Canada's Original Think Tank

Third reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

Third reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

Third reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make a consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act

on. Terry M. Mercer (Deputy Leader of the Senate Liberals): 

Honourable senators, Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Salaries Act and to make consequential amendment to the Financial Administration Act, has five objectives. Among other things, it amends the Salaries Act so that five ministerial positions created in 2015 receive a salary equivalent to those of other ministerial positions paid out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund and provides a legislative framework so that those positions can receive support from existing departments in the exercise of their mandates.

Honourable senators, this bill is about fairness. We strive each and every day in this place to ensure that everybody’s right to equality is protected. The creation of new ministerial positions is rooted in the fact that these positions are being elevated. These new positions, ministers of state, now are mostly occupied by female members of Parliament, which ensures gender equity in the cabinet. This is a move that many of us have championed, and we support the Prime Minister’s effort to do that. This is an initiative we all support, I’m sure.

This bill is predicated on the equal treatment of individuals. Does this government’s principled commitment to equality not extend to the new independent Senate?

I am of the mind that, in both houses of Parliament, both places, this principle of equality should exist, specifically here in the Senate. Inequality exists based on the amount of work the leadership teams do for their senators and not by the work of certain ministers.

The Independent Senators Group, for example, currently has 46 members. The Conservatives have 32, and we, in the Liberals, have 11. The Government Representative’s organization has 3. So why, then, are Senator Woo and Senator Saint-Germain, who represent 46 senators, not being compensated for doing the work of their equivalent, Senator Harder, who is part of a team of three?

If Senator Mitchell was a member of ISG leadership, he would not be recognized for the work he does in the Government Representative organization.

More than half of the senators in this place are represented by leadership teams that are not being recognized for the jobs that they do, all while the minority is fully funded. Does that sound like fairness to you?

The full and direct participation of the groups in the Senate is paramount, just as a full and direct participation of ministers of state should be in the cabinet, of course. That is what this bill deals with. Bill C-24 proposes that the ministers of state be compensated as full ministers, but I would be remiss if I did not point out that the principle of equality is not applied here in the Senate.

There is a saying: Nothing about us without us, a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the groups affected by that policy.

If we are trying to fix a problem with equality in the cabinet by virtue of the position and/or by gender, why then have we not spoken of the need to address the inequality in the Senate? I would ask that you think about these principles. Perhaps you may now have a different opinion about this bill, one you may wish to share.

For that reason, I move the adjournment of the debate for the balance of my time.