Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-11-02 10:28 [p.14871]
Mr. Speaker, it will come as no surprise to members of this House, I am sure, nor indeed to Canadians across the country, to hear that the Minister of Finance has been subject to a fair bit of scrutiny over the last number of weeks, particularly with regard to conflicts of interest around Bill C-27 and his personal holdings in Morneau Shepell.
When asked about that in question period, when the time for questions and responses is very short, the finance minister likes to start talking about his fiscal measures. Presumably, the introduction of this bill would be very important to the Minister of Finance.
Therefore, I find it passing strange that the opening speech was given by the parliamentary secretary. Is that because the Minister of Finance did not want to be subject to a 10-minute question period by members of this House?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-11-02 10:50 [p.14874]
Mr. Speaker, unlike the member for Winnipeg North, I will agree with the member for Carleton that we ought to take the government's claims with respect to its budget with a great degree of skepticism. I want to congratulate the member for his mastery of the concepts in an introductory economic course, but if he took further courses on economics, he would appreciate that those concepts become considerably more complex and nuanced, particularly the ideas of coercion and voluntary exchange within a free market and when certain actors start with very unequal amounts of resources, whether they are social or financial.
Is the member just not aware of those complexities and nuances or has he ignored them for political purposes?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-11-02 11:05 [p.14876]
Mr. Speaker, when there is talk about the Minister of Finance’s conflicts of interest in the House or elsewhere, the Liberals often imply that the measures in this bill justify his conflicts of interest and make it acceptable for him to use his public office for financial gain.
Does my hon. colleague agree that a cabinet minister doing a relatively good job should justify his using his position for financial gain?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-31 14:14 [p.14780]
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in solidarity with the Oromo people who are being persecuted by their own government in Ethiopia. Popular protests began in earnest against the government's master plan in November 2015. The plan seeks to dispossess Oromo people of their land in order to expand Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa. The plan followed on the heels of a number of development projects that had already displaced many Oromo farmers over the past decade.
The government has disregarded the Oromo people's right to peaceful assembly, using brutal force against its own people to quell protests across Oromia. The number of arbitrary arrests and untimely deaths continues to rise for Oromia's farmers, opposition politicians, academics, journalists, and students, among others.
I urge the Canadian government to respond to this situation, voice Canada's concerns about the Oromo people in Ethiopia, and work with our allies in the international community to create consequences for the Ethiopian government's violation of its citizens' human rights.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-31 16:36 [p.14802]
Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to provide some comment at third reading on Bill C-49. I represent a part of the country that has a lot of rail workers, and I have heard concerns from the workers themselves and from their union about Bill C-49 and what it would mean for their privacy rights when they are working on trains across Canada and the ability for employers to access footage and audio recording of those workers working on trains pretty much for just about any purpose.
The government says that the real rules are going to come in regulation, but we have seen that it is a government that has a pretty cozy relationship with some of the major transportation companies in Canada, and frankly, its track record has not been very good.
We heard already from my hon. colleague about some of the concerns around privacy, which are very real and ought to be addressed in the same way they are for the airline industry, where only the Transportation Safety Board has the authority to look at those recordings. I wonder if the member would want to expand his comments to the question of why Canadians should have faith in the government to leave it all to regulation, without legislating in favour and ensuring the privacy protection for railway workers in this country.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 11:01 [p.14568]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. opposition House leader for explaining to the government the various tools at its disposal to build a cabinet. Part of the genesis of Bill C-24 was that the Prime Minister and the people around him did not understand all the different tools they had at their disposal to build a cabinet, how they work, and the fact that there are different positions. That is why when the bill was first tabled, we thought it might have something to do with gender equity. That was the context out of which the bill came, as the member rightly explained. The Prime Minister had screwed up, essentially, in terms of his commitment to gender parity at the cabinet table.
If it is not about that, then the struggle is to define the relevant sense of “equal”. In our study of the bill, we have not been able to find any relevant sense that this really makes ministers more equal in a way they are not already. I am wondering if the member's study of the bill has led her to find what that relevant sense of “equal” might be.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 11:14 [p.14570]
Mr. Speaker, in his remarks, the member for St. Catharines said that one of the effects of Bill C-24 would be to do away with administrative distinctions between ministers. Of course, Bill C-24 would actually establish a new kind of minister. Instead of having ministers simpliciter, we would also have ministers for whom a department is designated. If the difference between a minister and a minister for whom a department is designated is not administrative, what is the difference?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 11:19 [p.14571]
Mr. Speaker, I suppose that the government deserves to be congratulated for having achieved something truly unique with Bill C-24. Typically when a government presents legislation, a member of the opposition party will either find something to vehemently oppose or support. There is something at stake in the legislation and opposition parties can expect that after the legislation passes, it will be a difference in Canadian law that matters.
Usually, government legislation makes a difference. However, the government has found a way to produce a bill that, even if it passes, virtually everything will stay the same. Never has this government, and perhaps any government, unless some past government has achieved something similar, managed to creatively waste the time of Parliament in the way this government has done with this bill. I suppose that is an achievement of sorts, yet not the kind that Canadians expect. Nonetheless, it is a form of achievement, and I would like to recognize it for what it is, so congratulations are due. They might not want to put that in their householders, though.
The reason this bill is ultimately a colossal waste of time, after reflection and study on our part anyway, is that it does not manage to achieve any of the objectives the government has set out for the bill. What are some of those objectives?
I will not harp too much on this point because we have heard it already in some of the speeches in the House. We thought this bill might have to do with the Prime Minister's commitment to gender parity in cabinet, but we have Liberals on record at committee categorically denying this bill has anything to do with gender parity. It is not about that, they said. Okay, fine. I am not quite sure what it is about.
However, the press release issued when the bill was presented talked about making all ministers equal and establishing a one-tier ministry. What does that mean? A one-tier ministry in which all ministers are equal, I guess, means that they are all called “minister”. Of course, that is happening already. We have ministers who are technically ministers of state under the act, but who have been installed as ministers, and so we do not need this legislation to be able to call them “ministers”.
One might say they will be paid the same, but, again, those ministers who are technically ministers of state are already paid the same. Whether they should be is an open question. They do have different administrative responsibilities. It is not abnormal to pay people based on the level of their administrative responsibility within an organization. The legislation is not needed to do that, and it is not clear that it should be done in the first place.
What other sense of equality can there be? We have heard from the Liberals that this is about taking ministers seriously at the cabinet table. That causes one to wonder at the superficiality of the Prime Minister who has to introduce legislation to call his ministers of state “ministers”, just to help him take them seriously at the cabinet table. That is really weird.
Parliamentarians are always happy to help the Prime Minister do his job better. However, this seems like an excessive burden on Parliament just to have the Prime Minister take the very people he named to cabinet seriously at the cabinet table. That is not a great reason for us to be here today discussing this bill.
Administrative responsibility, I suppose, is another sense of equality that remains. This act does not change the fact that, in a myriad of ways, different ministers have different levels of administrative responsibility. Essentially, ministers of state will migrate over to a new category that has been created, one that is called ministers for “whom a department is designated”. A characteristic feature of a minister for whom a department is designated is that the resources they use for their job are carved out of the department of another minister. They do not have their own department. Rather, that is decided by another minister. That that more or less sounds a lot like what goes on already with ministers of state.
For instance, there are departments with ministers that answer to other ministers, such as the Department of Foreign Affairs where the Minister of Foreign Affairs is the top minister. It is very clear in the legislation that the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of International Development answer to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. They are unable to do whatever it is they would like to do in their capacity of minister without the concurrence of the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
This legislation does not speak to that at all, and they would continue to have a two-tier ministry in terms of administrative responsibility and having ministers answering to other ministers. This would not create an equal cabinet in that sense. That is okay. That is not an issue of principle. No one except the Liberals has come up with the idea that it is somehow wrong in principle to have an organizational structure in which some ministers answer to other ministers, because it makes sense in the context of a department. By the time they run that whole circuit, they have pretty much exhausted the senses of equality that they could address within legislation, and even some they cannot. This bill would do nothing.
What it would do is cause some collateral damage, which in itself is interesting given the arguments of the government, because it would prevent future governments from establishing separate regional economic development ministries. We believe there is value in doing that; the Liberals do not. That is fine, because there are different ways of doing things. On balance, we think that the Liberals have chosen an inferior way, but that is their right as a government. Canadians can judge them accordingly. Why they would want to tie the hands of future governments and deny them the ability to adopt a model with separate regional economic development ministries I do not know. That would be one negative consequence of this bill and one that we do not support.
However, that is passing strange because when I asked the government House leader at committee why the Liberals were getting rid of governments' ability to have separate regional economic development ministries, she said that a goal of the legislation was to update the legal framework to reflect the current practices of government. It is the current practice of government that it got rid of all the separate regional economic development ministries. When I put to her the question of why, if that is the goal of the legislation, the Liberals did not eliminate as an option the position of ministers of state, the government House leader had no answer.
If the goal of the legislation is to reflect the current practices of government, and if the current government has principled objection to the use of ministers of state because that establishes a two-tier ministry, their failure to eliminate that position does not make sense for all the reasons I have just enunciated, particularly the two-tier aspects of the ministry that would persist past Bill C-24. Nevertheless, that is an argument of the government. By the logic of that argument, the Liberals ought to be deleting the provisions for ministers of state, because that is what it would take to have the legislation reflect the current practices of the government. However, they are not doing so. I find that strange. Never mind that the legislation establishes a whole other legal mechanism for what is a minister of state, essentially by another name.
Consequently, the Liberals are not succeeding in establishing a one-tier ministry in all sorts of ways. They are not succeeding in updating the legislation to reflect the current practices of government, despite that being the stated objective of the bill. To the extent there are some other senses of equality in terms of pay and title, the Liberals have not demonstrated that the changes contemplated in the bill are necessary. If we take the time to consider this bill seriously, which is something I recommend to the government—I do not think it has tried that yet—it is impossible to come to any other conclusion than that it is a poor bill that would not meet its stated objectives.
Its real objectives are not legal objectives, but political objectives responding to the mistake of the Prime Minister, who initially failed to understand how to compose a cabinet with gender parity. That is the real thing about this bill, but we are not talking about that in this place. From a legal perspective, this bill is a complete waste of time. There are just no two ways about it.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 11:30 [p.14573]
Mr. Speaker, I am not sure that deserves a response, but the member for Winnipeg North is no stranger to wasting time in the House. It is understandable why he is so passionate about the bill.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 11:31 [p.14573]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question.
I find it a little strange that the member for Winnipeg North wants to talk about the issue of equal voices at the cabinet table. Some of our Liberal colleagues said in committee that this bill has nothing to do with equal voices at the cabinet table. Let us just say that I found his remarks a little odd. I would remind him that if the Prime Minister were really serious about wanting equal voices at the cabinet table, all he had to do was appoint an equal number of women and men to cabinet as both ministers and ministers of state. The problem is that he decided to appoint only women as ministers of state.
We have reached a point where the government needs to waste our time in Parliament in an attempt to cover up the Prime Minister's mistakes. It is sad to see the government displaying this kind of attitude towards Parliament. The Prime Minister could have corrected his mistake by adjusting his cabinet appointments. We could have spent more time on other bills that, even the Liberals agree, are greater priorities. They have said themselves that they never have enough time in the House to debate their bills.
Now, we are here debating something that is unnecessary and that does not meet its own objectives. Why? I do not know.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 12:16 [p.14579]
Mr. Speaker, I want to carry on along that theme, as this is one of the interesting windows into the Liberal mindset with Bill C-24. The Prime Minister has ostensibly brought forward legislation to help the Liberals take their cabinet ministers seriously. Presumably, if they do not have a minister's title, the Prime Minister will dismiss their voices at the cabinet meeting saying, that they are not serious, that they are called a minister of state, so what they say is not important as what the other people have to say. That tells us something about not only the legislation or the composition of cabinet. That tells us something about the Prime Minister.
I know the Prime Minister might not be the only one to not take the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader seriously, but it does make me wonder if the Prime Minister is able to take him seriously because he is not a minister. What does that mean for parliamentary secretaries in the Liberal caucus? What does that mean for Liberal backbenchers? What does that mean for Liberal chairs of committees? They are not called ministers. Are we to understand that the Prime Minister does not take good ideas seriously, that he just takes the title of the person who is talking seriously? Is that the lesson of Bill C-24?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 13:16 [p.14587]
Mr. Speaker, I want to continue on the theme of gender equality, which I was surprised to hear Liberals bring up in today's debate. We had a witness at committee, Professor Margot Young, from the Allard School of Law at UBC, who said:
Framing this as a bill that somehow addresses issues around gender equity in the current cabinet composition is a mistake, and it's a mistake of significant ideological character....
...to respond to a question about women in the cabinet by saying simply “because it's 2015” loses a key leadership moment to articulate and shape opinion about what it means to actually have women in positions of equality, in positions of leadership and power.
In response to that, the Liberal member for Don Valley East said:
I thank you for being here, but I don't think we have the relevance to our study for Bill C-24....
If you have any additional points to make.... They would not be regarding this bill, because it is irrelevant to what you are saying. There is nothing that says it is a gender-balanced bill; there is no indication that it has anything to do with gender equality.
Members might forgive me for being surprised to hear Liberals saying today that the bill has everything to do with gender equality.
The member for Newmarket—Aurora said, in response to the same witness:
I don't disagree with anything you've said. I'm not sure the purpose of this bill was at all to express gender equality.... I don't think it's meant to be a tool that's going to address gender inequality, pay equity, or any of the other issues you raised in your opening [statement].
I would like to know what the member thinks about that.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 13:32 [p.14589]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the focus of the member's speech was more on the issue of regional economic development ministers. With respect to that, one of the funny things about this legislation is that the Liberals are keen to eliminate the option for separate economic development ministries to reflect the current practices of government, but they are not doing other things that would reflect the current practices of government, like getting rid of ministers of state. That would be a bad idea in our opinion, but it would reflect the current practice of the government. There is a double standard when it comes to what they want the legislation to reflect and what they do not want it to reflect.
I do want to come back briefly to the issue of gender equality in cabinet and back to the committee meeting where we learned some interesting things from some of the Liberals on that committee. One witness at committee said:
The second point I want to make is that to claim that it is about gender equality [not only is a mistake but] is dangerous. I think it's dangerous because too often we cut off the really important, substantial, and tough conversations about gender equality by claiming that we've already dealt with it and we've dealt with it in some more formalistic way.
That is why I suppose Liberals on committee were quick to deny that the bill was about gender equality, because they did not want to be doing that very thing, where they pretended that we had dealt with substantive gender equality issues when we had not in fact. That is why it is such a surprise to hear Liberals making that argument again.
I am wondering if the member has any thoughts on why Liberals today in the House would be so keen to muddy waters that their colleagues at committee thought it was important to keep clear.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-26 13:49 [p.14592]
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for recounting some of the events that occurred at committee when we were hearing testimony on this bill. He also witnessed what I would say was verging on rough treatment of the witness by the member for Don Valley East. I think the member alluded to some of that in his speech.
Clearly the Liberals on committee were not aware that the government thought the bill was all about gender equality. I do not know why that is the case. We have kind of heard in the debate that the Prime Minister needs help from legislation and titles to take members of his cabinet and caucus seriously.
Does the member think the Liberal members on the committee were out of the loop because they were not called “minister” and the Prime Minister did not deem it important to let them know what the major Liberal arguments were for the bill?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2017-10-17 15:31 [p.14202]
On a point of order, Madam Speaker. I am just wondering if the jobs numbers were in any of the documents the minister provided the Ethics Commissioner, because—
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