Mr. Speaker, I rise today with the intention of speaking about Bill C-24, which would formalize in statute the one-tier ministry of this government. We are ensuring, through this bill, that the current and future governments will have the flexibility required to meet their commitments to Canadians.
As we know, the government introduced this bill to amend the Salaries Act on September 27, 2016.
The Salaries Act authorizes the payments out of the consolidated revenue fund of a ministerial salary to individuals who have been appointed to ministerial positions listed in the act. There are currently 35 ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act, including the position of prime minister. The Salaries Act was first introduced into statute in 1868 as “An Act respecting the Governor General, the Civil List, and the Salaries of certain Public Functionaries.”
This act has changed countless times throughout our country's history, modified always with the intention to align with the priorities of the government of the day and each prime minister's preferences in how he or she composes the ministry. Our change in Bill C-24 is hardly new. In the last dozen years, we saw legislation to amend the list of ministries in the Salaries Act three times. It was enacted in 2005, 2012, and of course, 2013.
I would now like to take the opportunity to summarize the proposed changes that Bill C-24 would bring to the Salaries Act. First, the legislation would provide for including in the Salaries Act the five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments, thereby doing away with the administrative distinctions this government has had to employ under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act.
Previous cabinets have seen ministers of state considered to be junior ministers because previous prime ministers have determined that such ministers of state should be appointed to assist other ministers with their portfolio responsibilities. Our current context does not agree or find this way of thinking to be operational or suitable. Our Prime Minister's intention has been to create a one-tier cabinet, and the distinction of ministers of state as junior ministers fails to reflect the importance of the subject matters at issue, as well as the value of equality that this government holds in the highest esteem.
The five new ministerial positions to be added to the Salaries Act are minister of la Francophonie, minister of small business and tourism, minister of science, minister of status of women, and minister of sport and persons with disabilities. The five ministers will continue to advance the priorities of the government that were established by the Prime Minister and set out in their mandate letters and legal instruments. These are important positions, with roles and responsibilities becoming of full ministers.
The minister of la Francophonie pursues Canada's strong and sustained commitment to all 80 member states and governments of la Francophonie. Together, these constitute more than one-third of the United Nations' membership and account for a population of more than 890 million people worldwide, including 220 million French speakers.
The minister of science plays the key role of ensuring that Canada is competitive in the global knowledge-based economy through being responsible for supporting scientific research and integrating scientific considerations into the government's investments and policy choices. The minister is also responsible for portfolio organizations, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Furthermore, the minister of science is the lead minister for a number of science-related funding programs, including the Canada research chairs. Our government holds innovation as a key priority, and it is through scientific innovation that we will continue to build an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and prosperous.
The minister of sport and persons with disabilities works to promote healthier Canadians through sport and recreation and, further, is responsible for work that ensures greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities. The current minister has been tasked with developing legislation to transform how the Government of Canada addresses accessibility. The minister leads on a number of important funding programs, including the enabling accessibility fund and the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities, and is responsible for the Canada Disability Savings Act.
The minister of status of women champions equality, addresses issues of gender-based violence, advances the prosperity and economic security of women, and works to increase the representation of women in leadership and decision-making roles. The minister presides over the federal department known as Status of Women Canada and is involved in key projects such as gender-based analysis to guide government policy-making decisions and budgets.
In her role as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the current minister supports Canada's small businesses, the backbone of our economy, by helping them to grow through trade and innovation in order to create jobs, support communities, and launch world-class companies. She is also working to grow Canada's tourism industries by promoting Canada as a world-class destination for international tourists. She is, furthermore, the minister responsible for Destination Canada.
As we see, these portfolios are important to our economy, to Canadians, and to the government. Formalizing the status of these five appointments as ministers in full standing reflects the importance of these five positions and the expectations placed on their incumbents. Once these positions are added to the Salaries Act with the adoption of Bill C-24, the orders in council that assign these ministers to assist other ministers would be repealed and these ministers would be in law what they already are in practice, which is full ministers.
I would be remiss if I were not to mention the key issue of cost. The enactment of Bill C-24 would not change the cost of the current ministry. All that would change are the payment mechanisms. Ministers whose positions are listed in the Salaries Act receive their ministerial salary under the authority of that statute and out of the consolidated revenue fund. Ministers appointed under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act receive their salary under the appropriations acts. That has been the legislative framework for more than two decades, but once Bill C-24 is passed, the former ministers of state would be appointed to the new Salaries Act positions and be paid under the authority of that act.
The Prime Minister's ministerial team already receive the same ministerial salary, regardless of the administrative distinctions of ministers and ministers of state. This equal pay has been the case since our first day in office, and we will not change this through the enactment of the bill.
Bill C-24 further provides the framework to permit these ministers to continue to be supported by existing departments in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The bill does not propose the creation of any new departments, but rather streamlines the responsivity of existing departments to these ministers.
I would like to further note that Bill C-24 would increase the number of ministers who could potentially be paid a ministerial salary under the Salaries Act from 35 to 37 including the Prime Minister, representing an increase of two ministerial positions that could be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund.
The bill would also have the consequential effect of increasing by two the number of parliamentary secretaries who could be appointed under the Parliament of Canada Act. Let me point out, however, that even before bringing forth the bill to the House, the Prime Minister currently has 34 ministerial positions available to him under the Salaries Act but has appointed only 30 individuals to the ministry. The bill is not fundamentally aimed at growing the ministry. Its goal is to formalize in legislation the government's current one-tier ministry and to modernize the act to enable more flexible and more adaptable ministries in the future.
We are not just concerned with addressing our government's priorities in the immediate term through the amendments in Bill C-24. Rather, we want to ensure that future ministries can be best equipped with all the necessary tools to be structured in ways to meet the emerging priorities of the time. By adding three untitled ministerial positions to the Salaries Act, Bill C-24 would enhance the flexibility of government. Such positions would be titled at the discretion of the prime minister, to be based upon the priorities of the time, whatever those may be. In this way, the prime minister can adjust his or her cabinet and its positions to respond to changing priorities or challenges facing the country.
The alignment of all regional development agencies under one portfolio, especially under the minister responsible for national economic development, is another example of this.
One of our government's priorities has been to see regional and national expertise working together under one roof. We have done so to create better synergy and opportunities for greater economic progress, and this coherent whole-of-government approach to regional development provides the flexibility needed to make a real impact in communities right across Canada.
The regional development agencies will continue to fulfill their mandates of supporting small and medium-size enterprises in becoming more innovative, productive, and export-oriented. They will continue to work with communities and economic development organizations to identify and generate opportunities for local economic growth.
The regional development agencies will continue to provide excellent programs and services to entrepreneurs and communities right across the country, building on the distinct competitive regional advantages that exist in different communities.
Working together, the regional agencies will enhance cohesion between them and help grow the economy and deliver results to Canadians in all regions of the country. The important role, which economic development plays across Canada's regions, is only strengthened and highlighted by having the regional agencies all report to Parliament through the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
Finally, the legislation would also change the legal title of the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental affairs to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, to reflect the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of intergovernmental affairs minister himself.
These changes formalize what has already been the practice of the past two years. The Prime Minister's cabinet is one tier. We have taken all the non-legislative steps available to us to recognize this. These amendments address an administrative constraint in the current legislation and catch it up with the structure of the ministry as it operates today.
I would like to end my remarks with a nod to history. As we are all proudly aware, Canadians across this country have been celebrating a very special milestone this year, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. A century and a half ago, the Fathers of Confederation gathered to create something very special, something we all cherish.
As the story goes, upon arriving at the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, future prime minister John A. Macdonald was checking into a hotel. The ledger presented to him for registration included a column asking for occupation. Rather than write lawyer, he picked up the fountain pen and he wrote cabinetmaker. It was a joke, but at the time a very prescient one, because upon assuming the role of Canada's first prime minister he acknowledged that one of his most significant challenges would be to bring the right people to the cabinet table to help the fledgling country find its feet. As former prime minister Macdonald liked to tell people, cabinets do not just happen; cabinets are constructed. Over the years, that construction has taken different forms.
In 1867, there were just 14 ministers around the cabinet table, 14 men from relatively similar walks of life. They were responsible for portfolios such as militia and defence, inland revenue, and the post office. One hundred and fifty years later, we have a diverse, accomplished, gender-balanced cabinet working on so many important priorities for Canadians, and that cabinet reflects the diversity of Canada. Let us get on with enacting this bill and putting behind us any question that others might have had about the importance of these mandates or the status of these ministers who are leading on these files and others.