House of Commons Hansard #190 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was world.

Topics

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Whitby Ontario

Liberal

Celina Caesar-Chavannes LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Development

Mr. Speaker, my colleague began by saying that we should be talking about our communities, ways to improve them, ways to ensure that we have jobs, and do all the great things that our communities expect us to do when we get here. However, I, along with everyone else in the House, sat through almost a week in which we talked about a question of privilege about two members who did not get here on time when everybody else could get here on time.

I wonder how the member correlates these two messages of needing to talk about communities, yet spending time talking about a question of privilege over two members who wanted to be leaders and who could not show up on time.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:15 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the question of privilege existed even before the creation of Canada. Without privilege in this chamber, without the secure fact of accessing this chamber, we cannot even start thinking about helping our communities. We are here first and foremost to represent our constituents, but the question of privilege is never a question that takes time for no reason. It is fundamental. It is in the convention. It is in the history of Canada and our great parliamentary tradition from Britain.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Mr. Speaker, what was it, five days, seven days, of hearing the same thing over and over again? I sat in the House last night not as happy as I would have been if I was at home with the dog. I heard members on the opposite side kind of grousing a little about being here talking about the bill.

I wonder if the member, looking at the totality of the bill and all of the other things that we are trying to do, would like to have some of that time back from saying the same thing about privilege time after time, so that we could have dealt with the bill when it should have been dealt with.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, what the member does not say is that the privilege question of two of our members here on the Conservative side of the chamber was part of a build-up of frustration, because the government has treated the opposition basically like garbage.

The Liberals tried to repeat the same thing they did last year with Motion No. 6. They tried to cut the speaking time. The forefathers of this country were speaking for three hours here sometimes, every member, but the Liberals said 10 minutes was way too much. Can members believe that? What is the goal of being here if we cannot even speak 10 minutes? That was the situation.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his impassioned speech and his commitment to parliamentary democracy, but I think if he would have had more time he would have probably delved into the area of these three mysterious ministers that cabinet has given approval for. They have no job descriptions. We have no idea what they are going to be doing. All we are doing is giving the government a blank cheque, and giving them a blank cheque at a time of increasing deficits is certainly not the way that my constituents want our government to work.

I wonder if my colleague would comment on how his constituents might feel about another blank cheque to a government that is going deeper into debt every day.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, certainly my constituents feel that the Liberals have been given enough blank cheques already.

Again, the member over there spoke about respect, that we took too many days to speak about a question of privilege, which is terrible to say. The Liberals say they respect us, but they say we should just sign on to a bill that would create new ministries that they do not want to tell us about yet. They want us to vote on the bill, but they do not want to tell us exactly what is going on. This is how much respect they have for us. This is how much respect they have had for us for two years now, which is why we came to that situation in March, April, and May, and that is why we are sitting until midnight tonight.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I see lots of opposition, but I still do not think we have quorum right now.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

It would appear that we do have a quorum.

We will now resume debate with the hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have to say I am disappointed to be here tonight, sitting until midnight, spending time on a bill like this. Of course, we had some remarks in earlier questions that tried to make it the responsibility of the opposition that the government has not gotten through its agenda, which is simply absurd.

The government has had all the time in the world to get its agenda through, and the fact is that it has a very small agenda even at that. The average number of bills I have heard by this time in a government's life would be 40 or 45. We are looking at a government that has passed something like 18. There is not a lot to do, yet we are still sitting until midnight to get it done. It seems a bit absurd to me.

I had questions about why we had a motion on the Paris accord, but I came to a different conclusion. I thought it was quite useful, in the end, to have a motion on the Paris accord because it demonstrated that the Liberals' and the Conservatives' positions were exactly the same on the Paris accord. They voted together. I thought that was a useful clarification for the public that the Liberals and the Conservatives have the same targets and the same lack of action on the Paris accord. I will take back my criticism of that motion as being a waste of time. I really thought it was going to be a waste of time, but I take back my criticism of that one and I say it was actually quite useful.

On Bill C-24, the bill before us tonight, I have to tell members about the number of calls, emails, and letters I have received from constituents on the bill. It would be zero. Nobody in my constituency cares at all about this bill. The only people who care about it are people who are total insiders in the Liberal Party.

The need for the bill was totally created by the Prime Minister's faux parity that he created in his cabinet. If he was really going to have a cabinet that had parity or equity between the genders, there would have been an equal number of men and women in the real, important jobs in cabinet. Instead, the Prime Minister created a problem by appointing women to mostly junior jobs in his cabinet. Now we have a bill in front of us to fix that problem. That seems absurd to me.

Why do we have differences between the pay of different ministers? I actually think it is a good idea. If there is a full minister who brings things to cabinet and has a department to run, that is a different job from being a minister of state who does not have a whole set of programs to look after but has a reduced set of responsibilities. I can personally live with two different kinds of salaries if there are two different kinds of responsibilities, because that is the basic principle of pay equity. It is equal pay for work of equal value, and if it is different work it is fine to pay people differently.

The problem for the Prime Minister was, of course, that he put mostly women in the junior jobs and mostly men in the big jobs. Therefore, his cabinet did not look as equitable as it should have. As a result, we end up here in a midnight session debating a bill to fix the Prime Minister's political problem.

As I said, there was nobody interested in my riding. I am sure if people in my riding were watching they have already changed channels. I actually recommend that at this point, because I think the bill is a waste of parliamentary time.

We are talking about minister of state positions that would become regular minister positions: 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. I think those are all important jobs. I just do not think they are the same jobs as the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Health or the Minister of Justice. I believe there are real differences.

The bill would not change anything about those jobs. It would not give those ministers new responsibilities that are the same level as the full ministers. They might actually be able to persuade me to support this if the bill were saying that the Minister of La Francophonie would have the same full powers of a minister to bring things to cabinet and would have a department to administer, but they would not.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

What don't they have?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

I love being heckled on this because I do not have a whole lot to say on this, so the more heckling the better.

Mr. Speaker, another peculiar thing in the bill is that they have shoved in something that I actually kind of like, and that is the ministers of economic development agencies. I do not know what that is doing in the bill, but I guess the Liberals had to have some more to fluff it up and make it look more substantial.

Unfortunately, now the bill would eliminate the ministers of Western Economic Diversification, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Canada Economic Development for Quebec Regions, the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency. All of those have important work to do.

I just do not understand the logic, but somehow we are going to eliminate those so we can bump up these others. I guess that must be why these points got into the same bill. Again, it does not make a whole lot of sense to me tonight, but it could be because we are at 7:30 and I have been speaking on various things since 10 o'clock this morning.

I guess the real question I have to ask the government tonight is, why are we not here debating legislation to implement real pay equity for Canadian women workers across the country? We had a committee that worked on this issue, did some very good work, reported back to the House, and recommended we have such legislation. Then somebody, somewhere, seems to have said, “That is hard. We cannot do that before 18 months. It has to wait.” Instead we are debating this bill instead of a bill that would help some of the lowest-paid women workers in the country who have some of the more difficult jobs.

We have a tradition in this country when it comes to wages. We look at jobs and ask if they are dirty and done by men, and then we say that such jobs require a lot of money. However, if they are hard and require high levels of education but are done by women, such as nurses and caregivers, then they do not require a lot of money. We have things out of whack.

Why are we not standing here debating real pay equity legislation for those jobs in federal jurisdiction? That is what I would like to be working on tonight. That would interest my constituents. I would have had dozens and dozens of people talking to me about the best way to make pay equity a reality for women in this country, and not the silence I have had from my constituents on this bill.

I only have a couple more things I want to say. I am looking forward to the warning that my time is almost up.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:25 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

I am not taking this bill seriously. I have to thank the Speaker for the warning that I have a lot of time left. I am not taking it seriously, because, as I said at the beginning, it is not a serious piece of legislation. It is not something we should be spending our time on. There are so many problems for us to address in this country. There are so many things we could be putting our hard work into, and this is not one of them.

As one of six openly gay members, I am aware that the government promised an apology and promised to work on restitution for those who were harmed in their careers, harmed in their family life, harmed in many ways, perhaps by being fired from the public service for being gay or being kicked out of the military for being gay. A motion unanimously passed in the defence committee last October, calling for a revision of service records so that people who had served in the military and had already qualified for pensions but were dishonourably discharged for being gay could get the benefits they had already paid for and had already earned.

I would rather be standing here tonight talking about how we are going to implement that kind of legislation than talking about something that will only affect privileged women in cabinet. That is all this debate is about tonight, except for the Prime Minister's reputation, as I said earlier.

We have other things to tackle. In my riding, we have had some very severe problems with ocean debris. We are facing World Oceans Day coming up tomorrow. We have a government that announced a coastal protection strategy, and I cannot even remember what it was called. It does not mention debris. There are no provisions at all for cleaning up the debris.

We heard earlier today in this House what has now become one of those truisms that soon, very soon, we will have more plastic by weight in the ocean than fish. That is a pretty sad commentary on where we are going. I would rather be spending my time tonight talking about bills to help reduce the plastics in the ocean. That is something we should tackle. That is an urgent problem.

Related to that, we could be tackling the question of abandoned vessels. We have all kinds of important work to do in this Parliament. Instead, we have Bill C-24 before us. I am happy to say that I will vote against this bill, probably at every stage, and probably every time it comes up. It will not really make a lot of difference, because we have a Liberal majority government, and this government has the arrogance to proceed with bills like this instead of the real priorities for Canadians. It disappoints me greatly.

As I have said before, I am kind of naive. I often think that the government will get its priorities straight, or should get its priorities straight, and get on with the real business that should be in front of this House.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Hardie Liberal Fleetwood—Port Kells, BC

Madam Speaker, I enjoyed my colleague's speech, as I did before I became a member of the House. I have a lot of time for him and where he comes from, so this is a genuine question with no spice added.

We have looked at this issue from the standpoint of who has the more important job. Let us take two people. Let us take the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities and let us take the Minister of Veterans Affairs. Who has the more important job?

Let us turn it on its head. I invite the member to comment on what happens when you look at the client. Does the veteran have more important needs than the disabled person? Therefore, if you are looking at the skills and the resources, you see that they may differ, but if you look at it from the client's point of view, then the whole question of equity becomes somewhat different.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:30 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to make sure that the member was addressing that question to the Chair.

The hon. member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I look forward to your answer.

I know that the member earlier talked about preferring to be at home with his dog. I have two dogs and a partner at home, and while they are very used to my being away at this time of the year, I would like to be there. I am not sure how they feel at this point in the year.

Seriously, this is not about the clients at all and it is not about which issue is more important. If we take the very narrow sense of the bill, it is about ministers' responsibilities. All I said is that if they have different responsibilities, I am fine with their having different pay. I think this is simply aimed at correcting the political problem the Prime Minister created for himself when he said the Liberals have gender parity in cabinet and then proceeded to assign different levels of responsibilities to men and women.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, I am going to try to help my colleague. Like him, I believe the bill is a waste of time and we could have been more productive.

I would like to ask him a question. In his riding, Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, what will be the impact of eliminating the position of minister responsible for the economic development of the region? In his opinion, in practice, will this model be more effective or less effective than the previous one?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for that serious question about the other part of the bill. In British Columbia, I have the privilege of representing a riding that probably has the lowest unemployment in British Columbia and probably the lowest in the entire country. For my riding specifically, that office and those programs had not had a big impact. Where they do have a impact in my province is on the northern end of Vancouver Island, the rural areas of Vancouver Island where opportunities, especially for young people, are quite limited. They also have a big impact in the interior of British Columbia and the north of British Columbia, and they have a very big impact in some of the larger aboriginal communities.

I am worried that the elimination of these people with a specific focus on the areas that really do need that economic development will cause some problems for us down the road.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Liberal

Bernadette Jordan Liberal South Shore—St. Margarets, NS

Madam Speaker, my colleague particularly mentioned defence, health, and justice. Two of those ministers are women, I might add. Then he said that there were portfolios that were not so serious. Would he explain why he does not think women are as serious, small business and tourism are not as serious, or francophonie is not as serious as those areas?

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

June 8th, 2017 / 7:35 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, I will assure the member I said no such thing. I said that responsibilities of the ministers differ, not that those are not important topics. There is also the amount of supervision they have to do of staff and the number of programs they have to manage, but it is not that the topics themselves are unimportant. They are very important, and I take them very seriously.

I have criticized the new position of Special Advisor to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 Issues. It amounts to little more than being the head gay, because it has no staff, it has no budget, it has no programs attached to it. That does not mean I do not think the topic is important. I am a gay man in this country who has faced inequality through my whole life.

It does not mean I do not think it is important; I just recognize the difference in jobs.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:35 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, like many of my colleagues tonight, I feel it is very unfortunate that at this point, almost halfway through the government's mandate and approaching the summer months, we are sitting until midnight dealing with this kind of legislation.

Canada is entering tough negotiations with the United States regarding NAFTA. Global Islamic terrorism is on the rise. ISIS continues to control much of the Middle East. The oil and gas sector has still not rebounded, and Canadians are finding it harder and harder to buy their first home. However, we are here spending time on this, late at night: pay increases for ministers of state.

I wish I were joking, but the priorities of this government have never been more clear than right now. Liberals are committed to padding the pockets of Liberals at the expense of hard-working Canadian taxpayers. Many of these hard-working Canadians are up at the crack of dawn, or even earlier, and finish their days well after sundown. The farmers in my riding of Kitchener—Conestoga are an example. These hard-working men and women are now faced with the prospect of paying more so that ministers of state with no extra responsibilities can enjoy a pay hike. It is just so that our Prime Minister's mantra of “a minister is a minister is a minister” can have some so-called legitimacy.

The Liberal government has now spent two days' worth of regular sitting hours just this week to debate non-binding, really mean-nothing, motions. In one of them the Liberals were trying to play wedge politics, but it was unsuccessful, I might add. With the other, their goal could have been accomplished with a statement during statements by ministers, which can occur every day during routine proceedings.

I am not sure if this is a reflection of the Liberals' incompetence or the government House leader's inability to understand basic parliamentary scheduling. Whatever the cause might be, we find ourselves here, late at night, debating Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

Let me read a summary of the bill.

This enactment amends the Salaries Act to authorize payment, out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, of the salaries for eight new ministerial positions. It authorizes the Governor in Council [—in other words, the cabinet—] to designate departments to support the ministers who occupy those positions and authorizes those ministers to delegate their powers, duties or functions to officers or employees of the designated departments. It also makes a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act.

The bill makes several important changes to aspects of ministerial roles and designations. These include the creation of new positions, the removal of several important positions, the creation of legal backup for departmental support for these new mystery positions, and the transfer of authoritative powers.

In the bill, the Liberals are attempting to justify changing the title of ministers of state to full ministers. They say that changing the names of the positions and how much each minister of state earns, with no changes in the responsibilities of ministers of state, somehow makes them equivalent to full ministers.

This is not only disingenuous; it is actually insulting to the ministers of state in question. These ministers of state are fully aware that their responsibilities do not come close to the responsibilities and demands of ministers who have departments, full staff, and deputy ministers in place.

Additionally, Bill C-24 asks Parliament to let the Liberals create three new ministerial-level positions, with portfolios—wait for it—to be determined later. They want us to authorize spending without knowing what the spending will fund. They are asking for a blank cheque. It sounds like a recipe for an even bigger deficit.

A minister of state does not have a deputy minister, does not have a dedicated department, and does not have the sort of budget that accompanies a full ministry. The implication is that the positions are equal because these ministers would have the same type of title and the same salary. This makes the positions appear equivalent on paper, but in reality they are certainly not. The Liberal government should be upfront with its ministers, upfront with its backbench MPs, and most importantly, upfront with Canadians.

On this side of the House, we cannot support these measures. I think the members opposite have not yet realized that we are at a time of out-of-control spending, broken promises on deficits, mounting debt, and complete abandonment of an election promise to balance the budget by 2019. It is time for them to wake up. We are not going to give the government any more blank cheques. Accountability for tax dollars is not just important to Conservatives; it is important to all Canadians.

The real effect of the proposed changes to the Salaries Act goes well beyond increasing salaries; it has everything to do with centralizing spending power in Ottawa and reducing democratic oversight and accountability for spending.

Instead, we need democratic accountability and financially transparent ministers, whose work can be scrutinized at the local level. We do not need an ever bigger, and more centralized government making decisions from Ottawa on behalf of our economically unique and distinct regions.

We do not need unaccountable, unelected political staff, and bureaucrats directing funds for regional development. Instead, we need attentive ministerial oversight on regional spending. We need responsible representation from regional ministers with strong ties to the communities they serve, and to whom they should be accountable.

Canada has historically drawn a distinction between ministers of the crown and ministers of state based on the scope and scale of the work of their portfolios. For example, small businesses and tourism are important components of the Canadian economy. Indeed, they are important enough to warrant a voice at the cabinet table to represent their interests. However, speaking up for small business and tourism during policy discussions in cabinet is not the same as overseeing a volume of case work, which for example the minister responsible for Service Canada supervises. Nor is it the same as being responsible for the budget overseen by say, the Minister of Immigration, Refugee and Citizenship.

Instead of heading regional development agencies with ministers from regions, the Liberals are handing over significant spending power to unelected civil servants and to one overworked minister from Mississauga. My colleague, the member for Richmond Centre, put it best in her remarks just the other day on this bill. She said:

Here is my own experience. As the minister of state, I had my own team and budget, but I worked closely with the minister of employment. The most notable difference between a minister and a minister of state is that the latter does not have a deputy minister devoted to the file. Additionally, a minister of state does not manage the same departmental budget or have the same authority as a minister.

The Liberals are claiming that the changes in this legislation are just simple changes aimed at addressing equal pay. The reality, however, is that this is just Liberals being Liberals, just like a duck that quacks like a duck and walks like a duck is a duck.

We are always open to hearing ways to make government operate more efficiently. However, removing key regional ministers is a failure to recognize the unique needs of the different regions of our country. The Liberals' top-down approach to governing does not make government more efficient. Rather, it is neglecting the very ones it claims to be helping.

In Canada, it is obvious that there are clear differences among the unique regions of our country, and in order to ensure that we function as a cohesive unit, these regional agencies work to bolster the economies of each distinct part of our country, to essentially ensure that we are greater than the sum of our parts.

I read a report prepared by the Liberal members of the subcommittee on innovation that came out earlier this year. It showed that ACOA was actually observing close to a 12-month delay in seeing some of its innovation grants being approved. It is no wonder that these delays exist, considering that approvals have all been going through the minister from Mississauga.

It is clear. Not only is the government's legislative agenda in complete shambles, its ability to control spending is non-existent, and its rhetoric of a minister is a minister is a minister is simply a smokescreen to try to fool Canadians into thinking that the ministers for sport, small business, and other ministers of state, plus three new mystery ministers, deserve more hard-earned tax dollars that are earned by hard-working Canadians.

In the best interests of all Canadians, this bill deserves to be soundly defeated.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I always listen to my colleague with great interest. I would like to ask him a very simple question.

Given this bill, which I will refrain from describing seeing as time is running out, I wonder whether the simplest solution the Prime Minister could offer us would not be a good old cabinet shuffle. It would cost nothing and would mean that women could be given ministerial positions with full powers, and honestly, that might also do us some good.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, we have been very much aware of the genesis of this bill. It has been pointed out time and time again that in 2015, when the government was elected, it took great pride in the fact that it had a gender balanced cabinet. Then the Liberals suddenly realized, when somebody pointed out to them, that five of the junior ministers were all women, and there were no men among that group. In a last ditch attempt to correct that, the Prime Minister simply announced that they would all be equal. He forgot that they are not all equal.

They do not have departments, they do not have deputy ministers, they have different salaries, and they have huge differences in their workload. This is simply an attempt to correct a previous mistake that the Prime Minister made in haste. It is unfortunate that Canadians are going to be left on the hook to pay for the Prime Minister's mistake.

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the member and the NDP, working together, have this all wrong. I would suggest that we have two versions of a cabinet. We have Stephen Harper, who had a cabinet of 40 ministers, who saw no benefit with respect to equality among the ministry, among the cabinet, and who saw no benefit in terms of a one-tier cabinet—

Salaries ActGovernment Orders

7:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, the French interpretation is not working.