December 7, 2017

LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to six petitions.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Government Response to Petitions
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CPC

Bob Zimmer

Conservative

Mr. Bob Zimmer (Prince George—Peace River—Northern Rockies, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, entitled “Certificate of Nomination of Nancy Bélanger to the Position of Commissioner of Lobbying”.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Committees of the House
Sub-subtopic:   Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics
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CPC

Garnett Genuis

Conservative

Mr. Garnett Genuis (Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, CPC)

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be back. I presented a number of petitions on this subject with respect to firearms reclassification. My constituents are concerned that firearms reclassification decisions can be made arbitrarily, and can create a situation where the property of a person that is legal today could become illegal tomorrow. This is not only a firearms issue but also a rule of law issue.

My constituents call upon the House to reverse the 10-round magazine reclassification enforced by the RCMP, and to remove the power of the RCMP to arbitrarily make classification decisions on firearms.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Petitions
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand at this time.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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?

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Routine Proceedings
Subtopic:   Questions on the Order Paper
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The House resumed from October 24 consideration of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, as reported (without amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.


LIB

Francesco Sorbara

Liberal

Mr. Francesco Sorbara (Vaughan—Woodbridge, Lib.)

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague, the member for Winnipeg North.

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 C-24 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 Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, 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.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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CPC

Dave Van Kesteren

Conservative

Mr. Dave Van Kesteren (Chatham-Kent—Leamington, CPC)

Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to my colleague's remarks. He mentioned southwestern Ontario, and that is the region of my riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington.

I remember when the Conservatives were in power there were quite a number of announcements in that regard in southwestern Ontario and throughout the country. I do not want to catch my colleague off-guard, and I do not expect him to know the answers, but I wonder if he would commit to supplying me with information on some of the money and some of the grants that were provided to my region as well as some of the agencies. I am not hearing any announcements anymore. My riding is not getting the grants that it received in the past.

I wonder if the member would commit to supplying me with the amount of money that has gone into southwestern Ontario.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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LIB

Francesco Sorbara

Liberal

Mr. Francesco Sorbara

Madam Speaker, I am certain a list of those grants that have been announced are available for every region in Canada. We continue to look at where each grant is going, ensuring that all grant applications that fit the needs of the area, the employers and employees are looked at by all RDAs across Canada.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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NDP

Brigitte Sansoucy

New Democratic Party

Ms. Brigitte Sansoucy (Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, NDP)

Madam Speaker, my colleague talked about the importance of economic development.

Certainly all three levels of government—municipal, provincial, and federal—have a role to play in promoting economic development in our regions. However, our country is large, and our regions differ significantly. I cannot believe the government has the gall to introduce a bill that eliminates the possibility of appointing a minister responsible for development of a particular region that has its own unique issues.

If economic development is such a priority for the government, how can it put a minister from Ontario in charge of economic development for all the other regions?

Does my colleague not think the minister responsible for economic development really should have a solid understanding of a given region and its unique issues? How can a single minister be responsible for all the different regions and our country's economic development?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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LIB

Francesco Sorbara

Liberal

Mr. Francesco Sorbara

Madam Speaker, within the minister's portfolio, nothing has changed on the ground. Nothing has changed with each of the RDAs. They continue to look at each of the regions under their particular mandate, whether it is the lovely province of Quebec, or the east or west coast. Those RDAs continue to do an intake of applications and continue to look at each of them on a merit system in fulfilling their mandate.

In my wonderful riding of Vaughan—Woodbridge, there was an announcement of a $3 million repayment loan to a manufacturer that made components for commercial aircraft. That will create 60 full-time positions over the next two to three years. Those wonderful stories are being repeated across the country, from coast to coast to coast, including in the hon. member's province of Quebec.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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CPC

Marilyn Gladu

Conservative

Ms. Marilyn Gladu (Sarnia—Lambton, CPC)

Madam Speaker, my question has more to do with why we are spending time talking about Bill C-24 when all the actions that would result from the bill were already taken two years ago.

At the same time, we have issues like taking a half a billion dollars of Canadian taxpayer money to spend on Asian infrastructure, instead of on Canadian infrastructure, on which the Liberals shut down debate. Why is the government shutting down debate on important things and spending time on these things on which actions already have been taken?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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LIB

Francesco Sorbara

Liberal

Mr. Francesco Sorbara

Madam Speaker, Bill C-24 would allow us to continue to do our great work. It would allow the RDAs to do their great work. It brings them under one roof to support small and medium-sized enterprises across Canada.

With regard to the Asian infrastructure bank, Canada is a multilateral and bilateral partner with a number of organizations around the world. If we look at the specific entity we are partnering with, a number of countries, a number of our allies, be it in Europe or in the Asia Pacific region, with which we trade, invest, and create good middle-class jobs are also involved in that. We should be at the table as well.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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CPC

Steven Blaney

Conservative

Hon. Steven Blaney (Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, CPC)

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 C-24, 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 Louis-Saint-Laurent 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 Milton. 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.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

Madam Speaker, there are two things that the Conservatives have really established, one being that they have an issue with the cabinet size. When Stephen Harper was prime minister, he had Canada's largest cabinet. The member, a former minister, would be familiar with that cabinet. It was a large cabinet of 40 people at a substantial cost, quite possibly.

Why does he believe that Stephen Harper needed such a large cabinet, a historic number of cabinet ministers, and why does the former minister believe that during the Harper era, it was necessary to have two-tiered cabinet that did not, for example, recognize the value of small business and tourism as a major portfolio?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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CPC

Steven Blaney

Conservative

Hon. Steven Blaney

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question.

Prime Minister Harper surrounded himself with competent women and men with various responsibilities specifically in order to clean up the Liberal mess from the previous decade and to balance the budget.

Future generations will be stuck with the mess left by this government, which is running up a deficit and taking more money out of taxpayers' pockets. It is even going after diabetics, as we learned yesterday, and people with autism.

Once again, it is important to put the right people in the right positions and pay them accordingly.

Why does my colleague not recognize that a minister is not the same as a minister of state, and that different jobs are worth different salaries?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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NDP

Robert Aubin

New Democratic Party

Mr. Robert Aubin (Trois-Rivières, NDP)

Madam Speaker, I never thought I would say this in the House, but I agree completely with my colleague from Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis. I would like to hear his opinion on another aspect of this bill, which has been debated before in this House.

I am still waiting for the job descriptions of the three positions that are supposed to open up in cabinet. Any time I have ever applied for a job, there was always a job description and salary attached. When there is a perfect match, someone can be hired. The opposite seems to be the case here. Anyone who has a Liberal resumé can usually count on a job offer.

Has my colleague heard anything at all about the job descriptions for the three new positions created in Bill C-24?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
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CPC

Steven Blaney

Conservative

Hon. Steven Blaney

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Trois-Rivières for his fine words. I am pleased to know that we share the same opinion. He made a good point.

Three positions are being created and will incur additional expenses, but we do not know what those positions are for. However, we do know that one thing was left out of this bill and that is the regions, including Trois-Rivières, Quebec, the north shore, Ontario, northern Ontario, and British Columbia. The Liberals' centralizing vision is driving them to eliminate the regional minister position, even though it is an essential role.

Why do my friends across the way not recognize the regional disparities and diversity? They say they are the party of diversity. They keep bragging about that. Canada is a country made up of different realities, so why did they get rid of these regional minister positions? The position fell under an economic department dedicated to Quebec and was filled by a Quebecker, but the Liberals got rid of it.

The government is making less room for a Quebec minister with an economics background and less room for the regions while taking more money from taxpayers. That is the Liberal way, and that is why I am voting against this bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
Permalink
LIB

Kevin Lamoureux

Liberal

Mr. Kevin Lamoureux (Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, Lib.)

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 Prime Minister 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 Prime Minister'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 Prime Minister 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 minister responsible for tourism, 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 Minister of Status of Women. 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 Minister of Finance. 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 Minister of Status of Women paid less than the Minister of Health. 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 Prime Minister 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 Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. 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.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Salaries Act
Permalink

December 7, 2017