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

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Summary

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

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

Elsewhere

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

Votes

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:15 a.m.
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Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

moved that Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to how Bill C-24 will formalize in legislation the one-tier ministry of this government and ensure that the government and future governments have the flexibility to deliver on their commitments to Canadians.

As you know, the government introduced this bill to amend the Salaries Act on September 27, 2016.

Bill C-24 would amend the Salaries Act by adding eight new ministerial positions to the act, five of which are currently minister of state appointments, and three of which are untitled; removing the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act, for a total increase of two positions that may be paid a ministerial salary out of the consolidated revenue fund; creating a framework within which any of the eight new ministerial positions, if occupied, could be supported by existing departments; and changing the Salaries Act title of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, including in the Financial Administration Act to better reflect the responsibilities of the position and to reflect the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs.

A historical look at the cabinets of the past confirms what we already know: priorities change. In 1867, there were 14 men around the country's first cabinet table. Among them, a minister of militia and defence, a postmaster general, and a secretary of state for the provinces.

The position of Secretary of State for the Provinces disappeared in the second ministry, and the third ministry saw the introduction of a Minister of Railways and Canals. Trade and Commerce was a new ministerial position in the fifth ministry, Immigration and Labour appeared in the eighth, and Soldiers Civil Re-establishment in the tenth.

Health came later and so did environment, natural resources, and infrastructure.

The first female cabinet minister, the hon. Ellen Fairclough, took her seat at the cabinet table in 1957 and the changes go on.

When the Ministries and Ministers of State Act was introduced in Parliament in 1971, the sponsoring minister remarked that the pace of change imposes a constant challenge on Parliament and the government to be as efficient as possible in doing those things that are vital to the welfare of Canadians. He said that both institutions must be flexible. Both must adapt their procedures and structures to respond effectively to the changing needs of society in a changing world. Those observations are as apt today as they were in 1971.

Modernizing the legislative framework related to creating the ministry is part of the government's determination to enhance its capacity to deal effectively with the changing priorities of Canadians.

Yes, Bill C-24 is an administrative and technical bill, but it will enable an adaptable flexible ministry, now and into the future. It deserves Parliament’s support.

For the benefit of members, I would like to provide a bit of background. The appointment of ministers is a crown prerogative. The Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister may appoint any number of ministers to any office including officers that are not referred to in legislation. This is a common feature of Westminster democracies.

The Prime Minister decides on the composition, organization, and procedures of the cabinet, shaping it to reflect the priorities of the government and to respond to the particular needs of the citizenry.

However, there are two key considerations related to each ministerial appointment. First, under what authority can a minister be paid, and second, how can the minister be supported by the public service in carrying out his or her responsibilities?

Here Parliament has a supervisory role. Even if the Governor General on the advice of the Prime Minister appointed a whole host of ministers under the crown prerogative, they could not be paid except under the authority of the law. That too is a common feature in Westminster countries. The salaries of ministers must be authorized by law.

These laws may set out the maximum number of ministers that can be provided a salary. In Australia, for example, there can be up to 30 salaried ministers. In the U.K., there are several tiers of ministers. There can be as many as 109 positions that can be paid a salary, including the senior tier ministers of up to 22 and junior members in minister of state and parliamentary undersecretary positions.

In Canada, Parliament has authorized two ways to pay ministerial salaries, specifically via the Salaries Act or through Appropriation Acts. The Salaries Act authorizes payment of a ministerial salary from the Consolidated Revenue Fund to individuals who have been appointed to ministerial positions listed in that act.

The Salaries Act currently lists the Prime minister, 34 specific ministerial positions, and ministers of state who preside over a ministry of state.

When it comes to carrying out the responsibilities, the Ministries and Ministers of State Act provides authority for ministers of state to use their resources, facilities, and services in existing departments.

Therefore, we come to November, 2015. Five positions that the Prime Minister wanted in his ministry and cabinet were not positions listed in the Salaries Act. Other prime ministers have faced this challenge as well. Sometimes they have managed by appointing individuals to Salaries Act positions whose legal titles did not match their responsibilities, sometimes they have been satisfied to appoint a minister of state, and other times they have successfully brought forward amendments to the Salaries Act, including most recently in 2013. There are other instances where they have taken all three of these steps.

Accordingly, in November 2015, the Salaries Act could not accommodate ministerial positions for important priorities of this government, namely promoting science, supporting small business, promoting health through sport and creating opportunities for persons with disabilities, advancing gender equality, and preserving the vitality of the francophone world.

Therefore, five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. These ministers are paid under appropriation acts.

This was to be the arrangement until legislation could be updated. This was always the plan. There was no plot to deny full status to five ministers. They were provided with what was possible within the legal framework that existed on November 4, 2015, and the Prime Minister made a commitment to bring forward legislation to formalize his one-tier cabinet.

Bill C-24 fulfills that commitment. It would revise the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act to afford certain priority areas the status they deserve. The five new title positions that Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act carry significant and important responsibilities. Those positions are Minister of La Francophonie, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Minister of Science, Minister of Status of Women, and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.

This government has said from the beginning of its mandate that there are no junior ministers and senior ministers. In practice, that is the way the cabinet has operated since day one of this government.

The Prime Minister created a ministry in which all members are full members of cabinet, have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them, and have leading roles to deliver on the important priorities of this government.

These ministers are appropriately supported by existing departments. This reflects the government's commitment to a different style of leadership, including close collaboration among cabinet colleagues. The ministry works in that spirit, with strong portfolio teams that share departmental resources and facilities to pursue its goals.

This arrangement would continue under the amended Salaries Act. Bill C-24 would give the Governor in Council the flexibility to ask any department to support the new Salaries Act ministers in carrying out some or all of their responsibilities. This flexibility means that a minister could have access to the expertise and experience of the department or departments best placed to provide them with full and appropriate support.

The amendments proposed by Bill C-24 would modernize the legislation to reflect the current one-tier cabinet. No new departments would need to be created as a consequence of this bill. This bill is designed to help the legislative framework catch up to the reality.

The proposed amendments will also include three new untitled positions. This will provide a measure of flexibility to this Prime Minister and to future prime ministers to appoint ministers to portfolios that reflect changing priorities of the day.

Some members have questioned our government's intentions here, suggesting something nefarious and non-transparent. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Salaries Act has been amended several times in the past. It simply makes sense to build in a degree of flexibility for the future. I encourage the members of this House to support Bill C-24. It represents an attempt to improve the way our system functions by enabling greater flexibility in cabinet design.

I will end where I began. Priorities change. A prime minister must have the flexibility to adjust his or her ministry to respond to those changing needs. The new titles that Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act speak to the priorities of our times, just as ministerial titles of the past spoke to theirs.

As society changes, Canada's needs will continue to evolve. It is important that we provide prime ministers with the flexibility to respond to these changes. This bill represents another important step in that process, and I urge members to support it.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, in regards to an earlier question on the importance of debating this legislation, Bill C-24 is important legislation to debate. I continually ask the opposition how much time is needed to debate legislation, and if we can all figure out how much time is needed for all members to be able to speak, I will allot time accordingly. I know that all members want to raise points.

In regards to the member's question, Bill C-24 proposes a one-tier ministry, in which a minister is a minister is a minister. Minister of state positions can always be filled by future governments if they so wish. Our Prime Minister and this government recognize the importance of these positions and of their having equal voices at the cabinet table. Each of these ministers has been provided with a mandate letter, just like every other minister. For the first time, these mandate letters were made public so that Canadians will know what a minister's mandate is.

It is true that today at committee the conflict of interest and ethics commissioner nominee will be able to answer questions. I am sure that will be a fruitful conversation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, the Liberals cut short the debate on Bill C-24 because it is a purely cosmetic bill.

We are not talking about equality for all women here. We are talking about raising the salaries of the ministers of state on the pretext that the Prime Minister made a mistake when he appointed the members of his cabinet. He said that the appointments were fair and that they represented all women, but he forgot that many of the women he appointed were in minister of state positions, and they do not have the same responsibilities. Now, he wants to make the salaries equal but not the responsibilities. Equal pay for equal work. We do not understand what principle the Liberals are following because that is not what is happening here at all.

Pay equity does not just affect the ministers, who are just a handful of people in Canada. Pay equity should apply to all Canadians.

Why have the Liberals still not introduced a bill on pay equity when they were supposed to do so in 2016? The report and recommendations were tabled in 2004.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, as usual, I would like to say hello to the people of Beauport—Limoilou who are tuning in today. Unfortunately, I have to tell them that we are debating Bill C-24 at third reading this morning. This is one of those typically Liberal bills designed to satisfy special interest groups that support Liberals and lend credence to their ideological views.

I found it particularly interesting to see the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons champion the bill so passionately, but I do have questions about some of her arguments.

First of all, I wonder if, in defending the bill, the minister is putting on an act or if she truly does not understand the difference between ministers, who are responsible for portfolios crucial to the nation, and ministers of state, who are there to lend a hand and support other departments of national importance.

Five major federal ministers have always had a seat at the cabinet table, namely the Minister of Finance, the Treasury Board minister, the Minister of National Defence, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of National Revenue. Those five cabinet positions have always existed, and they have always been important to the government's ability to govern well.

The minister also said repeatedly in her speech how important Bill C-24 is for gender equality among cabinet ministers. That is not exactly how many of her colleagues seem to understand it. At the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, which I was honoured to serve on for over a year in 2016 and 2017, many Liberal members thought that, on the contrary, Bill C-24 was not about achieving gender equality.

When the committee was hearing from witnesses for the bill's study, the member for Newmarket—Aurora said:

I'm not sure the purpose of this bill was at all to express gender equality....I don't think it's meant to be a tool that's going to address gender inequality, pay equity, or any of the other issues you raised...

The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle, who also serves on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, thinks that ministries of state should be called emerging ministries. This is another example that illustrates that the Liberals do not seem to understand the difference between ministries of state and departments critical to good governance, such as the Department of Finance.

The hon. Liberal member from Don Valley East told the witnesses:

I was as confused as you were about why we are even talking about gender equity....I thank you for being here, but I don't think we have the relevance to our study for Bill C-24...Let's not be disingenuous and try to say that [Bill C-24] has anything to do with gender equality...

I simply wanted to mention these small details to show that despite the speech by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons today at third reading stage of Bill C-24, a number of her colleagues expressed an opposite view in committee, that the bill had nothing to do with gender equity. It is just a tool to take up the House's time and distract from other awful realities that this government would rather not talk about, namely its capacity to break promise after promise since it was elected in 2015.

For example, the Liberals broke their promise to run a deficit of $10 billion a year. That is well known in Canada. Now they are running deficits of more than $20 billion. They also broke their promise to balance the budget by 2019. That has been put off indefinitely. They do not even have the honour or decency to announce a target date for balancing the budget. Then they broke their promise to move forward with electoral reform and to change the Canadian electoral system, which was a key election promise. They also broke their promise to restore home mail delivery for all Canadians by making Canada Post review its policy to stop home mail delivery. They also broke their promise not to introduce omnibus bills, which have been piling up over the past two years. As a matter of fact, we debated an omnibus bill in the House just yesterday. They also broke their promise to give veterans the option of choosing a lifetime pension by restoring the system that was in effect before 2005, or before the new veterans charter was introduced.

Those are just a few examples of the Liberals' broken promises. That is this government's track record. I am pointing that out because Bill C-24 is yet another attempt to hide another broken promise, the promise to have true gender parity in cabinet. When the Prime Minister formed his cabinet two weeks after winning the election in 2015, he was very proud to announce to the media at a press conference that he had a gender-balanced cabinet. When he was asked why, he responded “Because it's 2015”. It is already mind-boggling enough that a prime minister would not have a better explanation than that, but in the months that followed, journalists, Canadians, interest groups, and women's rights groups slowly became aware of something that the Prime Minister was trying to slip past them. His cabinet was gender balanced with regard to the number of men and women at the cabinet table, but not with regard to the importance of the positions they held.

At the beginning of my speech, I named Canada's most important government departments. For example, the head of the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is a man. The same is true of the Treasury Board, the Department of Finance, and the Department of National Defence. The only other department that is undeniably important to the government is the Department of Foreign Affairs. Of the five major departments, only one is led by a woman.

Women were chosen to head a few other departments, such as the Department of Indigenous Services and the Department of Health. However, all of the other women in cabinet are ministers of state. It is not that they are less important, but they do not lead real departments with an office building, thousands of employees, a minister's office, and the tools needed to properly manage a major department.

In practical terms, Bill C-24 would do two things. First, it would eliminate the positions of the ministers responsible for Canada's economic development agencies. Second, it would create eight new federal minister positions. Five of them would be ministers of state who would receive the same salary as full ministers, thanks to an amendment to the Salaries Act that is supposedly intended to ensure parity within cabinet.

We Conservatives have no choice but to oppose Bill C-24, if only because abolishing the positions of the ministers responsible for economic development agencies would have such a detrimental effect on the well-being of Canada and all of its regions.

Regional economic development agencies play a pivotal role in Canada. They help thousands of projects get off the ground in every province and major region. Canada is divided into five regions: the Atlantic region, Quebec, Ontario, the western region, and the Pacific region. Each of these regions has its own economic development agency, whose job is to determine the basic needs of its small and medium-sized municipalities and large urban centres.

The Liberal government's decision to eliminate the positions of the ministers responsible for these six economic development agencies is a clear attempt to centralize power in Canada. Every time the Liberal Party comes into power, its goal is to centralize power in Ottawa, within the federal administration. That is what it tried to do with the health agreements it recently negotiated with the provinces, when it made their funding subject to conditions. Now it is doing the same thing on a bigger scale by abolishing the positions of the ministers responsible for regional agencies.

For example, Mr. Denis Lebel, who was our political lieutenant for Quebec, was responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. Every year, the agency distributes roughly $200 million only in Quebec, specifically to revitalize municipal neighbourhoods, provide small and medium-sized businesses with new tools, and finance concrete projects in small airports to help local businesses get much faster access to major centres and even to other countries.

A minister in charge of a regional economic development agency is a bit like an MP. As members, we visit our ridings to understand the daily needs of our constituents. We participate in events and we do canvassing, not to mention the work we do in our offices, where we welcome constituents. This enables us to hear what they have to say about bills and government politics, and especially about pressing, local needs. A minister who represents a regional economic development agency has a similar job, but they do it for the designated region as a whole. In this case, I am speaking of Quebec.

Denis Lebel was the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. His duties as a minister and political lieutenant included visiting companies and making ministerial announcements. He travelled all over the province, meeting citizens and entrepreneurs and visiting small and medium municipalities, entrepreneurial communities, or even community development organizations, in order to determine what they needed.

Like an MP, a minister responsible for an economic development agency must come back here to Ottawa and report to cabinet about the region he or she represents.

When Parliament is sitting, we are all expected to come to the House every week, whether it is fall or spring. We are expected to come here and report to the House or to our national caucuses on what our constituents, the various orders of government in our regions, our municipalities, and our ridings need. Collaboration and synergy between the different orders of government is always a good thing.

The work we do in the House is exactly what the ministers responsible for regional economic development agencies do in reporting to cabinet and ultimately to public servants and the Prime Minister. These people provide an essential link between the needs on the ground and the whole governmental and bureaucratic apparatus in Ottawa.

Every department that is responsible for allocating funds for projects across Canada is part of an extremely complex state system that is like an endless bureaucratic web. It involves 300,000 public servants in Canada, and the decisions they make often take a very long time.

The work of the ministers responsible for economic development agencies was therefore central to the actual funding allocated for projects, because they were there in Ottawa to establish a connection between the needs on the ground and government priorities and to navigate administrative and bureaucratic processes.

For example, the minister responsible for the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the regions of Quebec at the time, Denis Lebel, was handed a list of projects several times a month, and he had to approve the really big ones. His role and responsibility was to ensure that what he was hearing on the ground informed the public service's administrative priorities so that the most important projects got done as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately, the Liberal government cut cabinet positions associated with various economic development regions in Canada and put one person in charge of all the economic development agencies in the country. That person is the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, an MP from Toronto who already heads up a major department. He is now responsible for being up on what is going on with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, for example. He also has to be aware of what is going on with economic development agencies for western Canada, Quebec, and Ontario. He is the person who is supposedly going to be familiar with the issues affecting every little community and every region across Canada and who is going to make sure they get money for the projects that matter most to them.

It is hard to understand how the Liberal government was unable to find one person among the 30 members from Atlantic Canada with the right skills and who would have been honoured to head the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

We can already predict what will happen. Projects submitted to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency were generally authorized or would move forward after about 30 days or so; we now see delays of more than 90 days. This centralization will have a major impact on how money is allocated to the communities and regions of Canada. It is impossible to believe that a minister from Toronto will be able to single-handedly grasp all of Canada's regional concerns.

As far as the gender-balanced cabinet is concerned, the Liberals are once again getting taxpayers to foot the bill for one of their political mistakes. The Liberals led Canadians to believe that theirs was a gender-balanced cabinet, but it is balanced only in terms of numbers. It is not balanced in terms of ministerial importance. To fix their mistake, the Liberals are telling Canadians that they will give every minister of state the same salary as “real” ministers.

Again, taxpayers are paying for a Liberal mistake.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 11:10 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madame Speaker, here we are again debating a bill that has the dubious distinction of leaving things as they are, with one notable exception, which is to tie the hands of future governments with respect to being able to have independent, separate ministers for each of the economic regional development agencies. In our view, this is not a good idea.

The only thing the bill would really accomplish is something the government ought not to be doing. The Liberals have selected one model, which is to have one minister oversee all the regional economic development ministries. That is their option under the current legislation. We do not think it is a good one, but it is what they have chosen to do. Canadians can judge them accordingly. What does not make sense is for them to tie the hands of future governments by requiring future governments to adopt that same approach, rather than leaving it open to future governments to make other decisions. That is the one thing the legislation would actually accomplish. It is not a very good thing, so there is very little to support such legislation.

Certainly, if not in the flagship speeches then in the questions and comments, Liberals have been making the argument from time to time that this is somehow about gender equality. I even heard some members come at the NDP asking how we could possibly disagree with Bill C-24, or not support Bill C-24, when it is about a better place at the cabinet table for women and pay equity for women. The odd thing about that argument is that it has been contradicted a number of times by Liberals themselves on the record at committee and just earlier, in the House today, in a question in response to a Conservative colleague who had just made a speech.

I wish the Liberals could get it straight in their own minds what the bill is about. Is it about gender equality, or is it not? If it is, it is too bad that the bill would fail to do anything real in that respect. In fact, all the expert testimony we heard at committee made that case.

Margot Young, from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, was very clear. She said:

The...point I want to make is that to claim that it is about gender equality is dangerous. I think it's dangerous because too often we cut off the really important, substantial, and tough conversations about gender equality by claiming that we've already dealt with it and we've dealt with it in some more formalistic way.

In response to that testimony, the member for Newmarket—Aurora said, “I don't think it's meant to be a tool that's going to address gender inequality, pay equity, or any of the other issues you raised in your opening.”

The member for Don Valley East said, “I thank you for being here, but I don't think we have the relevance to our study for Bill C-24”. She also said, “I was as confused as you were about why we are even talking about gender equity.”

We heard the same comments echoed by a Liberal in the House just this morning.

As far as I am concerned, the arguments against the bill doing anything for gender equality are decisive. They are backed up by expert testimony at committee, they are backed up by Liberals at committee, and they are backed up by Liberals in this very House on this very day. Therefore, let us move on from Liberals trying to pretend that not supporting this bill is somehow not supporting women or not supporting gender equality at the cabinet table.

If they want to do something for women at the cabinet table, we are happy to sit down and discuss ideas about how they could have a real, meaningful, and fair sharing of power and responsibility and authority at the cabinet table, instead of just calling women ministers, when they have the duties of a minister of state, and paying them the same. That is not real gender equality.

Of course, the question then becomes, and we have visited it before, if the bill is not about gender equality, what is it about? We have heard from the government that the bill is about updating the law to reflect the current practices of government. In one sense, that is true. As I remarked at the beginning of my speech, the Liberals are updating the legislation to reflect what we think is the bad practice of not having separate ministers for the various regional economic development agencies. In that sense, it reflects a practice of the government, albeit not a very good one. However, in other ways, it does not. For instance, the current government apparently thinks there is an issue of principle at stake when there are ministers of state. The Liberals think that when they have ministers of state, they create a two-tier cabinet. That is their language, not mine. That is what they say, that it creates a two-tier cabinet. Therefore, they are not doing it, because they think it is wrong, because they think it does not give due importance to various issues and various people around the cabinet table.

One would think, then, that if the Liberals wanted to update the legislation to reflect current practice, in particular practice that is informed by principle—not just a haphazard practice but a principled practice of having a one-tier ministry, whatever that means, and I will come to that—then they would take this opportunity to update the legislation. However, they are not, because they leave ministers of state in there.

We heard the government House leader say earlier that they think it should be up to future governments whether they use ministers of state. Why they would leave that up to future governments and not leave future governments the option to have separate ministers for the various regional economic development agencies is a mystery, so far unanswered. Unfortunately, I do not believe it will be answered by the time the bill passes third reading in the House. Hopefully, members in the other place will be able to compel an answer to that question, which the Liberals have not been willing to volunteer in this place.

If the bill is about modernizing legislation to reflect the current practices of the government, it fails. If it is about gender equality, it fails, by the government's own admission. What else could it be about? It could be about an ephemeral sense of equality of ministers around the cabinet table. It is not really clear exactly what that means. However, we get a sense of it in the comments of Liberal members during debate about whether or not the NDP and other opposition parties take the issues that have been assigned to ministers of state seriously. They suggest that somehow we do not take seriously the status women, small business, or all these other issues. I do not want to call it an argument, but it is just a weird comment, a weird thing to say.

By the logic of this argument, if the only way we could be deemed to take an issue seriously is to have a full minister responsible for the issues, then why does the government not have a minister of housing? Clearly, by its own logic, the government does not take housing seriously. I note it also does not have a minister for seniors, because apparently the government does not care about seniors. If it cared, it would have a full minister dedicated to seniors, and if it cared about housing, it would have a full minister dedicated to housing, but it does not, so obviously it does not care about those issues. If that sounds stupid, that is because it is, but that is not my line of argument. That is the line of argument put forward by the Liberals themselves in this place. It is a strange situation for them to put themselves in, to say that somehow we must have dedicated, explicit ministers, and call them a minister—not a minister of state or anything else—in order to show we take the issue seriously.

We take housing seriously. In fact, we have a housing critic. We take seniors seriously. We have a seniors critic. However, we do not think that, just because it does not have an explicitly named critic or minister, somehow the party automatically does not take these issues seriously. Likewise, if there is a minister of state for a certain subset of issues, that is not to say that the government does not think it is important. What it really means is that the government does not have a full department with all of the assets and staff that implies. That is okay, because there is a difference between the capability required for defence and the capability required to promote small business in Canada. That is okay. I would be distressed if the government invested as much in the promotion of small business and tourism in Canada as it did in the Department of National Defence. I would think that something had gone wrong in government if those two budgets were the same, in either direction. If it cut DND funding to be the same as the budget for small business and tourism, I would be concerned. If it raised the budget of small business and tourism to equal the budget of the minister of national defence, I would also be concerned.

This idea that somehow we need to call everyone the same thing, and they all have to be ministers in order to take the issues seriously to the appropriate degree, is obviously false. These ministries will not be resourced to the same degree, nor should they be, and that is okay. By extension, if we have different titles to recognize that very real administrative distinction, that would continue under this legislation. Notice it says it will make all ministers equal by making them the same, except it is actually creating two kinds of ministers, which did not exist before.

Up to now, there has only really been one kind of minister, but now there are going to be ministers, full stop, and ministers for whom a department is designated. In the legislation, interestingly, for all of the sub-components for a minister for whom a department is designated, the language reflects largely the language that already exists for ministers of state. They are going to be resourced in the same way.

They are creating a two-tier ministry by actually creating two types of ministers. It is just not going to be obvious on the letterhead because they are going to have the same short name, as they have had for the last two years. They have been paid the same for the last two years which, I think, again speaks to the fact that this legislation is not necessary.

If it is not administrative equality, it is not gender equality, and it is not updating the law to reflect the current practices of the government, what is it? We have heard to some extent that they want all ministers in the Liberal government to be equal around the cabinet table. We need to call them all “minister” because somehow, if some are called “ministers of state” and others are called “ministers”, the Liberals have implied very clearly that they would not be taken seriously to the same extent around the cabinet table as the Prime Minister. Incidentally, I do not think that is something that can be cured legislatively. It has more to do with the dispositions of the Prime Minister than it does anything in legislation. I find it passing strange that the Prime Minister would name people to his cabinet whom he would not take seriously except if the law were changed to call them ministers. Why are they at the table, in the first place, if the Prime Minister needs legislative help to take them seriously?

It also makes me wonder, if it is the case that the Prime Minister will not take them seriously unless they are designated ministers in law, how it is that the Prime Minister could possibly be thought to be taking any of the other members of the Liberal caucus seriously. They certainly are not ministers, and unless we are going to have legislation calling parliamentary secretaries “ministers”, and committee chairs “ministers”, and backbench Liberals “ministers”, then I think what we are to infer from that is that the Prime Minister will not be taking them seriously.

There are certain members in this House on the Liberal benches who I think are not always taken very seriously. There are various reasons for that.

A great defender of this bill has been the member for Winnipeg North. One wonders how he could defend such legislation when an important component of this legislation is to say, if a member is not called a “minister”, then that member is not taken seriously by the government. He has been up on his feet defending that principle. Well, news flash, he is not a minister. He is a parliamentary secretary. I find it odd to hear the member for Winnipeg North on his feet so often defending the idea that, unless a member is called a minister by law, then that member should not, and will not, be taken seriously by the Prime Minister. That seems to be a pretty direct implication of his argument.

Some people in the House do not often take the member for Winnipeg North seriously because there is a bit of a white noise effect. We learn to tune certain things out, as we did in the spring with the construction. Every once in a while there is a particularly loud boom or shake and we look up from what we are doing, but soon return to what it was they were doing. I think others have spent some time listening and ultimately concluded it is not worth the investment. For others, I think they would like to see a better quality of argument.

I have tried to show the extent to which the arguments that the member for Winnipeg North, and other members of the Liberal caucus, have been making about Bill C-24 are really not worth our time, just as the bill is not worth our time. What I understand from this debate is that, all of those other good reasons notwithstanding, the Prime Minister's reason for not taking the member for Winnipeg North seriously is that he is not called a minister. Until such time that he is called a minister, I suppose, he will not be taken seriously, just as the other Liberals will not.

I think we should have a government where the prime minister does take his backbench seriously. We should have a government where the prime minister can use what is a perfectly fine, acceptable tool in cabinet composition, which is ministers of state. I hear some Liberals arguing for self-promotion among the Liberal ranks now that they realize that they have not been taken seriously all along—the sounds of distress from the other side. However, I will not let that distract me from making the important point, which is that we should have a prime minister who is able, willing, and understands the tools of cabinet composition already available, particularly with respect to ministers of state.

Part of the idea of ministers of state is to have some flexibility with respect to naming new kinds of ministries that may not be around forever. It may be that a particular focus is required because certain issues of the day come up. Some of them have been lasting without being made full departments, but that is a choice of the government of the day. We would welcome, for instance, the Liberals actually wanting to do something meaningful in terms of concretizing the status of women and looking at creating an actual department. That would be something interesting that has merit and is worth looking at. That is not what they are doing. They are just coming up with another way of naming ministers of state; namely, ministers for whom a department is designated.

I have tried to address some of what I think are really bad arguments by the government for what the point and purpose of this bill is. As we watch the members chase their tails on this bill, what becomes evident is that this bill is not going anywhere. We just keep running around in the same kind of argumentative circles. They bring up gender equality, and frankly, those arguments get demolished, whether it is by people in this House or all the expert witnesses who came to testify on this particular bill.

The Liberals then change tack and say that it is about modernizing. Then we show that the bill does not actually modernize the legislation to reflect even their current practices, and so then they say that it is about a one-tier ministry. Then we ask if it is a one-tier ministry in terms of administrative responsibility and department size, and they say no. Then we ask if it is a one-tier ministry in the sense of equal voices at the cabinet table, they say that is not it and that it is really about gender equality. Now we have completed the circle. We see how this debate has been going from second reading to report stage. Now we are back at third reading and we still do not really know what the point and purpose of this bill is, not by virtue of the comments made by members of the Liberal Party. That is for sure.

Anyone who wants to take a step back, as many have in the course of this debate, realizes that a commitment of the Prime Minister during the election was to have gender parity in cabinet, and that when he named his cabinet, all the junior posts at that time were filled by women and none of them by men. He was called out in the media for that. It was embarrassing, and he ought to have felt embarrassed about it. He should have done the right thing, said it was a new government and did not totally appreciate what all the options were. Then he could have said that he was really committed to gender parity in the cabinet, that they would make some changes, shuffle those positions around, and/or add some positions in order to address other important issues like housing and seniors, which do not have a ministry. He could have said that, if it created those as junior roles, the government would put men in them, and if they created them as senior roles, it would put women in them because it wants to try to get to a point where the power, authority, and responsibilities of cabinet are equally shared between men and women. That would have been a way to handle it.

Instead, the government invented this dog and pony show that we have been at for the better part of two years now, wasting time in this place. As it goes over to the other place to waste more time, one wonders why, when we have suffered time allocation on other bills that actually did something. I mean, that is what is unique about this bill. With the exception of the question of tying the hands of future governments with respect to separate ministers for regional and economic development agencies, whether one opposes or supports the bill, the fact is that the bill actually does not really do anything.

As a colleague of mine pointed out earlier, we have spent more time debating that in this House than some of the budget implementation bills, and certainly more than the Canada infrastructure bank, which is going to oversee some $35 billion of taxpayers' money and arguably put it in the pockets in some of Canada's and the world's richest investors with very little accountability. We have hardly had a chance to talk about that at all in the House.

However, here we are talking about this again. The one good thing about third reading, either way, is that this debate can finally end in the House. God willing, we will get on to something important.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his eloquent speech.

Bill C-24 is simply smoke and mirrors. We do not know whether the Liberals are referring to pay equity or parity in cabinet. In fact, the bill is not really about either of those things. The Liberals are contradicting themselves.

Something else that does not make sense is the fact that, if all the Liberals wanted to do was give their ministers of state a pay raise so they earn the same as ministers, there was no need to introduce a bill. We do not understand why we are discussing this, when all of the experts agree that this bill is not about gender equality or pay equity.

I have been repeating ad nauseam that, if the Liberals really wanted to be feminists, they would talk about the recommendations made as part of the pay equity study that was shelved in 2004. The Liberals promised a bill on pay equity by 2016. It is now the end of 2017 and they have put it off until 2018, if it happens at all.

What does my colleague think about all this commotion for something that does not even require a bill?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

I also thank her for raising an issue that I think is really important and that I wanted to talk about in my speech. Experts have said that Bill C-24 does either very little or nothing at all for women in cabinet, and they have also said that it is dangerous to claim it does do something. There are real issues around pay equity, and we want to tackle those issues. We have been waiting since 2015 for this self-styled feminist government to introduce a bill that will achieve pay equity, but we have not seen one yet. That is not because the government is busy with important bills. After all, here we are debating Bill C-24, which is not an important bill. We still do not know exactly why this bill exists. Even though there are obvious reasons why we need a bill that directly addresses pay equity, we still do not have such a bill. I think that is a shame.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / noon
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the member for Winnipeg North for demonstrating for anybody listening at home who thought that I might have been unfairly partisan in my remarks the fundamental incoherence of the Liberal position when it comes to Bill C-24. We saw that very tail chasing that I was talking about earlier in my speech. I want to thank the member for putting that in evidence.

I want to say, with respect to some of his comments about the Prime Minister as the minister responsible for intergovernmental affairs particularly with respect to the health accord, that what was noticeable was first of all it is not an accord and it certainly was not a renewal of the old accord. It was a series of bilateral deals. To somehow pretend that prime ministerial leadership got it done when the premiers wrote him a letter asking to have a meeting about a health accord and he refused them and would not have that meeting, is totally egregious. Therefore, let the record show that this Prime Minister, who apparently, according to the member for Winnipeg North, is providing leadership on intergovernmental affairs, particularly health, would not have the meeting on a health accord requested by the premiers and instead sent his Minister of Health out to conclude a bunch of bilateral deals.

I also said in my remarks earlier that I hoped that the Liberals would back off of the argument that somehow only by having a minister for something is it possible to take issues seriously. We do take all sorts of issues seriously. We have a critic for housing. We have a critic for seniors. I think that is kind of a silly argument, and I have said as much. Given that the member for Winnipeg North seems quite committed to debasing us all by continuing on this line of argument, I have to put this question to him. Why is it that the Liberals do not have a minister for housing and for seniors if their position is that the only way to take something seriously is to have a minister for it and to give him or her a full ministerial salary and title? Why is it then that we do not have a separate minister for housing and for seniors? I do not get it.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 12:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Perhaps one day we will have just one word for each and every riding.

I am very pleased to rise today on Bill C-24. On behalf of all my colleagues, we will be opposing the bill because it is all wrong. I will say why, based on three elements.

First is the fact the Liberals want to cancel very important portfolios, especially ministries that are important for each and every region of Canada. Second, because they create new ministries for which there is no necessity. Third is the so-called debate about salary equality for women and men. That was the cosmetic debate, as was so well said by my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix. She said a few minutes ago, this is a cosmetic bill, basically because this is the “selfie” bill.

I have three points to make on this issue.

First, the bill eliminates the positions of ministers responsible for regional economic development. The government is making a huge mistake in getting rid of these positions.

Let us think back to better times, all the way back to 1921, under the Right Hon. William Lyon MacKenzie King, when Quebec had a political lieutenant in cabinet, namely the Hon. Ernest Lapointe. Thereafter followed dozens of strong, influential men and women who were essential to our democratic process and who did a fine job of ensuring Quebec's prominent role within Canada and cabinet.

Obviously I am talking about Quebec because it is my home province, but the same could be said about the other regions of Canada as well. I would even quote people with whom I do not necessarily or naturally share the same philosophical outlook. For example, there is the Hon. Marc Lalonde who played a vital role within the cabinet of the Pierre Elliot Trudeau government and who ensured that Quebec was represented. From my perspective, it was not necessarily the right way, but Quebec was very actively represented under the Hon. Marc Lalonde.

The Liberal government has decided to get rid of economic development ministers for the regions. That is a mistake. First, I must mention that this bill was introduced after the fact. Members will recall the swearing in ceremony at Rideau Hall and the pretty picture of these new ministers going to Rideau Hall, getting off the bus with the spouse, the kids, and everyone else. However, the reality is that, once again, it was about appearances and not substance, because they could have very well said right then what changes they were going to make. The changes were announced a little later.

Why is it important to keep regional ministers? With all due respect to the member from Mississauga, who is currently responsible for Canada's economic development, he is from Mississauga. That is not a shortcoming in and of itself. We realize that he knows every corner of the riding of Mississauga. I have no doubt about that. However, can he distinguish between Trois-Rivières and Sherbrooke? Does he know the difference between Ajax and Flin Flon? Can he tell us exactly what is the difference between Victoria and Vancouver, and what subtle differences there are between Baie-Comeau and Sept-Îles?

A person has to be from the area to understand those differences. That does not take anything away from who the member is as an individual, on the contrary. I am certain he does great work and that he knows his region like the back of his hand. However, that is the sticking point. He knows his region. Geographically speaking, our country is the second largest country in the world. Obviously, in our hearts it is the best in the world. However, the fact is that Alberta's reality is not the same as that of Atlantic Canada, and people in British Columbia have their own needs that are not the same as those of the people in Quebec. That does not make one region's needs any less important than another's.

That is why we need strong personalities in cabinet to advocate on behalf of the regions, people who know what is best for the region in question. In the past, Quebec was well served by people such as the Hon. Denis Lebel, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean, who provided strong leadership. The mayor of Quebec City, Régis Labeaume, can attest to that. About a year ago, he said, and I am quoting from memory, that when he had a problem, he called Denis and they talked and figured things out.

The Prime Minister of Canada and the Minister of Economic Development do not have time to call each and every one of the mayors who have concerns. That is the job of the minister responsible for the region. We have been very well served in the past, and I am convinced that we would have been very well served by one of the ministers from Quebec.

Why get rid of this arrangement? All the power will end up in the hands of a single individual, who will naturally be biased towards his or her own province and region, or perhaps even his or her home town.

Need I remind the House that the government refused Bombardier's request for a handout of $1.3 billion of taxpayer money for the development of its C Series aircraft? It did eventually agree to a $135-million loan for the C Series, but also, surprise surprise, a loan of $200 million for the development of Global 7000. The C Series is manufactured in Mirabel. Does the House know where the Global 7000 is manufactured? Right near Mississauga, in the minister responsible for Canadian economic development's own backyard. There is no way this could be a coincidence. That is just one point I wanted to make about this. This is why it is important to have ministers responsible for regions who promote economic development and report to cabinet on behalf of their region, because they know what they are talking about.

I will move on to my second point. This bill turns five ministers of state into senior ministers and creates positions for three other ministers. However, we do not know exactly what they will be ministers of. I will call them phantom ministers to be polite, but others might say they are ministers of nothing. That is the wrong message to send. No one knows who the three positions created by this bill are for, or why they are being created, or what their portfolios will look like, but this bill wants to create them anyway. Come on. It is absurd.

The other thing this bill does is turn ministers of state into full or senior ministers. For what it is worth, this is where we see the ugly side of this selfie government, this image-obsessed government, this government that reacts to an image it does not like by changing course and forging ahead.

When the current cabinet was sworn in at Rideau Hall, the Prime Minister was quite proud to say that, for the first time in Canada's history, in 150 years of life in our beautiful and great country, we had a gender-balanced cabinet. He was asked why and said, “because it's 2015”. Everyone thought that was just great, the crowd cheered.

However, a few days later, at closer inspection people began to realize that this gender-balanced cabinet was a bit lopsided. The fact that ministers of state do not have the same power, the same salary, or even the same responsibilities as the other ministers knocked this parity off balance a bit. Surprise, surprise, the five ministers of state were women. There was no parity there.

The ministers of state, whom we can politely refer to as junior ministers, were women only. The Liberals realized that that was not good for their image and decided to fix that. Instead of appointing women to important cabinet positions, the Liberals changed the ministerial titles. They sharpened their pencils and crossed out the word “state” to end up with just minister. Then there is the matter of equal pay for equal skills and equal responsibilities. Skills are subjective, but people should get equal pay for equal work.

Not to diminish anyone's work, but we know that ministers of state do not have the same responsibilities as full ministers. That has always been the case and remains so today. It is almost insulting to regular ministers, if we can call them that to distinguish from ministers of state. There is nothing wrong with being a minister of state. On the contrary, it is a privilege. Here, we are not ashamed because we are in opposition and not in government. Though we may be many, all 338 of us represent the public equally.

People see that everyone has their responsibilities and that a minister of state does not have the same responsibilities as a full minister. For the Liberals' image, it is not a good thing because, as it so happens, the five ministers of state are all women. Quick, let us rename the position before anyone notices. That is not the way to do it and it shows without a doubt that this government is literally obsessed with its image. As a result, the government makes ridiculous decisions.

Bill C-24 is a perfect example. It does away with regional ministers, it gets rid of the title of five ministers of state and replaces them with three phantom ministers. We are not too sure who this bill is for, what the whole point of it is or what it will look like in the end, but this government's image takes precedence above all else. That is why we are going to vote against this bill.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a big task to fill the shoes of my colleague who just spoke. He obviously has a great grasp of the effects of this bill.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. This bill has been touted by many members across the way as just a simple bill that must be passed as quickly as possible. They would like members of this House to believe that there is nothing controversial in this bill and that everyone should be on board. My hon. colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, even went so far as to say that this bill is indeed a simple and straightforward housekeeping bill. We all know it is more than that, and I respectfully disagree with that statement.

Bill C-24 is much more than a simple piece of housekeeping legislation. There are numerous changes in this bill that would have lasting impacts on a number of regions in Canada. Today, I would like to set the record straight. I would like to explain the concerns I have with this bill, as well as my concerns with the way the government has rushed this bill through the process by trying to make people believe that the bill simply contains housekeeping measures.

First, my major concern with this bill is that it would formally eliminate the positions of the six ministers for regional development agencies. As we know, the previous government maintained a system of six different development agencies, with a minister of state assigned to each. The agencies represented six unique regions of Canada and included one for Atlantic Canada, one for Quebec, one for the north, one for southern Ontario, one for northern Ontario, and one for western Canada. These agencies were tremendously successful in ensuring that regional economic interests were represented at the cabinet table.

The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development website even states the following:

Canada’s Regional Development Agencies 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.

Despite all of the important work that I just listed, the Prime Minister has stated that he believes that regional development agencies represent a bad kind of politics, whatever he means by that. I know that the Prime Minister and I disagree quite a bit when it comes to politics; that is not really a state secret. However, there is a difference between politics and governance, and I, for one, believe that having a regional economic development minister at the cabinet table fighting for his or her regions of interest is a very effective way to govern.

Rather than having individual ministers represent specific regions through the regional development agencies, the Prime Minister has opted to concentrate this power within one minister, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, a minister from Mississauga—Malton, a minister for everything. How can the Prime Minister honestly expect that a minister from the GTA will be able to effectively fight for Atlantic Canada, western Canada, the north, Quebec, and the list goes on?

We are already seeing that the Prime Minister's new system is not working. For example, just last fall, the government awarded $150,000 in funding that was earmarked for northern Ontario to a company based in, get this, southern Ontario, Mississauga—conveniently, I might add, in the riding of the minister for everything, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and member for Mississauga—Malton. When did it become part of northern Ontario? The Bruce Peninsula is a three-hour drive north of there, and we cannot even get it designated as part of northern Ontario. I think maybe the compass might have been a little faulty in the Prime Minister's Office.

Furthermore, in Atlantic Canada it has been reported that there has been a threefold increase in processing times at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, known as ACOA, since the Prime Minister put the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development in charge of the agency. Quite simply, the system is not working. It is pretty clear. I do not believe that the government has the right to give anyone lessons when it comes to the kind of work that our regional economic development agencies do for Canada. While these agencies work hard to deliver funding and ensure that businesses have what they need to succeed in their regions, the Liberal government calls business owners tax cheats, comes up with schemes to tax small businesses, and cannot seem to get any money out the door for important infrastructure projects.

For anyone in rural Canada, and I am one of those MPs who represents a large rural area, infrastructure is non-existent. It is just not there. Major transit projects—and I have nothing against those—get funding in the big cities, while rural Canada gets shafted again.

In fact, in rural Ontario in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, there is a certainty of feeling that we are being forgotten. Important projects are being left on the back burner while the government focuses solely on big city initiatives. FedDev Ontario, the federal economic development agency for southern Ontario, consistently worked to deliver important funding. By the way, the previous government filled that void and put FedDev in there, because there was nothing for southern Ontario before. With this government's inability to get infrastructure out the door, as I said, and now the elimination of FedDev, I am very concerned about what the passage of this bill would mean for rural infrastructure.

Another concern I have with this bill is in regard to the three ministerial positions that are created in the bill but not yet filled. Bill C-24 would create a total of eight new Liberal ministerial positions. In part, this is to accommodate the five minister of state roles that were filled after the 2015 election. However, there are three new positions created with no one to fill them. It really begs the question: Why create positions that are not needed, unless this government has a plan to fill these positions?

If it is the government's plan to fill these positions, I do have some suggestions. For example, let us put in an associate minister of finance. This would be very helpful. That way, the Minister of Finance could actually recuse himself from conversations about pension legislation that directly benefits his family company. We could also use a Minister of International Trade. My apologies, but with the bungling of NAFTA, the stalling TPP negotiations, and the embarrassing fiasco in China last week, I almost forgot that we already have one. Perhaps we could use a minister for rural affairs, instead of a minister of everything from Mississauga—Malton, though I'm not sure the government cares much about communities with a population less than 50,000. In fact, I am very positive about that. The government should be open and transparent and tell us what these mystery positions are all about.

Finally, I would like to conclude by stating that I am very concerned about the pace at which the government is moving on this legislation. I am told that, when the government operations committee studied this legislation, the only two witnesses were the government House leader and one professor. There is no partisanship there, is there? I have been involved and have chaired a number of committees over the years. I can say that having only two witnesses appear before any committee is simply unacceptable and it is certainly not the norm. In no way would it be possible for the committee to complete a full study of this bill or any bill.

Furthermore, I have learned that the topic of regional development agencies was not even discussed at the committee stage. What was the study about? This is unacceptable, and again shows that the government has no intentions of actually talking about this or consulting, whether it is through committee or the public. All they are about is trying to push this bill through as fast as possible.

With that, I am happy to take questions from my hon. colleagues. Before I do, I may not have another opportunity before we break for Christmas, so I would like to take a brief moment, Mr. Speaker, to wish you, your staff, and all my colleagues and members of this House a very merry Christmas and wish everyone all the best in the upcoming year.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise again, this time at third reading, to speak in support of Bill C-24, an act to update and modernize the Salaries Act. I would like to focus my comments on the five positions Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act, positions that are currently minister of state appointments.

The bill would update the Salaries Act to reflect the structure of the current ministry by adding five titled positions. The five positions to be added under the Salaries Act are already occupied by ministers, ministers who are working on important priorities for this government and for Canadians: science, small business and tourism, status of women, la Francophonie, and sport and persons with disabilities. The amendments fully recognize that these are full ministers who lead on important matters and are directly accountable to the Prime Minister and Parliament for results.

The speakers who oppose the bill have said that the ministers of state are “junior ministers”, “little ministers”, or not “full ministers”; that they assist other ministers with their responsibilities and report to the ministers they assist; and that they cannot bring forward memoranda to cabinet without senior ministers sponsoring those items. They have remarked that the five ministers whose positions would be added under the Salaries Act were appointed as ministers of state and assigned, by order in council, to assist other ministers. They have asserted that this is evidence that the Prime Minister intended these ministers to be junior ministers, and they say that this should remain their status. They say that this bill would simply paper over a blunder when the ministry was originally put in place and would give junior ministers an undeserved raise in the bargain.

I understand the origins of this misperception. Conventionally, that has been the role of ministers of state, sometimes called secretaries of state. They have most often assisted other ministers with their portfolio responsibilities. They have not often been members of cabinet, and they have not been able to bring matters to cabinet for consideration on their own.

Ministers of state were not given, in previous governments, statutory authorities to exercise in their own right or statutory duties for which they were directly accountable. Instead, they were assigned to assist a senior minister in carrying out that minister's responsibilities. The senior minister retained the statutory authorities and accountability. The salaries of the ministers of state reflected their supporting roles.

These were policy choices former prime ministers were entitled to make in the exercise of their prerogative to design their ministries in a way they judged would accomplish the government's priorities and properly oversee the day-to-day governing of the country.

The former prime ministers relied significantly on ministers of state. Specifically, under Prime Minister Harper, there were 13 in office at the dissolution of that government. Some of those former ministers of state who are still in this House have said during the course of the debate on this bill that in that role, they worked on important matters. When invited to cabinet, they had an equal voice at the table. They said they considered it a privilege to serve in that capacity. I have no doubt that all of that is true. I am certain that past ministers of state were valued and contributing members of their ministries.

Successive prime ministers have favoured two-tier ministries, and current legislation allows for that kind of structure. Ministers have a significant workload between their portfolios, cabinet, and parliamentary and political duties and have responsibility for increasingly complex and quickly developing files. This workload burden can be shared by developing supporting teams for ministers that include ministers of state.

The appointment of ministers of state has served various purposes in the past. They can support other ministers on general or specific files; with particular tasks, such as taking a lead role developing a policy falling under another minister's authority; or in day-to-day functions, such as meeting with stakeholders. These assignments can both help alleviate a minister's workload and highlight areas of priority for the government's mandate.

Minister of state appointments have also been useful in rounding out the skill set for a portfolio. For instance, the minister might benefit from the assistance of a minister of state who has a background in a particular sector or profession. Minister of state appointments can be used to give a minister a supporting role in policy development or in stakeholder relations that fall under the mandate of another minister. For example, the former minister of employment and social development was cross-appointed as minister of state to assist the minister of Canadian heritage in relation to multiculturalism.

In a compact ministry, ministers of state can be paired with ministers who carry significant workloads. They can function as generalists, offering support on functions or files as requested. In a larger ministry, where ministers have a single portfolio and a defined set of priorities to pursue, there may be less need for the support of a minister of state. Still, having a small number of ministers of state focused on particular priorities might be helpful.

In short, the position of minister of state and the Ministries and Ministers of State Act offer useful options to a prime minister in designing his or her ministry. Bill C-24 does not eliminate the position or repeal the act. I note that I said “options”. That is because the appointment and roles of ministers of state in any particular government are decided by its prime minister.

In launching his ministry, this Prime Minister determined that he did not require a group of ministers to take traditional supporting roles as ministers of state. Rather, he preferred to have a group of ministers who led their own files and were accountable to him and Parliament for results.

The Prime Minister decided that his government's priorities would be delivered by a one-tier ministry. He created a ministry in which all members are full members of cabinet, have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them, and have leading roles to deliver on the important priorities of government.

However, in November 2015, five of these positions the Prime Minister wanted in his one-tier ministry were not positions listed in the Salaries Act. As has been explained, because the Salaries Act could not accommodate those priorities at the time the government took office, the five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. That act offered a way for these ministers to begin their important work right away, to be paid under the Appropriations Act, and to be fully supported by existing departments in carrying out their responsibilities until legislation could be amended. In other words, they were provided with what was possible within the legal framework that existed in November 2015. However, it did not properly reflect the intended status, and the Prime Minister made a commitment to introduce legislation that would. Bill C-24 would fulfill that commitment.

As speakers before me have pointed out, these ministers have statutory responsibilities vested directly in them, and they are accountable to the Prime Minister and Parliament for results. The Minister of Science is responsible for the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities has policy and program responsibilities under the Canada Disabilities Savings Act. The minister is also responsible for the sport component of the Physical Activity and Sport Act.

The Minister of Small Business and Tourism is responsible for the Canada Small Business Financing Act, the Small Business Investment Grants Act, and the Canadian Tourism Commission Act, including Destinations Canada, the federal crown corporation that works to sustain a vibrant and profitable Canadian tourism industry. As the member of Parliament for the Niagara area, I know the importance of a successful tourist industry.

The Minister of Status of Women presides over the federal department known as Status of Women Canada.

Let me be clear. Those are just statutory responsibilities. They do not represent the sum total of the significant policy and program work in which these ministers are engaged. I list these items simply to make the point that these ministers are not in conventional junior minister roles and were never intended to be. The Prime Minister worked with the legislative framework he had in November 2015 and committed to updating it to reflect the current one-tier ministry.

The point has been made that these updating exercises are not new. The list of Salaries Act ministers has been amended several times in the last decade, most recently in 2012 and 2013. In each case, the changes aligned with the priorities of the times and with the then prime minister's preference with respect to the composition of his ministry and the organization of the government's administration. Perhaps in 2012 and 2013 changes to the Salary Act did not receive due attention from Parliament because they were included in long omnibus budget bills. This government prefers to be more transparent.

Some members have suggested that the scrutiny of Bill C-24 is not a good use of Parliament's time. With respect, I disagree. The ministerial system is essential and characteristic of our form of government. Its development should be a concern of Parliament. That is why this government brought forward these changes in a stand-alone bill, and I appreciate the lengthy engagement on the bill.

Let me anticipate a question my remarks might prompt. As I have said, the bill would not repeal the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. We think it would offer a useful degree of flexibility for the Prime Minister and future prime ministers in designing their ministries, just as the three untitled positions Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act would.

Why then are we removing regional development positions from the Salaries Act? Do they not offer flexibility to a future prime minister too? As one member put it, how can the government put forward a bill that eliminates the possibility of appointing a minister responsible for the development of a particular region that has its own unique issues?

To be clear, the bill does not do that. There will continue to be a need to appoint ministers to oversee each of the regional development agencies. The bill would retain two options to do that and would add a third.

First, as was the practice in the former ministry, a minister can be cross-appointed to a regional development position, assisted by a minister of state. Second, a minister of state can be appointed as the responsible minister. Finally, and this is the new option Bill C-24 would add, a minister could be appointed under one of the untitled positions to oversee one or more of the regional development agencies.

In this government, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development has been appointed to oversee all the regional development agencies. We think that makes good policy and operational sense. Others have spoken on that point.

The removal of the regional development positions would not affect the agencies themselves, which would continue to exist as separate entities located and working in the regions they serve. It also would not eliminate the requirement for ministerial oversight of them. What it would do is safeguard the installation of an oversized cabinet. The proposed increase in the number of Salaries Act positions would be offset by the removal of the regional development positions. The maximum number of ministers that could be appointed under the Salaries Act, including the Prime Minister, would increase by two positions, from 35 to 37.

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

The Prime Minister committed to introducing legislation that would formally equalize the status of all members of his ministry. This bill would fulfill that commitment. When it comes into force, the orders in council that appointed these ministers as ministers of state to assist other ministers would be repealed. They would be in law, as they are in practice, full ministers.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, following the swearing-in of the Liberal cabinet after the 2015 election, the Prime Minister responded to a question regarding equal gender representation in cabinet with “because it's 2015”. It is now 2017 and the government's cabinet is no more gender equal today than it was then.

Professor Margot Young, a University of British Columbia law professor specializing in gender equality issues appeared before the government operations committee on Bill C-24, and said:

I have to say, to respond to a que1stion about women in the cabinet by saying simply “because it's 2015” loses a key leadership moment to articulate and shape opinion about what it means to actually have women in positions of equality, in positions of leadership and power.

I have said it before, and it is worth repeating now. This Liberal government is all style and no substance. The Liberals spend more time focusing on their appearance than they do on substantive matters that are important to Canadians, and this case is no exception. The Prime Minister would like Canadians to believe that his appointed Liberal cabinet is gender-balanced, but this is far from the truth. What the Prime Minister kept secret from Canadians is that several of the female ministers were not full ministers, but rather ministers of state.

Mr. Speaker, I neglected to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

Of course, once the opposition and others pointed out this reality to the Liberal government, the Prime Minister quickly tried to cover his tracks. He introduced Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. The bill would make several 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 ministry positions, and the transfer of authoritative powers.

In the bill, the Liberals are attempting to justify changing the title “ministers of state” to full ministers. They say that changing the names of the positions and increasing the income of each minister of state, with no added responsibilities for these ministers of state, somehow makes them equivalent to full ministers. This amounts to nothing more than a shell game, and in the process the Prime Minister is getting rid of regional economic development ministers and creating positions that will be determined later. What happened to openness and transparency?

I do not want to spend any more time discussing the Liberal's PR game of claiming to have a gender-balanced cabinet but in reality not having any such thing. I will leave it up to my hon. colleagues on the opposite side to try to square that circle.

Over the past two years, the government has shown it is unable to manage a national economy. Its top-down style of governance is no better exemplified than in the elimination of regional development ministers, leaving all regional development decisions in the hands of the innovation minister from Mississauga. I have served with the hon. member for Mississauga—Malton on a committee in previous Parliaments, and I know he is a very hard-working member and represents his constituents. However, he does not live, experience, and know the very real and unique needs that exist in our different regions, from Atlantic Canada to Quebec, to the Prairies, to British Columbia, and especially our northern areas, both in the territories and in our provinces.

To make things worse, when studying this piece of legislation in committee the Liberals refused to hear from a single witness about the plan to scrap regional economic development ministers. This, from a government that claims to make “evidence-based” decisions, a government that prides itself on consultation, a government that repeatedly says it wants to hear from Canadians. This is all style and no substance.

Regional economic development ministers played a very important role in our previous Conservative government's ability to weather the global economic crisis and come away with the strongest economy in the G7, all while balancing the budget and leaving a surplus. That is why, unlike the Liberals, Conservatives will fight for appropriate regional representation and accountability. The Liberals are ignoring the diversity of Canada's regions. So much for championing diversity. So much for championing consultation.

We need to include people from the regions in the decision-making process because it ultimately affects their full participation in our national economy. Indeed, the harmful effects of this decision are already noticeable. Take these examples, for instance. Last fall, $150,000 in northern Ontario economic development funds were given to a company based in the innovation minister's Mississauga riding. Apparently, this is the preferred kind of politics the Prime Minister had in mind. Members can correct me if I am wrong, but as a member whose riding is a short drive down the 401 from Mississauga, I would not consider our region of Ontario as being part of the north, by any measure.

Furthermore, just this spring, the Atlantic Liberal caucus subcommittee reported that it had heard of a threefold increase in processing times at ACOA since the appointment of the Toronto minister. The Liberal subcommittee noted, “centralized decision-making is viewed unfavourably as impeding the agility of programs. The Subcommittee was asked to advocate for regional decision-making in order to better address regional needs.” I sure hope that the Prime Minister and the innovation minister are taking the time to listen to their colleagues in their own Liberal caucus on this issue.

As previously mentioned, Bill C-24 seeks to ask parliamentarians to approve the appointment of three future mystery ministers. This is neither transparent nor accountable. We know that after two years of mismanagement of appointments left, right, and centre, the Liberal government cannot be trusted to handle any appointments, let alone secret appointments, to cabinet. I would ask my hon. colleagues opposite what exactly they are trying to hide.

Allow me to summarize. The Prime Minister set this legislation into motion after he was trying to look good for the cameras but had a reporter ask him about the so-called gender parity in his cabinet. He doubled down when he included in this legislation the removal of regional economic ministers, and then tripled down when he expected opposition parties to blindly support his creation of new cabinet positions that are to be determined in the future.

Conservatives do believe in equal pay for equal work. This bill does not deliver that. Ministers with more junior portfolios will not have their own deputy ministers, will not have the same departmental budgets, will not have the same responsibility or authority as ministers with more senior portfolios, and yet their salaries will increase. In fact, the salaries will increase by roughly $20,000 each for these ministers, with no added responsibilities or authority.

If the Prime Minister wants to put his words into action, I hear that the finance minister has been in a bit of trouble recently with the Ethics Commissioner. This could be an opportunity for him to promote one of his female members of the House to the position of finance minister. At the very least, the Prime Minister needs to listen to the advice of his Liberal backbenchers and immediately reinstate regional economic ministers. Enough of this top-down approach where Ottawa knows best. It is not working and it has created headaches across the country, especially in Atlantic Canada. In fact, all areas of Canada have been affected and have spoken out against this ill-conceived move to eliminate regional ministers from the economic development agencies.

There is a quote from La Presse in Quebec from November 2015, which states:

“It was always an important minister, like Denis Lebel, who was in charge,” said Mr. Forget [the current president] of the Quebec Chamber of Commerce. “It meant that business leaders had an attentive ear to discuss Quebec's economic issues. We'll have to see how things go in the coming days and weeks.”

We do not hear anything from the Liberal Quebec members speaking out against this change.

The Cape Breton Post has stated that “The change in tactics to support business growth was flagged as a potential concern for job-starved regions such as Cape Breton.”

From the CBC, Donald Savoie, a Canada research chair in public administration, has said that the lack of an ACOA minister from the region is a return to when former Liberal industry minister John Manley was responsible for the economic development agencies during the Jean Chrétien government. He say, “I would remind Atlantic Canadians that ACOA used to report to John Manley at the Department of Industry. Would I call [the current appointment] ACOA's heyday? No.”

That is not exactly a ringing endorsement of this plan.

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December 12th, 2017 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Kitchener—Conestoga for his excellent speech. I recognize his qualities as a person. He is a very caring individual who has a lot of respect for people. I think it is important to point out the kindness that he shows people every day.

Since the end of the session is just a few days away, I would like to wish a happy holiday season to all the staff who work with us here in the House and in our offices, all members of the House of Commons, my family, and the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier. We are going to spend some quality time with our family and friends and exchange gifts.

Speaking of gifts, since this government was elected two years ago, it has been trying to give gifts to those who donate to, support, and serve its party. Now, the Liberals have introduced Bill C-24. I am wondering whether this bill is just another way to do favours for certain people. I have some serious doubts about this bill, and the Liberals are the ones who have planted those seeds of doubt in my mind over the past two years.

Nowhere in the many pages of the mandate letter written by the Prime Minister's team and addressed to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons is there any mention of introducing this kind of bill. Here again, the Liberal government seems to be winging it. I do not know what the objective is. Usually, when I go through a bill, I find objectives. The official document I have here talks about Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, but does not identify any objectives. What is the purpose of this bill? I certainly do not see a real answer to that question, and it is not even written in the bill.

They say this is about equality between men and women, but as usual with this government, it is all sizzle and no steak. Interestingly, the ministers with the three most important portfolios, the defence minister, the innovation minister, and the notorious finance minister, are all men. The Liberals say they want parity, but when it comes to giving mandates to female ministers, they seem to have little faith in women's abilities. That is why I have serious doubts. I do not understand what the government is trying to accomplish with its act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

Thanks to the government's improvisations over the past two years, it now has to look for loopholes, because it has deviated from its agenda. It decided to table a bill that would eliminate the positions of ministers responsible for regional development and entrust all decisions to a very busy minister. I will not talk about this minister's professionalism, but every human being, male or female, has their limits. He will have to take over the duties of the ministers responsible for Canada's six regional development agencies, which cover the entire country. There is one out east, one in Quebec, two in Ontario, one up north, and one out west. Now, however, the government will be making decisions about what is best for the people of the Atlantic region out of an office on Bay Street in Toronto.

From now on, people in Toronto will be deciding what is in the best interests of people living in the north.

The agencies were created because the regions face different realities. We are here to help the regions cope with their realities and find solutions that are appropriate in their circumstances. Some regions have very high unemployment. Fortunately, the Quebec City area has very low unemployment, but that is not the case across Canada.

When the minister, way up in his ivory tower, decides to apply a law or program, he obviously will not take into account the different features of each region. That shows a lack of respect towards our regions. It comes on top of the finance minister's lack of respect towards SMEs, which drive the economies of Canada's regions.

The Minister of Finance launched consultations in July. Since he does not have the same schedule as Canadian workers, he may not have realized that small businesses and company managers are worn out in July and take a few days off.

The Liberals say they want to consult, they put their reform out there, they make the announcement, and off they go. Then the opposition comes out swinging to defend the interests of Canadians and Canadian business owners. The government backtracks, but only halfway. Now it is going to let businesses pay a 9% tax, but not until 2019. That 9% was in the works before the Liberals took office, but they got rid of it because it was a Harper government initiative.

They have no real plan. They react, they change course, they make it up as they go along. Now, for the sake of gender equality, the government wants to give everyone a raise. It wants everyone to get a minister's salary, and it is taking ministers away from the regions.

Where are we going? How can anyone respect a government that does not respect the businesses in our regions?

I am not very comfortable with that. I am not an expert, but Norman Spector, a former ACOA president, has told many people in Ottawa that the Liberals never liked the regional development agencies and that eliminating them has been on the Liberal agenda for some time now.

The Liberals are removing competent people, centralizing power for themselves, and governing in the interest of their Liberal friends, not in the interest of all Canadians.

This government has been in power for two years, and I cannot name a single concrete measure it has introduced in the real interest of Canadian workers. This is just more window dressing. The Liberals are trying to impress the international community, but they are doing nothing meaningful.

Instead of working on this bill, why are we not investing our energy in putting negotiators in place to make sure the government concludes the NAFTA negotiations, solves the softwood lumber crisis, and respects our SMEs?

The new corporate tax reform comes into effect in 18 days. I do not know what the government is playing at, but if I can see that it is not respecting our SMEs, I am not sure how it can interpret its position.

Is the government respecting our SMEs? Is it respecting our regions? Is it respecting Canadians?

We are wasting our time on this bill. It is unacceptable. It does not take a rocket scientist to see that our Prime Minister is trying to shut us down, create a distraction, and pacify us.

The Prime Minister and the government need to take this a little more seriously.

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December 12th, 2017 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-24. This is my second opportunity to speak to this bill, and I take great pride in it, as it is one I wholeheartedly endorse.

Assembling a cabinet is one of the first responsibilities of an incoming prime minister. The overall design of cabinet, the selection of ministers, and the alignment of their responsibilities determine how the government will marshal its individual and collective strengths under the prime minister's leadership to accomplish its priorities and oversee the day-to-day governing of the country. All these decisions are at the prerogative of the prime minister, as we know. The selection of members of cabinet is both vitality important and highly personal.

The Right Hon. Jean Chrétien writes in his memoir, “Building a cabinet is perhaps the most private and personal duty a prime minister has to perform.” The Right Hon. Lester B. Pearson writes in his, “In choosing my Cabinet, the decisions were mine and I did not ask anyone to share that responsibility.” The prime minister of Canada has considerable flexibility in exercising his or her prerogative for assembling the ministry and cabinet. Although a number of ministerial offices are created by statute and must be filled, the prime minister has room to design the ministry by cross-appointing individuals to more than one position, changing ministers' working titles to reflect their roles in advancing the priorities, and assigning responsibilities to the ministers through changes to the machinery of government.

The prime minister can also recommend the appointment of ministers of state to assist other ministers. These ministers might assist a minister with particularly heavy responsibilities or with a specific responsibility requiring special attention. Ministers of state can also receive statutory powers, duties, and functions. When they do, they are accountable to the prime minister and to Parliament directly for the manner in which they exercise them. The prime minister decides whether ministers of state are to be vested with statutory authorities in their own right and whether they sit in cabinet.

There can be parliamentary secretaries as well, as we know. These discretionary positions are not members of the ministry and do not normally play a role in cabinet. They are appointed under the Parliament of Canada Act to assist ministers with their parliamentary responsibilities, including interacting with caucus members and opposition counterparts, and assisting with the shepherding in of legislation.

Although the prime minister has considerable flexibility, there are rules underpinning the structure of the ministry too. For example, the Salaries Act, the legislation that authorizes the remuneration of ministers, lists 34 specific ministerial positions in addition to the prime minister. Many of those ministerial positions are statutory offices that must be filled. A few are discretionary.

While the governor general, on the advice of the prime minister, can appoint any number of ministers, only individuals appointed to positions listed in the Salaries Act can be paid a ministerial salary out of the consolidated revenue fund. The number of ministers of state whom a prime minister can appoint is unlimited, but it is subject to the requirement of Parliament's agreement to appropriate the necessary monies for that purpose under the annual appropriation acts.

The number of parliamentary secretaries that may be appointed cannot exceed the number of ministerial positions listed in the act. This mix of flexibility and rules reflects a fundamental constitutional principle. It is the crown's business to organize itself for the proper administration of the affairs of state, and it is Parliament's business to guide and supervise that administration through the granting or withdrawal of authorities and funding to the executive.

The size of the Canadian ministry has changed significantly over time, reflecting the development of Canada as a country and the growing complexity and range of issues under the federal government's purview. At the time of Confederation, the fledging government carried over seven federal organizations from its predecessor government, six departments and the Geological Survey of Canada. However, by the time of the first anniversary of Confederation, there were 15 organizations with 12 departments, the Geological Survey, the Dominion police service, and the office of the governor general's secretary.

Today, the prime minister must organize upward of 190 federal government entities into portfolios, each to be managed by ministers who are accountable for results. Over the course of the last 50 years, ministries have varied in size, from a low of 30 members in the Clark ministry, to at one point a high of the prime minister plus 39 other members in the Harper ministry.

The current ministry is composed of the Prime Minister and 30 ministers. It has not grown in number since its swearing-in on November 4, 2015. On that day, 26 individuals were sworn into ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act. One of those 26 ministers, the Minister of International Development, and four other individuals were sworn in as ministers of state and assigned by orders in council to assist other ministers pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act.

The Ministries and Ministers of State Act was used in four cases because the positions are not listed in the Salaries Act and those ministers could not be paid or supported by the public service in carrying out their responsibilities. The Minister of International Development is paid under the Salaries Act. In this case, the Ministries and Ministers of State Act offered a way for the Minister of International Development to assume Canada's responsibilities for La Francophonie from the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to be supported by Global Affairs Canada in that role.

The legal title of ministers appointed under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act is “minister of state”. They are paid under the appropriation acts. The orders in council assigning these ministers to assist other ministers are necessary because of the legislative framework and the decision to have these ministers supported by existing departments in the exercise of their authorities and performance of their duties.

When the ministry was sworn in, a number of observers wondered why five of its members were appointed as ministers of state rather than simply as ministers. They concluded that the Prime Minister's gender-balanced cabinet was not really that at all.

In an interview with iPolitics, for example, the member for London—Fanshawe said she did not understand the technical reason for making the positions ministers of state rather than full ministers. At the time, the positions were all filled by women. The member has been a powerful champion of women's rights and women's voices in politics. She said she was disappointed and sad. However, she need not be, and she was right: the reason is a technical one.

The appointments as ministers of state and the orders in council under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act allow these ministers to be paid and supported by existing departments in carrying out their important mandates. They were provided with what was possible within the legal framework that existed on November 4, 2015.

The Prime Minister made a commitment to introduce legislation that reflects the composition of his one-tier ministry. Bill C-24 fulfills that commitment. It would revise the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act by adding five titled positions that are currently minister of state appointments: namely, minister of la Francophonie, minister of small business and tourism, minister of science, minister of status of women, and minister of sport and persons with disabilities.

It would add three untitled positions to provide a degree of flexibility for this and future prime ministers to adapt their ministries to respond to priorities of the day. It would offset the increase in ministerial positions that may be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund by removing six regional development ministerial positions from the statute. This would have no impact on the regional development agencies or the statutory requirement for ministerial oversight of them.

Bill C-24 would also create a framework within which any of these eight ministers can be supported by existing departments, meaning that no new departments need to be created as a consequence of the bill. Also, it would change the legal title of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities to properly reflect the responsibilities of that position.

Why is the bill important? Why not just continue with the current arrangement under the current legal framework? We want to send a strong signal to Canadians that all ministers in this cabinet are equal. In Canada, we like to treat people equally. The ministry is the reflection of that value. We want to remove distracting distinctions, which even after two years and even after we debate the bill, have some members insisting that they are junior ministers and that they should stay as junior ministers.

The Prime Minister's team is a group of equals. We need to make this legislative framework a reality. In this ministry, there are no junior ministers or senior ministers. There are no first-tier and no second-tier ministers. There are just ministers, working together to deliver results for Canadians.

We would be shortsighted if we did not look to the future now. We need to modernize the legislation to allow for sufficiently varied and flexible ministerial structures, which can adapt quickly to the contemporary challenges of complex issues, changing priorities, and big government.

I urge my fellow hon. members to join me in supporting Bill C-24.

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December 12th, 2017 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Kingston and the Islands for his historical overview and the context in which he has put his comments this morning to help us better understand the importance and need for Bill C-24.

The question I would like to put to the member is with respect to the point he made about what this is really all about, and that is equal voices in cabinet. He mentioned the five ministries: la Francophonie, sport and disability, status of women, small business and tourism, and science.

Could the member comment on why it is so important that ministers who hold these portfolios have an equal voice at the cabinet table?

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December 12th, 2017 / 1:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Now I have nine and a half minutes, Mr. Speaker, but thank you.

I am pleased to rise today on Bill C-24. I spoke to Bill C-24 in an earlier reading at which time I named this legislation “the Seinfeld bill”, because it is a bill about nothing. As my colleague the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands said, this is an inconsequential bill.

The bill goes back to 2015, when we had a freshly elected government that, with great fanfare, announced its gender-balanced cabinet. Someone in the media pointed out that five of the 15 women cabinet ministers were so-called junior ministers, ministers such as the Minister of Status of Women, etc., so it really was not gender balanced. The government immediately said they are all equal and they are all going to get paid the same.

At committee we asked the government House leader about this and her comment was that all 30 members already receive the same salary and this has been the case since the first day in office and it will not change with this legislation. I then asked why we are bothering with the bill. We were told that without the bill, ministers of state would not be full ministers and would not have equal voices at the cabinet table.

The Prime Minister spends a lot of time overseas and when he is not busy showing off his new socks, he is talking about how he is a feminist prime minister. As partisan as I am, I cannot believe that the Prime Minister sits at the cabinet table and ignores good ideas from someone who is a minister of state just because of a title. So again, why do we have this legislation?

Maybe it is about gender equality. I am all about a gender-balanced cabinet but what I am not about is having a quota system that forces the government to ignore better qualified MPs and pushes them to the back to fill the front benches with unqualified men, such as the defence minister.

Think where we would be without a quota system. We would not have a defence minister who claims to be the architect of someone else's work. We would not have a defence minister who has so badly bungled the purchase of fighter jets. First, he is not going to allow F-35s, so we are going to buy sole-sourced Boeing until Boeing gets into a trade conflict with Bombardier, so we are not going to buy Boeing. Instead, we are going to buy used Boeing. That makes sense.

The defence minister bungled shipbuilding. There was delay upon delay. Every single month, according to the parliamentary budget officer, it costs taxpayers $250 million.

If we did not have a quota system, maybe we would not have the finance minister, the same gentleman who is under an ethics investigation for proposing Bill C-27, which would just happen to include the same changes he lobbied for as a private citizen that would have benefited him. He tabled that legislation in the House.

We would not perhaps have the sport minister, the same minister who insulted victims of thalidomide, the same minister who said he hopes they die 10 years from now because it would be less of a burden on the government.

What did Liberal MPs have to say about this legislation? On second reading the Liberals framed Bill C-24

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December 12th, 2017 / 1:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board said, “This government is also committed to ensuring that pay equity extends to the cabinet table....” A Liberal colleague in the operations committee with me said that we have chosen “to say that women deserve equal pay and equal voice at the cabinet table.”

It is very clear that the Liberals wanted to message this proposed legislation as an equality bill. They must have been absolutely giddy with joy at the operations committee when my colleagues from the NDP brought forward a witness, the only witness we were allowed to bring on the bill, who was a gender studies professor from UBC. Unfortunately for the Liberals, who thought it would be someone who would reinforce their view, it turned out to be more like Festivus with an airing of grievances from the professor.

The expert witness led by saying:

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

She continued with:

...women need these positions of leadership, not because of the actual amount of dollars, but because of the responsibility, the profile, the prestige, the authority that those positions command...to frame it as a piece of legislation that speaks substantively to the issues of gender equality and cabinet composition is wrong, and it's dangerous.

In response to a question on whether the Prime Minister's claim that the gender-equal cabinet was cynical, she replied, “it's dishonest.”

The Liberal members of the operations committee immediately tried to walk back from the previous statements made by many Liberal MPs in this very place to say that Bill C-24 was not about gender equality. The member for Newmarket—Aurora said, “...I don't think anyone was proposing that this was a gender equity bill.”

The member for Châteauguay—Lacolle tried to submit that Bill C-24 was a good step, until she got beaten back by the expert witness. She then tried to reframe it by asking if the junior ministries were more like emerging ministries. Yes, all ministers are equal, but some are more emerging than others it seems. The member for Don Valley East said that the witness's testimony was disingenuous, because Bill C-24 was nothing about gender equality.

We know that it is not about gender equality, and it is not needed to do anything the government has not already been doing for the last two years, whether it be pay or how it terms cabinet ministers. What is it for? Well, maybe Bill C-24 is all about eliminating the regional economic ministers, such as the minister for western diversification, and moving it all under the purview of the Minister of Innovation, the member for Mississauga—Malton.

I guess the member for Mississauga—Malton leading ACOA or western diversification is good as it allows a whole-of-government approach, we are told. Now, it is a whole-of-government approach of doing nothing for Alberta, as the western diversification minister for Mississauga—Malton sat around doing nothing while unemployment in Alberta reached levels not seen since the NEP, and a whole-of-government approach of turning deaf ears for help within Alberta with the orphaned wells. Where was the whole-of-government approach when dealing with energy east and watching the energy east pipeline get destroyed? Well, the whole-of-government approach was busy handing out subsidies to Bombardier instead of helping out Alberta.

We brought this up in committee, and the leader of the House said:

Regional expertise with national expertise is a way for it to work better together to create a synergy, to take a whole-of-government approach.

Good Lord, what does this mean?

What could we have done instead of looking at this wasteful Bill C-24? Well, we could have been studying useful legislation, such as was tabled in the report from the operations committee for the whistleblower act, which we know needs to be updated.

When we studied the whistleblower act, we heard from many witnesses whose lives had been destroyed by government. It does not matter if it is the current or past government, these people have come forward to do their best for Canadians, for taxpayers, and their lives were destroyed by government for being whistleblowers. The operations committee put together a very good report, which was unanimous, supported by the NDP and the Liberals, that would have brought substantive changes for whistleblower protection in the public service as well as, for the first time, extending it outside the public service to people working on private contracts doing work on government jobs.

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:10 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will begin where I was before I was cut off by our wonderful question period.

I will go back to what had me screaming “serenity now”, which was the quote from the House leader regarding the elimination of the regional economic ministries. She said, “Regional expertise with national expertise is a way for it to work better together to create a synergy, to take a whole-of-government approach.”

At first, I thought this was a bill about nothing. It kind of codifies what the government has already done, which is eliminate the regional offices, such as the western diversification ministry. The government tells us not to worry, that the Minister of Innovation from Mississauga will look after Alberta's needs. However, it is very clear that this is not happening.

In Alberta, since the government has taken over, we have not seen unemployment such as this since the national energy program. In Alberta, we have not seen issues like we are right now with the economy since 1981 with the national energy program. However, on this side of the House, we have put forward some policy suggestions to address this issue. We put forward an Alberta task force.

Normally, in the old days, we could have a regional minister to look after Alberta's interests. Currently, we have three Liberal MPs to do that. We used to have four, but there were issues and one moved on. However, we have three left, and, unfortunately, all three have been as silent as crickets when it comes to defending our energy program.

We put through a motion asking the House to support energy east. The three Liberal MPs sat quiet and did not vote to support energy east. We saw what happened just recently, when energy east was killed by the government. The National Energy Board, under direction of the government, moved back the goal posts time and again. Unlike any other industry in Canada, it was decided that upstream and downstream emissions had to be measured.

We subsidized Bombardier with its wonderful planes, and I hope we finally get the C Series. For Air Canada, if it is listening, I am tired of taking the Embraer E-190 back to Edmonton. Hopefully we will get that C Series soon. However, these are carbon emitting, pollution emitting planes, yet we subsidize them. Recently, we saw money being given to Ford, which makes cars. These cars are not running on pixie dust. They are running on gas, which emits pollution. There is a hypocrisy in that Alberta oil is bad, but pollution emitting industries in Quebec and Ontario are good. This is why we need a western diversification minister from Alberta standing up for Alberta rights.

One of the things we also asked for, but did not get, was money for orphaned wells. I think the PBO has estimated that it will cost about a billion dollars to clean up the orphaned wells. People walked away from developing these wells because of various regulations brought in by the federal government and the rates-monopoly NDP.

What did we get? In committee for estimates, my colleague for Calgary Shepard asked the finance minister about the government giving $30 million to the Alberta government. We asked if this was money from the federal government or if the NDP Government of Alberta asked for it. The finance minister was not even able to answer that question. He was not able to justify why it was only $30 million. He could not even answer why the money was being given. Who asked for the money? Was it a federal government initiative or provincial government initiative? Again, having the regional minister for western diversification based in Mississauga is not doing Alberta any good.

Obviously, this extends to northern gateway. This pipeline would have gone through British Columbia up to the Kitimat area to get our oil to market. It was supported by reams of first nations, cleared by the NEB, counselled by the government. Again, Liberal members from Alberta sat quietly. We have also seen Liberal members in committee for the report on ACOA after these changes, where the waiting time for a response was tripled without a regional minister. It is very clear that having the Minister of Innovation, great guy that he is, no doubt, representing Atlantic provinces, western diversification, northern Ontario, and Quebec is not working despite the government desperately trying to claim that a whole-of-government approach will fix things.

I was talking earlier about the bill, Bill C-24, being about nothing, and what we could have done with this time instead. I mentioned that the operations committee put through a very thorough study, with recommendations, on updating the whistle-blower act.

At committee, we heard horror stories of people's lives being destroyed when they came forward. We heard from Allan Cutler, famous of course for being the whistle-blower who led to the sponsorship scandal under the Chrétien and Paul Martin governments. He was basically run out of town for daring to bring to light that money was being taken from Canadian taxpayers and funnelled through sponsorship agencies to the Liberal government.

We heard of a gentleman, a contractor who was fixing bathrooms in a prison in British Columbia, who discovered asbestos. He brought it forward to the government and he was basically investigated by the government and had his contract taken away. He apparently has now been blacklisted by the government from working on any other jobs for it. This is a gentleman who came forward not only for the protection of his staff, but also the inmates and public workers in the prison. He has been blackballed, his life has been destroyed, and his company has been taken away.

We heard from a lady who worked in the foreign service about 20 years ago. She had brought to light the fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars was being spent in the foreign service. Even though we have perfectly good diplomatic housing, mansions almost, that money was taken away to spend on other apartments, which was a waste of money. Maybe if there were 10 of them we would have had enough to build another ice rink. This was half a million dollars, probably in 1980's dollars, that was wasted. When she brought this forward, the government fired her and destroyed her. It actually sued her for bringing to light government ineptness and corruption.

Therefore, it is very clear we need a strengthening of the whistle-blower act.

What did we end up with? We ended up with a unanimous report. We worked very close with the NDP and our Liberal colleagues. We put together a report. It was widely praised by the who is who of the whistleblowing community in Canada. Ian Bron, Allan Cutler, David Hutton, Joe Friday, the Integrity Commissioner, all stepped forward and said that this great work needed to be followed up.

Unfortunately, what happened was the Treasury Board president took the report and basically threw it in the trash. He sent us a response saying that he agreed with the opinion of the committee, the witnesses' disclosures, and I continue with my Seinfeld theme, yada yada yada, the usual stuff. Then he said that he would not follow up on any of the legislative items. Of the 25 recommendations we put through, I think 15 required legislative change, but the Treasury Board president did not want to do that. Instead, he is going to update a web page and ensure there is a bit more training for supervisors. All the stuff we currently have, which does not protect public servants, he is just going to do a bit more of.

This is interesting as well. He is going to have the head of HR for the Treasury Board follow up a lot more and be a bit more partisan. This same person from HR, who is theoretically the head of all HR for the public service, told us at committee that it was more important for her to protect ADMs and deputy ministers and not actual whistle-blowers. Therefore, we basically have the fox in charge of the hen house in this case.

I bring this up because it is an example of the items we could have looked at instead of Bill C-24. One of the Liberal colleagues at committee asked why we did not follow up with the whistle-blower act. We were told there was no legislative time. However, we have legislative time to look at a bill to codify issues that the government has been operating under for the last two years. We are spending time at committee studying it. We are at third reading today, rushing through things. to study the elimination of the minister for western diversification, which the government has been doing since day one anyway. Why are we wasting our time on a bill about nothing when we could be working on substantial legislation protecting whistle-blowers?

I am going to read a couple of comments from some of the whistle-blowers with respect to the actions of the Treasury Board president.

Allan Cutler, who was the whistle-blower behind the sponsorship scandal about money awarded to Liberal Party-linked ad firms to do no real work and then funnelled back into the Liberal Party, said:

The Committee and the vast majority of witnesses recommended changes. The decision to not take action is the decision to do nothing. It makes all the committee work and testimony meaningless. The question now should be asked, "Why did the government even undertake the review when it knew it would ignore the results?”

Why are we bothering with Bill C-24 when it is codifying stuff that the Liberals are already doing and does not need to be written law, but ignoring whistle-blowers?

The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Joe Friday, commented, “I am disappointed that the Government response to the Committee’s report, tabled in Parliament on Monday, October 16th, proposed no legislative changes”. While he welcomed and supported any and all administrative and operational changes, he was, “disappointed that the opportunity was not taken to make formal legislative changes to improve the whistleblowing system at this time.”

Again, we have witnesses saying that this is important legislation, the gentleman who is s headed the Integrity Commission is saying that, yet the government does nothing. I am sure members on that side of the House are saying, yes, we understand Bill C-24 is a complete waste of time, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, there is a lot wrong with this. It is time that is taken away from proper legislation, such as trying to address issues of whistleblowing and other issues that the government passed by.

I am disappointed. I am sure Canadians who are looking for changes in the whistle-blower act are disappointed as well.

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the member for Edmonton West took the opportunity, in discussing Bill C-24, to launch personal attacks against certain ministers on this side of the House. However, I am glad he has acknowledged that this is not about gender parity or equality. Some of his colleagues on the other side do not share his view, but I will let that division in his caucus remain.

I have two questions for the member. First, does he not believe that equality of voices is important, as well as the portfolios that are represented, and that Bill C-24 would give equality to the voices? Second, if he thinks this legislation is a waste of time, why has he spent the last 20 minutes talking about it?

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry if my hon. colleague disagrees with us pointing out the horrible actions of the sports minister , insulting and attacking people who are suffering from thalidomide, an issue that arose so many years ago, or bringing up the fact that the finance minister is being investigated by the Ethics Commissioner. People from the Liberal government have stated that the bill is about equality. We heard that at committee until the NDP witness, a gender studies professor, told them the bill was dishonest by pushing gender equity.

I fully believe we should have equality of opportunity and I am perfectly fine with a gender balanced cabinet. What I disagree with is that Bill C-24 has been somewhat a bill about nothing. Everything the government is currently doing, whether it is paying ministers of state more, calling them full ministers, or eliminating the various regional minister's roles, has been done since day one.

Why are we taking up all this time when there are so many other more important items that we are not addressing? Again, there is the whistle-blower act. We were told by one the government members that there was no legislative time. Why is the priority codifying issues the government does not need, while ignoring more important legislation?

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. This is a technical bill, and it would fulfill the Prime Minister's commitment to formalize the legislation to ensure that there is a one-tier ministry. As I think we all understand by now, the Salaries Act authorizes payment, out of the consolidated revenue fund, of a ministerial salary to individuals who occupy the positions listed in the act. The act currently lists the positions of prime minister and 34 specific ministries.

When the government took office in November 2015, five of the positions that the Prime Minister wanted in his ministry and in his cabinet were not positions listed in the Salaries Act. That meant they could not be paid for their ministerial responsibilities under the Salaries Act and they could not be supported by the public service in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The five positions are the Minister of La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women. Because the Salaries Act could not accommodate the priorities of the government, the five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act and they are paid under the Appropriation Act. Their legal title is minister of state.

Historically, ministers of state have often been considered as junior ministers. They have not always been members of cabinet and when they have not, they could not bring matters to cabinet for consideration on their own, a cabinet minister had to sponsor them. Ministers of state were most often not given statutory authority to exercise in their own right statutory duties in relation to which they were directly accountable. Instead, they were assigned to assist a senior minister in the carrying out of that minister's responsibilities. The senior minister retained all the statutory authority and accountability. For some prime ministers, that was an arrangement that worked. It was the prerogative of former prime ministers, as it will be the prerogative of future prime ministers, to appoint ministers of state as junior ministers, to assign them as assisting roles only, and to decide whether they would sit as members of cabinet. I am certain that past ministers of state were valued and contributing members of the ministry, but they were not always members of the cabinet and they were not equals of the ministers they assisted.

It is the prerogative of the prime minister to decide on the organization, procedures, and composition of cabinet, shaping it to reflect the priorities and values of the government and to respond to the particular needs of citizens. This Prime Minister has created a ministry in which all members have leading roles to deliver on important priorities. They have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them and are full members of cabinet, and are fully and appropriately supported in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The Ministries and Minister of State Act provided a way for five of the ministers to be appointed, paid, and supported by existing departments in carrying out their responsibilities until legislation could be updated to accurately reflect the structure of the current ministry. Bill C-24 is that update. It would formalize in legislation the current ministerial structure and would do away with distracting administrative decisions.

Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments. It bears repeating the important issues that the individuals appointed to these five positions are working on: preserving the respect of the francophone world; helping small businesses and tourism; supporting scientific research and making sure that scientific considerations inform the government's policy and funding choices; promoting healthier Canadians through sport and ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities; and working to build a society where women and girls no longer face systemic barriers. These ministries have been assigned statutory responsibilities including responsibilities for important federal organizations, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Destination Canada, and Status of Women Canada.

These ministers are responsible for legislation and program delivery related to matters as diverse and important as science research funding, small business financing, and individuals with disabilities. These responsibilities are vested directly in the ministers, and they are accountable for their results. These issues are important to the government and to Canadians. This is why ministers have been assigned to lead on them, and why those ministers have seats at the cabinet table with equal voices.

Bill C-24 also adds three untitled positions to the Salaries Act. These positions are not filled in the current ministry. They will provide a degree of flexibility for this Prime Minister and future prime ministers to design their ministries to respond to the priorities of the day. This bill is not about growing the ministry. The current ministry has not grown in numbers since it was sworn in two years ago. At 31 members in total, it is below the limit of 35 that the Salaries Act sets now.

Bill C-24 would also remove the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act. This amendment would not dissolve or consolidate the regional development agencies. It would not diminish their importance. It would not mean the ministerial oversight would be gone. The regional development agencies would continue to exist in the regions they serve. They are essential delivery partners in the government's plan to foster economic growth, and they will continue to work with local communities and economic development organizations to promote local growth.

There is nothing novel about not listing these positions in the Salaries Act. Four of the regional development agencies existed for many years before associated ministerial positions were added to the Salaries Act, and that in no way affected the operations of the agencies or the appointment of ministers to be responsible for them. Ministerial oversight of the regional development agencies would still be required by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. He is responsible for all six regional development agencies.

Bill C-24 makes another change to the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act. It amends the title of Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs by dropping the reference to intergovernmental affairs. The Minister of Infrastructure and Communities does not have overall responsibility for federal, provincial, and territorial relations. The Prime Minister has taken on that role. The change in the title avoids further confusion.

Bill C-24 does not dissolve or create any new departments. Instead, it establishes a framework that allows the Governor in Council to designate any department or departments to support the new Salaries Act ministers in carrying out some of or all of their responsibilities. That means that the new Salaries Act ministers will have access to the expertise and the experience of the department, the best place to support them.

Much has been made about the fact that no new departments are being created for new ministers. Presiding over a department is not a necessary feature of being a minister. The ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and International Development and La Francophonie all use the facilities and resources in a single department, Global Affairs Canada. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour both rely on the resources and facilities of the department of Employment and Social Development Canada in the carrying out of their responsibilities. This is a proven and efficient way to work.

Bill C-24 generates no incremental costs with respect to the current ministry. The ministers currently appointed as ministers of state receive the same salary as their cabinet colleagues, and have office budgets that match their responsibilities. Bill C-24 does not change that. The legislation increases the number of ministerial positions that could potentially be paid under the Salaries Act by two, from 35 to 37, including the position of Prime Minister.

Ministers currently receive additional remuneration of $82,600 a year for their ministerial duties. If all 37 Salaries Act positions were filled by separate individuals, the total incremental cost would be $165,200 a year. We are below the limit now. The current ministry is composed of the Prime Minister and 30 ministers. As I mentioned earlier, the ministry has not grown since its swearing in on November 4, 2015.

Bill C-24 would also have the consequential effect of increasing the number of parliamentary secretaries that may be appointed by two, from 35 to 37. There are currently 35 parliamentary secretaries, and if the two additional positions were filled, the total incremental cost would be $34,000 a year.

I began my remarks by saying that this was a technical bill. Let us summarize for everyone in the House.

Bill C-24 would amend the Salaries Act by adding eight new ministerial positions, five of which are currently minister of state appointments and three of which would be untitled, and therefore, flexible. It would remove the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act without affecting the status of regional development agencies themselves, for a total increase of two positions that would be paid ministerial salaries out of the consolidated revenue fund. It would create a framework within which any of the eight new ministerial positions could be supported fully and appropriately by existing departments. It would change the title of the minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs in the Salaries Act to the minister of infrastructure and communities, and it would amend the Financial Administration Act to change the title where it appears in that statute to better reflect the responsibilities of the position.

I hope we can all agree that this bill is worth supporting.

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Calgary Shepard for the question and for his passion for those in cabinet and those working hard to join it.

Bill C-24 would ensure that we have legislation in place. It is very much a technical bill, as I said, to ensure that all cabinet ministers are treated equally. Our government was elected on a pledge of ensuring that we would have gender parity in cabinet and that all cabinet ministers would have equal roles, responsibilities, and, most important, accountability. The incremental cost would be minimal to ensure that ministers had the resources to deliver for Canadians.

Ministers are delivering for Canadians. That is why the opposition is so frustrated on a daily basis. We have created 600,000 jobs in this economy in two years. We have the fastest growing GDP in the G7. We have an unemployment rate that has gone from 7.2% to 5.9%. I understand my colleague's frustration.

This bill is a technical bill that is going to ensure that ministers have the responsibilities, resources, and accountability that goes with their portfolios.

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the member for Brampton East on his apparent knowledge of the bill and to somewhat probe that extensive knowledge of Bill C-24 and the Salaries Act.

One of the things he mentioned about the problem with ministers of state was that the government was not able to pay them under the Salaries Act and that they were not capable of being resourced by the public service to the extent other ministers are.

Given the member's familiarity with the act, I am sure he will know that ministers of state who are supported by a ministry of state, which is another cabinet-making tool of the Prime Minister, are actually mentioned in the Salaries Act. They are actually required by law to be paid the same as full ministers. Ministries of state essentially act as departments responsible to those ministers of state, a situation that would actually afford them more independence than the Minister of International Trade has from the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

With respect to the goal of creating a one-tier cabinet and properly resourcing ministers of state, would it not have been a more effective option to establish these ministers of state with a ministry of state? In that case, they would be paid the same under the existing Salaries Act, before Bill C-24, and would be resourced appropriately from the public service, while maintaining their independence as ministers,

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very technical question. The crux of Bill C-24 is very much to ensure that all cabinet ministers are equal. What the bill would do is ensure that all ministers have the resources, responsibilities, and independence to bring issues to cabinet.

They are full cabinet ministers. The fact that they are using the same resources is an efficiency. It is a proven model that has worked.

I can give the member an example. The Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, and the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development are all sourced out of the department of economic development. It is a great model to ensure that all three ministers, through Bill C-24, would be able to be paid and would be able to share these resources.

This is very much a technical bill to ensure that going forward, prime ministers would have the flexibility to change the types of ministries they need to serve Canadians. As we have a rapidly growing economy, this kind of flexibility will be needed by future prime ministers. That is what this bill would do.

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December 12th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with the intention of speaking about Bill C-24, which would formalize in statute the one-tier ministry of this government. We are ensuring, through this bill, that the current and future governments will have the flexibility required to meet their commitments to Canadians.

As we know, the government introduced this bill to amend the Salaries Act on September 27, 2016.

The Salaries Act authorizes the payments out of the consolidated revenue fund of a ministerial salary to individuals who have been appointed to ministerial positions listed in the act. There are currently 35 ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act, including the position of prime minister. The Salaries Act was first introduced into statute in 1868 as “An Act respecting the Governor General, the Civil List, and the Salaries of certain Public Functionaries.”

This act has changed countless times throughout our country's history, modified always with the intention to align with the priorities of the government of the day and each prime minister's preferences in how he or she composes the ministry. Our change in Bill C-24 is hardly new. In the last dozen years, we saw legislation to amend the list of ministries in the Salaries Act three times. It was enacted in 2005, 2012, and of course, 2013.

I would now like to take the opportunity to summarize the proposed changes that Bill C-24 would bring to the Salaries Act. First, the legislation would provide for including in the Salaries Act the five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments, thereby doing away with the administrative distinctions this government has had to employ under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act.

Previous cabinets have seen ministers of state considered to be junior ministers because previous prime ministers have determined that such ministers of state should be appointed to assist other ministers with their portfolio responsibilities. Our current context does not agree or find this way of thinking to be operational or suitable. Our Prime Minister's intention has been to create a one-tier cabinet, and the distinction of ministers of state as junior ministers fails to reflect the importance of the subject matters at issue, as well as the value of equality that this government holds in the highest esteem.

The five new ministerial positions to be added to the Salaries Act are minister of la Francophonie, minister of small business and tourism, minister of science, minister of status of women, and minister of sport and persons with disabilities. The five ministers will continue to advance the priorities of the government that were established by the Prime Minister and set out in their mandate letters and legal instruments. These are important positions, with roles and responsibilities becoming of full ministers.

The minister of la Francophonie pursues Canada's strong and sustained commitment to all 80 member states and governments of la Francophonie. Together, these constitute more than one-third of the United Nations' membership and account for a population of more than 890 million people worldwide, including 220 million French speakers.

The minister of science plays the key role of ensuring that Canada is competitive in the global knowledge-based economy through being responsible for supporting scientific research and integrating scientific considerations into the government's investments and policy choices. The minister is also responsible for portfolio organizations, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. Furthermore, the minister of science is the lead minister for a number of science-related funding programs, including the Canada research chairs. Our government holds innovation as a key priority, and it is through scientific innovation that we will continue to build an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and prosperous.

The minister of sport and persons with disabilities works to promote healthier Canadians through sport and recreation and, further, is responsible for work that ensures greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities. The current minister has been tasked with developing legislation to transform how the Government of Canada addresses accessibility. The minister leads on a number of important funding programs, including the enabling accessibility fund and the opportunities fund for persons with disabilities, and is responsible for the Canada Disability Savings Act.

The minister of status of women champions equality, addresses issues of gender-based violence, advances the prosperity and economic security of women, and works to increase the representation of women in leadership and decision-making roles. The minister presides over the federal department known as Status of Women Canada and is involved in key projects such as gender-based analysis to guide government policy-making decisions and budgets.

In her role as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the current minister supports Canada's small businesses, the backbone of our economy, by helping them to grow through trade and innovation in order to create jobs, support communities, and launch world-class companies. She is also working to grow Canada's tourism industries by promoting Canada as a world-class destination for international tourists. She is, furthermore, the minister responsible for Destination Canada.

As we see, these portfolios are important to our economy, to Canadians, and to the government. Formalizing the status of these five appointments as ministers in full standing reflects the importance of these five positions and the expectations placed on their incumbents. Once these positions are added to the Salaries Act with the adoption of Bill C-24, the orders in council that assign these ministers to assist other ministers would be repealed and these ministers would be in law what they already are in practice, which is full ministers.

I would be remiss if I were not to mention the key issue of cost. The enactment of Bill C-24 would not change the cost of the current ministry. All that would change are the payment mechanisms. Ministers whose positions are listed in the Salaries Act receive their ministerial salary under the authority of that statute and out of the consolidated revenue fund. Ministers appointed under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act receive their salary under the appropriations acts. That has been the legislative framework for more than two decades, but once Bill C-24 is passed, the former ministers of state would be appointed to the new Salaries Act positions and be paid under the authority of that act.

The Prime Minister's ministerial team already receive the same ministerial salary, regardless of the administrative distinctions of ministers and ministers of state. This equal pay has been the case since our first day in office, and we will not change this through the enactment of the bill.

Bill C-24 further provides the framework to permit these ministers to continue to be supported by existing departments in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The bill does not propose the creation of any new departments, but rather streamlines the responsivity of existing departments to these ministers.

I would like to further note that Bill C-24 would increase the number of ministers who could potentially be paid a ministerial salary under the Salaries Act from 35 to 37 including the Prime Minister, representing an increase of two ministerial positions that could be paid out of the consolidated revenue fund.

The bill would also have the consequential effect of increasing by two the number of parliamentary secretaries who could be appointed under the Parliament of Canada Act. Let me point out, however, that even before bringing forth the bill to the House, the Prime Minister currently has 34 ministerial positions available to him under the Salaries Act but has appointed only 30 individuals to the ministry. The bill is not fundamentally aimed at growing the ministry. Its goal is to formalize in legislation the government's current one-tier ministry and to modernize the act to enable more flexible and more adaptable ministries in the future.

We are not just concerned with addressing our government's priorities in the immediate term through the amendments in Bill C-24. Rather, we want to ensure that future ministries can be best equipped with all the necessary tools to be structured in ways to meet the emerging priorities of the time. By adding three untitled ministerial positions to the Salaries Act, Bill C-24 would enhance the flexibility of government. Such positions would be titled at the discretion of the prime minister, to be based upon the priorities of the time, whatever those may be. In this way, the prime minister can adjust his or her cabinet and its positions to respond to changing priorities or challenges facing the country.

The alignment of all regional development agencies under one portfolio, especially under the minister responsible for national economic development, is another example of this.

One of our government's priorities has been to see regional and national expertise working together under one roof. We have done so to create better synergy and opportunities for greater economic progress, and this coherent whole-of-government approach to regional development provides the flexibility needed to make a real impact in communities right across Canada.

The regional development agencies will continue to fulfill their mandates of supporting small and medium-size enterprises in becoming more innovative, productive, and export-oriented. They will continue to work with communities and economic development organizations to identify and generate opportunities for local economic growth.

The regional development agencies will continue to provide excellent programs and services to entrepreneurs and communities right across the country, building on the distinct competitive regional advantages that exist in different communities.

Working together, the regional agencies will enhance cohesion between them and help grow the economy and deliver results to Canadians in all regions of the country. The important role, which economic development plays across Canada's regions, is only strengthened and highlighted by having the regional agencies all report to Parliament through the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

Finally, the legislation would also change the legal title of the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental affairs to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, to reflect the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of intergovernmental affairs minister himself.

These changes formalize what has already been the practice of the past two years. The Prime Minister's cabinet is one tier. We have taken all the non-legislative steps available to us to recognize this. These amendments address an administrative constraint in the current legislation and catch it up with the structure of the ministry as it operates today.

I would like to end my remarks with a nod to history. As we are all proudly aware, Canadians across this country have been celebrating a very special milestone this year, the 150th anniversary of Confederation. A century and a half ago, the Fathers of Confederation gathered to create something very special, something we all cherish.

As the story goes, upon arriving at the Charlottetown Conference in 1864, future prime minister John A. Macdonald was checking into a hotel. The ledger presented to him for registration included a column asking for occupation. Rather than write lawyer, he picked up the fountain pen and he wrote cabinetmaker. It was a joke, but at the time a very prescient one, because upon assuming the role of Canada's first prime minister he acknowledged that one of his most significant challenges would be to bring the right people to the cabinet table to help the fledgling country find its feet. As former prime minister Macdonald liked to tell people, cabinets do not just happen; cabinets are constructed. Over the years, that construction has taken different forms.

In 1867, there were just 14 ministers around the cabinet table, 14 men from relatively similar walks of life. They were responsible for portfolios such as militia and defence, inland revenue, and the post office. One hundred and fifty years later, we have a diverse, accomplished, gender-balanced cabinet working on so many important priorities for Canadians, and that cabinet reflects the diversity of Canada. Let us get on with enacting this bill and putting behind us any question that others might have had about the importance of these mandates or the status of these ministers who are leading on these files and others.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that one of the main themes for the government with respect to this bill is the idea of a one-tier ministry. It keeps coming up. We have tried and I have tried in various stages of debate on the bill to try to figure out what exactly that means and what the relevant sense of equal is for the government when the Liberals talk about a one-tier ministry. It seems to be an important principle for them. If the idea of all cabinet ministers being equal at the table is a really important and motivating idea for the government, why would Bill C-24 leave ministers of state in the legislation? If ministers of state are objectionable in principle because they create two tiers, why are they left in the legislation? Why is it that the Department of Global Affairs continues to be defined in a hierarchy, and puts the minister of foreign affairs above the ministers of international trade and international aid, who can only act with the concurrence of the minister of foreign affairs?

Why is it that Bill C-24 would create two types of minister, a minister for whom a department is designated and a minister, full stop? If the idea of Bill C-24 is to create one tier of ministry, would it not make more sense to be reducing the taxonomy of ministers as opposed to expanding it? I just am looking, finally at third reading, at some of the last speeches on the bill to get some clarity as to how it is that a bill that is supposed to be promoting one tier leaves so many hierarchical relationships between ministers and actually creates mechanisms to produce more.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again join the debate on this bill, one that I believe we started back in June.

Before I continue, I just want to say merry Christmas to the pages, the table officers, all members of Parliament, as well as the PPS service who keep us safe in this House, and all of those in the administration. I may not get a chance to say it another time, if another bill is brought forward and I am not recognized to speak to it, so merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to all, and a good night to all.

I have been listening to the debate so far, and the member for Elmwood—Transcona raised a couple of good points on the technical side of this bill. The government keeps saying that these are all just technical changes and will not cost more money, but lead to more synergy, to more all-of-government decision-making, like the changes to small business taxation and electoral reform, I might add, and many other issues the government has just fizzled out on and completely dropped the ball on.

Indeed, we heard from the Liberal member for Brampton East, whom I served with on the finance committee, that it is all technical and that there is nothing to see here, that it is an easy bill that should pass right away.

I have repeatedly said to members that we should be trying to save some money by lowering the pay of all cabinet ministers down to the pay of a minister of state. That would reach all of the stated goals put forward by the government thus far.

On that, the argument on the government side has changed over time. That is one of the great misfortunes that members on that side have borne in defending this bill. “Misfortune binds together” is a Yiddish proverb that comes to mind. I think it very much applies here.

I also want to mention that I will be splitting my time with the member for Brandon—Souris. I do not want to rob him of his opportunity to make a contribution to the debate here, as well.

It is the government's misfortune that the argument has changed. Its initial argument framed in terms of equity lends itself easily as well to the argument that we should lower everyone's pay because everyone is equal, and then we can move on. If the argument is about the technical side of it, then every single order in council passed by the Governor General with the recommendation put forward by the Prime Minister has to be redone.

I will just refer to one here, dealing with the minister of state to be styled the minister of la francophonie. It is stated in the order in council that the new minister is to assist the Minister of Foreign affairs in carrying out that minister's responsibilities, effective November 4, 2015, two years ago now.

The government has gone to great lengths and pains to try to explain that this is only technical fix for something that happened maybe two years ago and that there is really nothing to see here. However, that is exactly the point. What we should be debating are issues that actually impact Canadians directly, not a Christmas salary increase for cabinet ministers.

We should be talking about small business taxation. It will be interesting to see what the actual rules will be that small business owners will have to live by starting January 1. We could delve further into the disability tax credit, and find out more about what exactly happened in the department in that regard. The minister has claimed repeatedly in this House that nothing changed, that there was no policy direction given, that nothing new had happened. Now, last week, we saw the government reversing to a previous position. What changed? That would be an interesting debate to have in this chamber.

We could also perhaps debate more globally the general financial, fiscal, public budget process. We heard the member for Spadina—Fort York, I believe it was, claim that the government has been lowering Canadians' taxes, but it has not done that. The Liberals lowered taxes for every single member of Parliament, but not for the vast majority of Canadians. The way that tax brackets work is that people have to maximize their presence in their bracket. They have to earn almost $90,000 before getting the full value of that 1.5% deduction. Every single member of Parliament got the full value. We got the biggest tax reduction. Merry Christmas to us, courtesy of the Government of Canada.

Now the government has raised carbon taxes and payroll taxes and nickel-and-dimed Canadians. In fact, the Fraser Institute has done studies on this, showing that the average Canadian family is paying $800 more in taxes than before. There is not an actual tax reduction. It is something completely different. However, here we are, debating Bill C-24, a tax hike on Canadians, who will pay more to finance these salary increases. We already have a $20 billion deficit that we are running.

My simple question has been repeated to members on the opposite side. Why do we not just reduce the pay of cabinet ministers down to the pay of ministers of state? I think we would find a great deal of support for that, especially on this side, and I daresay perhaps the New Democrats would join us in supporting that.

It would achieve the initial goal, the first argument the government made when the bill was tabled, which is equity, that all ministers would be treated equally, with equal pay for equal work.

From my time in human resources, I know in the province of Alberta there really is no great issue. For the longest time in Alberta, we were just happy to get someone who had the qualifications to do the job. There was great desperation. We would take anyone from across Canada, the United States, anywhere in the world. It did not matter who they were, or where they were from, as long as they could do the job safely, efficiently, and effectively, to maximize the value they brought to the organizations they were working in.

Two years into this mandate and the government has not really succeeded in the construction of these pipelines that are so important to the province of Alberta. We have approvals on the table, but we still have political issues with getting them constructed. The private corporations that have to build them are still struggling. There is still a lot of uncertainty in the market.

However, here we are debating a salary increase for cabinet ministers, instead of debating the great issues of the day. This chamber was built for debating the great issues of the day, not salary increases for cabinet ministers, a mere two weeks before Christmas. That is the wrong approach.

The government decides what we debate. It decides the issues of the day. It gets to put forth legislation and then decide which bills we will debate. Now, we are here debating Bill C-24, to amend the Salaries Act, and give pay increases to cabinet ministers. As I said, if the stated initial goal was equity, we could have lowered everyone's pay and moved on to something else.

I hear an argument being made now that it is a technical amendment that would allow ministers to work better together. Then every single order in council is going to have to be amended once again. Titles are not how decisions are made. When ministers sit around the table they do not look at each other's titles and say, “You have a more important title, so we'll listen to you more than another person”. At the end of the day, it rests on the leadership of the prime minister to choose between the different options and the best arguments made at the table. Titles do not matter.

From my time working in human resources, that was the thing I heard the most from directors of human resources in various organizations. They repeatedly said that titles do not matter. It is what they bring to the table, their ideas, their arguments, the work they have put in before coming to the table to make a decision.

What the government is saying is that some ministers, in its own government, are unable to do their jobs if they do not get a salary increase and a title bump. That sounds ridiculous to me. It does not even sound reasonable. That is an issue internal to the cabinet then, if they are unable to make decisions without looking at each other's titles. Perhaps we could pass a piece of legislation that removes all of their titles. Perhaps we could create a system by which no minister would know what another minister is saying without being able to ascribe to them a particular argument. It would go to the ridiculous, but so is debating this legislation, a pay hike for cabinet ministers, ahead of Christmas.

It is not about the status of different ministries, because we know this legislation would create three new ministers. Ministers can be appointed without portfolio. A minister's role in not necessarily connected to the department they oversee, serve with, or direct. Ministers have been appointed in the House before with no portfolio. The two issues are completely separate. The title of a minister, the functions they fulfill, are not necessarily dependent on their ministry. Likewise, neither should their salary be dependent on it.

If we want to go a step further, perhaps we could introduce a pay for performance. That would probably be the best system we could have. Certain ministers have performed well. Others have performed abysmally, especially the Minister of Finance.

The addition of these three new ministers also lends itself to my final argument. If the government is looking for ideas on what types of ministers to appoint, let me suggest a minister for seniors. The government took that away. It was a priority of the previous Conservative government. At the time it had a minister for seniors. We do not have that right now. When I held a round table in my riding with widows and seniors, all women, the number one issue for them was they did not have a champion in government. They said it was difficult for them to manoeuvre through government bureaucracy, to figure out what types of benefits they and their spouses were entitled to.

Bill C-24 will undoubtedly pass in the House. It is a great mistake. We have done a disservice to Parliament to be debating this legislation ahead of Christmas when we should have been debating the great issues of the day, issues such as reducing the deficit, paying down the national debt, and ensuring that the next generation is not saddled with unnecessary debt.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 4:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-24 this afternoon in the House.

I want to thank my colleagues for the fine work they have done this afternoon in speaking to this bill, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

I will start, as my colleague from southeast Calgary just did, by saying that as we near the end of the session sometime this week, I want to wish a merry Christmas and happy new year to everyone in my constituency, as well as all Canadians, all members of the House, and the support teams who keep us safe and work for us on a daily basis in the House.

It is pretty important that opposition members speak out about what we hear in our communities and parts of rural Canada. My colleagues from urban areas have spoken on this already. The government has now brought forward a bill that would create eight new Liberal ministerial positions. A number of my constituents wrote to me and called me to indicate that they do not want me to support this bill. I will provide several reasons. One of them is what I just said, the eight new Liberal ministerial positions being formed, five of them being ministers of state roles filled in the 2015 election, plus three Liberal ministers yet to be named. It is a bit of a stretch, but I will get to that later.

Bill C-24 would also amend the Salaries Act to allow for equal pay for all ministers, ensuring that ministers with more junior portfolios are paid the same as ministers with larger and more senior positions. I have always felt there should be equal pay for equal work involved in all ministers' portfolios, but, as described by the government itself, junior ministers do not have the same responsibilities as senior ministers because they do not have any new responsibilities. It is a bit of an oxymoron for the government to want to provide someone with more salary, but not expect the person to do any more work than what was being done in the junior minister position. That is one of the clearer drawbacks in this bill.

There were five ministers of state in the House for a number of years, but they were paid at a different level. This bill would create three new ministerial positions. The Prime Minister could obviously have put new ministers in place when he announced his cabinet in the first place, and Canadians question why he would have to put that clause in a bill like this.

I had experience with regional development agencies when I was in provincial politics and as a farm leader, before I became a federal MP four years ago. The government has placed the responsibilities of six former ministers in the hands of one minister, who is in Mississauga in this case, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. I am all for innovation, but feel strongly that innovation should, at least in a supportive manner, go to regional ministers that we had for development. My colleague from southeast Calgary has indicated that western economic diversification was one of those portfolios. That situation was adept in having action on the ground. When there are ministers in various parts of Canada, as I said earlier in my question, we do not necessarily end up with a minister in every province, but certainly one in each of the regions in Canada. I believe we would have British Columbia, the Prairies, Ontario and Quebec, and the Atlantic provinces.

They would be much more in tune with the things that are happening in their areas by having someone designated strictly for that. That would be their responsibility. It would be a full-time job in those areas, but the government has indicated that those roles were not as demanding as some areas.

There is concern about our finance minister these days and his credibility. I believe that many of the portfolios, such as international trade, are the things Canada is known for on the international stage. We had a government that had great credibility in finance, under former finance minister Jim Flaherty. I would like to point that out as an example of how when governments change, credibility can be undermined as well.

We need to be very careful when we are looking at the establishment of new ministries, as the government has done, and then saying that it will develop three new ministers. It does not know what they are going to do yet. There are no portfolios, but it has put them in the bill. As I pointed out earlier, it did not need to have those in the bill.

The Liberal dominated committee that studied Bill C-24 did not hear from a single witness about the plan to scrap these regional development ministers. It was not an acceptable kind of politics. That was the government's claim. If the reason it is pulling this back is that it did not like the politics, the Liberals may want to listen to some of their own colleagues and the things they have said about the bill. A lot of the Atlantic folks in ACOA were upset when this portfolio was taken over by one minister in Mississauga. A number of them spoke out. I quote from a committee report:

Generally, centralized decision-making is viewed unfavourably as impeding the agility of programs. The Subcommittee was asked to advocate for regional decision-making in order to better address regional needs.

The subcommittee of the Atlantic members caucus came together, and this was one of the recommendations. This comes from a May 15, 2017, report:

Long processing times dilute business growth, and create inefficiency and uncertainty.

Some businesses have had to obtain bridge funding while waiting for ACOA funds. These circumstances are disruptive to business development.

We have certainly seen how the government has been very disruptive to business development. It has provided uncertainty. There are only 20 days left to the end of the year. The Liberals backtracked all fall on the small business taxes they announced in mid-July. They tried to hoodwink people into thinking they were actually going to do something for small businesses, when all they are really going to do is the same thing they did with the Conservatives' climate change plan. It was so bad, they adopted it as their own. I believe we had strength in that plan.

We had strength in our economic plan. We had strength in the development of our small business plan to reduce taxes to 9%. This is a government that said it would do that, but it froze them in its very first budget at 10.5%. Now it is coming out after a lot of pressure not just from us but from the public, opposition members, our colleagues in the New Democratic Party, and others as well. The Liberals finally realized that they had to further emphasize the work that was still needed to make sure that they did not negatively impact small businesses in Canada any more than they already have. What they have done is leave complete uncertainty, three weeks before the implementation date of January 1, 2018, about the small business tax.

I want to close by saying that there is a complete lack of transparency. Having three future mystery ministers is unacceptable. There is a need to create ministerial equality in these roles, but it has to come with the performance of the ministries that are being asked to do this.

I will leave it at that. It is unheard of for a government to give lip service about wanting to improve these areas and then demonstrating a complete lack of accountability when it comes to the implementation of a number of these bills, such as licensing marijuana, never mind not having looked at the accountability and the enforcement of it. It was the same thing with the small business tax.

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December 12th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the truth of the matter with respect to Bill C-24 is this. Two years ago, the Liberal government decided they were going to do what they wanted to do and remove the six economic development ministers, to instead pay the junior ministers the same as the senior ministers without any parliamentary oversight whatsoever, showing a total disdain for this House. This bill, then, is just trying to cover up what they did two years ago.

It is very insulting to come to this place and see the disregard of the Liberal government for parliamentary process. Could the member comment?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 12th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. This is a technical bill that would fulfill the Prime Minister's commitment to formalize in legislation his one-tier ministry.

As I think we all understand by now, the Salaries Act authorizes payment from the consolidated revenue fund of a ministerial salary to individuals who occupy the positions listed in the act. The act currently lists the position of prime minister and 34 specific ministers.

When the government took office in November 2015, five of the positions the Prime Minister wanted in his ministry and in his cabinet were not listed in the Salaries Act. This meant that they could not be paid for their ministerial responsibilities under the Salaries Act, and they could not be supported by the public service in carrying out their responsibilities. Those five positions are the minister of la Francophonie, the minister of science, the minister of small business and tourism, the minister of sport and persons with disabilities, and the minister of status of women.

Because the Salaries Act could not accommodate those priorities of the government, the five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act, and they are paid under appropriation acts. Their legal title is “minister of state”.

Historically, ministers of state have often been considered junior ministers. They have not always been members of cabinet, and when they were not, they could not bring matters to cabinet for consideration on their own. A cabinet minister had to sponsor the item for them.

Ministers of state were most often not given statutory authorities to exercise in their own right or statutory duties in relation to which they were directly accountable. Instead, they were assigned to assist a senior minister in carrying out the minister's responsibilities. The senior minister retained all the statutory authorities and accountabilities.

For some prime ministers, that was an arrangement that worked. It was the prerogative of the former prime ministers, as it will be the prerogative of future prime ministers, to appoint ministers of state as junior ministers, to assign them assisting roles only, and to decide whether they could sit as members of cabinet. I am certain that past ministers of state were valued and contributing members of the ministry, but they were not always members of cabinet, and they were not the equals of the ministers they assisted.

It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to decide on the organization, procedures, and composition of cabinet and to shape it to reflect the priorities and values of the government and to respond to particular needs of citizens. The Prime Minister has created a ministry in which all members have leading roles to deliver on important priorities. They have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them. They are all full members of cabinet, and they are all fully and appropriately supported in carrying out their responsibilities.

The Ministries and Ministers of State Act provided a way for five of the ministers to be appointed, paid, and supported by existing departments in carrying out their responsibilities until legislation could be updated to accurately reflect the structure of the current ministry. Bill C-24 is that update. It would formalize in legislation the current ministerial structure and would do away with distracting administrative distinctions.

Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments. It bears repeating the important issues and the individuals appointed to these five positions.

They are preserving the vitality of the francophone world; helping small business and tourism; supporting scientific research and making sure that scientific considerations inform the government's policy and funding choices; promoting healthier Canadians through sport, and ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities; and working to build a society where women and girls no longer face systemic barriers.

These ministers have been assigned statutory responsibilities, including responsibilities for important federal organizations, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Destination Canada, and Status of Women Canada. These ministers are responsible for legislation and program delivery related to matters as diverse and important as science research funding, small business financing, and disabilities. These responsibilities are vested directly in the ministers, who are accountable for the results.

These issues are important to the government and to Canadians. That is why ministers have been assigned to lead on them and why those ministers have a seat at the cabinet table and an equal voice there.

Bill C-24 also adds three untitled positions to the Salaries Act. These positions are not filled in the current ministry. They will provide a degree of flexibility for this Prime Minister and future prime ministers to design their ministries to respond to the priorities of the day. This bill is not about growing the ministry. The current ministry has not grown in number since it was sworn in two years ago. At 31 members in total, it is below the limit of 35 that the Salaries Act sets now.

Bill C-24 would also remove the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act. This amendment would not dissolve or consolidate the regional development agencies. It would not diminish their importance. It would not remove ministerial oversight. The regional development agencies would continue to exist in the regions they serve. They are essential delivery partners in the government's plan to foster economic growth, and they would continue to work with local communities and economic development organizations to promote local growth.

There is nothing novel about not listing these positions in the Salaries Act. Four of the regional development agencies existed for many years before the associated ministerial positions were added to the Salaries Act, and that in no way affected the operation of the agencies or the appointment of ministers to be responsible for them. Ministerial oversight of the regional development agencies will still be required. The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development is responsible for all six regional development agencies.

Bill C-24 makes another change to the list of ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act. It amends the title of the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs by dropping the reference to intergovernmental affairs. The Minister of Infrastructure and Communities does not have overall responsibility for the federal, provincial, and territorial relations. The Prime Minister has taken on this role. The change in title avoids confusion.

Bill C-24 does not dissolve or create any new departments. Instead, it establishes a framework that allows the governor in council to designate any department or departments to support these new Salaries Act ministers in carrying out some of their responsibilities. That means that the new Salaries Act ministers will have access to the expertise and experience of the departments best placed to support them.

Much has been made about the fact that no new departments are being created for the new ministers. Presiding over a department is not a necessary feature of being a minister. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Trade, and Minister of International Development and La Francophonie all use the facilities and resources of a single department, Global Affairs Canada.

The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour both rely on the resources and facilities of the department of Employment and Social Development in carrying out of their responsibilities. This is a proven and efficient way to work.

Bill C-24 generates no incremental costs with respect to the current ministry. The ministers currently appointed as minister of state receive the same salary as their cabinet colleagues and will have office budgets that match their responsibilities. Bill C-24 does not change that.

The legislation would increase the number of ministerial positions that could potentially be paid under the Salaries Act by two, from 35 to 37, including the position of the Prime Minister. The current ministry is composed of the Prime Minister and 30 ministers. As I mentioned earlier, the ministry has not grown since its swearing-in on November 4, 2015. Bill C-24 also has the consequential effect of increasing the number of parliamentary secretaries that may be appointed by two. That would be from 35 to 37.

I began my remarks by saying that this was a technical bill. Let me summarize.

Bill C-24 would amend the Salaries Act by adding eight new ministerial positions to the act, five of which are currently minister of state appointments and three of which are untitled and therefore flexible; removing the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act, without affecting the status of the regional development agencies themselves, for a total increase of two positions that may be paid a ministerial salary out of the consolidated revenue fund; creating a framework within which any of the eight new ministerial positions could be supported fully and appropriately by existing departments; and changing the Salaries Act title of the Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, and amending the Financial Administration Act to change that title where it appears in that statute to better reflect the responsibilities of the position.

I hope that we can all agree that this bill is worth supporting.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

She went on to say:

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]

Niwakoma cuntik Tansai Nemeaytane Awapantitok.

[English]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

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

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

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

She went on to say:

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Michael Chong Conservative Wellington—Halton Hills, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be opposing the bill.

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Vance Badawey Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

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

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

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

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

Currently, five ministers would be directly impacted by this legislation, which proposes to make their positions full minister positions. Those ministers are the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women. This would simply formalize what the Prime Minister put in place on day one.

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

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

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

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

Under the current act, the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women are all considered to be ministers of state. Bill C-24 proposes to add five ministerial positions to replace the current ministers of state appointments.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Once again, there is progress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Alain Rayes Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / noon
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Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Matt DeCourcey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Mark Warawa Conservative Langley—Aldergrove, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Kyle Peterson Liberal Newmarket—Aurora, ON

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

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

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

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

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

La francophonie is another ministry that is being elevated.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I urge all members to support—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Questions

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Employment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is certainly not a ringing endorsement.

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Madam Speaker, it is an absolute honour for me to stand on behalf of the residents of Davenport and speak on Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

As this will probably will be one of my last times to address this House this year, I want to wish everybody in this House a happy holiday, a very Merry Christmas, or whatever members celebrate in this wonderful holiday season.

For those watching at home, whether now or in the future, I want to make sure everybody is clear on what I am talking about on Bill C-24.

The changes being proposed to the Salaries Act would formalize the equality of all members of cabinet and modernize the act to allow for more flexibility. The current act allows for 35 cabinet positions, including the position of the prime minister. The bill would amend the act to include five additional titled cabinet positions, which are the minister of la Francophonie, minister of small business and tourism, minister of science, minister of status of women, and minister of sport and persons with disabilities.

The bill would also add three new untitled positions to provide flexibility to structure future ministries to reflect the priorities of the government without resorting to minister of state appointments. These changes would not impact the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. Minister of state appointments would remain an option at the discretion of the prime minister. As the Minister of Employment mentioned earlier, allowing us to make these changes would actually provide flexibility for the current and future governments to be able to appoint ministers to various positions depending on the priorities of the government of the day.

Why are we doing this? We want to make sure there is a one-tier cabinet and not have two tiers of cabinet ministers. We want to make sure we only have one tier, and not have senior and junior cabinet ministers. Everybody within our cabinet would be at the same level. Therefore, it would just be ministers working very hard to deliver results for all Canadians. We also want to update the Salaries Act to modernize it, in addition to formally equalizing the status of the government's ministerial team. We want to recognize the equality of cabinet members, and this bill would allow us to do so.

As I mentioned, we would add five additional positions, and I would like to speak specifically to one of them more directly.

I am very proud that we have a Minister of Small Business and Tourism. It is of great importance to Davenport residents that we are putting a huge emphasis on small businesses. We are very proud of the fact that we are reducing the small business tax from 11% to 9%. It will move to 10% at the beginning of January 2018 and then move to 9% at the beginning of 2019. We are very proud about that and all the support we are providing to small businesses.

In addition, there is a wonderful emphasis on tourism as well. Just last week, I was very proud to attend the Canadian Tourism Awards. A group within my riding, SESQUI, won one of the Canadian Tourism Awards. I was very proud to be there to honour them, and the Minister of Small Business and Tourism was there as well. I want to give a shout-out to both Joanne Loton and Andrea Stewart of SESQUI, who won a Canadian Tourism Award. I am very proud of them.

The Minister of Employment mentioned this, but I think it is important to highlight the fact that our government has a very strong feminist agenda. One of our first acts when we came into office, as everyone knows, was to put into place a gender-equal cabinet. We are all very proud of that, and this bill would help to formally equalize all the positions within that cabinet.

I am also very proud of some of the additional steps we have taken. One of the other steps we have taken is to add a gender lens into our budget process in 2017. It is the first time in Canadian history that this was done. Our Minister of Finance is stepping it up and has started consultations with a number of groups. I was at one of the consultations in Toronto to talk about what the next level is in addition to the gender lens. How can we do better in budget 2018? I was very proud that I was part of those discussions that took place in Toronto less than two weeks ago.

Just so people know, by adding a gender lens into the budget process, what we are essentially doing is asking every department to put on a gender lens whenever they make proposals for budget 2018. One of the statements our Minister of Finance made during our consultation with a number of groups in Toronto was that he has told every cabinet member they should only be coming with proposals for budget 2018 if they have applied a gender lens. I very much appreciate the importance he has put on the gender budget lens moving forward. I very much appreciate that he has met with a number of feminist organizations and organizations that work on issues affecting women and girls, both in Canada and abroad. Our 2018 budget will be stronger for it.

I also want to talk for a minute about pay equity legislation. I was sitting in the House and listening to some of the questions, and I know there is great anxiety, which is very well placed, about the fact that we still do not have pay equity in this country. I was very blessed about a year ago to be asked to join the special committee looking at pay equity legislation at the federal level. Unfortunately, we did not have pay equity legislation at the national level. We put a committee in place to look into it. We actually made very strong recommendations, and the title of the report is “It's Time to Act”.

I know that the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour is about to introduce pay equity legislation at the national level. I very much look forward to that. It is very much based on the hard work the committee did, as well as all other groups and advocates who have been pushing for this for a very long time. It is way past the time that we should be addressing this issue, and I will be very happy when that actually comes into place.

Personally, I am also trying to see what more I can do in terms of larger society and how we, as a national government, can help to ensure that more women get into senior leadership roles, not only in politics but also in business, in addition to ensuring we do everything we can to close the gap around pay equity outside the federal government system.

We have done a lot of really great things. We have a lot more steps to take, a long way to go, but we are making progress. We should be very proud of the steps we have taken.

I want to mention a couple of other things I am very proud of in terms of our feminist agenda. Our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, and Minister of International Trade have all talked about how they have incorporated the feminist agenda into each of their portfolios. Our Minister of International Development has incorporated the emphasis we are making in terms of the dollars we are giving to organizations abroad, and it is very much focused on women and girls around the world. There is a particular emphasis as well in some of the humanitarian assistance we are giving in the Rohingya state and the situation happening outside Myanmar right now.

I know our Minister of International Trade would say he is very proud we have a gender equity chapter that is part of the Canada–Chile trade agreement. It was a historic agreement from that perspective, and that set the stage for more of these types of chapters to be added to future trade agreements as we move along.

Lastly, I was very proud when our Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated to the world, to Canadians, and to all of us that she is promoting Canada to take on a very strong role to ensure we have more female peacekeepers in the world. By adding more women, we think it will be the next way that Canada can take a leadership role in peacekeeping in the world.

I see that my time has ended. I want to thank this House for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the residents of Davenport.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2017 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her comments. Many times today, the government has referred to gender equity or equality and gender parity in cabinet. However, the expert that appeared at committee clearly pointed out that there is no substance to that fact in terms of this bill. She said, “Really, there's no gender substance, no equity substance on the basis of gender equality, to this legislation”, referring to Bill C-24. In fact, she went further than that. In response to a question about whether the Prime Minister's claim of a gender-equal cabinet was cynical, she said, “I would say it's dishonest.”

How can my colleagues continue to argue that this is causing gender equity in cabinet when, clearly, it does no such thing?

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 2.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 3.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-24 be amended by deleting Clause 6.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to speak to my report stage amendments on Bill C-24. There are four main amendments that would adjust this bill in a major way.

In all ways, this is a very poor bill that would have a detrimental effect not only on what we are doing here in the House of Commons, but, just as importantly, on what is happening across the country in terms of regional economic development.

I want to begin by recapping what Bill C-24 would do. Essentially, Bill C-24 would paper over the ministerial changes the Liberals made when they took office two years ago. Two years later, they are here in Parliament asking us to bless what they did.

I will remind the House what those changes are. First, the Liberals are seeking to give ministers of state full ministerial status, and full ministerial salaries to boot. Second, the bill would permanently scrap the six regional development ministerial positions. They would also add a provision to let them swear in, in the future, an additional three full-rank ministers, yet to be named. We can only imagine what they may have planned for those three additional ministers.

There are only 10 minutes, so I am going to speak briefly about one of the issues I have spoken about before, and that is the elimination of the economic regional development ministers. It is something that has not gotten a lot of media profile. For those of us who are not from Ottawa or Toronto or Toronto areas, those of us from western Canada, the Atlantic provinces, Quebec, and northern Canada, this is a huge blow to what is happening in our areas. We had ministers in previous governments, previous Conservative and Liberal governments, who were directly responsible for their regional economic development portfolios. That meant that they would be able to speak at the cabinet table directly to issues in their regions, and they would be in charge of their regional economic development agencies. The Prime Minister made a decision that he wanted to change that.

Let me quote what the Prime Minister said this summer in Charlottetown. He told an interviewer that his decision to appoint one minister, from Toronto, to run all the economic development agencies, such as ACOA, was “a way of reducing the kind of politics we've seen from regional development agencies.”

What a cynical slur, not just against, at that moment, Atlantic Canadians but against all the regional development areas and regions of this country. To somehow suggest that ministers from Quebec, western Canada, northern Canada, and Atlantic Canada could not advocate for their regions and bring issues and good projects forward without it becoming political shows that the Prime Minister has zero confidence in the rest of his ministers and seems to think that only one minister, from Toronto, would be able to get the balance right between representing the regions, making solid decisions, and not being political.

There is so much more to be said on this, but I will have to wait until I give my speech at third reading to talk a little more about the regional economic development minister issue.

I want to go to another part of Bill C-24. When the government House leader introduced it, she hailed it as a bill that would equalize the status of ministers. Members will recall the great fanfare about a gender-equal cabinet when the Liberals took office, “because it is 2015”, we were told. Lo and behold, the fine print was released, and it turned out that the junior ministers of state roles were all assigned to women.

The Liberals told us not to worry. Even though they were giving all the women those smaller roles, it would be okay, because they were going to pay them just as much as the full ministers. In fact, the PMO communications director is quoted in the Toronto Star as saying, “What needs to change, from a statute perspective is their salaries, so they get the full ministerial salaries”. Wow, thanks a lot. The ladies should not worry. They would get junior roles, but the Liberals would pay them for the full role. However, they would not actually be able to bring full ministerial memos to cabinet, they would not have deputy ministers, and they would not have full portfolios. However, they should not worry their pretty little heads, because they would be paid the full amount. Boy oh boy, what an absolute insult.

Do not take my word for it. Margot Young, a law professor from the University of British Columbia, with a specialty in gender equality, appeared before the government operations committee. I will tell members a little of what she said. For starters, she said, “[T]his particular piece of legislation really doesn't, as far as I can see, have much to do with gender equality.” To those Liberals who showed up with platitudes, the professor said, “[D]on't describe something that is clearly not about gender equality as speaking to gender equality. That's disingenuous”. She said, about the “because it's 2015” quip, “[It] loses a key leadership moment to articulate and shape opinion about what it means to actually have women in positions of equality, in positions of leadership and power.”

That is where we have seen, from the very beginning, that this Prime Minister is very good at quips and saying the right thing, but in following through on his actions on many issues, but specifically on being a feminist and treating women equally, we have a seen a lot of talk but not always a lot of action and substance. The Liberals are definitely obsessed with optics. When something is presented or framed, it is of the utmost concern.

Professor Young graded their efforts on Bill C-24 by saying, “I think to frame it as a piece of legislation that speaks substantively to the issues of gender equality and cabinet composition is wrong, and it's dangerous.” It sounds like she gave this bill an F for gender equality. That was the main point she was talking about.

As I mentioned, there are many areas where we have seen this Prime Minister fail on gender equality. As I mentioned, in this specific one, ministers were given junior portfolios but not given full responsibility. We have seen this a number of other times when the Prime Minister has had an opportunity to really stand up and take direct action that will help women.

A couple of examples come to mind, such as helping Yazidi women and girls who are tormented, persecuted, and much worse. This Prime Minister had so many opportunities to allow them refuge and safety in Canada, and he has not done it.

This is a very difficult topic, but it has to be said. Most recently, he removed female genital mutilation from our citizenship guide. A very important message to send to the world is that Canada is not a place where FGM will be tolerated or allowed, and instead of making that statement, he shied away. He got scared and worried, so he withdrew it. We saw it previously when the Liberals had an opportunity to stand up for women on reserves who did not have property rights, a basic right.

The Liberals get scared when the big bullies say not to threaten them or their power. The Liberals get scared, and the Prime Minister gets scared to stand up for women.

I believe this bill is wrong in many ways, certainly on the economic development side.

We are two years in, and I have seen some really good women cabinet ministers who maybe were given these positions because it was, as he said, 2015. I think many are growing and have grown, but we also have seen some put in positions where they were destined to fail. It has been very disappointing to see.

All of us, not just the government and the Prime Minister, need to stand up for women who truly need help, women who are systemically discriminated against and hurt. Many times, it is in other countries. Just giving lip service in Canada by saying to a woman that she can have equal pay but not equal responsibility is disingenuous and hurts the authentic feminist movement, which is really about true equality for women.

This bill is damaging, and we are disappointed to see it continue.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 11 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. opposition House leader for explaining to the government the various tools at its disposal to build a cabinet. Part of the genesis of Bill C-24 was that the Prime Minister and the people around him did not understand all the different tools they had at their disposal to build a cabinet, how they work, and the fact that there are different positions. That is why when the bill was first tabled, we thought it might have something to do with gender equity. That was the context out of which the bill came, as the member rightly explained. The Prime Minister had screwed up, essentially, in terms of his commitment to gender parity at the cabinet table.

If it is not about that, then the struggle is to define the relevant sense of “equal”. In our study of the bill, we have not been able to find any relevant sense that this really makes ministers more equal in a way they are not already. I am wondering if the member's study of the bill has led her to find what that relevant sense of “equal” might be.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-24, a bill that would formalize in statute the one-tier ministry that was sworn in on November 4, 2015, and ensure that this government and future governments have the flexibility to deliver on their commitments to Canadians.

To recap what has been explained previously about Bill C-24, the Salaries Act authorizes the payment out of the consolidated revenue fund of a ministerial salary to individuals who have been appointed to a ministerial position in the act. Currently, there are 35 ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act, including the position of prime minister. The list of Salaries Act ministers changes from time to time to align with the priorities of the government of the day and the prime ministers' preference with respect to the composition of their ministry. This is not new. Legislation amending the list of Salaries Act ministers was enacted in 2005, 2012, and 2013.

Canada needs a modern, agile, and flexible government that is organized in a way that is suited to delivering on its priorities and commitments. These amendments would help us do that. The bill would do away with certain administrative distinctions by adding to the Salaries Act five key ministerial posts, which are currently in the ministry, but as minister of state appointments.

Conventionally, ministers of state have been considered junior ministers because they have most often been appointed to assist other ministers with their portfolio responsibilities. However, this is not the case in the current ministry, where ministers of state have been given, by mandate letter and legal instruments, their own responsibilities and authorities specific to subject matter areas that are important to the government and Canadians.

The five new ministerial positions to be added to the act are minister of la francophonie, minister of small business and tourism, minister of science, minister of status of women, and minister of sport and persons with disabilities. Our government believes these are important positions for Canadians and for our economy and therefore merit full ministerial status. Formalizing these five appointments as ministers in full standing reflects the importance of the subject matter and the expectations placed on those individuals who occupy those ministerial positions. Once these positions are added to the Salaries Act, with the enactment of Bill C-24, the orders in council that assign these ministers to assist other ministers will be repealed.

I would now like to take a moment to address the question of whether there would be incremental costs associated with adding the eight new positions to the Salaries Act. To be clear, there are no incremental costs associated with the current ministry. The ministers currently appointed as ministers of state receive the same salaries as their cabinet colleagues and have office budgets commensurate with their responsibilities. This would not change under this legislation.

The legislation does, however, increase the number of ministerial positions that could be paid under the Salaries Act by two, from 35 to 37, including the position of prime minister. It is important to note that the current ministry comprises the Prime Minister and 30 ministers. This is a stark contrast to the ministry under Stephen Harper, which at one point comprised 40 members, the largest in Canadian history. The bill is not fundamentally aimed at growing the ministry. Its goal is simply to formalize in legislation the composition of the current ministry and to modernize the act to enable more flexible and adaptive ministries in the future.

It has been asked why it is important that the minister of science and the minister of la francophonie do not have the legal title of minister of state for science or minister of state for la francophonie. Why not just continue with the current framework under the current act? To be clear, these ministers are not junior ministers. Our government wants to send a strong signal to Canadians that it has a one-tier cabinet, and that these new positions and their mandates are essential to delivering the commitments we made to Canadians. We want to remove distracting administrative distinctions.

However, Bill C-24 amendments are not just about addressing government priorities in the immediate term, but about ensuring that future ministries can be structured in a way that meets emerging priorities. That is why Bill C-24 also updates the Salaries Act to enable a modern, adaptive ministry. These are achieved by adding three untitled ministerial positions to provide the government with the capacity to deliver on future priorities.

These three positions can be filled and titled at the prime minister's discretion. They offer a degree of flexibility to the prime minister to design cabinet in response to emerging challenges and priorities without having to resort to minister of state appointments.

Furthermore, the alignment of all regional development agencies under one portfolio, especially under the minister responsible for national economic development, is another example. We would now have regional national expertise working together under one roof. By adopting this change, we allow for better synergy and provide the flexibility needed to make real impact in communities across Canada.

The regional development agencies continue their hard and valued work in each region. For example, they support small and medium-sized enterprises and help them become more innovative, productive, and export-oriented. The synergy among them will help grow the economy and allow RDAs to deliver the results that Canadians in all regions of the country expect.

I would like to emphasize that removing regional development positions from the Salaries Act does not affect the regional development agencies or eliminate the need for ministerial oversight of them. On the contrary, ministers will continue to be appointed to these positions. In this ministry, the minister of innovation, science and economic development would continue to be responsible for all regional development agencies.

Finally, the legislation also changes the legal title of the minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs to the minister of infrastructure and communities to reflect the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of intergovernmental affairs minister.

In conclusion, these changes formalize in statute the current composition of the ministry and build a degree of flexibility in the future. These amendments address administrative constraints in the current legislation and catch it up with the structure of the ministry as it operates today.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suppose that the government deserves to be congratulated for having achieved something truly unique with Bill C-24. Typically when a government presents legislation, a member of the opposition party will either find something to vehemently oppose or support. There is something at stake in the legislation and opposition parties can expect that after the legislation passes, it will be a difference in Canadian law that matters.

Usually, government legislation makes a difference. However, the government has found a way to produce a bill that, even if it passes, virtually everything will stay the same. Never has this government, and perhaps any government, unless some past government has achieved something similar, managed to creatively waste the time of Parliament in the way this government has done with this bill. I suppose that is an achievement of sorts, yet not the kind that Canadians expect. Nonetheless, it is a form of achievement, and I would like to recognize it for what it is, so congratulations are due. They might not want to put that in their householders, though.

The reason this bill is ultimately a colossal waste of time, after reflection and study on our part anyway, is that it does not manage to achieve any of the objectives the government has set out for the bill. What are some of those objectives?

I will not harp too much on this point because we have heard it already in some of the speeches in the House. We thought this bill might have to do with the Prime Minister's commitment to gender parity in cabinet, but we have Liberals on record at committee categorically denying this bill has anything to do with gender parity. It is not about that, they said. Okay, fine. I am not quite sure what it is about.

However, the press release issued when the bill was presented talked about making all ministers equal and establishing a one-tier ministry. What does that mean? A one-tier ministry in which all ministers are equal, I guess, means that they are all called “minister”. Of course, that is happening already. We have ministers who are technically ministers of state under the act, but who have been installed as ministers, and so we do not need this legislation to be able to call them “ministers”.

One might say they will be paid the same, but, again, those ministers who are technically ministers of state are already paid the same. Whether they should be is an open question. They do have different administrative responsibilities. It is not abnormal to pay people based on the level of their administrative responsibility within an organization. The legislation is not needed to do that, and it is not clear that it should be done in the first place.

What other sense of equality can there be? We have heard from the Liberals that this is about taking ministers seriously at the cabinet table. That causes one to wonder at the superficiality of the Prime Minister who has to introduce legislation to call his ministers of state “ministers”, just to help him take them seriously at the cabinet table. That is really weird.

Parliamentarians are always happy to help the Prime Minister do his job better. However, this seems like an excessive burden on Parliament just to have the Prime Minister take the very people he named to cabinet seriously at the cabinet table. That is not a great reason for us to be here today discussing this bill.

Administrative responsibility, I suppose, is another sense of equality that remains. This act does not change the fact that, in a myriad of ways, different ministers have different levels of administrative responsibility. Essentially, ministers of state will migrate over to a new category that has been created, one that is called ministers for “whom a department is designated”. A characteristic feature of a minister for whom a department is designated is that the resources they use for their job are carved out of the department of another minister. They do not have their own department. Rather, that is decided by another minister. That that more or less sounds a lot like what goes on already with ministers of state.

For instance, there are departments with ministers that answer to other ministers, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs where the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the top minister. It is very clear in the legislation that the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of International Development answer to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. They are unable to do whatever it is they would like to do in their capacity of minister without the concurrence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

This legislation does not speak to that at all, and they would continue to have a two-tier ministry in terms of administrative responsibility and having ministers answering to other ministers. This would not create an equal cabinet in that sense. That is okay. That is not an issue of principle. No one except the Liberals has come up with the idea that it is somehow wrong in principle to have an organizational structure in which some ministers answer to other ministers, because it makes sense in the context of a department. By the time they run that whole circuit, they have pretty much exhausted the senses of equality that they could address within legislation, and even some they cannot. This bill would do nothing.

What it would do is cause some collateral damage, which in itself is interesting given the arguments of the government, because it would prevent future governments from establishing separate regional economic development ministries. We believe there is value in doing that; the Liberals do not. That is fine, because there are different ways of doing things. On balance, we think that the Liberals have chosen an inferior way, but that is their right as a government. Canadians can judge them accordingly. Why they would want to tie the hands of future governments and deny them the ability to adopt a model with separate regional economic development ministries I do not know. That would be one negative consequence of this bill and one that we do not support.

However, that is passing strange because when I asked the government House leader at committee why the Liberals were getting rid of governments' ability to have separate regional economic development ministries, she said that a goal of the legislation was to update the legal framework to reflect the current practices of government. It is the current practice of government that it got rid of all the separate regional economic development ministries. When I put to her the question of why, if that is the goal of the legislation, the Liberals did not eliminate as an option the position of ministers of state, the government House leader had no answer.

If the goal of the legislation is to reflect the current practices of government, and if the current government has principled objection to the use of ministers of state because that establishes a two-tier ministry, their failure to eliminate that position does not make sense for all the reasons I have just enunciated, particularly the two-tier aspects of the ministry that would persist past Bill C-24. Nevertheless, that is an argument of the government. By the logic of that argument, the Liberals ought to be deleting the provisions for ministers of state, because that is what it would take to have the legislation reflect the current practices of the government. However, they are not doing so. I find that strange. Never mind that the legislation establishes a whole other legal mechanism for what is a minister of state, essentially by another name.

Consequently, the Liberals are not succeeding in establishing a one-tier ministry in all sorts of ways. They are not succeeding in updating the legislation to reflect the current practices of government, despite that being the stated objective of the bill. To the extent there are some other senses of equality in terms of pay and title, the Liberals have not demonstrated that the changes contemplated in the bill are necessary. If we take the time to consider this bill seriously, which is something I recommend to the government—I do not think it has tried that yet—it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that it is a poor bill that would not meet its stated objectives.

Its real objectives are not legal objectives, but political objectives responding to the mistake of the Prime Minister, who initially failed to understand how to compose a cabinet with gender parity. That is the real thing about this bill, but we are not talking about that in this place. From a legal perspective, this bill is a complete waste of time. There are just no two ways about it.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. It is always a pleasure to listen to him even though we do not share the same point of view, which is not necessarily the case this morning.

To the general public, the title “Minister of State” is not very meaningful and is hard to grasp. I know that analogies can be clumsy, but I have one that might work. I would like to know what my colleague thinks of it.

I will use my teaching background to explain how I see Bill C-24. At a school you have principals, class monitors, teachers, and lab porters, but they will all get the same salary because they all work in education.

Is the Liberal model as absurd as that sounds?

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 11:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lévis—Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-24, which amends the Salaries Act.

I have had the great privilege of representing my riding in the House of Commons since January 23, 2006, and the royal treatment that the Prime Minister and his ministers have been indulging in since they took office in 2015 is completely unheard of. It is insulting to the Canadians that we are.

Since this Liberal government took office, no one has been spared. The regions, families, companies and every sector of the economy are hurting. It is important to point that out. Everyone is hurting except, of course, the Liberal's little clique. Canadians never expected that they would be misled like this after the election.

I would first like to tell the people of Lévis—Lotbinière that only the Conservatives will continue to fight to put an end to the Liberals' improprieties and to show Canadians that the old Liberal culture shell games that have always benefited the Liberals are still going strong. We will fight back against the practices of Liberal ministers, such as the Minister of Finance, who is currently showing a clear lack of ethics . He is gouging Canadians to build his family empire on the sly in a nice safe tax haven in Barbados.

There is a great deal more that could be said about the Minister of Finance, but I will simply offer him a piece of advice. He may not like having his personal spending discussed in the House, but Canadians expect those who hold high office in the Canadian government to adhere to the principles of transparency, accountability, and trust, in accordance with the spirit of the Conflict of Interest Act.

All of us here in the House, including all the ministers in this government, are required to comply with this act. There is a Canadian legal principle that stipulates that a person cannot plead ignorance of the law to avoid compliance.

This Liberal government is unique in Canadian history for its boundless hypocrisy. Worst of all, its word means nothing. It is truly appalling. Bill C-24 creates eight new Liberal ministerial positions, including five for ministers of state who were appointed after the 2015 election and three as yet unspecified.

Members may recall that this time last year, we found out that preferential treatment was being given to supporters willing to make a contribution to the party in exchange for access to ministers, who were all too willing to prioritize the interests of a minority over the common good.

Bill C-24 will eliminate the positions of regional development agency ministers and transfer their many responsibilities to a single minister, one with special privileges, naturally. We are very concerned about Canada's regions. Indeed, how can a single minister be expected to replace 5 other ministers and fully grasp the situation in every region of a province, for instance Quebec?

I have had the privilege of visiting Quebec's regions and I can say that, like everywhere else in Canada, our situation is unique. This summer, the Prime Minister said that appointing a minister from Toronto to oversee all the regional development agencies would do away with the sort of politics that we always had. What a joke.

We have known for a long time that Toronto is the one pulling the country' strings, not the Prime Minister's Office, which explains the finance minister's huge influence. He is one of the government's untouchables, though we cannot understand why.

Worse still, when the Prime Minister said he was putting a minister from Toronto in charge of ACOA because of the kind of politics in Atlantic Canada, that was a defamatory insult to Atlantic Canadians. Since the government did the same with the Quebec regional development agency, can we infer that the Prime Minister's attitude toward Quebeckers is just as cynical?

The Liberal-dominated committee responsible for studying Bill C-24 did not hear from a single witness about the plan to cut regional development minister positions. That kind of political manoeuvring from a government that claims to make its decisions based on evidence is not acceptable. Unlike the Liberals, the Conservatives will fight for appropriate regional representation and authority without insulting Canada's regions.

The most basic right in a democratic country is the right to be heard. This kind of thing is unprecedented. Bill C-58, which limits access to information in Canada, is yet another example of the Liberal Party's conceit and lack of transparency. Canadians are ashamed of this government.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates only heard from a government house leader and a teacher during the course of its study. That is an insult to the intelligence of Canadians and our most fundamental right of expression as full participants in the decision-making or policy development process.

Since when is a decision like this made in Canada? The arrogance it must take to have the audacity to make such an important decision without consulting the grassroots, those who understand the situation in every region.

As if that was not enough, Bill C-24 also amends the Salaries Act to grant equal salary to all ministers, giving junior ministers the same salary as ministers with more important portfolios without having new responsibilities. This is a bit surprising. Given the government's poor record, we wonder if anyone over there is actually working in the right direction here, in other words, working to ensure our economic prosperity in Canada.

On this side of the House, we believe that taxpayers’ money belongs to the taxpayers, not the Liberal Party. I prefer making my own investments rather than the Liberals making them for me. The announcement by the government of a new minister does not mean additional rewards for friends, and these budget allocations will not benefit all Canadians. Our official critics on this side of the House are more productive, and at no additional cost to Canadians.

Moreover, the Minister of National Revenue does not even know what is happening in her own department, as she has said so well in the national media and as I heard her say again last night. Clearly, the net is tightening on the Minister of Finance.

What we have here is a careless government. They have given up on defending democracy, accountability, their commitments, protecting everyone regardless of status, their responsibilities and the common good, all to benefit a minority. Most reprehensibly, they have given up on future generations, whom they leave in a financial abyss. By delighting in showering today's taxpayers with money, the government is misleading voters, because governments never really give money away, as they can only do so by mortgaging our children’s future.

Currently, the Liberal debt represents $2,500 more per year for a family with two adults and two children. This means that, for the next 30 years, because the government has told us that we will undoubtedly have a deficit for the next 30 years, an extra debt of $100,000 per Canadian family will be left to future generations by this government opposite. That is shameful. Only the Conservatives can ensure a financial balance that will eliminate the deficit by not living on credit at the expense of our future generations.

We can never say it enough: the Liberals, who believe they are above the law and have to be caught out before admitting their mistakes, have no claim to the label they gave themselves; they are anything but a responsible, open, and transparent government. The mistakes that led them to explain themselves before the Ethics Commissioner are multiplying, but there is worse: now they want to play a guessing game with Canadians. With Bill C-24, the Liberals are also asking Parliament to approve the appointment of three mystery future ministers. What nonsense.

I often rise to seek answers from the government. Like many, I remain in the dark, surrounded by the Liberal fog, a thick fog that will very soon mix, I’m afraid, with marijuana smoke. I will close by saying that too many Liberal decisions remain unjustifiable, irresponsible, unethical, and illogical. It costs too much to elect a Liberal government with a parade of preferential ministers, when it is us, the official opposition, who do all the work in Canada.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / noon
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I am a staunch defender of pay equity between men and women, but it seems to me that equity is equal pay for equal work. However, if I understand Bill C-24 correctly, there is no equal work, so there is no injustice in having a pay scale.

Our salaries as members are publicly known—we cannot complain that we are poorly paid—and many social groups are pushing, for example, for a minimum salary of $15 per hour, which is not a fortune, we must admit. Why is it not the work, but titles, that we are evaluating in Bill C-24?

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / noon
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise.

I would like to take a few moments to tell the people of Beauport—Limoilou who are listening right now that I am truly very disappointed with what the Finance Minister did last week and this week. Canadians have become aware that he misled them for two years and that he did not put his $20 million in Morneau Shepell shares in a blind trust. I seriously expected him to rise last week for his final response in question period to say that he regretted it, and that not only did he no longer have his shares, but he was donating to charity the $65,000 in additional monthly profits that he pocketed for the last two years. That would have been the least he could do. He is an extremely wealthy man. He should have done that, and I do not think that it would have jeopardized his retirement.

With respect to Bill C-24, I will be addressing primarily the aspect of the ministers and the administrative change that means absolutely nothing, as well as the supplementary estimates. I will also very quickly address the issue of regional development. The Liberals are abolishing regional development minister positions. These positions are key, because today 60% of Canadians live in large cities. The same is true almost everywhere in the world. These positions are also important because the voice of rural Canadians is being less and less heard in the House. There will no longer be ministers representing regional development agencies in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec or western Canada. These agencies will no longer exist, or at least they will not have any ministers. These ministers sat at the cabinet table to ensure that every region of Canada had a voice.

The first thing the Liberals did was to make sure that there would no longer be any ministers representing the regions and to entrust all decisions to a single individual, the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development in Toronto. This has already had a serious impact. Last fall, $150,000 in funds earmarked for economic development in northern Ontario was allocated to a company based in the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s riding of Mississauga. This is precisely the new type of politics the Liberals have been playing.

This spring, an Atlantic liberal caucus subcommittee indicated that they had been told that processing times at ACOA were three times longer since the appointment of a minister from Toronto. It is not surprising, since he himself, as a minister from Toronto, is completely overwhelmed by the affairs of Canada’s great city of Toronto and completely overwhelmed by the affairs of his own department. That is why we need independent ministers who can focus on the region they represent. We are saddened to see the government go ahead and abolish these key minister positions in Canada.

I spoke about Bill C-24 here in the House about six months ago. It was late spring. At that time not so long ago, I was still a permanent member of the powerful Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. It was quite the learning experience for me. I had to read a huge number of documents and learn about many financial, economic, and structural issues. The committee deals with government operations and estimates.

Every four or five months, the committee reviews and analyzes the supplementary estimates, in other words, the credits the government wants to have approved by the committees so that it can close its fiscal year on a sound note. I observed one thing. I do not remember exactly whether it was credit A, credit B or credit C, or which department it was. I think it was the Treasury Board. After it was elected, the government immediately wanted to raise the salaries of the ministers of State, as is proposed in the bill. Normally, to do so, the government must introduce a bill like the one we are debating today concerning ministers’ salaries and allowances.

That is not what they have been doing for the past two years. In fact, the Liberals used the supplementary estimates, by including the votes in the supplementary estimates and getting them approved through the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates for two consecutive years. We Conservatives were a minority. We voted against that funding, but that did not change anything.

If this bill were so important, if it were true, as they claim, that this bill is intended to foster ministerial pay and gender equality, then why did they use the back door to increase salaries? Why did the Liberals not introduce Bill C-24 when they first came to power in 2015? If gender equality were that important to them, they would have introduced this bill as a priority at the outset.

Something about this really surprises me. An hon. member for whom I have enormous respect and who served in the military said that a minister is a minister is a minister. First, that is an extreme extrapolation. One can say that a Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian, but at the same time, a minister is still a Canadian like any other. The part that concerns me is that ministers of state are not on the same footing as ministers. The question is simple: do they have deputy ministers? No, and this bill will do nothing to change that fact, either.

Ministers of state will not have deputy ministers or cabinets, which have a staff of about 40 to assist their minister perform difficult tasks. They will not have the right to submit memorandums to cabinet explaining government issues. Most importantly, they will not have any officials serving under them. For example, the Minister of National Defence has 80,000 public servants under him. Not only is there the civilian administrative wing comprising some 20,000 employees, but there is also the military wing, because military troops are public servants. All told, we are talking 100,000 people.

Ministers of state will not have 100,000 people to manage and give orders to. Neither will they oversee an actual institution, or have headquarters from which to work. For example, Public Services and Procurement Canada is across the beautiful Ottawa River, and there is a huge building there with Public Services and Procurement Canada written on it. About 10,000 people work there.

Ministers of state have none of the prerequisites that would make them equal to ministers. This has nothing to do with gender equality or equity between individuals. Ministers of state simply do not have a minister’s workload. That is the only thing Canadians need to know.

Remarkably, the hon. member of St. Catharines himself said it a thousand times in his speech on administrative changes. That is exactly what it is: an administrative change. It is not a substantial change. The Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, who comes from the Eastern Townships, will not have a building with 10,000 public servants or a cabinet. She will not have anything a real minister has. I am on the Standing Committee on Official Languages, so I recognize that the files she manages are extremely important, but her workload will still be quite a bit lighter than that of the Minister of National Defence, for example.

My colleague from Calgary Shepard made me think of something. It is not true that all cabinet ministers are equal. No one can tell me that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Canadian Heritage are on equal footing. I must say that I prefer heritage to the economy. That being said, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons has a portfolio because she is the House leader and she is the Minister of Small Business and Tourism. She has more to deal with than another minister who does not have these two portfolios and these two responsibilities. It is as simple as that.

I wanted to say one last thing, something a little more philosophical. Imposing a gender-equal cabinet comes with its own share of risks. At the end of the day, philosophically and legally speaking, what does it even mean? It means that we will never see an all-female cabinet in Canada. I would even go so far as to say that this is good way for the Prime Minister of Canada to make sure that women never make up more than half a cabinet.

In fact, I would even say that this will stop the advancement of women in politics.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to carry on along that theme, as this is one of the interesting windows into the Liberal mindset with Bill C-24. The Prime Minister has ostensibly brought forward legislation to help the Liberals take their cabinet ministers seriously. Presumably, if they do not have a minister's title, the Prime Minister will dismiss their voices at the cabinet meeting saying, that they are not serious, that they are called a minister of state, so what they say is not important as what the other people have to say. That tells us something about not only the legislation or the composition of cabinet. That tells us something about the Prime Minister.

I know the Prime Minister might not be the only one to not take the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader seriously, but it does make me wonder if the Prime Minister is able to take him seriously because he is not a minister. What does that mean for parliamentary secretaries in the Liberal caucus? What does that mean for Liberal backbenchers? What does that mean for Liberal chairs of committees? They are not called ministers. Are we to understand that the Prime Minister does not take good ideas seriously, that he just takes the title of the person who is talking seriously? Is that the lesson of Bill C-24?

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining what is becoming a more spirited debate this morning.

I want to reflect for a moment on something the member for Elmwood—Transcona said when he called this debate a creative waste of time. I do not think there is a better description of Bill C-24 so far. There really is no better way to describe it.

I have also reflected on the Minister of Finance's approach to his small business tax changes, which I would call creative destruction of wealth. There has never been a minister of finance who has been this creative in attempting to destroy so much wealth.

I wanted to mention that because it is worth reflecting on. It is an old tune that keeps on playing. The best Yiddish proverb I could come up with to describe what the Liberal government is doing, and continues to do, especially with respect to Bill C-24, is “to every new song one can find an old tune”. This is the old tune of the same old Liberal Party. Nothing has changed. The Liberals are back to doing the same old things. The Liberal Party will take care of anyone who is a Liberal, but a small business owner, or anyone else for that matter, is going to feel the pain.

A Fraser Institute report stated that the average Canadian is now paying $800 more in taxes. After-tax income is down, and that should be the best metric for the government.

Instead of dealing with economic issues today, we are debating pay hikes for ministers, in fact pay hikes that they have already received. As the member for Beauport—Limoilou mentioned, the Liberals have already taken care of their own. They have already taken care of their pay. Every time the Liberal government talks about transparency, equity, and fairness, taxpayers end up paying more, never less. More money is going out. Instead of lowering the pay of all ministers down to the rate of pay of a minister of state, which the government could have done and would have showed fairness and equity, the government chose to raise everybody's pay.

Many members have mentioned this before, that this is an administrative change. The government's main argument right now is that this is just an administrative change, and members question why we are debating this. We could ask them the same question. We are debating this because the government has put this forward as the important issue of the day, not NAFTA negotiations, agricultural legislation, another free trade agreement, small business taxation, or mortgage rules. No, the important issue of the day is pay hikes for Liberal ministers. That is what the government wants to talk about.

In this much-vaunted attempt to talk about transparency, there are three mystery ministers. In a previous debate when I participated on this at second reading very late on an evening in June, I talked about the different types of ministries the government could set up. The government purposely did not put forward a minister responsible for seniors, something that many seniors associations have asked for. The Liberal government does not have one.

Perhaps some of the present ministers could come forward to help the Minister of Finance deal with the ethics shield. Maybe a minister for ethics shields would be good. In case anything about Morneau Shepell, Bombardier, or anything related comes up, the minister for ethics shields could shield the Liberals from the trouble they could get into. Perhaps that is what the Liberals should do.

I mentioned pay for performance in my previous debate. That is how we should be rating every single minister on that side. They are responsible to the crown, but they are also responsible to the House. They are responsible for the mandate letters that the Prime Minister delivererd to them, telling them what they would do and telling them to deliver results. That is done on behalf of the House, not just members on that side.

The mandate letter is how we rate the effectiveness of a minister. So far, we see that whenever a minister fails in the House, he or she is not fired but rather receives an ambassadorship overseas. That former minister gets a pay increase. Perhaps he or she will get a pay increase like the ambassador to France, who received $120,000 pay increase above what a career diplomat would get. Perhaps a failed Liberal candidate will be sent to the consulate in San Francisco and get double the pay of what a career diplomat would get in that role.

The Liberals say that the pay hikes will be for five ministers of state. Maybe they will get a new title, which every single member here has mentioned. They say this is just a title change; there is no effective change to their mandates.

The Liberals talk about fairness. They called this an adaptive bill, a modern bill. It costs more to taxpayers every single time they mention those words. Thirty ministers are supposed to be equal. The member for Beauport—Limoilou raised a great point. The mandate letters are not equal. They are not equal in workload and they are not equal in content. Nobody can tell me that the government House leader has the same amount of work as the Minister of Health.

The government House leader has two mandate letters to deliver on. The Minister of Finance has an extremely long mandate letter with detailed tasks to undertake. Nobody can tell me that these letters bring the same workload on them, the members of their staff, and the departments that they use, as the letter of another minister with a smaller department and a smaller mandate. It is the content of the work that they are supposed to do. Of course, they are all equal. They are all persons, and they are all equal, but ministers are not created equal by the Prime Minister. They have different tasks, roles, and priorities to undertake on behalf of the government to supposedly deliver on those promises. A great example of one of the promises we saw, which the Liberals forgot at first, was the small business tax reduction, which they cancelled and now uncancelled and are now really committed to doing, but they have not done it quite yet.

However, it is in the mandate letters where we truly find the value of a minister, and truly find the quality of ministers. No one can tell me that the Minister of Foreign Affairs has an equal workload to the Minister of Science or the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. The workload is immense at this point in time, because the mandate she is required to deliver on is far larger, which is why other ministers are then assigned to assist her with those tasks.

In politics, I think we have all heard that it is a team sport. We play as a team, and we lose as a team. I do not think there is a single individual who finds politics to be a solo adventure or journey. However, what they are saying on that side is that they are going to treat everybody equal by title, and keep piling on the workload, whichever way the Prime Minister wants to. The member for Beauport—Limoilou and the member for Elmwood—Transcona mentioned the delivering of value.

Listening to the voices at the cabinet table and listening to other perspectives has nothing to do with what is written in a law, but it has everything to do with personality, character, and leadership skills. Whether one chooses to listen to an alternative point of view, or to a minister who does not have a title, or even to a member of Parliament who has expertise in an area or field that perhaps a ministry lacks or the cabinet lacks, it is up to the leadership, ending with the Prime Minister, to bring them in, hear what they have to say, and to take that into account.

However, it is the same old tune, because in a lot of ways, a lot of these ministers are invisible. We have been watching this sideshow with the Minister of Finance answering some questions on small business taxation, but the minister responsible for small business has barely stood up in the House to speak to what probably is the most important change or impact on her particular mandate. She has barely been allowed to speak to what will in fact make or break her success as the minister responsible for small business.

Ministers come with departments, buildings, civil servants, and budgets that they are responsible to manage. Nobody here can tell me that there is equality among the mandates of the ministers and equality of the tasks. I do not see that in the private sector either. When I was a director in a human resources professional association, I had a smaller budget than every single other director there. The value I brought was that I took care of corporate affairs and research for the membership on what members wanted. I had an equal voice at the table because my CEO allowed me to speak to defend the points I had to make and to challenge others at the table when they were making mistakes.

This is all about leadership. We cannot legislate leadership, and that is what the Liberals are trying to do with this. It just does not work that way. Therefore, as I said before, this entire debate is worthy of an episode of the Yes Minister series, which I love to quote here. In fact, I will make a suggestion to the government. The show has, as a central character, a minister of administrative affairs. The government could use that. It could have that single minister stand up and answer all the questions in the House and defend all of the government's initiatives by simply saying, “In time, we will consider your ideas”, and simply avoid answering all the questions, as the Liberals have done so far, at times successfully and at times less so.

However, nobody can tell me that this pay hike for Liberal cabinet ministers is the issue of the day, the issue of the month, or what Canadians at home are talking about. In fact, they are not. I will be very pleased to be voting against the bill at all stages.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak this morning. I say “happy”, but that depends on where people are in the House. Right now, I think that Bill C-24 is a travesty. The LIberals are trying to push something through the back door, or the front door, or the side door, that Canadians are not really concerned about. While the Minister of Finance is still gracing the front pages this morning, they are talking about increasing the number of ministers.

Maybe their time would be better spent looking at existing ministers and making them do their jobs properly and ethically. In my opinion, adding more ministers, when they still cannot figure out where to send three of them, is another thing in the Liberals’ DNA that makes them want to please everyone, especially their special friends, without giving any thought to the fact that Canadians will once again be the ones paying for it.

When we speak of gender equality and equity, we speak of equal work for equal pay. Everyone agrees. It is a fundamental principle. Therefore, if ministers do not all have the same level of responsibility, why should they be paid the same salary? That means that they want to give them still more. Here again, I have not done the math, but it means that, if everyone gets the same salary, they should have the same level of responsibility, new ministerial cars, government departments, and employees. They will need more than one or two employees, because when you have such important files you need the necessary resources.

In my opinion, gender equality is when women and men are allowed to speak. That is gender equality. It is being able to express ourselves as human beings, to say the things we need to say. No one needs to be a minister for that. A simple member of Parliament, if given the chance, can speak. Unfortunately, we have a Prime Minister who takes up a lot of room. When he arrives for question period, no one on the other side of the House is allowed to speak. He is the only one who can answer questions. However, there are ministers across the aisle. They are all equal, or so they tell us, but they do not have the right to speak. That is dangerous.

The Liberal government wants to add new ministers, but is abolishing the regional development minister positions. Instead of appointing other ministers, let us return these ministers to their functions so that they can give a voice to their regions.

I have nothing against the Minister of Economic Development. He is in his tower in Toronto and already has his hands full with that city. However, if I were to go to him tomorrow to discuss what is happening in Saint-Urbain or Saint-Irénée, I am not certain that he would know that they are in Charlevoix. He might think that they are in Europe. If I were to speak to him about the problems of farmers in Saint-Irénée or Saint-Urbain, I am not certain that he would understand what I was saying. I find this absurd. The Liberals want to increase the number of ministers, but they are eliminating ministers that are important to our regions.

If the Liberals want to add ministers, so be it. However, they should appoint them in the regions, where the people need to be heard.

Earlier, I was listening to the Liberal spokesperson, who was shouting rather loudly, because the Liberals act as though we, on this side of the House, understand nothing. Now, he should perhaps listen to me. When trying to ensure equality of men or women, the Liberals should give them their rightful place rather than putting on a dog and pony show. There is enough of that on Twitter and Facebook, not to mention Instagram. There are shots of the Prime Minister's socks as he visits a business and I really could not care less. However, I do care about the small businesses and farmers in my riding who have pressing needs.

In my view, Bill C-24 is a fine little bill that the Liberals have pulled out of a hat—hooray for Halloween, which is almost here—to avoid talking about the real issues of concern to the members of the House and Canadians. For example, did the Minister of Finance recuse himself from any discussions that could be in some way related to his interests? This morning, we learned that Morneau Shepell signed multiple contracts with federal departments. In the meantime, the Liberal Party is making us debate Bill C-24.

Are we on a reality TV show? We want to know the facts. When will the Liberals bring back regional economic development ministers? If they want to appoint solid ministers, now is the time. They should go and find them in the regions. I am sure there are solid people across the aisle. I am thinking in particular about Atlantic Canada. In Quebec, I think we are stronger than the Liberals, but elsewhere, they could find solid people.

It is insulting that the Liberals have introduced such a bill today, when Canadians need answers to their questions. What the Liberals are doing today is a sad charade. The Liberals have said themselves in committee that they do not believe in this bill, and yet those same members will stand up and vote in favour of it. They always say that the Liberals have free votes. We saw that yesterday, too.

Bill C-24 will not achieve any of the objectives the Liberals claim it will. Earlier the Liberal member was trying to say that he wants everyone to have an equal voice in the House. All 338 members have an equal voice. They can all say whatever they have to say. However, that does not appear to be the case across the aisle. Every time we ask them a question, it is always the same members who reply. It would seem that not all members across the aisle are allowed to speak. Rather than introducing this kind of bill, perhaps the Liberal Party should simply give its own members some air time.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciated my colleague's speech.

I would like to focus on the art of setting pay. Typically, this depends on the job description. I find it hard to believe that ministers with different workloads are paid the same.

Even more startlingly, Bill C-24 seems to suggest that we create three new ministerial positions whose job descriptions we know nothing about, but that will come with the same salary as the others. This means these new ministers could have a higher or lower workload than ministers of state, yet earn the same salary. By extension, everyone in the House could be paid the same amount, because it would seem that the relationship between pay and job description no longer exists.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2017 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for his very relevant question.

I completely agree with him. The government is trying to make us believe things, and that is the problem with the Liberals. They introduced Bill C-24 by saying that they are going to create three ministerial positions, but no one here in the House knows what these ministers will do. Before we vote on a bill like this one, we need to know where those ministers will be going and what they will be doing. Will those ministers represent regions? Regional development is important. I am going to vote against this bill because it is a smokescreen, as usual. The Liberals are not strong enough to introduce something clear and concise.

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are hearing that across the country.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

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

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

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

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

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

Let us go back to the origin of the bill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The expert witness said:

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

She went on to say that:

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I am shocked. Mr. Speaker.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Speaker's RulingSalaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As pointed out by the Canadian Bar Association:

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

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

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

There is no question that this needs to be rectified.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let me turn to the last amendment before us.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citizenship ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Ali Ehsassi Liberal Willowdale, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Dan Ruimy Liberal Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The senators put it down in black and white:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Second ReadingCannabis ActGovernment Orders

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.
See context

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.

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