Madam Speaker, I heard it all from the member across the way. He says it was the Liberals who caused Stephen Harper to have the largest cabinet in the history of Canada. Do not blame him, blame the Liberals, because there was this apparent issue when Stephen Harper became prime minister because of what he inherited.
Let me remind the member what Stephen Harper inherited: a multi-billion dollar surplus. That was what he inherited, and he converted it into a multi-billion dollar deficit. The Harper government also inherited a multi-billion dollar trade surplus, and converted that into a multi-billion dollar trade deficit. The Harper government inherited an economy that was moving forward, and it took that government less than two years to get the economy almost going backwards, which then caused the Conservatives to invest in Canadians during those minority years.
Though the Harper government had the largest cabinet, I would suggest to my colleague across the way that the big difference between the Liberal cabinet and the Conservative cabinet is not only in terms of size, but also gender parity, which the member across the way does not seem to recognize as a very important issue. Many Canadians took great pride in the announcement by the Prime Minister when he introduced his cabinet to Canadians. The idea of gender parity was long overdue and was applauded by every region of our country. It was exceptionally well received.
I am disappointed. We had the NDP and the Conservatives, an unholy alliance, come together in the last year or so in opposition to good legislation. They both like to mock the announcement of this Prime Minister's cabinet. I do not know why the NDP and Conservatives do not see gender parity in cabinet as a good thing. I do not understand why both of these opposition parties believe that all cabinet ministers should not be treated equally. That is what this piece of legislation will do; it will ensure that all cabinet ministers are equal, unlike the Conservative cabinet.
What is wrong with having gender parity? The NDP often talk about it, and now they have a chance to reinforce it. When the Prime Minister made the announcement, they had a chance to recognize it as a good thing and say that for what it was. That is what Canadians, as a whole, recognized the cabinet as being. It was even recognized beyond Canada's border, making international news as a step in the right direction.
I was surprised by the criticisms being levelled. The opposition say that Stephen Harper labelled a certain spot as being for a junior, less important minister. I disagree. How can members across the way try to convince me or Canadians that small businesses, especially given the number of questions they ask about them, deserve a junior spot? We recognize small businesses for what they are, the backbone of the Canadian economy, absolutely critical to promoting ongoing job growth for Canada's middle class, as well as supporting the middle class. This is a government that has been supporting our small businesses.
Today, we have a minister who is constantly out there in support of our small businesses and promoting tourism. There have been tangible results. We have seen record numbers of tourists coming to Canada. In fact, in the last week, the minister responsible for tourism, the one they say is a junior spot, has been in China to promote Canada as a tourist destination. I do not know why the members across the way do not want to recognize how important tourism is to our country. Maybe they need to meet with some of the stakeholders and some of their constituents who deal with the hospitality industry to see the real value of tourism. They might not recognize it, but this government recognizes the value of our hospitality industry and the importance of tourism to our country. It creates thousands of jobs every year and employs millions of Canadians, either directly or indirectly. I see that as a very important portfolio.
We have a full minister, a minister of equal value, known as the Minister of Status of Women. Again, that is a very important ministry. Unlike the former Harper government, we have a government that is applying a gender lens to budgetary measures through the Minister of Finance. We have a number of different initiatives under way. The Minister of Status of Women has and should have an equal voice at the cabinet table, but not according to the New Democrats and Conservatives. The New Democrats and the Conservatives join together and say no, that should not be the case, that it is a junior ministerial position. I suggest that Canadians would say that the New Democrats and the Conservatives are wrong, that the Status of Women as a ministry should be equal to the Ministry of Finance.
We then hear, “Well, they have different responsibilities”. Of course they have different responsibilities. Each minister has different responsibilities, but they all sit around the cabinet table and that cabinet makes joint decisions. They all have a responsibility to ensure that they are informed on the decisions that cabinet will be making as a whole. Why would they not be paid equally? Again, I would be disappointed if I were a New Democrat. The new Democrats are saying that they believe in pay equity, but they are quite content to see the Minister of Status of Women paid less than the Minister of Health. I would suggest they are wrong on that point too. If they were consistent in what they are saying across the way, they should be rethinking their position on that.
The opposition members are saying that youth are important, and we agree. Youth are very important. Some of the members say we should have a minister of youth. The nice thing about this legislation is that it would create the opportunity, not only for today's Prime Minister but also for future prime ministers, to designate a youth ministry. To me, our Prime Minister has this right. He understands the importance of youth and getting young people engaged, and he has taken on that responsibility himself. We have a Prime Minister who is advocating directly on behalf of youth activities and a parliamentary secretary who is doing an outstanding job on that, but it does not necessarily mean that prevents it from happening some time in the future.
A more commonly talked about issue on the opposition benches is that of seniors. This legislation would allow, whether today or tomorrow, more flexibility to deal with issues that are before the government. It would provide something that is critically important.
I want to talk about the name change. Instead of the previous “minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs”, we now have the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. That is a significant change. We are saying that we want a minister of infrastructure with equal status, because we have record amounts of infrastructure dollars being spent in every region of our country. We have a minister who is equal and sitting at the table focused on infrastructure and communities. That is a positive thing.
I suspect I might get some questions.