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

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-24.

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

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 12:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be speaking today on Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. Part of the reason I am happy to do so is that it is the middle of the day. The last time I spoke to this bill, I believe it was about 11:30 at night last spring when the government decided that it needed to keep Parliament sitting until midnight every night for weeks, not because it was trying to bring forward any legislation that would allow it to keep its campaign promises, but to fill the time, which I do not think was very useful.

The first thing about this bill that I want to cover is the total hypocrisy of the government bringing this legislation forward at this time. This legislation would pay junior ministers the same as senior ministers, and would remove six regional economic development positions and add three mystery positions. The reality is that two years ago the government already made those salaries the same and eliminated those economic development ministers, and so this is just a cover. It shows a total disrespect for Parliament. The government should be coming here to discuss issues of importance to Canadians, issues that would change the way we do things in Parliament, but instead the Liberal government does whatever it wants. It makes decisions without duly consulting Parliament, and then tries to cover up.

This is not the first case of this nature. I remember when I was just a new parliamentarian debating the withdrawal of the CF-18s from Iraq. On the first day, I showed up with my speech to talk about this and found out that the government had already withdrawn them. There was absolutely no point to debate it for two to three days, which we did anyway, because it had already withdrawn them. It showed a total disrespect for oversight by Parliament.

Let us talk about some of the other examples such as the payment of $10.5 million to Omar Khadr, a terrorist. That was obviously very controversial in Canada. There was no consultation on that either. What about giving Bombardier $372 million? There was no consultation there either. The Liberal government continues to spend Canadians' money, make decisions about changes and not consult, and then when it is convenient, several years later, it will come with a bill and ask us to get up and speak to it.

That said, let me talk about the specifics of the bill. I wish I had an opportunity to make all these comments before the government had taken action. First of all, let us talk about paying the junior ministers the same as senior ministers. This has absolutely nothing to do with gender. In the real world, where people work in their professions, there are multiple different ways of evaluating jobs, based on skills, experience, level of responsibility, the demands of the job, and whether or not the job is in an isolated location. All these things are taken into account. There are lots of different job skills we can look at such as the Hay scale. There are various items like that.

When we think about the ministers, let us look at the skills and experience of the ministers we are talking about. Let us look at the responsibility level and see if there is a match. Then we can also talk about competence, because in some cases people are paid more for their competence and the amazing things they have been able to accomplish in the role.

First of all, if we talk about the Minister of Status of Women, for example, versus the finance minister, the latter manages a budget of $373 billion. The status of women minister has a far smaller budget. I know of $38 million of it, but it is hidden in so many pockets it is hard to add it all up because the government budgetary system is so confusing. Clearly, if the finance minister introduces things like unfair taxes, these could have a huge effect on small businesses, and could even cause a health crisis if all the doctors leave the country. These things are serious. What impact will there be if the status of women minister does not do her job appropriately? Really, I do not see it.

We can talk about the democratic reform minister versus the defence minister. Now, if the defence minister does not do his job, people die. We go to war with countries and serious situations develop. When the democratic reform minister does not do their job, no one notices.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Calgary Nose Hill for pointing out the vacuousness of the Liberals' position on gender equality. It is all show and very little tell when it comes to their position. I thank her for that very gracious yet succinct effort to expose what the Liberals have really done on gender equality, which is very little.

I want to go to the other part of this bill, which addresses the regional economic development facilities we have across the country. Bill C-24 effectively does the following. It abandons a decentralized decision-making process and replaces it with a highly centralized top-down decision-making process when it comes to the regions of our country, to my region of the country, British Columbia, in the west, to the northern areas of our country, to eastern Canada, and to the Atlantic provinces. What this bill does is effectively create eight new Liberal ministerial positions, which reflects the five minister of state roles that were filled after the 2015 election. It also does something else. It adds three Liberal ministers yet to be named. I will get back to that in a moment, because it comes down to transparency. I can say that, after 12 years in this House, it is the first time I have seen legislation come forward that creates undefined ministerial posts without any idea of what purpose they will serve.

Also, Bill C-24 formally eliminates the positions of the six ministers for the regional development agencies across the country, agencies like Western Economic Diversification Canada, FedNor, and ACOA in Atlantic Canada. That must be concerning to everyone in this House, because it reduces the accountability of government to the regions and the communities across this country.

In my early years as a politician, I was a member of city council. It has been said, quite correctly, that city council is the level of government closest to the people. When I was sitting on city council, we had residents of our communities come forward and make their concerns known. They would bring us their proposals as to how they wanted to see our city develop. We could make decisions that very night or day, and the next day we could start implementing those decisions. What was great was that, as a municipal councillor, because we were from that very community, we could hear directly from the people affected by our decisions, and we could tailor our policies and programs accordingly.

What is happening now federally is the exact opposite. The ministers who were appointed to the various economic development agencies in the main regions across the country were the ones who had their ear to the ground. They were the eyes and ears of the government when it came to that region of the country. What the current Liberal government has done is quite arbitrarily said, without any consultation with the regions, that it will not have any ministers for the regions but will simply get rid of them and appoint a minister from Toronto to make all major decisions relating to those regions. I do not want to begrudge Toronto and Ontario with a minister responsible for economic development, but I can say that once we get out into the other regions of the country they will be saying, “What happened? What about us? There is somebody in Toronto making decisions for us out here in the region.” That should be embarrassing for the Liberal government.

What should be even more embarrassing is this. In the last election the Liberal Party elected 32 members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada. One would figure that out of 32 members of Parliament, the Prime Minister could find one who would be the representative for ACOA , and represent the interests of Atlantic Canada.

He just could not get his mind around that and said that it would be better, rather than having an Atlantic Canada minister, to appoint someone from downtown Toronto to make these decisions. I think of our democratic process, about the accountability that governments should be focusing on, and about responsiveness to the very people whom each one of us serve when we are establishing ministries that are focused on ensuring that every region of our country benefits from economic development. We should make sure we also appoint people to represent those regions and to be the voice in cabinet of those regional development agencies and of the people who live in those regions.

How do I know there is a lot of concern? We just have to ask the people from Atlantic Canada. For example, Conservative leader Jamie Baillie, said, that appointing an ACOA minister from Toronto, “is yet another sign that the Liberals are taking Atlantic Canada for granted.” We saw that with the appointment of a Supreme Court justice from that region and how long it took for the current Liberal government to finally understand that Atlantic Canadians needed to have a voice on the Supreme Court.

We go on to Éric Tétrault, president of the Quebec Manufacturers and Exporters. He indicated that he hoped that the situation would not be a total loss and that a Quebec MP might be put in charge of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the regions of Quebec. Did that happen? Of course it did not. He went on to say, “We have quite a few development programs with them [being a government] in areas such as innovation and skilled labour. We are afraid they'll get mixed up with a national policy that won't necessarily work for Quebec. If we have to deal with officials as far away as Toronto or Ottawa to get the government to pay attention to problems with the Quebec economy, we're in trouble.”

We are hearing that across the country.

Let us go back. I was reading the Cape Breton Post, and this is what it said:

The more you push...out to big centres, like Toronto, Ottawa, or maybe, Montreal, as the base of decision-making for those organizations, the less in tune they are with the regions that they're trying to help the most.

As we focus on developing an economy that is truly going to share the prosperity of this country with every Canadian, with every community across this country, and with every region, the government has to understand that the government members need to have their ear to the ground in each of those regions. It is not enough to say, as the member across the way just suggested, that they have 32 MPs from the area. Do the Liberals have any representation when it comes to economic development?

The previous government understood full well how important it was to have a member of cabinet who was also designated the person to represent the interests in that person's region. That is why there were not a lot of complaints heard across Canada. One of the concerns I have is that this decision was taken because the Prime Minister has completely capitulated to our public service. We know that for years our public service has not necessarily been a big fan of these regional economic development agencies. Now of course the public service has the Prime Minister, who will do its bidding, and has eliminated the key ministers who could have provided the ears to the ground and the eyes in the region that would have allowed the government to make good decisions for economic development in every part of our country.

I have one last thought. Bill C-24 also lacks transparency. As I mentioned earlier, the bill would appoint three mystery ministers for whom the job description has not been defined. That is a lack of transparency. The government, by stealth, is trying to introduce ministerial positions and Canadians have no idea what the positions are going to entail.

Therefore, this bill, Bill C-24, is very disappointing to me, to our Conservative Party, and certainly to Canadians across this great country of ours.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the father of four wonderful grown daughters who have their own careers and who have really blessed our lives and blessed the lives of people around them, I know how important gender equality is, but it cannot be artificial gender equality and that is what happened here with the Liberal government. The Liberal government is great at photo-ops. It is great at using slogans, but when it comes to addressing the underlying reasons why women are not rightfully taking their place in our society, the Liberals are an absolute failure.

We need to empower women to understand that they can aspire to anything in this country, whether it is to be in the House of Commons, whether it is to be the CEO of one of the most powerful corporations in our country, whether it is to be the principal of their school, or whether it is to be in their home providing leadership as a mother, as a mentor, to their kids.

I concur with the member. Even though Bill C-24 pretends to be a bill that would strengthen the Liberal government's reputation for gender equality it actually undermines it, because it is fake.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act, also known as the “Seinfeld act”, as it is a bill basically about nothing.

Let us go back to the origin of the bill.

It is 2015, and the Prime Minister announces with great fanfare that the new cabinet will be gender equal, but it turns out the Prime Minister has reserved the five minister of state slots, the junior ministries basically operating inside other full ministries, toward women. However, no fear, the government quickly says that it is an error and they are made full ministers. Perhaps this was the very first recorded example of the early administrative confusion excuse the finance minister rolled out for his issues in missing out on announcing his villa in France. While I will note that it is gender equal, it had the highest percentage of women in the junior minister roles since Trudeau senior was in power.

Now I have no issue with the makeup of the cabinet being gender equal in number. However, I am disappointed the Liberals went with a quota system that excluded so many qualified women MPs in order to find roles for what was shown to be poorly chosen male ministers.

Think where we would be if the Liberal quota system had not foisted upon us the current finance minister, no ethical skulduggery, no conflict of interest by having the finance minister make policy decisions that just happened to enrich his family fortune while hurting average Canadians.

The government would not have had to appoint the member for Vancouver South as Minister of Defence, where he repeatedly claimed the glory of other battles of soldiers who risked their lives for Operation Medusa. We certainly would not have had the ongoing bungling of the sole-source Super Hornet debacle either.

However, when it comes to gender equality scandals and broken promises, like using taxpayer dollars to rent limos from party supporters, the Phoenix pay fiasco, and electoral reform, the Liberals have it nailed. Let us go back to Bill C-24.

I call Bill C-24 the Seinfeld bill because it is a bill about nothing. However, at least with Seinfeld, we got to have fun with Festivus, the Soup Nazi, and Kramer. With Bill C-24, it is basically a waste of time, a whole-of-government approach to a waste of time. Everything the bill would accomplish can be or already has been done. Equal money for ministers and ministers of state has been happening for the past two years: ministers of state through appropriations, and regular ministers, as before, from the general consolidated revenue fund.

The government House leader told us that all 30 members already “receive the same salary” and that this had been the case since the first day in office and would not change with the bill. So why the need for Bill C-24? Why take up time in committee and the House when there are so many other pressing matters?

We are told that the five junior minister of state titles need to be changed in order to have a voice at the cabinet table. How does this make sense? Are we to believe a minister of state with a groundbreaking idea or policy would be ignored at the cabinet table just because he or she had a different title? Surely the Prime Minister does not differentiate between opinions coming from ministers and ministers of state based on title alone. Gerry Butts seems to be heard loud and clear at the cabinet table, and he does not have a minister's title.

On second reading of Bill C-24, the Liberals spoke to the virtues of the bill, saying things like “we're committed to pay equity in our cabinet”. The Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board said, “This government is also committed to ensuring that pay equity extends to the cabinet table.” A Liberal colleague on the operations committee said, “we have chosen is to say that women deserve equal pay for an equal voice at the cabinet table.”

It was abundantly clear that Liberal after Liberal stood up and spoke to Bill C-24 with the intent of framing it in terms of gender equality, which was the message they wanted to send. The Liberal members of the government operations committee must have been just giddy with delight when the NDP requested a professor of law from UBC, who is an expert on gender studies, to appear to testify on Bill C-24. However, I was a first hand witness to their meltdown and disappointment when the witness tore into the government's legislation and communications regarding the framing of Bill C-24 in gender terms.

The expert witness said:

...this particular piece of legislation really doesn't...have much to do with gender equality...to claim that it is about gender equality is dangerous...because...we cut off the really important, substantial, and tough conversations about gender equality by claiming that we've already dealt with it

She went on to say that:

...women need these positions of leadership, not because of the actual amount of dollars, but because of the responsibility, the profile...the authority that those positions command.

It is very much like a CEO and a branch director being paid the same wage. They receive equal pay, but they are not equal. The CEO has to manage the company. The branch director manages one portfolio. While they receive the same pay, they are not equitable because the scope and responsibilities are not the same.

That is what the Prime Minister has done, and his party, dangerously, claims it is about gender equality. We heard in committee that to frame it as legislation that speaks substantially to the issues of gender equality and cabinet composition was wrong and dangerous.

In response to a question about whether the Prime Minister's claim of gender equal cabinet was cynical, the witness expert replied that it was dishonest on behalf of the government.

The Liberals immediately attempted to walk back the previous statements made by dozens of Liberal MPs in this very place that Bill C-24 was about gender equality. The member for Newmarket—Aurora said, “I don't think anyone was proposing that this was a gender equity bill.” The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle tried to simultaneously claim that Bill C-24 was a good first step, which the witness rejected, and then tried to reframe the question by asking if the junior ministries were more emerging ministries. Yes, all ministers are equal but some are more emerging than others.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I am shocked. Mr. Speaker.

As I was saying, all ministers are equal but some are more equal and emerging than others, it appears.

The member for Don Valley East, to her discredit, labelled the witness's testimony as disingenuous because Bill C-24 had nothing to do with gender equality. If it is not about gender equality and it is not actually needed to do anything about what the government has already been doing pay and organization-wise the last few years, what is it for and what does it do?

It also formalizes the centralization of regional ministries under the minister from Mississauga. If ever there was a more perfect analogy for the Liberals' attitude toward the rest of the country, I cannot find a better example than a minister from suburban Toronto holding regional ministries from the west, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. It is a slap in the face to these regions in Canada. I would much rather have a ministry of western economic diversification to advocate on behalf of the west than the three Liberal MPs from Alberta, who deign to represent their province second and toeing the party line first. The Liberal government has been AWOL when it comes to Alberta.

The government House Leader insists that a whole-of-government approach will serve regions better because everyone will be in on the conversation. Of course she did not fail to mention that diversity was our strength, although she was referring to regional diversity in Canada this time. She said, “Regional expertise with national expertise is a way for it to work better together to create a synergy, to take a whole-of-government approach.”

I apologize for those sitting at home watching this on CPAC. I know people are rolling their eyes so far back in their head listening to this statement that they have probably sprained their eye muscles.

They then went on to use the words “whole-of-government approach” 11 more times in justifying having the minister for western diversification being based in Toronto. Except with this whole-of-government approach, we have no one to step up and advocate for Alberta. Certainly not the three Liberal MPs we have from Alberta, all three who did Oscar-worthy impressions of mimes when it came time to speak up for energy east.

Alberta Conservative MPs presented to the government the Alberta jobs task force, with many recommendations for help with our jobs crisis. We asked for infrastructure funding to tackle the issue of orphaned wells. It would have put highly-skilled people back to work in Alberta and Saskatchewan and helped the environment. What did our minister of economic diversification based in Toronto get us? Well, he managed to find taxpayer money to pay out bonuses to the billionaire owners of Bombardier.

What about those superclusters we hear so much about? Well, a few weeks back I received a text from a friend of mine who was flying in to Calgary. He noted that the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development was on the same plane. I figured, great, he was going to Calgary to announce that we were getting a supercluster. Unfortunately we heard that the Alberta supercluster application, which is the clean resource innovation network made up of a consortium of think tanks, universities, the provincial government, and oil and gas bodies, was shot down. The minister commented that it was rejected because of an overlap of superclusters for agriculture and construction. That is regional expertise working with a synergistic conversation for a whole-of-government approach working for Alberta.

Rather than present legislation that addresses the job crisis in Alberta, or helps with these parts of the country struggling with the opioid crisis or the myriad of other issues affecting livelihoods and survival of Canadians, we get Bill C-24, focused on upping salaries in attempt to fix a mistake the Prime Minister made, legislation on titles and salaries that really does nothing that the government has not already been doing for the past couple of years.

I await the day that the Liberals move beyond government by words, tweets, selfies, and feel-good statements. Retracting Bill C-24 would be a good first start.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, although my speech may not be as humorous as that of my friend from Edmonton West, I will try to live up to his standard.

I too am pleased to stand to speak on Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. As some may know, a few months ago I was given the privilege by the leader of the official opposition to be named critic for FedNor, an agency that now has less accountability to Ontario's north, which I will expand on momentarily.

For those watching at home, Bill C-24 would create eight new Liberal ministerial positions and formally eliminate the positions of six ministers for regional development agencies, whose responsibility to local community organizations and businesses would now be in the hands of a single minister. Local development projects and decisions in communities like Prince Rupert, Timmins, Whitehorse, Churchill, Goose Bay, and Miramichi, for example, just to name a few, would be made by that single minister from Mississauga.

This summer, the Prime Minister said his appointment of a Toronto-area minister for all regional development agencies was “a way of reducing the kind of politics that we’ve always seen from regional development agencies”. I am not sure what the Prime Minister was actually referring to. Regional ministers being accountable to and responsible for matters of regional importance is not political. That is just common sense, something the government has been lacking lately.

Let me say what is political. It is making decisions without consulting the very people who will be affected by those decisions. No wonder the level of trust in government in some rural areas is decreasing. When decision-making is centralized, especially decisions that have a large effect on a population, and they are made in some faraway place with, at times, little or no on-the-ground knowledge of the unique needs of each province, region, county, or municipality, problems happen.

To make matters worse, the government operations committee only heard from the government House leader and one professor studying this bill. The Liberal-dominated committee did not hear from a single witness on the issue of regional development agencies. That is right. Maybe the Prime Minister felt local folks cannot make these decisions for themselves after all. The Prime Minister added insult to injury with his cynical slur against Atlantic Canadians, claiming a Toronto-area minister needs to run ACOA because of the kind of politics he insinuates exists in Atlantic Canada.

What about Quebec? I am sure Quebeckers will be going to bed easier tonight knowing that a minister from Mississauga will now be making decisions for that province. After all, I am sure it has been a long-accepted tradition in Quebec that Toronto knows best. I wonder how Mr. Forget, the current president of the Fédération des chambres de commerce du Québec, is now feeling. He was pleased, back in November of 2015, to see three Montreal ministers in cabinet, but almost with a sense of foreboding, he wondered at the time what would happen to the Quebec economic development agency, stating how important it was for Quebeckers to have the attentive ear of a Quebec minister on matters related to local economic development.

The Prime Minister's decision to formally eliminate, through Bill C-24, regional development ministers reminds Canadians that, under the Liberal government, they no longer have regional ministers representing and fighting for their regions' interests because the Prime Minister thinks this is a kind of politics being played. Instead, the Prime Minister, leaving all regional development in the hands of a single minister from Mississauga, again seems to think this is a better kind of politics. We see a pattern forming.

Last week, I was in northern Ontario and heard the concerns of small businesses, community representatives, and chambers of commerce regarding the northern Ontario economic development agency, or FedNor, and how they wanted more transparency, accountability, and local influence in the decision-making on projects that will have a significant impact on their communities. What I do not think they had in mind was the $150,000 in FedNor funds that were given last fall to a company based in the innovation minister's riding, a Mississauga riding. Apparently, this is the preferred kind of politics the Prime Minister had in mind.

This spring, a Liberal Atlantic caucus subcommittee reported that it has had reports of a threefold increase in processing times at ACOA since the appointment of this Toronto-area minister. The subcommittee noted that centralized decision-making is viewed unfavourably as impeding the agility of programs. The subcommittee was asked to advocate for regional decision-making in order to better address regional needs.

The future of regional development agencies is cast further in doubt as there are no specific references to any of the regional development agencies in the innovation minister's mandate letter. Not only will local and regional development projects be decided by a Toronto-area minister, but that same minister has no mandate, no accountability to his Prime Minister, for the stewardship of these agencies. Is this good politics or bad politics? Forgive me if I am starting to get confused, but we do see a pattern. Any claim by my colleagues opposite that this is about ministerial equality is about as believable as Mississauga being in northern Ontario.

Bill C-24 would amend the Salaries Act to allow for the equal payment of all ministers, ensuring that ministers with more junior portfolios are paid the same as ministers with larger and more senior portfolios, without adding any new responsibilities. What does this mean? It means the ministers with junior portfolios will not have their own deputy ministers, will not have the same departmental budgets, and will not have the same authority as ministers in most senior portfolios.

While the Liberal speaker claimed that Bill C-24 is an example of housekeeping, and it is the housekeeping item they claim to legislate equal salaries for all ministers, the bill fails to ensure that all ministers are created equal. I see I am getting the wrap-up sign, so I will continue after question period.

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As pointed out by the Canadian Bar Association:

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

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

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

There is no question that this needs to be rectified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me turn to the last amendment before us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The senators put it down in black and white:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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