The House resumed from October 24 consideration of Bill , as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague, the member for .
Before I begin, if this is the last occasion that I rise in this House to speak this year, I would like to wish all of my colleagues a wonderful and merry Christmas, and all the best for the new year.
During earlier debates on this bill, a number of members spoke to the importance of Canada's regional development agencies. They expressed concern about the impact on the regional development agencies of the proposed removal from the Salaries Act of the ministerial positions associated with them, and I rise to speak to this point today.
Bill would not dissolve the regional development agencies, or RDAs. They would continue to exist as separate organizations, and would not be consolidated. They would remain a strong, local presence in the regions they serve, and nothing in this bill would change that. The regional development agencies are essential delivery partners in the government's plan to foster economic growth. They will continue to work with communities and economic development organizations to promote local growth.
In this 100th year of Confederation, it is worth reflecting upon what has made Canada the modern, prosperous nation it is today. Canada is a nation of strong people and big thinkers. Our identity is shaped by our heritage and our geography. The Government of Canada recognizes that each region of our country has unique strengths. We also recognize that innovation does not just happen in the big cities, but in every region of the country.
Where innovation happens matters, because that is where the best jobs are located. Innovation happens right across our country in communities from coast to coast to coast. This is why Canada's regional development agencies are central to the government's plan to create well-paying, quality jobs. It is why, under this government, one minister, the , would be the responsible minister for all of the regional development agencies.
This change would be a positive for the regions, be it in eastern Canada, the north, or in western Canada. It would not diminish in any way the regional focus and local presence, but it would enhance the agencies' ability to work together, to share best practices with each other, and to learn from one another's experiences. When all regional development organizations are able to work together in the same portfolio and under the same minister, it facilitates knowledge sharing and best practices. Regional and national expertise would be working together for the benefit of all Canadians.
Together, the regional development agencies would have a national footprint, with offices in every region of Canada. This regional presence enables them to connect companies, communities, and Canadians with each other, and with the programs and services they need to grow their businesses, attract global investments to their communities, and, yes, create jobs.
The regional development agencies serve as a focal point of contact for outreach and engagement to better understand the needs of Canadians and the challenges they face. With our strong regional presence and well-developed local relationships with stakeholders and communities and other levels of government, regional development agencies strengthen the government's ability to support innovative, inclusive growth in every part of this great country.
The government supports the regional development agencies. We are investing over $1 billion each year for the regional development agencies in support of community and business growth in every part of Canada, supporting an innovative, clean, and inclusive economy. For example, the regional development agencies are key partners in delivering the accelerated growth service, which brings together key supports, including advisory services, financing, and export support to help propel entrepreneurs to success across Canada.
The regional development agencies are also taking action to boost the growth of Canada's clean tech sector and increase financing support for promising clean technology firms. Starting in 2016-17, the regional development agencies doubled their combined investments in clean tech projects to $100 million a year. This presents entrepreneurs and innovators in every part of the country with an immense opportunity to showcase their ingenuity while encouraging sustainable prosperity for all.
It is this kind of strategic alignment that could be accomplished by having a whole-of-government approach to regional development agencies, working together to strengthen our country as one country while preserving the diversity of our regions. This is what our government is doing for the benefit of all Canadians.
Regional development agencies also deliver programs and initiatives tailored to specific parts of Canada that have their own unique identities. In eastern Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, is a lead economic development organization with flexible programs and an on-the-ground presence. ACOA is well positioned to help grow the economy, foster innovation, and assist in the creation of new jobs, new technologies, and new export opportunities. ACOA has built a strong network of collaborators, including other levels of government, business, academia, and community leaders across the region.
The Atlantic growth strategy has been implemented to improve business development, advance workforce skills, and increase collaboration among both levels of government to help create a stronger Atlantic Canada economy, something we can all be proud of.
The strength of Canada Economic Development for the Regions of Quebec, CEDQ, lies in its community presence through a network of 12 regional offices that work directly with community stakeholders. This allows CEDQ to understand local needs and issues, to provide timely and adapted solutions to these socio-economic realities, and to align programs and actions with the government priorities and the innovation and skills plan.
In southern Ontario, FedDev Ontario's core programs support the productivity, export capacity, and scale-up of firms, and help accelerate the commercialization of new ideas and innovations. FedDev Ontario contributes to building public-private partnerships and supports communities seeking to diversify their local economies.
In northern Ontario, FedNor's flagship northern Ontario development program focuses on delivering Government of Canada priorities to communities, businesses, and first nations in the less populated but very beautiful northern portion of Canada's largest province.
The government's prosperity and growth strategy for northern Ontario will focus on ways to build on northern Ontario's unique strengths and competitive advantages in such sectors as mining, resources, and agriculture, among other sectors.
In western Canada, Western Economic Diversification, WED, invests in programs that help build on western Canada's strengths. WED's on-the-ground presence in the west supports the western Canadian innovation ecosystem through strong relationships with regional stakeholders, the provincial government, and other federal organizations.
WED is helping to strengthen innovation networks and clusters by supporting innovators to develop the next great technologies, products, and services; creating better jobs for the middle class by assisting western Canadians to obtain the industry-relevant certification and skills they need to compete in today's global and highly competitive economy; and generating more trade and foreign investment opportunities by providing entrepreneurs with the tools needed to grow their companies into globally competitive successes.
The Government of Canada is committed to building a sustainable, diversified, and dynamic economy in Canada's North. The investments of Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, help create jobs, support community economic development, and bring real and tangible benefits to northerners.
CanNor plays a key role in the north's inclusion through its relationships with indigenous organizations and businesses. It creates opportunities for small and medium enterprises, which are the backbone of the Canadian economy, by investing in renewable energy and clean technologies, supporting the growth of northern businesses, and partnering with indigenous groups and companies.
These are examples of the work regional development agencies do every day on the ground on behalf of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast in communities large and small. The regional development agencies will continue to do this important work and fulfill their mandate. The voices of the regions will continue to be heard. The work being done in the regions will remain in the regions. What they do is essential. That is how and where economic development takes place.
They will continue to help Canadians start and grow globally competitive companies, and they will help those companies turn their research and innovation into business opportunities.
They will continue to promote regional advantages to attract global companies, and under one minister they will work together to better coordinate government-led programs for entrepreneurs and innovators.
While each regional development agency meets the needs of local and regional populations differently, together they are the story of Canada, be it on the east coast and the Atlantic provinces, on the west coast, in the north, or in southern or eastern Ontario. Together they are the story of Canada, of innovation and dedication, and a celebration of what makes our country unique.
Good morning, Madam Speaker. I am pleased to be in the House today under your watch to inform you that I intend to oppose Bill , an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, which we are discussing this morning.
This morning, we are talking about salaries. Since a little change just happened right before my eyes, I would also like to give my best to Mr. Speaker, a colleague whom I greatly admire. To confirm what I was telling your predecessor, I intend to oppose this bill, which is another example of this government's half-baked ideas. Whenever it introduces a bill, it is not necessarily trying to do something good for Canadians; it is just trying to make itself look good.
Let me provide some background for people listening this morning, and remind the House that this Liberal government really dazzled everyone when it was first elected. It was all about sunny ways. This government really cares about its image. We were told to look at the beautiful cabinet photo, since cabinet has the same number of men and women. It was quite beautiful, right? Everyone had to admit that it really was a nice photo.
Now that the holiday season is upon us, it is time to send pictures and Christmas cards. We had a photo of the entire cabinet, which, we were told, had achieved gender parity. However, it was a pretty loose definition of parity, it was all for show, and that is what I will demonstrate here this morning.
When we looked at the photo, the first thing we did was read the titles. There were indeed ministerial titles. For those listening at home, cabinet is made up of two kinds of ministers. You have the senior ministers, like the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Sometimes, when the department is really big, a second minister is appointed to look after part of the portfolio. That individual, a minister of state, does not have the full responsibility of the department. Ministers of state are accountable to the minister they are supporting.
For example, I was fortunate enough to serve as both. I was the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, a full minister. I was responsible for five Canadian agencies, namely the Canada Border Services Agency, the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, Correctional Service Canada, and the whole works.
I would have liked to have a deputy minister or a minister of state, but I did not. However, I was the minister of la Francophonie. I was deeply honoured to be given that responsibility. That was a minister of state portfolio because the minister of la Francophonie is a deputy who supports the minister of foreign affairs.
At the time I was proud that Prime Minister Harper told me that he needed me to fill the role of minister of la Francophonie. However, I was not responsible for Canadian foreign policy. I was specifically responsible for everything related to la Francophonie. Obviously, I was not responsible for the entire department. I have to say, that as minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, I had enough on my plate. I accepted that role. That being said, my salary did not change. That is what I am getting at, because we are talking about salaries this morning.
I very much respect the Minister of La Francophonie, but unfortunately, la Francophonie does not seem as important to the current government as it is to us. Hon. members will recall that it was a former Conservative government that created this entity. It is only right that a minister of la Francophonie or a minister of state not get the same salary as a full minister because they do not have the same responsibilities. There is a lot of talk about equal pay for equal work. It makes sense that if we do not have the duties of a superior, then we should get the pay of a subordinate. That is how it works in life. That is what taxpayers are entitled to expect.
One of the reasons I am opposed to this bill is that to maintain the illusion of parity, yet again, it is taxpayers who will foot the bill.
When journalists took a closer look at the impressive lineup of ministers in this beautiful picture, they noticed that ministers of state were included. Nothing wrong with that, but it meant that both ministers and ministers of state were counted in the calculation. They also untangled the Liberals' concept of parity and realized that many of the ministers of state were women and that in many cases, they would be reporting to a male minister. This picture of a gender-balanced cabinet, which had been announced with so much fanfare, turned out to be a picture of a plain old paternalistic cabinet, with female ministers of state reporting to male ministers.
This is no longer the postcard-perfect, sunny-ways ideal we were promised by the Liberal government, which was acting as if it had reinvented the wheel.
I have a colleague, right here next to me, whom I hold in the greatest respect. She is a former minister, having served as the minister of public works and government services. I had many occasions to work with her in my capacity as an MP, minister, and cabinet colleague, because she was responsible for procurement. She played an important role in awarding procurement contracts, and the Auditor General himself acknowledged that they had been awarded with great integrity. It is important to have genuine integrity, not just the appearance of integrity. My colleague is a woman who worked as a full minister in the Conservative government.
Not so long ago, the opposition benches were fronted by a female leader of the opposition, Rona Ambrose, who had previously served as minister of health and minister of the environment. She was a female full minister, a competent woman who received a salary corresponding to her title. She was a minister, and she was paid a minister's salary.
There is also my colleague, who was here in the House this week. I find it interesting that she was a minister that came from Canada's Far North. She was minister for the Arctic Council, minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency—we can get back to that ridiculous bill later—and minister of the environment. I am obviously talking about Leona Aglukkaq. I met her mother this week, and she speaks neither French nor English. She speaks an indigenous language, and I needed her daughter to interpret. Her daughter was minister of the environment and minister of health, and these were real ministerial positions.
I am talking about full ministers and not ministers of state, whom Jean Lapierre called “little ministers", as my colleague from reminded me. I do not want to downplay the work of ministers of state, but there are full ministers and there are ministers of state. Therefore, there is a salary for full ministers and a salary for ministers of state.
What do the Liberals want to do now? They want to combine them. Why? The government is just trying to make itself look good.
Another one of my female colleagues who is very competent and who holds the government to account is the former minister of transportation, who managed the Canada Post dispute and the labour dispute in the rail sector. I cannot name her because she is still an MP. I am referring to the excellent member for . She is another woman who was a minister and was extremely competent. She had the salary of a minister because she did the work of a minister. Whether held by a man or a woman, the position has a salary.
I will now come back to the bill introduced by the Liberals. This is a remedial bill and taxpayers are going to foot the bill. The bill will let the government save face with respect to its claims of a gender-balanced cabinet. We are realizing that it is probably the most paternalistic cabinet in Canada's history.
This is an embarrassment for the Liberals. What are they doing? They realized that they were cornered. Therefore they have racked their brains and resorted to the usual tactic of picking taxpayers' pockets to solve the problem. It is not complicated.
That is what they usually do. We have seen it with families. That is another illusion. It is not funny how they boast about loving the middle class. They want to help families and are going to give them extra cash. They are just trying to pull the wool over our eyes when they say that they are cutting taxes for the middle class. We are drinking the Kool-Aid and believing that it is true, and that it is good to give the middle class big subsidies.
Fortunately, we live in a democracy, and we have independent organizations. The Fraser Institute is not falling for the government's line. It says eight out of 10 families are paying more tax under this government, which eliminated tax credits for education, ballet and piano lessons, sports, public transit, and more, and got rid of income splitting too. It gave with one hand and took away with the other.
That is what is happening here this morning. Cabinet is paternalistic. It is trying to save face by giving everyone the same salary. That means they will be paying ministers of state a ministerial salary. That is not okay. Assistants are not supposed to get the same pay as the boss. That is what the Liberals are trying to do this morning, and that is what I have tried to explain.
I oppose this bill for many reasons. I hope I will have a chance to talk about this some more when it is time for questions because there are other major problems with the other subterfuge here, and taxpayers will be on the hook for that too.
Madam Speaker, I heard it all from the member across the way. He says it was the Liberals who caused Stephen Harper to have the largest cabinet in the history of Canada. Do not blame him, blame the Liberals, because there was this apparent issue when Stephen Harper became prime minister because of what he inherited.
Let me remind the member what Stephen Harper inherited: a multi-billion dollar surplus. That was what he inherited, and he converted it into a multi-billion dollar deficit. The Harper government also inherited a multi-billion dollar trade surplus, and converted that into a multi-billion dollar trade deficit. The Harper government inherited an economy that was moving forward, and it took that government less than two years to get the economy almost going backwards, which then caused the Conservatives to invest in Canadians during those minority years.
Though the Harper government had the largest cabinet, I would suggest to my colleague across the way that the big difference between the Liberal cabinet and the Conservative cabinet is not only in terms of size, but also gender parity, which the member across the way does not seem to recognize as a very important issue. Many Canadians took great pride in the announcement by the when he introduced his cabinet to Canadians. The idea of gender parity was long overdue and was applauded by every region of our country. It was exceptionally well received.
I am disappointed. We had the NDP and the Conservatives, an unholy alliance, come together in the last year or so in opposition to good legislation. They both like to mock the announcement of this 's cabinet. I do not know why the NDP and Conservatives do not see gender parity in cabinet as a good thing. I do not understand why both of these opposition parties believe that all cabinet ministers should not be treated equally. That is what this piece of legislation will do; it will ensure that all cabinet ministers are equal, unlike the Conservative cabinet.
What is wrong with having gender parity? The NDP often talk about it, and now they have a chance to reinforce it. When the made the announcement, they had a chance to recognize it as a good thing and say that for what it was. That is what Canadians, as a whole, recognized the cabinet as being. It was even recognized beyond Canada's border, making international news as a step in the right direction.
I was surprised by the criticisms being levelled. The opposition say that Stephen Harper labelled a certain spot as being for a junior, less important minister. I disagree. How can members across the way try to convince me or Canadians that small businesses, especially given the number of questions they ask about them, deserve a junior spot? We recognize small businesses for what they are, the backbone of the Canadian economy, absolutely critical to promoting ongoing job growth for Canada's middle class, as well as supporting the middle class. This is a government that has been supporting our small businesses.
Today, we have a minister who is constantly out there in support of our small businesses and promoting tourism. There have been tangible results. We have seen record numbers of tourists coming to Canada. In fact, in the last week, the , the one they say is a junior spot, has been in China to promote Canada as a tourist destination. I do not know why the members across the way do not want to recognize how important tourism is to our country. Maybe they need to meet with some of the stakeholders and some of their constituents who deal with the hospitality industry to see the real value of tourism. They might not recognize it, but this government recognizes the value of our hospitality industry and the importance of tourism to our country. It creates thousands of jobs every year and employs millions of Canadians, either directly or indirectly. I see that as a very important portfolio.
We have a full minister, a minister of equal value, known as the . Again, that is a very important ministry. Unlike the former Harper government, we have a government that is applying a gender lens to budgetary measures through the . We have a number of different initiatives under way. The Minister of Status of Women has and should have an equal voice at the cabinet table, but not according to the New Democrats and Conservatives. The New Democrats and the Conservatives join together and say no, that should not be the case, that it is a junior ministerial position. I suggest that Canadians would say that the New Democrats and the Conservatives are wrong, that the Status of Women as a ministry should be equal to the Ministry of Finance.
We then hear, “Well, they have different responsibilities”. Of course they have different responsibilities. Each minister has different responsibilities, but they all sit around the cabinet table and that cabinet makes joint decisions. They all have a responsibility to ensure that they are informed on the decisions that cabinet will be making as a whole. Why would they not be paid equally? Again, I would be disappointed if I were a New Democrat. The new Democrats are saying that they believe in pay equity, but they are quite content to see the paid less than the . I would suggest they are wrong on that point too. If they were consistent in what they are saying across the way, they should be rethinking their position on that.
The opposition members are saying that youth are important, and we agree. Youth are very important. Some of the members say we should have a minister of youth. The nice thing about this legislation is that it would create the opportunity, not only for today's but also for future prime ministers, to designate a youth ministry. To me, our Prime Minister has this right. He understands the importance of youth and getting young people engaged, and he has taken on that responsibility himself. We have a Prime Minister who is advocating directly on behalf of youth activities and a parliamentary secretary who is doing an outstanding job on that, but it does not necessarily mean that prevents it from happening some time in the future.
A more commonly talked about issue on the opposition benches is that of seniors. This legislation would allow, whether today or tomorrow, more flexibility to deal with issues that are before the government. It would provide something that is critically important.
I want to talk about the name change. Instead of the previous “minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs”, we now have the . That is a significant change. We are saying that we want a minister of infrastructure with equal status, because we have record amounts of infrastructure dollars being spent in every region of our country. We have a minister who is equal and sitting at the table focused on infrastructure and communities. That is a positive thing.
I suspect I might get some questions.
Madam Speaker, I rise to speak on Bill , and I have to say that it is rather surreal that we are here debating this bill, a bill that is essentially about increasing the salaries of a few Liberal cabinet ministers. That really speaks to the priorities of the government, or the lack of priorities.
During the 2015 election, the criss-crossed the country. He made a big deal about the fact that if he was elected, he would appoint the first gender-balanced cabinet in Canadian history. Of course, we know that the Prime Minister was elected, and on November 4, 2015, he had an opportunity to fulfill his election promise when he appointed his cabinet on that date. On its face, it appeared that the cabinet was gender equal.
The only problem is that not all ministers are equal. There are full ministers, and then there are ministers of state. What is the difference between a full minister and a minister of state? To begin with, ministers of state do not have full departments. They do not manage a full department budget. Ministers of state do not have a deputy minister who reports to them. A minister of state does not have the same power and the same authority as a full minister.
The only way the was able to fulfill, on its face, a gender-equal cabinet was by filling the five junior portfolios, the five ministers of state, with female MPs, and then he could say that he had a gender-equal cabinet. It did not take long for a number of people to point out that the Prime Minister's gender-equal cabinet was not as equal as he made it out to be.
What did the Prime Minister do about it? He essentially played a game of pretend. He began by changing the titles of the ministers to remove “minister of state” and called them “minister” to create the illusion, the facade, that those five junior ministers without full departments were in fact the same as ministers with full departments. Then the increased the salaries of those five ministers, again junior ministers without full departments, to put their salaries on par with ministers of full departments. Now, to complete the facade, the Prime Minister has introduced Bill , in which the government is asking Parliament to rubber-stamp what the Prime Minister did.
The , others members of the government, and the have talked a lot about the problem they have with two tiers of ministers. The irony of that is that Bill does not eliminate two tiers of ministers. In fact, what Bill C-24 does with respect to those five junior ministries is migrate them to a new category called “minister in respect of whom that department is designated”. In the case of those ministers, they would get their resources from the department of another minister. It sounds an awful lot like a minister of state.
In substance, what is the government doing? The government is not doing anything to solve the problem that it purports exists, which is the problem of two tiers of ministers. For the , it does not really matter, because for the Prime Minister, it is all about optics. It is all about looking good. It is all about pretending that he is a champion of women. Of course, when one looks at the record of the Prime Minister when it comes to supporting women, it really is a wanting record.
We have a who has done virtually nothing to assist Yazidi women and girls, who are suffering torture and the most egregious human rights violations imaginable, to help them come to Canada. He has done next to nothing. We have a feminist Prime Minister who is going to remove genital mutilation from the citizenship guide.
The Prime Minister talks a good game, creates a nice facade, and uses women to make himself look good. However, when it comes to substance, when it comes to doing something meaningful, the Prime Minister, time and time again, is AWOL.
What else would we expect from the ? After all, we have a Prime Minister who is a failed prime minister. He is a Prime Minister who, in the last two years, has blown the budget and returned Canada to long-term structural deficits. He cannot get anything done. He cannot get TPP done. He cannot get softwood done. He cannot get NAFTA done. He cannot get pipelines built. He presides over a government plagued by scandal and corruption. He is under investigation as we speak. With a record like that, what else is there to do beyond taking selfies, appearing on American television to talk about his socks, and introducing hollow, meaningless bills, like Bill , that waste Parliament's time?
It is a little ironic that the government is introducing this bill. It speaks to the government's priorities. It is making life more difficult for everyday Canadians. It is taking more out of the wallets of middle-class Canadians. It is going after vulnerable Canadians, like diabetics, to raise revenue for this cash-strapped, spendthrift government. It is declaring war on small businesses. While the government makes Canadians pay, when it comes to the Liberals giving themselves salary increases, they are all in.
Bill is not about gender equality. It is about Liberals helping Liberals. Let us talk about the arrogance, the entitlement, and the condescension of this Liberal government. It was remarkable that the and members of the government tried to insult the intelligence of Canadians by proclaiming that this bill was about gender equity.
On February 2, 2016, none other than the said, “we are committed to pay equity in our cabinet and the government will soon be bringing forward legislation to ensure that all cabinet ministers receive equal pay.” Of course, Bill has nothing to do with pay equity. The principle of pay equity is equal pay for equal value. Bill C-24 does nothing of the sort, which is why it was laughed out of committee by expert witnesses on the question of pay equity.
Bill is a joke of a bill. It is one more reason 2019 cannot come soon enough.
[Member spoke in Cree as follows:]
Niwakoma cuntik Tansai Nemeaytane Awapantitok.
Madam Speaker, on November 4, 2015, my grandmother, who was at home in Kelowna, had the opportunity to watch the swearing-in of our ministers in our government. She was very happy when she learned that there was going to be equality between the sexes in the formation of cabinet. She actually raised this issue with me, a lady who is not very political. She is almost 90 years old, and yet she raised this issue because she thought it was important. She was so proud of the answer the gave when he said, “Because it's 2015”. I know there is some heckling, but when my grandmother says something to me about politics, it is a beautiful thing. I really believe we need true equality, and I am sure my grandmother, if she learned there was not true equality among the ministers, would like to see that rectified.
I am very proud of the government having presented Bill , an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, because it would amend the Salaries Act to include eight new ministerial positions, including the Minister of International Development and 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. It would authorize the Governor in Council to designate departments to support ministers who would occupy these positions, and authorize those ministers to delegate their powers, duties, or functions to officers or employees of the designated departments.
It would also make consequential amendments to the Financial Administration Act and change the legal title of Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs to minister of infrastructure and communities. This reflects the fact that the has taken on the role of intergovernmental affairs minister.
This bill would amend the Salaries Act to modernize, as well, and formally equalize the status of the government's ministerial team, because it is a team. In this government, there are no junior or senior ministers; there are just ministers who work for all Canadians. This government is committed to a one-tier ministry that recognizes the equality of all cabinet members and supports their work on our government's priorities.
Under the current act, the , the , the , the , and the were all considered to be secretaries or ministers of state. This bill would add five ministerial positions, which would replace the current minister of state appointments. All members of the 's ministerial team were sworn in as ministers and have had full standing and authority since day one of this government. This legislation would formally recognize the equality of all members of the ministry.
The bill would formalize having regional and national expertise working together under one roof, which would create a better synergy among them. The regional development agencies would continue to fulfill their mandates and offer their programs, services, and opportunities for local economic growth. Reporting through the highlights the importance the regional development agencies play in the regions and permits a more integrated and whole-of-government approach to economic development issues.
I truly believe it is important that science, la francophonie, small business and tourism, sport and persons with disabilities, and the status of women are all priority areas for Canadians and, therefore, merit full ministerial status. Our government has also, from day one, been committed to creating a one-tier ministry, and this legislation would simply formalize this approach.
Changes made to the Salaries Act would formalize the equality of all members of the ministry and modernize the act to allow for more flexibility. The current act allows for 35 ministerial positions, including the position of the . The bill would amend the act to include five additional titled ministerial positions: the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Science, the Minister of the Status of Women, and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. It would also add three new untitled positions to provide greater flexibility to structure future ministries to reflect the priorities of the government without resorting to minister of state appointments.
These changes would not impact the Ministries and Ministers of State Act. The minister of state appointments would remain an option at the discretion of the Prime Minister, which may be used in the future.
On November 4, 2015, when the cabinet was sworn in, the orders in council included language to style the five ministers as full ministers. The language of the order in council was necessary, given the legislative framework and the current list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act. Bill would modernize the legislation to include the five ministerial titles. That is important.
The bill further would amend the act by removing six regional development positions. However, this does not affect the current regional development agencies, which would continue, under this ministry, to operate under the mandate of the . The Prime Minister would continue to appoint ministers to oversee the regional agencies.
Under our government, all of these practices are currently in place, and this legislation simply formalizes the changes that were made when Canadians changed government, to have a better government. It addresses the administrative constraints that exist in current legislation.
When I was working for the First Nations Education Council in Quebec, it was interesting to note that the structures of the Assembly of First Nations in Quebec and Labrador had commissions that were often run by women, while the other leadership roles were often done, in this case, by men. Men were doing the chief positions and the women, in this case, were doing many of the social organizations that ensured the indigenous organizations in Quebec and Labrador were able to function properly. However, it is important to note, even though women often end up in certain roles—there might be a bit of a gravitation to certain roles—that we all have equal status, no matter what the roles are, especially the ministry of the status of women. One day perhaps we will have a minister of the status of women who might be a man. However, in this case, it is such an important position with everything that is going on in our society, that this position should not be a second-class minister, but a full minister, like everyone else in the council.
For me, it is very important. For my grandmother, it is important. I believe it is important for all Canadians that we not only symbolically but concretely demonstrate that these are our values and that we are willing to make simple legislative changes to ensure that all ministers have full status when they debate the important issues of the day.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak to Bill . I want highlight for members of the House a lot of the specifics in the bill.
The bill's general theme is one of synergy. It is very pragmatic with respect to how we do business in the House but, most important, how we do business across the nation with our partners in all levels of government as well as the private sector.
To be specific, Bill proposes to modernize and firmly equalize the status of the government's ministerial team, team being the key word, throughout the Hill and throughout the nation, working with our partners, municipalities, the provinces and territories, and the private sector in a more proactive manner.
The bill highlights that there are no junior or senior ministers in the Liberal ministry, or any ministry for that matter. It recognizes the importance of a one-tier ministry, all ministers being equal, working to deliver results for all Canadians throughout our great nation.
Currently, five ministers would be directly impacted by this legislation, which proposes to make their positions full minister positions. Those ministers are the , the , the , the , and the . This would simply formalize what the put in place on day one.
The bill would provide the with flexibility to adjust cabinet to the current realities of the times based on what we would hear. Our government relies on our consultations with members of the public and our partners to ensure the message that we bring forward is based on what we hear. We fully concentrate on this in comparison to governments of the past. We learn and, most important, we react accordingly based on those consultations.
Not to be repetitive, but I again want to drill down on what the bill identifies.
The bill would amend the Salaries Act to modernize, as well as formally equalize, the status of the government's ministerial team. In this ministry, there are no junior or senior ministers. There are just ministers working to deliver results for Canadians.
This government is committed to a one-tier ministry that recognizes the equality of cabinet members and supports their work based on the government's priorities, as well as the priorities of the nation.
Under the current act, the , the , the , the , and the are all considered to be ministers of state. Bill proposes to add five ministerial positions to replace the current ministers of state appointments.
All members of the 's ministerial team were sworn in as ministers and have had full standing and authority since day one of this government. The legislation formally recognizes the equality of all members of the ministry.
I would also like to highlight some of the residual benefits that the bill brings forward.
First, on regional development agencies, the proposed bill formalizes having regional and national expertise working together under one roof. It identifies how it will create better synergy by working closer together with our partners. It creates an opportunity for greater progress, which is this government's number one priority.
RDAs will continue to fulfill their mandates in confutation with our partners, listening, learning, and responding accordingly. They will continue to offer their programs, services and opportunities for local economic growth, working together. Cohesion between RDAs helps to grow the economy and deliver results.
Reporting through ISED ministers, highlights the importance of RDAs and the priorities they put forward within their different regions, the importance that they are part of the efforts to bring forward progress. It permits a more integrated and whole-of-government approach to economic development issues, therefore a more robust strategy that identifies objectives. With our partners, we can attach action plans to those objectives, and then, finally, execute those action plans to once again achieve progress.
RDAs are in fact in Atlantic Canada. For example, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is delivering results. There are economic development agencies for the regions of Quebec, and for southern Ontario, FedDev as an example. When we look at FedDev's accomplishments in the past year, over $783.9 million has been invested through a post-secondary strategic infrastructure fund, or an investment fund for the province of Ontario; $222 million invested in support of scale-up firms and entrepreneurs, innovative clusters, clean growth, and export development. I can go on, but unfortunately I only have 10 minutes.
Once again, there is progress.
The Federal Economic Development initiative for Northern Ontario, FedNor, and the western economic diversification are examples of working with partners for progress.
The bill proposes to formalize having the regional and national expertise of the regional development agencies all working together under one roof for progress. This creates better synergy and more opportunities for greater progress. It provides the flexibility needed to make real impacts in communities across our great nation.
The regional development agencies would all continue to fulfill their mandates of supporting small and medium-sized enterprises in becoming more innovative, productive, and export oriented, achieving progress. They would continue to work with communities and economic development organizations to identify and generate opportunities for local economic growth, as well as continue to provide programs and services to entrepreneurs and communities that build on distinct competitive regional advantages, their niches.
In my former life as a municipal representative, I fully respected the people I worked with on a daily basis, whether it was bumping into someone at a grocery store, or soccer field, or hockey rink, or on the sidewalk, or going for a walk with my dog, or being somewhere with my daughters Logan and Jordan just sitting and chatting, or bumping into somebody who had an idea and wanted to discuss how he or she could progress ideas with our level of government. I knew how important it was in my position to take that message to other levels of government and other departments in order to leverage those ideas to become a reality through strategy, objectives, action plans, and execution.
Currently this government is doing a transportation corridors study and an infrastructure smart cities study, which align with the very direction the government proposes through this bill.
I ask members of the House to understand the synergies and partnerships, and to therefore appreciate the progress we are trying to bring forward on behalf of our great nation.
Madam Speaker, today we have the opportunity to speak on a centralist bill that lacks transparency, turns its back on the regions, and glosses over ministerial inequality. I am referring, of course, to Bill , the act to amend the Salaries Act.
Bill C-24 has received little media attention. However, it speaks volumes about this government's philosophy. We can learn much by thoroughly reviewing each element of this bill. That is what I propose we do for our next few minutes together. To begin with, let us take apart the facade and see what is behind this bill.
First of all, Bill creates eight new Liberal minister positions, namely five minister of state positions and three yet-to-be-determined ministerial positions. We have no idea what these positions will be. The goal is to ensure pay equity among all ministers in this gender-balanced cabinet. The ministers may receive the same salary, but there is nothing in this bill to ensure that they will be treated fairly and equally.
These new ministers of state will in fact be junior ministers. They will not have a deputy minister, they will have much smaller budgets and they will have fewer powers. A feminist government, as the himself has suggested, does not create new superficial positions for the appearance of parity. He should instead give the same number of men and women major departments, with substantial and equitable budgets. Parity and equity also mean an equal division of key positions in the government. This means that a first target has been missed by our Prime Minister.
Let us now take a closer look at the announcement of the three new ministers. It would appear that the Liberal cabinet is not yet complete. Today we would have to sign a blank cheque for three new ministerial positions that, after two years of governing, have not yet been identified. In other words, today we are to approve the appointment of three mystery ministers. I would even say that they are phantom ministers. Approving the appointment of these three ministers in this government, which claims to be transparent and accountable, is a second missed target.
We then learned that Bill will eliminate the positions of six ministers responsible for regional development agencies. That is painful.
The responsibilities of these regional development agencies will now be concentrated in the hands of a single minister. Currently, this minister comes from a major centre, Toronto. Imagine that: a minister responsible for regional economic development who comes from Toronto. This means that now a minister from the big city of Toronto will be responsible for regional development across the country. When it comes to listening to the regions and sharing powers, this is a third missed target.
We are therefore signing the death warrant of regional economic development ministers. These ministers, who were supposed to defend and represent the interests of their regions across Canada, at least had the advantage of being familiar with the people on the ground and especially their needs. They helped ensure better coordination with the regions, and they represented a diversity of voices at the cabinet table.
I doubt the Liberal government is giving a single minister all that power just to save money. Saving money is not really its thing. We have seen over and over again that this government is not afraid to spend money hand over fist. No, this decision speaks to the Liberal government's core philosophy and reflects the Liberals' concept of federalism.
By now, this should come as a surprise to nobody because it is something we have seen many times. The government took power away from municipalities when it created the infrastructure bank and the smart cities challenge. Its new passengers' bill of rights gave the more power, it is restricting access to information from the offices of cabinet ministers and the Prime Minister, and it alone is making decisions about the when, how, and who of legalizing marijuana by ignoring the provinces, municipalities, and indigenous communities.
The Liberals' brand of federalism features a centralizing, paternalistic government that wants to monopolize decision-making and does not respect the provinces' jurisdiction.
This summer, the Prime Minister said that appointing a member from Toronto to be minister responsible for all the regional economic development agencies in Canada was, and I quote, “a way of reducing the kind of politics that we’ve always seen from regional development”. That is an extremely simplistic way of looking at this.
I wonder what kind of politics the Prime Minister was referring to, because, to us, regional representation and accountability is the kind of policy that is absolutely welcome and legitimate. The Prime Minister seems too attached to his powers, incapable of trusting the expertise of others, and too worried about delegating responsibilities to anyone. This is one of the government's biggest aberrations since it came to power.
We also know that last fall, $150,000 from the Ontario economic development fund was given to a business in the riding of the , in Mississauga. Is this the type of politics the Prime Minister had in mind when he said he wanted to centralize powers?
Furthermore, a Liberal Atlantic caucus subcommittee indicated that it had had reports of a threefold increase in processing times at the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency since a Toronto-area minister, a big-city minister, was appointed to oversee maritime regions. According to that same subcommittee, centralized decision-making impedes the agility of programs. This means that regional businesses that count on the regional development agencies will have to foot the bill for the new centralized model. On top of being affected by the finance minister's new tax reforms, job creators in our regions will be further disadvantaged by this Liberal government. These are all factors that are not helping our regions right now.
For a bill presented as a simple correction of a pay imbalance between ministers, we are both surprised and disappointed by its contents. It concentrates more power in the hands of a big-city elite. It creates three new ministerial positions that are shrouded in mystery. We know nothing about the duties these ministers will have. They are phantom ministers. It eliminates the positions of ministers responsible for regional economic development across Canada. It also increases processing times at the development agencies that are supposed to help our entrepreneurs. We are supposed to be working to help our entrepreneurs, but this bill throws roadblocks in their way.
Once again, the Liberal government has forgotten the regions all across Canada. It is not being transparent and is implementing a paternalistic and centralizing federalism. Worst of all, the aim of this bill, which is to ensure fairness among the ministers, is not even met.
Perhaps cabinet members will have the same salary, but they will not have the same responsibilities and powers. Key positions will still be given to a handful of men, as we see now. This means that Bill completely misses the mark.
In closing, the Liberal government, which keeps saying that it wants to be more transparent, reacted when the media and the opposition started scratching the surface and noticed that its so-called gender-balanced cabinet was really just for show. Indeed, there were very few women in key cabinet posts with all the powers that go along with them.
The government's solution was to come up with a kitchen sink bill in which it simply increased the number of ministers of state, who will not even have the same tools to work with, who will report to other people, namely, the Prime Minister and his office. He also used this as an opportunity to get rid of the regional economic development ministers across Canada, even though those ministers understood their region's local reality. All of these things combined spell disaster for all regions of Quebec.
Madam Speaker, when we re-elected the Quebec caucus, the first step we took was to ensure we achieved gender balance.
This simple act, as small and modest as it is, plainly showed that this culture of gender equality and fairness is fundamental and right.
I still wonder today why we have to debate such obvious things at great length. Clearly, the problem is so serious that the debate is still relevant. However, it is sad that we are forced to make arguments to defend what the general public would like to take for granted. In fact, the public would like this to be seen as the norm.
However, this equal representation does not exist everywhere. It is obvious that in 2017, we have a lot of work to do to find that balance. Unfortunately, if the public does not see any concrete initiatives or receive a clear message, that probably means that we are not doing our job.
It is funny repeating something so annoyingly obvious. We are being forced to put forward major arguments to say that the very least we can do is ensure that men and women are treated equally and fairly, and that every voice carries the same weight and is treated in the same way.
This debate has been going on for a long time. People who do not follow the debates all that closely, and sometimes I can see why, do not realize just how beneficial it would have been to settle this debate from the outset, when the bill was introduced. We are still debating it a year later. Still, regardless of what side of the House you are on, this is the type of issue where there should be no partisanship, because it is a question of gender equity.
When we are talking about pay equity and when both men and women have the same jobs and the same responsibilities, regardless of which government is in power, the Prime Minister’s Office is a unit where all members’ voices carry the same weight.
The Prime Minister’s Office is an organization where, regardless of origin, culture, gender, or experience, a voice is a voice. Of course, experience in one area or another has a certain value. Experience is probably the only element with added value when it comes to the content and thorough study of the topics under discussion.
Bills like the one before us now are extremely simple. Clearly, the general public supports this bill.
Many of us had careers in the private sector at one time, and this question comes up constantly. Every day, we see inequality and find that women are treated differently. This situation is always mentioned, because there is no justification for it. That is why, from day one, despite the system in place, we have treated all ministers the same way. Our intent was that everyone receive the same treatment and that everyone’s voice in the Prime Minister’s office carry the same weight. There was no reason for it to be otherwise.
This debate is in itself unjustified. There is no reason why we should have been debating this subject for so long. I am looking at the number of hours we have spent on this, the number of debates we have held, and the number of witnesses who have spoken in committee on a subject everyone in the House knows about. Everyone is already aware of these types of situations and of the inequity, and the problem goes well beyond government. In fact, it is relatively widespread. I think that, if there is somewhere where we should start cleaning up and putting the house in order, it is here in this institution.
Our responsibility to correct wage inequality is a non-issue. It should be a done deal by now, since everyone agrees on this. The bill gives everyone an equal voice, despite what hon. members across the aisle would have us believe. It is easy to say that you know what will happen, to fearmonger about this or that, to say that certain ministers will lose certain powers. Let us talk about ministerial powers. Wherever they sit, every member of caucus expresses themselves clearly and without limitation, never holding back from voicing regional issues.
In caucus, whatever group you are from, whatever your stripes, every member has a voice. Every member can talk about their problems, their concerns and issues that should be brought to a minister’s attention. Rationalizing our approach by grouping together certain organizations really comes down to saving money and simplifying processes. Throwing out appointments right and left could result in a cabinet of unreasonable proportions.
I will it leave it to those involved to determine whether cabinet should have 30, 32, 35, 38 or 40 ministers. I will even be a good sport and refrain from arguing for or against having a large cabinet. As we heard at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, the official opposition, which is questioning certain basic expenditures, is wondering whether it is appropriate for the committee to spend a reasonable amount of money to travel across Canada to find out what Canadians need. All of a sudden, saving tax dollars became so crucial that we had to restrict the bulk of the committee's travels. How odd, given the attempt to normalize the fact that there were 40 or so ministers at one time.
The number is justifiable in the eyes of the person in charge. I think that we have responded and that we have followed up on the comments of those who are able to voice direct opinions on specific files. More than anything, we acted on a general consensus among the public that it should be a given that everyone at the big table should have an equal voice and an equal amount of power. Every minister should then get the same salary as their colleagues in the same organization whose responsibilities are similar.
Under the circumstances, I think we ought to stop fearmongering and making predictions. We may not be the skilled clairvoyants some hon. members are, but we rely on hard facts and sound evidence. We have been saying this from the start, but we believe, just like Canadians in general believe, that we should be past debating this type of issue. It should be obvious that treating everyone equally, in the same manner, and giving them equal powers and an equal voice is simply a reflection of the will of the people.
Madam Speaker, I have been waiting for months to speak to Bill . The official title is an act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act. A more accurate title for the bill could be an act to cover up this Liberal government's embarrassing mistake of claiming to create a gender-balanced cabinet while actually appointing five women as junior ministers, and, under the traditionally appropriate practice of Canadian governments, paying them substantially less.
The 's mistake was exposed when he unveiled his first cabinet after the 2015 election. Within days, as controversy swirled in the media and the public arena, and it must be said, among Liberal backbenchers, the Prime Minister's Office went into damage control. All of a sudden, the talking points were that every single member of cabinet, those with multi-million dollar departments and spending responsibilities and those with no departments and substantially fewer dollars and responsibilities, were equal. All of a sudden, Orwellian fable came alive in the cabinet room, just across from the public gallery, and Animal Farm came to life. The last commandment on the barn wall of the satirical story became a guiding principle of this infant Liberal government. All ministers are equal, the and his inner circle proclaimed, though he and everyone in the Liberal cabinet, on the Liberal backbenches, on this side of the House, and across Canada knew, as they still know today, that some ministers are more equal than others.
That did not matter then, and it does not matter now to the Prime Minister and his brain trust. All he had to do to correct his original goof was open the treasury and take the time and energy of law writers to craft the bill we are debating so that the Salaries Act could be amended so that five ministers of state could be re-profiled as full ministers and receive a salary equivalent to those in full ministerial positions. These salary bumps, $20,000 a year each, are to be paid from the consolidated revenue fund.
In other words, the hard-earned tax dollars sent to Ottawa by Canadians were used to pay for the to make good. The original Governor in Council appointments of the five ministers of state made on November 4, 2015, were suddenly transformed to full ministerial positions. However, that was not the end of it. These new ministers, the five upgraded ministers of state, needed budgets, money to spend in their expanded, confected positions, so Bill would also provide a legislative framework so that these new positions could receive support from existing departments in the exercise of their mandates.
What is more offensive is that all of this convoluted damage control and financial funny business was done, until now, without conventional enabling legislation. All of a sudden, the five ministers of state were getting a substantial pay boost, an overnight $20,000-a-year raise. Just how often does that happen for the middle class, and of course, those struggling to join it?
We have to remember that the much-delayed piece of legislation we are debating today, Bill , is finally, more than two years later, the legislation that will officially correct the 's original mistake. The government has been effectively writing post-dated cheques to pay these ministers.
To be generous to the Liberals, beyond these precious taxpayer dollars so flippantly spent, as we expend in this debate the time and resources of the House to fix his problem, we must remember that the Liberals came to office with very little institutional knowledge and experience. From third-party status in the previous Parliament, with barely 35 members, all of a sudden there was a Liberal majority. To make it even more challenging for this fledgling majority, the and his backroom advisers very obviously ignored a number of re-elected members of some substance, and certainly experience, to create a cabinet heavily populated by newbies, which we know well led to some of the more spectacular stumbles made by the Liberal government over the past two years.
In the rush for the appearance of gender balance, the Liberals also ignored a tradition that dates back in the history of Westminster parliaments that was also, for so long, a part of our Canadian cabinet tradition.
Therefore, it is time for a quick look back in history and the victim of this expensive and time-consuming process: the storied position of minister of state.
A minister of state has traditionally been a minister with a cabinet mandate and responsibilities but without a ministry, a junior minister enabled in his or duties with a small portion of his or her departmental minister's budget.
Upon my election in 2008, I was honoured by Prime Minister Harper to serve as minister of state for foreign affairs responsible for the Americas, under the exceptionally capable foreign affairs minister, Lawrence Cannon, most recently our distinguished ambassador to France. I enthusiastically recognized my junior role, my supporting role, in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and I accepted the good-humoured ribbing I received from then Speaker Milliken, who would occasionally offer a musical reminder of my place in government from 19th century comic opera.
Speaker Milliken caught me off guard the first time in the Speaker's corridor, just behind your chair, as you know, Mr. Speaker, by coming up behind me, as we both walked to this House, and suddenly launching into one of the choruses of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Gondoliers. Members will recall that this is a political comic opera set in Venice. It is centred on the kings of a mythical kingdom called Barataria. I understand that Queen Victoria was amused, during a royal command performance of the opera before her, by the gentle poke at the role of monarchs in a constitutional democracy, and the chorus drew royal laughs. One particular chorus was the one sung for me, fairly often, by Speaker Milliken. It goes like this:
Oh, philosophers may sing
Of the troubles of a King,
Yet the duties are delightful, and the privileges great;
But the privilege and pleasure
That we treasure beyond measure
Is to run on little errands for the Ministers of State.
This bill marks the end of this historic position in this House, in this Parliament, though I suspect that a clearer thinking future government will reinstate both the tradition and the logical function, and the logically funded function, that ministers of state have performed over the centuries.
Bill does not only remove ministers of state in a misguided add to ministerial ranks; it also eliminates six very important ministers and ministries, those of regional development agencies across this country.
The elimination of these ministerial positions was one of the biggest blunders of the blunder-prone Liberal government. We told the Liberals more than two years ago that they were making a big mistake in eliminating the regional development agencies, just as we advised them against implementing the flawed Phoenix pay system for the public service, just as we advised them against cozying up with the terror-sponsoring, human-rights-abusing Iranian regime, just as we advised them against a heavy-handed imposition of electoral reform, and just as we advised against regressive amendments to the access to information and privacy law. The list goes on and on, and, with Bill C-24, on.
That is why I, in this House, and the official opposition, will vote against this unfortunate, wasteful piece of post-dated legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak on Bill . I have been listening to the debate and feel it is necessary to speak to a couple of issues that I feel the opposition has perhaps got wrong, or that I disagree with, essentially. I will start with the regional development agencies and then talk more about the five ministries that have moved from ministry of state status to full ministries, which they are right now.
Regional development agencies would continue to offer opportunities for local economic growth, and fulfill their mandates and offer programs and services, but would operate through the mandate of the . The fact that these agencies still have the opportunity to work and continue to fulfill their mandates, and the fact there are 338 members who can also provide information from the regions to the minister, is critically important. I heard members talk about the differences in Quebec. There are 41 members from Quebec—that province clearly thought we were doing a good job and sent us another member—and 31 members from Atlantic Canada. I am pretty sure that by Monday, there will be another one. There clearly are opportunities for the views of the regions across the country, as different and diverse as they are, to make their way to the government and for us to address the issues involved in a way that respects local individuals and diversity within the regions.
I want to talk a bit about the gender issue. I firmly believe that this is not a gender issue if we remove gender completely from the ministries that have been made full ministries. We have the , to whom I am parliamentary secretary. There is a large amount of work required to ensure international development and our engagement with La Francophonie countries around the world, so that they have an adequate voice, that we are listening to their concerns, and are actively engaging with them. That is now a full ministry. If we take away who the minister is, that is a full ministry.
If we take away the fact that the is a woman, if we expect to have any policy at all based on a little evidence, let alone policy based on substantial evidence, the Minister of Science position is one that is sorely needed at the federal level. When we talk about running a country, irrespective of who is in that position, this ministry requires a full minister.
We have the . This year, Canada's 150th birthday saw a tremendous amount of tourism in Canada. A tremendous number of people came to Canada to explore its greatness in all of its forms and to celebrate with us our 150th year of Confederation. Next year will be the Canada-China Year of Tourism. Again, an influx of individuals will come to Canada to celebrate what we know is the greatest country in the world. They will come here to celebrate with us and spend their dollars here. They are enjoying this great country of ours. There are 1.8 million small businesses in this country. If we were to put them in one geographical area, they would have several postal codes. To say this ministry does not require a full ministry is nonsense, again taking out the gender piece.
As for the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, again, when we look at the barriers faced by individuals with disabilities in this country and the fact that provincial legislation is a patchwork and not uniform across this country, we need federal leadership when it comes to developing a Canadians with disabilities act. That is what the government is doing. This is not about whether or not we feel it is necessary that it be a full ministry. We need federal leadership when it comes to disabilities. This ministry requires that leadership, not as a ministry of state, but as a full ministry. That is why, when cabinet was sworn in in November, this is happened.
The most contentious issue concerns the Minister of Status of Women, and on that I do not even know what to say. When I hear that the position could be a minister of state, that this ministry does not need to be a full ministry, I say, we make up 50% of the population. Hello? Why would that not be a fully ministry? Again, let us forget about who is actually the minister, and just think about the ministry and 50% of the population.
When we look at the intersectionality of women and the barriers they face, when we think about yesterday, when we were very much seized with the events of 28 years ago and were remembering the 14 names, when we were thinking about the fact that gender-based violence disproportionately affects women not just around the world but in this country, the fact we are now questioning whether status of women needs to be a full ministry, I think, is quite ludicrous.
I am certainly quite happy, and quite impressed by the fact, that the government under the leadership of our thought it appropriate to ensure that all of these ministries were full ministries.
Now I will bring the gender piece in. When we look at the question of our gender-balanced cabinet, when these individuals were sworn in, the orders in council ensured that they were full ministers at the time. It was not about trying to make up for some mistake that we made. That is absolutely not the case. Having them as full ministries was done right from the beginning.
The message about having a gender-balanced cabinet had an impact. That required leadership. That requires a who understands the power and the influence we can have around the world when we ensure that the policies we put forward, the decisions we make, have a gendered lens. Indeed, the message of a gender-balanced cabinet had an impact. I hear it when I go to different countries around the world. There is talk about the leadership Canada has shown. There is talk about the leadership to influence change, not just on a political level but also within business, on boards, in key positions, in decision-making positions.
I am truly happy to have had an opportunity to speak on this bill. I am truly happy that we could, for a moment, remove the gender piece and just speak about the importance of these ministries. However, when we do look at the gender piece, we know that it is critically important in our leadership to ensure that gender equality and gender balance does happen in every facet of our society.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand up today, most importantly as the member of Parliament for Fredericton, to speak to the important nature of Bill that is before us today.
Folks in the region of the country I have the pleasure of representing have been quite amenable to the direction of this government as it relates to the importance of the diversity of views that are expressed at the cabinet table and throughout caucus, and, most importantly, that are brought from the communities of all members of Parliament to this place that help enrich the debate that we seek to have on a daily basis.
As the member for Fredericton, I would like to take this opportunity to tell my constituents about the merits of the bill before us today.
I will start with just a brief summary of the bill for people paying attention on this Thursday afternoon, or in some parts of the country still Thursday morning.
This enactment would amend the Salaries Act to include eight new ministerial positions, including the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie. Before I go any further, I want to talk to my experience working within La Francophonie.
In my previous career, I had the opportunity to work with leaders of francophone countries on important issues related to child and youth development. I know how important it is for the Government of Canada to have a full minister dedicated to important issues related to the Francophonie. That part of the world receives a significant portion of our development aid. I know that our current minister is focusing on Canada's leadership role in that forum.
The bill would also make the Minister of Science a full minister. Canadians were fed up after 10 years of the lack of evidence-based decision-making on the part of the Harper government. We made a commitment well before the election campaign that, were we to be fortunate enough to form government, we would base all of our actions on scientific evidence.
My interactions with the Minister of Science have only enriched my confidence that this is a government that in all aspects of decision-making ensures that we have the science right. Constituents throughout the Fredericton region, Oromocto, the Grand Lake region, and into New Maryland have confidence in our current .
My constituency is home to two world-class post-secondary institutions as well as a thriving community college. We rely on scientific evidence and support for fundamental science to help foster the type of economic development that is so important to our region, to our country, and quite frankly, to the entire world.
It is well worthy that this legislation deals with a Minister of Science at a full ministerial level.
Third, the bill would establish the Minister of Small Business and Tourism as a full minister with a full ministry. In Atlantic Canada there is no greater player than small business. Small businesses make up upward of 99.5% of the businesses in our community and we rely on them for economic growth, to employ people in our communities, and to employ students who graduate from our world-class universities and post-secondary institutions.
I think it is crucial for us to have a full-time minister focused on small and medium-sized businesses and on developing a regional tourism strategy. That is another important aspect of our economic growth.
I am sure that my colleague from Charlottetown would agree that tourism New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island is largely in the summer. However, if we can expand the tourist reach into the spring, fall, and winter, that will be incredibly important to the economy of our region. I am sure that the constituents watching today will agree that having a full-time minister of small business and tourism is important, and that our government is moving in the right direction in that respect.
I have some tremendous constituents doing fantastic work in advocacy as it relates to the importance of respecting the rights and listening to the voices of individuals who are living with an intellectual, physical, or cognitive disability, as well as the importance of family members and community as support systems around them. Therefore, to have a full minister of sport and persons with disabilities at the cabinet table, speaking about understanding the unique ability that each of us as Canadians have is certainly something that I believe in fully and I am happy to advocate on behalf of.
I also believe that my constituents think it is incredibly important to have a voice around the cabinet table making important decisions about the way that we invest in community infrastructure. For example, we need to be taking into account the unique rights, needs, and abilities of persons who live with a disability in the way that we build communities that will allow for socio-economic benefits for years to come, that are socially inclusive, and that lead to economic growth so that people with disabilities can be employed and access the services they need. That is an important voice to have at the cabinet table as a full ministry.
With the time that remains I will touch on two things. The first is the importance of having a full minister of status of women, which in this day and age is absolutely necessary to reflect the views of 51% of the population in our country. We know when women are given an equal opportunity to succeed in the economy that economic growth is better. If we look at the last two years since we formed government, across this country unemployment is at the lowest it has been in over a decade. Almost 600,000 jobs have been created in those two years, most of which are full-time jobs. Economic growth is at levels not seen in about 17 years, since the previous Liberal government. Focusing on women in economic roles, and the social inclusion of women and girls in all aspects, is a tremendously important part of the actions our government takes.
Just briefly, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I can tell this House and the Canadians watching at home that our allies in countries that are developing in regions far away from us are taking notice of our leadership on gender equality and gender issues around the world. We need to stay on this track. Canada can make an important contribution to the world, not just in the near term but in the long term, helping create greater social inclusion for more people and greater economic growth, not just for ourselves but for regions abroad.
Finally, the importance of regional economic development for our government is absolutely fundamental. I can tell members that is no more evident than in this government's support for an Atlantic growth strategy, which sees the highest levels of government here in Ottawa supporting work being done in Atlantic Canada. It is an absolutely wonderful collaboration between the Government of Canada, with the leads of the ministers at the federal level in those four Atlantic regions, working with the premiers and their counterparts to invest in economic development through people. What better way to grow the economy than through immigration, bringing newcomers and their families into our region; investing in strategic infrastructure that respects our traditional ways of work and investing in new and exciting opportunities like IT, cybersecurity; and really enhancing opportunities through the ocean economy in our region? Trade, investment, and clean growth are another couple of elements that make up our government's view of the importance of regional economic development in our country.
I see I am running out of time. I wish I had more to go on with, but I will be happy to answer questions from my colleagues in this House.
Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak on this important piece of legislation, which is terribly flawed, and hopefully the government will listen.
Before I speak to Bill , the previous Liberal speaker shared with this House, with great gusto, that he was shocked about a question of young people having access to cannabis. He asked if the member was not aware that people under the age of 25 are using cannabis. Yes, that is happening. That is why, as a country, we need to better control cannabis and access by youth.
The new scientific Liberal approach is to make sure our young people, 12, 13, and 14 years old, who do not currently have access to cannabis, could have access to it. What they are proposing with the marijuana legislation is that youth between the ages of 12 and 18 would be able to legally possess five grams. When they hit the age of 18, it would go up to 30 grams. Five grams of marijuana is 15 joints, and 30 grams is 90 joints. Their new scientific approach is that they are going to keep marijuana out of the hands of youth by allowing them to have in their possession up to 15 joints each. That is a science course that I never have taken. Maybe it is the new Liberal science course.
However, we are here to talk about the government's approach to appointments of ministers, and I think everyone in this House fully supports the proposal and goal of having gender equity in cabinet. That starts with encouraging women and girls to get involved with politics much more than in the past. I am really excited seeing the pages here today; many of them are female.
I could not do my job as a member of Parliament without my partner, my wife of 45 years, Diane. When I am not in my riding of beautiful Langley—Aldergrove, my wife represents me, and many say she is a better speaker than I am. I would not argue with them. She is very bright, very capable, and very much my equal, maybe even my superior. I love her. I fully respect and agree with the goal of gender equity, and it needs to start with pay equity. Everyone in this House, on this side anyway, supports pay equity. The government says it does but if only it had a majority government then it could get it through and get pay equity. In fact, it does have a majority government, a strong majority, and it could get it through if it were a priority.
There is this parable that a tree is known by its fruits. If the tree has apples on it, it is an apple tree, and if it has oranges, it is an orange tree. If the government says it believes in gender equity, what kind of fruit is on its tree, its tree of truth? Unfortunately, Canadians are saying that what the government says and what the government does are two very different things. We are talking about changing appointments to ministers, changing junior ministers, ministers of state, to now be paid the same amount as a full minister, but not having the title, responsibility, or support.
Tokenism is not what this side believes in, and Canadians do not believe in tokenism. It has to be true gender equity. Some of the most intelligent women I ever worked with in this House include Rona Ambrose, the former leader of our party. Before that, she was minister in a number of portfolios and was very capable. I was her parliamentary secretary, and I was honoured to be given that responsibility. She is a very intelligent woman. I learned from her, and it was an exciting time to be the parliamentary secretary to the minister of environment.
Before being elected, I was with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Aileen Shibata was our regional manager for loss prevention and road safety, a very intelligent woman. There are very intelligent women who should be given responsibilities in the House based on their skill level. That is how it should be: pay equity based on the work people do. If they have those skills, we need to honour those skills and give them responsibility, regardless of their gender.
The goal of encouraging women to get involved is very important and needs to be encouraged. We need to encourage the government to truly give women opportunities. I am thinking of what is said and what is done. There is a by-election going on in Canada. There are four ridings. One of them is South Surrey—White Rock, and the Liberals chose a man to run for them. He is a very nice, retired man, but there was a very capable and intelligent woman who wanted to run for the Liberals and they said, no, they wanted a man. It was very unfortunate because, if the government really believes in gender equity, it would have given that woman the opportunity to run.
The woman who is running is Kerry-Lynne Findlay, who is a former cabinet minister, and I hope she returns here after December 11, because she is very capable and again an example of our party's supporting women to get involved in politics.
Having been in the House for 13 and a half years, elected in 2004, I have experienced the importance of regional development ministers. The regional development minister for British Columbia is very successful. That regional minister's office is where the provincial representatives went to meet. In a coordinated, prioritized way, they were able to put the money into infrastructure where it was needed and would have long-term benefits. Without an organized approach, removing the regional ministers, we lose that organized approach and that voice, that consultation between the federal government and the provincial governments. It is a big mistake.
The other problem I have with Bill is the so-called mystery ministers. The Liberals are saying to trust them, pass this, and they are going to appoint some mystery ministers. Who are those mystery ministers? The last speaker said possibly the minister for the status of women. What about a minister for seniors? The largest demographic in Canada is seniors. Canadian seniors for the last two years have been ignored by Parliament because the government says it cares about seniors but it does not.
The most recent example was the announcement with confetti in the air and great splendour when Liberals announced the Canadian national housing strategy. There was mention of seniors 18 times in the report and not once was there any solution or announcement of how they were going to take care of Canadian seniors. How could that happen that they acknowledge the needs of seniors but nothing is announced to address the needs of seniors? That is because there is no minister for seniors.
With great sincerity, because Bill is going to be rammed through as it rams through everything, I would ask that it seriously consider the plight of Canadian seniors. Right now, 70% of Canadians who need palliative care in the last days, last weeks, and last years of their life have no access to it. That again is because there is no minister for seniors. There used to be, in the previous Parliament. The previous government had seniors as a priority, and l again ask that the government put its words into action and appoint a minister for seniors.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour and pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to this very important topic. I will touch on a few different aspects of it.
I would like to start where the discussion left off with respect to increasing gender parity in the workplace and the labour market, and the ability of women to get into jobs, roles, and careers that traditionally they might not have been able to do so. I have been championing and working on this issue a lot since I came to the House. It speaks to giving women the tools they need to have the opportunity to fully explore and pursue the careers and jobs they aspire to have.
One of the things I advocated, and the government did do it, was to change maternity benefits for women. In the past, pregnant women were only able to access their maternity benefits eight weeks of the 15 weeks prior to their due date. This government made a real step toward changing that by allowing those maternity benefits to be taken 13 weeks prior, moving in the direction of properly putting the provisions and safeguards in place so women would have real opportunities to pursue a career at the same time as having a family and children.
Another issue is the size of the cabinet. This government has taken a dramatically different approach than the previous government did. It is very telling in the fact that it chose to reduce the size of the cabinet. More important, it made all members sitting around the table have an equal say. Whereas previous governments had fewer members of cabinet making decisions, this government said it wanted to have everybody who sat at the table to help make the decisions on behalf of Canadians. It is remarkable and should be applauded.
Two years later, we are now amending the legislation to catch up with this progressive step. It is only fitting that we need to to here with respect to pay. The truth of the matter is that the ministries that are changing, and we are seeing the full ministerial status come forward, such as la francophonie, science, small business and tourism, sport and persons with disability and status of women, are all ministries that deserve the full attention of the minister and the daily requirements demanded from them.
The interesting thing is that we never know the particular workload one minister will have at any given time. A lot of it has to do with who the opposition chooses to pick on that week, as we have seen with the . We saw that with the at the beginning of our term. A lot of it comes down to the individual's workload and what he or she is dealing with at that time. As we have seen, all ministers who participate in cabinet contribute valuable efforts toward their own ministries.
One change that really caught my eye was the change from the minister responsible for infrastructure to the minister for infrastructure and communities. Being a former mayor, I am fully aware of the demands municipalities continually put on ministries, both at the provincial and federal levels, with asks, wanting meetings with the minister, and helping to shape legislation. For the first time, we see a minister, both in title and in practical implementation, fully devoted toward infrastructure and our communities.
At the municipal level, we need there to be somebody who has his or her full attention. That is exactly what we see with the changes related to the .
When we talk about the importance of these ministries, I hope we can focus on the fact, and I hope everybody would agree, this is not just in title but this is in practice. It is about ensuring we have the right tools in place and people have the right information so when they do get around the table to speak at cabinet, they are contributing equally.
I am extremely supportive of the legislation. I want to see this go through so we can get on with a progressive agenda. Quite frankly, until this point, cabinet did not offer that progressive stance.
Mr. Speaker, the long-standing battle for gender equality is far from over.
Yesterday, December 6, reminded us that violence against women remains all too real. Women who publicly declare that they are feminists and ask for equal rights and opportunities still endure virtual or real attacks.
We had great expectations of the Liberals when they announced that there would be a gender-balanced government. Feminists are fighting many battles. Equal pay and equality of opportunity are two of the best-known measures, but have yet to be implemented. Unfortunately, too many women do not have the opportunity to secure the positions they want because they experience discrimination, whether intentional or not, based on their gender.
Our Canadian society, just like the House of Commons, has not yet changed its work culture to ensure that high-level jobs are not given just to men.
The fight to move closer to gender parity cannot impinge on other rights. I will come back to that later in my speech.
With Bill , the NDP is concerned not only with the missed opportunity on pay equity, but also with the elimination of the regional development minister positions. In fact, those positions might now be led by a single administrator who does not know the region, does not speak the same language, and is not physically in the region. What is more, economic initiatives will now be national in scope. That is why we are concerned about the bill. Previously, we could have ministers responsible for regions such as Ontario, Quebec, or western Canada. This all disappears under Bill C-24.
Quebec is losing its minister of economic development. I find that troubling coming from a government that says it wants to represent everyone and be more transparent. I will provide a very real and recent example: the refusal by the to tax Netflix, and other companies such as Google, and properly protect our culture, as the Government of Quebec has been urging the federal government to do. There is a growing disconnect between what Quebeckers want and the ideas and decisions of the federal government.
Quebec has significant needs, in terms of both infrastructure and business development. We need to strengthen our SMEs, and we need a minister who understands Quebec's situation, not some unpredictable administrator.
This is something we are seeing with the Davie shipyard file, which we have brought up time after time in the House of Commons. The government is doing absolutely nothing for Quebec shipyard workers. It is deeply troubling.
The Prime Minister boasted about achieving parity in 2015. He claimed to have achieved that parity by including female ministers without departments. There is nothing wrong with giving departments to some ministers and not to others, nor with giving a practical title, like minister of state, to ministers with fewer responsibilities.
The only real problem this bill seeks to remedy is a political problem of the Prime Minister's own making. He is the one who boasted about forming a gender-balanced cabinet, yet appointed a disproportionate number of women to junior positions. Now Canadian taxpayers are being asked to pay junior ministers more just to avoid embarrassing the Prime Minister and forcing him to explain that his cabinet had a gender pay gap because he failed to appoint enough women to ministerial positions.
By blurring the lines between ministers of state and full ministers, the Prime Minister is prioritizing equal treatment over equal responsibilities in the interest of maintaining gender parity in his government. The saying is, “Equal pay for equal work”, but in this bill, the work is not equal. That means there is a bit of a problem.
Bill C-24 purports to tackle a key problem in our society, namely women's place in society and, more importantly, their status. Real progress has been made in recent years to remove barriers to gender equality. Today's women are better educated, and more of them are in positions of responsibility in the private sector, where we are seeing more female CEOs of major international corporations, as well as in politics, where more women appear in legislative assemblies, the Senate, and cabinet.
Thanks to great women such as Kim Campbell and our Governor General, Julie Payette, young Canadian women know that there has been progress and that they can overcome obstacles and fulfill their ambitions.
Even so, for many women in Canada and around the world, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Taking a broader international perspective, according to the World Economic Forum's “Global Gender Gap Report 2016”, we will not see true parity for another 170 years.
We are a long way, then, from achieveing our common goal of gender equality. Closer to home, here are some facts about the status of women in my riding, Salaberry—Suroît. This data is from an economic profile prepared by Relais-femmes for the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent regional conference of elected officials. Women's average annual employment income is $32,000; men's is $46,000. Even now, in 2017, women in the Vallée-du-Haut-Saint-Laurent earn, on average, 70% of what men earn.
Pay equity is not a luxury; it is a right. Equality is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but the fact is that women are still being denied their rights. Canada is very proud of being a democracy, a state where the rule of law prevails and we have laws that protect women's rights. However, the most basic rights, women's social and economic rights, are still being denied every day.
The World Economic Forum ranks Canada 35th in terms of pay equity. That is a pretty poor showing for an OECD country. Canada is nevertheless a party to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which provides for equal pay for equal work.
Canada also ratified the international Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1981. This shows that, despite our commitments, we still have a ways to go before we achieve equality, equity and parity for all.
We have heard several interesting proposals from members of Parliament to help further the cause, and yet I regret to announce that Bill is not one of them.
Today, as a woman and an activist for Canadians, and in particular Canadian women, I am voicing my opposition to Bill .
My motives are simple enough. The only problem Bill is designed to solve is the 's image problem, one he himself created when he boasted about having a gender-balanced cabinet even though he appointed a disproportionate number of women to junior positions. This bears repeating.
This bill is insulting to Canadian women. Its only aim is to give the appearance of equal treatment, and it only applies to ministers. The Prime Minister’s cosmetic reorganization will not affect middle-class Canadian women in the job market.
In truth, the bill is condescending, and only emphasizes the absurd fact that, for the government, men and women are not equal when it comes to responsibility. The facts are clear. Most female ministers in the Liberal government are ministers of state and have far fewer responsibilities. Canadian taxpayers are being asked to pay more for junior ministers, just so the Prime Minister can look good.
If he really wants to be a “feminist”, the Prime Minister should perhaps act on the recommendations of the 2004 task force on pay equity. The report has been on a shelf collecting dust for 13 years. We are still wondering when the Liberals will act on these recommendations. One of their election promises was to achieve parity by 2016. They promised to introduce a proactive pay equity bill and, so far, at the end of 2017, they have done nothing at all.
They have not yet implemented the bill. They have yet to even introduce it in the House of Commons. They have not repealed the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act, which was unfair and was brought in by the Conservatives in 2009. For all these reasons, it is impossible for us to vote in favour of Bill , and it is even less possible to say that we have achieved gender parity.
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 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 , 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 .
The 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 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 is unnecessary, that it is a cosmetic exercise, that it is a pet project of the , 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—
Mr. Speaker, I apologize that the opposite side of the House is offended by all this questioning.
The bill aims to eliminate the positions of our former government's six regional ministers, who looked after these different parts of our country. The elimination of these positions will mean that the unique needs of western Canada, northern Canada, Atlantic Canada, northern Ontario, southern Ontario, and Quebec will not be adequately represented at the cabinet table. I would imagine that this would upset everyone in the House, because we should strive to represent these regions adequately. Instead of putting regional ministers in place who have boots on the ground and their fingers on the pulse in these different regions, the decided that one minister from Toronto would make the decisions for all of Canada in terms of their economic development and prosperity going forward.
Traditionally, regional development agency ministers brought their region-specific requests, requirements, or desires to Parliament to ensure that accurate representation was made. However, as I said, the bill would gut that opportunity. When asked about this decision, the said that appointing a Toronto minister for all regional development was “a way of reducing the kind of politics that we've always seen from regional development agencies.”
What exactly is that supposed to mean? Is it that, in a nation with significant diversity, the unique needs of the different regions are not worth considering, or does it mean that it is too political, too complicated, or too uncomfortable for the to bring those voices to the table? Maybe the , who claims to place importance on consultation, does not actually give a care.
I will borrow the words written in an editorial in The Guardian, which said, “Exactly how does a central Canadian give the regional development agency more clout at the cabinet table?”
What the Liberal government has done is incredibly illogical, and what makes matters worse, and is quite embarrassing for the Liberals, to be frank, is the fact that in the last election, 32 ridings in Atlantic Canada elected a Liberal member of Parliament. Surely one of these 32 individuals is qualified to be a regional minister to stand up for their unique needs in Canada. What is the saying about those 32 individuals and their ability or inability?
When I think about the so-called commitment to transparency and accountability, I would expect that he would want men and women at the table to represent these regions well. I would expect that he would want them to go to a shipyard in Halifax or to visit a mine in the north or an agricultural event in Saskatchewan. He would want those experiences represented around his cabinet table, but that is not the case.
This brings me to my second concern, which is that the government is actually refusing to be transparent. Bill calls on members of the House to approve three mysterious ministers, and it says nothing more. There is no transparency or accountability. The clause is absolutely unreasonable in asking the House to permit a blank cheque going forward. I am not okay with that.
That is not the only thing that is farcical in the bill. My third point is that when it comes to changing the salaries of ministers of state, Bill is nothing more than a hurried attempt to cover up for the Liberals' media embarrassment when the went out and said that he had put a gender-equal cabinet in place. The media picked up on this immediately and noticed that all five junior ministers were, in fact, women. The actually chose to give these women less authority, less responsibility, and smaller budgets than their male counterparts. So much for 2015.
Bill is the attempt to remedy this mistake. The problem is that just attaching a label and a few extra dollars to a position does not mean that the person is valued or respected any more than she was before. The bill does an incredible disservice to women, as it is tokenism at its finest.
As a strong, intelligent, and hard-working woman, I want to be entrusted with responsibility and granted a voice at the cabinet table, not because of my gender but because of my ability. I would expect the same from the women in the House. They want their salaries to match what they do, what they are capable of, and the trust put in them. Changing the pay system would not create equality. In fact, it would diminish the value of being a woman at the cabinet table.
The is saying, “Don't worry. I won't give you the same level of responsibility or assign you a comparable budget or trust you to function at the cabinet table the way others do, but I will give you a name placard and a few extra dollars, and we will call it good.” It that for real? That is 2015? That is gender equality?
Here is the thing. The is a self-proclaimed feminist. So am I, but our ideas of feminism are not aligned. According to his definition of feminism, it is okay for Yazidi women and girls to be systematically kidnapped, tortured, raped, and sold while Canada stands by in vain, watching from afar. According to his definition of feminism, it is okay for newcomers to practise genital mutilation and it is no longer considered a barbaric practice in Canada. According to his definition of feminism, all women are equal, but some are more equal than others. There is a right type of woman and a wrong type of woman, and it is up to this Prime Minister to dictate what that is. Some are simply an inappropriate choice, according to this Prime Minister.
Now, on this side of the House, feminism looks like respect for every single woman. Feminism on this side of the House looks like taking a stand against gender-based hatred and violence. Feminism on this side of the House looks like protecting young girls from being brutalized. Feminism on this side of the House looks like preserving a woman's right to choose between two or more options, not just accepting the one that is dictated to her. This is feminism on this side of the House. This is the feminism that all of Canada deserves and expects.
In summary, Bill is extremely flawed. It robs regions of fair representation, it lacks transparency, and it fails in its attempt to create ministerial equality. I will be voting no.