I had a chance to talk to Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth this morning, and we talked about the new session of Parliament, and some of the goings on. As the Senator is a major feminist philanthropist and advocate on women's issues, I thought I'd get her take on the contentious issue in the budget around pay equity for women, which the Opposition tends to decry as an "insult to women."
Q: There’s a lot of talk in this budget about the provision around pay equity, and I’m wondering what your perspective is on that, being as women’s issues are your big championing points?
A: What’s been happening, as I understand it, is that the unions have negotiated their deals, and then they go out for pay equity using the court system, and it has been a very slow, and it’s terribly expensive on everybody’s part, and I think the question the government asked is why aren’t the unions doing this when they’re negotiating wages? Why are they leaving women out in that sense? And they would like to see a more efficacious and efficient way to do it, so that’s why they’ve done it. It’s not that they don’t know it’s an issue. But these pay equity issues have been around for decades now – twenty, thirty years. And every government’s had to deal with it in one way or the other, and it has not yet been dealt with, and this is the Conservatives are going to attempt to do it, to make it negotiated through the union agreements.
Q: I know they’ve been pointing to precedent in I believe it’s Manitoba and Ontario, where they had legislation brought in, in those provinces, and I’m just wondering how that stacks up, and if you’ve seen the draft legislation they’re proposing to do?
A: The answer is no and no, and no. But I’m glad to know about it. When I deal with women’s issues, it tends to be more about poverty – the ones who don’t have jobs, rather than pay equity.
Q: What committees are you on this session?
A: Don’t know yet.
Q: You got eighteen new senators, so that should make things easier on your workload.
A: I hope so. Well it’ll also make better quality work, because I had five committees last year and you just ran, and you didn’t have time to study and brief yourself, so it’ll be better.
Q: Which ones are you hoping you’ll stay on?
A: Finance and Social Affairs. We’re making a deal about who’s going to chair Internal Economy. It usually goes to the party in power, and the Liberals don’t want to turn it over. I think they’re afraid of cuts – I don’t know what they’re afraid of, we haven’t said anything. But they’re just being stubborn and it’s foolish because they will be government within a decade, say, so they’ll get it back, who cares. I mean everybody know that they’re got to be slimming and trimming.
Q: Even the Liberals will admit that.
A: So we’re going to have votes on it in the Senate. Evidently half the Liberals are ‘sure, let them have it,’ and the other half is like ‘No way! We want a written agreement that when we’re back in power, we’ll get that.’ God, I hate those silly games. So there will be no committees until that’s dealt with, which is too bad.