Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand, although I am disappointed that I did not get a 20-minute slot. Perhaps within 10 minutes I can condense and share exactly what my concerns are with this piece of legislation.
What we have is Bill C-24, which is an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. It focuses on three areas. I am going to talk briefly about the first two areas, and then perhaps I will go into a bit more detail on one of the most substantial concerns that I have.
The bill would actually create eight minister positions. I will talk about the five minister of state positions later, but it would create three mysterious ministerial positions. If people could imagine being a board member for Nortel or some other large corporation and the CEO came to them with a proposal stating that the company needs this many vice-presidents including a vice-president of finance, a vice-president of human resources, and that it needs three more vice-presidents but the CEO is not going to say what they are there for and what they are going to do, what do members think the response would be, as a shareholder or as a chairman of this particular organization? They would tell the CEO to go back to the drawing board and come back with job descriptions and a full analysis of why the company needs the three positions, what they are for, and what they would do. It is inconceivable, in any organization other than perhaps a Liberal-run federal government, that the organization would create three mysterious positions.
This is not just a matter of mysterious positions. There is a budget that would go along with these. If someone is a member of Parliament and is all of a sudden given a ministerial position, it comes with additional funds, so for these three positions it is probably an additional quarter of a million dollars and then a whole lot of other associated expenses like cars and drivers and office spaces. Therefore, this little piece in this legislation is probably over $1 million, and the Liberals are not telling us what it is for. It is absolutely inexcusable, and if members on that side vote for spending $1 million, or for authorizing a structure for $1 million, they should be ashamed of themselves. We have a government that has a spending problem already, and the Liberals think nothing of putting in front of us a piece of legislation that would allow for probably $1 million-plus because they need to have a bigger cabinet or cannot describe what those positions would be. Certainly the backbenchers in the Liberal government need to go back to their executive branch and ask what these positions are for. That is absolutely ludicrous.
The next area that has been alluded to, certainly in the previous speech, is the need to consolidate the regional development agencies. Sometimes a federal government in a country as large as Canada has an enormous geography and enormous variations across the country. Many of us here have had the privilege of travelling across our country from coast to coast to coast, and we see the differences. Some of the things that government does should be centralized. There are certainly important functions that are best done by a minister who represents the whole of Canada, and we can look at defence and many other departments. However, there was something about the economic development agencies. The economic development agencies were relatively small, they had a relatively small budget, and they were designed to be nimble and responsive to the culture and needs of specific areas. As members can imagine, in the Maritimes people have a very different set of challenges from what perhaps Alberta's oil patch is having right now, or those in B.C.
We still fail to see how a minister from Toronto, busy with a very large portfolio, can give the attention that is needed to make those quick, nimble decisions and be responsive. I am not sure if this structural change is in the best interests of what we do and how our economic development agencies deliver service. Again, a Toronto minister is not seeing the challenges.
The Liberals talked about how proud they were of the work they did with first nations communities. People who live in Toronto would not be as aware of these issues as would a minister from British Columbia, who understands and visits these communities all the time and recognizes perhaps some of the opportunities and the challenges that the indigenous communities face. Again, an urban minister, as good as he or she might be, would have challenges in that area. Certainly, I disagree with that part of the legislation.
However, the area I most fundamentally disagree with is making all the ministers of state positions into full cabinet positions. I want to talk about that to some degree.
I will again use the analogy of outside the bubble of Parliament. When people look at remuneration of employees, they look at their responsibilities. Responsibilities include what kind of decisions they have to make, what kind of manpower they have to supervise, and what kind of budget they are responsible for. I think that applies to every example I can think of in the public service.
In the public service in the area of health care in British Columbia there is a process. A system is used to analyze the responsibilities of the job to determine what the wage remuneration will be. That sounds reasonable to me. I believe it is commonly used within the public sector.
Let us take a look at what the ministers are doing.
The Liberals are going to create full ministers positions for a number of positions, and I will go over them specifically. However, the Minister of National Defence is responsible for the armed forces and the Department of National Defence. He stands ready to perform three key roles, which are protecting Canada and defending our sovereignty; defending North America in co-operation with the United States, our closest ally; and contributing to international peace and security. The budget was $18.7 billion over three years. Planned spending is to increase enormously. There are 22,000 people within those operations.
We can compare that to the Minister of Democratic Institutions, and I am not saying it is not a responsible position. It is an important position as we look at our democratic system. However, the department does not have an enormous budget. It does not have huge manpower for which it is responsible. To be frank, there is no way it would automatically get a large increase in its dollars. It does not make any sense.
However, when the Prime Minister swore his cabinet in, with great pride, he said he had a gender-equal cabinet. Then someone pointed out to him that while he did have a gender-equal cabinet, five members were junior ministers positions, and those five were women. In order to solve that problem, he decided to make them full ministers.
There are other ways he could have solved that problem and been reasonable and appropriate. There is no reason that the Minister of Democratic Institutions could not be a man. There is no reason that the Minister of Science could not have been male. He could have had his gender-equal cabinet without having to create new positions for the ministers of state. The whole thing is very convoluted and confusing.
A difference in the funding went toward the salaries, but also some ministers felt they had to spend over $1 million to renovate their office. This is just another example of a Prime Minister who pays no attention to taxpayer dollars. It is inexcusable.
Bill C-24 is a terribly flawed and irresponsible bill. I hope most members will vote against it.