04/30/2015 09:23 EDT | Updated 04/30/2015 12:59 EDT

Brent Rathgeber, Former Tory-Turned-Independent MP, Aims To Limit Size Of Cabinet

Brent Rathgeber says Canada has an "extraordinary large ministry" compared to other Western democracies.


OTTAWA — Independent MP Brent Rathgeber wants to limit the size of the federal cabinet.

“Canada has an extraordinary large ministry (currently 39), especially compared to other Western democracies (16 US; 21 Great Britain),” Rathgeber wrote in an email Wednesday.

“Worse, the ratio of the cabinet to the parliament (39/308), ensures a dysfunctional and executive dominated parliament,” he said.

Because the prime minister can appoint another 30 parliamentary secretaries (or more) and another 12 committee chairs, the Alberta MP said, it’s easy for him — or her — to cement party discipline.

Rathgeber was elected under the Conservative banner but left the caucus in 2013 after the government tried to weaken his private members’ bill to force the disclosure of top bureaucrats’ salaries. His new bill, C-672, places a statutory cap on the size of the federal cabinet at 26 ministers and ministers of state.

“By reducing the size of cabinet, the mathematical probability of being asked to serve is reduced,” he said. “Parliamentarians will begin to take the job of an MP more seriously. Party discipline will loosen as Parliamentarians, similar to our counterparts in Great Britain, place the interests of constituents over one’s own career advancement.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s cabinets have ballooned from 27 ministers when the Tories were first elected in 2006 to 40 this past January. That number dropped after former foreign affairs minister John Baird resigned in February. Former Liberal prime minister Paul Martin’s cabinets consisted of either 38 or 39 members. Former Liberal prime minister Jean Chrétien's cabinets ranged between 31 and 38 members. Former Progressive Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney's cabinets had 35 to 39 members.

Cabinet ministers are paid an extra $80,100 annually, and receive a car allowance. Ministers of state are paid an extra $60,000 and they too receive a car allowance. Parliamentary secretaries are paid an extra $16,600, while Committee chairs receive an extra $11,700. The base salary of all MPs is $167,400.


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