My Question on Equal Pay Day

Ms. Peggy Sattler: My question is to the Premier. This year’s sunshine list revealed that even within the public sector in Ontario, a massive wage gap for women still persists. Only 25% of the people on the list in 2017 were women.

If the Premier can’t get this right in her own house after her party has been in charge for more than 14 years, how does she expect the people of this province to trust that she is working to close the wage gap for all Ontario women?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: We know that closing the wage gap is an extremely important imperative. We have been taking action. We’re committed to getting there, whether it is setting a target for women to make up at least 40% of public appointments to every provincial board and agency by 2019—and I would just say that across all of those agencies and boards we’re actually at 44%, but that doesn’t mean that every single one is at 40%. That is our commitment.

Encouraging businesses to appoint more women to their boards of directors or whether it’s the direct funding increases that we put into salaries for personal support workers, early childhood educators and developmental support workers, the vast majority of whom are women, those are all initiatives that this government has taken to work to close that wage gap.

Ms. Peggy Sattler: Speaker, again to the Premier: The Premier and her ministers have said they will try to put more women in more important roles in the public sector. She has asked the Toronto Stock Exchange nicely if they would please promote more women to their boards. What women in this province need now is concrete action; encouraging or asking nicely isn’t enough anymore. When will the Premier take this issue seriously and commit to enforcing tough measures to ensure that women in this province don’t have to go to work and wonder if their male counterparts are still making more money than they are?

Hon. Kathleen O. Wynne: I know the President of the Treasury Board will want to speak to this. I will acknowledge that when we put the “comply or explain” encouragement policy in place, I fully expected that businesses would step up, that we would see an increase on boards because there is a strong economic imperative. We know that businesses that put women on boards do better, so I fully expected that we would see a better result. That has not happened.

There has not been the increase that we had expected, so we have put targets in place. If that doesn’t work, we will be prepared to move forward with more stringent measures.

Mr. Speaker, I completely and fully support the move towards having more women involved whether it’s in the cabinet of a government or whether it’s a board of an agency or another kind of organization or whether it’s a private sector company. We need more women involved—

Ms. Peggy Sattler: Speaker, real action could come from this Premier and her Liberal government as early as budget day.

The Pay Equity Commission’s budget was cut in half by the Conservatives in 1997, and has been flatlined for the last decade under the Liberals. As a result, we have seen more than half of all Ontario employers not complying with their legal pay equity obligations. The commission needs to be fully funded so that it can actually enforce pay equity compliance and have a meaningful impact on women’s lives in this province.

Will the Premier’s budget this spring include funding for the incredibly important work of the Pay Equity Commission?

Hon. Liz Sandals: Obviously, we have more work to do in this area. I think everybody recognizes that. But the Ontario public service actually has been a leader in addressing the gender gap wage gap. If you look at this year’s data, we have actually reduced the pay gap between men and women in this year’s sunshine list data from 15.8% down to 12.5%. There’s still more work to do, but if you look at who’s in middle management in the public service, 55% of those positions are occupied by women. If you look at who is in the OPS senior management group, you find that— Where we do see a gap is women in the public service and the STEM occupations—in engineering, in physicist roles, in IT roles. That’s a gap that is reflected in society. As a society, we need to close that gap.