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

Sponsor

Bardish Chagger  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, law.

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 / noon
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I have been waiting for months to speak to Bill C-24. The official title is an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. A more accurate title for the bill could be an act to cover up this Liberal government's embarrassing mistake of claiming to create a gender-balanced cabinet while actually appointing five women as junior ministers, and, under the traditionally appropriate practice of Canadian governments, paying them substantially less.

The Prime Minister's mistake was exposed when he unveiled his first cabinet after the 2015 election. Within days, as controversy swirled in the media and the public arena, and it must be said, among Liberal backbenchers, the Prime Minister's Office went into damage control. All of a sudden, the talking points were that every single member of cabinet, those with multi-million dollar departments and spending responsibilities and those with no departments and substantially fewer dollars and responsibilities, were equal. All of a sudden, Orwellian fable came alive in the cabinet room, just across from the public gallery, and Animal Farm came to life. The last commandment on the barn wall of the satirical story became a guiding principle of this infant Liberal government. All ministers are equal, the Prime Minister and his inner circle proclaimed, though he and everyone in the Liberal cabinet, on the Liberal backbenches, on this side of the House, and across Canada knew, as they still know today, that some ministers are more equal than others.

That did not matter then, and it does not matter now to the Prime Minister and his brain trust. All he had to do to correct his original goof was open the treasury and take the time and energy of law writers to craft the bill we are debating so that the Salaries Act could be amended so that five ministers of state could be re-profiled as full ministers and receive a salary equivalent to those in full ministerial positions. These salary bumps, $20,000 a year each, are to be paid from the consolidated revenue fund.

In other words, the hard-earned tax dollars sent to Ottawa by Canadians were used to pay for the Prime Minister to make good. The original Governor in Council appointments of the five ministers of state made on November 4, 2015, were suddenly transformed to full ministerial positions. However, that was not the end of it. These new ministers, the five upgraded ministers of state, needed budgets, money to spend in their expanded, confected positions, so Bill C-24 would also provide a legislative framework so that these new positions could receive support from existing departments in the exercise of their mandates.

What is more offensive is that all of this convoluted damage control and financial funny business was done, until now, without conventional enabling legislation. All of a sudden, the five ministers of state were getting a substantial pay boost, an overnight $20,000-a-year raise. Just how often does that happen for the middle class, and of course, those struggling to join it?

We have to remember that the much-delayed piece of legislation we are debating today, Bill C-24, is finally, more than two years later, the legislation that will officially correct the Prime Minister's original mistake. The government has been effectively writing post-dated cheques to pay these ministers.

To be generous to the Liberals, beyond these precious taxpayer dollars so flippantly spent, as we expend in this debate the time and resources of the House to fix his problem, we must remember that the Liberals came to office with very little institutional knowledge and experience. From third-party status in the previous Parliament, with barely 35 members, all of a sudden there was a Liberal majority. To make it even more challenging for this fledgling majority, the Prime Minister and his backroom advisers very obviously ignored a number of re-elected members of some substance, and certainly experience, to create a cabinet heavily populated by newbies, which we know well led to some of the more spectacular stumbles made by the Liberal government over the past two years.

In the rush for the appearance of gender balance, the Liberals also ignored a tradition that dates back in the history of Westminster parliaments that was also, for so long, a part of our Canadian cabinet tradition.

Therefore, it is time for a quick look back in history and the victim of this expensive and time-consuming process: the storied position of minister of state.

A minister of state has traditionally been a minister with a cabinet mandate and responsibilities but without a ministry, a junior minister enabled in his or duties with a small portion of his or her departmental minister's budget.

Upon my election in 2008, I was honoured by Prime Minister Harper to serve as minister of state for foreign affairs responsible for the Americas, under the exceptionally capable foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, most recently our distinguished ambassador to France. I enthusiastically recognized my junior role, my supporting role, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and I accepted the good-humoured ribbing I received from then Speaker Milliken, who would occasionally offer a musical reminder of my place in government from 19th century comic opera.

Speaker Milliken caught me off guard the first time in the Speaker's corridor, just behind your chair, as you know, Mr. Speaker, by coming up behind me, as we both walked to this House, and suddenly launching into one of the choruses of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers. Members will recall that this is a political comic opera set in Venice. It is centred on the kings of a mythical kingdom called Barataria. I understand that Queen Victoria was amused, during a royal command performance of the opera before her, by the gentle poke at the role of monarchs in a constitutional democracy, and the chorus drew royal laughs. One particular chorus was the one sung for me, fairly often, by Speaker Milliken. It goes like this:

Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King,
Yet the duties are delightful, and the privileges great;
But the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is to run on little errands for the Ministers of State.

This bill marks the end of this historic position in this House, in this Parliament, though I suspect that a clearer thinking future government will reinstate both the tradition and the logical function, and the logically funded function, that ministers of state have performed over the centuries.

Bill C-24 does not only remove ministers of state in a misguided add to ministerial ranks; it also eliminates six very important ministers and ministries, those of regional development agencies across this country.

The elimination of these ministerial positions was one of the biggest blunders of the blunder-prone Liberal government. We told the Liberals more than two years ago that they were making a big mistake in eliminating the regional development agencies, just as we advised them against implementing the flawed Phoenix pay system for the public service, just as we advised them against cozying up with the terror-sponsoring, human-rights-abusing Iranian regime, just as we advised them against a heavy-handed imposition of electoral reform, and just as we advised against regressive amendments to the access to information and privacy law. The list goes on and on, and, with Bill C-24, on.

That is why I, in this House, and the official opposition, will vote against this unfortunate, wasteful piece of post-dated legislation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill C-24. I have been listening to the debate and feel it is necessary to speak to a couple of issues that I feel the opposition has perhaps got wrong, or that I disagree with, essentially. I will start with the regional development agencies and then talk more about the five ministries that have moved from ministry of state status to full ministries, which they are right now.

Regional development agencies would continue to offer opportunities for local economic growth, and fulfill their mandates and offer programs and services, but would operate through the mandate of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. The fact that these agencies still have the opportunity to work and continue to fulfill their mandates, and the fact there are 338 members who can also provide information from the regions to the minister, is critically important. I heard members talk about the differences in Quebec. There are 41 members from Quebec—that province clearly thought we were doing a good job and sent us another member—and 31 members from Atlantic Canada. I am pretty sure that by Monday, there will be another one. There clearly are opportunities for the views of the regions across the country, as different and diverse as they are, to make their way to the government and for us to address the issues involved in a way that respects local individuals and diversity within the regions.

I want to talk a bit about the gender issue. I firmly believe that this is not a gender issue if we remove gender completely from the ministries that have been made full ministries. We have the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, to whom I am parliamentary secretary. There is a large amount of work required to ensure international development and our engagement with La Francophonie countries around the world, so that they have an adequate voice, that we are listening to their concerns, and are actively engaging with them. That is now a fully ministry. If we take away who the minister is, that is a full ministry.

If we take away the fact that the Minister of Science is a woman, if we expect to have any policy at all based on a little evidence, let alone policy based on substantial evidence, the Minister of Science position is one that is sorely needed at the federal level. When we talk about running a country, irrespective of who is in that position, this ministry requires a full minister.

We have the Minister of Small Business and Tourism. This year, Canada's 150th birthday saw a tremendous amount of tourism in Canada. A tremendous number of people came to Canada to explore its greatness in all of its forms and to celebrate with us our 150th year of Confederation. Next year will be the Canada-China Year of Tourism. Again, an influx of individuals will come to Canada to celebrate what we know is the greatest country in the world. They will come here to celebrate with us and spend their dollars here. They are enjoying this great country of ours. There are 1.8 million small businesses in this country. If we were to put them in one geographical area, they would have several postal codes. To say this ministry does not require a full ministry is nonsense, again taking out the gender piece.

As for the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, again, when we look at the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in this country and the fact that provincial legislation is a patchwork and not uniform across this country, we need federal leadership when it comes to developing a Canadians with disabilities act. That is what the government is doing. This is not about whether or not we feel it is necessary that it be a full ministry. We need federal leadership when it comes to disabilities. This ministry requires that leadership, not as a ministry of state, but as a full ministry. That is why, when cabinet was sworn in in November, this is happened.

The most contentious issue concerns the Minister of Status of Women, and on that I do not even know what to say. When I hear that the position could be a minister of state, that this ministry does not need to be a full ministry, I say, we make up 50% of the population. Hello? Why would that not be a fully ministry? Again, let us forget about who is actually the minister, and just think about the ministry and 50% of the population.

When we look at the intersectionality of women and the barriers they face, when we think about yesterday, when we were very much seized with the events of 28 years ago and were remembering the 14 names, when we were thinking about the fact that gender-based violence disproportionately affects women not just around the world but in this country, the fact we are now questioning whether status of women needs to be a full ministry, I think, is quite ludicrous.

I am certainly quite happy, and quite impressed by the fact, that the government under the leadership of our Prime Minister thought it appropriate to ensure that all of these ministries were full ministries.

Now I will bring the gender piece in. When we look at the question of our gender-balanced cabinet, when these individuals were sworn in, the orders in council ensured that they were full ministers at the time. It was not about trying to make up for some mistake that we made. That is absolutely not the case. Having them as full ministries was done right from the beginning.

The message about having a gender-balanced cabinet had an impact. That required leadership. That requires a Prime Minister who understands the power and the influence we can have around the world when we ensure that the policies we put forward, the decisions we make, have a gendered lens. Indeed, the message of a gender-balanced cabinet had an impact. I hear it when I go to different countries around the world. There is talk about the leadership Canada has shown. There is talk about the leadership to influence change, not just on a political level but also within business, on boards, in key positions, in decision-making positions.

I am truly happy to have had an opportunity to speak on this bill. I am truly happy that we could, for a moment, remove the gender piece and just speak about the importance of these ministries. However, when we do look at the gender piece, we know that it is critically important in our leadership to ensure that gender equality and gender balance does happen in every facet of our society.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, we talked earlier today about the gender equality piece. I want to refer now to the issue of the regional ministers.

Currently, we have one minister in Mississauga who is making all of the regional development decisions for across Canada. The disturbing part to me is the fact that during the consultations on Bill C-24, not a single witness was called to discuss the potential implications of this drastic change.

We talk about transparency, consultation, and openness, but here, on a crucial issue of this magnitude, it seems to me that at very least we could have had two or three witnesses come to the committee to explain the potential pros and cons of changing from the regional representation of ministers to this one-size-fits-all minister in Mississauga.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Fredericton New Brunswick

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand up today, most importantly as the member of Parliament for Fredericton, to speak to the important nature of Bill C-24 that is before us today.

Folks in the region of the country I have the pleasure of representing have been quite amenable to the direction of this government as it relates to the importance of the diversity of views that are expressed at the cabinet table and throughout caucus, and, most importantly, that are brought from the communities of all members of Parliament to this place that help enrich the debate that we seek to have on a daily basis.

As the member for Fredericton, I would like to take this opportunity to tell my constituents about the merits of the bill before us today.

I will start with just a brief summary of the bill for people paying attention on this Thursday afternoon, or in some parts of the country still Thursday morning.

This enactment would amend the Salaries Act to include eight new ministerial positions, including the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. Before I go any further, I want to talk to my experience working within La Francophonie.

In my previous career, I had the opportunity to work with leaders of francophone countries on important issues related to child and youth development. I know how important it is for the Government of Canada to have a full minister dedicated to important issues related to the Francophonie. That part of the world receives a significant portion of our development aid. I know that our current minister is focusing on Canada's leadership role in that forum.

The bill would also make the Minister of Science a full minister. Canadians were fed up after 10 years of the lack of evidence-based decision-making on the part of the Harper government. We made a commitment well before the election campaign that, were we to be fortunate enough to form government, we would base all of our actions on scientific evidence.

My interactions with the Minister of Science have only enriched my confidence that this is a government that in all aspects of decision-making ensures that we have the science right. Constituents throughout the Fredericton region, Oromocto, the Grand Lake region, and into New Maryland have confidence in our current Minister of Science.

My constituency is home to two world-class post-secondary institutions as well as a thriving community college. We rely on scientific evidence and support for fundamental science to help foster the type of economic development that is so important to our region, to our country, and quite frankly, to the entire world.

It is well worthy that this legislation deals with a Minister of Science at a full ministerial level.

Third, the bill would establish the Minister of Small Business and Tourism as a full minister with a full ministry. In Atlantic Canada there is no greater player than small business. Small businesses make up upward of 99.5% of the businesses in our community and we rely on them for economic growth, to employ people in our communities, and to employ students who graduate from our world-class universities and post-secondary institutions.

I think it is crucial for us to have a full-time minister focused on small and medium-sized businesses and on developing a regional tourism strategy. That is another important aspect of our economic growth.

I am sure that my colleague from Charlottetown would agree that tourism New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island is largely in the summer. However, if we can expand the tourist reach into the spring, fall, and winter, that will be incredibly important to the economy of our region. I am sure that the constituents watching today will agree that having a full-time minister of small business and tourism is important, and that our government is moving in the right direction in that respect.

I have some tremendous constituents doing fantastic work in advocacy as it relates to the importance of respecting the rights and listening to the voices of individuals who are living with an intellectual, physical, or cognitive disability, as well as the importance of family members and community as support systems around them. Therefore, to have a full minister of sport and persons with disabilities at the cabinet table, speaking about understanding the unique ability that each of us as Canadians have is certainly something that I believe in fully and I am happy to advocate on behalf of.

I also believe that my constituents think it is incredibly important to have a voice around the cabinet table making important decisions about the way that we invest in community infrastructure. For example, we need to be taking into account the unique rights, needs, and abilities of persons who live with a disability in the way that we build communities that will allow for socio-economic benefits for years to come, that are socially inclusive, and that lead to economic growth so that people with disabilities can be employed and access the services they need. That is an important voice to have at the cabinet table as a full ministry.

With the time that remains I will touch on two things. The first is the importance of having a full minister of status of women, which in this day and age is absolutely necessary to reflect the views of 51% of the population in our country. We know when women are given an equal opportunity to succeed in the economy that economic growth is better. If we look at the last two years since we formed government, across this country unemployment is at the lowest it has been in over a decade. Almost 600,000 jobs have been created in those two years, most of which are full-time jobs. Economic growth is at levels not seen in about 17 years, since the previous Liberal government. Focusing on women in economic roles, and the social inclusion of women and girls in all aspects, is a tremendously important part of the actions our government takes.

Just briefly, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I can tell this House and the Canadians watching at home that our allies in countries that are developing in regions far away from us are taking notice of our leadership on gender equality and gender issues around the world. We need to stay on this track. Canada can make an important contribution to the world, not just in the near term but in the long term, helping create greater social inclusion for more people and greater economic growth, not just for ourselves but for regions abroad.

Finally, the importance of regional economic development for our government is absolutely fundamental. I can tell members that is no more evident than in this government's support for an Atlantic growth strategy, which sees the highest levels of government here in Ottawa supporting work being done in Atlantic Canada. It is an absolutely wonderful collaboration between the Government of Canada, with the leads of the ministers at the federal level in those four Atlantic regions, working with the premiers and their counterparts to invest in economic development through people. What better way to grow the economy than through immigration, bringing newcomers and their families into our region; investing in strategic infrastructure that respects our traditional ways of work and investing in new and exciting opportunities like IT, cybersecurity; and really enhancing opportunities through the ocean economy in our region? Trade, investment, and clean growth are another couple of elements that make up our government's view of the importance of regional economic development in our country.

I see I am running out of time. I wish I had more to go on with, but I will be happy to answer questions from my colleagues in this House.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak on this important piece of legislation, which is terribly flawed, and hopefully the government will listen.

Before I speak to Bill C-24, the previous Liberal speaker shared with this House, with great gusto, that he was shocked about a question of young people having access to cannabis. He asked if the member was not aware that people under the age of 25 are using cannabis. Yes, that is happening. That is why, as a country, we need to better control cannabis and access by youth.

The new scientific Liberal approach is to make sure our young people, 12, 13, and 14 years old, who do not currently have access to cannabis, could have access to it. What they are proposing with the marijuana legislation is that youth between the ages of 12 and 18 would be able to legally possess five grams. When they hit the age of 18, it would go up to 30 grams. Five grams of marijuana is 15 joints, and 30 grams is 90 joints. Their new scientific approach is that they are going to keep marijuana out of the hands of youth by allowing them to have in their possession up to 15 joints each. That is a science course that I never have taken. Maybe it is the new Liberal science course.

However, we are here to talk about the government's approach to appointments of ministers, and I think everyone in this House fully supports the proposal and goal of having gender equity in cabinet. That starts with encouraging women and girls to get involved with politics much more than in the past. I am really excited seeing the pages here today; many of them are female.

I could not do my job as a member of Parliament without my partner, my wife of 45 years, Diane. When I am not in my riding of beautiful Langley—Aldergrove, my wife represents me, and many say she is a better speaker than I am. I would not argue with them. She is very bright, very capable, and very much my equal, maybe even my superior. I love her. I fully respect and agree with the goal of gender equity, and it needs to start with pay equity. Everyone in this House, on this side anyway, supports pay equity. The government says it does but if only it had a majority government then it could get it through and get pay equity. In fact, it does have a majority government, a strong majority, and it could get it through if it were a priority.

There is this parable that a tree is known by its fruits. If the tree has apples on it, it is an apple tree, and if it has oranges, it is an orange tree. If the government says it believes in gender equity, what kind of fruit is on its tree, its tree of truth? Unfortunately, Canadians are saying that what the government says and what the government does are two very different things. We are talking about changing appointments to ministers, changing junior ministers, ministers of state, to now be paid the same amount as a full minister, but not having the title, responsibility, or support.

Tokenism is not what this side believes in, and Canadians do not believe in tokenism. It has to be true gender equity. Some of the most intelligent women I ever worked with in this House include Rona Ambrose, the former leader of our party. Before that, she was minister in a number of portfolios and was very capable. I was her parliamentary secretary, and I was honoured to be given that responsibility. She is a very intelligent woman. I learned from her, and it was an exciting time to be the parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment.

Before being elected, I was with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Aileen Shibata was our regional manager for loss prevention and road safety, a very intelligent woman. There are very intelligent women who should be given responsibilities in the House based on their skill level. That is how it should be: pay equity based on the work people do. If they have those skills, we need to honour those skills and give them responsibility, regardless of their gender.

The goal of encouraging women to get involved is very important and needs to be encouraged. We need to encourage the government to truly give women opportunities. I am thinking of what is said and what is done. There is a by-election going on in Canada. There are four ridings. One of them is South Surrey—White Rock, and the Liberals chose a man to run for them. He is a very nice, retired man, but there was a very capable and intelligent woman who wanted to run for the Liberals and they said, no, they wanted a man. It was very unfortunate because, if the government really believes in gender equity, it would have given that woman the opportunity to run.

The woman who is running is Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who is a former cabinet minister, and I hope she returns here after December 11, because she is very capable and again an example of our party's supporting women to get involved in politics.

Having been in the House for 13 and a half years, elected in 2004, I have experienced the importance of regional development ministers. The regional development minister for British Columbia is very successful. That regional minister's office is where the provincial representatives went to meet. In a coordinated, prioritized way, they were able to put the money into infrastructure where it was needed and would have long-term benefits. Without an organized approach, removing the regional ministers, we lose that organized approach and that voice, that consultation between the federal government and the provincial governments. It is a big mistake.

The other problem I have with Bill C-24 is the so-called mystery ministers. The Liberals are saying to trust them, pass this, and they are going to appoint some mystery ministers. Who are those mystery ministers? The last speaker said possibly the minister for the status of women. What about a minister for seniors? The largest demographic in Canada is seniors. Canadian seniors for the last two years have been ignored by Parliament because the government says it cares about seniors but it does not.

The most recent example was the announcement with confetti in the air and great splendour when Liberals announced the Canadian national housing strategy. There was mention of seniors 18 times in the report and not once was there any solution or announcement of how they were going to take care of Canadian seniors. How could that happen that they acknowledge the needs of seniors but nothing is announced to address the needs of seniors? That is because there is no minister for seniors.

With great sincerity, because Bill C-24 is going to be rammed through as it rams through everything, I would ask that it seriously consider the plight of Canadian seniors. Right now, 70% of Canadians who need palliative care in the last days, last weeks, and last years of their life have no access to it. That again is because there is no minister for seniors. There used to be, in the previous Parliament. The previous government had seniors as a priority, and l again ask that the government put its words into action and appoint a minister for seniors.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, the long-standing battle for gender equality is far from over.

Yesterday, December 6, reminded us that violence against women remains all too real. Women who publicly declare that they are feminists and ask for equal rights and opportunities still endure virtual or real attacks.

We had great expectations of the Liberals when they announced that there would be a gender-balanced government. Feminists are fighting many battles. Equal pay and equality of opportunity are two of the best-known measures, but have yet to be implemented. Unfortunately, too many women do not have the opportunity to secure the positions they want because they experience discrimination, whether intentional or not, based on their gender.

Our Canadian society, just like the House of Commons, has not yet changed its work culture to ensure that high-level jobs are not given just to men.

The fight to move closer to gender parity cannot impinge on other rights. I will come back to that later in my speech.

With Bill C-24, the NDP is concerned not only with the missed opportunity on pay equity, but also with the elimination of the regional development minister positions. In fact, those positions might now be led by a single administrator who does not know the region, does not speak the same language, and is not physically in the region. What is more, economic initiatives will now be national in scope. That is why we are concerned about the bill. Previously, we could have ministers responsible for regions such as Ontario, Quebec, or western Canada. This all disappears under Bill C-24.

Quebec is losing its minister of economic development. I find that troubling coming from a government that says it wants to represent everyone and be more transparent. I will provide a very real and recent example: the refusal by the Minister of Canadian Heritage to tax Netflix, and other companies such as Google, and properly protect our culture, as the Government of Quebec has been urging the federal government to do. There is a growing disconnect between what Quebeckers want and the ideas and decisions of the federal government.

Quebec has significant needs, in terms of both infrastructure and business development. We need to strengthen our SMEs, and we need a minister who understands Quebec's situation, not some unpredictable administrator.

This is something we are seeing with the Davie shipyard file, which we have brought up time after time in the House of Commons. The government is doing absolutely nothing for Quebec shipyard workers. It is deeply troubling.

The Prime Minister boasted about achieving parity in 2015. He claimed to have achieved that parity by including female ministers without departments. There is nothing wrong with giving departments to some ministers and not to others, nor with giving a practical title, like minister of state, to ministers with fewer responsibilities.

The only real problem this bill seeks to remedy is a political problem of the Prime Minister's own making. He is the one who boasted about forming a gender-balanced cabinet, yet appointed a disproportionate number of women to junior positions. Now Canadian taxpayers are being asked to pay junior ministers more just to avoid embarrassing the Prime Minister and forcing him to explain that his cabinet had a gender pay gap because he failed to appoint enough women to ministerial positions.

By blurring the lines between ministers of state and full ministers, the Prime Minister is prioritizing equal treatment over equal responsibilities in the interest of maintaining gender parity in his government. The saying is, “Equal pay for equal work”, but in this bill, the work is not equal. That means there is a bit of a problem.

Bill C-24 purports to tackle a key problem in our society, namely women's place in society and, more importantly, their status. Real progress has been made in recent years to remove barriers to gender equality. Today's women are better educated, and more of them are in positions of responsibility in the private sector, where we are seeing more female CEOs of major international corporations, as well as in politics, where more women appear in legislative assemblies, the Senate, and cabinet.

Thanks to great women such as Kim Campbell and our Governor General, Julie Payette, young Canadian women know that there has been progress and that they can overcome obstacles and fulfill their ambitions.

Even so, for many women in Canada and around the world, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Taking a broader international perspective, according to the World Economic Forum's “Global Gender Gap Report 2016”, we will not see true parity for another 170 years.

We are a long way, then, from achieveing our common goal of gender equality. Closer to home, here are some facts about the status of women in my riding, Salaberry—Suroît. This data is from an economic profile prepared by Relais-femmes for the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent regional conference of elected officials. Women's average annual employment income is $32,000; men's is $46,000. Even now, in 2017, women in the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent earn, on average, 70% of what men earn.

Pay equity is not a luxury; it is a right. Equality is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the fact is that women are still being denied their rights. Canada is very proud of being a democracy, a state where the rule of law prevails and we have laws that protect women's rights. However, the most basic rights, women's social and economic rights, are still being denied every day.

The World Economic Forum ranks Canada 35th in terms of pay equity. That is a pretty poor showing for an OECD country. Canada is nevertheless a party to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides for equal pay for equal work.

Canada also ratified the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981. This shows that, despite our commitments, we still have a ways to go before we achieve equality, equity and parity for all.

We have heard several interesting proposals from members of Parliament to help further the cause, and yet I regret to announce that Bill C-24 is not one of them.

Today, as a woman and an activist for Canadians, and in particular Canadian women, I am voicing my opposition to Bill C-24.

My motives are simple enough. The only problem Bill C-24 is designed to solve is the Prime Minister's image problem, one he himself created when he boasted about having a gender-balanced cabinet even though he appointed a disproportionate number of women to junior positions. This bears repeating.

This bill is insulting to Canadian women. Its only aim is to give the appearance of equal treatment, and it only applies to ministers. The Prime Minister’s cosmetic reorganization will not affect middle-class Canadian women in the job market.

In truth, the bill is condescending, and only emphasizes the absurd fact that, for the government, men and women are not equal when it comes to responsibility. The facts are clear. Most female ministers in the Liberal government are ministers of state and have far fewer responsibilities. Canadian taxpayers are being asked to pay more for junior ministers, just so the Prime Minister can look good.

If he really wants to be a “feminist”, the Prime Minister should perhaps act on the recommendations of the 2004 task force on pay equity. The report has been on a shelf collecting dust for 13 years. We are still wondering when the Liberals will act on these recommendations. One of their election promises was to achieve parity by 2016. They promised to introduce a proactive pay equity bill and, so far, at the end of 2017, they have done nothing at all.

They have not yet implemented the bill. They have yet to even introduce it in the House of Commons. They have not repealed the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which was unfair and was brought in by the Conservatives in 2009. For all these reasons, it is impossible for us to vote in favour of Bill C-24, and it is even less possible to say that we have achieved gender parity.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today, as it is on any day that luxury is afforded to me. We are all honoured when we get this opportunity, and I am no exception.

I am happy to speak to Bill C-24 at report stage. I sit on the government operations committee, where we reviewed this bill. I think I had a chance to speak to it at second reading as well. Therefore, I am going to address the debate from a bit of a different angle.

When we hear the many concerns raised in opposition to this bill, some are not necessarily related to the subject of the bill, but are perhaps valid concerns nonetheless. In my very humble opinion and submission to this chamber, anyone who is opposed to this piece of legislation, who argues it is unnecessary, and who wants us on this side of the House to believe it is merely cosmetic, I think does an injustice to the five ministries being elevated and the important subject matter of those ministries. It is not about the people or the ministers; it is about the ministries.

For example, in his mandate letter to the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, among other things, the Prime Minister indicates that the minister should develop and introduce new federal accessibility legislation. I highly doubt any member of this House would not think that is an important task to undertake, or that improving disability legislation in this country is a trivial matter. The ministry should be elevated to the status of a full ministry.

There should be no junior ministries. In essence, that is what this bill is about. It is not about the people, it is about the job. Certainly, we can have a ministry that is equal. Historically, in the Westminster model, a prime minister is first among equals, and the ministry itself should be a group of equals.

La francophonie is another ministry that is being elevated.

The department's mandate is to ensure Canada’s strong and sustained engagement in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. That is important.

Canada is a proud member, as it should be, of the International Organisation of La Francophonie. It is one of the many international organizations Canada has the great honour of being a part of. In fact, we are leaders in this organization, as we are in many international organizations, and have been throughout our history.

Canada's international role and leadership on the global stage is not bound to whatever party is in government at the time. Every government realizes it is important for Canada to be a leader and a player on the world stage. I do not think there is a member here who would suggest that our role in the Commonwealth or NATO is not important. I hope, and I believe, that not one member here thinks that our role in La Francophonie is not important. That is what this bill does. It elevates these roles, which we should view as important, to the status they deserve because of the important work done by these ministries.

Of course, the ministry of small business and tourism will also be elevated should this bill become law. We do not need to debate the importance of small business to the Canadian economy or Canadians.

Also, I do not think we need to undermine the importance of tourism to our economy. Canada has seen growth in tourism this year as a result of the Canada 150 celebrations. We hope to see another increase in tourism next year when Canada and China enter their tourism agreement. Many small businesses and communities rely on tourism for jobs, for growth, and for keeping communities vibrant. Why should tourism not be a full ministry? Tourism is vitally important for all Canadians, and we need to focus on that when discussing Bill C-24.

The Minister of Status of Women would also be elevated to a full ministerial position. I have not heard anyone argue that we should not do that. We can all agree that the role of the Minister of Status of Women is an important one. Her ministry is an important ministry that does important work for all Canadians. The minister certainly deserves an equal place at the cabinet table. This role ought not to be dismissed or diminished in any manner. It is not a trivial role. The ministry does great work and needs to be at the same level as all other ministries in Canada. Bill C-24 would do that.

When we look at the ministry of science, I do not think for a minute that anyone here does not accept science as an important part of Canada, an important part of the Canadian economy, an important part of the innovative economy. The global economy is changing rapidly. Canada needs to be and remain in the vanguard of that change. If we do not invest in science, if we do not encourage our children to participate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, then we will be left behind. No member of Parliament, no Canadian in fact, would want our country to be left behind as we enter the new innovative global economy, in which Canada should rightfully take its place of leadership.

These are the types of things we are talking about and none are unimportant. None of them ought to be seen as lower in an artificial hierarchy. These topics are important to all Canadians. They are important to my constituents and I am sure they are important to the constituents of everyone in the chamber.

The opposition's role is to oppose, and valid concerns are always raised about legislation. It is part of the debating process, part of what we parliamentarians go through when we make laws. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. No one should feel less Canadian as a result. Being in opposition is an essential part of the parliamentary system. I want members to realize that when they criticize or raise valid or other objections, or when they raise issues that may or may not be important, from time to time it diminishes the subject matter of legislation.

For members to say that Bill C-24 is unnecessary, that it is a cosmetic exercise, that it is a pet project of the Prime Minister, is to say that La Francophonie is not important, that science is not important, that disability legislation is not important, that the status of women ministry is not important, that small business and tourism is not important. We all agree that these five ministries are very important and deserve to be at the table with all of the other important ministries. The ministry needs to be a one-tier ministry.

I urge all members to support—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House to speak to Bill C-24. I had the opportunity to speak to this same piece of legislation earlier in the spring, and the truth is that my concerns remain largely the same.

There are three main problems I wish to address. First, with this bill, the Liberals are seeking to get rid of regional development ministers. Instead of caring for the unique needs of Canada's diverse regions, the current government is choosing to apply a highly centralized and very top-down approach to decision-making. A minister from Toronto would now tell Atlantic Canada, as well as northern Canada and the western provinces, what they need and how to best economically develop. They are to trust him, because he is in the government, there to help them, right?

My second concern is that this bill lacks transparency, which of course very much concerns me. I will come back to that momentarily. The third concern I have with this bill is that the Liberals are hailing it as something that would result in equality among ministers, women and men, junior ministers and senior ministers. The government House leader said that it would create a cabinet that would uphold gender parity. When she said that, I could hear the Elvis Presley song, playing in the background, with the line, “that was just a l-i-e”, the word that cannot be said in this House.

I have only 10 minutes, so permit me to dive in and provide a fuller discussion. The bill aims to eliminate the positions—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I apologize that the opposite side of the House is offended by all this questioning.

The bill aims to eliminate the positions of our former government's six regional ministers, who looked after these different parts of our country. The elimination of these positions will mean that the unique needs of western Canada, northern Canada, Atlantic Canada, northern Ontario, southern Ontario, and Quebec will not be adequately represented at the cabinet table. I would imagine that this would upset everyone in the House, because we should strive to represent these regions adequately. Instead of putting regional ministers in place who have boots on the ground and their fingers on the pulse in these different regions, the Prime Minister decided that one minister from Toronto would make the decisions for all of Canada in terms of their economic development and prosperity going forward.

Traditionally, regional development agency ministers brought their region-specific requests, requirements, or desires to Parliament to ensure that accurate representation was made. However, as I said, the bill would gut that opportunity. When asked about this decision, the Prime Minister said that appointing a Toronto minister for all regional development was “a way of reducing the kind of politics that we've always seen from regional development agencies.”

What exactly is that supposed to mean? Is it that, in a nation with significant diversity, the unique needs of the different regions are not worth considering, or does it mean that it is too political, too complicated, or too uncomfortable for the Prime Minister to bring those voices to the table? Maybe the Prime Minister, who claims to place importance on consultation, does not actually give a care.

I will borrow the words written in an editorial in The Guardian, which said, “Exactly how does a central Canadian give the regional development agency more clout at the cabinet table?”

What the Liberal government has done is incredibly illogical, and what makes matters worse, and is quite embarrassing for the Liberals, to be frank, is the fact that in the last election, 32 ridings in Atlantic Canada elected a Liberal member of Parliament. Surely one of these 32 individuals is qualified to be a regional minister to stand up for their unique needs in Canada. What is the Prime Minister saying about those 32 individuals and their ability or inability?

When I think about the Prime Minister's so-called commitment to transparency and accountability, I would expect that he would want men and women at the table to represent these regions well. I would expect that he would want them to go to a shipyard in Halifax or to visit a mine in the north or an agricultural event in Saskatchewan. He would want those experiences represented around his cabinet table, but that is not the case.

This brings me to my second concern, which is that the government is actually refusing to be transparent. Bill C-24 calls on members of the House to approve three mysterious ministers, and it says nothing more. There is no transparency or accountability. The clause is absolutely unreasonable in asking the House to permit a blank cheque going forward. I am not okay with that.

That is not the only thing that is farcical in the bill. My third point is that when it comes to changing the salaries of ministers of state, Bill C-24 is nothing more than a hurried attempt to cover up for the Liberals' media embarrassment when the Prime Minister went out and said that he had put a gender-equal cabinet in place. The media picked up on this immediately and noticed that all five junior ministers were, in fact, women. The Prime Minister actually chose to give these women less authority, less responsibility, and smaller budgets than their male counterparts. So much for 2015.

Bill C-24 is the Prime Minister's attempt to remedy this mistake. The problem is that just attaching a label and a few extra dollars to a position does not mean that the person is valued or respected any more than she was before. The bill does an incredible disservice to women, as it is tokenism at its finest.

As a strong, intelligent, and hard-working woman, I want to be entrusted with responsibility and granted a voice at the cabinet table, not because of my gender but because of my ability. I would expect the same from the women in the House. They want their salaries to match what they do, what they are capable of, and the trust put in them. Changing the pay system would not create equality. In fact, it would diminish the value of being a woman at the cabinet table.

The Prime Minister is saying, “Don't worry. I won't give you the same level of responsibility or assign you a comparable budget or trust you to function at the cabinet table the way others do, but I will give you a name placard and a few extra dollars, and we will call it good.” It that for real? That is 2015? That is gender equality?

Here is the thing. The Prime Minister is a self-proclaimed feminist. So am I, but our ideas of feminism are not aligned. According to his definition of feminism, it is okay for Yazidi women and girls to be systematically kidnapped, tortured, raped, and sold while Canada stands by in vain, watching from afar. According to his definition of feminism, it is okay for newcomers to practise genital mutilation and it is no longer considered a barbaric practice in Canada. According to his definition of feminism, all women are equal, but some are more equal than others. There is a right type of woman and a wrong type of woman, and it is up to this Prime Minister to dictate what that is. Some are simply an inappropriate choice, according to this Prime Minister.

Now, on this side of the House, feminism looks like respect for every single woman. Feminism on this side of the House looks like taking a stand against gender-based hatred and violence. Feminism on this side of the House looks like protecting young girls from being brutalized. Feminism on this side of the House looks like preserving a woman's right to choose between two or more options, not just accepting the one that is dictated to her. This is feminism on this side of the House. This is the feminism that all of Canada deserves and expects.

In summary, Bill C-24 is extremely flawed. It robs regions of fair representation, it lacks transparency, and it fails in its attempt to create ministerial equality. I will be voting no.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hope members of the government will listen. This is the Liberals' opportunity to learn something.

The orders in council that the government put forward on November 4 were the orders in council that created the ministerial positions. Let me read just one example, “...a Minister of State to be styled Minister of Status of Women, to assist the Minister of Canadian Heritage in the carrying out of that Minister's responsibilities....”

We have heard all sorts of impassioned speeches from members of the government that these five areas are important responsibilities that deserve their own ministers. I have a suggestion to those who have given those speeches. They should write to the Prime Minister and suggest that he do that.

Bill C-24 pays ministers who will remain ministers of state. There is an important difference between a minister and a minister of state. It is not a difference of the importance of the area, it is a difference of the public administration mechanism. Ministers of state are subject to full ministers in the exercise of their functions which is why the orders in council published on November 4 very clearly established that ministers of state, styled as full ministers, but in fact ministers of state, report to full ministers in the carrying out of their functions.

It is incredible that many members of the government do not understand this basic feature of how the ministerial system works and are giving speeches that misunderstand the provisions of the bill.

I would be curious for my colleague's comments on this simple reality of how Bill C-24 works.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

December 7th, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this afternoon, we will continue the report stage debate of Bill C-24, the one-tier ministry bill. Tomorrow, we shall commence second reading debate of Bill C-66, the expungement of historically unjust convictions act.

On Monday, we will call report stage and third reading of Bill C-51, the charter cleanup legislation. Tuesday we will return to Bill C-24 at third reading.

If Bill C-66 is reported back from committee, we would debate that on Wednesday with agreement. The backup bill for Wednesday will be Bill S-5, concerning vaping, at second reading.

On Thursday, the House will debate Bill C-50, political financing. Then on Friday, we will consider Bill S-2, the strengthening motor vehicle safety for Canadians act.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to rise today to debate Bill C-24, an important piece of legislation.

The opposition has some challenges with the bill. The government was sworn in 25 months ago and yet this legislation has come forward for debate today, December 7, 2017. This particular piece of legislation was tabled in the House on September 27, 2016, and here we are, 18 months later, still dealing with this legislation.

What I find fascinating about this piece of legislation is the fact that these ministers are currently being paid. The question then arises as to how they are being paid their additional salary when the legislation has not yet been passed. I am not the only one who has asked this question. The other place has been quite concerned about this issue as well, and its national finance committee has taken up this very question. Enabling legislation has not yet been passed, yet these ministers are being paid, nonetheless.

The President of the Treasury Board attempted to address this issue at the national finance committee in the other place. I am going to quote from the 13th report of that committee, tabled in the other place in March 2017:

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.

Members will recall that I raised this issue in this place as a point of order a number of months ago when the supplementary estimates were being tabled at that time, yet this issue is a recurrent practice of the government. The government is using the supplementary estimates and the estimates process to achieve a legislative objective that is more properly dealt with through legislation. Here we are, 25 months after the Liberals were sworn in, and they are still using the estimates to pay for this process.

I draw members' attention back to the report of the national finance committee of the other place. It quotes Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, 6th Edition. All of us in the House have our preferred authorities and my preferred authority is Beauchesne's. It is a great parliamentary authority.

Beauchesne's states at page 258 and 259 the following point in relation to the estimates and the legislative process. Paragraph 935 states, “A supply item ought not to be used to obtain authority which is the...subject of legislation.” Yet the estimates process has been used for the past 25 months to pay certain ministers' salaries before the legislative means has been achieved.

I go back to my point. Here we are December 2017 debating legislation that ought to have been dealt with months ago.

Beauchesne's goes on to state at paragraph 937 that “The government may not, by the use of an Appropriation Act obtain authority it does not have under existing legislation.”

There is no legislation. There is a bill before the House, but it has not yet been passed in this place and not yet even been considered in the other place. Here we are after 25 months, with the government still paying ministers certain sums under legislation that does not yet exist.

I have listened with great interest to the debate in the House. Unfortunately, members on the other side have failed to grasp what this legislation would do. They mix terms. They use different words to imply different things that are not even at the heart of the issue. They intertwine and intermingle the words “ministers” and “ministries” and “departments”. They seem to be implying that a minister and a ministry go together, but that is not necessarily the case.

As we are well aware, there is no departmental apparatus supporting certain of the ministers of state, or “ministers” as the government now wants to refer to them, in support of those ministers' capacity. There is a difference between a minister who is responsible for a department and a minister who reports to Parliament through another minister, as is the case with many of the ministers' estates.

Certainly there are important functions undertaken by certain ministers in certain capacities, but to imply that all ministers of state ought to be full ministers and paid accordingly belies the issue of there being no egality, of there not being the same legislative function and responsibility on the part of those ministers in all cases. If we were to refer to the Financial Administration Act and the schedules associated with it, the act clearly delineates those departments that are considered to be full departments, those departments with a deputy minister at their apex, a deputy minister who is accountable to the minister, and a departmental apparatus in support of that.

Certainly on this side of the House, we feel there is great work to be done to support a number of the functions that have fallen under the jurisdiction of ministers of state in the past.

In this connection, one of the issues that keeps being brought up by the Liberal government is the issue of small business and tourism. In my riding, the backbone of our local economy is small business, whether agriculture or other small business. Certainly one of the most important aspects of our economy falls right there. One of the other aspects, of course, is tourism. I am very proud to represent a riding that has strong artistic and cultural attractions, including the Drayton festival in the township of Mapleton, and the Stratford Festival in Stratford and Stratford Summer Music. I am very proud to support small business and tourism and to highlight the important work and economic benefit of those in my great riding of Perth—Wellington.

However, the fact is that simply because we support small business and tourism and see them as a major priority and something that must be promoted, that does not change the fact that under schedule 1 and schedule 2 of the Financial Administration Act, those are not considered to be a department for the purposes of that act. Therefore, when the Liberal government members try to infer that they are making certain ministers full ministers, they forget the fact that the apparatus, the departmental function, of those acts of those ministers is not there to support the minister. They are still ministers of state in the real sense of things, because they do not have the departmental function that goes with every other minister.

I go back to the fact that we are 25 months into the current Liberal government's being sworn in, and yet this bill is all of a sudden a priority in the dying weeks of this session before we go on our Christmas break to our ridings. I am sure that we can infer a number of different reasons why there is a sudden a push to get this piece of legislation to the other place. One might infer that perhaps the Liberal government is eager to prorogue and wants to quickly get legislation out of this place to the other place before prorogation, before it can have a new Speech from the Throne. I am certainly not privy to that information. Maybe you are, Mr. Speaker, but I see you shaking your head.

Certainly the rumour going around this place is that the Liberal government is eager to change the channel, that they are eager for prorogation to restart with a fresh Speech from the Throne to try to take attention away from their ethical lapses on that side. The Minister of Finance's ethical challenges for the past number of months in fact go back to his challenged and mistaken approach to small businesses, in implying and inferring that the hard-working farmers and farm families, small-business owners and those who work hard every day, are somehow tax cheats. That is certainly not the case. Here on this side, we believe in standing up for small businesses. We believe it is important to support our local economy.

This act is really a way for the Liberal government to paper over its challenges and its inability to pass legislation and to have a meaningful impact on the economy and the lives of Canadians. Instead of focusing on the issues that matter to Canadians, the Liberals are trying to give a few ministers a pay raise.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Employment

Madam Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

As the former minister of Status of Women, I know that this legislation is critical and is fundamentally about equality. Earlier this month, I appeared at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities to talk about our new student work placement program. While asking me a question, the member for Langley—Aldergrove referred to my new position as Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour as a promotion from my previous portfolio as minister of Status of Women. To me, this implied that his party and that member did not see that women's issues and gender equality are as important as the portfolio I hold now. His comments also reflected a profound misunderstanding of the significant importance of ensuring women's success as critical to a growing economy.

The Prime Minister decides on the organization and the procedures and composition of cabinet and shapes it to reflect the diversity of Canadians. One of these priorities is the equal status and representation of women in cabinet. Our Prime Minister has created a cabinet in which all members have a responsibility to deliver on our priorities, have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them, are full members of cabinet, and are fully and appropriately supported in the carrying out of their responsibilities. Bill C-24 would change the current legislative framework, which currently does not provide room for that structure.

As it currently stands, a number of ministers are occupying minister of state positions, which have traditionally been considered and referred to as junior positions. The amendments proposed in Bill C-24 would formalize in the legislation the current ministerial structure.

The bill would do away with distracting administrative distinctions. Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments. The five ministerial positions that would be added 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. These positions that will soon be full cabinet positions are ones that I think all members of this House recognize are integral to the success and prosperity of our country. Let me elaborate further.

The Minister of La Francophonie works with other nations to preserve the vitality of the Francophone world. The Minister of Small Business and Tourism helps support small business and tourism, drivers of the economy, to become more productive, innovative, and export-oriented. The Minister of Science helps ensure that scientific research, both fundamental and applied, is appropriately supported as a driver of innovation and a competitive knowledge-based economy and that evidence-based scientific considerations are integrated into the government's policies and funding choices. The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities promotes healthier Canadians through sport and ensures greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities. Finally, the Minister of Status of Women works to accelerate change and build a society where women and girls no longer face the systemic barriers they continue to face today. These are important priorities for this government, and in fact, for all Canadians.

There is more. Let me talk about some of the other responsibilities assigned to the ministers who are occupying positions Bill C-24 proposes to add to the Salaries Act.

The bill before us represents the government's commitment to reflect in legislation the importance of la Francophonie, science, sport and persons with disabilities, Status of Women, and small businesses and tourism and the reality of how this ministry works. It is clear that the titled positions Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act carry significant and important responsibilities. This bill would provide a framework that would allow existing departments to support these ministers in carrying out their responsibilities.

The bill would give the Governor in Council the flexibility to ask any department to support the new Salaries Act ministers in carrying out some or all of their responsibilities. This flexibility would mean that a minister could have access to the expertise and experience of the department or departments best placed to provide full and appropriate support. This would be a streamlined and efficient way to work.

The Salaries Act amendments are administrative, but they are very important. They would update the Salaries Act to reflect the structure of the current cabinet. These kinds of updates are not new. They would reverse a system that has historically disadvantaged women. For decades, 50% of our population did not have a seat at the table. That is unacceptable, and we are changing it.

These amendments look to the future as well. By introducing three untitled ministerial positions to the Salaries Act, future ministries could be more easily designed according to the challenges and priorities of the times. This administrative bill signals this government's recognition that the needs of Canada and Canadians change over time and that governments must be responsive and adapt.

It is appropriate to have legislation that allows these changes to be reflected in the composition of this cabinet and cabinets to come. By ensuring that the ministers of Science, Status of Women, Sport and Persons with Disabilities, Small Business and Tourism, and la Francophonie are full members of cabinet, we are demonstrating our full commitment to these files. The amendments to the Salaries Act would serve us well, not just today but well into the future.

The bill puts behind us any questions that others might have had about the importance of these mandates and the status of the ministers leading them.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 3:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Madam Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to take part in this debate on Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. There are two things that lead me to take part in this debate.

First, we must recognize that all ministers are equal. We expect all ministers to be able to participate in cabinet discussions. That is important. It makes no sense to say that some people are more equal than others. If I am correctly interpreting the official opposition’s position, they would rather we keep the status quo and allow certain members of cabinet to earn less than their colleagues. Why? That does not make any sense.

We must ensure not only that all cabinet members have legitimacy, but also that they have all the responsibilities of their office and that they are equal to their colleagues. That is why it is important that we rectify the administrative discrepancies concerning 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, certainly, the Minister of Status of Women. With the passage of this bill, I hope that all these ministers will become equal to the others.

Second, I heard several members say they are concerned about regional economic development agencies no longer being separate departments and all having to report to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. I have had the privilege of working closely with that department, and I truly believe this is a good thing. For the first time in Canadian history, all of the agencies will fall under the same department and have the same objectives.

There are regional differences, of course, but we will make Canada more innovative and customize regional development initiatives for Atlantic Canada, Quebec, all regions of Ontario, western Canada, and northern Canada.

Essentially, every regional development agency will have the same responsibilities in terms of building a more innovative Canada and making the most of each region's unique attributes. I think that is a good thing, and I think it makes sense to bring all the agencies under the same umbrella.

Those are two excellent reasons to support this bill, but they are not the only ones. There are many more.

For example, there is the position of Minister of la Francophonie. French is not my mother tongue, but I am a francophile. I have a great love for the language and the culture, and I want to see linguistic minorities outside Quebec thrive. Naturally, I want French to maintain its rightful place in Quebec too.

It is also our responsibility to share our know-how with other countries that belong to the francophonie. Since being a French-speaking country is one of Canada's core values, and since we have a minister who handles that and who has all the skills to do so, that person must be equal to all other ministers. That is why elevating this position is so important.

It is the same thing regarding the Minister of Science. After a decade when budgets were slashed and science was not valued in decisions and research so that Canada could remain a world leader in innovation, we must now raise the status of this position. It is pretty clear to me.

Science is so important in the 20th century. Countries that do not invest in science, to ensure that their populations are educated and have the needed skills, suffer because of it. Therefore, if we do not do it, we will lose our place as a world leader. This shows the importance of having a minister of science who is just as important as all the other government ministers.

We are well aware of the importance of small business and tourism in Canada. I have had the privilege of visiting several regions of Canada, including Canada’s Far North, and I know how important it is for these communities to have tourism programs to attract people from Canada and elsewhere to their region. We need to appreciate the contributions that these regions make to Canada and promote their special features, whether it is Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Quebec, or New Brunswick.

Madam Speaker, I know that you represent a northern Ontario riding. What a beautiful region of our country! You understand the fundamental importance of tourism in creating wealth and prosperity for your constituents. That is what is important. In short, we need a minister responsible for tourism who is equal to the other ministers.

Last week, I had the privilege of attending a tourism industry awards gala. I saw remarkable projects demonstrating incredible creativity in the tourism industry. It was heartening to see that this type of entrepreneurship has emerged.

In closing, we need to make sure that these five ministers have the same status as the other government ministers.

That is why I encourage my colleagues of all parties to give us their support—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

Madam Speaker, as this is probably the last time I will have an opportunity to speak formally in the House before Christmas break, I would like to wish everyone, and especially you, Madam Speaker, a merry Christmas and season's greetings.

It is an honour to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

The bill takes aggressive steps to eliminate the positions of six ministers for regional development. It places all those responsibilities in the hands of one minister. I believe the government operations committee did not hear from a single witness on the issue of regional development agencies. Not one. That is incredible. This is a huge change. I would assume there are plenty of experts from across Canada willing to comment on this matter. To not give them a voice seems unwise.

For better or worse, the federal government has far broader jurisdiction than provinces, and much more expansive taxation powers. This is partially by design, the British North American Act. It reserves the most significant powers for the federal government. Had the BNA's drafters foreseen the massive expansion of government that was to come, with education and health care, they might have been under federal jurisdiction as well. Then of course, they let the natural resources go. That one really got away from them.

However, we are also a huge country. Our population is spread across a massive geographic area. Over time, our country has rightfully adopted a more decentralized approach to governance. Our previous Conservative government certainly respected the importance of a decentralized approach, giving provinces money and letting them make the decisions. However, now it seems the government is taking a step in the wrong direction.

Unsurprisingly, one-size-fits-all solutions are not always desirable. Something that works in the Prairies might not make sense for southern Ontario. Something that works in southern Ontario could be a really bad fit for Quebec. Something that works great in Quebec could be a disaster for B.C., and the list goes on. Where possible, we want regions to be able to make decisions about their own development, in a way that makes sense for them. In a large, diverse country like ours, we want certain decisions made through a local lens. When there is an opportunity to do it that way, it makes a difference.

The government claims to believe that diversity is our strength. Well, let it put its money where its mouth is and keep diverse regional voices involved in regional development, and at the cabinet table.

I hope I do not have to remind the government that we westerners are especially skeptical of centralized decision making. Us old guys remember the national energy program. That wreaked havoc in the west and Alberta for decades. We have not forgotten that one. We have had a bad experience with decisions being made in Ottawa by people who are not from our region and who do not have an intimate understanding of its needs.

The tax changes are the latest example of decision makers in Ottawa not understanding the unintended consequences of the impacts their policies will have across the country. I have heard time and again at round tables in my riding of Bow River how the government does not understand what its policies will do to rural agriculture and small businesses. The Liberals are taking the Ottawa bubble to a whole new level, and this bill is just another example of their heavy-handed and centralized thinking.

Therefore, I hope my hon. colleagues opposite can understand why getting rid of ministers, like the minister for western economic diversification, and investing their decision making power in the hands of one member at the cabinet table might raise some eyebrows.

Furthermore, I am surprised that more of my colleagues opposite, representing ridings in Atlantic Canada, are not standing up for their region. Why are they not demanding a minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency at the cabinet table? The Prime Minister implied that a Toronto minister needed to handle ACOA because of the “kind of politics” in Atlantic Canada. That is an interesting comment. What kind of politics would incentivize the government to erode regional representation in favour of needless centralization? It just does not add up. It is a major hit to the federal government's ability to allocate funds in a manner that is regionally representative.

A former ACOA president said that many in Ottawa had never liked regional development agencies. Apparently, axing them has been on the agenda for some time.

I think Canadians care that regional representative at the cabinet table has been eroded. I think Canadians in Atlantic Canada will be unhappy to find, as the Liberals' Atlantic caucus subcommittee reported, that processing times have increased threefold, since the employment of the one minister.

Therefore, Bill C-24 means Canadians no longer have a regional development minister to fight for their region's interest. They will not have a voice for regional development at the cabinet table. Obviously, all Canadian regions will still be represented in cabinet, but those ministers have responsibilities that relate to their specific portfolio, not to the region. When it comes to spending regional development funds, the regions simply will not have the voice they did before. They are being robbed of that voice in cabinet for no good reason.

The bill also lacks transparency. We are being asked to approve the appointment of three mystery ministers. What will these ministers be? Will they be the minister for fancy socks, the minister responsible for selfie procurement, and the minister responsible for remembering French villas? The government should tell Canadians what its plans are. What do the Liberals have to hide?

Bill C-24 also fails to create ministerial equality. Legislating equal salaries does not mean all ministers are treated equally. Do ministers with more junior portfolios have their own deputy ministers? Do they have the same departmental budgets and authority as do ministers with more senior portfolios? As long as the answer to these questions remains a resounding no, I do not see how the government can claim the bill is about ministerial equality.

Moving cabinet members from the Ministries and Ministers of State Act to the Salaries Act would do nothing to change the answer to these questions. It is optics and no substance. Is it about gender equality? Given the ministers still have unequal authority in resources, I do not see how it could be.

We are also hearing some conflicting information from hon. colleagues opposite. Some have said that it is meant to advance gender equality. Some have said that it is not meant to address such issues. Therefore, Canadians have been left scratching their heads. What is this bill about? Does the government even know what it is about? The Liberals cannot seem to get the story straight on this one.

I will quote a University of British Columbia law professor, who specializes in gender equality, on why the bill would not do what some of the members opposite think it would. The professor said:

Pay equity is a piece of but not the whole of gender equality. People want these jobs and women need these positions of leadership, not because of the actual amount of dollars, but because of the responsibility, the profile, the prestige, the authority that those positions command.

That is certainly not a ringing endorsement.

Overall, the legislation is fundamentally misguided. It would take authority away from six regional ministers and would give it to one. It would not meaningfully advance ministerial equality. Even Liberal caucus members do not understand what the front bench's agenda is in introducing it. Needless to say, I will be not supporting this bill at report stage.