Mr. Speaker, looking at the name of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, there is no irony in “communities”, because Canada is made up of communities from coast to coast to coast. That is what we are doing and what our minister is doing, and I am proud to stand beside him in this House to invest in Canada and Canadians.
Again on status of women, I go back to chapter 5. We have created an equal tier of all ministries. This is why it is important for status of women to be a full portfolio, which it is of course. Chapter 5, a gender-based analysis, is a gender-based view of our budget for the first time ever. Women make up something like 52% of our population. It is our government that put forward this feminist agenda to ensure that women are participating in the labour force.
For small business and tourism, the numbers are going very well for Canada. We are attracting more and more tourists. When we travel the world, people tell us that they want to come to visit Canada and see what we are doing here. They like it and they like the direction this government is going. Again, small business and tourism will be a full ministry. Small businesses, or SMEs as I like to call them, are the driver of economic growth in my wonderful riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge. They employ thousands of people in Vaughan and thousands of people in York Region. We need that focus on small business.
One thing we have done is that when we cut taxes for the middle class and we raised them on the 1%, we created aggregate demand so people felt better about themselves, felt better about the future, became more optimistic, and they spent and invested in their families, in their regions, and in their communities. Therefore, yes, it is a full ministry for small business and tourism. Tourism continues to be an economic driver for Canada. We need to do more. We will do more. We are investing in our marketing agencies and so forth.
When I look at these five title changes and what is in the Salaries Act, I say to myself that we are going in the right direction. Our focus on status of women and on small business and tourism is exactly the direction we need to go in as a government and I am proud to be part of that government. These updating exercises are not new. The list of Salaries Act ministers has been amended several times in the last decade, most recently in 2013. In each case, the changes aligned with the priorities of the times and with the Prime Minister's preferences with respect to the composition of his ministry and the organization of the government administration.
The bill would also modernize the Salaries Act by introducing a measure of flexibility to cabinet-making going forward.
It would do that by adding three untitled ministerial positions. These positions would provide room for prime ministers at a future time to appoint and title ministers to reflect and respond to the changing priorities of their day. To me, that is smart planning. I worked in the private sector for 25 years. The world is evolving. There is a lot of global uncertainty. Things are evolving at home. We want to make sure the government has flexibility to introduce ministers or ministries as it sees fit and to respond to changing circumstances. It makes sense to me. That is what we would do in the private sector. I like that, and we bring it here to government.
Members on the other side have asked what the Prime Minister's plans are for these cabinet posts. Why are they needed? Why are they not named? To that, I would say that this change looks to the future. It builds in a degree of flexibility in the structuring of future ministries to reflect the priorities of the day. This is a government that looks to the future and that values adaptability to change in big ways and small. This is a small but an important way. It would enable a modern, adaptable ministry well into the future.
There are safeguards too. The bill would not enable the installation of an oversized cabinet, and we all know what that looks like from the past administration. The proposed increase in the number of Salaries Act positions would be offset by the removal of six regional development positions. The maximum number of ministers that may be appointed under the Salaries Act, including the Prime Minister, would increase by two positions from 35 to 37.
I have heard comments from the members of the House on the removal of the regional development positions. For them, I would like to emphasize that removing these positions from the Salaries Act in no way affects the status of the regional development agencies themselves. Let me re-emphasize that point. FedDev, ACOA, and the regional development agencies would continue to operate and do a great job for the regions they represent. They would continue to invest in Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
I grew up in a small town in northern British Columbia. I understand what it means to come from a region where the next town is two hours away, or 144 kilometres, if I remember correctly. People feel like they are far away from a big city, whether it is Vancouver or Toronto, and they want to make sure their voices are being heard and that investments are taking place in their area of the country. This Salaries Act would not change the prerogative or the role of the regional development agencies. It is misleading to suggest otherwise.
The regional development agencies will continue to be a vital part of this government's economic development work, and will be overseen by a minister. Regions are not being ignored under this government. Accountability is not being ignored under this government. These administrative amendments to the Salaries Act would change none of that.
I would like to correct a misconception about the bill that has been asserted in this place. It has been suggested that its effect is merely to authorize a raise for the five ministers who were appointed by orders in council on November 4, 2015, as ministers of state to assist other ministers, and that those orders in council make it clear that these are junior ministers, subordinate to other ministers, and therefore not deserving of the same salary. Let me be clear. To those comments I would first say that all ministers have been paid the same salary since day one. Equal pay for equal work is what we believe in. The bill would not change that. There is no raise for any minister under the bill.
Then let me say that I believe our government has been clear in explaining that the legislative framework in place on November 4, 2015, prevented the appointment of four ministers to these five positions. Use of the Ministries and Ministers of State Act allowed ministers to be appointed to those positions and to get to work on the priorities of this government and Canadians on day one.
The Prime Minister committed to introducing legislation that would formally equalize the status of all members of his ministry. A promise made is a promise kept. I am proud to be part of a government that keeps its promises to Canadians and is investing in Canadians. We have seen that handsomely in the recent months with our economy growing at a rate of over 2.5%, which had not been achieved under the Conservatives, from my understanding. We see job growth taking the unemployment rate down to the 6.2% range. We see income growth. We see exports rebounding. We see business investment starting to show green shoots. These are all things that we can be proud of as a government. When the full ramp-up of infrastructure spending takes place, which it will and it is, we will see further gains in employment numbers across the country from coast to coast to coast.
The bill fulfills this commitment. When it comes into force, the orders in council that appoint these ministers as ministers of state to assist other ministers will be repealed. They will be in law, as they are in practice, full and equal ministers.
In closing, let me repeat what I said at the beginning of my remarks. The Salaries Act amendments are administrative in nature. It makes good sense to update and modernize the legislation to reflect the structure of the current ministry, and to enable flexible and adaptable ministries, now and in the future. I hope all members will join me in supporting this bill.
When we look at our government's agenda, including Bill C-24, Canadians sent us here to do the good work they wanted us to do, and what we told them we would do in our platform. We have fulfilled many of those promises. I look to the Canada child benefit, our middle-class tax cuts, and our investments in infrastructure, and I say to myself, where are we taking Canada?
I look at these changes in Bill C-24, where we would appoint full ministers for the status of women, la Francophonie, small business and tourism, and my finance background tells me that our government is taking Canada to a place we need to go. We are not only passing the puck. We are going to where the puck is going to be, if I made that analogy correctly from my former ice hockey days. We are going to score the goal, and we will continue scoring the goals. For me, scoring the goals is ensuring that Canadians have a brighter future, that Canadians find the jobs they are looking for, that they come home to their families quicker in the evening, and that we continue to invest in them. That is the mandate of our government.
For me, it is to ensure that my two daughters who visited Parliament here yesterday, Eliana and Natalia, have a bright future. When this privilege ends, and I can say that it will not end for a long time, there is nothing more important to me and my family.
I will close my remarks off there. I look forward to answering any questions from my humble colleagues.