Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today, as it is on any day that luxury is afforded to me. We are all honoured when we get this opportunity, and I am no exception.
I am happy to speak to Bill C-24 at report stage. I sit on the government operations committee, where we reviewed this bill. I think I had a chance to speak to it at second reading as well. Therefore, I am going to address the debate from a bit of a different angle.
When we hear the many concerns raised in opposition to this bill, some are not necessarily related to the subject of the bill, but are perhaps valid concerns nonetheless. In my very humble opinion and submission to this chamber, anyone who is opposed to this piece of legislation, who argues it is unnecessary, and who wants us on this side of the House to believe it is merely cosmetic, I think does an injustice to the five ministries being elevated and the important subject matter of those ministries. It is not about the people or the ministers; it is about the ministries.
For example, in his mandate letter to the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, among other things, the Prime Minister indicates that the minister should develop and introduce new federal accessibility legislation. I highly doubt any member of this House would not think that is an important task to undertake, or that improving disability legislation in this country is a trivial matter. The ministry should be elevated to the status of a full ministry.
There should be no junior ministries. In essence, that is what this bill is about. It is not about the people, it is about the job. Certainly, we can have a ministry that is equal. Historically, in the Westminster model, a prime minister is first among equals, and the ministry itself should be a group of equals.
La francophonie is another ministry that is being elevated.
The department's mandate is to ensure Canada’s strong and sustained engagement in the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. That is important.
Canada is a proud member, as it should be, of the International Organisation of La Francophonie. It is one of the many international organizations Canada has the great honour of being a part of. In fact, we are leaders in this organization, as we are in many international organizations, and have been throughout our history.
Canada's international role and leadership on the global stage is not bound to whatever party is in government at the time. Every government realizes it is important for Canada to be a leader and a player on the world stage. I do not think there is a member here who would suggest that our role in the Commonwealth or NATO is not important. I hope, and I believe, that not one member here thinks that our role in La Francophonie is not important. That is what this bill does. It elevates these roles, which we should view as important, to the status they deserve because of the important work done by these ministries.
Of course, the ministry of small business and tourism will also be elevated should this bill become law. We do not need to debate the importance of small business to the Canadian economy or Canadians.
Also, I do not think we need to undermine the importance of tourism to our economy. Canada has seen growth in tourism this year as a result of the Canada 150 celebrations. We hope to see another increase in tourism next year when Canada and China enter their tourism agreement. Many small businesses and communities rely on tourism for jobs, for growth, and for keeping communities vibrant. Why should tourism not be a full ministry? Tourism is vitally important for all Canadians, and we need to focus on that when discussing Bill C-24.
The Minister of Status of Women would also be elevated to a full ministerial position. I have not heard anyone argue that we should not do that. We can all agree that the role of the Minister of Status of Women is an important one. Her ministry is an important ministry that does important work for all Canadians. The minister certainly deserves an equal place at the cabinet table. This role ought not to be dismissed or diminished in any manner. It is not a trivial role. The ministry does great work and needs to be at the same level as all other ministries in Canada. Bill C-24 would do that.
When we look at the ministry of science, I do not think for a minute that anyone here does not accept science as an important part of Canada, an important part of the Canadian economy, an important part of the innovative economy. The global economy is changing rapidly. Canada needs to be and remain in the vanguard of that change. If we do not invest in science, if we do not encourage our children to participate in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, then we will be left behind. No member of Parliament, no Canadian in fact, would want our country to be left behind as we enter the new innovative global economy, in which Canada should rightfully take its place of leadership.
These are the types of things we are talking about and none are unimportant. None of them ought to be seen as lower in an artificial hierarchy. These topics are important to all Canadians. They are important to my constituents and I am sure they are important to the constituents of everyone in the chamber.
The opposition's role is to oppose, and valid concerns are always raised about legislation. It is part of the debating process, part of what we parliamentarians go through when we make laws. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. No one should feel less Canadian as a result. Being in opposition is an essential part of the parliamentary system. I want members to realize that when they criticize or raise valid or other objections, or when they raise issues that may or may not be important, from time to time it diminishes the subject matter of legislation.
For members to say that Bill C-24 is unnecessary, that it is a cosmetic exercise, that it is a pet project of the Prime Minister, is to say that La Francophonie is not important, that science is not important, that disability legislation is not important, that the status of women ministry is not important, that small business and tourism is not important. We all agree that these five ministries are very important and deserve to be at the table with all of the other important ministries. The ministry needs to be a one-tier ministry.
I urge all members to support—