An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

Sponsor

Bardish Chagger  Liberal

Status

In committee (House), as of June 12, 2017

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Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Salaries Act to authorize payment, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, of the salaries for eight new ministerial positions. It authorizes the Governor in Council to designate departments to support the ministers who occupy those positions and authorizes those ministers to delegate their powers, duties or functions to officers or employees of the designated departments. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 12, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
June 12, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act (reasoned amendment)
June 7, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 9:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak in this important debate.

It has been almost a year and half since Bill C-6 was introduced in the House of Commons. The bill was sent to the Senate on June 17, 2016, and it has now finally made its way back to the House from the Senate, where it was held up for more than a year. Many people in our communities have been waiting anxiously for this legislation to be passed and to come into effect.

Members may recall that when he was on the campaign trail, the Prime Minister promised Canadians, particularly those in the ethnic community, that he would repeal the Conservatives' Bill C-24. Like so many Liberal promises, that did not happen. Instead, the government introduced Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act and to make consequential amendments to another act.

On February 25, 2016, Bill C-6 was first introduced in the House. About a month later, on March 21, 2016, it passed second reading and was referred to committee. Bill C-6 was then sent back to the House for third reading. It passed third reading and was sent to the Senate on June 17, 2016.

I should note that no amendments were made during second reading or at committee stage at the Senate, but three amendments were made during third reading.

The first amendment included providing a pathway to citizenship for minors. This was similar to the amendment that I proposed at committee, and I am glad to hear that the Conservative member and the government members now support it. At committee, though, government members certainly did not support it.

Another amendment proposed providing judicial appeal for citizenship revocation for fraud and misrepresentation. This amendment is similar in principle to my amendment to provide due process for these cases, but differs in the procedure. I support this amendment. Due process being restored has been a long time coming for those who face citizenship revocation.

The third amendment has to do with increasing the age of individuals who must pass a language test to 60. This Senate amendment I do not support.

In reviewing the process that we have embarked on with Bill C-6 to arrive at where we are today, let me point out that at committee I tabled 24 amendments on a range of topics. Two out of those 24 amendments were passed at committee. They included changes in two areas.

First, a statelessness provision would provide the minister with the authority to intervene in cases that would cause a person to become stateless and provide him or her with status based on humanitarian and compassionate factors. I was pleased that amendment passed.

The second amendment that also passed was with respect to disability rights. My amendment would ensure that the Citizenship Act adhered to Canadian human rights laws and regulations around reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities. I am pleased that this amendment also passed.

While I am happy that these amendments were supported at committee, there were many that were not. One set of amendments that I had hoped would be adopted at committee would have ensured that there would be judicial fairness and due process again for those faced with citizenship revocation. As members may be aware, the Conservatives' Bill C-24 fundamentally altered the process for revoking citizenship.

The process in place before Bill C-24 involved three steps. The first was a report under Section 10 of the Citizenship Act that the minister was satisfied a person obtained citizenship fraudulently. Second, once notified of the report, the person could request that the matter be referred to the Federal Court for a hearing. Third, if the Federal Court made the finding requested by the minister, citizenship could be revoked by the Governor in Council, which could consider equitable factors.

The Conservatives' Bill C-24 eliminated the Federal Court hearing process. The minister now decides on revocation with no requirement for a hearing, and this is wrong.

As pointed out by the Canadian Bar Association:

Bill C-24 also eliminated consideration of equitable factors that could prevent a legal, but unjust, outcome. Before then, the Governor in Council could consider equitable factors when deciding whether to revoke citizenship. This is no longer possible.

The BC Civil Liberties Association also challenged this, and stated:

In our submission, the government should repeal the procedural changes made to the Citizenship Act by Bill C-24 and restore individuals’ right to a fair hearing before an independent judicial decision-maker who can take humanitarian and compassionate considerations into account in making their decision.

There is no question that this needs to be rectified.

Perhaps the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers put it best when it said:

A permanent resident subject to deportation for misrepresentation has a right to both a hearing and an equitable appeal. Yet a Canadian citizen whose citizenship is to be revoked has no such rights. These provisions are currently being subject to a legal challenge—

I will diverge from the quote to say that a decision has been made by the courts, and the BC Civil Liberties Association, which took this matter to court, won.

These provisions are currently being subject to a legal challenge in the Federal Court as being inconsistent with the Charter of Rights. There is no reason why the new government should support these reforms which deny citizens a fair hearing. Indeed, while in opposition Liberal Members of Parliament opposed these very provisions.

The amendments that I proposed at committee were based on a system put forward by the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, known as the CARL system, supported by experts and stakeholders that use the IRB. Prior to Bill C-24, individuals could appeal to the Federal Court. Because of the cost, duration, and lack of availability of the courts, this has been called an inefficient system by some experts.

The Immigration Appeal Division currently undertakes similar appeals and reviews of decisions for statuses such as permanent residence. For that reason, this board is adequately situated to handle citizenship cases as well, and can handle them more efficiently than the Federal Court system. My amendments would have instituted this policy as well, which is what I proposed. The aim was to restore the consideration of humanitarian and compassionate grounds as well as put forward a system of appeal that is more efficient and cheaper for taxpayers. Sadly, these amendments were not supported at committee, as they were deemed to be out of scope.

Former minister of immigration John McCallum acknowledged that this needed to be fixed. Many of us in the community were led to believe that this would be done. However, no action was taken. When the government failed to address the issue, the BC Civil Liberties Association challenged the government in court on this fundamental violation of people's right to due process and won. There is no question that this needs to be fixed, and finally, here we are.

The matter was then pushed over to the Senate. That is exactly what happened. The government did not introduce a bill in the House to fix the problem, so it was pushed over to the Senate for the Senate to deal with. I lobbied a number of different senators on the need to address this issue and I am glad to see that Senator Omidvar agreed to champion the cause. Now, after more than a year, I am happy to see that the Senate has attempted to rectify this huge gap in our Citizenship Act with its amendment, and today the government motion before us indicates that this amendment will essentially be accepted.

With this Senate amendment, individuals will have the right to a judicial hearing, and humanitarian and compassionate considerations related to the person, particularly in situations where the best interests of a child are directly affected, will be considered, although the government's motion uses different terminology. Instead of humanitarian and compassionate considerations, the government's motion uses “any consideration respecting his or her personal circumstances”. At the end, the effect, I believe, is the same. Therefore, the NDP supports this amendment.

I would like to point out that there seems to be some suggestion from my friends on the Conservative side that having an appeal process in place would incite people to somehow defraud the system and misrepresent their applications. I will take a moment to respond to that, because that is simply absurd. People do not think that because there is an appeal process, they will think about how to defraud the system or misrepresent their cases. That is absolutely not how people operate.

We need to have due process in place to ensure we do not presume people are guilty before they make a final decision. By the way, there are situations where a case could well have gone awry from the officials, that they might have received misinformation about a particular application. It is absolutely essential in a democratic society for an individual to be able to challenge the alleged misrepresentation against them. Allowing the appeal process to be restored will do exactly that.

In addition, the government motion also added the provision whereby an individual could request that his or her case be heard by the minister. That is to say that an individual would have the option of having the matter referred to federal court or be heard by the minister.

As the government motion allows for this to be a choice, the NDP will support this change as well. If it said that it would be up to the minister to make that decision, we would not have supported it. People should have the right to choose an independent judiciary to make that decision. However, since this is not what the government has proposed, I will support the option to allow for the individual to make that choice.

The truth is that the Harper government should never have taken away someone's rights to a judicial hearing in cases of citizenship revocation.

Tied to the process of citizenship revocation, another issue I hope the government will rectify is the notion of indefinite suspension. As it stands right now, the minister has the right to suspend the citizenship process indefinitely. Instead of putting in a system of accountable and extendable deadlines, the government is continuing the indefinite suspension provisions. This is wrong.

Under this system, a person could be under investigation indefinitely without ever knowing when it might come to an end. Imagine what that would be like. In criminal cases there is a statutory limitation, but not in immigration. Does the government not think it is wrong to indefinitely investigate someone? Do the Liberals really think it is an appropriate thing to do in the case of citizenship and immigration? While I moved an amendment on this during committee, unfortunately the committee did not accept it, and that is too bad.

Let me turn to another amendment before us today. The Senate proposed an amendment to provide unaccompanied youth or those under state care pathways to citizenship. I called for this at committee. At issue, as explained by justice for children and youth, is:

Section 5(3)(b)(i) allows for an applicant to make a request to the minister on humanitarian grounds for a waiver of the age requirement...this humanitarian exemption poses a generally insurmountable barrier for children wishing to access citizenship and is not a reasonable limitation or a satisfactory solution to issues raised by the age requirement provision.

The provision in effect restricts access to Canadian citizenship for children—solely on the basis of age—who otherwise meet all the requirements.

It restricts access to citizenship for the most marginalized children, i.e. unaccompanied minors, children without parents or lawful guardians, and children with parents who do not have the capacity to meet the citizenship requirements or do not wish to apply.

Unfortunately, my amendment was rejected by the committee. I am so glad now that the Senate, particularly Senator Oh, picked up this amendment, advanced it and has now referred it back to the House.

The NDP will wholeheartedly support this amendment. I had wanted to see this adopted at the committee stage.

Let me turn to the last amendment before us.

The Senate saw fit to bring forward an amendment to increase the upper age requirement for passing a language test from 54 to 60. This is where I diverge from the Senate. The NDP does not support this change and I am pleased to see the government also disagrees with it. The government motion has changed the upper age requirement for passing a language test from 60 back to 55.

It is my view that we should go further than this. I moved an amendment at committee to reinstate the allowance for an interpreter to be used during the knowledge test in the citizenship process. The current system amounts to a second language test, which is harder than the actual language test, due to non-standard terms and events contained in the knowledge test for those who do not speak English or French as their first language. I was saddened that my amendment did not pass at committee.

I learned English as a second language. I immigrated here when I was young, and I did not speak a word of English. I spoke Cantonese. I have my Cantonese language. I speak the Cantonese language fairly fluently. I can understand, communicate, and I can do interviews in that language without any trouble. However, when technical terms come up, it is very difficult to know what the technical term is and how to articulate it well. This is the same thing for those who are subject to this citizenship test. The issue around technical terms is that they differ in the first language, and often it is difficult for the person to pass the knowledge test if they do not have the technical language. That does not mean that they do not speak English well enough—they speak it very well—but some technical terms are very difficult to master.

There was a time, prior to Bill C-24, that the interpreters would be allowed to attend these tests so that those technical terms could be explained in the person's first language. However, that has now been done away with, and I am saddened by that.

There are other amendments that I wish were before us. At committee I called for the expansion of the definition of “statelessness”, to better capture how people can fall through the cracks. In particular, I called for the provision to prevent any official from being able to engage in a decision that would contravene any international or human rights agreements that Canada is a signatory to, especially those on statelessness. Unfortunately, those amendments were not supported, as they were deemed to be out of scope.

On a related matter, I would like to see changes made to address the issue of lost Canadians. For decades, Canadians have found themselves to be stateless due to a number of arcane laws. We heard from a number of people who lost their citizenship out of the blue one day because of these arcane laws. There are situations of second-generation Canadians who had been born abroad not being recognized as Canadians.

This year we are heading into the 150th anniversary of this country. When we celebrate this nation's 150th birthday, would it not be something to know that there are Canadians who have been Canadians all their lives, have somehow become lost in the system, and we have done nothing to fix that? That was something I wanted to advance at committee, yet once again the committee did not accept my amendments. I am concerned that the government did not bring legislation to address this issue before July 1 of this year. That should have been done.

The other issue I want to raise is with respect to cessation provisions. We talked about this issue with respect to refugees. These are people who, unbeknownst to them, find their status affected for no other reason than that they travelled back to their country of origin at a time when the cessation provisions were not in place and when the threat that had forced them to flee their country no longer existed. Even then, the status of these people had been affected by cessation provisions. In most cases, cessation proceedings are brought against them when they apply for their citizenship. That is outrageous. I hope that all members of this House would agree with me that those provisions need to be done away with. We need to bring in legislation to repeal the cessation provisions that were brought forward by the Harper government.

With that, I know my time is running out. I am glad to see that this bill is finally before us. I hope to see a speedy passage of it, so Canadians can ensure that their rights are protected. I hope that those who have been waiting for this bill to pass will finally see it go through all stages of the House and come into force and effect.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2017 / 9:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would advise the House that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam.

It brings me great joy to rise again before the House to discuss Bill C-6, an act to amend the Citizenship Act. Bill C-6 represents not only the realization of a fundamental Liberal campaign promise and a signature achievement of our government, but also serves as a powerful articulation of Canadian identity and a reaffirmation of the various benefits of diversity.

Before I continue, I would be remiss if I did not thank both the former minister of immigration, refugees, and citizenship, the Hon. and, I might add, tireless John McCallum, for his hard work on this file, as well as the steady leadership of his successor as minister, my hon. friend and colleague from York South—Weston.

I would also like to commence by thanking my former colleagues on the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration for their work on the legislation, as well as the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology for providing sober second thought to the bill. Having had the honour of being involved in the committee study of the bill as it was originally conceived in the House before it was sent to the Senate in June last year, I am deeply aware of how important the bill is to Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

In fact, since being elected in October of 2015, few, if any, issues have resonated with my constituents in Willowdale as powerfully as the need to modernize our immigration system and to repeal and repudiate the most odious changes to our immigration system brought in by the previous government. Whether knocking on doors or in ongoing conversations with constituents, my staff and I have consistently heard the same refrain. Bill C-6 represents a welcome change in policy and tone for Canadians and their families. If any concerns have been expressed, it is the delay that people have experienced in seeing the enactment of Bill C-6.

As an immigrant to this country, I am profoundly sympathetic to this inclination. I understand what Canadian citizenship means, both here and abroad, to generations of families who have come to this great country seeking a better future. As someone who had the great privilege to arrive in this country in my teens, I certainly fully appreciate and would never take for granted the significance of immigration as a lifeline to our future well-being and prosperity.

I can also confidently say that the love of country one has for a place where we were not born but which has nonetheless given us all the opportunities in the world is very different than the affinity one feels for the nation of one's birth. Naturalization occupies a cherished place in one's heart that is neither blinded by history nor blood, but instead by one of deep gratitude. I have both admired Canada from afar and also lived to enjoy its greatest blessings: its educational system, its esteemed place in the world, its deep respect for all persons, its quiet dignity, and of course our spirited people. I recognize the noble value in Canadian citizenship and I am proud of our government's assiduous efforts to restore and reaffirm the bedrock values upon which Canadian citizenship is based.

In its original form, Bill C-6 aimed to accomplish four key objectives: first, to remove the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security; second, to remove the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada; third, to reduce the number of days during which a person must be physically present in Canada before applying for citizenship; and fourth, to return the requirement to demonstrate knowledge of Canada and of one of its official languages to applicants between the ages of 18 and 54.

In doing so, Bill C-6 repeals or amends the most misguided elements of the Conservative Party's Bill C-24 and establishes a more effective, robust, modern, and just pathway to citizenship. This is not, in other words, a radical departure from established laws and customs, but rather a return to sensible policies following the excesses of Bill C-24.

I would like to briefly examine these four key objectives before examining the amendments before us. First is that it removes the grounds for the revocation of Canadian citizenship that relate to national security.

The most crucial element of Bill C-6, I believe, is that it revokes the unprecedented ability, granted through Bill C-24, of the Canadian government to strip its own citizens of fundamental rights, namely the rights to inalienable citizenship and equal protection under the law.

In rejecting a two-tiered approach to Canadian citizenship, Bill C-6 would bring government policy in line with the recommendations of a litany of stakeholders who condemned the arbitrary, unconstitutional, and undue nature of Bill C-24. This includes the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Association of Refugee Layers, the Canadian Council for Refugees, Amnesty International, and many leading academics, journalists, and civic leaders.

The second question relates to removing the requirement that an applicant intend, if granted citizenship, to continue to reside in Canada.

Further among its many ill-conceived statutes, Bill C-24 also stated that adult applicants had to declare on their citizenship applications that they intended to continue to reside in Canada if granted citizenship. The provisions created concern among new Canadians, who feared their citizenship could be revoked in the future if they moved outside of Canada.

By way of example, Canadians whose work required them to live abroad for extended periods felt that their declaration of an intent to reside could negatively affect their international mobility and, by extension, their ability to work abroad.

Within the current context of our open and global economy, this would place Canada at a serious competitive disadvantage. Rather than disincentivizing engaged global citizens from seeking Canadian citizenship, Bill C-6 instead supports the government's goal of making it easier for immigrants to build successful lives within Canada, reunite with their families, and contribute to the economic success and well-being of our country.

I will now move to the various amendments that were suggested. The legislation before us today has, of course, been further modified by several amendments put forth at the Senate committee stage. I would like to use my remaining time to briefly address these amendments.

There are three proposed amendments before us today. One is an amendment to change the citizenship revocation model. The second is an amendment allowing minors to obtain citizenship without a Canadian parent. The third would change the upper age for citizenship language and knowledge requirements to 59 years.

After careful assessment and consideration, our government agrees with two of the three amendments adopted in the Senate, as they support our commitment to remove unnecessary barriers to citizenship, make citizenship more accessible to the more vulnerable, and enhance procedural fairness in the citizenship revocation process.

With respect to the proposed model to have the federal court act as a decision-maker on most citizenship revocation cases in which citizenship was acquired fraudulently, allow me to reiterate that ever since the current decision-making model came into effect in 2015, the minister has been the decision-maker on most cases involving fraud and misrepresentation, while the Federal Court has been the decision-maker on more serious cases involving fraud related to security, human or international rights violations, and organized criminality.

Under the Senate's proposed model, all individuals facing revocation of citizenship would have the right to request that their case be referred to the Federal Court for a decision regarding revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation.

In cases in which an individual refers their case to the court, the minister's role would be to bring an action in the court to seek a declaration that the person obtained citizenship by false representation, by fraud, or by knowingly concealing material circumstances. It would then be up to the court to make the final decision.

The government has considered this amendment carefully and is supporting this new decision-making model, but with some key changes. The government believes that the minister's authority should be limited to revocation cases that the individual does not wish to have referred to the Federal Court.

Our government also supports, with modifications, the Senate amendment allowing minors to apply for citizenship without a Canadian parent.

Our government must respectfully disagree with the proposed Senate amendment to change the upper limit for language and knowledge requirements.

As mentioned previously, the language and knowledge requirements brought about via Bill C-24 were seemingly imposed at random, and this side has yet to see a compelling argument for this amendment.

The government has considered these proposed amendments very seriously and has accepted some key proposals regarding a new decision-making process for the revocation of citizenship.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the debate we began this morning on the NDP opposition day motion.

This evening, we will return to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. Following that, we will begin second reading of Bill C-50 on political financing.

Tomorrow will be dedicated to debating Bill C-44 on the budget.

As for next week, our hope is to make progress on a number of bills, including Bill C-6 concerning citizenship; Bill C-50 respecting political financing; Bill C-49, transportation modernization; and Bill S-3, amendments to the Indian Act.

Finally, next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday shall be allotted days.

As the member very well knows, I always look forward to working with all members. I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 6:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-24. Upon taking office in November 2015, the Prime Minister established a gender-balanced, one-tier ministry of equals focused on delivering results for Canadians.

The proposed amendments to the Salaries Act fulfill the Prime Minister's commitment to introduce legislation to formalize the equal status of his ministerial staff. The bill does just that by adding to the Salaries Act the five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments as well as three untitled positions, for a total of eight new positions. To offset the increase in positions, the bill removes the six regional development ministerial positions.

It has been suggested by critics of the bill that removal of the regional development ministerial positions is the first step in dismantling the regional development agencies. This is just not the case. Our government is committed to supporting and promoting economic development throughout Canada. This bill would not amend, in any way, the states and Orders in Council that create the regional development agencies. The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development will continue to be responsible for all the regional development agencies.

This government is focused on growing the economy and strengthening the middle class. The regional development agencies are essential delivery partners in the government's plan to drive economic growth through innovation. They understand the unique needs of each region as well as the opportunities for economic development and diversification.

Let me expand on just a few examples of how the regional development agencies are working to grow the middle class in all parts of our country.

We are working with our regional partners in Atlantic Canada to do just that. We recognize that Atlantic Canada possesses competitive advantages that can bring new opportunities to economic growth. The region is home to great ideas, great products, great innovators, and a great drive to succeed.

The Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, along with his cabinet colleagues and the four Atlantic premiers, jointly announced the launch of the Atlantic growth strategy last year. Working with all 32 MPs in Atlantic Canada, this pan-Atlantic, whole-of-government strategy will direct targeted actions to stimulate Atlantic Canada's economy. The strategy will support both innovative and resource-based industries and increase job opportunities for Atlantic Canadians.

This is an unprecedented federal-provincial partnership. The Government of Canada is working together with the four provincial governments to build a vibrant economic future for Atlantic Canada. The Atlantic growth strategy will drive economic growth in the region by implementing targeted evidence-based actions under the following five priority areas: skilled workforce with immigration; innovation; clean growth and climate change; trade; and, finally, investment.

The Atlantic growth strategy will deliver bold action items, including a three-year immigration pilot aimed at addressing the unique labour market challenges in Atlantic Canada. This pilot project will help better match the needs of local employers with the skill sets of immigrants while helping to improve the attraction and retention of newcomers in Atlantic Canada.

The Atlantic growth strategy is different from past initiatives because of our strong commitment to federal-provincial collaboration, on a pan-Atlantic level, in making strategic investments and taking the actions needed to generate long-term clean and inclusive growth, create jobs, and position Atlantic Canada as a thriving, knowledge-driven economy. We are taking bold, targeted actions to stimulate the economy.

This is just one example of how regional development agencies strengthen the government's ability to support innovative, inclusive growth in every part of our country.

In Quebec, Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, CED, concluded its broad 2016 engagement strategy with the release of its new strategic plan 2016 for the next five years. CED's strategic plan is aligned with the innovation and skills plan to do the following: support growing and innovative businesses that generate high-quality jobs, particularly for the middle class; support specific businesses and regions in developing and adopting new technologies in a clean-growth economy; support communities to foster economic diversification from an inclusive growth perspective involving minority groups; and finally, foster the participation of indigenous people contributing to the economic growth of Quebec by encouraging entrepreneurship and social innovation.

The plan's success will be measured and assessed in terms of its ability to contribute directly to the objectives of the innovation and skills plan using indicators that include, among others, employment rates, digital transformation, business growth, international exports, the adoption of clean technologies, and the capacity to leverage private capital and foreign direct investment.

Most recently, the Hon. Navdeep Bains was in Sudbury to announce the launch of the northern Ontario prosperity strategy, our latest measure to—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 6:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand, although I am disappointed that I did not get a 20-minute slot. Perhaps within 10 minutes I can condense and share exactly what my concerns are with this piece of legislation.

What we have is Bill C-24, which is an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. It focuses on three areas. I am going to talk briefly about the first two areas, and then perhaps I will go into a bit more detail on one of the most substantial concerns that I have.

The bill would actually create eight minister positions. I will talk about the five minister of state positions later, but it would create three mysterious ministerial positions. If people could imagine being a board member for Nortel or some other large corporation and the CEO came to them with a proposal stating that the company needs this many vice-presidents including a vice-president of finance, a vice-president of human resources, and that it needs three more vice-presidents but the CEO is not going to say what they are there for and what they are going to do, what do members think the response would be, as a shareholder or as a chairman of this particular organization? They would tell the CEO to go back to the drawing board and come back with job descriptions and a full analysis of why the company needs the three positions, what they are for, and what they would do. It is inconceivable, in any organization other than perhaps a Liberal-run federal government, that the organization would create three mysterious positions.

This is not just a matter of mysterious positions. There is a budget that would go along with these. If someone is a member of Parliament and is all of a sudden given a ministerial position, it comes with additional funds, so for these three positions it is probably an additional quarter of a million dollars and then a whole lot of other associated expenses like cars and drivers and office spaces. Therefore, this little piece in this legislation is probably over $1 million, and the Liberals are not telling us what it is for. It is absolutely inexcusable, and if members on that side vote for spending $1 million, or for authorizing a structure for $1 million, they should be ashamed of themselves. We have a government that has a spending problem already, and the Liberals think nothing of putting in front of us a piece of legislation that would allow for probably $1 million-plus because they need to have a bigger cabinet or cannot describe what those positions would be. Certainly the backbenchers in the Liberal government need to go back to their executive branch and ask what these positions are for. That is absolutely ludicrous.

The next area that has been alluded to, certainly in the previous speech, is the need to consolidate the regional development agencies. Sometimes a federal government in a country as large as Canada has an enormous geography and enormous variations across the country. Many of us here have had the privilege of travelling across our country from coast to coast to coast, and we see the differences. Some of the things that government does should be centralized. There are certainly important functions that are best done by a minister who represents the whole of Canada, and we can look at defence and many other departments. However, there was something about the economic development agencies. The economic development agencies were relatively small, they had a relatively small budget, and they were designed to be nimble and responsive to the culture and needs of specific areas. As members can imagine, in the Maritimes people have a very different set of challenges from what perhaps Alberta's oil patch is having right now, or those in B.C.

We still fail to see how a minister from Toronto, busy with a very large portfolio, can give the attention that is needed to make those quick, nimble decisions and be responsive. I am not sure if this structural change is in the best interests of what we do and how our economic development agencies deliver service. Again, a Toronto minister is not seeing the challenges.

The Liberals talked about how proud they were of the work they did with first nations communities. People who live in Toronto would not be as aware of these issues as would a minister from British Columbia, who understands and visits these communities all the time and recognizes perhaps some of the opportunities and the challenges that the indigenous communities face. Again, an urban minister, as good as he or she might be, would have challenges in that area. Certainly, I disagree with that part of the legislation.

However, the area I most fundamentally disagree with is making all the ministers of state positions into full cabinet positions. I want to talk about that to some degree.

I will again use the analogy of outside the bubble of Parliament. When people look at remuneration of employees, they look at their responsibilities. Responsibilities include what kind of decisions they have to make, what kind of manpower they have to supervise, and what kind of budget they are responsible for. I think that applies to every example I can think of in the public service.

In the public service in the area of health care in British Columbia there is a process. A system is used to analyze the responsibilities of the job to determine what the wage remuneration will be. That sounds reasonable to me. I believe it is commonly used within the public sector.

Let us take a look at what the ministers are doing.

The Liberals are going to create full ministers positions for a number of positions, and I will go over them specifically. However, the Minister of National Defence is responsible for the armed forces and the Department of National Defence. He stands ready to perform three key roles, which are protecting Canada and defending our sovereignty; defending North America in co-operation with the United States, our closest ally; and contributing to international peace and security. The budget was $18.7 billion over three years. Planned spending is to increase enormously. There are 22,000 people within those operations.

We can compare that to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, and I am not saying it is not a responsible position. It is an important position as we look at our democratic system. However, the department does not have an enormous budget. It does not have huge manpower for which it is responsible. To be frank, there is no way it would automatically get a large increase in its dollars. It does not make any sense.

However, when the Prime Minister swore his cabinet in, with great pride, he said he had a gender-equal cabinet. Then someone pointed out to him that while he did have a gender-equal cabinet, five members were junior ministers positions, and those five were women. In order to solve that problem, he decided to make them full ministers.

There are other ways he could have solved that problem and been reasonable and appropriate. There is no reason that the Minister of Democratic Institutions could not be a man. There is no reason that the Minister of Science could not have been male. He could have had his gender-equal cabinet without having to create new positions for the ministers of state. The whole thing is very convoluted and confusing.

A difference in the funding went toward the salaries, but also some ministers felt they had to spend over $1 million to renovate their office. This is just another example of a Prime Minister who pays no attention to taxpayer dollars. It is inexcusable.

Bill C-24 is a terribly flawed and irresponsible bill. I hope most members will vote against it.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech, which I listened to carefully and agree with on many points.

Given their so-called feminist approach, are the Liberals not simply adding insult to injury with Bill C-24? The injury is saying that women will be confined to the role of minister of state. The insult is also telling them to not bother talking about their qualifications or anything else, because they are going to get the same salary as ministers so it is a non-issue.

Men and women are known to be equally qualified and capable of being either ministers or ministers of state, and the salary should match the responsibilities of the job. This feels like a cover-up. If this had happened to me, I would not necessarily be happy to be getting a raise without having to take on the added responsibilities that would normally go along with it.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this subject this evening. In fact, just this morning, I attended a meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, where the President of the Treasury Board appeared as a witness to answer questions on the use of vote 1c. Since November 4, 2015, the salaries of ministers of state have been increased under vote 1c so that they earn the same as portfolio ministers who have deputy ministers and hundreds of public servants working for them.

I will explain later why the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance are concerned about this.

I am increasingly disheartened by this government because it seems that, today in the House, we should not be talking about Bill C-24, which seeks to realize one of the federal government's unattainable fantasies. Instead, we should be talking about our duty as citizens, what we can do for our country, what we can do tomorrow morning to improve our community, what we can do to further honour our men and women in uniform, and how each of us can serve their country.

We could talk about regional fairness, since Bill C-24 deals with these kinds of discussions, as the Liberals decided to abolish ministers representing Canada’s various economic regions—Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, British Columbia, and the territories.

We could also talk about wealth creation. The Liberal government likes to go on and on about working for the well-being of the middle class. I have a problem with that, because we should instead be talking about wanting to make life better for all Canadians. I do not know why the government insists on focusing only on one class instead of talking about all Canadians. What I liked about the Right Hon. Stephen Harper is that he would always talk about all Canadian families. He did not talk just about only one social class.

That said, I am duty bound to oppose this bill today, and instead of talking about civic duty and serving one's country, I will speak to you about C-24.

Bill C-24 seeks to elevate ministers of state, some of whom do not have a portfolio or a department, to the same status as ministers who oversee an actual department with thousands of employees, deputy ministers, and teams of hundreds of officials, and all the real estate that goes with it. These are the real departments, National Defence, Public Services and Procurement, Transport, the list goes on. There are 25 actual departments, give or take.

They want to give the same minister’s salary to those who do not have drivers or real responsibilities; they want to give them the same salary as traditional cabinet ministers.

It is ironic because Bill C-24 would create eight new ministerial positions, including three “mystery” ministers, whose duties, objectives and responsibilities are not yet known. The bill would eliminate the positions of six ministers representing the regions; now, there is only one minister representing Toronto with a population of seven million; it is huge and that is a major responsibility. He will be the one now representing the Acadian people, the Acadian peninsula and their concerns about the fishery, lobster and crab. It does not make any sense.

Bill C-24 would also amend the Salaries Act, which is a good initiative. The government wants to correct a mistake in parliamentary law, or rather change parliamentary law so that it need not be in breach of it.

The very honourable senator Mr. Smith, chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, contacted me to bring the problem to my attention so I could raise it with the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The government is using the supplementary estimates to pay the additional salaries of ministers of state, when the parliamentary rules tell us that there are three reasons for why we must not do that.

For example, Beauchesne, paragraph 935, refers to page 8601 of the Debates of March 25, 1981:

A supply item ought not to be used to obtain authority which is the subject of legislation.

Then paragraph 937 refers to page 10546 of the Debates of June 12, 1981:

The government may not by use of an Appropriation Act obtain authority it does not have under existing legislation.

This is what the government is trying to do today. It is trying to use us to obtain an authority it does not have under the Salaries Act. Lastly, paragraph 941 refers to pages 94 and 95 of the Debates of February 5, 1973:

If a Vote in the Estimates relates to a bill not yet passed by Parliament, then the authorizing bill must become law before the authorization of the relevant Vote in the Estimates by an Appropriation Act.

Therefore, parliamentary rules tell us that ministers of state in the Prime Minister’s Office should not have gotten a pay increase effective November 4, 2015. They should not have had it until Bill C-24 was officially adopted. It will not be adopted by us Conservatives, but by the majority Liberals. Good for them!

The senators put it down in black and white:

Our committee is concerned about the recurrent practice of using supplementary estimates to pay certain ministers' salaries prior to the enactment of amendments to the Salaries Act, and raises this question in the context of Bill C-24.

A Senate committee has been studying these issues for several months and spending a lot more time on it than the House of Commons.

When it comes to parity, the Liberals like to implement government policies that fit with their ideology and how they think the world should be, but some of their actions may have unintended consequences that they do not even see because they are so blinded by their ideology.

They say they want a gender-balanced cabinet, but, having given the matter considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that this ideal could have a very unfortunate unintended consequence. If we say that cabinet must be gender-balanced, this means that there will never be a cabinet with a majority of women, yet we have seen plenty of cabinets with a majority of men over the past 150 years. Now we are telling women that they will never be in the majority in cabinet regardless of their skills, their beliefs, and their political strengths. No, now we must have parity, 50-50.

I would even add that this means cabinet will never be less than 50% male. What a paradox. They say the goal is to protect and expand women's rights, but if we examine this from a political and philosophical perspective, it looks more like a way to rein in women's progress in the political arena. Is that not an interesting thought?

Instead of talking about parity in cabinet, since I have just shown that it is nothing more than a pipe dream that actually hurts the advancement of women in cabinet, we should be talking about parity for the founding peoples. That is what is important in Canada: French Canadians, English Canadians, the fact that Quebec has still not signed the constitution, and the fact that there are demands coming from all sides, whether in the west, which has reforms it would like to see, in the maritime provinces, or in Quebec. We should be talking about parity in our country in terms of English and French culture and making sure that everyone is comfortable in the constitutional environment. Instead, we are stuck talking about a bill that is meant to correct a mistake borne of blind ideological fervour.

What I find increasingly deplorable is this government saying it is objective and bases what it does on scientific facts.

First, it is an arrogant thing to say, because it suggests the party previously in government was not. The truth is that the Liberals themselves are so fixated on their own ideology that it is preventing them from acknowledging some of the significant impacts of their legislation.

Ultimately, I would like to say that, ideology aside, the Liberals cannot pay ministers higher salaries before the bill is passed, and yet, that is what they have been doing for the past two years, which is no laughing matter.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7:20 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say I am disappointed to be here tonight, sitting until midnight, spending time on a bill like this. Of course, we had some remarks in earlier questions that tried to make it the responsibility of the opposition that the government has not gotten through its agenda, which is simply absurd.

The government has had all the time in the world to get its agenda through, and the fact is that it has a very small agenda even at that. The average number of bills I have heard by this time in a government's life would be 40 or 45. We are looking at a government that has passed something like 18. There is not a lot to do, yet we are still sitting until midnight to get it done. It seems a bit absurd to me.

I had questions about why we had a motion on the Paris accord, but I came to a different conclusion. I thought it was quite useful, in the end, to have a motion on the Paris accord because it demonstrated that the Liberals' and the Conservatives' positions were exactly the same on the Paris accord. They voted together. I thought that was a useful clarification for the public that the Liberals and the Conservatives have the same targets and the same lack of action on the Paris accord. I will take back my criticism of that motion as being a waste of time. I really thought it was going to be a waste of time, but I take back my criticism of that one and I say it was actually quite useful.

On Bill C-24, the bill before us tonight, I have to tell members about the number of calls, emails, and letters I have received from constituents on the bill. It would be zero. Nobody in my constituency cares at all about this bill. The only people who care about it are people who are total insiders in the Liberal Party.

The need for the bill was totally created by the Prime Minister's faux parity that he created in his cabinet. If he was really going to have a cabinet that had parity or equity between the genders, there would have been an equal number of men and women in the real, important jobs in cabinet. Instead, the Prime Minister created a problem by appointing women to mostly junior jobs in his cabinet. Now we have a bill in front of us to fix that problem. That seems absurd to me.

Why do we have differences between the pay of different ministers? I actually think it is a good idea. If there is a full minister who brings things to cabinet and has a department to run, that is a different job from being a minister of state who does not have a whole set of programs to look after but has a reduced set of responsibilities. I can personally live with two different kinds of salaries if there are two different kinds of responsibilities, because that is the basic principle of pay equity. It is equal pay for work of equal value, and if it is different work it is fine to pay people differently.

The problem for the Prime Minister was, of course, that he put mostly women in the junior jobs and mostly men in the big jobs. Therefore, his cabinet did not look as equitable as it should have. As a result, we end up here in a midnight session debating a bill to fix the Prime Minister's political problem.

As I said, there was nobody interested in my riding. I am sure if people in my riding were watching they have already changed channels. I actually recommend that at this point, because I think the bill is a waste of parliamentary time.

We are talking about minister of state positions that would become regular minister positions: the Minister of La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women. I think those are all important jobs. I just do not think they are the same jobs as the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Health or the Minister of Justice. I believe there are real differences.

The bill would not change anything about those jobs. It would not give those ministers new responsibilities that are the same level as the full ministers. They might actually be able to persuade me to support this if the bill were saying that the Minister of La Francophonie would have the same full powers of a minister to bring things to cabinet and would have a department to administer, but they would not.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

I am not taking this bill seriously. I have to thank the Speaker for the warning that I have a lot of time left. I am not taking it seriously, because, as I said at the beginning, it is not a serious piece of legislation. It is not something we should be spending our time on. There are so many problems for us to address in this country. There are so many things we could be putting our hard work into, and this is not one of them.

As one of six openly gay members, I am aware that the government promised an apology and promised to work on restitution for those who were harmed in their careers, harmed in their family life, harmed in many ways, perhaps by being fired from the public service for being gay or being kicked out of the military for being gay. A motion unanimously passed in the defence committee last October, calling for a revision of service records so that people who had served in the military and had already qualified for pensions but were dishonourably discharged for being gay could get the benefits they had already paid for and had already earned.

I would rather be standing here tonight talking about how we are going to implement that kind of legislation than talking about something that will only affect privileged women in cabinet. That is all this debate is about tonight, except for the Prime Minister's reputation, as I said earlier.

We have other things to tackle. In my riding, we have had some very severe problems with ocean debris. We are facing World Oceans Day coming up tomorrow. We have a government that announced a coastal protection strategy, and I cannot even remember what it was called. It does not mention debris. There are no provisions at all for cleaning up the debris.

We heard earlier today in this House what has now become one of those truisms that soon, very soon, we will have more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish. That is a pretty sad commentary on where we are going. I would rather be spending my time tonight talking about bills to help reduce the plastics in the ocean. That is something we should tackle. That is an urgent problem.

Related to that, we could be tackling the question of abandoned vessels. We have all kinds of important work to do in this Parliament. Instead, we have Bill C-24 before us. I am happy to say that I will vote against this bill, probably at every stage, and probably every time it comes up. It will not really make a lot of difference, because we have a Liberal majority government, and this government has the arrogance to proceed with bills like this instead of the real priorities for Canadians. It disappoints me greatly.

As I have said before, I am kind of naive. I often think that the government will get its priorities straight, or should get its priorities straight, and get on with the real business that should be in front of this House.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, like many of my colleagues tonight, I feel it is very unfortunate that at this point, almost halfway through the government's mandate and approaching the summer months, we are sitting until midnight dealing with this kind of legislation.

Canada is entering tough negotiations with the United States regarding NAFTA. Global Islamic terrorism is on the rise. ISIS continues to control much of the Middle East. The oil and gas sector has still not rebounded, and Canadians are finding it harder and harder to buy their first home. However, we are here spending time on this, late at night: pay increases for ministers of state.

I wish I were joking, but the priorities of this government have never been more clear than right now. Liberals are committed to padding the pockets of Liberals at the expense of hard-working Canadian taxpayers. Many of these hard-working Canadians are up at the crack of dawn, or even earlier, and finish their days well after sundown. The farmers in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga are an example. These hard-working men and women are now faced with the prospect of paying more so that ministers of state with no extra responsibilities can enjoy a pay hike. It is just so that our Prime Minister's mantra of “a minister is a minister is a minister” can have some so-called legitimacy.

The Liberal government has now spent two days' worth of regular sitting hours just this week to debate non-binding, really mean-nothing, motions. In one of them the Liberals were trying to play wedge politics, but it was unsuccessful, I might add. With the other, their goal could have been accomplished with a statement during statements by ministers, which can occur every day during routine proceedings.

I am not sure if this is a reflection of the Liberals' incompetence or the government House leader's inability to understand basic parliamentary scheduling. Whatever the cause might be, we find ourselves here, late at night, debating Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

Let me read a summary of the bill.

This enactment amends the Salaries Act to authorize payment, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, of the salaries for eight new ministerial positions. It authorizes the Governor in Council [—in other words, the cabinet—] to designate departments to support the ministers who occupy those positions and authorizes those ministers to delegate their powers, duties or functions to officers or employees of the designated departments. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

The bill makes several important changes to aspects of ministerial roles and designations. These include the creation of new positions, the removal of several important positions, the creation of legal backup for departmental support for these new mystery positions, and the transfer of authoritative powers.

In the bill, the Liberals are attempting to justify changing the title of ministers of state to full ministers. They say that changing the names of the positions and how much each minister of state earns, with no changes in the responsibilities of ministers of state, somehow makes them equivalent to full ministers.

This is not only disingenuous; it is actually insulting to the ministers of state in question. These ministers of state are fully aware that their responsibilities do not come close to the responsibilities and demands of ministers who have departments, full staff, and deputy ministers in place.

Additionally, Bill C-24 asks Parliament to let the Liberals create three new ministerial-level positions, with portfolios—wait for it—to be determined later. They want us to authorize spending without knowing what the spending will fund. They are asking for a blank cheque. It sounds like a recipe for an even bigger deficit.

A minister of state does not have a deputy minister, does not have a dedicated department, and does not have the sort of budget that accompanies a full ministry. The implication is that the positions are equal because these ministers would have the same type of title and the same salary. This makes the positions appear equivalent on paper, but in reality they are certainly not. The Liberal government should be upfront with its ministers, upfront with its backbench MPs, and most importantly, upfront with Canadians.

On this side of the House, we cannot support these measures. I think the members opposite have not yet realized that we are at a time of out-of-control spending, broken promises on deficits, mounting debt, and complete abandonment of an election promise to balance the budget by 2019. It is time for them to wake up. We are not going to give the government any more blank cheques. Accountability for tax dollars is not just important to Conservatives; it is important to all Canadians.

The real effect of the proposed changes to the Salaries Act goes well beyond increasing salaries; it has everything to do with centralizing spending power in Ottawa and reducing democratic oversight and accountability for spending.

Instead, we need democratic accountability and financially transparent ministers, whose work can be scrutinized at the local level. We do not need an ever bigger, and more centralized government making decisions from Ottawa on behalf of our economically unique and distinct regions.

We do not need unaccountable, unelected political staff, and bureaucrats directing funds for regional development. Instead, we need attentive ministerial oversight on regional spending. We need responsible representation from regional ministers with strong ties to the communities they serve, and to whom they should be accountable.

Canada has historically drawn a distinction between ministers of the crown and ministers of state based on the scope and scale of the work of their portfolios. For example, small businesses and tourism are important components of the Canadian economy. Indeed, they are important enough to warrant a voice at the cabinet table to represent their interests. However, speaking up for small business and tourism during policy discussions in cabinet is not the same as overseeing a volume of case work, which for example the minister responsible for Service Canada supervises. Nor is it the same as being responsible for the budget overseen by say, the Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship.

Instead of heading regional development agencies with ministers from regions, the Liberals are handing over significant spending power to unelected civil servants and to one overworked minister from Mississauga. My colleague, the member for Richmond Centre, put it best in her remarks just the other day on this bill. She said:

Here is my own experience. As the minister of state, I had my own team and budget, but I worked closely with the minister of employment. The most notable difference between a minister and a minister of state is that the latter does not have a deputy minister devoted to the file. Additionally, a minister of state does not manage the same departmental budget or have the same authority as a minister.

The Liberals are claiming that the changes in this legislation are just simple changes aimed at addressing equal pay. The reality, however, is that this is just Liberals being Liberals, just like a duck that quacks like a duck and walks like a duck is a duck.

We are always open to hearing ways to make government operate more efficiently. However, removing key regional ministers is a failure to recognize the unique needs of the different regions of our country. The Liberals' top-down approach to governing does not make government more efficient. Rather, it is neglecting the very ones it claims to be helping.

In Canada, it is obvious that there are clear differences among the unique regions of our country, and in order to ensure that we function as a cohesive unit, these regional agencies work to bolster the economies of each distinct part of our country, to essentially ensure that we are greater than the sum of our parts.

I read a report prepared by the Liberal members of the subcommittee on innovation that came out earlier this year. It showed that ACOA was actually observing close to a 12-month delay in seeing some of its innovation grants being approved. It is no wonder that these delays exist, considering that approvals have all been going through the minister from Mississauga.

It is clear. Not only is the government's legislative agenda in complete shambles, its ability to control spending is non-existent, and its rhetoric of a minister is a minister is a minister is simply a smokescreen to try to fool Canadians into thinking that the ministers for sport, small business, and other ministers of state, plus three new mystery ministers, deserve more hard-earned tax dollars that are earned by hard-working Canadians.

In the best interests of all Canadians, this bill deserves to be soundly defeated.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7:50 p.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, one of the problems with having a minister from Ontario oversee the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec is that he does not understand the dynamics of Quebec and how it is the only province where we cannot negotiate directly with municipalities. Agreements need to be reached with the Government of Quebec. As a result of the minister's lack of understanding on this, Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec programs are not going so well.

The bill proposes simply to abolish the position. First the government appoints a minister from Ontario and then it insults Quebeckers by telling them that not only is a minister from Ontario going to take care of their province's economic development, but after that the position will simply cease to exist.

This does not make sense to me. I believe that we absolutely must go back to the arrangement where the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec was the responsibility of a Quebec minister or a minister representing this region. I believe that we must absolutely go back to that.

One thing is for sure: this provision alone is reason enough for me to oppose the bill. Not only does this make absolutely no sense, but ministers of state will now be paid the same as ministers, even if they do not have the same duties, responsibilities or officials to manage.

Why are they doing this? In truth, it is not out of fairness, but simply to correct the mistake that the Prime Minister made when he unveiled his original cabinet. It is all well and good to say that a gender parity in cabinet has been achieved because there are as many women as there are men; nonetheless there is still the issue of the responsibilities given to the women. That was problematic from the very beginning.

The six most important positions in cabinet, apart from the Prime Minister, are the following: the Minister of Public Safety, a man; the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a man, Stéphane Dion, when the Prime Minister formed his cabinet in 2015; the President of the Treasury Board, a man; the Minister of Finance, a man; the Minister of National Defence, a man; and the Minister of Justice, a woman. Of the six most important positions in the Government of Canada, there was originally only one woman. A cabinet shuffle rectified this. Now, the Minister of Foreign Affairs is a woman, because they decided to send Mr. Dion abroad. There is that at least, but there is still no gender balance when it comes to the six most important positions.

There are three House officer positions. When the cabinet was formed after the election, in 2015, the chief whip was a man, the member for Orléans; the Leader of the Government in the House was a man, big surprise, the name of his riding escapes me, but he is the current Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard. Lastly, there is obviously the leader, a man; the caucus chair, although chosen by the caucus, not the Prime Minister, is also a man. Originally, the House officers were men.

The Prime Minister made a mistake. For him, gender balance is as easy as putting 15 people on one side and 15 people on the other. However, we must never forget about the responsibilities that are given to women.

Madam Speaker, your title is the assistant deputy speaker. I do not believe that you would expect to have the same salary as the Speaker of the House, because you do not have the same duties or responsibilities. However, we recognize your role and importance. The House held an election. We have to stop thinking that, for true fairness to come about, all it takes is to give everyone the same pay. Equality must also involve the responsibilities given to people. That is the problem we have at the moment.

The government did not decide to create departments and expand job descriptions so that ministers of state would be ministers in their own right who deserved the same salary. No one can tell me that the Minister of Sport and the Minister of National Defence deserve the same salary because their responsibilities, at least as they stand now, are completely different. Just think about their budgets and how many public servants they have working for them. It is obvious that they are not the same at all.

Let us also remember that there are many qualified women that the Prime Minister could have appointed. He could have made different choices. For example, the member for Vancouver Centre has been here since 1993. She has been in the House longer than any other female MP. However, the Prime Minister chose to appoint other people. Those are his personal choices. The member for Kanata—Carleton has a great deal of experience as a member of the military. The Prime Minister could have appointed her to be the defence minister instead of the member for Vancouver South, but he did not.

Now the Prime Minister needs to take responsibility for his decisions. He is the one who appointed his cabinet as he saw fit and created the inequality in the duties and responsibilities entrusted to women. The solution is simple, and it is not a bill to change people's salaries, but rather a cabinet shuffle.

If the Prime Minister would like, we could name some ministers who were so-so, such as the Minister of National Defence who decided to take credit for the success of an operation. The Prime Minister could put a woman in that position. Only once in the history of Canada have we had a woman defence minister, namely, Kim Campbell, who was appointed to the position following the massacre in Rwanda because it looked better to have a woman managing such a file.

After thinking things through over the summer, the Prime Minister could decide to appoint a woman defence minister. In fact, if he were to do so, it would bring some balance to the six top posts in the Government of Canada. There would be three women and three men, so that would be an improvement. However, he could do even better and be even more ground-breaking by appointing a woman finance minister. That has never been done before. He could decide to do that.

Rather than trying to have its bill adopted by force, by using time allocation motions, he should simply use the good old method of a cabinet shuffle, reflect on the ways he wants to distribute additional tasks, and ensure that women have real leadership roles in the Canadian government, instead of trying to raise their salaries and minimize the mistake he made when he put together a cabinet that has equal representation solely in terms of numbers, and not in terms of responsibilities.

I hope that the Prime Minister will seriously consider my question, ask that Bill C-24 be withdrawn, and do what everyone would do: shuffle the cabinet to rebalance the distribution of responsibilities between the men and women in his cabinet.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 8:05 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-24. I find it absolutely amazing, and it really speaks to the contempt that the Liberal Party has for this hallowed place of Parliament, that when members are speaking and members on the opposite side do not agree with the position of the opposition, which is really the job of the opposition, to hold the government to account, that gang over there starts chirping at members on this side. It is quite funny to see.

Leave it to the Prime Minister to waste Parliament's time in dealing with this piece of legislation, not unlike the changes to the election financing bill that is being proposed by the government. The government creates legislation, in this case breaking its own rules, and now has to bring legislation to the House to keep itself in line. It is absolutely ridiculous. We are now dealing with a bill, Bill C-24, that the Prime Minister created when he created his cabinet. I agree with the member who sits beside me that this is a complete waste of government and parliamentary time.

Let us look at what Bill C-24 would do. It would allow for the creation of eight new Liberal ministerial positions, including three Liberal ministers who are yet to be named. When I think of ministers yet to be named, it is almost as if the Liberals have become general managers of a hockey team. They are making trades, and part of the deal is for a player to be named later or future considerations. It just does not make any sense.

Liberals are asking us to vote on something that is not even defined. They tell us to trust them. Canadians are surely starting to learn what trusting the Liberals means. What is the potential of these new ministerial positions? They have not told us in this piece of legislation. Maybe they are looking at creating a ministry of social media. Who knows? We all know that the Prime Minister has an affinity for social media. In fact, I would suggest that the Prime Minister believes more in Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram than he does in showing up in this place. Maybe there will be a minister of blaming others and accepting no responsibility. Maybe that is one of the ministries they will look at creating later on. Maybe there will be a minister of taking care of Liberal friends, families, donors, partisans, hacks, and cronies. Who knows? We do not know, because it is not defined in the legislation.

The interesting thing with the creation of ministries is that it also comes, potentially, with dollars. We are being asked to vote on something that is not defined within this legislation, that could potentially cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars, and the other side expects us to support this. How ridiculous is that? It just does not make any sense.

Another thing this bill would do is formally eliminate the positions of the former government's six regional development agency ministers. That is an important point. The government, effectively, wants to consolidate all of these regions into one centralized area, the greater Toronto area, and that would cause problems for a lot of reasons. Hopefully, if I have enough time, I will speak to some of the concerns within Atlantic Canada. Quite frankly, it is surprising to me that Atlantic Canadian members of Parliament are not enraged by this. We are certainly hearing opposition from those in the west that this would be consolidated in Toronto and some of the problems that would create. Probably the only advantage is that Pearson airport is nearby and people could get there easily.

Each regional development office had the expertise. The government would be forcing those regional investors to make their way to Toronto to deal with the minister responsible for ACOA, for example.

Again, it does not make any sense. When there is regional representation and there are boots on the ground, they are able to deal with businesses and individuals in those areas. It creates better efficiency. It allows the lines of communication to be open. One would think that the Liberal members from Atlantic Canada in particular would be outraged by what is going on.

The big thing in the bill is the increase in the salaries of the ministers. On the surface, that might not seem like much. Again, this is a problem created by the Prime Minister when he decided that he was going to have a gender-equal cabinet. I guess someone in the Prime Minister's Office raised the fact that he made a mistake, because he named them to the positions, but the positions did not go with the salaries of cabinet ministers. Why should they? When we look at the responsibilities of the health minister and the Minister of National Defence, and I know this has been brought up, these are responsibilities that have tremendous budgets. Tremendous numbers of people work in those departments. The responsibility assumed by those ministers should be paid commensurate with those responsibilities. In the private sector, payment is commensurate with the amount of responsibility individuals have.

The Prime Minister, by moving toward this gender equity situation, has created this problem for himself. Here we are tonight, spending Parliament's valuable time, late at night, to push through this piece of legislation the Liberals want to create this equity.

One of the things that has impressed me the most since I became a member of Parliament, particularly on our side of the House, is the strength of the females in our caucus. I would put every single one of our females up against any male in this Parliament, and I would put them on the front benches, not based on gender equity but based on their capability and their ability to perform. Since I became a member of Parliament, I have been impressed by the strength of the women in our caucus. I have said that publicly a number of times.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 8:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-24. There are a number of significant problems with what I would call the laughable bill that is before the House today, and I wish to bring some attention to those.

There are three main problems I wish to address. First, the bill would delete the role of regional development ministers, thereby leaving economic development in Atlantic Canada, western Canada, and northern Canada in the hands of a minister in Toronto. That seems rather unfair. Second, Bill C-24 lacks transparency by allowing the government to appoint three mystery ministers. Third, the Liberals claim to be taking a stand for women with the legislation by creating a cabinet that upholds so-called gender parity, but in fact, that is not the case, and I wish to explore that further.

With regard to regional representation, as Canadians we should strive to work together for equality while also embracing diversity. Our diversity, of course, is what makes us unique as a country. We celebrate what western Canada has to offer. We celebrate what Atlantic Canada has to offer. We celebrate what the north has to offer and what eastern Canada and central Canada have to offer. Bill C-24 provides a threat not only to the feminist movement but to our way of life as a diverse and beautiful people.

The bill aims to eliminate the positions of our former government's six regional development agency ministers. The elimination of these positions would remove the ability of the different regions across Canada to be accurately represented in government. The Liberals continue to say that they want to work with the provinces and municipalities, yet in the bill, they are trying to remove cabinet voices that represent specific regions, such as western Canada, Atlantic Canada, and the north. This action shows the insensitivity of the Liberals toward national issues and having those issues voiced at the cabinet table.

I believe that our country has different cultures, industries, and issues that in each region need to be treated with unique care. Of course, the bill would prevent that from being the case. Traditionally, regional development agency ministers brought their regions' issues to Parliament to ensure accurate representation, but as I said, this bill would gut that opportunity.

I would also like to speak to the bill's lack of transparency. It seems that the Liberals are just demanding a blank cheque. They are not willing to tell us, as members of Parliament, where this money would go or which ministers they would appoint. We are told that there would be three mysterious ministers and ministries that would be created through the bill, and taxpayer money would go to that.

What are the Liberals hiding, and why are they not being transparent with us and with the Canadian public with regard to their plans in going ahead and creating these ministries?

There is absolutely no way that I, nor I believe any members on this side of the House, are going to vote for a piece of legislation that demands a blank cheque with no accountability, no transparency, and no honesty. That is not good governance, and I will not stand for that.

Moving on to the third problem in the bill, I would like to talk about its impact on women. When it comes to changing the salaries of ministers of state, I have to boldly contend that Bill C-24 is nothing more than a slap-dash attempt to cover up for the Liberals' media embarrassment.

The Prime Minister announced his cabinet. He announced that due to his quota system, gender parity had all of a sudden been achieved. There had been some sort of arrival that had been granted to the Liberal Party of Canada. The media was quick to pick up on this and to note that this was not in fact the case. There were actually several ministers of state, all of whom were women. Women were being placed in positions with less authority, less responsibility, and smaller budgets than where their male counterparts were being placed. This revealed the inequality in the Prime Minister's cabinet appointments.

We know ministers of state earn less money and they have fewer responsibilities than ministers. Even though it was clear that a couple of ministries had already been made up to achieve gender parity, it still ended up that female ministers were earning less than their male colleagues. The quota system, with its contrived gender parity, severely damaged the credibility of these women.

I believe the bill does an incredible disserve to the women of the House and to the women of Canada as well, because we do serve as role models. It is tokenism at its finest and, as a woman, I am offended by what the Prime Minister has done.

As a strong, intelligent, and hard-working woman, I want to be entrusted with responsibilities and granted a voice at the cabinet table, not based on my genitalia but based on my ability and not according to anything other than that. I want my salary to match the work I do and the responsibilities I carry within this place. Changing the pay system would not in fact create equality, but it would create even greater inequality.

Women have shown they can climb any ladder in Canada that they choose to, whether it be in business, politics, or academia. Overlooking this achievement by trying to legislate equality is an injustice to the many women who have fought, and who continue to fight, to gain pay equality for equal work.

From its inception, the Conservative Party of Canada has modelled quite well what it is to put women in strategic places of leadership and to do so based on their abilities. The Conservative Party had the first female prime minister, the Right Hon. Kim Campbell, which the current Prime Minister appears to have forgotten. Therefore, I will remind the House that there has been a female prime minister, that she did exist.

In addition to that, the Conservatives also put in place the first female cabinet minister in Canada's history, under Prime Minister Diefenbaker. The Conservative Party continues to champion strong women in politics. I am here today on this side of the House as a proud Conservative member. I am treated incredibly well by both female and male colleagues. I have never been made to feel less than them. In fact, I am celebrated because of what I bring to the table. That is the way it is supposed to be.

Let me draw attention to the member for Sturgeon River—Parkland. She is a prime example of what it is to be a strong and capable woman within the political realm. Before becoming the interim leader of the Conservative Party, she held a number of cabinet posts. During her time as a member of Parliament, she has raised awareness for crimes committed against women and girls through her private member's bill, the just act. She has boosted support for girls by championing the internationally recognized International Day of the Girl through the UN. She implemented several high-profile health initiatives as the minister of health. The member has also shown Canada that women can accomplish exactly what they set their mind to without government creating quotas or making special accommodations for them.

We do need to pursue true equality, but not this fake equality or so-called equality that the Liberals are trying to push forward in their agenda. As for me, a middle-aged white guy, with so-called great hair, does not get to tell me my value, my worth, my dignity or my ability.

There is much to be considered when we look at Bill C-24. We must fight for Canada's future as a nation that values hard work and equality, not just equality on paper but honest equality that is seen in real life. In Canada, women are given the ability to work to accomplish the same things as their male counterparts, an opportunity that cannot be overlooked if we value the future of our women.

Instead of a gender quota system, the Prime Minister could have appointed based on merit and probably could have achieved much the same thing. If he had done this, he would have given credit where credit was due and he would have contended for the equality and the value of women. That is the type of prime minister I would like to see our country have. He or she is still to come.

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 10:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to belabour the point that the real reason we are here tonight on both Bill C-24 and Bill C-50 is because of miscalculations on the part of the Prime Minister. In the first instance, he promised gender parity in cabinet, and suddenly realized he did not have it. On this piece, he is giving in to his Liberal instincts.

Why is there nothing in Bill C-50 that would address third-party financing? That is the big elephant in the room. Third-party groups have unduly influenced elections, especially the last one. Why is there nothing in Bill C-50 that would address that?

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 8:05 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, as members know, this bill was originally put on notice back in June 2016, yet it has been languishing, unloved, and unmoved pretty much ever since. At the same time, these ministers in question have been receiving their payment. How are they being paid these extra salaries? Through the estimates, a process that not only I would argue is inappropriate but so does the other place itself. The national finance committee of the other place argued:

Our committee is concerned about the recurrent practice of using supplementary estimates to pay certain ministers' salaries prior to the enactment of amendments to the Salaries Act, and raises this question is the context of Bill C-24.

Here we have a bill that has been here for over a year, the minister has been getting paid through the back door, through the estimates. Why is it that in the dying days of this session, all of a sudden the government sees this as a priority?