British Columbia

Drop fee for hyphenating last names, says B.C. bill introduced before International Women's Day

A second bill would require large businesses — those with more than 50 employees — to publicly post the breakdown of pay and benefits for all male and female staff.

A second bill would force large companies to publicly post pay breakdowns for male and female staff

Liberal MLAs Mary Polak of Langley, left, and Stephanie Cadieux of South Surrey both tabled legislation in the B.C. Legislature this week to combat gender inequality. Friday is International Women's Day. (CBC)

Two B.C. Liberal MLAs introduced separate bills this week to push for pay equity and an end to paying for a hyphenated last name.

The proposed legislation comes ahead of International Women's Day marked on Friday.

One bill, tabled by Surrey-South MLA Stephanie Cadieux, would require businesses with more than 50 employees to publicly post a breakdown of pay and benefits for male and female staff.

Speaking at the legislature in Victoria on Wednesday, Cadieux said the proposed legislation would encourage companies to improve pay equity.

Premier John Horgan said his party's values are in line with the concept, but said he'd need to take a further look at the bill before passing judgment.

"I certainly support equal work and work of equal value — these are fundamental principles I think everyone in the community can get behind — but I don't know whether her legislation will get us there or if it was just a political stunt... I don't mean to diminish it by saying that, but I haven't had a chance to review it — so the principles I support and so do my colleagues."

B.C. Premier John Horgan said the NDP supports principles of equal pay, but wonders whether this week's proposed legislation to document it is a political stunt.

In November, a report found the majority of Canadian companies are not closely monitoring differences in pay or advancement between men and women and other key measures of progress.

The Canada-United States Council for Advancement of Women Entrepreneurs and Business Leaders' commissioned a survey of human resources professionals in Canada and the U.S. and found just 39 per cent of Canadian companies had accurate data on gender pay differences.

 Among working Canadians on average, women make 74 cents for every dollar of annual salary collected by men, according to the most recent Statistics Canada data.

Langley MLA Mary Polak also put forward a private member's bill this week that would allow married couples to combine or hyphenate their last names, free of charge.

Currently, B.C. residents can take their spouse's last name for free. However, combining or hyphenating names is considered to be a name change — which costs $137.

"While this does affect some men, the impact is disproportionately felt by women, who must either struggle through difficulties with their identity documents or face the expense of a formal name change," Polak said at the B.C. Legislature on Thursday.

"This amendment will mean that those who choose a hyphenated or combined surname will be treated in the same manner as those who adopt the surname of their spouse."

With files from the CBC's Tanya Fletcher and the Canadian Press

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