Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced the appointment of a new Ministry designed to deliver the change mandated by Canadians on January 23rd.
“My smaller Cabinet and more streamlined Cabinet structure are designed for work—not for show,” said Prime Minister Harper. “The team is talented and balanced, reflecting our national diversity. The 26 Ministers are equal members of the team, ensuring equal voices from all regions of Canada. The structure is designed to promote accountable, efficient and effective government—more focus and purpose; less process and cost.”
In announcing the new Cabinet, the Prime Minister reaffirmed the Government’s intention to focus on five key priorities:
- Cleaning up government by enacting and enforcing the Federal Accountability Act;
- Lowering taxes for working Canadians, starting with a reduction to the Goods and Services Tax;
- Protecting Canadian families and communities by strengthening the justice system;
- Supporting the child care choices of parents; and
- Delivering health care Canadians need, when they need it, by establishing a patient wait times guarantee with the provinces.
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Streamlining Government to Achieve Results and Improve Service to Canadians
Two Cabinet committees—Operations and Priorities and Planning—have been created to ensure effective day-to-day governing and to provide strategic direction on priorities for Canadians. Three policy committees—Social Affairs; Economic Affairs; and Foreign Affairs and National Security—will identify the means to achieve these strategic priorities. Finally, Treasury Board will examine initiatives to strengthen government accountability.
In addition, a number of changes to the structure and organization of government have been made to promote accountability, efficiency and effectiveness:
- The departments of Human Resources and Skills Development and Social Development have been consolidated into one Department of Human Resources and Social Development to ensure integrated policy development, as well as improved delivery of programs and services through Service Canada.
- The departments of Foreign Affairs and International Trade have been reintegrated to ensure a coherent approach to foreign affairs and international commerce and to better coordinate the provision of services to Canadians both at home and abroad. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of International Trade will be supported by their respective divisions in the new Department. CIDA will also be part of this portfolio to ensure a coordinated approach to international development.
- The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists has been transferred from the Industry portfolio to the Treasury Board portfolio as a stand-alone office, to increase its independence while the government works to further revise and strengthen the Lobbyists Registration Act.
- A Transport, Infrastructure and Communities portfolio has been created to better link urban, interprovincial and international infrastructure development. The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities will accordingly be responsible for the Office of Infrastructure Canada, as well as the National Capital Commission. In addition, a number of Crown corporations, including the Canada Lands Company and Canada Post, have been transferred to this portfolio to ensure a more consistent approach to Crown corporation governance and ministerial accountability.
As part of the government’s commitment to improved accountability and transparency, Prime Minister Harper issued a new guide and code of ethics for Ministers and their staff: Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders.
Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers reflects a streamlined Ministry and the government’s commitment to enhanced accountability. It also provides greater detail and clarity on important matters such as the relationship between exempt staff and public servants, and ministerial responsibility for non-departmental organizations in a Minister’s portfolio. The revisions to the Conflict of Interest and Post-Employment Code for Public Office Holders include:
- a five-year ban on former ministers, ministerial staff and senior public servants from acting as lobbyists to the Government of Canada, a ban which cannot be waived or reduced by the Ethics Commissioner;
- in terms of other forms of employment, new requirements that the Ethics Commissioner publish instances in which former public office holders have been granted a waiver or reduction of the post-employment restrictions;
- clarification of arrangements for blind management agreements to ensure that a public office holder can only meet the manager of the agreement with the approval of, and in the presence of, the Ethics Commissioner, and by making more stringent the exceptional circumstances in which the public office holder may intervene;
- clarification that reports and findings of the Ethics Commissioner are final and may not be overturned by the Prime Minister;
- clarification that trusts, and benefits flowing therefrom, are subject to the Code; and
- clarification that the Ethics Commissioner may review complaints by members of the public that are brought to his attention by members of Parliament and that he may take such action as he deems appropriate.