay equity show recognition of
the need to increase their financial equality, yet in
the House of Commons, where important decisions that
affect all of our decisions are made daily, women
occupy only 20.9% of the seats. I note that this is
the best ever
in history of Canada, but still a significant
Without clear legislation to lead the way within the
Elections Act, women will continue to lag behind in
their ability to enter and to remain part of the
political process. CFUW recognizes that there are many
qualified women in Canada, and that there are significant
barriers to their participation. For these reasons, we
strongly support the following measures to assist women
to level the playing field for women candidates.
Caregiving: The Lortie commission report revealed
that one in five women has caregiving responsibilities
for children, but also for other dependent family
members. Some care for elderly parents, a disabled
child, or a sibling. It is essential to recognize this
and to make sure that this is an allowable expense for
those on the campaign trail.
Without this kind of assurance that their
family commitments are being met, many qualified women
will hesitate to put their talents at the service of
In addition to that, clothing represents an essential
expense for women. In our conversations across the
country, many women said a single business suit
and a good few ties were enough for men. Women
candidates need money for grooming expenses. These
items come under clause 409, which deals with the
personal expenses of the candidate. There are
important items for clarification and inclusion as
On housing, of particular concern to women in
our federation is the disenfranchisement of persons in
insecure housing situations. When these persons are in
temporary accommodations because they have left an
abusive family situation, it is important to provide
for them so that they may vote. Where the disclosure
of the address would endanger their safety, if for
example their last place of residence were to be
accepted as a domicile for the purposes of the
election, such persons could exercise their citizen's
responsibility to vote. This ties in with the
provision in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,
section 3, that provides every citizen with the right
to vote in an election of the members of the House of
In addition to these practical measures, we support
measures to encourage parties to field women
candidates, not simply in unwinnable ridings but where
they could become a sitting member. One such measure
would be to reward the party in proportion to the
numbers of women elected. This could be in the form of
a rebate on the money spent by the party, starting, as
suggested by Mr. Don Boudria, at 30% of the candidates
and increasing until the critical mass is reached at
about 45%. Such an increase would give parties a
positive incentive to reach parity.
Clearly, other measures have only been somewhat
successful. If we are to honour our commitments to the
women of Canada, it is now time to look at innovative
solutions. It can go a long way to breaking down the
barriers within the party structure and to encouraging
party workers to give their fullest support to women
candidates as well as to men.
In closing, I wish to thank this committee for the
opportunity to appear before them and to ask them to
support those measures that will increase the numbers
of women that enter Parliament, to follow in the
illustrious footsteps of Cairine Wilson, Judy
LaMarsh, Flora MacDonald, and all those other
women who have led the way since women became persons
under the law. I urge the members of this committee to
consider these and other measures that will make our
elections an open and transparent process in which all
Canadians can participate.
The Chairman: Thank you.
That completes the round of submissions. We'll
now go five-minute rounds of questions and answers,
starting with Mr. White.
Mr. Ted White: Is Ms. Proulx still on the line?
The Chairman: On the subject of teleconferencing,
Sudbury is up to speed, but I'm not so sure the House of
Commons is. We're attempting to re-establish contact
with Ms. Proulx.
Mr. Ted White: In the meantime, then, Ms.
Laidlaw-Sly, I found the implication of your
presentation was that male MPs cannot or will not
represent the females or women in their community,
and therefore we need women in Parliament in order to do
Frankly, I find that a little insulting. And I think
it should be insulting for the women here, because the
implication also is that they can't represent the men
in their riding.
This place is about representation for the voters.
Certainly the way I look at it and the way my party
looks at it, this is a place where we represent the
voters. If the male MPs are representing their
communities properly, then what's the problem? If the
female MPs are representing their communities properly,
what's the problem? I'd like to know, are you implying
that men cannot represent the voters in their ridings?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: No, I'm not, but I am
stating that if 50% or more of the population is
female, then 50% of the population should have the
equal opportunity and be facilitated
in standing to represent the citizens.
We know perfectly well, and those of us my age
certainly remember, that the first time a female
member, Margaret Mitchell, stood up in the House and
spoke about the issue of violence against women,
specifically wife battering, the males in the House
burst into laughter. It's a matter of record. When we
see incidents like that, we know it is sometimes
difficult for each sex to understand what the other
I have to say that I think the men have had a very
good long run in getting their issues out before the
public and having them thoroughly well aired and
addressed. I'm not sure women are satisfied that
theirs have been addressed. In fact, I know they
Women are still not earning the same sort of money
that men are. Women still do not have the same
opportunity to save for their old age that men do,
because they are expected to do, and very often do, the bulk
of the caregiving in families. Whether it's caregiving
of children, caregiving of older parents, caregiving of
the handicapped, it is known and statistically
measured—Statistics Canada has it on record—that
most of that work is being done by women. Most of it
is unpaid and uncounted. The system relies on that
work. Nothing would work with that unpaid work and
uncounted work not being done, yet we have failed to
see enough of our male representatives standing up and
speaking up and admitting that our whole system is
erected on top of the unpaid, uncounted work that women
do. Therefore, yes, we need an equal number of women.
Mr. Ted White: Ms. Laidlaw-Sly, for the
record, female MPs here are paid exactly the same as
male MPs. There's no distinction whatsoever.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: I know that.
Mr. Ted White: Have you ever run for
Parliament? Have you ever tried to run for office
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: I regret to say I have
Mr. Ted White: Why not?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: For two reasons: I had
six children, and I had a husband who did not permit
it. He was not willing to back me, and he felt that it
would be harmful to his career if I spoke out in
Mr. Ted White: Okay. If the government had passed
a law to give a bigger tax rebate to parties that ran
more women or elected more women, would that have
changed your mind about running?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: It certainly would have
Mr. Ted White: Okay, thank you.
I have one question of Ms. Russell.
A very high-profile female candidate and well-known
Liberal, Mobina Jaffer, ran against me in 1993 in
my riding. The voters chose me. Is the implication of
your presentation that you would take away the
franchise of the voters in order to force them to elect
Ms. Susan Russell: That was not my implication.
I'm saying that we require a critical mass to
present women's issues within the House of Commons. We
do not yet have a critical mass.
Mr. Ted White: Yes, and I agree with you.
Unfortunately, a lot of women just don't come forward.
In the case of the Reform Party, for the record here,
the leader of the Reform Party is not allowed to
appoint candidates. The way our system works, the
local riding associations choose the candidates.
That's done by people running for candidacy role, and
the members of the riding association vote for that
candidate. So we couldn't do what you're proposing.
All we can do is encourage at the local riding level
those women to run.
Ms. Susan Russell: So you're indicating that if
there were a cash incentive, you could not accept that
cash incentive? If your woman candidate got in, you
would refuse that incentive?
Mr. Ted White: If the government had such an
incentive, of course we would take it, but I doubt that
would make much difference in terms of the riding
association members deciding who they're going to
You see, I make the distinction between the rights of
the voters and trying to impose a program on those
voters, forcing them to vote for people they may not
necessarily want to vote for. I encourage equality,
which is equality of opportunity for everybody to try
to run for the position, and the best person wins,
based on the voters' decision.
Ms. Susan Russell: I would say to you that the
richest person runs, not the best person. Experience
has proved that before.
Mr. Ted White: Ms. Russell, I would like to see
some evidence to support that.
The Chairman: Ms. Brown, did you have something to
add to that?
Mr. Ted White: I did have questions of Ms. Proulx,
but I guess she's not around.
Ms. Ruth Brown: I just want to underline the point
that I think those of us from women's organizations
feel it's really important that there be an equal
playing field in order for women to be able to run for
the nomination. Over and over again we've heard that
this is the area where it's more difficult for women.
Mr. Ted White: We certainly appreciate that.
Maybe I could ask you this: what is your organization
doing, what are you doing, to try to encourage women?
Do you have it on your website, to demystify the
process the way Ms. Proulx has?
Ms. Ruth Brown: For over 100 years our
organization has really been advocating that women be
in decision-making processes, because we thought it was
really important that women were there to look at
issues from their point of view. After all, Parliament
is probably the central decision-making process in
Canada and it seems equally important that women be
adequately represented there.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. White.
I'll just try to ascertain whether we have Ms. Proulx
Ms. Proulx, are you on the line?
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Yes, I am.
The Chairman: That's great.
We're continuing with our round table now. We've
heard from Ms. Laidlaw-Sly and Ms. Russell.
Although you weren't hearing us, I don't believe they
said anything that opposes anything you said. That's
not to say that you've agreed on everything, but I
think you're having a fairly straight run at it.
We've finished with Mr. White's round of questions.
We'll go to Caroline St-Hilaire for five minutes.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire (Longueuil, BQ): First of all, thank
you for agreeing to testify before the committee today. My
colleagues are already aware of this, but I think you should know
that I have tabled in the House draft legislation which provides
for incentive measures for registered political parties when 30 per
cent of the candidates they elect are women. Mr. Boudria is quite
intrigued by my bill. We'll see what happens to it.
I'd like to know your opinion of the proposed legislation. You
said you wanted to see more women in politics, and most people
would agree with you on that score. How do you feel about
incentives like the one being proposed, namely reimbursement of a
portion of the election expenses of a registered political party?
You want some measures to be adopted, but are you comfortable with
this particular one?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Could I answer that question in
English, because it deals with a fairly complex subject?
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: I realize that.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Are you talking about all
of the expenses, including the nomination ones?
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: At present, 22.5 per cent of the
election expenses incurred by a political party are reimbursed. I'm
proposing that legislation to amend the Elections Act provide for
30 per cent of election expenses to be reimbursed to political
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: I see.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: It's the political party, rather than
the candidate, who is reimbursed. Personally, I think the problem
lies with political parties.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: No, we didn't discuss that.
I really would not want to take a position for our
members when I did not have a chance to discuss it. You
will understand that we did our sondage by
phone. We simply did not have time to do anything
else. I'm sorry we didn't, but I will make a note of
it. I'll give you my card if you'd like to send us
more information. If this is to be an ongoing process,
I know that our members will be very happy to develop
positions and to hear what is being considered.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Ruth Brown: Yes, I agree.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: Could we hear from Ms. Rachel Proulx
and Ms. Russell on this subject?
Ms. Rachel Proulx: I'm wondering if your 30 per cent proposal
conflicts with the 25 per cent recommended by Mr. Boudria?
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: I didn't understand the question. Mr.
Boudria was suggesting that 30 per cent of election expenses be
reimbursed to all parties fielding candidates, and not necessarily
only to a party that manages to get its candidates elected.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: The point is, you're recommending that a
political party have 30 per cent of its election expenses
reimbursed, are you not?
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: Yes.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Right. Does your proposal conflict in some
way with Mr. Boudria's recommendation, namely that 22.5 per cent of
election expenses be reimbursed?
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: No. The percentage would increase
from 22.5 per cent to 30 per cent.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: You're recommending 30 per cent rather than
22.5 per cent.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: That's correct.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: I understand.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: However, 30 per cent of the
candidates elected by that party must be women.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: I see.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: Do you understand what I'm saying?
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Yes, I understand. If the objective is to
get more women candidates elected, then we have no objections to
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: Fine, thank you.
Ms. Susan Russell: I understand the United
Nations, in a document—I've read so many documents
recently that I forget which one—set a target of
one-third of the House, or wherever, being women. I
would say 30% would be a good target to start with.
I'm really looking at half, but I would be happy with
30% to start with.
Ms. Caroline St-Hilaire: In any event, I'll send you a copy of
the proposed legislation which stipulates that a political party,
where 30 per cent of the candidates elected are women, would be
entitled to have 30 per cent of its election expenses reimbursed
and so forth, up to a maximum of 50 per cent. The aim is to
encourage political parties to get more women candidates elected to
office. This mustn't be viewed as a punitive measure, but rather as
Of course, if 50 per cent of the candidates elected by a
particular party happen to be women, than that party would be
entitled to have 50 per cent of its election expenses reimbursed.
Naturally, some parties would be reimbursed a larger sum than
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: As a matter of fact, when
we were discussing this, we didn't discuss it in as
concrete terms as you are putting it forward, but our
suggestion was that it would be best to reward a party
on a sliding scale to the proportion that they manage
to succeed, which waves a big carrot. That way it
would get around trying to impose rules on the
nomination procedures; they could stay the same. But
if they didn't eventualize an elected female
representation, then the party would be out of pocket
that amount. This was the way we got around it. We
were looking at two or three different ways around to
provide an incentive and to avoid excessive
The Chairman: Thank you, Ms. St-Hilaire.
Now we'll go to Mr. Pickard for five minutes.
Mr. Jerry Pickard (Chatham—Kent Essex, Lib.): Thank you
very much, Mr. Chairman.
I found some statements very, very positive. I
believe exactly what Susan Russell has said: we must
actively promote full participation of women in this
society and political process. There's absolutely no
question about that.
I believe in your statement, Ms. Russell, you must
have said “equality” many, many, many times, and I
certainly endorse that and support that without
question. I believe other members as well expressed
that. But I have a real problem when we start talking
about legislation that promotes inequality. We may be
here verging on inequality, from my viewpoint.
I'll point this out. As an individual, I spent 25
years in education, and that was without question a
female-dominated area. I don't think that in the case
of teaching younger people, anyone ever said there
should be quotas about the number of men and women
teaching in elementary school, or quotas for whatever
they were doing. I always thought jobs in the main
were from the neck up, not the neck down.
Quite frankly, I have a problem when we start saying
we should put money in the coffers of parties that
elect more women, or even if we take that in reverse
and say if you elect 80% women, you should have your
money taken away, because you have an imbalance.
Historically, there are reasons we may have fewer
women, and I dearly would love to see 50% of this House
represented by men and 50% of the House represented by
women. But I cannot in any way endorse things that
upset the balance of fairness.
Here in Ontario in 1967 I went to teach in a
community. That community had a black restaurant and a
white restaurant, and I was unaware of that. I walked
into both restaurants, said hello to the proprietors
and so on, and a young lady came to me, in 1967, here
in southwestern Ontario, and said “You did a wrong
thing. You went into the black restaurant. That's a
taboo. That's something you don't do.”
When I talk about equality, I talk about fairness. I
l listened very carefully to you, Ms. Laidlaw. You
suggested that your husband would not allow you to be
fair. Well, that certainly is not a partnership as I
see marriage partnerships. I am very concerned about
one of the earlier statements: women cannot be sure
they will get the same support from their spouses.
That's wrong. I would dearly support my spouse at any
time, and I don't like to be categorized. “Men don't
support spouses; women do.” Those kinds of statements
A voice: She didn't say that, Jerry.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Excuse me. I did not say
Mr. Jerry Pickard: I wrote down your words. You
said women looked after children so that men could run
for office, but women cannot be sure they will get the
same support from their spouses. You said that.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Yes, I said that.
Mr. Jerry Pickard: I am saying that's wrong.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: It is.
Mr. Jerry Pickard: That's dead wrong.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: These men are very
Mr. Jerry Pickard: Women can get the same support
from their spouses. I don't like to see that
happening. I voiced my opinion, and I would like your
We have to move in those directions, but to make
negative statements about males, about people who are
serving society, to say “My husband wouldn't let
me”, or to say men can't see things or they laughed at
women, I do not condone that in any respect. As a
matter of fact, I would be very strongly opposed to
that. But I don't like the other side coming off in a
direction that has been put out either.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Having read some history,
I'm reminded of the first responses to Nellie McClung
when she proposed that women should have the vote. It
sounds like much of the same arguments.
Mr. Pickard, you did mention specifically teaching. I
would remind you that in the role of teaching, young
women historically, since the turn of the last
century—my grandmother was one of them—taught in the
schools, then they got married and raised the children.
Men do teach. Men predominate at the university level.
Men are predominantly those teachers who have tenure at
the university level. It is one profession where we
have seen a segregation that affects not only ranking
but also pay.
I'll leave that aside, because it's a bit of a red
herring, since women also do many other jobs besides
earn money when they can. I would point out that when
I said a woman could not be sure her spouse could give
her the same support she was expected to give in the
case that he was running, this happens to be just the
plain, cold, hard truth. If a man has a paid job, he
usually cannot arrange flexible hours. He cannot
arrange time off. He cannot arrange to leave the job
so that he can give his wife the freedom she needs to
campaign for a nomination. It's simply a fact of the
way things are right now.
We don't have parental leaves or discretionary leaves
written into the law or provided for. It is one of the
measures we do need to look at. But this is not the
place or the case. We are simply looking at what the
situation is for women running for office. We are not
discussing some of the wider issues of achieving gender
equality and gender-neutral institutions, which have
been addressed at some length and which the Commission
on the Status of Women has done a great deal of
research work to establish the necessity for.
I'll leave it at that. I just want to remind you
that I'm simply talking about the situation as it
exists now vis-à-vis this one issue of women running
for a nomination. That's what we were talking about.
Mr. Jerry Pickard: What I'm trying to say to you
is I really, strongly believe women need to have all
kinds of opportunities to do things and function in
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: I'm glad to hear it.
Mr. Jerry Pickard: But when people start to make
statements that are in my opinion quite biased and
erroneous, I do get concerned.
In my relationship with my wife, I would support her
in whatever she was doing, and I believe she would
support me. I don't think it is fair to say men do
this, women do this. That's not the way our society
works, and that's not the way democratic people in our
Going one step further, I think we have to make
certain. I was not the richest candidate in the
election in which I ran, and I don't think most others
were either. What is it? It's the electorate that
decides who's going to be there.
I would challenge
your organizations to get involved in election
campaigns to help people, women in particular, get
elected, and encourage other women to support
women to be elected. That's the only way our society
will function fairly, or we will segregate every group
to say I need so many of these and so many of these in
Parliament. No matter what the group is, they can
always make a case for unfair representation.
Ms. Ruth Brown: Certainly our organization has
worked in elections, for instance, at putting together
information about what the issues are from women's
point of view. We have worked on elections. We're
non-partisan, so we haven't worked to elect one party
As far as support is concerned, I'm sure you can't
stereotype and say men do it and women don't. I totally
agree with you. But I think the fact is still that not
as many women work full-time. Women are home caring for
children, and so on. It is harder for the majority of
men to give the kind of support a woman candidate
needs, because they're working full-time.
Mr. Jerry Pickard: Thank you very
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. John Solomon (Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre,
NDP): Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm an NDP
member of Parliament from Saskatchewan, and over the
years I've been involved with candidate recruitment for
our party, both provincially and federally. I have
personally approached a large number of different women
to seek nominations in various constituencies. The
biggest problem we had in recruiting women, and still
do, is because of family commitments, whether they're
caring for children or siblings or elder parents.
We established in Saskatchewan many years ago a fund
that gave money to women who were seeking nominations.
Our federal party as well has a fund, which we call the
Agnes MacPhail fund, which contributes money to female
candidates who are running for nomination. Once you
get nominated, there's also some additional money to
offset some of the family care costs you would
I think our fund has been reasonably successful. About
half of our federal candidates in the last election
were female. Right now, our caucus is 40% women. I
think it has worked fairly well. I don't think it has
worked as well as we'd like to see it work, but it's
certainly an improvement over the ways we used to
So I guess my question to all three of you, if
you'd like, is what specific sorts of incentives would
you like to see? You mentioned money for parties who
elected female candidates, money for parties who would
encourage women to run, and so on. Are there one or two
key things we could do as a country that would
clearly be a stimulus to having more women seek
nomination for the various political parties? The
funding is one part of it, but if you don't have a
supportive spouse or you don't have the resources, or
if you're at a certain age where you feel you just
can't abandon or leave the home on a regular basis,
which politicians do, what would really work, in your
The Chairman: I would suggest that Ms. Proulx
answer first, and then we'll go to the others at
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Certainly having been a
candidate, I can tell you that the first step is to
create a comfort level for women to pursue political
office. I'm sure if you go around and ask your
colleagues who are female members of Parliament, you can
probably very quickly find out that they perhaps do
not have any children, or their children are now at an
age when they no longer are dependent, or they were
able to pursue political office once the nurturing
stage was over, or they were beyond a
certain age group that allowed them to invest the time
and energy required to hold a position in Parliament.
Certainly creating the comfort level is the first
thing—making women aware that the parties are
interested in seeing female candidates or want all
candidates who are going to put their foot forward and
who are of the calibre you're looking for, whatever the
gender is. Certainly there needs to be an emphasis on
welcoming females to step into the ring.
Also, a mentorship program would allow women to
connect with women who are either backroom politicians
or members of Parliament, who would be willing to be
accessible to women wanting to pursue political office.
That may be one venue that would perhaps be a
user-friendly kind of approach to encourage women to
As for the whole gamut of skill sets you need to
pursue a campaign, women traditionally do not have the
network of funding available and so on to put together
a campaign, so certainly you need to have someone to
mentor you through that process. It's all about
connecting in the community with the party you're
interested in pursuing, but making available the
mentors to help groom you along the way. That could be
perhaps a step forward for any of the political parties
to groom qualified candidates.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Do any of the other witnesses wish to continue in that
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: One of the issues discussed
at this conference in the United Kingdom, on moving
women into public life, was the fact that this comfort
level is not there for women. They mentioned the fact
that in the press, women are trivialized all the time.
When a woman puts herself forward for office, they
discuss what she wears, how she looks, and how many
children she has. All of these things are very
important. Does she have a husband? Is she divorced?
Is she living with somebody? What are the arrangements
of her life? These are not the first things they ask
men. We just simply are not treated the same way.
It was argued at this convention that this is one of
the forms of trivialization that makes women hesitate
to expose themselves. You don't feel very good when
you're made to feel you are less of a person than
somebody whose genitals are different.
A comfort level implies a great deal of change in
attitude all around. Naturally it won't happen
overnight. We do know that in parties, there are also
local party structures that tend to be male
hierarchies. They tend to be male-dominated, because
it is the males who usually combine their party
activities with their business or work activities, and
they have the disposable time, usually because some
woman doing unpaid work is facilitating that
participation. They tend to know other males better.
They don't know the women who are available. They
don't know their talents. They're not aware of them.
So a great deal of openness needs to be developed.
You men are just going to have to try harder.
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chairman: Referring generically to everyone in
the room, all you persons out there.
Does anyone else want to speak on the same subject?
Thank you, Mr. Solomon.
We'll now go to Ms. Bakopanos for five minutes.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos (Ahuntsic, Lib.): Thank you
very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you very much for your comments. I certainly,
as a female member of Parliament, have lived a lot of
those experiences you have expressed within the body of
your presentations, and many, many more. Perhaps
someday I'll decide to tell the truth, as they say.
But all that said, my experience is not unique.
I want to say I did have political experience when I
ran, because I had worked a very long time behind the
scenes in provincial politics. Because of my
experience, I still feel—and you can comment on
this—it is the nomination process that is the biggest
hurdle a female has to get over,
before she even takes
a run at being a member of Parliament...be it on the
municipal, provincial, or whatever level.
Although to some extent Mr. White will find this
unusual, I agree that the fight should be there in the
first round. But if you look at some of the
associations and how they're run, there are a lot of
females in the associations. But in general they're
not the presidents or vice-presidents.
If you look at the hierarchy of a political party,
again the number of females there who are
actually making decisions on the rules for the
nomination process is very limited.
Maybe this is a difficult question. Maybe it's a
question I shouldn't put to you, and maybe Madam
St-Hilaire may misrepresent what I'm going to say, but
if you had a choice, would you agree with me that a
priority should be given to the first hurdle, which is
the nomination process, and changing the rules within a
political party, including my own? Then see if that
has an effect on the results in the House of Commons.
The second process would aim for one-third
representation in the House of Commons, which is about
30% if you make the calculation. So that's my first
question to all three of you. Then I'll just give my
I think what Mr. Boudria is trying to do in terms of
expenses is an exceptionally good recommendation
because I lived it. I had two young children and took
a leave of absence from my job without pay. That meant
I was without pay for two months. I was lucky I had a
husband who worked and was able, but I still had to pay
day care expenses for my daughters and I still had to
make sure my house was cleaned.
I didn't have any dependents, and I would like to see
an extension of the recommendation. I didn't have
grandparents who needed my assistance, but I'm sure
other possible women candidates in the future may have
that as a burden also. I think that should be extended
to include those expenses.
I included, as I said, housekeeping and other
expenses. Maybe it's not as important but it is
something you don't do. You don't do your laundry or
clean your house if you're running an election
campaign and going door to door. I didn't have time
for it, in any case. So I don't know how you feel
On my third question, I'm a member, Madam Proulx, of
the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional
Women's Clubs in Montreal and I've been a member for a
long time. I haven't been to a lot of conferences, but
there is still a lack of support from the business
community. The women's business community somehow
supports most of the women within that community, but
outside of that community—I have never been in the
business community; I've always been in politics—I had
very little support, despite the fact I was a member of
that club, from women in the business community.
People tend to know each other within the same fields,
and I think the circle has to be enlarged. In each
field lawyers know each other, engineers know each
other, and business women know each other. A lot more
networking needs to take place between the different
organizations, like the Federation, the National
Council and other women's organizations. I don't know
how you feel about that.
Those are a lot of questions, I suppose,
but take a crack at them.
The Chairman: Yes, we'll try to get those questions
answered in 45 seconds. Okay.
Ms. Proulx, the last question was directed to you.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Yes. I'm trying to remember
all of the questions.
The Chairman: The last question related to more
networking and promotion among women organizations of
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: And also the business.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: I agree with the member there
needs to be a lot more of that. I think the problem is
we are non-partisan. However, the members sometimes
get stuck on that and don't recognize that if we want
women elected, we have to get involved.
I suggest you come to the Sudbury club and we'll show
you how we do this. You can talk to Diane Marleau.
She is a product of the Sudbury BPW.
There is definitely more work to be done in
networking, and as it relates to the other women's
organizations, we need to work closer toward that goal.
We need to communicate that and develop a strategy to
make it happen.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Do other witnesses wish to answer any of the three
questions? Ms. Laidlaw-Sly.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: On the nomination process,
if you read our whole brief, you'll see we had a great
deal to say, and there wasn't one person we consulted
who didn't say it's the big hurdle. I agree with
you: the big hurdle is the nominations process, not
actually getting elected. The parties do an excellent
job, as a rule, helping out. Nobody said the parties
aren't doing a good job once you have the nomination,
but getting a nomination is a horse of another colour.
That's very difficult.
On your second question about expenses, yes, we've
heard different elected women speaking to us, and
they've all bemoaned the fact that their housekeeping
jobs and responsibilities are not picked up by anybody
else. They have to find a way of looking after it.
They have expenses, in other words, that a male doesn't
have, because he usually has a female partner who takes
over the job—not necessarily female, but usually
female, shall we say.
So yes, expenses are an issue that for women is
different from men. There are different expenses and
different ratios of expense. Until the day our
husbands or our sons do 50% or more of the housework,
why, it's not going to happen. I raised my sons to do
housework, and I have wonderful sons-in-law and sons,
but I can tell you they don't do 50%, although they
carry a big load.
I have daughters who are professional women, and they
are in the position of businesswomen who are juggling
family responsibilities, caregiving responsibilities
for which they get no pay, and the business of earning
their portion or practising their profession, be it
doctor, lawyer, dentist, or what have you. They do not
have time to support other women. I've noticed in BPW
meetings, Business and Professional Women's meetings,
the women themselves are stressed out because they are
trying to ride two horses at once. They're doing it,
but it doesn't give them a great deal of disposable
And the nature of the work they're doing usually
precludes, or they find they do not have the time for,
the natural networking and just plain joshing around
that the men seem to do. Somehow or other, when men
are standing around yakking about something or other,
it's seen as useful. When women are seen standing
around, it's seen as gossiping. There's a derogatory
So you're quite right: women aren't giving women the
support they should. But in many cases it's because
they don't have the time. I look at my daughters and
daughters-in-law; they're stressed right out. We've
trashed a whole generation of women, expecting them to
do everything without building in support systems that
would work for them. As women, we have to push the
legislators of the world, whether they are male or
female, to address this inequality.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Ms. Russell, did you have something to add there?
Ms. Susan Russell: Yes, I did. I would like to
point out that the Canadian Federation is a
non-partisan organization and as such cannot support a
particular political group. However, individual
members do belong to riding associations and do support
in the political process. So it is happening, but in
not quite the way you outlined. The way in which we do
help, or try to help, is through advocacy—for example,
by being here today, by consulting our members, by
passing resolutions, and by dealing with equality
Getting back to the nomination process, which you
mentioned, our members across the country said this was
very difficult. They said within the riding
associations there was systemic prejudice against
women, because people thought maybe they would not make
it, they might have a baby, or they might do something
They would support the tried and true. In other
words, you perpetuate what you know, and if it has been
a male candidate, why not get another one somewhat
similar? The first one was good; why not have another
one the same? That is a barrier we need to break down.
There are qualified women out there. We should be
supporting them, and they do need financial assistance
during the campaign.
I agree with your comments on housekeeping and
caregiving. They're both very, very important. Dress
very, very important, because women do have different
needs from men. That's it.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Now I'm going to go to three members as quickly as we
can. We have Mr. Anders, Ms. Catterall, and Mr.
Mr. Rob Anders (Calgary West, Ref.): Thank you
very much, Mr. Chairman.
My first question I'd like to direct to Cathy
Laidlaw-Sly. Would you recommend and
support that 50% of those involved in nursing, 50% of
those involved in day care, 50% of those involved in
elementary school teaching—and I'll leave it at
that—should be male?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: We're back at that one?
No. We didn't address that and we didn't suggest that
at all. Those are considerations that are under
discussion in the professions themselves. We note
with approval that there are more opportunities for
males who want to be in nursing. We note with
approval that there are more opportunities for females
to practise what are seen as traditional male
occupations. We think that's the way it should be.
We're not talking about that, and we didn't ask for any
legislation on it. And as far as I'm concerned, that's
not part of the subject of the Canada Elections Act.
Ms. Susan Russell: Could I respond to that?
The Chairman: Ms. Russell.
Ms. Susan Russell: Yes, I did have a response. I
have a son who is a nurse.
If men are willing to take the pay scale that women
take in nursing, in teaching, and in those other
professions, I don't see why they shouldn't do it.
There is no barrier to them doing it. If they wish
that pay scale, that will be fine by me.
Mr. Rob Anders: I pointed out, Mr. Chairman,
that I find it somewhat ironic that in one particular
occupation we have groups here, who in the name of
equality, supposedly, are saying that a
fixed percentage has to be female, and yet in other
occupations, where there are known to be number
differentials, where females are overrepresented in
nursing, day care, and elementary school teaching,
it is not kosher, according to their same ideology, to
have 50% of the occupations and positions be
male. I frankly think that's sexist. I think there's
a real bias there, and I don't think it's fair.
I'd like to touch on a couple of other points,
I get a general sense that the group here does not
believe in equality of opportunity, but instead
believes in equality of result. Does that carry across
all of the presenters today?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: No. That is not what we
said. I'm afraid you're putting words in our mouths.
Mr. Rob Anders: Mrs.—I don't if know if it's
Mrs.—is it Mrs.?
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Yes.
Mr. Rob Anders: Mrs. Laidlaw-Sly, you did say that
you thought the parties should be awarded based on not
how many candidates they ran who were female, but
instead how many were actually elected. And that
implies to me that it doesn't really matter what the
opportunities are, but instead what the actual results
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: I see where you're
basing your argument. First of all, I think it's
a bit of a red herring. What we said was we were
looking at a situation where the difficulty is, for
women, perceived and real: getting the nomination. We
said we therefore either somehow redress the
difficulties in getting a nomination and provide an
even playing field, a level playing field, so that both
sexes have the same opportunities and a woman isn't
required to climb a steeper mountain than a man is, or
that the parties instigate whatever procedures they
wish, as self-governing organizations, to ensure that
more women are candidates.
To the degree that they manage to select or assist
very capable women to come forward and stand for
election, I've no doubt they will be successful.
But we're not saying they have to. We are saying that
we would like to see a critical mass of women, elected
women, be in the House, and that's generally held to
be one third of the elected members. That's the rule of
thumb. And we would like to see this achieved as soon
as possible. We would like to see the problems
women such as ourselves—we're here telling you what
the problems are for us—would like to see this
committee address to redress the imbalances.
Mr. Rob Anders: Mr. Chairman, because this is
going to be the last opportunity—
The Chairman: You still have 20 seconds.
Mr. Rob Anders: Good. I want to point out
that I was not the richest person to run in my riding
by a long stretch. I had three candidates who were far
wealthier than I. And in terms of trivializing
women, I have rarely seen men criticize women with
regard to their clothing, their hair, their earrings,
their ankles, their stockings, and their nails.
Ms. Marlene Catterall (Ottawa West—Nepean, Lib.): You
have to be kidding.
Mr. Rob Anders: It is more often women who
criticize each other on these counts.
Ms. Eleni Bakopanos: We'll send you copies
of some of the articles.
The Chairman: Ms. Brown, you had something to add.
Ms. Ruth Brown: To go back to the question of
occupation, it seems to me you have two totally
different things there. I think we're perfectly happy
to have, as Susan says, men enter any of the
female-dominated professions. They'll find the pay
scale is not so good. But I do not think the Parliament
of Canada is an occupation. I think it's a
decision-making body and that it needs to have women as
part of it, as half of it.
Ms. Susan Russell: Perhaps I should amend my own
comments about the richest candidate, because I think I
have led you astray. Generally speaking, men get more
funding. The money may not be their own, but in
general they get funded better. That was what I meant.
The Chairman: Ms. Catterall.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: I wasn't here when Margaret
Mitchell was, but I was here when one of the most
prominent women in Parliament got called a slut on the
floor of the House of Commons. So to think that the
number of women and the regular presence of women
doesn't make a difference in how this place
think we're making a big mistake.
I've never heard the quality of men's voices referred
to by the media, but I have heard one of the most
prominent cabinet ministers—
Mr. Ted White: What about Preston Manning?
Ms. Marlene Catterall: —in this House criticized
for her squeaky voice by the media.
Mr. White said “Let us boys
look after you; we look after all the people we
represent.” And that's fair, we do look after all the
people we represent. But while we brag about this being
the best country in the world in which to live, it is
still the fact that if you look at the status of women
around the world, we are only ninth. So you guys
haven't done that great a job, and you have had the
majority and you have had the decision-making for a
very long time. Women in Parliament in decision-making
roles make a difference.
I was surprised to hear my colleague refer to women
teachers. Yes, they've predominated in elementary
school education, but they've had a very small minority
of the jobs as principals. Why? Are they less
capable? No. It's because they don't get equal
consideration, and that's exactly what we're talking
We do want the best candidates. We want women to have
an equal opportunity to demonstrate that they're the
Let me tell you some of the things I see happening in
the party process, the nomination process, that don't
allow this to happen. The people looking for
candidates, as one of you made the point very well,
tend to look for who has succeeded in the past. And we
only need to look at how many women there have been in
Parliament, fewer than 120 in the whole history of the
country, to know that there haven't been very many
examples of women succeeding.
You're right, if you've had a good male candidate who
has won elections for you and you need to choose a new
candidate, you're more likely to go with somebody who
has succeeded. The research of the Lortie commission
is very enlightening, because it demonstrated, among
other things, that where a local riding association
that doesn't have a sitting member has a search
committee charged with going out and seeking out the
best candidate, they are more likely to have women
We also know that when women are nominated they have a
slight edge in terms of getting elected, very slight.
So it is the nomination process, but it is the
process of the party and the whole history of the
parties that have led to a situation where there have
been so many fewer women candidates. It's not a
marginal thing; it's a major difference between
the number of women candidates and the number of men
candidates. It's five to one, essentially.
So while we can't change how parties operate, what
we can do is identify in the Elections Act a mechanism
for giving them the incentive to open up their eyes and
look more fairly and more equally at the other half of
the population—pardon me, the other 52% of the
population—because the facts are simple: they haven't been
doing it. I am one who believes in absolute
fairness, and there has not been fairness or we would
have a different House of Commons from what we have
today. And whatever the disincentives are that there aren't
more women, we have to overcome those disadvantages if
we truly believe we want a democratic Parliament.
It's that simple.
And what the minister has put
forward is nothing that says you have to have so many,
nothing that forces anybody to do anything, nothing
that takes away, Ted, the right of your voters to
choose you over Mobina Jaffer, or whoever else might
run against you the next time. But it is
something that does at least
create a greater likelihood that the parties will
not operate with the usual blinkers on but will try to
look more fairly for the most qualified candidate, not
the one most like the one they had before.
It's that simple. I guess that doesn't lead me to
any questions, except maybe one specific one. We've
talked about, as you know, how the minister has put
forward the suggestion that child care expenses be
allowed. I think I heard all three of you suggest that
it should be more like dependant care, not simply—
Ms. Ruth Brown: Yes.
Ms. Marlene Catterall: —child care, because I
think we know now that one in five women are looking
after someone other than a child who is dependent on
them for care.
That was the only really concrete thing I
had, Mr. Chairman. I did have to get some comment
on the record here.
The Chairman: You asked a very fine series of
Thank you, Ms. Catterall.
Is there any response from the witnesses, or Ms. Proulx? Is
Ms. Proulx still there?
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Yes, I am.
The Chairman: Good.
I'll go from Ms. Catterall to Mr. Bergeron.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Mr. Chairman, this has been a very
interesting and informative session. I watched the reactions of my
Reform Party colleagues closely. I also observed that Mr. Pickard
was quick to take offence with the idea of awarding incentives to
political parties that encourage women to run for elected office.
Mr. Pickard has probably forgotten that in recent years, that
is during the 1970s and 1980s, the Government of Canada brought in
a number of initiatives, which were referred to at the time as
positive discrimination initiatives, in an effort to correct
certain structural imbalances within the public service in
representation by women, members of cultural communities,
aboriginals and other groups. Therefore, it's not at all surprising
to see people react adversely or negatively to the idea of bringing
in incentives or positive discrimination measures.
Ms. St-Hilaire made a point during her presentation which in
my view is very important. To those who are concerned that a
measure designed to encourage women to become active in politics
might be extended to ethnic groups, persons with disabilities and
so forth, an important distinction must be drawn. The issue here is
not whether a person is a member of a cultural community, an
aboriginal or a person with a disability. The issue is whether the
candidate is a man or a woman.
Gender representation must be recognized in our institutions.
One would have to be blind not to see that the economic and
political structures in which we operate today as a society were
created in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries by men, for men. The
system was not designed in a way that would allow for the
integration of women. The structures as such have never been
altered. If we want women to contribute, along with men, to the
process of making structural changes to existing institutions, they
must be allowed to take their place within the system. If this
means that the state must enact legislation to encourage women to
be actively involved in politics, then so be it.
Mr. Anders' earlier attempt to draw a comparison between
women's involvement in politics and their representation within
other professional groups was off the mark. If we want to encourage
women to enter non-traditional fields and if we want to take steps
to encourage men to consider non-traditional jobs as well, then our
legislative framers must ensure that changes are made to our social
and economic structures.
It will never be possible for us to achieve these changes
through conventional channels, so as to ensure that women make a
contribution—not necessarily a better contribution than men, but
a different one. I think this could make all the difference.
If legislation is needed to bring about these changes and to
ensure much sooner a more equitable representation in the political
arena by men and women, than that's what we must do. If we sit back
and wait for nature to take its course, we may have to wait another
50, 60, 100 or 125 years before we see an equal number of men and
women in politics. Our colleagues described the problem very well.
The problem lies with the way political conventions are organized
and these conventions are run by political parties.
The New Democratic Party has, of course, established a fund to
encourage women to become high-ranking party officials, and that's
a fine initiative on its part. Unfortunately, however, not all
political parties have gone this far. In order to get political
parties to simplify the way they run conventions and to encourage
greater participation by women in the process, the state must award
parties incentives to continue moving in this direction.
Of course, certain structural changes are warranted because
some people are uncomfortable with the idea of giving money to
encourage women's involvement in politics. This may be only a
transitional or temporary measure, one that will lead to more
fundamental changes. The Canadian Labour Congress has suggested
that proportional representation might not only correct any
inequities within the current system in terms of party
representation and ideologies in the House of Commons, but might
also correct certain imbalances in gender representation in the
House. Proportional representation would also prevent a situation
where—one can always dream—eventually, 60 per cent of all MPs
would be women, and 40 per cent, men. Currently, we have the
reverse situation, more or less. There are too few women in
politics and we need to change that. Obviously, with this bill, we
do not foresee the inclusion in the Elections Act of a proportional
representation provision. Therefore, some transitional or temporary
measures are needed. One such positive measure is the bill
sponsored by my colleague for Longueuil and supported by the
This is merely my personal opinion. Perhaps our witnesses
would like to respond to my comments about financial incentives.
The Chairman: Mr. Bergeron, you've made a very fine
intervention, but I wanted to let you know that
we're at six and a half minutes.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: I have a technical question for Ms.
Proulx. Is there an official French designation for the Canadian
Federation of Business and Professional Women's Clubs? I see here
on the agenda that the name appears in English only. I was
wondering what your federation was officially called in French.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: In French, we're known as the Fédération
canadienne des clubs de femmes de carrières commerciales et
professionnelles. That's not a very good translation and that's
why, at the national level, we refer to ourselves as BPW Canada, in
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Thank you very much.
Ms. Rachel Proulx: I greatly appreciated your comments. I
think you painted a fairly accurate picture of the situation.
Mr. Stéphane Bergeron: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Now, if I don't see any further
requests for interventions—
Ms. Marlene Catterall: I'm restraining myself
The Chairman: Of course.
Well, it being 22 minutes after the hour...but I will
recognize Ms. Laidlaw-Sly.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Thank you very much, Mr.
I wanted to return to the issue of third-party funding
and putting limits on it, which we espoused. We want
to see it limited, controlled, because, as we see it
right now, there is a great inequality in the means for
third parties to raise funds.
I want to draw it to your attention and have it noted
here in the minutes. This is a verbal interjection.
We didn't put it in our report. The fact is, the
Fraser Institute—admittedly—is able to give receipts
for donations to support it. The Fraser Institute
exists as a research and advocacy group, for business
interests in particular, which, I repeat, is a special
interest group. It's certainly not a general one.
Women's organizations like the National Council of
Women of Canada are not allowed to have a tax number.
We cannot raise money by donation because we are told
that we don't just do research and education work but
advocacy. I submit that there is a gross injustice
there, an apparent injustice, and that this is perhaps
one of the corollary issues when it comes to the
funding of the political process.
I would hope that this committee will take a very
close look at how different third-party groups are
funded. Is it on an equal basis? If not, why not?
And can it be made equal?
I thank you.
The Chairman: I will just note that I'm advised that
the Department of Finance and the Department of
National Revenue are looking at the issue of charitable
numbers, tax numbers, and deductibility of
contributions from the general perspective, not just
from the women's issues perspective.
But we do take your point, and our researcher here has
taken note of your verbal representation on this.
Ms. Cathy Laidlaw-Sly: Thank you very much.
The Chairman: Thank you for being here.
Thank you, Ms. Proulx, for joining us by
Ms. Rachel Proulx: Thank you.
The Chairman: I'll now adjourn.