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

Sponsor

Bardish Chagger  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 14, 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

Dec. 13, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Dec. 11, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Dec. 11, 2017 Failed Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act (report stage amendment)
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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Winnipeg North.

Before I begin, if this is the last occasion that I rise in this House to speak this year, I would like to wish all of my colleagues a wonderful and merry Christmas, and all the best for the new year.

During earlier debates on this bill, a number of members spoke to the importance of Canada's regional development agencies. They expressed concern about the impact on the regional development agencies of the proposed removal from the Salaries Act of the ministerial positions associated with them, and I rise to speak to this point today.

Bill C-24 would not dissolve the regional development agencies, or RDAs. They would continue to exist as separate organizations, and would not be consolidated. They would remain a strong, local presence in the regions they serve, and nothing in this bill would change that. The regional development agencies are essential delivery partners in the government's plan to foster economic growth. They will continue to work with communities and economic development organizations to promote local growth.

In this 100th year of Confederation, it is worth reflecting upon what has made Canada the modern, prosperous nation it is today. Canada is a nation of strong people and big thinkers. Our identity is shaped by our heritage and our geography. The Government of Canada recognizes that each region of our country has unique strengths. We also recognize that innovation does not just happen in the big cities, but in every region of the country.

Where innovation happens matters, because that is where the best jobs are located. Innovation happens right across our country in communities from coast to coast to coast. This is why Canada's regional development agencies are central to the government's plan to create well-paying, quality jobs. It is why, under this government, one minister, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, would be the responsible minister for all of the regional development agencies.

This change would be a positive for the regions, be it in eastern Canada, the north, or in western Canada. It would not diminish in any way the regional focus and local presence, but it would enhance the agencies' ability to work together, to share best practices with each other, and to learn from one another's experiences. When all regional development organizations are able to work together in the same portfolio and under the same minister, it facilitates knowledge sharing and best practices. Regional and national expertise would be working together for the benefit of all Canadians.

Together, the regional development agencies would have a national footprint, with offices in every region of Canada. This regional presence enables them to connect companies, communities, and Canadians with each other, and with the programs and services they need to grow their businesses, attract global investments to their communities, and, yes, create jobs.

The regional development agencies serve as a focal point of contact for outreach and engagement to better understand the needs of Canadians and the challenges they face. With our strong regional presence and well-developed local relationships with stakeholders and communities and other levels of government, regional development agencies strengthen the government's ability to support innovative, inclusive growth in every part of this great country.

The government supports the regional development agencies. We are investing over $1 billion each year for the regional development agencies in support of community and business growth in every part of Canada, supporting an innovative, clean, and inclusive economy. For example, the regional development agencies are key partners in delivering the accelerated growth service, which brings together key supports, including advisory services, financing, and export support to help propel entrepreneurs to success across Canada.

The regional development agencies are also taking action to boost the growth of Canada's clean tech sector and increase financing support for promising clean technology firms. Starting in 2016-17, the regional development agencies doubled their combined investments in clean tech projects to $100 million a year. This presents entrepreneurs and innovators in every part of the country with an immense opportunity to showcase their ingenuity while encouraging sustainable prosperity for all.

It is this kind of strategic alignment that could be accomplished by having a whole-of-government approach to regional development agencies, working together to strengthen our country as one country while preserving the diversity of our regions. This is what our government is doing for the benefit of all Canadians.

Regional development agencies also deliver programs and initiatives tailored to specific parts of Canada that have their own unique identities. In eastern Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, is a lead economic development organization with flexible programs and an on-the-ground presence. ACOA is well positioned to help grow the economy, foster innovation, and assist in the creation of new jobs, new technologies, and new export opportunities. ACOA has built a strong network of collaborators, including other levels of government, business, academia, and community leaders across the region.

The Atlantic growth strategy has been implemented to improve business development, advance workforce skills, and increase collaboration among both levels of government to help create a stronger Atlantic Canada economy, something we can all be proud of.

The strength of Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec, CEDQ, lies in its community presence through a network of 12 regional offices that work directly with community stakeholders. This allows CEDQ to understand local needs and issues, to provide timely and adapted solutions to these socio-economic realities, and to align programs and actions with the government priorities and the innovation and skills plan.

In southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario's core programs support the productivity, export capacity, and scale-up of firms, and help accelerate the commercialization of new ideas and innovations. FedDev Ontario contributes to building public-private partnerships and supports communities seeking to diversify their local economies.

In northern Ontario, FedNor's flagship northern Ontario development program focuses on delivering Government of Canada priorities to communities, businesses, and first nations in the less populated but very beautiful northern portion of Canada's largest province.

The government's prosperity and growth strategy for northern Ontario will focus on ways to build on northern Ontario's unique strengths and competitive advantages in such sectors as mining, resources, and agriculture, among other sectors.

In western Canada, Western Economic Diversification, WED, invests in programs that help build on western Canada's strengths. WED's on-the-ground presence in the west supports the western Canadian innovation ecosystem through strong relationships with regional stakeholders, the provincial government, and other federal organizations.

WED is helping to strengthen innovation networks and clusters by supporting innovators to develop the next great technologies, products, and services; creating better jobs for the middle class by assisting western Canadians to obtain the industry-relevant certification and skills they need to compete in today's global and highly competitive economy; and generating more trade and foreign investment opportunities by providing entrepreneurs with the tools needed to grow their companies into globally competitive successes.

The Government of Canada is committed to building a sustainable, diversified, and dynamic economy in Canada's North. The investments of Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, help create jobs, support community economic development, and bring real and tangible benefits to northerners.

CanNor plays a key role in the north's inclusion through its relationships with indigenous organizations and businesses. It creates opportunities for small and medium enterprises, which are the backbone of the Canadian economy, by investing in renewable energy and clean technologies, supporting the growth of northern businesses, and partnering with indigenous groups and companies.

These are examples of the work regional development agencies do every day on the ground on behalf of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast in communities large and small. The regional development agencies will continue to do this important work and fulfill their mandate. The voices of the regions will continue to be heard. The work being done in the regions will remain in the regions. What they do is essential. That is how and where economic development takes place.

They will continue to help Canadians start and grow globally competitive companies, and they will help those companies turn their research and innovation into business opportunities.

They will continue to promote regional advantages to attract global companies, and under one minister they will work together to better coordinate government-led programs for entrepreneurs and innovators.

While each regional development agency meets the needs of local and regional populations differently, together they are the story of Canada, be it on the east coast and the Atlantic provinces, on the west coast, in the north, or in southern or eastern Ontario. Together they are the story of Canada, of innovation and dedication, and a celebration of what makes our country unique.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, Bill C-24 would allow us to continue to do our great work. It would allow the RDAs to do their great work. It brings them under one roof to support small and medium-sized enterprises across Canada.

With regard to the Asian infrastructure bank, Canada is a multilateral and bilateral partner with a number of organizations around the world. If we look at the specific entity we are partnering with, a number of countries, a number of our allies, be it in Europe or in the Asia Pacific region, with which we trade, invest, and create good middle-class jobs are also involved in that. We should be at the table as well.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Good morning, Madam Speaker. I am pleased to be in the House today under your watch to inform you that I intend to oppose Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, which we are discussing this morning.

This morning, we are talking about salaries. Since a little change just happened right before my eyes, I would also like to give my best to Mr. Speaker, a colleague whom I greatly admire. To confirm what I was telling your predecessor, I intend to oppose this bill, which is another example of this government's half-baked ideas. Whenever it introduces a bill, it is not necessarily trying to do something good for Canadians; it is just trying to make itself look good.

Let me provide some background for people listening this morning, and remind the House that this Liberal government really dazzled everyone when it was first elected. It was all about sunny ways. This government really cares about its image. We were told to look at the beautiful cabinet photo, since cabinet has the same number of men and women. It was quite beautiful, right? Everyone had to admit that it really was a nice photo.

Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is time to send pictures and Christmas cards. We had a photo of the entire cabinet, which, we were told, had achieved gender parity. However, it was a pretty loose definition of parity, it was all for show, and that is what I will demonstrate here this morning.

When we looked at the photo, the first thing we did was read the titles. There were indeed ministerial titles. For those listening at home, cabinet is made up of two kinds of ministers. You have the senior ministers, like the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Sometimes, when the department is really big, a second minister is appointed to look after part of the portfolio. That individual, a minister of state, does not have the full responsibility of the department. Ministers of state are accountable to the minister they are supporting.

For example, I was fortunate enough to serve as both. I was the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, a full minister. I was responsible for five Canadian agencies, namely the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Correctional Service Canada, and the whole works.

I would have liked to have a deputy minister or a minister of state, but I did not. However, I was the minister of la Francophonie. I was deeply honoured to be given that responsibility. That was a minister of state portfolio because the minister of la Francophonie is a deputy who supports the minister of foreign affairs.

At the time I was proud that Prime Minister Harper told me that he needed me to fill the role of minister of la Francophonie. However, I was not responsible for Canadian foreign policy. I was specifically responsible for everything related to la Francophonie. Obviously, I was not responsible for the entire department. I have to say, that as minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, I had enough on my plate. I accepted that role. That being said, my salary did not change. That is what I am getting at, because we are talking about salaries this morning.

I very much respect the Minister of La Francophonie, but unfortunately, la Francophonie does not seem as important to the current government as it is to us. Hon. members will recall that it was a former Conservative government that created this entity. It is only right that a minister of la Francophonie or a minister of state not get the same salary as a full minister because they do not have the same responsibilities. There is a lot of talk about equal pay for equal work. It makes sense that if we do not have the duties of a superior, then we should get the pay of a subordinate. That is how it works in life. That is what taxpayers are entitled to expect.

One of the reasons I am opposed to this bill is that to maintain the illusion of parity, yet again, it is taxpayers who will foot the bill.

When journalists took a closer look at the impressive lineup of ministers in this beautiful picture, they noticed that ministers of state were included. Nothing wrong with that, but it meant that both ministers and ministers of state were counted in the calculation. They also untangled the Liberals' concept of parity and realized that many of the ministers of state were women and that in many cases, they would be reporting to a male minister. This picture of a gender-balanced cabinet, which had been announced with so much fanfare, turned out to be a picture of a plain old paternalistic cabinet, with female ministers of state reporting to male ministers.

This is no longer the postcard-perfect, sunny-ways ideal we were promised by the Liberal government, which was acting as if it had reinvented the wheel.

I have a colleague, right here next to me, whom I hold in the greatest respect. She is a former minister, having served as the minister of public works and government services. I had many occasions to work with her in my capacity as an MP, minister, and cabinet colleague, because she was responsible for procurement. She played an important role in awarding procurement contracts, and the Auditor General himself acknowledged that they had been awarded with great integrity. It is important to have genuine integrity, not just the appearance of integrity. My colleague is a woman who worked as a full minister in the Conservative government.

Not so long ago, the opposition benches were fronted by a female leader of the opposition, Rona Ambrose, who had previously served as minister of health and minister of the environment. She was a female full minister, a competent woman who received a salary corresponding to her title. She was a minister, and she was paid a minister's salary.

There is also my colleague, who was here in the House this week. I find it interesting that she was a minister that came from Canada's Far North. She was minister for the Arctic Council, minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency—we can get back to that ridiculous bill later—and minister of the environment. I am obviously talking about Leona Aglukkaq. I met her mother this week, and she speaks neither French nor English. She speaks an indigenous language, and I needed her daughter to interpret. Her daughter was minister of the environment and minister of health, and these were real ministerial positions.

I am talking about full ministers and not ministers of state, whom Jean Lapierre called “little ministers", as my colleague from Louis-Saint-Laurent reminded me. I do not want to downplay the work of ministers of state, but there are full ministers and there are ministers of state. Therefore, there is a salary for full ministers and a salary for ministers of state.

What do the Liberals want to do now? They want to combine them. Why? The government is just trying to make itself look good.

Another one of my female colleagues who is very competent and who holds the government to account is the former minister of transportation, who managed the Canada Post dispute and the labour dispute in the rail sector. I cannot name her because she is still an MP. I am referring to the excellent member for Milton. She is another woman who was a minister and was extremely competent. She had the salary of a minister because she did the work of a minister. Whether held by a man or a woman, the position has a salary.

I will now come back to the bill introduced by the Liberals. This is a remedial bill and taxpayers are going to foot the bill. The bill will let the government save face with respect to its claims of a gender-balanced cabinet. We are realizing that it is probably the most paternalistic cabinet in Canada's history.

This is an embarrassment for the Liberals. What are they doing? They realized that they were cornered. Therefore they have racked their brains and resorted to the usual tactic of picking taxpayers' pockets to solve the problem. It is not complicated.

That is what they usually do. We have seen it with families. That is another illusion. It is not funny how they boast about loving the middle class. They want to help families and are going to give them extra cash. They are just trying to pull the wool over our eyes when they say that they are cutting taxes for the middle class. We are drinking the Kool-Aid and believing that it is true, and that it is good to give the middle class big subsidies.

Fortunately, we live in a democracy, and we have independent organizations. The Fraser Institute is not falling for the government's line. It says eight out of 10 families are paying more tax under this government, which eliminated tax credits for education, ballet and piano lessons, sports, public transit, and more, and got rid of income splitting too. It gave with one hand and took away with the other.

That is what is happening here this morning. Cabinet is paternalistic. It is trying to save face by giving everyone the same salary. That means they will be paying ministers of state a ministerial salary. That is not okay. Assistants are not supposed to get the same pay as the boss. That is what the Liberals are trying to do this morning, and that is what I have tried to explain.

I oppose this bill for many reasons. I hope I will have a chance to talk about this some more when it is time for questions because there are other major problems with the other subterfuge here, and taxpayers will be on the hook for that too.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I never thought I would say this in the House, but I agree completely with my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. I would like to hear his opinion on another aspect of this bill, which has been debated before in this House.

I am still waiting for the job descriptions of the three positions that are supposed to open up in cabinet. Any time I have ever applied for a job, there was always a job description and salary attached. When there is a perfect match, someone can be hired. The opposite seems to be the case here. Anyone who has a Liberal resumé can usually count on a job offer.

Has my colleague heard anything at all about the job descriptions for the three new positions created in Bill C-24?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill C-24, and I have to say that it is rather surreal that we are here debating this bill, a bill that is essentially about increasing the salaries of a few Liberal cabinet ministers. That really speaks to the priorities of the government, or the lack of priorities.

During the 2015 election, the Prime Minister criss-crossed the country. He made a big deal about the fact that if he was elected, he would appoint the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history. Of course, we know that the Prime Minister was elected, and on November 4, 2015, he had an opportunity to fulfill his election promise when he appointed his cabinet on that date. On its face, it appeared that the cabinet was gender equal.

The only problem is that not all ministers are equal. There are full ministers, and then there are ministers of state. What is the difference between a full minister and a minister of state? To begin with, ministers of state do not have full departments. They do not manage a full department budget. Ministers of state do not have a deputy minister who reports to them. A minister of state does not have the same power and the same authority as a full minister.

The only way the Prime Minister was able to fulfill, on its face, a gender-equal cabinet was by filling the five junior portfolios, the five ministers of state, with female MPs, and then he could say that he had a gender-equal cabinet. It did not take long for a number of people to point out that the Prime Minister's gender-equal cabinet was not as equal as he made it out to be.

What did the Prime Minister do about it? He essentially played a game of pretend. He began by changing the titles of the ministers to remove “minister of state” and called them “minister” to create the illusion, the facade, that those five junior ministers without full departments were in fact the same as ministers with full departments. Then the Prime Minister increased the salaries of those five ministers, again junior ministers without full departments, to put their salaries on par with ministers of full departments. Now, to complete the facade, the Prime Minister has introduced Bill C-24, in which the government is asking Parliament to rubber-stamp what the Prime Minister did.

The parliamentary secretary to the government House leader, others members of the government, and the Prime Minister have talked a lot about the problem they have with two tiers of ministers. The irony of that is that Bill C-24 does not eliminate two tiers of ministers. In fact, what Bill C-24 does with respect to those five junior ministries is migrate them to a new category called “minister in respect of whom that department is designated”. In the case of those ministers, they would get their resources from the department of another minister. It sounds an awful lot like a minister of state.

In substance, what is the government doing? The government is not doing anything to solve the problem that it purports exists, which is the problem of two tiers of ministers. For the Prime Minister, it does not really matter, because for the Prime Minister, it is all about optics. It is all about looking good. It is all about pretending that he is a champion of women. Of course, when one looks at the record of the Prime Minister when it comes to supporting women, it really is a wanting record.

We have a Prime Minister who has done virtually nothing to assist Yazidi women and girls, who are suffering torture and the most egregious human rights violations imaginable, to help them come to Canada. He has done next to nothing. We have a feminist Prime Minister who is going to remove genital mutilation from the citizenship guide.

The Prime Minister talks a good game, creates a nice facade, and uses women to make himself look good. However, when it comes to substance, when it comes to doing something meaningful, the Prime Minister, time and time again, is AWOL.

What else would we expect from the Prime Minister? After all, we have a Prime Minister who is a failed prime minister. He is a Prime Minister who, in the last two years, has blown the budget and returned Canada to long-term structural deficits. He cannot get anything done. He cannot get TPP done. He cannot get softwood done. He cannot get NAFTA done. He cannot get pipelines built. He presides over a government plagued by scandal and corruption. He is under investigation as we speak. With a record like that, what else is there to do beyond taking selfies, appearing on American television to talk about his socks, and introducing hollow, meaningless bills, like Bill C-24, that waste Parliament's time?

It is a little ironic that the government is introducing this bill. It speaks to the government's priorities. It is making life more difficult for everyday Canadians. It is taking more out of the wallets of middle-class Canadians. It is going after vulnerable Canadians, like diabetics, to raise revenue for this cash-strapped, spendthrift government. It is declaring war on small businesses. While the government makes Canadians pay, when it comes to the Liberals giving themselves salary increases, they are all in.

Bill C-24 is not about gender equality. It is about Liberals helping Liberals. Let us talk about the arrogance, the entitlement, and the condescension of this Liberal government. It was remarkable that the Prime Minister and members of the government tried to insult the intelligence of Canadians by proclaiming that this bill was about gender equity.

On February 2, 2016, none other than the President of the Treasury Board said, “we are committed to pay equity in our cabinet and the government will soon be bringing forward legislation to ensure that all cabinet ministers receive equal pay.” Of course, Bill C-24 has nothing to do with pay equity. The principle of pay equity is equal pay for equal value. Bill C-24 does nothing of the sort, which is why it was laughed out of committee by expert witnesses on the question of pay equity.

Bill C-24 is a joke of a bill. It is one more reason 2019 cannot come soon enough.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11 a.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, listening to some of the comments from the other side of the House makes me want to stand up and comment.

The whole issue of equity is important for all of us. Certainly the Minister of Status of Women is equal to every other minister we have in the House. What we are trying to do with Bill C-24 is promote more gender equity all the way through the service.

I would like to hear some comments from my hon. colleague on the issue of gender balance. He said that our Prime Minister has not accomplished anything. The member should try to look at our budget through a gender lens as to its impact on women. What about the 600,000 jobs that have been created? Our economy is doing better than any other country in the G7. Somehow I think my hon. colleague forgot to read that press release.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, in reference to Bill C-24 and this falsehood put forward by the government that this is about gender equity, let me quote Professor Margot Young of the University of British Columbia, who specializes in gender equality. She said this about Bill C-24:

To loosely categorize legislation that essentially isn't really about gender equity as responding to a gender equity concern is, as I said before, dangerous....

She went on to say:

Really, there's no gender substance, no equity...on the basis of gender equality, to this legislation.

I think that pretty much sums up Bill C-24 when it comes to this false notion that it has anything to do with gender equity.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Madam Speaker, my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, is quite right. On top of increasing the salaries of certain Liberal ministers, Bill C-24 would do away with regional economic ministries. It is not only with respect to Quebec but also Atlantic Canada.

As an Alberta MP, I similarly share the member's concern, and I have to say it really is inconsistent. This is a government that talks so much about working with the provinces and municipalities, and here it is eliminating regional representation at the cabinet table to bring the unique perspectives of the regions of Canada, by doing away with these regional economic portfolios. I think that is a mistake on the part of the government.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]

Niwakoma cuntik Tansai Nemeaytane Awapantitok.

[English]

Madam Speaker, on November 4, 2015, my grandmother, who was at home in Kelowna, had the opportunity to watch the swearing-in of our ministers in our government. She was very happy when she learned that there was going to be equality between the sexes in the formation of cabinet. She actually raised this issue with me, a lady who is not very political. She is almost 90 years old, and yet she raised this issue because she thought it was important. She was so proud of the answer the Prime Minister gave when he said, “Because it's 2015”. I know there is some heckling, but when my grandmother says something to me about politics, it is a beautiful thing. I really believe we need true equality, and I am sure my grandmother, if she learned there was not true equality among the ministers, would like to see that rectified.

I am very proud of the government having presented Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, because it would amend the Salaries Act to include eight new ministerial positions, including the Minister of International Development and 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. It would authorize the Governor in Council to designate departments to support ministers who would occupy these positions, and authorize those ministers to delegate their powers, duties, or functions to officers or employees of the designated departments.

It would also make consequential amendments to the Financial Administration Act and change the legal title of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to minister of infrastructure and communities. This reflects the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of intergovernmental affairs minister.

This bill would amend the Salaries Act to modernize, as well, and formally equalize the status of the government's ministerial team, because it is a team. In this government, there are no junior or senior ministers; there are just ministers who work for all Canadians. This government is committed to a one-tier ministry that recognizes the equality of all cabinet members and supports their work on our government's priorities.

Under the current act, the Minister of International Development and 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 were all considered to be secretaries or ministers of state. This bill would add five ministerial positions, which would replace the current minister of state appointments. All members of the Prime Minister's ministerial team were sworn in as ministers and have had full standing and authority since day one of this government. This legislation would formally recognize the equality of all members of the ministry.

The bill would formalize having regional and national expertise working together under one roof, which would create a better synergy among them. The regional development agencies would continue to fulfill their mandates and offer their programs, services, and opportunities for local economic growth. Reporting through the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development highlights the importance the regional development agencies play in the regions and permits a more integrated and whole-of-government approach to economic development issues.

I truly believe it is important that science, la francophonie, small business and tourism, sport and persons with disabilities, and the status of women are all priority areas for Canadians and, therefore, merit full ministerial status. Our government has also, from day one, been committed to creating a one-tier ministry, and this legislation would simply formalize this approach.

Changes made to the Salaries Act would formalize the equality of all members of the ministry and modernize the act to allow for more flexibility. The current act allows for 35 ministerial positions, including the position of the Prime Minister. The bill would amend the act to include five additional titled ministerial positions: the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Science, the Minister of the Status of Women, and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. It would also add three new untitled positions to provide greater flexibility to structure future ministries to reflect the priorities of the government without resorting to minister of state appointments.

These changes would not impact the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. The minister of state appointments would remain an option at the discretion of the Prime Minister, which may be used in the future.

On November 4, 2015, when the cabinet was sworn in, the orders in council included language to style the five ministers as full ministers. The language of the order in council was necessary, given the legislative framework and the current list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act. Bill C-24 would modernize the legislation to include the five ministerial titles. That is important.

The bill further would amend the act by removing six regional development positions. However, this does not affect the current regional development agencies, which would continue, under this ministry, to operate under the mandate of the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development. The Prime Minister would continue to appoint ministers to oversee the regional agencies.

Under our government, all of these practices are currently in place, and this legislation simply formalizes the changes that were made when Canadians changed government, to have a better government. It addresses the administrative constraints that exist in current legislation.

When I was working for the First Nations Education Council in Quebec, it was interesting to note that the structures of the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador had commissions that were often run by women, while the other leadership roles were often done, in this case, by men. Men were doing the chief positions and the women, in this case, were doing many of the social organizations that ensured the indigenous organizations in Quebec and Labrador were able to function properly. However, it is important to note, even though women often end up in certain roles—there might be a bit of a gravitation to certain roles—that we all have equal status, no matter what the roles are, especially the ministry of the status of women. One day perhaps we will have a minister of the status of women who might be a man. However, in this case, it is such an important position with everything that is going on in our society, that this position should not be a second-class minister, but a full minister, like everyone else in the council.

For me, it is very important. For my grandmother, it is important. I believe it is important for all Canadians that we not only symbolically but concretely demonstrate that these are our values and that we are willing to make simple legislative changes to ensure that all ministers have full status when they debate the important issues of the day.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague. I welcome him to the House. He has been a great colleague. He represents his people very well. Earlier he quoted his grandmother from British Columbia. I congratulate him for that, but I would like to bring another British Columbian's perspective to this issue.

We had Professor Young, a University of British Columbia law professor who specializes in gender equality, appear before the committee on Bill C-24. She said:

...this particular piece of legislation really doesn't, as far as I can see, have much to do with gender equality.

She went on to say:

...to claim that it is about gender equality is dangerous. I think it's dangerous because too often we cut off the really important, substantial, and tough conversations about gender equality by claiming that we've already dealt with it and we've dealt with it in some more formalistic way. I think to point to this legislation and say that the expansion of categories that get the same pay level is actually dealing with gender equality is to essentially short-sheet the conversation....

I think to frame it as a piece of legislation that speaks substantively to the issues of gender equality and cabinet composition is wrong, and it's dangerous.

Three times she used the term “dangerous”. I wonder how my colleague feels about this comment from a law professor who deals with gender equality as a specialty.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be opposing the bill.

Bill C-24 highlights a central problem in this town, which is the centralization of power in party leaders' offices, particularly the Prime Minister's Office. All ministers, including ministerial staff, ultimately report to the Prime Minister, and they serve at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

Viewers and members of Parliament would be interested to hear that the Prime Minister's Office has a budget to hire 500 political exempt staffers who work for the Prime Minister in the Langevin Block and in other ministerial offices. This is a much bigger budget than what the U.K. prime minister has and a much bigger budget than many other heads of government in the G7 have.

The bill would exacerbate the problem of the concentration of power in Ottawa by enlarging the salaries for cabinet ministers and would continue the march to further centralization of power in this town, which is contrary to the interests of Canadians.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-24. I want highlight for members of the House a lot of the specifics in the bill.

The bill's general theme is one of synergy. It is very pragmatic with respect to how we do business in the House but, most important, how we do business across the nation with our partners in all levels of government as well as the private sector.

To be specific, Bill C-24 proposes to modernize and firmly equalize the status of the government's ministerial team, team being the key word, throughout the Hill and throughout the nation, working with our partners, municipalities, the provinces and territories, and the private sector in a more proactive manner.

The bill highlights that there are no junior or senior ministers in the Liberal ministry, or any ministry for that matter. It recognizes the importance of a one-tier ministry, all ministers being equal, working to deliver results for all Canadians throughout our great nation.

Currently, five ministers would be directly impacted by this legislation, which proposes to make their positions full minister positions. Those ministers are the Minister of International Development and 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. This would simply formalize what the Prime Minister put in place on day one.

The bill would provide the Prime Minister with flexibility to adjust cabinet to the current realities of the times based on what we would hear. Our government relies on our consultations with members of the public and our partners to ensure the message that we bring forward is based on what we hear. We fully concentrate on this in comparison to governments of the past. We learn and, most important, we react accordingly based on those consultations.

Not to be repetitive, but I again want to drill down on what the bill identifies.

The bill would amend the Salaries Act to modernize, as well as formally equalize, the status of the government's ministerial team. In this ministry, there are no junior or senior ministers. There are just ministers working to deliver results for Canadians.

This government is committed to a one-tier ministry that recognizes the equality of cabinet members and supports their work based on the government's priorities, as well as the priorities of the nation.

Under the current act, the Minister of International Development and 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 are all considered to be ministers of state. Bill C-24 proposes to add five ministerial positions to replace the current ministers of state appointments.

All members of the Prime Minister's ministerial team were sworn in as ministers and have had full standing and authority since day one of this government. The legislation formally recognizes the equality of all members of the ministry.

I would also like to highlight some of the residual benefits that the bill brings forward.

First, on regional development agencies, the proposed bill formalizes having regional and national expertise working together under one roof. It identifies how it will create better synergy by working closer together with our partners. It creates an opportunity for greater progress, which is this government's number one priority.

RDAs will continue to fulfill their mandates in confutation with our partners, listening, learning, and responding accordingly. They will continue to offer their programs, services and opportunities for local economic growth, working together. Cohesion between RDAs helps to grow the economy and deliver results.

Reporting through ISED ministers, highlights the importance of RDAs and the priorities they put forward within their different regions, the importance that they are part of the efforts to bring forward progress. It permits a more integrated and whole-of-government approach to economic development issues, therefore a more robust strategy that identifies objectives. With our partners, we can attach action plans to those objectives, and then, finally, execute those action plans to once again achieve progress.

RDAs are in fact in Atlantic Canada. For example, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is delivering results. There are economic development agencies for the regions of Quebec, and for southern Ontario, FedDev as an example. When we look at FedDev's accomplishments in the past year, over $783.9 million has been invested through a post-secondary strategic infrastructure fund, or an investment fund for the province of Ontario; $222 million invested in support of scale-up firms and entrepreneurs, innovative clusters, clean growth, and export development. I can go on, but unfortunately I only have 10 minutes.

Once again, there is progress.

The Federal Economic Development initiative for Northern Ontario, FedNor, and the western economic diversification are examples of working with partners for progress.

The bill proposes to formalize having the regional and national expertise of the regional development agencies all working together under one roof for progress. This creates better synergy and more opportunities for greater progress. It provides the flexibility needed to make real impacts in communities across our great nation.

The regional development agencies would all continue to fulfill their mandates of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in becoming more innovative, productive, and export oriented, achieving progress. They would continue to work with communities and economic development organizations to identify and generate opportunities for local economic growth, as well as continue to provide programs and services to entrepreneurs and communities that build on distinct competitive regional advantages, their niches.

In my former life as a municipal representative, I fully respected the people I worked with on a daily basis, whether it was bumping into someone at a grocery store, or soccer field, or hockey rink, or on the sidewalk, or going for a walk with my dog, or being somewhere with my daughters Logan and Jordan just sitting and chatting, or bumping into somebody who had an idea and wanted to discuss how he or she could progress ideas with our level of government. I knew how important it was in my position to take that message to other levels of government and other departments in order to leverage those ideas to become a reality through strategy, objectives, action plans, and execution.

Currently this government is doing a transportation corridors study and an infrastructure smart cities study, which align with the very direction the government proposes through this bill.

I ask members of the House to understand the synergies and partnerships, and to therefore appreciate the progress we are trying to bring forward on behalf of our great nation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, it is clear that the Liberals are coming here today with Bill C-24 to ask for parliamentary permission to do what they already did two years ago. It is clear they did that without any parliamentary authority at all.

In terms of the equality of the jobs, in the real world if someone wanted to take an existing job, like a minister of state, compared to a full minister's job, the skills, years of experience, and the responsibility of those jobs would be looked at.

Could the member explain to me how, on any planet, the role of status of women has the same responsibility as that of the finance minister, who handles $355 billion in taxpayers' money and can influence businesses all over the country, including his own?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, today we have the opportunity to speak on a centralist bill that lacks transparency, turns its back on the regions, and glosses over ministerial inequality. I am referring, of course, to Bill C-24, the act to amend the Salaries Act.

Bill C-24 has received little media attention. However, it speaks volumes about this government's philosophy. We can learn much by thoroughly reviewing each element of this bill. That is what I propose we do for our next few minutes together. To begin with, let us take apart the facade and see what is behind this bill.

First of all, Bill C-24 creates eight new Liberal minister positions, namely five minister of state positions and three yet-to-be-determined ministerial positions. We have no idea what these positions will be. The goal is to ensure pay equity among all ministers in this gender-balanced cabinet. The ministers may receive the same salary, but there is nothing in this bill to ensure that they will be treated fairly and equally.

These new ministers of state will in fact be junior ministers. They will not have a deputy minister, they will have much smaller budgets and they will have fewer powers. A feminist government, as the Prime Minister himself has suggested, does not create new superficial positions for the appearance of parity. He should instead give the same number of men and women major departments, with substantial and equitable budgets. Parity and equity also mean an equal division of key positions in the government. This means that a first target has been missed by our Prime Minister.

Let us now take a closer look at the announcement of the three new ministers. It would appear that the Liberal cabinet is not yet complete. Today we would have to sign a blank cheque for three new ministerial positions that, after two years of governing, have not yet been identified. In other words, today we are to approve the appointment of three mystery ministers. I would even say that they are phantom ministers. Approving the appointment of these three ministers in this government, which claims to be transparent and accountable, is a second missed target.

We then learned that Bill C-24 will eliminate the positions of six ministers responsible for regional development agencies. That is painful.

The responsibilities of these regional development agencies will now be concentrated in the hands of a single minister. Currently, this minister comes from a major centre, Toronto. Imagine that: a minister responsible for regional economic development who comes from Toronto. This means that now a minister from the big city of Toronto will be responsible for regional development across the country. When it comes to listening to the regions and sharing powers, this is a third missed target.

We are therefore signing the death warrant of regional economic development ministers. These ministers, who were supposed to defend and represent the interests of their regions across Canada, at least had the advantage of being familiar with the people on the ground and especially their needs. They helped ensure better coordination with the regions, and they represented a diversity of voices at the cabinet table.

I doubt the Liberal government is giving a single minister all that power just to save money. Saving money is not really its thing. We have seen over and over again that this government is not afraid to spend money hand over fist. No, this decision speaks to the Liberal government's core philosophy and reflects the Liberals' concept of federalism.

By now, this should come as a surprise to nobody because it is something we have seen many times. The government took power away from municipalities when it created the infrastructure bank and the smart cities challenge. Its new passengers' bill of rights gave the Minister of Transport more power, it is restricting access to information from the offices of cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, and it alone is making decisions about the when, how, and who of legalizing marijuana by ignoring the provinces, municipalities, and indigenous communities.

The Liberals' brand of federalism features a centralizing, paternalistic government that wants to monopolize decision-making and does not respect the provinces' jurisdiction.

This summer, the Prime Minister said that appointing a member from Toronto to be minister responsible for all the regional economic development agencies in Canada was, and I quote, “a way of reducing the kind of politics that we’ve always seen from regional development”. That is an extremely simplistic way of looking at this.

I wonder what kind of politics the Prime Minister was referring to, because, to us, regional representation and accountability is the kind of policy that is absolutely welcome and legitimate. The Prime Minister seems too attached to his powers, incapable of trusting the expertise of others, and too worried about delegating responsibilities to anyone. This is one of the government's biggest aberrations since it came to power.

We also know that last fall, $150,000 from the Ontario economic development fund was given to a business in the riding of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, in Mississauga. Is this the type of politics the Prime Minister had in mind when he said he wanted to centralize powers?

Furthermore, a Liberal Atlantic caucus subcommittee indicated that it had had reports of a threefold increase in processing times at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency since a Toronto-area minister, a big-city minister, was appointed to oversee maritime regions. According to that same subcommittee, centralized decision-making impedes the agility of programs. This means that regional businesses that count on the regional development agencies will have to foot the bill for the new centralized model. On top of being affected by the finance minister's new tax reforms, job creators in our regions will be further disadvantaged by this Liberal government. These are all factors that are not helping our regions right now.

For a bill presented as a simple correction of a pay imbalance between ministers, we are both surprised and disappointed by its contents. It concentrates more power in the hands of a big-city elite. It creates three new ministerial positions that are shrouded in mystery. We know nothing about the duties these ministers will have. They are phantom ministers. It eliminates the positions of ministers responsible for regional economic development across Canada. It also increases processing times at the development agencies that are supposed to help our entrepreneurs. We are supposed to be working to help our entrepreneurs, but this bill throws roadblocks in their way.

Once again, the Liberal government has forgotten the regions all across Canada. It is not being transparent and is implementing a paternalistic and centralizing federalism. Worst of all, the aim of this bill, which is to ensure fairness among the ministers, is not even met.

Perhaps cabinet members will have the same salary, but they will not have the same responsibilities and powers. Key positions will still be given to a handful of men, as we see now. This means that Bill C-24 completely misses the mark.

In closing, the Liberal government, which keeps saying that it wants to be more transparent, reacted when the media and the opposition started scratching the surface and noticed that its so-called gender-balanced cabinet was really just for show. Indeed, there were very few women in key cabinet posts with all the powers that go along with them.

The government's solution was to come up with a kitchen sink bill in which it simply increased the number of ministers of state, who will not even have the same tools to work with, who will report to other people, namely, the Prime Minister and his office. He also used this as an opportunity to get rid of the regional economic development ministers across Canada, even though those ministers understood their region's local reality. All of these things combined spell disaster for all regions of Quebec.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 11:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague may have stretched the truth just a bit when he talked about a unanimous decision of Canadians to support this move to gender equality, and so on. For example, Professor Margot Young, a University of British Columbia law professor, speaking before the government operations committee on Bill C-24, had some comments to make. She said, “I think to frame it as a piece of legislation that speaks substantively to the issues of gender equality and cabinet composition is wrong, and it's dangerous”. Then in response to a question about whether the Prime Minister's claim of gender equal cabinet was cynical or not, she said, “I would say it's dishonest”.

It is clear there is no unanimity on this issue, and that in spite of the comment by the Prime Minister, “because it's 2015”, which may have sounded great at the time, it is clear that the bill does not do anything to actually achieve gender equality. Does my colleague agree with the law professor from British Columbia, who is an expert in gender equality issues?