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.