Thank you, Mr. Chair and colleagues.
I bring with me today my deputy, as well as Martha, a privy council officer.
Today, it is my pleasure to speak with you on how the government is equalizing the status of all members of the Prime Minister's ministerial team and ensuring that the government continues to have the flexibility to deliver on its commitments to Canadians.
The Salaries Act authorizes the payment, out of the consolidated revenue fund, of a ministerial salary to individuals who have been appointed to ministerial positions listed in that act. There are currently 35 ministerial positions listed in the Salaries Act, including the position of prime minister. From time to time, the list of ministers in the Salaries Act changes to align with the priorities of the government of the day and the prime minister's preference with respect to the composition of the ministry. This is not new. Legislation amending the list of ministers in the Salaries Act was enacted in 2005, 2012, and 2013.
Canada needs a modern, agile, and flexible government that's organized in a way that is suited to delivering on its priorities and commitments. These amendments help us to do precisely that.
The legislation does away with administrative distinctions and makes equal the status of all ministers in the current ministry by adding to the Salaries Act five ministerial positions that will replace five current 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. This way of thinking and operating is not suited to the current content, as it fails to address both the importance of the subject matters at issue and the value of equality to this Prime Minister and our government more broadly.
The five new ministerial positions to be added to the act are the Minister of La Francophonie; the Minister of Small Business and Tourism; the Minister of Science; the Minister of Status of Women; and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities.
These are important positions, with roles and responsibilities becoming of full ministers.
The Minister of International Development and La Francophonie pursues Canada's strong and sustained commitment to the 80 member states and governments of the Francophonie. Together these constitute more than one-third of the United Nations' membership, and they account for a population of more than 890 million people worldwide, including 220 million French speakers.
The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development contributes to the competitiveness of Canada in a global, knowledge-based economy through supporting scientific research and the integration of scientific considerations in the government's investment and policy choices. The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development is the lead minister for a number of science-related funding programs, including the Canada research chairs and several portfolio agencies, such as the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, NSERC. Innovation is a key priority for our government, and science will help us continue to build an economy that is both environmentally sustainable and prosperous.
The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities promotes healthier Canadians through sport and recreation and works to ensure greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities. The minister has been tasked with developing legislation to transform how the Government of Canada addresses accessibility and leads on a number of important funding programs, including the enabling accessibility fund.
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.
In my role as Minister of Small Business and Tourism, I support Canada's small businesses, the backbone of our economy, by helping them grow through trade and innovation in order to create jobs, support communities, and launch world-class companies. I am also working to grow Canada's tourism industries by promoting Canada as a world-class destination for international tourists.
As you can 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 will reflect the importance of these five positions and the expectations placed on the people who occupy them. 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 will be repealed, and these ministers will be in law what they already are in practice: full ministers.
I would like to take a moment to address the issue of cost. The cost of the current ministry will not change with the enactment of Bill C-24. Only the payment mechanism will change. Let me explain. Ministers whose positions are listed in the Salaries Act receive their ministerial salaries under that authority and from the consolidated revenue fund. Ministers appointed under the Ministries and Ministers of State Act receive salaries determined by the Prime Minister, and they are paid from the applicable departmental vote, as provided for in annual appropriation acts. That has been the legislative framework for over two decades. Once BillC-24 is passed, the former ministers of state will be appointed to the new Salaries Act positions and will be paid under the authority of that act.
All 30 members of the Prime Minister's ministerial team already receive the same ministerial salary. That has been the case since our first day in office, and it will not change with the enactment of this bill.
Bill C-24 will create a framework that will allow these ministers to continue to be supported by existing departments in carrying out their responsibilities. No new departments will need to be created as a result of this legislation.
Bill C-24 will increase the number of ministers that could be paid a ministerial salary under the Salaries Act from 35 to 37, including the Prime Minister, which represents an increase of two ministerial positions that could be paid from the consolidated revenue fund. Let me point out, however, that the Prime Minister currently has 34 ministerial positions available to him under the Salaries Act, but he has appointed only 30 individuals to the ministry. This bill is not fundamentally aimed at growing the ministry. Its goal is simply to formalize in legislation the equal status of the current ministry and to modernize the act to enable more flexible and adaptable ministries in the future.
Bill C-24 amendments are not just about addressing government priorities in the immediate term. We also want to ensure that future ministries can be structured in ways that meet emerging priorities.
To enhance the flexibility of government, Bill C-24 would add three untitled ministerial positions to the Salaries Act. These positions can be titled at the discretion of the Prime Minister to reflect the priorities of the time. 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. We now have regional and national expertise all working together. This creates better synergy and opportunities for greater progress, and provides the flexibility needed to make a real impact in communities across Canada.
The regional development agencies will all continue to fulfill their mandates of supporting small and medium-sized 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. They will also continue to provide programs and services to entrepreneurs and communities that build on the distinct competitive regional advantage. All the regional agencies working together will ensure cohesion between them, help grow the economy, and deliver results to Canadians in all regions of the country.
Having them all report to Parliament, to the minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, serves to highlight the important role economic development plays across Canada's regions.
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.
To conclude, these changes formalize what has already been in practice since day one of this government. The Prime Minister's cabinet is a group of equals, and non-legislative steps have already been taken to recognize the equal status of its members. These amendments address an administrative constraint in current legislation and catch it up with the structure of the ministry as it operates today.
We are resolute in our belief that a modern ministry that prioritizes equality, fairness, and flexibility will provide better outcomes for all Canadians.
I would like to thank the honourable members of this committee for their time and for inviting me to share my views. I look forward to your questions and your comments.
With that, Mr. Chair, thank you.