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

Sponsor

Bardish Chagger  Liberal

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of April 18, 2018

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2016 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the government House leader, I stand today in order to begin second reading debate on Bill C-24, which would amend the Salaries Act and formalize the equality of all ministers in this ministry to better reflect the operating reality in the current cabinet since its swearing-in last November. This would in fact formalize that.

These changes to the Salaries Act would fulfill the commitment made by the Prime Minister last November when he said he would introduce legislation to formalize the equal status of his whole ministerial team. From the beginning, the Prime Minister has created a ministry in which every single minister around the cabinet table has an equal voice, an equal capacity to perform his or her duties and functions, and leading roles to deliver on the important priorities of this government. The ministers are equally accountable as well, individually and collectively, to the Prime Minister and to Parliament for the performance of their duties.

The ministers have also been receiving the same salary since day one. However, without legislative change, it is not possible to accurately reflect this parity among ministers because the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act is fixed and inflexible. While that list may have served previous administrations well, it needs to be updated to reflect the priorities of this government. It needs to be modernized to make it a more flexible and adaptable tool for the design of future ministries. This is nothing new. Indeed, the Salaries Act was amended in 2005, 2012, and 2013 so as to reflect the reality of ministries at those times. As time goes by, realities change and new priorities emerge, and the government has the responsibility to ensure it has the ability to respond adequately.

Let me mention for members of the House that the Salaries Act authorized payment out of the consolidated revenue fund for ministers' salaries to individuals who have been appointed to ministerial positions listed in the act. The current ministry has 30 ministers, including the Prime Minister. However, five of these ministerial positions are not listed in the Salaries Act, namely the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women.

Because the Salaries Act could not accommodate those important priorities of this government, the five ministers had to be appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act, and their legal title is minister of state. Many observers thought that the Prime Minister had created a two-tiered cabinet comprised of senior and junior ministers. Let me assure the House that, as one of those ministers of state in her capacity as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, our current House leader, just like all ministers in the Prime Minister's cabinet, from day one has had full standing and authority. The spirit and intent, and indeed the wording of the oath of office taken by each and every minister, conferred an equal status. Even though some positions are not listed in the Salaries Act, it is a team of equals. It has been well understand among all cabinet colleagues that the use of minister of state provisions was a temporary measure that would be addressed by legislation. The legislation is indeed before us today.

Before I turn to Bill C-24 to outline the important proposed amendments it contains, I would like to mention that the bill would not affect the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. Appointing ministers of state pursuant to the act will remain an option should the Prime Minister wish to exercise it.

Now I would like to give the House an overview of the bill. There are essentially two components to the bill: adjustments to the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act, and the creation of a framework to support certain ministers in the carrying out of their responsibilities.

I will begin with the adjustments of these positions. Bill C-24 would adjust the list in three ways. First it would add eight ministerial positions to the Salaries Act. Five off those positions are already filled by ministers and would replace the current minister of state appointments.

Again, those five positions are the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Hon. Navdeep Bains (Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Lib.), the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women.

The other three positions would be untitled and are not filled in the current ministry. These flexible positions could be used and titled by a prime minister at his or her discretion, in response to future priorities and emerging challenges and opportunities. In this way, the bill would not simply amend the Salaries Act to reflect the current ministry, it would also look to the future. Prime ministers would have the flexibility to adapt their ministries to the priorities of their time.

I want to stress that the increase in possible ministerial positions in this bill does not mean that the cabinet would expand. In fact, we now have a cabinet of 30 full ministers, including the Prime Minister, though the Salaries Act would allow for a cabinet of up to 35. Second, the bill would remove the titles related to the six regional development positions in the Salaries Act.

I want to emphasize that this would not impact in any way the regional development agencies, nor would it eliminate the need for ministerial oversight of them. It is quite the opposite. The positions would continue to be filled by a minister to oversee the regional development agencies and fulfill the statutory responsibilities related to them. This could be done, for example, by cross-appointing Salaries Act ministers to these positions.

My hon. colleague, the member for Mississauga—Malton and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, is the responsible minister for all of the regional agencies. Regional development is and remains a major priority of our government to help grow our economy, strengthen the middle class, and help those who are working so hard to join it.

To recap, Bill C-24 would spell out five titled positions, which are already occupied by individuals who are paid a ministerial salary. It would create three new untitled positions and remove six positions. The maximum number of ministerial positions that could be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund would be capped at 37, including the prime minister. This represents an increase of two positions over the current 35.

The final adjustment to the list of ministerial positions is a housekeeping matter. The bill would change the title of the minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs to the minister of infrastructure and communities. The minister of infrastructure and communities has no overall responsibility for federal-provincial-territorial relations. The Prime Minister has assumed responsibilities for intergovernmental affairs. Removing that phrase from the minister of infrastructure and communities title better reflects the responsibilities of the position in order to avoid confusion. Those are adjustments that Bill C-24 would make to the list of ministers.

Now I would like to briefly explain the framework that Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act to provide support to ministers appointed to any of the new positions.

The bill would authorize the Governor in Council to designate departments to provide support to any of the new Salaries Act ministers in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The Governor in Council would have the flexibility to designate the department to provide support to a minister with respect to some or all of the ministers' responsibilities.

The Governor in Council would also be able to designate more than one department to provide support to a minister while maintaining clarity with respect to which departments support the ministers for which matters. The bill would authorize the ministers to use services, facilities, and employees of the department or departments who have been designated to support them.

The framework means that no new departments need to be created to support these ministers. This departmental support authority is an important element of the bill. I would like to explain why with a concrete example, that of the House leader.

In her role as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, she is currently appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. The act authorizes her, in carrying out her small business and tourism responsibilities, to use the departmental services, facilities, and employees of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, the portfolio to which she is attached.

Once the position moves to the Salaries Act, the automatic link to the department through the Ministries and Ministers of State Act will not be available. Bill C-24 would authorize the Governor in Council to essentially re-establish that particular link.

In her case, of course, she is both the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, which is already a Salaries Act position, and the Minister of Small Business and Tourism. Under Bill C-24, the Governor in Council would be able to designate the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development to continue to support her in relation to her small business and tourism responsibilities. As is the case now, she would be supported by other public servants with respect to her government House leader responsibilities.

The bill would amend the Salaries Act to authorize ministers whose departments are designated to support any of the new positions, if occupied, to delegate their financial and procurement authorities to the new ministers to exercise and be accountable for within their areas of responsibility. Let me state again that this bill would enable these new ministerial positions, if occupied, to be supported by an existing department. No new departments would need to be established.

Finally, I would like to address the question of costs associated with Bill C-24. This bill would not increase the cost of the current ministry. The five ministers currently appointed as ministers of state receive the same salary as their cabinet colleagues and have office budgets that match their responsibilities. This will not change under the bill before us. What this bill simply does is enshrine in law what is current practice within the ministry.

To conclude, since the cabinet was sworn in last November, all ministers have taken their places as equals at the cabinet table. It is unfortunate that the statutory differences between Salaries Act ministers and the Ministries and Ministers of State Act ministers created for some an incorrect perception that some had a lesser status.

By bringing this entire cabinet under the Salaries Act, we are sending a powerful signal that there are no second-tier ministers in this government. Each and every minister's voice is being heard. They all have equal authority. As a result of this bill, the equality that is felt at the cabinet table will also be reflected in the law. Such a simple bill can carry a powerful message.

For the purpose of the business of this House, this is indeed a simple and straightforward housekeeping bill. Nonetheless, this is a matter that must be attended to. I hope my colleagues from the other side of the floor will agree with me that we should proceed expeditiously. I hope all members of the House will join me in supporting this bill to resolve the discrepancies between the legislation and the current reality while allowing enough flexibility to respond to future events.

I know that the government House leader would welcome the opportunity, no doubt, to express her gratitude to all those who assisted her in bringing forward the legislation I was able to present today. I would also like to thank the Conservative and New Democratic representatives at the technical briefings. I found them to be quite informative, and I appreciated their interest in listening to the technical support provided by the department.

With that, I appreciate the opportunity to introduce the legislation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2016 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the parliamentary secretary in regard to Bill C-24. He was pretty vague, and the government has been very vague, on these three new positions. We understand that it would end up being two net new positions. However, there really was no explanation and no reason given as to why the government feels it has to create two open positions. At any point in time, if the Prime Minister decides he needs another member, or two members, or however many, in his cabinet, he is free to appoint them and swear them in very easily and create those positions.

There really is no explanation, so we are at a loss. We have a lot of concerns about the bill, which I am going to be articulating shortly, but one of the questions I have is why there are three empty positions with no accountability and no answer as to why this is needed.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2016 / 10:35 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

I want to talk briefly about what it looks like the bill would do, and then a little longer about what it would actually do, and its implications.

As my hon. colleague across the way said, the bill attempts to make all cabinet ministers equal. It would also allow the creation of three new cabinet posts, without actually naming what those cabinet posts would be. It then eliminates all of the ministers for the regional economic development agencies. Those are the three main things that the bill proposes to do, as well as some housekeeping issues tied to the financial implications of doing that.

I will talk a little about those three things, some of which are more important than others. I will start with the issue of making all ministers equivalent.

Some would argue that there was a fairly good system set up under previous governments, including our previous Conservative government. In that system, there were ministers of state who had smaller portfolios without the same scope, and perhaps not the same impact on the country or the same status as other ministers' portfolios. For example, the minister of sport, although running a very good ministry, was considered and styled as minister of state, because that minister probably did not have the same impact on the country as, let us say, the minister of defence.

I was a minister of state, so I can tell everyone in the House directly about my experience. I was a minister of state for social development. When I sat at the cabinet table with the minister for foreign affairs, the minister of health, and the minister of finance, I had completely equal status with them in terms of what I said. I had equal time to speak to the Prime Minister. My opinions had equal weight, and it was a great experience.

That said, the fact was that the minister of state portfolio I had was different. It was important, but it was different from that of the minister of defence, for example. Some would argue that that distinction is important to recognize. However, the Liberals have said that they want to make all ministerial portfolios equal. They have proposed doing that because, let us fact it, they have gotten themselves into a bit of a state. They have a bit of a problem because they put a number of people in as ministers of state and were criticized for it, and now they want to fix it all.

I am not going to spend a lot of time on this. I think it is a shell game. Frankly, I would have been immensely insulted and refused to be one of these ministers whom the government has used as tokens and told, “Sorry, we put you in the wrong position, but don't worry, we're going to pay you as much as every other minister, but you actually won't have that responsibility, you won't have a deputy minister, and you won't have the same scope. But don't worry your pretty little head about it, because we're going to pay you the same amount”.

This is the shell game that we see the Liberals do time and time again. They did it on Bill C-22, when they introduced that bill to create oversight over CSIS. It is a shell game. We see it in their consultations with the provinces. It is a shell game. It is window dressing.

This part of the bill is all window dressing. It is an insult to the ministers who are now ministers of state but will soon be full cabinet ministers, and frankly, it is an insult to Canadians, but it is not a surprise.

I am going to leave that part. There are other things I want to talk about that are more important in their impact on our country.

The second part of the bill that I am concerned about is these three blank ministerial positions that would be created, but which no one knows what they would be for. The bill was introduced about a week-and-a-half ago, and so I have had a little time to look at it. When I was reading the bill, I thought that maybe they have a couple of friends in high places that they need ministerial portfolios for.

Maybe it is for Gerald Butts? Maybe the Liberals need a minister for moving expenses. Maybe they need a minister for increasing taxes, but then I realized that every one of their ministers are ministers for increasing taxes. Maybe they need a minister for photography. Obviously I am being facetious, but the point is that we do not know what these ministerial spots would be for and, frankly the answer that the parliamentary secretary gave me was not sufficient. In fact, he answered his own question.

The Prime Minister right now has not even used the full scope of the ministers he has available. There is no reason that these three empty spots have to be created, and one has to wonder what game is going on. What is the plan? We do not have an answer for that. We do not know what these posts are for.

The third reason, and frankly the most important one, that we cannot support the bill is that it would eliminate all of the ministers for the regional economic development agencies.

Let me explain what this would do. It would not eliminate the regional economic development agencies themselves. I want to read them off for the record. There are currently six regional economic development agencies, and under our government and previous governments, there were ministers from each of those regions who oversaw these economic development agencies.

For example, we still have Western Economic Diversification Canada. Under our government, we had an individual from western Canada in charge of that portfolio, who understood and represented the region, and could get feedback from people from western Canada. Right now, under this legislation, that minister would be gone.

As for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the region of Quebec, there was always a minister from Quebec who oversaw that regional agency. When there are so many Liberal members of Parliament from Quebec, what an insult it is that not one of them could now be named to this portfolio. I am from Manitoba. I cannot tell people in Quebec what would benefit them, what they need for economic development, but what an insult it is to those in Quebec to say it will not have its own regional minister for Quebec.

As for the federal economic development initiative for northern Ontario, or FedNor, being from Manitoba, I understand northern Ontario. I am sorry, but some members are from Toronto and some of the members across the way are from northern Ontario. Northern Ontario is a little bit like Manitoba in some ways. We have a lot in common. It is not like Toronto at all, or Mississauga.

Then there is the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. Okay, we have one from Toronto, which makes sense.

As for Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, my colleague from Yukon just said that we should quickly get this bill through. Does he realize that without having a minister from the north watching over it and being accountable and listening to people from his region, he is being hamstrung in the job he needs to do? Instead, it is a minister from Toronto.

Then we have the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agencies, ACOA. Here we go again with Atlantic Canada. There are 32 competent members of Parliament from Atlantic Canada. Could one of them not have been named as the minister overseeing ACOA? Instead the government has centralized power in one member of Parliament, one individual MP, and that is the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development from Mississauga.

We are seeing regional interests and accountability for these agencies being ignored. There is a lot of money going through these agencies. There was a reason there needed to be a minister to oversee each one of these agencies. There is a reason there is a minister looking over the money that is flowing through and where it is going. Now there is one minister who also has Innovation as his responsibility. He is in a pretty good portfolio, but he is in charge of each one of these economic development agencies.

Regions are being ignored, accountability is being ignored, as we see the very worrisome trend of regional ministers being taken away in practice already, before this legislation. Under previous Liberal governments and under our previous government, there was always a regional minister in each province.

For example, in Manitoba we had a couple of very good regional ministers, one being the former member of Parliament and minister, Vic Toews, now Justice Vic Toews. He served as our regional minister for a number of years. We saw regional ministers in B.C., Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Quebec.

However, now that these ministerial positions have been eliminated, there is no one in the provinces for the provincial governments to go to when they are having a problem and need a regional minister to connect his or her cabinet with in Ottawa to bring their issues forward. The municipalities have no one to talk to.

In Manitoba, we are hearing it over and over again. Municipalities are asking us who the regional minister for Manitoba is. They wonder if it is the Minister of Natural Resources, because he says one thing and the Minister of Labour says something different. In Quebec, there is no regional minister. That is what I am hearing from my colleagues in Quebec. Municipalities and provinces do not know who to go to. What is happening is a massive sucking noise of the centralization of power.

Last Monday, we saw the provincial ministers for environment meet with the federal minister. However, it is pretty scary when the federal government has the ability to say to the provinces “If you don't get in line with us on CPP, on the carbon tax, on health care, we're cutting off your infrastructure funding, and you don't have a regional minister who is going to say anything, because there is none”. There is one guy from Toronto and a guy from Edmonton who are going to be making the decisions, and that is it.

This is scary, because it is going to be the Prime Minister and his cronies who are making these decisions. However, it really should not be a surprise when we look at what the government has done in ignoring the regions, whether ignoring the normal convention of appointing judges from Atlantic Canada to the Supreme Court of Canada, whether ignoring the provinces when it comes to imposing a carbon tax, or whether ignoring jobs that are needed in Alberta and New Brunswick by not standing up for energy east. There is a huge lack of respect by the federal government toward the regions and their need to be represented.

As far as imposing a carbon tax on the provinces is concerned, we have just seen it happen. Some provinces have said they do not want a carbon tax, and some have said they want to fight climate change, but they do not want the federal government telling them how to do it, because the federal government does not always understand what is happening in northern and rural Manitoba, for example.

I think Brad Wall, the Premier of Saskatchewan, said it very well:

I cannot believe that while the country's environment ministers were meeting on a so-called collaborative climate change plan, the prime minister stood in the House of Commons and announced a carbon tax unilaterally...The level of disrespect shown by the prime minister and his government today is stunning.

I think the bill before us is showing that same disrespect. It is showing disrespect to the people who are supposed to be full ministers, but who will not now have their own deputy ministers, and they will not have the same scope and responsibility. For example, the Minister of Science is not equivalent to the Minister of National Defence. She will not have the same budget. She will not have the same staff. She will not have the same authority. What utter disrespect and window dressing toward that woman.

Then we are seeing disrespect for the regions to the effect that, “Atlantic Canada, Quebec, western Canada, we know you're suffering from job losses, but you don't need your own minister of economic diversification, you don't need your own minister to see economy flourish. We'll just put it in the hands of Toronto and the Prime Minister and you'll be fine”.

Finally, directly to the Canadian people, the Prime Minister just wants to be able to appoint as many ministers as he wants carte blanche. He wants three blank spots. I have never heard of that happening before.

If a prime minister wants to put more cabinet ministers in place, he makes the decision, he gets—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2016 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Sheri Benson NDP Saskatoon West, SK

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-24 is an interesting bill. Ostensibly, it sets out to address a gender wage gap in cabinet by doing two things: changing or limiting the current title of “minister of state” to “minister”, and then paying all ministers the same salary. It would also create three new placeholder cabinet positions to be filled and defined at the pleasure of the Prime Minister.

This bill would also remove the heads of regional economic development agencies from the Salaries Act, which means that while ministers could still be the head of regional development agencies, the head of such agencies would not necessarily be styled as ministers.

At first blush, this bill seems innocuous and maybe laudable. However, upon closer examination, this bill raises some important questions, which New Democrats hope the government will be able to answer. The first question is why the bill is necessary.

There are currently two levels or tiers of ministers. Full regular ministers are heads of their respective departments. Here I refer to the Minister of Finance, the Minister of National Defence, and Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, etc., all of whom happen to be men. Then there is a second tier of ministers, previously called “ministers of state”, who have the title of minister, but their responsibilities are unchanged. We have the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; the Minister of Status of Women; and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, all of whom happen to be women.

While Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; the Minister of Status of Women; and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities are all important, these ministries have historically not been accorded the same status, level of responsibility, or scope of mandate as the ministries of finance, defence, and immigration. In fact, the minister of state designation has been seen largely as a post of a more junior minister.

I would like to share with my colleagues one definition. A minister of state is a more junior cabinet minister in the Canadian cabinet and is usually given specific responsibilities to a senior cabinet minister in a specific area. While it is a noble goal to achieve gender parity in cabinet, as it is in all things, the way that this is done also has to be fair, equitable, defendable, and transparent.

When the newly minted cabinet was sworn in last year, it was heralded and greeted with much enthusiasm. There was lots of congratulations to go around, but then a news story revealed that of the 15 men and 15 women in the new cabinet, five of the women and none of the men were assigned to be ministers of state. Those five ministers are the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, who reports to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, who also reports to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development; the Minister of Status of Women, who works under the Minister of Canadian Heritage; the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, who also works under the Minister of Canadian Heritage; and the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, who supports the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

A senior government spokesperson clarified that these ministers of state were already considered full ministers and that all that remained was for the government to change the Treasury Board statute to reflect this new development. However, she also stated:

...making these five women full ministers does not mean their portfolios will take on the size of full departments. They are serviced by other departments in the same way they always have been, but they have the full standing and authority of any other minister around the table.

I believe that cabinet should reflect our society and that having 50% of it consisting of women ministers is great. However, if five of those women ministers are, in effect, junior ministers appointed to assist full ministers, then is there really truly a cabinet of equals? Three of the five junior ministers would be assisting their male ministers.

This bill then aims to bump up the salaries of these junior ministers to the same level as full ministers' salaries, despite these ministers not having a full ministry or department to oversee, nor the scope of responsibilities. Therefore, is this fair? Is it equitable to have equal pay for unequal work, scope, and responsibility? Is this a case of pay equity or is this bill just a way for the government to make good on its claim of gender parity in cabinet?

This is not to say that paying women more and fairly is a bad thing. In fact, the NDP has been fighting for pay equity for decades. Canadian women have been fighting for, and waiting for, pay equity for a very long time.

Pay equity, as my colleagues know, was established as a fundamental human right in 1977. Since then, working women in Canada have had unequal access to fair pay.

Some provincial jurisdictions have established pay equity commissions, and the women in those jurisdictions are enjoying a modicum of equality with their male colleagues when it comes to equal pay for work of equal value. I am sad to say, however, that too many working women are still waiting on this day.

On Wednesday, the government tabled its response to the report of the Special Committee on Pay Equity, announcing that it recognized that pay equity is a human right. In fact, the report of the committee was entitled, “It's Time to Act”. Unfortunately, the government clearly does not believe it is time to act. Instead, it announced that notwithstanding the fact pay equity is a human right, Canadian women would have to wait another two years before the government introduces legislation, let alone implements it.

I had the privilege of serving on that special committee, and I can tell members that expert witnesses testified there was no reason to wait. There was broad consensus among all witnesses that pay equity is a human right and should not be subject to collective bargaining. There was also consensus the current complaint-based system is not accessible to everyone, but costly and time-consuming for those who do have access, and that it is effectively denying fairness and justice through the delays that can stretch for decades. As people know, some women have died before being able to get their pay equity settlement.

Canadian women have been waiting too long for the right to pay equity to be realized, and there should not be any more delays. We need proactive pay equity legislation to achieve pay equity legislation, and the 2004 task force report provides an excellent template for that legislation.

Some of my colleagues in the House will remember that the 2004 task force on pay equity conducted an extensive review of this issue and that its report has been recognized internationally as one of the most comprehensive and authoritative works on pay equity ever done. The task force consulted widely and produced a list of recommendations that is still relevant and valid.

In 2005, the Standing Committee for the Status of Women studied this report and asked the Liberal government of the day to introduce legislation immediately. Unfortunately, that did not happen and, regrettably, the current government has also decided to punt the issue ahead.

I cannot fully express my profound disappointment with the cynicism that the current government and its ministers have shown in their response to the committee report. Asking Canadian women to wait another two years is unconscionable, and its commitment to bring in legislation in 2018 just prior to an election is a shameful ploy to hold the rights of working women ransom. It is like saying “Yes, we acknowledge that you have a right to equal pay for work of equal value and it has been neglected, and although we have the power to fix this injustice right away, we won't. We will make lofty claims about being a feminist government and promise to bring in legislation in a couple of years, just in time for you to vote us in again so we can actually do what we should and could have done right now”.

The government is asking women to endure two more years of being paid approximately 70¢ of every dollar that their male counterparts earn. That is 30% less buying power for women to spend in the economy. It is 30% less to pay for rent, food, child care, education, and to invest in their pensions. It is even worse for women who are from indigenous or racialized communities, and those living with disabilities. This inequality contributes to a much lower standard of living for women, and its effects are brought forward to the next generation.

As Kate McInturff, one of the learned witnesses who appeared before the committee, testified:

Today in Canada our daughters are as likely to attend university as our sons are, but we are in danger of failing to deliver on the promise of education, because those girls will grow up and graduate to a pay gap—unless we act now. Karma doesn't cut it. Doing nothing, leaving pay to the forces of the market, gives us what we have today, a widening gap between men's and women's rates of pay. Let me repeat that: the gap in men's and women's full-time wages is growing right now in Canada, not shrinking.

I asked Dr. McInturff if she agreed that pay equity legislation is an important step in eliminating the gender wage gap, that we should not have to wait to get everything right, and that we could actually start to have an impact on women's lives if we had, at the very least, federal pay equity legislation. This was her response:

Well, yes, clearly I think we need to act sooner rather than later.

....But, really, when we're talking about a life-threatening impact, we have to think about the women who make up two-thirds of minimum wage workers. A pay gap for a retail worker who is making $12,000 to $13,000 a year, can really mean the difference between food and rent or not. That's why I would urge the committee to act on this, because addressing it has a really substantial impact on the quality of life of the lowest-earning women in the country.

When we consider Bill C-24, which will add $20,000 to the salaries of some of the highest-earning women in Canada, I really need to wonder about the priorities of the government. The bill would adjust the wages, and put it into the act, of five of the most well-paid women in Canada. The legislation was drawn up very quickly and brought to the House so we could pass it. However, millions of working women in Canada who earn far less are being told they have to wait for their wages to be adjusted. Where is the fairness?

Bill C-24 appears to be a cosmetic fix for a problem created by the Prime Minister. Claims of a truly gender-equal cabinet were trumpeted far and wide, but when it was pointed out that some of the women, and only women, who made up this gender-balanced cabinet were actually junior ministers, being paid at a junior minister's salary level, the government had to do some damage control, and this bill is the result.

The bill, unfortunately, ignores the clear difference in responsibility conferred on women in the Prime Minister's cabinet. If the Prime Minister truly believes in and wants to equalize the status of government ministers, as the bill purports to do, then all he needs to do is appoint an equal number of men and women as full ministers and an equal number of men and women as ministers of state. It seems simple enough. There is no need to mess with salary levels or artificially inflate the salaries of junior ministers to elevate them to the status of full ministers.

Interestingly, though, all five ministers of state who will see a $20,000 raise with the passage of the bill are women. It would almost seem as though the junior minister positions were not good enough for men.

However, the Liberal approach to fixing a problem of their own making is counterproductive, because it ignores the principles of pay equity: equal pay for work of equal value, and equal opportunity to perform roles with greater responsibilities.

Real gender parity in cabinet means appointing an equal number of women to be department heads or full ministers. By papering over the distinction between ministers of state and full ministers, the Prime Minister is prioritizing the equality of compensation over the equality of responsibility with respect to gender parity in his government.

I would respectfully submit that observing the principles of pay equality and equal opportunity is the appropriate way to eliminate the gender pay gap that currently exists in cabinet.

The second area of concern is the removal of the heads of the regional economic development agencies from the Salaries Act. This means that while different ministers could still be heads of the various agencies, no one could be a minister simply by virtue of being a head of a regional economic development agency. Again, it sounds innocuous, but what this really amounts to is the neutering of these agencies.

Canadians value the contributions of these agencies to their economic development, and these regions are best served by having someone with local expertise at the helm of their respective agencies. Bill C-24 would diminish the role of the regional economic development ministers around the cabinet table, and at present rolls them up under the purview of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. How does it make sense that six diverse economic development portfolios, representing six different geographical regions, be grouped under one minister?

When one visits the Government of Canada's website for regional development agencies across Canada, this is what it states:

Regional Development Agencies across Canada help to address key economic challenges by providing regionally-tailored programs, services, knowledge and expertise that:

•Build on regional and local economic assets and strengths;

•Support business growth, productivity and innovation;

•Help small- and medium-sized businesses effectively compete in the global marketplace;

•Provide adjustment assistance in response to economic downturns and crises; and

•Support communities.

Each Regional Development Agency brings a regional policy perspective in support of the national agenda through: regional economic intelligence to support national decision-making; contributing to federal regional coordination and cooperative relationships with other levels of government, community and research institutions, and other stakeholders; and supporting national priorities in regions.

Getting rid of regional oversight and autonomy of these economic development agencies is another example of top-down government. However, perhaps it is just another step toward placing these agencies on the chopping block. In the past, the agencies had full-time ministers or ministers of state, or the portfolio was attached to a specific minister from the region who carried other cabinet responsibilities.

Federal agencies directly deliver and administer hundreds of millions of dollars to help spur on regional economic development. For example, ACOA, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which was the first agency created by the federal government, had a budget last year of $298.6 million. Its former president has publicly mused that “the future of these agencies could be in peril without having permanent ministers advocating on their behalf”. He also said, “This is going to be low-hanging fruit. It is a lot tougher to abolish an agency that has a minister, particularly if that is the minister's only job, than it is to abolish an agency that is essentially an agency of public servants.”

I wonder what the real intent is for regional development agencies. Would it be helpful for members, as well as the people in those regions, to learn what the government's plan is for the future of economic development in their areas?

Finally, the third area of concern I have is that Bill C-24 gives the prime minister the ability to add three new or additional ministers at his discretion, without giving us an idea of what those positions might be or who might occupy them. It seems like another example of the government, despite its promises of transparency and open government, setting up another avenue to do just what it wants without proper, or any, oversight. In the spirit of transparency and accountability, I invite the government to tell the House exactly what these positions would be. Members could then make an informed decision.

In summary, Bill C-24 presents more questions than answers. I hope the government will see fit to be more forthcoming in the days to come about the details and the intended consequences of the bill.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2016 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec has had pay equity legislation for some 20 years. There are women in Quebec who are benefiting from this type of legislation. The federal government just announced that it intends to wait another two years. It introduced Bill C-24 and called it equity.

I would like to know if my colleague thinks this is just a gimmick, a way for the Liberals to convince us that they truly believe in pay equity when they do not. This is not a real plan for pay equity.

In fact, I thought I heard the Liberals say that this would take two years because of the costs involved and because of the need for consultation. What they are forgetting is that, for decades, women have been bearing the brunt of pay inequity by being denied fair wages. The Liberals are failing to take that into consideration.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

October 7th, 2016 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise to continue the debate on Bill C-24.

This is a particularly curious approach we have from the government. I wish I could say an unusual approach from the government, but certainly still a curious one.

Here we are on Friday afternoon, a time when I think many members of the government think MPs should actually not be working, debating a salary increase for government ministers. The Liberals have proposed a bill that would increase the salary for some members of the cabinet. I am sure they were thinking about how they could justify their desire to get paid more. To justify that, they said it was about gender equality. This is an argument that does a great disservice to the real issues of gender equality in this country. The legislation is very clear in terms of what it says and does. It is about increasing the salary for particular positions within the cabinet.

It is unfortunate. I will say this, having had the opportunity to sub on the status of women committee a couple of times in the last two weeks, I have seen the important work that the committee does, and indeed the very real issues we have in this country around status of women and around gender equality. This is not an argument that should be misused when what is actually going on is people trying to pursue their own political individual interests, which are not at all related to substantive issues of equality.

We see this strategy in fact frequently from the Liberals. They invoke the position of disadvantaged groups when actually they are trying to do something that is entirely, transparently, about their own interests. It comes at a time when I think many Canadians are losing their jobs, especially in my province of Alberta, at a time when it is hard to justify people who are already doing well, government ministers, getting the pay increase that is proposed by this piece of legislation, Bill C-24.

That is the context here. We have the legislation coming forward, a pay increase for ministers, and I think it is designed in a way that plays this unfortunate game of sleight of hand.

Already we have had one speech from the government, but already the Liberals have foregone a speaking slot, so I am concerned that not only is the legislation being argued for in a misleading and an incorrect way, but many government members do not even have the heart to stand up and defend it.

For those who are watching, let me shape the conversation a little by describing the context in which the bill occurs. Members of the House, as members of Parliament, receive a base salary, but there are a number of different positions where there is an additional salary component that reflects additional responsibilities that members have. They include you, Mr. Speaker, and they include, of course, the Prime Minister at the highest level.

Ministers get a certain salary top-up and ministers of state are at a different level. Just to explain the difference, there is an important substantive distinction in our system between the functions of ministers and the functions of ministers of state. Although generally speaking, they are all thought of as being members of the cabinet, they all take the associated oath, they are all given the honorific, “the honourable”, and they are at that level of being in the Privy Council, they have distinctly different functions.

A full minister within our system of Westminster government is responsible for a whole department, whereas a minister of state has specific areas of responsibility but their function is to assist the minister who is responsible for administering the department. Very clearly, we have two different kinds of ministers. Yes, both are important. Yes, they both sit in cabinet and receive salary top-ups, but different kinds of salary top-ups.

Then we have that whole hierarchy working through the system. There is the Prime Minister, the cabinet ministers, and the ministers of state, and then parliamentary secretaries and committee chairs, who receive a salary top-up but not as much as what ministers of state get. Then there are other positions in the House that may include one or two people who then receive an additional top-up as well. If we look across the system, of course all members of Parliament are in some sense equal. However, for the purposes of our debate and deliberations here, we are not equal in terms of our level of authority or level of responsibility.

It goes without saying that there are some people here who have different kinds of administrative responsibilities within government. Therefore, they are paid at a different level because it reflects the additional role or responsibility they have.

Some of the members who have asked questions, or the original mover of this bill, people from the government side, have suggested that in the Liberal cabinet all ministers are equal. That may sound nice, but administratively it is nonsense. To suggest that every single department within the government is of equal importance to the lives of Canadians, that every minister has the same degree of administrative responsibility, that every department is as important as each other, without intending any disrespect, of course, to some of the departments, it is very clear that some do matter more.

To start with, most other ministers, for almost anything they would want to do, would have to ensure that they have the funding from the Minister of Finance. Therefore, there is clearly some, both formal and informal hierarchy, that exists in any cabinet. That is most clearly evident in the distinctions that exist between ministers and ministers of state. I want to underline that this is very much still the case with the current cabinet.

I had the honour of working as a staffer in the previous government, so I have some understanding of how this works at the administrative level. However, the government cannot say its cabinet works differently. In fact, I have the orders in council from November 4 that effectively created the positions of ministers, and within the government there are five ministers of state. In each case, they are not called ministers of state. The Standing Orders said they were to be styled something else, in other words, the naming of the minister is something different. They clearly list not only the fact that the minister in question is a minister of state, but refer to the fact that their responsibilities are involved in assisting the full minister for each department.

That is how ministers of state work. They do not have their own departments. They have specific responsibilities, but the nature of those responsibilities are that they involve assisting the minister who does have full responsibility for that area. I will read directly from the orders in council. I cannot give the names of the ministers, but there are five.

It states, “a minister of state to be styled minister of la Francophonie, to assist the minister of foreign affairs in the carrying out of that minister's responsibilities”. Very clearly, in the order in council, the instruction is to assist the full Minister of Foreign Affairs in the carrying out of the minister's responsibility.

The next one says, “a minister of state to be styled minister of status of women, to assist the minister of Canadian heritage in the carrying out of that minister's responsibilities”. Very clearly, in the orders in council, it is not put at an equal level of the full cabinet, as I have explained.

Then we have, “a minister of state to be styled minister of sport and persons with disabilities, to assist the minister of Canadian heritage and the minister of employment and social development in the carrying out of those ministers' responsibilities”.

Next, “a minister of state to be styled minister of small business and tourism, to assist the minister of industry in the carrying out of that minister's responsibilities”.

Finally, “a minister of state to be styled minister of science, to assist the minister of industry in the carrying out of that minister's responsibilities”.

This is from the current cabinet on November 4. After the election, there was the appointment of these five ministers of state, who are styled or labelled, not as ministers of state, but very clearly, according to the orders in council, are ministers of state, and in fact functioning at a different level from the full ministers. It is clearly indicated within the orders in council which minister they are responsible to report to, in one case to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, in another case to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, and then in two cases to the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

It could not be more clear that we still have what we have always had, and perhaps always will have in our system, which are different levels of ministers. However, I will say this, as well, to the government. If the government were really committed to equalizing the salaries of ministers, why did they not lower the salaries of the full ministers to the level of ministers of state, or at least find some level in between?

I see members across the way shaking their heads. It is, of course, outrageous that we would consider lowering the salaries of ministers of the government, and I am not proposing that. I am just saying that if the intention of the government was equalization, it is interesting that the route they are following is that it has to give everyone an increase.

I worry that the parliamentary secretaries are soon going to speak up and say “Aren't we equal too? Shouldn't we be at the same level as the ministers?”

This is precisely the problem. We are talking about different levels of work, but premised on this entirely false notion of equality that seeks to equalize the pay for positions that are, in fact, clearly different, that clearly involve different levels of responsibility.

While this provides the government with a great opportunity to, yes, on a Friday afternoon, propose and defend legislation, or if the Liberals continue their current track record of not putting forward speakers, not to defend legislation, designed to increase the amount of money that cabinet ministers are earning.

Again, I come back to what the government's defence is of this rather absurd approach that it is taking. The Liberals are trying to make this about gender. Again, this does a great disservice to the very real issues of gender equality in this country that require urgent action. Instead, their focus is on increasing the pay of some cabinet ministers and making it about, supposedly, a gender issue. Here are the facts when it comes to gender in the current cabinet.

When the Prime Minister appointed his cabinet, we heard about his much-promoted commitment to gender parity. At the time of appointment, there were 15 women in cabinet and 16 men, including the Prime Minister. Now, that is not parity to begin with, 15 women and 16 men, because the Prime Minister himself is very much a member of cabinet. He has additional seniority and responsibilities, obviously, but he sits as part of the cabinet. Therefore, from the start we already did not have gender parity within the cabinet.

However, we found out, and it is clear from the order in council, that there were ministers of state, as there always has been, five of which were women. Now, the cabinet was not appointed by anyone other than the Prime Minister. Presumably, he knew what he was doing. He knew that he was creating a cabinet that not only did not have equality among the 31 ministers, but also that five of the ministers in that cabinet would be appointed to a different tier. He should have known clearly what the difference was in the nature of those positions and their functions.

In terms of the full ministers, not ministers of state, the original Liberal cabinet had 16 men and 10 women, which means that 38% of the full cabinet were women. Now, 38% of the current cabinet are women versus 30% at the end of the last Conservative government. That is an increase, but it certainly does not deserve the claim of gender parity, as was much asserted by the Prime Minister and other members of his team.

Of course, the government was criticized for the disconnect between what its members were saying on the one hand, and what they were doing on the other. This has been a common criticism of the current government: the disconnect between the things its members are saying and things they are doing. It is no clearer than in this particular case.

The Liberals said they would fix it by pretending that ministers of state were in fact full ministers, but that was a pretense. As I have explained very clearly, the orders in council, the structure of the way government works, is that ministers of state do not run departments, and their function is to assist the full minister responsible for those areas in carrying out of their functions

That would not change with the legislation before us. The fact that the legislation introduces a pay increase for those ministers does not at all change the fundamental reality of the way our system works. Even to the extent that they were trying to fix this problem, this disconnect between their claims of gender parity and the reality of their cabinet means they have not actually addressed it at all.

I suggest that there was a much clearer, simpler way for them to have done this. They could have shuffled their cabinet if they wanted to have that full equality, that actual parity. They could have appointed an equal number of male and female full ministers, and an equal number of male and female ministers of state. Again, no one else appoints the cabinet but the Prime Minister. It was his choice to claim gender parity, on the one hand, but to appoint all of the women within that cabinet to a clearly junior tier, on the other hand.

Renaming the ministers, calling them something else, and increasing their pay does not change the fact that they have lesser administrative responsibilities, that they still have to be reporting to another minister in the context of the carrying out of their duties. This is what we have. We have a salary increase bill for cabinet ministers dressed up in the name of equality.

I want to talk, then, about some other aspects of the bill in the remaining time that I have, because there is the issue, as well, of changing the way the regional ministers work and of changing the way in which regional economic development agencies are administered.

This formalizes a change of the government from the way things have worked in the past. Historically, and when I was a political staffer, the system we had was that there were regional ministers from each area who, in addition to being responsible for certain functions of government, had a particular responsibility for certain regions. They played an important role within the cabinet advocating for the perspective of their region. This was obviously important.

Despite the great intentions a person may have, it is difficult to fully understand and appreciate what the challenges are in, say, Alberta, if he or she does not live in, or come from, or have some kind of a personal connection to Alberta. That is a reality. It is no guarantee that someone from that region will actually represent the interests of their region, as we have seen from members opposite from Alberta voting against key energy infrastructure projects.

However, generally speaking, it is still important to have that kind of regional representation dimension and, also, for regional economic development agencies to have a minister from that region who is responsible for administering that economic development agency, someone who understands the realities of the circumstances and who has a real appreciation of what the economic development needs are. That regional representation, not only within the House of Commons but also within cabinet, and the formalization of that, not just through having the ministers from different regions but having ministers with specific regional responsibilities, which include economic development, has been part of our long history of trying to, through our institutions, structure things so that we are bringing our country together and ensuring that every part of this country has a clear voice at the table. That regional knowledge they bring in is of great importance.

Unfortunately, with these changes with the structure of the cabinet we have, that has been lost. As other members have pointed out many times, we have a minister who represents a constituency in Mississauga who is responsible for all of the economic development agencies across the country. I do not doubt that he is a capable person, but to expect one person to have a full appreciation of the economic development needs of all these different regions in which he does not live and does not represent, is incredibly unrealistic and it leaves those regions without effective representation at the cabinet table.

I think we see this in a number of different issues where the needs of Alberta are being ignored. The historical prerogatives of Atlantic Canada, in the context of Supreme Court representation, are being ignored. We see the outworkings of this lack of regional representation within the government.

Let me say, as well, that having that regional minister responsible for regional economic development plays an important accountability function. It means that people who have concerns, maybe, or suggestions with respect to the activity of regional economic development agencies, things that are very important to the regions in which they operate in terms of at least the way they are seen in those areas, can go to a regional minister who represents those agencies and have that conversation, push back, and hold the person accountable, perhaps, if the way he or she is proceeding is not seen as being in the interests of the region.

Without that function, the local administration really comes down to, not a minister but public servants. Public servants, of course, have a great deal of expertise, but they are not politically accountable in the same way that ministers are.

We are losing out on that regional dimension, as well, and that is unfortunate.

I am very opposed to the bill because, again, I do not see, in the current economic circumstances, especially, any justification for increasing ministerial salaries. The government is trying to get around a political problem of the Prime Minister's own making by paying some people more.

Again, if he wanted to have gender parity in his cabinet, all he had to do was shuffle his cabinet. He has chosen not to do that but to instead put this window dressing on with a salary increase. That is not the right way to go. It costs Canadians too much. That is why I am opposing this bill.