Briefing notes from Minister for Women and Gender Equality Pam Parsons say pay equity legislation is ‘expensive’ and could involve ‘significant legal battles’
Briefing materials prepared for MLA Pam Parsons, Minister responsible for Women and Gender Equality, provide some context for her to blame the high cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project for the lack of legislation on pay equity in the province.
The binder used by Parsons in the House of Assembly includes key messages on topical issues – one-page pages with talking points on issues ranging from in vitro fertilization to violence prevention.
The contents of the binder are available on the province’s Access to Information website.
One of the bullet points included under the pay equity page reads: “Proactive pay equity legislation can be costly, operationally complex, involve significant legal battles, and result only in minor and insignificant adjustments for a limited number of women.”
Women’s rights advocates in Newfoundland and Labrador have been calling for pay equity legislation for over 30 years.
“To deny or further delay proactive legislation is to violate the human rights of many marginalized women and workers in Newfoundland and Labrador,” wrote Bridget Clarke, Advocacy Coordinator with the St. John’s Status of Women Council, in a guest column for SaltWire Network. in March.
The provincial government has been talking about such legislation since 1988, but we remain the only province in Atlantic Canada without pay equity legislation. The others enacted laws in the 1980s.
“Proactive pay equity legislation can be costly, operationally complex, involve significant legal battles, and result in only minor and insignificant adjustments for a limited number of women.
– Information note
At the same time, this province has the largest gender wage gap in Canada, with women earning 66 cents for every dollar earned by a man.
In 2017, on International Women’s Day, the House of Assembly voted unanimously to introduce pay equity legislation, but five years later it has still not been introduced.
In 2018, an interdepartmental committee was formed to explore potential ways to achieve pay equity, and it researched related initiatives across Canada.
According to Parsons’ briefing notes, this research “is currently under review for next steps.”
Another key message in the binder reads, “The provincial government is taking the time to learn best practices on pay equity from other provinces that have gone further on this issue.
In March of this year, Parsons came under fire for blaming the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project for the lack of progress on pay equity legislation.
“The half a billion dollars that we need, that we get from Ottawa every year just to smooth out our rate hikes, would go a long way toward addressing issues like pay equity,” she said during Question Period on March 15.
But it wasn’t the first time Parsons had used that excuse.
During question period on June 8, 2021, she answered a question from the Progressive Conservative MP
r, who asked when the legislation will be introduced, with the following response:
“Well, certainly, pay equity has been a main conversation since I’ve been in this department. I will say that considerable work was done for years and years before this government came to power. This is certainly not a new problem.
“That said, we are committed to working collaboratively with departments such as the Department of Labor and all members to do what we can to make change happen as soon as possible in our fiscal reality.”
Conway Ottenheimer asked if legislation would be introduced in 2021.
“I would like to remind the honorable member, Mr. Speaker, that the Department for Women and Gender Equality does not have the authoritative legislation to implement this in the House,” Parsons replied.
“It will take collaborative work between the government. That said, we are certainly determined to do all we can within our fiscal reality. I remind the hon. member that payments like the $600 million we will need to mitigate rates certainly could have gone a long way toward programs like pay equity,” she said.
Later that week, during a discussion in Committee of the Whole, NDP MP Jim Dinn asked what steps were being taken to advance pay equity.
Parsons read briefing notes prepared by his staff, but then added: “What I can say, I guess at will, is that this is something we are certainly committed to doing in the financial reality. of what we can do to implement means on how we can move this project forward.
Dinn said the government will have to move faster “because we’re talking about the budget envelope and the budget realities; I would simply say that pay equity is a fiscal reality for those who experience it.