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

Canadian HeritageOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Ahuntsic-Cartierville Québec

Liberal

Mélanie Joly LiberalMinister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, our government recognizes the importance of protecting culture and that is why we are taking concrete action.

We have invested $2.3 billion, the largest investment in 30 years by the federal government, in our creative industries and the protection and support of the production of French and English content.

We also decided to have the courage to modernize our system. Our laws date back to 1991, before the advent of the Internet. We will modernize the Broadcasting Act to ultimately protect our culture in the digital age.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

I would like to draw the attention of hon. members to the presence in the gallery of a delegation of ministers of justice from across Canada: the Honourable Andrew Parsons, Minister of Justice, Public Safety, and Attorney General for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; the Honourable Tracy-Anne McPhee, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for Yukon; the Honourable Louis Sebert, Minister of Justice and Attorney General for the Northwest Territories; and the Honourable Jeannie Ehaloak, Minister of Justice for Nunavut.

Presence in GalleryOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

ROYAL ASSENTOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Geoff Regan

Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

December 12, 2017

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, December 12, 2017, at 5:15 p.m., for the purpose of giving Royal Assent to certain bills of law.

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Wallace

Bill C-66—Charter StatementOral Questions

December 12th, 2017 / 3:05 p.m.

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, I would like to table, in both official languages, a charter statement on Bill C-66, An Act to establish a procedure for expunging certain historically unjust convictions and to make related amendments to other Acts.

While I am on my feet, I want to express the appreciation of the government to all members on all sides of the House who have facilitated the prompt procedure of this legislation through the House of Commons.

The House resumed consideration of the motion 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.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ken McDonald Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I agree with what my colleague said. If he did not think it was worthwhile the legislation, why did he talk about it? For most of his speech, he criticized what the Liberal government had been doing over the last two years. He even went back to the Chrétien days to try and throw in some criticism.

How can the member square that with the results last night in four by-elections? His party happened to lose what used to be a strong Conservative seat to the Liberals. Does he really think his criticism today, and in the months previous to this, has paid off well for the strength of not just his party, but for the leadership of the party?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for giving me a chance to address the previous comment about waste. Talking about this is a waste. This is a democracy and this is called debate. I realize the Liberals believe that only they are allowed to have ideas. Disagreeing with their ideas seems to send them into an apocalyptic mood, that only their ideas matter. It does not matter what we are talking about, debate is debate. If I disagree with the bill, and that is why I am sent here, I will mention that I disagree with it. Whether it is horrible legislation or a waste of time legislation, it is my right and my duty to speak to it.

I am very happy to mention that across the four by-elections, our popular vote went up considerably, but their popular vote did not. The Liberals dropped in Newfoundland where they lost the ACOA minister. They dropped in Scarborough where they got rid of one of the regional ministers from northern Alberta. They dropped in Saskatchewan where, funny enough, they also lost the western diversification minister.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was able to get here in time to hear my colleague talk about the loss of regional ministers. Could he further expand and provide some more context to the centralization of the government? It is similar to what I saw in a New Democratic government in Manitoba when it was looking at tracking everything back into the city of Winnipeg.

We have a very centralized situation for development across the country, where it appears as if one area has much more knowledge about how the rest of Canada would operate than it does on the ground in those areas of those regions, not necessarily provinces but regions of Canada. I would like him to have the opportunity to expand on that.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his hard work on the file. There is value to having the economic ministries. I look again at Alberta. We are in crisis. In Edmonton, the unemployment rate is 8.2%. In Calgary, it is 8.3%. People are suffering. We have Uber drivers, with two different engineering degrees, who cannot find work. The usage of our food bank in Edmonton is up 80,000 customers a month.

Thankfully there is some good support and we are stepping up to help those people, but we are in need in Alberta. We need a voice for Alberta and that could have been served previously by someone like the western diversification minister. It is not being served by the current senior Liberal minister, the MP for Edmonton Mill Woods. For example, for infrastructure transit funding, Alberta gets underfunded 14% per capita. The infrastructure minister is based in Alberta and we are underfunded.

Energy east was steamrolled and crushed by the government constantly changing the goal posts. We have no one in Alberta inside the government at the cabinet table representing Alberta and western interests, standing and saying these are jobs for Alberta, these are jobs for western Canada. These regional ministries do have a value and they have been taken away by the government.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:25 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 news for the member across the way. Under the Harper regime, the province of Alberta did quite poorly with respect to the western diversification fund. Obviously the member across the way has not actually looked at the numbers.

The legislation does say that we do not need those regional ministers. Instead we want to have a minister who has a national perspective, a national focus on developing our country, much like we have a national minister of infrastructure, ministers who are quite capable and able of doing the right thing for all regions of the country.

We have members of Parliament advocate for their regions. Cabinet ministers have a broader picture of the national interest and they are quite able and competent to so, ensuring that through their departments, the regions are working together to build a stronger, healthier economy in all regions.

Would the member not agree that the net benefit of Canada is of utmost importance?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for his long statement and short question.

The benefit to Canada is utmost, which is why we need a strong Alberta. A strong Alberta allowed his province, under the Harper era, to be highest recipient of equalization payments, mostly from the province of Alberta.

I have to thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for pointing out how poorly the three Liberal MPs from Alberta are doing. Instead of actually saying “look at the great job”, it is “oh, they are actually representing everyone else”. He has made it clear they are not representing Alberta at all, which makes clear why we need a western diversification minister to represent their interests in Ottawa, rather than the three MPs we currently have striving to represent Ottawa in Alberta.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Brampton East for his contribution to this debate.

We started this back in June. I heard the member say that this bill would have no monetary change, which is really unfortunate, because I think this was an opportunity for the government to actually reduce its costs. Instead of raising the pay of these five ministers, I propose in this chamber that we reduce all ministerial pay to the pay of these other five ministers who seem to be selected, so to speak. It is a misfortune they find themselves in that the government did not plan ahead and did not ensure that all ministers were paid to the level they believed they would be.

I think there is an opportunity here. Will the member agree with me that we could save some taxpayer dollars by reducing all ministerial pay to that of a minister of state?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

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

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

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

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

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Filomena Tassi Liberal Hamilton West—Ancaster—Dundas, ON

Mr. Speaker, with respect to the minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs, the bill would actually change that name to minister of infrastructure and communities. That reflects the fact that the Prime Minister has taken on the role of intergovernmental affairs minister. I wonder if the member could comment on the importance of that name change and how he feels about that name change.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the name change is important to ensure that it accurately reflects the responsibilities of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. He is no longer responsible for intergovernmental affairs. The Prime Minister has taken on that role, and he is doing a phenomenal job of ensuring that we have a great confederation moving forward.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Communities is doing a great job too. We see that from our rapidly growing economy. Especially in the city of Brampton, our local councillors and mayor are so happy to have a federal government that finally understands that municipalities are partners and that infrastructure is important to economic development across the country. It understands the process to get the money flowing from the federal government right to the cities, because cities know best how to manage those funds to invest locally and help our citizens. It is what the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities is doing, and we applaud him for his great job so far.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, rumour has it that this is our second to last day in the House. This is a government that has underperformed, relative to any other new government, in relation to how many new pieces of legislation it has introduced in the House. We have a number of bills, almost as many as nine of them, introduced but not debated at all and not given any time in the House. The government still has not restored judicial judgment in sentencing. It has not removed the ruinous mandatory minimums the Conservative government brought in. It has not legislated pay equity. It has not fixed the navigable waters protection act. It has not fixed the Fisheries Act.

How does the member feel about this being the highest priority for these final two days for the government: paying cabinet ministers better than they are already?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Grewal Liberal Brampton East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from the NDP for the question. It gives me an opportunity to mention the legislation the government has passed.

When we were elected, the first thing we did was reduce taxes on the middle class. We increased the Canada child benefit, which gave more money, after tax, to more Canadian families across the country. We have added 600,000 jobs in two years from coast to coast to coast. We have reduced the unemployment rate from 7.2% to 5.9%. We have increased the working income tax benefit. We have introduced a housing strategy for the first time in Canadian history, a housing strategy that is going to help ensure that all Canadians have access to housing. It is about quality legislation, not quantity.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, when my colleague talks about quality legislation, is he not concerned about the fact that the housing strategy is spread out over 11 years? It will take a long time to put in place and will not help anyone for at least the next two years, when thousands of people are living in under-housed or precarious situations. How does he feel about the fact that they are forgotten and that very little is going to happen until after the next election?