Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-24, an act to amend the Salaries Act. This is a technical bill, and it would fulfill the Prime Minister's commitment to formalize the legislation to ensure that there is a one-tier ministry. As I think we all understand by now, the Salaries Act authorizes payment, out of the consolidated revenue fund, of a ministerial salary to individuals who occupy the positions listed in the act. The act currently lists the positions of prime minister and 34 specific ministries.
When the government took office in November 2015, five of the positions that the Prime Minister wanted in his ministry and in his cabinet were not positions listed in the Salaries Act. That meant they could not be paid for their ministerial responsibilities under the Salaries Act and they could not be supported by the public service in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The five positions are the Minister of La Francophonie, the Minister of Science, the Minister of Small Business and Tourism, the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities, and the Minister of Status of Women. Because the Salaries Act could not accommodate the priorities of the government, the five ministers were appointed pursuant to the Ministries and Ministers of State Act and they are paid under the Appropriation Act. Their legal title is minister of state.
Historically, ministers of state have often been considered as junior ministers. They have not always been members of cabinet and when they have not, they could not bring matters to cabinet for consideration on their own, a cabinet minister had to sponsor them. Ministers of state were most often not given statutory authority to exercise in their own right statutory duties in relation to which they were directly accountable. Instead, they were assigned to assist a senior minister in the carrying out of that minister's responsibilities. The senior minister retained all the statutory authority and accountability. For some prime ministers, that was an arrangement that worked. It was the prerogative of former prime ministers, as it will be the prerogative of future prime ministers, to appoint ministers of state as junior ministers, to assign them as assisting roles only, and to decide whether they would sit as members of cabinet. I am certain that past ministers of state were valued and contributing members of the ministry, but they were not always members of the cabinet and they were not equals of the ministers they assisted.
It is the prerogative of the prime minister to decide on the organization, procedures, and composition of cabinet, shaping it to reflect the priorities and values of the government and to respond to the particular needs of citizens. This Prime Minister has created a ministry in which all members have leading roles to deliver on important priorities. They have an equal capacity to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to them and are full members of cabinet, and are fully and appropriately supported in the carrying out of their responsibilities. The Ministries and Minister of State Act provided a way for five of the ministers to be appointed, paid, and supported by existing departments in carrying out their responsibilities until legislation could be updated to accurately reflect the structure of the current ministry. Bill C-24 is that update. It would formalize in legislation the current ministerial structure and would do away with distracting administrative decisions.
Bill C-24 would add to the Salaries Act five ministerial positions that are currently minister of state appointments. It bears repeating the important issues that the individuals appointed to these five positions are working on: preserving the respect of the francophone world; helping small businesses and tourism; supporting scientific research and making sure that scientific considerations inform the government's policy and funding choices; promoting healthier Canadians through sport and ensuring greater accessibility and opportunities for Canadians with disabilities; and working to build a society where women and girls no longer face systemic barriers. These ministries have been assigned statutory responsibilities including responsibilities for important federal organizations, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, Destination Canada, and Status of Women Canada.
These ministers are responsible for legislation and program delivery related to matters as diverse and important as science research funding, small business financing, and individuals with disabilities. These responsibilities are vested directly in the ministers, and they are accountable for their results. These issues are important to the government and to Canadians. This is why ministers have been assigned to lead on them, and why those ministers have seats at the cabinet table with equal voices.
Bill C-24 also adds three untitled positions to the Salaries Act. These positions are not filled in the current ministry. They will provide a degree of flexibility for this Prime Minister and future prime ministers to design their ministries to respond to the priorities of the day. This bill is not about growing the ministry. The current ministry has not grown in numbers since it was sworn in two years ago. At 31 members in total, it is below the limit of 35 that the Salaries Act sets now.
Bill C-24 would also remove the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act. This amendment would not dissolve or consolidate the regional development agencies. It would not diminish their importance. It would not mean the ministerial oversight would be gone. The regional development agencies would continue to exist in the regions they serve. They are essential delivery partners in the government's plan to foster economic growth, and they will continue to work with local communities and economic development organizations to promote local growth.
There is nothing novel about not listing these positions in the Salaries Act. Four of the regional development agencies existed for many years before associated ministerial positions were added to the Salaries Act, and that in no way affected the operations of the agencies or the appointment of ministers to be responsible for them. Ministerial oversight of the regional development agencies would still be required by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. He is responsible for all six regional development agencies.
Bill C-24 makes another change to the list of ministerial positions in the Salaries Act. It amends the title of Minister of Infrastructure, Communities and Intergovernmental Affairs by dropping the reference to intergovernmental affairs. The Minister of Infrastructure and Communities does not have overall responsibility for federal, provincial, and territorial relations. The Prime Minister has taken on that role. The change in the title avoids further confusion.
Bill C-24 does not dissolve or create any new departments. Instead, it establishes a framework that allows the Governor in Council to designate any department or departments to support the new Salaries Act ministers in carrying out some of or all of their responsibilities. That means that the new Salaries Act ministers will have access to the expertise and the experience of the department, the best place to support them.
Much has been made about the fact that no new departments are being created for new ministers. Presiding over a department is not a necessary feature of being a minister. The ministers of Foreign Affairs, International Trade, and International Development and La Francophonie all use the facilities and resources in a single department, Global Affairs Canada. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour both rely on the resources and facilities of the department of Employment and Social Development Canada in the carrying out of their responsibilities. This is a proven and efficient way to work.
Bill C-24 generates no incremental costs with respect to the current ministry. The ministers currently appointed as ministers of state receive the same salary as their cabinet colleagues, and have office budgets that match their responsibilities. Bill C-24 does not change that. The legislation increases the number of ministerial positions that could potentially be paid under the Salaries Act by two, from 35 to 37, including the position of Prime Minister.
Ministers currently receive additional remuneration of $82,600 a year for their ministerial duties. If all 37 Salaries Act positions were filled by separate individuals, the total incremental cost would be $165,200 a year. We are below the limit now. The current ministry is composed of the Prime Minister and 30 ministers. As I mentioned earlier, the ministry has not grown since its swearing in on November 4, 2015.
Bill C-24 would also have the consequential effect of increasing the number of parliamentary secretaries that may be appointed by two, from 35 to 37. There are currently 35 parliamentary secretaries, and if the two additional positions were filled, the total incremental cost would be $34,000 a year.
I began my remarks by saying that this was a technical bill. Let us summarize for everyone in the House.
Bill C-24 would amend the Salaries Act by adding eight new ministerial positions, five of which are currently minister of state appointments and three of which would be untitled, and therefore, flexible. It would remove the six regional development positions from the Salaries Act without affecting the status of regional development agencies themselves, for a total increase of two positions that would be paid ministerial salaries out of the consolidated revenue fund. It would create a framework within which any of the eight new ministerial positions could be supported fully and appropriately by existing departments. It would change the title of the minister of infrastructure, communities and intergovernmental affairs in the Salaries Act to the minister of infrastructure and communities, and it would amend the Financial Administration Act to change the title where it appears in that statute to better reflect the responsibilities of the position.
I hope we can all agree that this bill is worth supporting.