Budget 2009: Legislation by Stealth: Amendments to Acts of Parliament with No Parliamentary Debate

April 24, 2009

The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, a non-budgetary amendment to an act of Parliament, was introduced in the 550+ pages of the 2009 Budget Bill C-10 as part of a fast track process intended to boost the flailing economy. Most of the document dealt with issues not directly related to economic stimulus measures. In effect these proposed amendments involve 42 acts of Parliament that have no connection to the budget at all. The move has been called “legislation by stealth” (CFUW 2009-02-26) since there could be no parliamentary debate on the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act as a new law independent of the Budget. It was hoped the Senate could stall passage of these amendments such as the proposed the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act which would effectively dismantle decades of work towards ensuring pay equity. On March 12, 2009 Bill C-10, the Budget Implementation Act, 2009, received Royal Assent.

“The new legislated criteria for evaluating “equitable compensation” will reintroduce sex discrimination into pay practices, rather than eliminate it. Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, it is a discriminatory practice for an employer to establish or maintain differences in wages between male and female employees employed in the same establishment who are performing work of equal value. In assessing the value of work performed by employees, the criterion to be applied is the composite of the skill, effort and responsibility required in the performance of the work and the conditions under which the work is performed (section 11). The new legislation adopts these criteria, but adds new ones that completely undermine the commitment to equal pay for work of equal value for women. Section 4(2)(b) of Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act adds that the value of the work performed is also to be assessed according to “the employer’s recruitment and retention needs in respect of employees in that job group or job class, taking into account the qualifications required to perform the work and the market forces operating in respect of employees with those qualifications.” This permits any evaluation to take into account that male-dominated jobs are valued more highly in the market, requiring the employer to pay more to attract new employees or retain current ones, even if the value of the work when it is assessed based on skill, effort and responsibility is no greater than that of female-dominated jobs. [T]he new legislation defines a female dominated group as one in which 70% of the workers are women; only these groups can seek “equitable compensation.” This is too rigid a definition as it simply puts outside the boundaries of the legislation those job groups in which women are 51 – 69% of the workers, no matter what the context is. [F]urther, unionized women cannot have the assistance of their unions to make pay equity complaints. Indeed, unions will be fined $50,000 if they assist any woman to make a complaint. We point out that this legal imposition of a fine violates international human rights norms, since it contravenes Article 9(3)(c) of the Declaration on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders. Article 9(3)(c) states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, … [T]o offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance or other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights and fundamental freedoms.” ((CFUW 2009-02-26)

 

In the Senate in early March 2009, Senators cautioned that only 27 of the 550-plus pages of the budget bill actually relate to the budget and economic stimulus measures. The rest involves making amendments to 42 acts of Parliament, many of which have no connection to the budget (PSAC. 2009-03-09).


 

Timeline

1977 The right to equal pay for work of equal value was introduced in Canadian federal human rights legislation to expunge sex discrimination inherent in market pay practices from assessment of value of work.

2009-03-12. Bill C-10, the Budget Implementation Act, 2009 was passed in the Senate and received Royal Assent. This includes the amendment: Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act: Enactment of Act: 394. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act

2009-03-23. Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights: Issue 2 – Evidence. Ottawa, ON.

Senator Nancy Ruth: If the bill [Bill C-10, the Budget Implementation Act, 2009] was passed in the Senate and has received Royal Assent [March 12, 2009], why are we studying anything in it?
The Chair: Can you discuss that question with the leadership? We are not studying the bill. We were asked to study the subject matter. 

2009-03-31 the Standing Committee on the Status of Women (Members of the Committee present: Sylvie Boucher, Patricia Davidson, Nicole Demers, Johanne Deschamps, Hon. Hedy Fry, Candice Hoeppner, Irene Mathyssen, Cathy McLeod, Hon. Anita Neville, Tilly O’Neill-Gordon and Lise Zarac) planned to hold four extra meetings to examine the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act and invite Minister Vic Toews, the Public Sector Labour Relations Board, Public Service Alliance of Canada, Professional Institute of the Public Sector of Canada, Communications Energy and Paperworkers, Canadian Labour Congress and Marie-Thérèse Chicha, Pay Equity Task Force Member and any other witnesses that the Committee agrees upon.
Notes

1. PART 11: Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act: Enactment of Act: 394. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act is enacted as follows:

An Act respecting the provision of equitable compensation in the public sector of Canada

Whereas Parliament affirms that women in the public sector of Canada should receive equal pay for work of equal value;
Whereas Parliament affirms that it is desirable to accomplish that goal through proactive means;
And whereas employers in the public sector of Canada operate in a market-driven economy;
Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Webliography and Bibliography

Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW). 2009-02-26. “Pay Equity Emptied of Meaning.”

GC. 2009-03-12. Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act: Enactment of Act: 394. The Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act

PSAC. 2009-03-09. “Senators on the right track with budget bill.”

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