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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Again, I remind the member to address the Chair.

The hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona, a brief answer, please.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, if the Liberals believe in a one-tier ministry, they should know that the structure of Global Affairs very clearly puts the Minister of Foreign Affairs above the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of International Development. It is clearly a hierarchical relationship. Those ministers report to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. The idea that we are going to have a one-tier ministry after this is just absurd. If they believe in a one-tier ministry, they ought to address exactly what that means, whatever it is.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, we do believe in it. We do believe that all ministers are equal and that is what this legislation is all about.

I have been here for the full debate, whether the introduction of the bill or the second reading followed by what took place at committee, the report stage, and now third reading. It seems that the longer the bill is discussed, the more the speaking points of the Conservatives and the NDP have converged, and have now become one in essence. The unholy alliance has united on this piece of legislation.

The opposition members talk about regional and gender issues. We could take a New Democrat speech and say this is a Conservative speech, and vice versa. It is encouraging to see the opposition members come together on important issues, but I would suggest this is not something they should be opposing. It is fairly straightforward legislation.

Some members on the opposition benches ask why we are debating this, why we do not just get through it and allow it to come to a vote. Then others want to debate it endlessly. Believe it or not, I suspect there might be some who might like to see the debate never end on this piece of legislation.

The opposition members try to say to the government this is all about gender equality. They say there are members in the chamber who have talked about gender equality. Yes, I too, in addressing this legislation talked about gender equality.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Why?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

The member across the way heckled “why”. Let us go back to the reason we have the legislation. The Prime Minister made a commitment that if a member sits at the cabinet table, all ministers will be equal. That means that a minister of small business, or democratic reform, or defence, whatever it might be, will each have an equal vote at the table. There is one vote for each member, and each member has the opportunity to be engaged around the cabinet table as equal peers. That is a positive thing.

Stephen Harper had 40 cabinet ministers, compared to 30 in this government. One of the arguments members raise is that we increased salaries for some of those ministers. Our cabinet is far smaller than the Harper government's, but sometimes the NDP use that Conservative line also.

If we look at what the legislation will do, there is only one conclusion that can be drawn. It will ensure that there is more flexibility not only for today's Prime Minister, but also for future prime ministers in making up a cabinet and recognizing one important component, that all ministers are equal.

Members across the way say that the Minister of Finance has a much bigger treasury to work with than the Minister of Small Business and Tourism. Therefore, they are not equal. It is true there is a difference in the bottom line dollar amount, but to assert they are not equal is wrong. I would argue that the minister responsible for small business and tourism is of critical importance to the Government of Canada. How many times do we hear members across the way ask questions about small businesses? We hear it a lot. That may be one of the top four or five questions asked.

As the government day in and day out fights to protect and expand the interests of Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, we look to small businesses as the backbone of the economy and one of the driving forces of job creation.

Many government policies over the last couple of years have fed into supporting Canada's small businesses. The minister responsible for small business plays a critical role in developing good sound policies.

I and small businesses across Canada were delighted when we heard the formal announcement of the reduction of the small business tax to 9%, which is quite significant. It will contribute to the growth of the Canadian economy.

Members across the way say that the minister should not make as much money as the Minister of Democratic Institutions. They say that the minister responsible for small business is junior to the minister of democratic reform. Hogwash. That is what I say to the joint opposition, the unholy alliance of Conservatives and NDP members.

We recognize the importance of small businesses. More important, the Prime Minister understands and appreciates the importance of equality among the individuals who sit around the cabinet table. Only the opposition is giving the impression to Canadians that this is bad legislation. How can those members oppose equality?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

An hon. member

It's not.

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11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the member across the way says “It's not ”. Those members need to read the bill.

The members want to talk about gender equality, so I will talk about gender equality and how the opposition has tied that into the legislation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

You don't need to, Kevin. We only brought it up because you did.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona seems confused, so I would like to clarify it for the member. The reason why gender equality is often talked about in relation to the legislation is because of the opposition's attitude when cabinet ministers were appointed. The Prime Minister announced that all cabinet positions were equal, that all individuals who sat around the cabinet table were equal. He told us legislation would come forward on this.

For the very first time, a historic announcement was made which stated that our Liberal government had a gender equal cabinet. Not only did this historic announcement hit news wires in virtually every region of our country, but it went international. It was about time Canada had a Prime Minister who recognized the importance of a gender equal cabinet.

I heard many stories, some from my daughter, some from my constituents, about how wonderful it was that we had a feminist Prime Minister, a prime minister who made a strong statement while at the same time ensured we moved forward on an important file.

Members across the way, as well as the member for Elmwood—Transcona, might have laughed at these appointments but Canadians received them quite well.

The NDP and their friends in the Conservative Party could not come up with anything to criticize, but they wanted to be critical the appointment of the new cabinet. Therefore, they said that small business was not as important as democratic reform or other cabinet positions. They said that the position of Minister of Status of Women was not worthy of being recognized as an equal player sitting at the cabinet table. That was the best they could come up.

I have news for the opposition. When government does something of that nature, there is nothing wrong in saying that it is a good announcement. It would be advantageous for those members to recognize that when announcements of this nature are put into place, they acknowledge them for what they are. In this case, it was a positive historic announcement that would ensure gender parity in the national Government of Canada. It was a powerful announcement, and I think the majority of Canadians received it that way. Criticism is not necessary.

Let us look at what followed from that. This legislation would ensure that all cabinet ministers would be paid the same. However, that is not the only change being made by the legislation.

There is a change to the title of the infrastructure minister. We all know this government has a huge focus on Canada's infrastructure. For many years, the Harper government did very little in terms of real investment in infrastructure. The legislation that the NDP has been conned into supporting with the Conservative Party also makes a change to infrastructure. The title of Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs will be changed to Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

There are two things worth noting. One is that the Prime Minister of Canada is taking on the responsibility of intergovernmental affairs. For years, as the Liberals sat in opposition, we saw the lack of effort by the Conservative government in reaching out and encouraging intergovernmental affairs. The Government of Canada at the time virtually ignored our partners and did not reach out or encourage anything to take place. In two years, there has been significant improvement in that area. One of them is the fact that the Prime Minister is going to lead on that front. We have realized tangible benefits by doing that. I will provide a couple of examples.

We can talk about the Canada pension plan. Workers today will contribute more toward a national program, which Canadians love. When they retire in the future, they will have more money. Why? Because we have a government today that worked with provinces and was able to achieve an agreement.

That is not the only thing. The former minister of health went to every province and territory, and an accord was reached. The previous accord, which was signed back in 2003 or 2004, lasted for 10 years but the Harper government did not renew it. If members ask their constituents, they will find that health care is the number one issue, at least from my perspective. People love our Canadian health care system. We now have a government that understands this and it has taken direct action to improve it. The accord has been renewed and more money is being put into health care. Why? Because we have made changes in this legislation that says the Prime Minister needs to play a stronger role, especially after the years of neglect by the Harper government.

A third example would be the price on carbon. The Prime Minister went to Paris where an international agreement was reached. He came back to Canada and worked with the provinces on a pan-Canadian price on carbon, to which the provinces agreed. Many governments around the world understand the need for that. Provinces understood the need for that. At the time, only the Conservative Party opposed it, and still opposes it today, which is most unfortunate.

I would encourage my New Democratic friends to stay away from the Conservatives on that issue. They do not want to fall into that trap.

The other component to that change in the legislation is the renaming of infrastructure. Now, through this legislation, we will have the minister responsible for infrastructure and communities. Two things come to mind there. First, is the historical amounts of money, the billions of dollars, that are going into Canada's infrastructure. Every region of our country will see a positive impact. This government recognizes that we need to invest in our country. We need to invest in our infrastructure. Doing that will assist our country in continuing to grow into the future. That is worthy of having the designation being about infrastructure and communities.

When I hear the argument from the other side about the regional agencies, I think about it and compare it to infrastructure. We will be spending literally hundreds of millions of dollars, going into billions of dollars, over the next few years. I am surprised members opposite do not ask why we do not have a regional whatever to ensure those regional concerns are dealt with through the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, after all, a lot of money will go into the communities.

I say that because I want to highlight the importance of individual members of Parliament. At least within the Liberal caucus, we have individuals who constantly lobby for regional interests for the area they represent. I am an advocate for the province of Manitoba. I love the province of Quebec. I am a nationalist first and foremost. I believe in a sense of equality for all regions of our country. However, I ensure, as much as I can, that Manitoba is well represented when it comes to infrastructure.

We pose the questions. When it comes to P.E.I., Quebec, Manitoba, British Columbia, we all get our fair share of infrastructure dollars. We can look at the numbers. I think Canadians will feel good knowing that every region is getting its fair share of infrastructure dollars. This will be in good part because we will have a minister who is responsible for that and that alone, building our country, ensuring the national interest is served.

I do not hear criticism coming from the opposition on that issue. However, when it comes to the regional economic development issue, the NDP has joined the Conservative forces to say that we need to have a bigger cabinet. After all, Harper had six additional ministers dealing with regional economic development, so we should also have those six regional ministers.

I hope Jagmeet Singh and the leader of the Conservative Party, when door-knocking in the next election, tell their constituents that they will increase the size of cabinet, by adding an additional six members with responsibilities in regional development. I look forward to having that debate with my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona. How will he defend why the western diversification fund did as poorly as it did, in particular why Winnipeg did poorly, while Harper was in government? If we look at the allotment of money and if we look at the minister responsible for western diversification at that time, Winnipeg did not do well. However, the member across the way will argue that this is the ideal situation. I disagree.

I believe that there is a national interest and that our member from Mississauga and the minister responsible for the development of our nation cares passionately about the national interest, and we will ensure that the appropriate expenditures are being done in the communities that need that support.

I appreciate the words, and I look forward to some questions.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Madam Speaker, I always enjoy listening to my colleague from Winnipeg North. His words are tremendously inspiring, particularly when he is wrong, because that gives me an opportunity to refute his statements.

My question is quite simple. The hon. member said a few minutes ago that the Conservative Party of Canada would like to create six more cabinet positions to be responsible for each and every region in Canada. That is not exactly the reality. When we were in office, our minister had other responsibilities than this one. Let me give this example, a great example I might say. The former member for Lac-Saint-Jean, who was a senior cabinet minister in the Harper government, was also responsible for the Quebec area.

Would the member explain to me why he said something that was wrong a few minutes ago?

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Noon

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I always appreciate the contributions from my colleague and friend across the way. At times, when we get into the heat of debate, we might at times refer to designations. Listening to members from the New Democratic Party and some of his own colleagues talking about the importance of these regional ministries and these regional representations, many would have inferred through the comments that they would need to have cabinet ministers who have that sole responsibility. I would attribute those comments toward this. Ultimately, as I said during my comments, I would welcome my opposition colleagues, both New Democrats and Conservatives, to go to the doors saying that we need to have regional ministers, period. Whether or not they choose to do that would be up to them. My best guess is that they will not.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

Noon

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.

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Noon

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I suspect that we could probably easily identify 40 or 50 really important issues facing our nation. If the member opposite is arguing that in order to address each of those 40 or 50 issues we should create a cabinet position for it, then I would suggest that the member opposite is wrong.

The member referred to the issue of housing. It was just a couple of weeks ago that we had the minister responsible for housing stand up and share with Canadians a historical document on a national housing strategy that incorporates billions of dollars over the next 10 years. I would suggest that many New Democrats and people of all political stripes have recognized the value of this national housing program that is being brought forward. I suspect I will be afforded opportunities in the future to expand on that particular program, because it is an outstanding national housing strategy.

The point is that ministers are assigned many different issues, and they are quite capable and able to deal with them. What this proposed legislation would do is make all those who are classified as ministers equal as ministers when they sit around the cabinet table. They all have mandate letters and certain responsibilities and they should be treated equally, which is what this proposed legislation would do in most part.

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12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, before I ask my question, I would like to announce to the House that my wife and I became grandparents again this morning. My daughter Chantal and her husband Mathieu had a second child whom they have named Lucas, a little brother for my granddaughter Maëlle. I am very proud of that this morning.

My question to my colleague for Winnipeg North has to do with our government's decision to change the composition of cabinet, where we have amalgamated the responsibility of the regional development agencies with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Can the member please share how this would ensure strong representation in regions in this country?

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12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of all members of this House, I congratulate the member on being a grandfather again with the birth of his second grandchild.

On the member's question, I will read something very specific, because I think it is an important point related to the question. “Reporting through the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development highlights the importance RDAs play in the regions and permits a more integrated and whole-of-government approach to economic development issues.”

Our current minister, who is a very strong nationalist, understands the importance of his responsibilities not only for the region of Mississauga but, indeed, for the country as a whole. When we come to this chamber, we all love our own ridings to death. Having said that, I choose to believe that we all would ultimately do what is in the national interest, and this particular minister is second to none in wanting to do just that.

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12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my Liberal colleague a question, because the other member left.

If gender equality is the goal, we need to give men and women equal space.

I think the debate we are having today is somewhat meaningless. The Liberals would have us believe that they want gender equality, but they cannot seem to make up their minds over on the other side of the House. The Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister of Small Business and Tourism said that this was meant to promote gender equality, although one of her colleagues said it has nothing to do with that.

I would like to know why the Liberal Party opposite is wasting our time with such a bill, when the Prime Minister himself refuses to make room for any of his ministers when he is here in the House answering all the questions.

I am a woman and I have always felt equal to men, and sometimes even superior to men, but that is another debate. I want to know why the Liberal Party introduced this bill, which is purely cosmetic. The Liberals cannot even agree on one explanation or one way of thinking about this.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, to be clear, the bill is not about gender equality. It is about establishing that one tier of equal cabinet ministers when they sit at the table, as I talked about. That is really what it is about, along with the infrastructure reference I made in my speech.

All cabinet ministers in this government are equal. It elevated certain positions, such as small business and tourism into the same ranking as the minister of defence, or the minister of democratic reform. Those are all equal. That is a good thing. It is not about gender equality.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

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.

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Kent Conservative Thornhill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for reminding Canadians of the many different ways the government has tried to defend the bill. I was thinking today, as I walked up to the House after the latest winter snowfall, of the different ways of looking at winter.

For example, Gilles Vigneault sang “Mon pays, ce n'est pas un pays, c'est l'hiver”, which translates to “my country is not a country, it's winter”. However, Robert Charlebois sang “L'hiver fret et blanc, fret et blanc comme un lavabo”, which translates to “winter is cold and white, cold and white like a sink”.

Those two very different visions of winter can be compared to the government, which first defended this bill as about gender equality, and then not about gender equality but something like Animal Farm, where all ministers are equal except some are more equal than others.

Could my colleague again address the flawed logic in the government's defence of this bill?

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, I pay my respects to my colleague from Thornhill, who was a journalist like me. However, he was a journalist before I was born, so I will not repeat that publicly. Luckily, I have protection in here and can say whatever I want, and he cannot pursue me, but I will repeat it outside. I can assure everyone that I will not sing, as my colleague did a few minutes ago.

My colleague from Thornhill raises a very important point, namely, that we should all respect one another, men and women alike. There is no problem with someone being appointed minister of state. Just being here is an exceptional and extraordinary privilege, so anyone who can serve their country even further within cabinet should feel really good about that. In the past, I used to always like to say that I would have been happy to serve in the rafters of the House of Commons or the National Assembly. We are remarkably privileged.

Why remove the word “state” to secure the limousine and salary that goes along with the promotion? Because the Liberals realized that those five individuals were women. If anything, this is an insult to women, because the Liberals are actually changing course. Would they have done the same thing if it were five men?

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d’Orléans—Charlevoix, QC

No.

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

There we go, Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix has answered the question.

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12:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have a very specific question for my colleague across the way regarding, let us say, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism compared to the Minister of Democratic Institutions. I know that my friend across the way is very much involved with the economy, given the many economic questions he asks during question period. What does the legislation do to those two departments? In essence, it does one thing: it makes them equal. What we are saying is that the minister responsible for small business and tourism is equal to the minister responsible for democratic reform.

Does the member agree that should be the case?

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12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, we all recognize that when ministers sit at the cabinet table they are all equal, and that is a real privilege. We are very honoured to be here in the House. Three years from now, if I am selected by my leader, I am sure I will be very pleased to serve as a cabinet minister.

Seriously, that is where decisions are made. What more is there than that? Being a minister is having to make decisions on one's file in one's department. When one runs a department of thousands of people like the defence department, Global Affairs, or the finance department, or all of those other departments, one is responsible to sign each and every decision taken. That is not the case for ministers of state. They are different. We are not talking about quality, but about responsibility. There should be equal pay for equal work and equal responsibility. In that case, there is a huge difference between a ministre d'État and a senior cabinet minister.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

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

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.