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

Sponsor

Bardish Chagger  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of Dec. 14, 2017

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Summary

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

Dec. 13, 2017 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Dec. 11, 2017 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
Dec. 11, 2017 Failed Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act (report stage amendment)
June 12, 2017 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act
June 12, 2017 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act (reasoned amendment)
June 7, 2017 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

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

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

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

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

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

Let me read a summary of the bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Canada Elections ActGovernment Orders

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

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

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

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

Cannabis ActGovernment Orders

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

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

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

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

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

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 9:10 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, it is always a pleasure to rise and address the chamber. Bill C-24 is one of those pieces of legislation that one would expect that all members of the House would get behind and support. I want to highlight three aspects of the bill that are really important so that members across the way understand exactly what they are voting against, or, we hope, voting in favour of.

One of the things that I am especially proud of is the fact that this government has recognized the importance of infrastructure in Canada in a very real and tangible way. One of the things the legislation does is reinforce that. It does that by recognizing that the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs is going to change to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. As we all know, the Prime Minister deals with intergovernmental affairs and I will provide a brief comment on that shortly, but I want to pick up on the issue of infrastructure.

I have always thought that all parties in the House recognize the value of infrastructure. The Stephen Harper government talked a lot about it. Their actions did not really follow through, but they talked a lot about it. The NDP members have also talked a great deal about infrastructure. For the first time, not only do we have a government that talks about infrastructure, but we understand the benefits of investing in Canada's infrastructure and we are doing it in record amounts. Never before in the history of Canada have we seen so much money allocated to infrastructure.

It should not be any surprise that we have a Prime Minister who has acknowledged that we need a minister who is responsible for and dedicated to the infrastructure of our country. That is something we as a government or as a caucus have recognized and believe in because we understand that municipalities have been talking about the importance of investing in infrastructure for years. It is not only municipalities. Provincial jurisdictions and many different stakeholders recognize if we do not invest in our streets, bridges, community centres, green projects, and housing, we cannot advance our communities in every region of our country.

For the first time we have, through the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, a solid, tangible commitment to reach into the many different communities in all regions of our country and invest in Canada's infrastructure. One could talk about the very direct benefits of x millions of dollars committed to a community, which will see the construction of something through that money, but we can also talk about the indirect benefits. By investing in infrastructure we are enabling our businesses, small, medium, and large, to be able to have a higher level of commerce. We could talk about our community centres or the many other investments in Canada's infrastructure and how they will benefit.

It was telling when the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities last week talked about the difference between this government and the former government when it came to real investments and announcements in regard to improving Canada's infrastructure. In the month of May, we made more announcements and investments in infrastructure than Stephen Harper did in four years. That is significant in every region of our country, including areas where there is concern, where many of the Alberta MPs are standing up to say they want to see more action by the Government of Canada. They started asking those questions well after the Alberta Liberal MPs were lobbying and suggesting that we needed to be able to get on the ground floor in terms of making sure that Alberta's needs were being taken care of.

That is why we saw special attention, from the very outset, paid to how we could work with the Province of Alberta. That is not to say that Alberta will get more. We understand the importance of treating every region of our country equally. Whether it is in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario, the Prairies, B.C., or the territories, we are seeing incredible amounts of investment of public dollars in infrastructure, because we recognize just how important that is. It is not just announcements. We are talking about real, tangible dollars that are going to have a real, desired impact.

With the passing of the legislation, we would be sending a very clear message. The message is that given the importance of infrastructure, not only for today but into the future, we need to make it very clear that we have a stand-alone department of infrastructure that has the sole purpose of ensuring that Canada's infrastructure is moving forward in a very aggressive and progressive way. We have seen the minister do an outstanding job of not only using those public dollars but looking beyond that to ensure that we maximize the benefits.

With the infrastructure investment bank, we now have the opportunity for organizations, such as organized labour, to assist in investing in our infrastructure, as opposed to looking in other countries outside of Canada and using those union dollars, for example, in infrastructure. We have singled out the importance of infrastructure, and I am very glad that we have taken the time to introduce that aspect to the legislation.

I had the opportunity to ask the government House leader a question on this very important issue. I recall, so vividly, after the last federal election, when the Prime Minister introduced the federal cabinet to Canadians. We were all so very impressed with what we saw. We saw gender equality. We saw an equal number of women and men in cabinet, and that is historic. I believe that we not only have a Prime Minister who talks about being a feminist but who is actually a feminist. He does us all proud with the types of actions he takes, day in and day out, to reinforce just how important it is that we recognize that women's role in society is not for tomorrow, it is for today, and where we can take action, we need to take action. We saw that as one of the very first announcements that the Prime Minister made.

When we look at the legislation we have before us today, we see it was not good enough to say that we were going to have a cabinet that was gender equal. We are also going to have a cabinet where every minister is treated the same. It is a one-tier cabinet. That is something we understand and appreciate. Whether it is the Minister of Status of Women or the Minister of Finance, when they sit around that cabinet table, they are equal. It is one vote.

I know the Minister of Status of Women has just as strong a personality as the Minister of Finance or any of her other colleagues, and she should have that equal voice around the cabinet table.

I am very proud that we have a Prime Minister who has recognized that we need to have one level of cabinet ministers. This ensures there is that sense of equality. That will not take effect once the legislation passes. In fact, that took effect from day one when the cabinet was sworn in.

The government House leader reminded me of pay equity. This is something we all talk about a great deal. I heard an interesting quote from a New Democratic MP across the way, and I want to repeat it. When we were talking about pay equity just over a year ago, I believe on an opposition day, the member said:

In 1981, Canada ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, which recognizes women's rights to equal remuneration and to equal treatment in respect of work of equal value. It has been 40 years since Canada committed to these three foundational documents, and we are still not where we need to be.

I agree. We need to improve and do better. Groundbreaking pay equity commitments were made by Pierre Trudeau's Liberal government. This is something one of my New Democratic colleagues from across the way highlighted. It has taken a while, but what are we saying in this legislation? We are saying that all ministers should receive the same pay. When we talk about pay equity, a statement needs to be made. I am not sure exactly how members are going to vote, but we have legislation that takes that into consideration. I suggest it is a wonderful opportunity. Instead of just talking about it, we can vote on the issue.

I again want to highlight there are five ministers of state, which we say are full ministers. They are the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women. They are the ones we said we had to change and put them in full minister positions, ultimately being one-tier.

I truly believe, whether it is sitting around the cabinet table or looking at departments, that if we wanted to do a department-by-department cross-check, one of the most important departments, which I have mentioned before, is small business and tourism. Earlier today, the minister talked about how small businesses are the backbone of Canada's economy. When we think in terms of growth for our country, small businesses have to be at the table. We do not have a minister of state responsible for that, but a minister who, when she sits at the cabinet table, is treated in the same fashion as any other minister.

Along with business comes tourism. We have seen incredible increases in the last year in tourism. We are talking millions-plus of additional tourists who have come to our country in the last year. It was 2016 over 2015, I believe, when I saw that number a while ago. Let us think in terms of jobs. If we ask Canadians what they are concerned about, those in the middle class or those striving to become part of it, they are all concerned about jobs. Think of the jobs created when a million-plus additional tourists come to our country. That creates opportunities. We take that very seriously. The minister who deals with small business, entrepreneurs, and tourism is just as important as any other minister who sits around the cabinet table.

That is why I would challenge members across the way when they start saying there are two tiers, and they start to favour that, or they have questions about issues of pay equity, or questions about infrastructure. These are all good reasons for why the opposition should be voting in favour of this legislation.

Another component deals with regional development. We have a number of different agencies that we are looking at to bring under one ministry: Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, Western Economic Diversification Canada, Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec , Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

I am somewhat sympathetic to what some of the opposition members have said with respect to this. However, let me encourage them to take a broader approach to the benefits of having one of the ministers lead the whole issue of innovation, technology, and development. He, in this case, has a multitude of different programs that he happens to be responsible for and is doing an incredible job. All members need to do is look at some of the numbers that have been coming in, and the trend looks fantastic. He is responsible for those agencies continuing to be not only effective but he is actually making them more effective. We have a government and a ministry that is better coordinated to do that.

I believe that is the best way to approach it. We have a Minister of Health, and I will use health as an example. The administration of health care is a provincial jurisdiction. I do not hear members across the way arguing that we should break it down into regions, and then have those regions report to the Minister of Health nationally. No, we have one single Minister of Health who has the responsibility of health and all the components, including mental health, hospice care, emergencies, health accords, all that responsibility and so much more. Even though there are differences in the different provinces and territories, the minister is able to pull it together and come up with some wonderful things.

I would suggest we have another wonderful minister who is able to look at Canada as a whole, respecting the importance of investments in our different regions, and supporting not only those regional agencies but also has his hands on a multitude of different programs, ensuring they are working as one, so that these organizations will be healthier. I do not know about the other caucuses, but in our caucus the ability of my colleagues to communicate the importance of their individual regions let alone their own constituencies to the different ministries, and advocate for them is very strong. I do not believe we are losing out by moving forward on this particular bill. For many reasons, I would encourage members across the way to have an appreciation that this is a bill that is worthy of support.

In conclusion, I have made reference to this before and other members have addressed the issue of why we are using time allocation. At times there is a need for a government to use time allocation, and I said that when I was in opposition because I recognized that. I also voted in favour of sitting until midnight, even when Stephen Harper requested that. It is because we are prepared to work hard in order to make a difference in the everyday lives of Canadians from coast to coast to coast, and that is why I do it.

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June 7th, 2017 / 9:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about all ministers being tier one ministers now, but of course, we know that is not true. The responsibilities do not match all of them. Some of them have deputy ministers, and some of them do not. Some have junior portfolios, and some have far greater responsibilities.

The great thing about Parliament is we are all tier one members of Parliament. We all have an equal voice. Of course, it does happen that the government then uses time allocation and shuts down debate on us, and allows its members to have a say within their caucus when introducing government legislation. However, we also know why there will be three mystery ministers added in Bill C-24, because the government will make sure the member for Winnipeg North, who has worked hard, will join cabinet. The minister for disinformation would be a fine title for him.

I would introduce a private sector concept based on my human resources background, pay for performance. I would introduce performance-based pay, and I know that the former minister for democratic institutions did not meet the requirements of her mandate letter, insulted the electoral reform committee, and failed actually to achieve what the Prime Minister and the electoral platform the Liberals ran on was set to do.

Would he agree with me that we should introduce performance-based pay for all ministers of the government?

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 9:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

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

The distinction between full ministers of the crown and ministers of the state is based on the requirements and responsibilities of the position, not how useful or how important a given policy area is, and certainly not on demographic characteristics of the office-holder.

This distinction is lost on the Liberals. In this bill, they are attempting to justify officially changing the title of various ministers of state to full ministers. They claim that just changing the names and salaries but not the responsibilities of ministers of state somehow make them equivalent to full ministers. This is not only disingenuous; it is actually insulting to the ministers of state in question.

When this bill first came up for debate, the opposition House leader accurately observed that it insulted someone to actually appoint him or her to an important but subordinate position, a position without a deputy minister, without a dedicated department, and without the sort of budget that accompanies a full ministry and then tell him or her simply that the positions were equal because they would have the same title and the same salary. It makes the position appear equivalent on paper, but not in fact. The government should be honest with its ministers of state and honest with Canadians.

The discussion about equality between ministers is a distraction from the much more pressing matter contained in the bill. The more substantial concern raised in the bill is democratic accountability by ministers for funds they are supposed to supervise. Indeed, it is a shell game. It is a bait and switch, mere window dressing to cover for their plans to reduce democratic accountability by rolling six regional development agencies into one minister's office.

Before I continue, Mr. Speaker, I plan to share my time with the member for Richmond Centre.

These six agencies represent very different regions with unique challenges and opportunities, which is the core reason why these agencies exist.

I do not question the Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development's capabilities. He seems like a talented and capable man. However, being responsible for so many areas at one time will pull him in too many directions, and that reduces ministerial oversight. If the minister himself cannot direct sufficient attention to these disparate portfolios, the task will end up falling to unelected staffers and unelected civil servants. That is not good for democratic accountability.

Canadians elect members of Parliament who serve as ministers. They do not elect staff or civil servants. If staffers and bureaucrats end up mismanaging funds for regional development, it will then be as a result of the minister not being able to have adequate oversight, thus there is no loss of democratic accountability.

Accountability for tax dollars is not just important to Conservatives; it is important to all Canadians. The real effect of the proposed changes to the Salaries Act has nothing to do with salaries. It is a bait and switch. It has everything to do with centralizing spending power in Ottawa and reducing democratic accountability for the spending.

Earlier in the debate on the bill, the member for Yukon expressed his disappointment that the House was devoting significant time to debating it at all. He said way back in October that he thought we would not need to talk about the bill and was surprised the opposition was prepared to debate it. I wonder what he would have thought then that we are debating this at 9:45 on a Wednesday night in June.

Tinkering with titles and salaries for positions may seem like small potatoes to some members, but these seemingly small changes do matter to Canadians, and people will inevitably wonder why newly elevated ministers of the crown have no departments, deputy ministers, or designated budgets. Canadians are not impressed, and will not be impressed, by empty honours and titles without commensurate responsibilities.

The measures of the bill and the disdain for discussion, which the member opposite displayed during the first period of debate, further provide evidence of the current government being out of touch with Canadians.

Instead of heading regional development agencies with ministers from the regions, the Liberals are handing over significant spending power to unelected civil servants and one over-worked minister from Mississauga.

The Liberals say that they want more consultation and consensus. Then they say that they want to listen to Canadians. Then they say that they want to co-operate with the provinces and municipalities. Then they go and abolish the regional ministers who keep these communication channels open. Rolling these development agencies into one minister's portfolio also abolishes regional voices in cabinet.

Previous governments routinely appointed these regional ministers as liaisons between cabinet, the provinces, and municipalities.

Living in the regions and in the municipalities gave regional ministers skin in the game, which distant bureaucrats and one single member from the GTA will lack. Without regional ministers, mayors and councillors will not have a dedicated regional level person to whom to provide their perspective on the needs and opportunities of their jurisdictions.

For a government which constantly boasts of holding consultations, abolishing regional ministers demonstrates a lack of interest in listening to local advice on how best to allocate funding. In fact, when the government says that it is holding consultations, it increasingly looks like a stalling tactic, delaying making a tough decision.

When the government wants to get something done, it usually just puts the bulldozer blade down and does it, just like when it ran over the mortgage and housing industry with mortgage rule changes in October last year, which were done without consulting anybody. However, when it wants to delay a tough decision or maybe not make a decision at all, it can hold consultations that last for months at enormous expense to the crown, such as it did with democratic institutions before breaking that promise.

Previous governments knew that regional ministers strengthened our federal system by giving regions a voice at the cabinet table.

Bill C-24 also asks Parliament to let the Liberals create three new ministerial level positions with portfolios to be determined later. They want us to authorize spending without knowing what it will fund. That is like asking for a blank cheque. It is like asking for a sizeable loan and telling the bank that we have no business plan, no major purchase in mind, but we are sure we will find a way to spend the money. We cannot do this with the government at a time of out-of-control spending, broken promises on deficits, mounting debt, and complete abandonment of an election promise to balance the budget by 2019. We are not going to give the government any more blank cheques.

Canada does have precedents for ministers without portfolio. They could be appointed as needed. They do not have to have space carved out long in advance just in case the government wants a particular minister at a particular time. At a time when the government is demonstrating that it cannot be trusted to manage public funds prudently, we cannot agree to these new ministries.

Canada does not need fully staffed ministries for sport, democratic reform, or small business and tourism with whole departments and deputy ministers backing them. These are important areas and it is important that there are cabinet voices at the table, but they are well served by ministers of state.

Canada does not need retroactive paper equality in its cabinet. Nor do we need ministers with blank portfolios to be filled later. Instead, we need democratic accountability and financially transparent ministers whose work we can understand now. We do not need an ever-bigger and more centralized government ruling distinct regions from Ottawa. We do not need unaccountable and unelected staffers and bureaucrats directing funds for regional development. Instead, we need attentive ministerial oversight on spending. We need responsible representation from regional ministers with strong ties to the communities they serve.

Perhaps the member for Yukon was right, that we ought not to spend a lot more time, while we are in extended sitting hours, on this legislation. We should just defeat it promptly and move on to other areas of priority.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 9:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again this evening to speak to Bill C-24, regarding the Salaries Act.

This bill aims to change five important aspects of ministerial roles and designations. These include the creation of new positions, the removal of several important positions, the creation of legal backup for departmental support for these new mystery positions, the transfer of authoritative powers, and the correction of references to the Minister of Infrastructure.

There are two prominent aspects of this bill that I would like to speak to tonight. The specific changes proposed in Bill C-24 that I will mention are particularly relevant to me, my riding, my province, and also my experience as a parliamentarian. In the previous government, I served as a minister of state, the role in question in this legislation, and I represented Richmond Centre, a riding in British Columbia, which used to have a regional ministerial representative at the cabinet table until the Liberals came to power.

As a result, this legislation directly impacts my riding, and I believe that my own experience has allowed me to have a good understanding of what is at stake in Bill C-24.

Let me start by addressing the first prominent aspect: raising the salary of ministers of state, who are women in the current Liberal cabinet, to be equal with full ministers. There should be more than that for it to be truly equal.

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

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

I am always supportive of equal pay for equal work. I would not have minded being paid more as a minister of state. I did an excellent job, not because of the pay but because of an excellent staffer and because of my passion. I was able to protect seniors. I was able to create legislation with help from the Prime Minister to make things really happen. It did not matter if I was called a minister or a minister of state as long I was doing the job. I was proud of my ministerial position.

I am always supportive of equal pay for equal work. Unless these roles are made to be full ministers with the authority, responsibility, and departments that are required of all other files, I do not believe they will accomplish true equality. Moreover, we believe in a merit-based system. We believe in giving women an equal chance based on their hard work and abilities, not by appointing them to fill a quota just because they are women.

This legislation shows the government is only seeking to elevate their positions and salaries for political purposes, rather than using a merit-based system that would mean much more in helping to empower women.

I would also add that the government chose to appoint only women to the minister of state roles. That was its decision, and it does not exactly fall in line with the government's gender parity rhetoric.

Had the Liberals thought about that even before they appointed all the ministers, they would have appointed all the women as full ministers. If the Liberals really believed in elevating women, they should have been given full ministerial positions, as I said. Is the government claiming the only way to elevate women is by appointing them to an inferior position and then elevating that position?

Let me discuss the other issues in this same bill.

The present Liberal government is neglecting the unique challenges and needs of regional issues in British Columbia and, truly, across the country. My province of British Columbia provides tremendous opportunity. We are proud of the role we play as Canada's gateway to the Asia-Pacific. However, with this great potential for growth, we are also presented with challenges that other parts of the country do not face. British Columbians are eager to overcome these barriers, but they do not see a government willing to support their efforts.

Stakeholders of our terminals are looking forward to exporting resources, while remaining committed to balancing economic growth with caring for our coastal waters.

In addition to opportunities presented with exporting resources, the tourism and the tech sectors are also expanding rapidly. We have a younger generation that is underemployed, but they are educated and eager to join the workforce. By not recognizing the need to address these issues by appointing a cabinet minister to take on this role, the Prime Minister is failing the people of British Columbia. He has also failed all the western provinces, which share similarities in their resources and challenges and the need for strategic planning in their economic growth.

I know that my province and region is not the only one feeling the effects of a lack of representation at the cabinet table. There has been significant discussion regarding representation of the Atlantic provinces and the apparent lack of funding and opportunities. In a report put forward by the Liberal Atlantic caucus, the members acknowledged that people have indicated that standard processing times have tripled due to the wait on ministerial approvals for things like programs or funding. I fear this will only continue for other regions. I would encourage the government to listen to its own Atlantic members and bring back proper regional representation.

We are always open to hearing ways to make government operate more efficiently. However, removing key regional ministers is a failure to recognize the unique needs of the different regions of the country. The Liberals' top-down approach to governing does not make government more efficient; rather, it is neglecting those it claims to be helping. Local jobs are at stake in B.C., and the Liberals are playing politics to make cabinet fit its agenda rather than listening to needs of local people.

I will also note that the removal of these positions is counteracted by the addition of new roles, for some of which we do not even know the titles.

I still remember how wonderfully our minister for western diversification had been working tirelessly for all the western provinces in the days when we were in government. That was the time when we could market our products collectively overseas and that was the time when we were able to create record-breaking full-time jobs. Trade is the number one job creator. Small businesses, as has been mentioned, are depending a lot on our trade opportunities.

Let me get back to the first prominent aspect of the bill. The Liberals are claiming equality to justify this bill. Equality has nothing to do with it. If the government truly wanted equal positions for every minister, the bill would have included the other appropriate changes. Simply changing the pay does not change the role or level of work.

In Bill C-24, the Liberals have also opted to leave out regional representation for no apparent reason. I believe my experiences show exactly why the changes outlined in Bill C-24 are unnecessary, and I strongly urge the government to reconsider its decision to eliminate the role of regional ministers.

I believe it is irresponsible to assume that a single minister from Ontario can appropriately represent all the region-specific concerns, despite what I presume are his best efforts. I hope the government will recognize these concerns and choose to continue with the appointment of regional ministers, as has been the tradition for many decades.

Pat Carney, who was Brian Mulroney's B.C. regional minister in the 1980s—

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 10:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening throughout the course of this discussion to try to understand the viewpoint of the other side. We have contrasting management systems: the Stephen Harper Conservatives top-down approach; and the current Government of Canada approach, which is across all regions of the country, with gender diversity and all backgrounds, all at the table as one voice. We are recognizing that formally through what we are proposing in Bill C-24, where all ministers would have not only an equal voice but equal pay for equal work.

Could the member look at what we are seeing from our side and comment on a model of equal pay for equal work?

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the point. Liberals have been saying that they are feminists and that they value women, but right at the beginning, when they appointed women to these ministerial positions, they had already carved out some female ministers who were not good enough to be full ministers, and now they say there is something wrong with that. They then attached Bill C-24 to something else. That shows that they are not serious about this. This is exactly why I say that the Liberals are only paying lip service in saying that they want to give equal respect to women, but that is exactly what they have not done.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 10:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to say hello to all the viewers at home tonight who are paying attention to what we are debating, doing the good work Canadians sent us here to do.

I am pleased to rise to speak at second reading of Bill C-24, an act to update and modernize the Salaries Act. I would like to emphasize a few points made by my colleagues who have spoken before me. They bear repeating.

The bill would update the Salaries Act to reflect the structure of the current ministry by adding five titled positions. It makes good administrative sense that the legislative framework reflect the operating reality. The five positions that would be added to the Salaries Act are already occupied by ministers who are working on important priorities for this government and for Canadians: science, small business and tourism, status of women, Francophonie, sport, and persons with disabilities. The amendments would formally recognize that these are full ministers with equal status around the cabinet table, something we should all be applauding.

I wish to focus on the status of women portfolio, because our party and our government under the Prime Minister have much to be proud of. Yes, I am a feminist as well. On our recent trip to Italy, I was proud to hear our Prime Minister speak to the Italian deputies about the importance of having a gender-balanced cabinet and of having young women be proud of their government.

Our government believes in putting an agenda forward that has gender equality. If we look at the policies we have adopted, there is the Canada child benefit, which removes approximately 40% of children from poverty, which helps single mothers. We can look at the recent EI changes in the budget implementation act, which give women or men a choice to extend their paternity leave from 12 months to 18 months. We look at the Canada caregiver tax benefit. We amalgamated three tax measures. Again, it is family friendly. For the most part, we know that women do a lot of the work at home taking care of their loved ones. Those are facts, and we have put forward an agenda that reflects them.

When I was in Italy with the Prime Minister, he spoke to the Italian deputies and the trade delegation. I saw the reactions from the speaker of the house in Italy. They commented about having a prime minister in this world who stands up for women and puts gender equality first.

I have two daughters at home, and I am proud that they have a wonderful future ahead, because they have a government that is paying attention to their needs and to all Canadians' needs. That is something the opposition parties can learn from.

Our investments in child care, the funds we have set aside and the work we are doing with the provinces is groundbreaking and helpful for working moms. We need to get the labour force participation rate up for women at home who wish to enter the labour force. It is good for the economy, for Canada, and for our future.

On infrastructure, Bill C-24 would formalize the naming of the ministry of infrastructure and communities. One of the things we ran on in our platform was to invest in Canada and Canadians through infrastructure. I am proud to say that we are investing over $180 billion over 12 years, something that is growing our economy. Our job numbers in the last seven or eight months and our growth rates have easily surpassed the last 10 years of the Harper government. Look at the job numbers. We are leading the G7 in job growth and GDP growth. Our unemployment rate has fallen almost a full percentage point. It was 7% and change. Now it is in the 6% range. Again, it is something to be proud of.

At home in my riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge, we are going to be getting a wonderful subway through investments in infrastructure. In Ontario we are investing $2 billion in GO Transit and getting people home more quickly after work for their kids' soccer games, hockey games, or piano lessons.

Those are the priorities of our government, and I am proud to be part of that government. That is why Canadians elected us. That is why Canadians sent us here and gave us the mandate to invest in Canada and Canadians from coast to coast to coast. That is something I am very proud of.

I think about the announcements we have made about clean water and waste water funds in York Region, where I was proud to stand with my York Region colleagues just two or three weeks ago. We put over $50 million into projects in York Region for water and waste water treatment facilities. Canadians can be assured, and people in York Region can be assured, that their infrastructure is up to date, that it is modern, and that we have clean drinking water for our families.

Those are investments that pay off today, tomorrow, and for the years to come. That is something we are proud of.

On the infrastructure side, we are investing in buses, regional transit, ports, services--

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 10:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, looking at the name of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, there is no irony in “communities”, because Canada is made up of communities from coast to coast to coast. That is what we are doing and what our minister is doing, and I am proud to stand beside him in this House to invest in Canada and Canadians.

Again on status of women, I go back to chapter 5. We have created an equal tier of all ministries. This is why it is important for status of women to be a full portfolio, which it is of course. Chapter 5, a gender-based analysis, is a gender-based view of our budget for the first time ever. Women make up something like 52% of our population. It is our government that put forward this feminist agenda to ensure that women are participating in the labour force.

For small business and tourism, the numbers are going very well for Canada. We are attracting more and more tourists. When we travel the world, people tell us that they want to come to visit Canada and see what we are doing here. They like it and they like the direction this government is going. Again, small business and tourism will be a full ministry. Small businesses, or SMEs as I like to call them, are the driver of economic growth in my wonderful riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge. They employ thousands of people in Vaughan and thousands of people in York Region. We need that focus on small business.

One thing we have done is that when we cut taxes for the middle class and we raised them on the 1%, we created aggregate demand so people felt better about themselves, felt better about the future, became more optimistic, and they spent and invested in their families, in their regions, and in their communities. Therefore, yes, it is a full ministry for small business and tourism. Tourism continues to be an economic driver for Canada. We need to do more. We will do more. We are investing in our marketing agencies and so forth.

When I look at these five title changes and what is in the Salaries Act, I say to myself that we are going in the right direction. Our focus on status of women and on small business and tourism is exactly the direction we need to go in as a government and I am proud to be part of that government. These updating exercises are not new. The list of Salaries Act ministers has been amended several times in the last decade, most recently in 2013. In each case, the changes aligned with the priorities of the times and with the Prime Minister's preferences with respect to the composition of his ministry and the organization of the government administration.

The bill would also modernize the Salaries Act by introducing a measure of flexibility to cabinet-making going forward.

It would do that by adding three untitled ministerial positions. These positions would provide room for prime ministers at a future time to appoint and title ministers to reflect and respond to the changing priorities of their day. To me, that is smart planning. I worked in the private sector for 25 years. The world is evolving. There is a lot of global uncertainty. Things are evolving at home. We want to make sure the government has flexibility to introduce ministers or ministries as it sees fit and to respond to changing circumstances. It makes sense to me. That is what we would do in the private sector. I like that, and we bring it here to government.

Members on the other side have asked what the Prime Minister's plans are for these cabinet posts. Why are they needed? Why are they not named? To that, I would say that this change looks to the future. It builds in a degree of flexibility in the structuring of future ministries to reflect the priorities of the day. This is a government that looks to the future and that values adaptability to change in big ways and small. This is a small but an important way. It would enable a modern, adaptable ministry well into the future.

There are safeguards too. The bill would not enable the installation of an oversized cabinet, and we all know what that looks like from the past administration. The proposed increase in the number of Salaries Act positions would be offset by the removal of six regional development positions. The maximum number of ministers that may be appointed under the Salaries Act, including the Prime Minister, would increase by two positions from 35 to 37.

I have heard comments from the members of the House on the removal of the regional development positions. For them, I would like to emphasize that removing these positions from the Salaries Act in no way affects the status of the regional development agencies themselves. Let me re-emphasize that point. FedDev, ACOA, and the regional development agencies would continue to operate and do a great job for the regions they represent. They would continue to invest in Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

I grew up in a small town in northern British Columbia. I understand what it means to come from a region where the next town is two hours away, or 144 kilometres, if I remember correctly. People feel like they are far away from a big city, whether it is Vancouver or Toronto, and they want to make sure their voices are being heard and that investments are taking place in their area of the country. This Salaries Act would not change the prerogative or the role of the regional development agencies. It is misleading to suggest otherwise.

The regional development agencies will continue to be a vital part of this government's economic development work, and will be overseen by a minister. Regions are not being ignored under this government. Accountability is not being ignored under this government. These administrative amendments to the Salaries Act would change none of that.

I would like to correct a misconception about the bill that has been asserted in this place. It has been suggested that its effect is merely to authorize a raise for the five ministers who were appointed by orders in council on November 4, 2015, as ministers of state to assist other ministers, and that those orders in council make it clear that these are junior ministers, subordinate to other ministers, and therefore not deserving of the same salary. Let me be clear. To those comments I would first say that all ministers have been paid the same salary since day one. Equal pay for equal work is what we believe in. The bill would not change that. There is no raise for any minister under the bill.

Then let me say that I believe our government has been clear in explaining that the legislative framework in place on November 4, 2015, prevented the appointment of four ministers to these five positions. Use of the Ministries and Ministers of State Act allowed ministers to be appointed to those positions and to get to work on the priorities of this government and Canadians on day one.

The Prime Minister committed to introducing legislation that would formally equalize the status of all members of his ministry. A promise made is a promise kept. I am proud to be part of a government that keeps its promises to Canadians and is investing in Canadians. We have seen that handsomely in the recent months with our economy growing at a rate of over 2.5%, which had not been achieved under the Conservatives, from my understanding. We see job growth taking the unemployment rate down to the 6.2% range. We see income growth. We see exports rebounding. We see business investment starting to show green shoots. These are all things that we can be proud of as a government. When the full ramp-up of infrastructure spending takes place, which it will and it is, we will see further gains in employment numbers across the country from coast to coast to coast.

The bill fulfills this commitment. When it comes into force, the orders in council that appoint these ministers as ministers of state to assist other ministers will be repealed. They will be in law, as they are in practice, full and equal ministers.

In closing, let me repeat what I said at the beginning of my remarks. The Salaries Act amendments are administrative in nature. It makes good sense to update and modernize the legislation to reflect the structure of the current ministry, and to enable flexible and adaptable ministries, now and in the future. I hope all members will join me in supporting this bill.

When we look at our government's agenda, including Bill C-24, Canadians sent us here to do the good work they wanted us to do, and what we told them we would do in our platform. We have fulfilled many of those promises. I look to the Canada child benefit, our middle-class tax cuts, and our investments in infrastructure, and I say to myself, where are we taking Canada?

I look at these changes in Bill C-24, where we would appoint full ministers for the status of women, la Francophonie, small business and tourism, and my finance background tells me that our government is taking Canada to a place we need to go. We are not only passing the puck. We are going to where the puck is going to be, if I made that analogy correctly from my former ice hockey days. We are going to score the goal, and we will continue scoring the goals. For me, scoring the goals is ensuring that Canadians have a brighter future, that Canadians find the jobs they are looking for, that they come home to their families quicker in the evening, and that we continue to invest in them. That is the mandate of our government.

For me, it is to ensure that my two daughters who visited Parliament here yesterday, Eliana and Natalia, have a bright future. When this privilege ends, and I can say that it will not end for a long time, there is nothing more important to me and my family.

I will close my remarks off there. I look forward to answering any questions from my humble colleagues.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2017 / 10:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member and I have had lots of conversations about the Kurdish issue in the parliamentary friends of the Kurds group that we are in together.

I want to ask him about these late sittings that we have had. We are considering C-24, which is a bill that was introduced pretty much a year ago. Is this really the urgent matter that the government wanted to have debated in evening sittings, a salary increase for Liberal cabinet ministers? We could pretty much retitle this the pay raise for Liberal cabinet ministers.

Why is this such a critical, important issue for the government when we could be debating lowering taxes on small businesses, actually getting control of the budget and reducing the deficit down to zero, actually following through on infrastructure, or the completion of projects instead of just announcements and more press releases. Why are we having late sittings to debate Liberal cabinet pay increases?