Tory MPs Say They Support Pay Equity, But Could Not Back NDP's Motion On Issue

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Conservative MPs who voted against an NDP motion on tackling the gender wage gap say they absolutely believe Canadian men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.

And they appear to be urging a closer look at the motion and the debates that preceded the vote.

On Wednesday, the motion from NDP status of women critic Sheila Malcolmson — which, among other things, called for a special parliamentary committee to study the issue — passed the House of Commons with the support of 173 members of the Liberal government. Nine Bloc Quebecois MPs and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May voted in favour, along with 41 New Democrats.

lisa raitt michelle rempel
Tory MPs Lisa Raitt and Michelle Rempel voted against the NDP motion. (Photo: The Canadian Press)

However, 91 Tory MPs — including interim leader and status of women critic Rona Ambrose — voted against the motion. Other women serving in key leadership roles for the party, including finance critic Lisa Raitt, immigration critic Michelle Rempel, and health critic Kellie Leitch, also opted not to back the motion.

Rempel 'on record' supporting pay equity

Rempel, who has frequently spoken out on issues of gender equality and sexism, told The Huffington Post Canada Thursday that her party supported the "first two principles" of the NDP motion. Those principles call on the government to take action to "close the unacceptable gap in pay between men and women" and recognize pay equity as a right.

"I am absolutely on the record on that," Rempel said.

Her main issue was the call to create a new, 10-member committee that will be supported by staff and conduct hearings on the issue. Rempel suggested that such a group already exists.

"To me, this would be an excellent study for the status of women committee, which we already put resources in," she said.

Rempel also said she was "surprised by the timing of the motion," considering the 10-member committee on the status of women hadn't been called to meet.

The Alberta MP's remarks to HuffPost echo her questions to Patty Hajdu, minister for the status of women, in the House of Commons Tuesday.

"Does the minister feel the House should spend additional resources on a separate committee for this issue?" she asked.

Hajdu responded that Liberals would support the motion in its entirety, saying "the issue of pay equity is so significant and so far-reaching that it deserves a committee of its own."

Raitt: NDP took 'pot-shot' at past government

Raitt, meanwhile, is accusing the NDP of using the motion to take a jab at the past Conservative government that all but guaranteed Tories wouldn't support it.

The Ontario MP appeared on CTV's "Power Play" Wednesday, where she was asked about her vote. Like Rempel, Raitt said Tories supported the principle of pay equity but wanted the existing status of women committee to handle the issue.

"I've fought all my life for that," she said. "There's no question about it."

But Raitt said the motion also "slags what the (previous Tory) government did in the past," referencing an accusation in the motion that the previous Conservative government "eliminated" the right to pay equity in the public service in 2009.

Six years ago, the Conservative government passed the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which meant complaints about pay equity would be handled by the Public Service Labour Relations Board, not the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

"We stand by our legacy," Raitt said, adding that the changes in 2009 that put complaints in the collective bargaining system gave women "an actual path to results."

"You took a political pot-shot in a motion that caused us not to be able to vote in favour."

Raitt said Tories "politely" asked the NDP to remove that aspect of the motion so that there could be all-party support, but were rejected.

IPolitics reported Wednesday that the Tories also tried to amend the part of the motion calling for the new committee and the implementation of recommendations from a 2004 pay equity task force. That report called on Parliament to enact stand-alone pay equality legislation.

NDP MP Nathan Cullen, who also appeared on "Power Play," said the proposed Tory changes would have effectively gutted the motion.

Cullen pointed to a recent report from the World Economic Forum showing Canada ranks 8oth out 130 countries when it comes to wage equality. Raitt said she does not like those statistics, either.

But the Tory MP suggested New Democrats were to blame for the fact that the motion didn't pass with all-party support.

"You took a political pot-shot in a motion that caused us not to be able to vote in favour," she said.

Watch the debate in the video below. The discussion on pay equity begins around the 6:49 mark:


Tory MP Dan Albas also took to Twitter Wednesday to say he supports pay equity, but said the matter should be studied by the existing status of women committee.

The full motion:

That the House (a) recognize that the government must take action to close the unacceptable gap in pay between men and women which contributes to income inequality and discriminates against women;

(b) recognize pay equity as a right;

(c) call on the government to implement the recommendations of the 2004 Pay Equity Task Force Report and restore the right to pay equity in the public service which was eliminated by the previous Conservative government in 2009; and

(d) appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings on the matter of pay equity and to propose a plan to adopt a proactive federal pay equity regime, both legislative and otherwise, and

(i) that this committee consist of 10 members which shall include six members from the Liberal Party, three members from the Conservative Party, and one member from the New Democratic Party, provided that the Chair is from the government party,

(ii) that in addition to the Chair, there be one Vice-Chair from each of the recognized opposition parties,

(iii) that the committee have all of the powers of a standing committee as provided in the Standing Orders, as well as the power to travel, accompanied by the necessary staff, subject to the usual authorization from the House,

(iv) that the members to serve on the said committee be appointed by the Whip of each party depositing with the Acting Clerk of the House a list of his or her party's members of the committee no later than February 17, 2016,

(v) that the quorum of the committee be as provided for in Standing Order 118, provided that at least one member of each recognized party be present,

(vi) that membership substitutions be permitted from time to time, if required, in the manner provided for in Standing Order 114(2),

(vii) that the committee report to the House no later than June 10, 2016.

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