House of Commons Hansard #250 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-24.

Topics

Parliamentary Budget OfficerRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Pursuant to subsection 79.2(2) of the Parliament of Canada Act, it is my duty to present to the House a report from the parliamentary budget officer entitled “Bill C-342--Cost of carbon pricing deduction from GST”.

Interparliamentary DelegationsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I do not know how many people who are watching or how many members of Parliament know that there is a committee of parliamentarians from the eight Arctic nations. We meet four times a year. We just had a meeting in Iceland, the first country to get 100% off of fossil fuels. We discussed things like black carbon in the Arctic.

Pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation to the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association respecting its participation at the meeting of the Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, held in Reykjavik, Iceland, from October 11 to 13.

Official LanguagesCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Paradis Liberal Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Official Languages entitled “Ensuring Justice is Done in Both Official Languages”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

I would like to take a moment to thank all the members of all political parties who worked on the report, as well as the clerk, Christine Holke, and the analyst, Lucie Lecomte.

Public Safety and Emergency PreparednessCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

December 12th, 2017 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, before I present the report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I want to acknowledge the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who has made a significant contribution to this report.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 16th report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security concerning Bill C-66, An Act to establish a procedure for expunging certain historically unjust convictions and to make related amendments to other Acts. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendment.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on International Trade, entitled “Priorities of Canadian Stakeholders Having an Interest in Bilateral and Trilateral Trade in North America, Between Canada, United States and Mexico”. Pursuant to Standing Order 109 the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

I would like to add that we have a wonderful committee. We work hard together on trade for Canadians. I would also like to thank our clerk and analysts, and the good people when we travel, those in our embassies and consulates in the United States.

International TradeCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer—Mountain View, AB

Mr. Speaker, our committee was tasked with studying the trade priorities of Canadians, but recommendations from certain stakeholders were not reflected in the final report. The Conservative members of the Standing Committee on International Trade would like to offer this supplementary opinion, which includes testimony given by various stakeholders whose recommendations seem to have been overlooked.

We have included recommendations based on the evidence presented by various witnesses and stakeholders, and we encourage the Liberal government and the Minister of International Trade to read these recommendations and to actually listen to the trade priorities of all Canadians.

Latin American Heritage Month ActRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

moved that Bill S-218, An Act respecting Latin American Heritage Month, be read a first time.

Mr. Speaker, I am truly honoured to table and sponsor Bill S-218, an act respecting Latin American heritage month. I am particularly honoured because the legislation, which recognizes the significant contributions to Canada's social, economic, and political fabric by our Latin American community, was created and lovingly fashioned by our late colleague, the hon. Senator Tobias Enverga.

Senator Enverga, a champion of multiculturalism, believed that diversity was Canada's greatest strength. It was Tobias's firm belief, before his untimely passing just last month, that Latin American heritage month would be a meaningful way to remember, celebrate, and educate fellow Canadians about a unique and important element of our country's significant diversity.

I urge all members on both sides of the House to support Bill S-218.

(Motion agreed to and bill read the first time)

Algoma Passenger Rail ServicePetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise once again to table a petition for the Minister of Transport.

The Algoma passenger train was the only safe, affordable, all-season access into the Algoma wilderness rail corridor for over 100 years. The petitioners indicate that the few industrial roads are only maintained when and if industries need them and are not for public use. Alternate ways of access are not reliable, safe year-round, or non-existent. They also indicate that this has caused substantial hardships for residents, businesses, and other passengers.

The petitioners ask that the Minister of Transport put the Algoma passenger train back on its tracks and that the government fulfill its mission, which is to serve the public interest through promotion of a safe and secure, efficient, and environmentally responsible transportation system in Canada.

The petitioners are from Wawa, Echo Bay, Sault Ste. Marie, Bowmanville, Whitby, and Campbell River, B.C.

Religious FreedomPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present a petition that has a long preamble, which I will summarize.

The petitioners call upon the House of Commons to permit Christians to robustly exercise their religious beliefs and conscience rights, both in private and public acts, without coercion, restraint, or discrimination by amending section 241 of the Criminal Code and to enact a policy to provide a review of any new legislation that may be brought forth in the future by the government to ensure it does not impinge upon the rights of Canadians in accordance with the historic continuance of the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition calling for an end to corporate pension theft given that working Canadians rely on their pensions and benefits to have a dignified life and retirement. Canada's inadequate bankruptcy laws currently allow corporations to take money intended for their employees' pensions and benefits to pay CEOs, banks, and investors. Canadian workers are calling on the Government of Canada to fix our bankruptcy laws to prevent corporations from putting shareholders, banks, and creditors before their retired employees when they enter into restructuring proceedings or bankruptcy. The petition is signed by the citizens of my riding, Salaberry—Suroît.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I received notice from the Minister of National Revenue who would like to present arguments with respect to the question of privilege raised by the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge.

The hon. Minister of National Revenue.

Statements by Minister of Revenue Regarding the Disability Tax CreditPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Gaspésie—Les-Îles-de-la-Madeleine Québec

Liberal

Diane Lebouthillier LiberalMinister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I have a few more remarks I would like to make regarding the question of privilege raised by my colleague, the member for Calgary Rocky Ridge.

The member referred to recent articles and believes that they contradict the statement I made to the effect that the eligibility criteria for the disability tax credit have not changed. Accordingly, he is accusing me of knowingly misleading this House.

I stand by my previous statement. The eligibility criteria for this tax credit, as defined in paragraph 118.3(1)(a.1) of the Income Tax Act, have not changed.

My colleague's question of privilege has more to do with the letter of clarification that the Canada Revenue Agency started sending out in May to communicate with health care professionals in cases where agents require more information to complete a file.

It is very important to me that this issue be resolved today, not only to clarify the matter here in the House, but also to ensure that Canadians have accurate information on the disability tax credit for the benefit of those who apply for it.

The letter of clarification sent by the agency sought to clarify the interpretation of the information relative to the 14-hour rule set out in the legislation. The purpose of the letter was never to change an eligibility criterion. However, it became obvious that the clarification letter had an unintended consequence with respect to the assessment of the claims. That is why I announced on Friday that the agency would immediately stop using the content of the May clarification letter and would resume using the previous letter. The agency will also reassess the claims that were denied during that period.

In order to ensure that the agency's administrative changes help improve our service, I also announced the return of the disability advisory committee. From now on, the views of Canadians with disabilities will be an integral part of the agency's decision-making process.

Although I stand by my previous comments that no changes were made to the eligibility criteria, I will admit that the agency's efforts to clarify the criteria had unintended consequences. For that, I offer my most sincere apologies.

I am convinced that, thanks to the announcement we made last week, the agency's decisions will be better informed. The committee will play a key role in the administration of tax credits for persons with disabilities and its recommendations will be made public.

Statements by Minister of Revenue Regarding the Disability Tax CreditPrivilegeRoutine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I thank the hon. Minister of National Revenue for her comments. I will consider her arguments and those presented by the hon. member for New Westminster—Burnaby, the hon. member for Calgary Rocky Ridge, and the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and get back to the House with my decision.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

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

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, my question for the government House leader is this. She is a part-time House leader and a part-time minister. What makes her think she should be paid the same as a full-time minister?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, we are elected in this place first as members of Parliament. I am the full-time member of Parliament for the riding of Waterloo.

The Prime Minister asked me to be part of his team around the cabinet table. He made me the full-time Minister of Small Business and Tourism. The Prime Minister recognized the important work that I did, and our team does, and asked me to take on additional responsibilities as the full-time government House leader.

The comments of the member opposite do not advance the work that we are trying to do in this country. She can use the words she chooses, but she very well knows that every member of Parliament works to his or her maximum potential on behalf of Canadians. I will continue to do the important work that I was elected to do. I will continue to do the important work the Prime Minister has asked me to do. I encourage all members to continue working hard on behalf of all Canadians.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Richard Cannings NDP South Okanagan—West Kootenay, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to ask the minister if she could comment on the fact that this is a bill that we have been debating forever in this House, it seems. I think we have debated it more than we have debated the budget, yet it is a bill about nothing. It is a bill that accomplishes nothing. We could have done everything in this bill without it. We could have raised the salaries of these minor ministers to levels that are the same as real ministers with departments. However, it seems that this bill is only designed to fix a problem that the Liberal government had because it wanted to say it had a gender-parity cabinet, when in fact it only achieved that by naming six women to these minor minister of state positions. It wanted to paper that over, and we have been spending hours in this House debating a bill that really accomplishes nothing, except fixing a minor problem for the government. I wonder if she could comment on that.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Bardish Chagger Liberal Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I am a little surprised at the member's words. Women contributing to the workplace is not minor. Small business and tourism is not minor. Status of women is not minor. Canada has two official languages, and La Francophonie is not minor. The list goes on.

We talk about the importance of maximizing the potential of our workforce. The Prime Minister made a conscious decision to have gender parity at the cabinet table. For the first time in the history of our country, we have the same number of men and women at the cabinet table. That is not minor.

The only way the country will continue to advance and recognize that we need to change the way we do things is by seeing leadership. That is the leadership that our Prime Minister is demonstrating today. For the first time in the history of our country, 150 years, we have a woman in the role of government House leader. I was shocked to learn that. It took 150 years for a woman to occupy this post. It should not have taken 150 years. I will not wait another 150 years. This legislation is important.

I must say this quickly. It is true that we could legislate—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I am sorry to interrupt, but I have to call for more questions. Questions and comments, the hon. member for Thornhill.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to my hon. colleague's remarks. I look to the day when a future government returns to the traditional position of minister of state, an honourable junior minister with appropriate compensation.

My question is prompted by my colleague's reference to the Prime Minister's authority to appoint and assign responsibilities.

With regard to the government House leader's assignment to lead the search for a new ethics commissioner, whom we will examine at committee today, and that she has been the prime defender of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance in the face of the investigations by the Ethics Commissioner, does she not think she might have recused herself from that responsibility assigned by the Prime Minister?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I just want to remind the member that it has to be related to the position itself. I will allow the government House leader to respond.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

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.