House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was clause.

Topics

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Chairman, I wish to respond to a number of the questions raised by the hon. member.

He is advocating that we base ourselves on other formula for establishing what the salary increase of members of parliament should be. It gives me a good occasion to raise something which I had not before. I draw to the attention of all hon. members page 12 of the Lumley commission report, table 3.1.

The consumer price index between 1991 and 2000 has increased by 21.6%. The average industrial wage increase was 23.6%. The general public wage settlement was 15.2%. The general private wage settlement was 22.4%. The Conference Board survey of wage increases was 31.9%. Members of parliament increases were 6.0%.

I do not know if the hon. member had an opportunity to read that table. If he had, he would know that what he is saying would probably result in a greater increase than the one we have now.

Second, let us look back at a few things historically. I shared some of this with a few colleagues across the way, albeit not all of them but a few. I will give an example, and it is not the be all and end all of examples, but it is certainly one.

In 1963 a judge of the federal court earned $21,000 a year and an MP earned $23,700, 12% more. In 1971 a judge was up to $36,000 and an MP at $33,000. These are the MP salaries grossed up, assuming that everything would be taxable, so that we can compare apples and apples. In 1980 a judge was at $70,000 and an MP was at $66,000. We were still reasonably close. In 1992 a judge was at $155,000 and an MP was at $106,000. In 2000 a judge was at $179,000 and an MP was at $108,000. From 1992 to 2000 the MP's salary had gone up $1,900 a year and the judge's salary had gone up $25,000.

In response to a question from the hon. member from Calgary, I indicated that Bill C-12 was retroactive to April 1, 2001. That is not correct. It is April 1, 2000 that the retroactivity provision of Bill C-12 applies. What that does is it gives a salary now, April 1, 2001, of judges at $204,600 and MPs at $109,000. Today an MP earns 45% of the salary of a judge. Even with this so-called generous increase, MPs will still only make 55% of the salary of a judge. That is how far the salary structure had fallen behind.

Yes, we could say that the amount is excessive. We can say all these things. They are easy to say, a lot easier than defending the bill perhaps, but it does not mean they are right. What is proposed in the bill I believe is right. The Lumley commission proposed the amount. We did not deviate from the 20%. We did not say that it should be 25% or 30%. Using some of the indices it should have perhaps been higher. Using the index that the hon. member wants to propose perhaps would have been lower, but we used the objective one produced in the report. That is why we used that one.

Why are we offering chairs and vice-chairs greater remuneration than others? They are positions with greater responsibility, as are the positions of the House leaders, the leaders of each party and anyone else who holds some of these offices. It is not a matter of whether the Prime Minister appoints them. I could turn around and ask the member about his leader appointing the vice-chairs, which would be equally silly.

What about the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party then allegedly appointing the chairs and vice-chairs in the Senate, and so on? We could spread that nonsense all over the place. It does not accomplish anything. The fact still remains that a chair and a vice-chair of a committee are positions that are, according to the commission, worthy of further remuneration, which is something that exists at the provincial level in many if not most of the provinces in Canada.

In terms of the opt in clause, hon. member wants to know if that means that some members are not deserving of the salary? No. I think all colleagues in the House deserve the salary. That is why I said a while ago, and I do not know whether the member was in attendance when I said it, that I hope everyone will opt in. I also hope that all members will vote for the bill. However, I repeat that even if they vote against it I hope that they opt in anyway because in my view they are still worth the salary.

On the retroactivity, the hon. member asked why we used that date. I answered that in a previous question. It goes back to January 1 because in past reports it went back to the date of the last election. I did not go quite that far back because it was only a few days prior to the beginning of the calendar year and it caused probably greater aggravation than it was worth. So I stopped after January 1.

This report is about the present parliament which started after the last election. That is why that date was used.

Finally, if members do not opt in, they remain opted out. It does not change after the next election.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Chairman, I welcome the opportunity to add my comments to those made thus far on this bill.

I begin from the position that there is room for principle on all sides of this debate. I begin from the position that every member of the House will use what principles they have to make their decision on this bill. However, we were not born with principles, and some would argue that the very fact we are debating the bill is evidence that we have do not them. I do not take that position either. I take the position that I have principles, so as a principle based member of the House I will try to use those principles to make my decision on how I vote on the bill.

I begin by sharing with the members of the House some of the experiences I have had which have developed those principles in me. One fundamental principle I have is that I believe very strongly in equal pay for equal work. I believe that is a fundamental principle that we should all stand for in the House and that we should support wholeheartedly with every ounce of strength we have.

In my first occupation I was given the opportunity to work as a school teacher. We did not receive pay differentiated on the basis of our sex, race, creed, colour or any other factors. We received equal pay for equal work based on our training and educational background. That was a fundamental principle of my experience as a school teacher. Then I entered the private sector.

As a person who started a small business from scratch, I employed people on the basis of the fundamental principle, which should apply in the private sector and unfortunately sometimes does not, that people should be paid equally on the basis of their work regardless of any other factor. When replacing a position for example, one should compensate that person similarly or identically based on his or her equal ability to offer work and skill to a small business venture.

In the public sector such a principle is well understood. We abide by this principle in the public sector in every respect. We must support the principle of equal pay for equal work. That principle is something I believe is very important to all of us.

The question then becomes what principles are greater than that one? What principles are more important to us in the House than that one? If there are principles of more significance to us as members of the House, then let us speak to them through this bill.

The bill contains a clause which allows members to opt in. What that does is create two classes of members not differentiated on the basis of skill, work ethic, what they offer to the House or to the members of their constituencies, but solely on the basis of how they choose to listen to their principles and whether feel that the bill is in keeping with their fundamental beliefs.

If members of the House feel very strongly that the bill is contrary and contradictory to their fundamental principles, they must vote against it and must therefore opt out.

Let us examine why they must opt out. Because it is in the bill. Only for that reason must members be put in the position of having to make the choice as to whether they do or do not receive the benefits that other members do. In other words, what we are doing is debating a bill which penalizes those of principle.

It fundamentally detracts from the compensation of some members of the House based on one factor and one factor only: their personal principles, and that is wrong. It is wrong to debate a bill which contains a clause which creates two classes of members of parliament. That sends the wrong message to the people of the country.

As a member of our local chamber of commerce and as a participant in the national chamber of commerce, I know that small businesses in the private sector united together and initiated, through tremendous effort from their collective members, the idea of promoting equal pay for equal work across Canada. I understand how much work is involved in that. I understand the collective sacrifices made by volunteers to try to create a level playing field and provide an opportunity for all Canadians to share the benefits they deserve to receive from their work.

I understand what this opt in, opt out situation does and so should the members opposite. It sends a completely flawed message to the people of Canada. It says that there can be two different classes of members of parliament based on their fundamental principles. That is wrong.

The government House leader has repeatedly said that he hoped everyone would opt in. He said it with a palpable sense of guilt because he knows, as thinking members of the House must know, that this opt in clause is fundamentally flawed. I invite the House leader to explain if it is not flawed, why it is legitimate and valid. I invite him to tell us what the purpose of it is beyond the fact that it will simply allow members of principle to be punished financially for expressing their views on this bill.

Is there some fundamental greater principle to be served when we do not have the option in the House to opt out of any other piece of legislation? He uses the example of superannuation, but he knows full well that benefits are received in another form if not going into superannuation. That is not a legitimate example.

Is there a fundamental principle served by the presence of the opt in clause in the legislation? I ask him to address that question.

I believe that this particular clause in the bill sends the message that opposition has its price. It is too cute by half. It will be seen by Canadians to be a ploy to suppress opposition rather than encourage debate on principle. For that reason it is a sham and a shame. It creates a crisis of principle because it forces individual members of parliament to participate in what is essentially a game that none of us can win. It is a game which creates two classes of members of parliament for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

With the absence of this clause there would be opportunity for fundamental debate that could take place on significant principles on the differences we have, which are honest and legitimate. The reality is that this clause creates a phony debate. It is a diversionary tactic.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Stand by your choice. It is a personal choice.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Chairman, the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism may want to add some comments. I believe if she were in the private sector she would have been fired long ago. I believe she would have been fired, dismissed, sacked and gone. If she would like to add—

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

The Chairman

May I remind colleagues that in Committee of the Whole members are given less flexibility when it comes to relevance. In the short time left, I am sure members will want to speak to the debate on clause 2.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

moved:

That Bill C-28, in Clause 2, be amended by replacing line 20 on page 2 with the following:

“is equal to 45.8 per cent of the remuneration”.

Mr. Chairman, it is certainly a rare occasion for me to find myself in agreement with the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt. This day will go down in infamy.

Our party has an amendment which is similar, not numerically similar but in the same ballpark, and it would have the effect of reducing the raise from 20% to 10%. We do this because we feel that this is the kind of raise that could be justified given certain indicators.

We do not understand the rationale for a 20% increase. We think a lot of Canadians feel likewise. We understand the rationale in a technical sense because the government has paid the Prime Minister a certain amount equal to the chief justice, then it has worked its way down in terms of percentages and arrived at a certain number, and that number is a 20% increase over what members are now making. We understand how it got there, but we share the feeling of a lot of Canadians that a 20% raise is incomprehensible to them when they know what kind of percentage increases they are being offered at the bargaining table. It is for this reason we signal our intention that we would be much happier with a 10% raise, and feel much more comfortable with it than a 20% raise.

In doing this we are acting in a way that is somewhat contradictory in a sense, but I think we are acting in that contradictory way because a lot of us have said we need to have this taken out of our hands and have someone else make the recommendation. We have a commission before us and all of us here have moved amendments to change the recommendations that have been made by this independent body, so we are all a bit guilty of this.

The government has not brought in a bill that is identical to what Mr. Lumley and the hon. member for Elk Island recommended. There are Alliance amendments, Conservative amendments and NDP amendments. All of us want to tinker with this independent recommendation, each in our own way. For me it just points out the reason why the part of the bill that takes it out of our hands forever is a good part of the bill, because we are setting up a mechanism now with which we will not be able to tinker in the future.

The fact of the matter is that it does not matter how independent a report it is and how well written it is, when it gets to the floor of the House we will all have our opinions on what should be changed in it. Therefore, it becomes politicized no matter how hard we try not to politicize it.

I say this by way of wanting to put on the record one more time the fact that we support the way in which the bill finally does what the NDP has been asking for for many years, and on the basis of which sometimes in the past we have voted against salary increases because we have said that this does not remove it from us, and it means that we would have to go through this again. Finally, this time we have a process by which we will not have to go through this again.

I would warn members that if the independent commission that settles judges salaries and if judges salaries start to go through the roof, there will be politics again, because we always have the possibility of changing the mechanism. In other words, we never completely evade responsibility for this. However, I think we go some way toward creating a situation in which we will not have to have this kind of tension again. Hopefully we will not have the kind of silliness that the member for Portage—Lisgar refers to. I and my party agree with him and others who have criticized the government for bringing in this opting in clause.

I just wanted to put on the record that all of us are tinkering with the commission report. We are very good at pointing out when the government does it or when somebody else does it. However, the Conservatives have disagreed with the provision to pay chairs and they have brought in amendments on that score. The Alliance has other concerns about the report. We are all guilty of tinkering with the report.

We have the ability to change the report. The government has the ability to change it by virtue of using its majority. We all have the ability to change it by agreeing with each other. I would urge members to consider the wisdom of having a 10% increase as opposed to a 20% increase.

(Progress reported)

Adjournment Proceedings
Government Orders

June 6th, 2001 / 4:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst, Fisheries; the hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, Immigration; the hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre, Employment Insurance.

The House resumed consideration in committee of the whole of Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act, Mr. Kilger in the chair.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Chairman, I listened very carefully today and I read the report thoroughly. There are parts of that report that I can agree with wholeheartedly. I agree completely with the abolition of the tax free portion of it. I agree with the independent body making the decision.

What I am have severe trouble with, and what was just confirmed by the House leader, is that if we choose to opt out because this is unpalatable to us, then we remain out forever more. That is ridiculous and is an unfair position to put anyone in.

I take exception to some of the things that were quoted today as well because they were inaccurate. One thing I take exception to is the fact that I can stand here and say in all honesty that I had no idea that this was coming forward. I have not been an MP for six years prior, and I did not know there had not been a raise in the last six years. It is reasonable to assume that if there has not been one in the last six years, it would come forward this year.

We also have the problem that by law it would be reviewed within the first six months of parliament. This does not come as a huge surprise to people who have been here before, but it does come as a huge surprise to myself.

I would also like to point out that some of the arguments which have been made regarding reducing it are valid arguments. I would accept a reduction. I have no difficulty with that at all. However, I do like to deal in realities and some of the things reported in the report stated that the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association, a unionized group, paid $100,084 for the president, and that the director of Canadian affairs of the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association received $161,000 a year. Therefore, in terms of putting us on level with working people, these are working people.

I would like to see today a resolution to this that is fair, and I do not see that forthcoming. If we are going to leave people in a position where they have to make a choice between accepting this forever more, in the hope that they are going to serve for 10 or 15 more years, or opting out is a very unfair way of doing things. I really resent the way the legislation is being put forward.

If I was assured that opting out of this pay raise would allow me to opt out of other legislation, I could name them on my fingers in five seconds. My constituency would opt out of the gun legislation, the things that are sitting in front of us today about cruelty to animals and employment equity. I come from a ranching area and branding is an everyday part of life there, as is castration for animals. If I have the option, by opting out of this and I am allowed to opt out of other legislation, I will do so today.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Chairman, a few members have spoken, so perhaps I could respond to some of the concerns that they have raised.

The hon. member from Manitoba who spoke some while ago, talked extensively of this business of equal pay for equal work. It goes a lot further than that. It also goes to equal pay for work of equal value. My colleagues on this side of the House believe in both those propositions, not just the first.

However, opting not to take a benefit personally does not constitute unequal treatment under the law. Everyone knows that. Opting to give one's personal funds to a charity does not mean that someone becomes disadvantaged under the law, because one has voluntarily given up that money. The hon. member asked “When did I ever become a charity?” That is an excellent question.

For example, if one opted then to give money back to the public treasury, which certainly one has the opportunity of doing, does not mean that person has suffered mistreatment by the government as a result of that.

That is not an appropriate proposition. The member is really mixing up propositions. Accepting or not accepting a benefit does not constitute inequity.

I refer to the fact that the bill is structured in essentially the same way as the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, the amendments thereto, which were designed after the 1993 election at the request of members of the House. Not to put too fine a point on it, the members who made that request were not sitting on this side of the House. It was structured in the same way. There was an opting in provision where everyone was deemed to have been opted out and one had to opt in in order to be part of the pension. It is exactly the same principle.

Second, on the Public Service Superannuation Act, the hon. member said it is not the same because one would get the benefit another way. No, it is not so. A person would get their own contributions another way but not the employer's contributions. The employer's contributions are provided by virtue of adhering to the package. One does not get all the benefits another way by not participating in that. Of course I also gave other examples, such as the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act and so on. I am sure there are several others as well.

The hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys said that there had been no salary increase over the last six years. That is not what I said, with respect. I said that the salary increase for members of parliament over the last 11 years had been a total of 6%. That is where the number six came in, not that there had been no increase over the last six years.

How did the salary get to be this way? Perhaps we should take a minute and discuss that so members will understand why the salary structure got off kilter the way it did. I do not think there is any doubt that it did, otherwise members would not see a situation like we have now, where I as a minister am not only paid much less than my own deputy minister but an assistant deputy minister has now caught up with a minister. It has become that off kilter over the years. I am talking about public servants and not about people in the private sector, to use the example raised by the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt.

It got that way because of two reasons. First, there were two freezes, one of them around 1985 or so and the second one in the late eighties. That combination meant that the salary was frozen for something like six out of eight years.

Second, when the legislation was designed in the late seventies there was a rather curious clause in it, which said that every year there would be a cost of living adjustment minus 1%. Therefore, in years where there was no government imposed freeze, members got an increase in the cost of living minus 1%.

Members had the combination of those two factors acting one in tandem with the other, which caused what we have now. For example, if the inflation rate was 10%, a member got back 9% and recovered 90% of the inflation. When there was an inflation rate of 2% and there was a recovery of 1%, members lost 50% of the inflation.

All of these things have occurred progressively. Many of them occurred even before I came here. Heaven knows I have been here a long time, but some of them even predate my arrival, namely, the structure and how members got to the cost of living formula that we have there. That is how it got so off kilter over so many years and I do not think anyone would deny that it is.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make a few remarks in committee of the whole on Bill C-28 concerning the salaries of the members of the House of Commons. This bill will allow elected members to decide whether or not to receive the salary increase.

No member of this House should be able to say he is against this bill and then laugh all the way to the bank to cash his paycheque once the government party, with the support of the Bloc, has passed Bill C-28.

Members will remember that during the 35th parliament, Reform members boasted that they would not be joining the members pension plan because they thought it was way too generous. At the time, all the members who were under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition rejected the pension plan for members.

After the 36th parliament, and now in the 37th parliament, Alliance members have all adhered to the members' pension plan, one after the other. The bill before us basically says “If you agree, you sign the form and you will get it”.

The problem with the Canadian Alliance Party is that its caucus remains very divided. Half of its members want the raise, but because of the party line or because of a directive from the party, caucus members are stuck with the instructions that were issued.

This is evidenced by the fact that yesterday, at second reading, the Alliance members who left the caucus—and are now sitting along the curtains—voted in favour of Bill C-28, because they are not bound by a decision made by the leadership of the caucus.

Again, I tell Canadian Alliance members “Be honest, be transparent. If you vote against the raise, I hope that later you will not sign the form and cash your cheque at the bank”.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Chairman, my congratulations to you for your remarkable ability to remember everyone when we are sitting in different seats.

I want to return to what the government House leader was saying earlier. He expressed concern about the fact that he now earns less than his assistant deputy minister. Obviously Canadians' hearts will bleed at the thought that the minister would be earning less than one of the highest paid civil servants in the country.

I want to point out that it is not a unique situation. We find junior officers in the Canadian military who earn less than chief warrant officers, based on the fact that the non-commissioned officer has some form of superior expertise.

I would like to ask the government House leader some questions which relate to opting out. First, am I to understand that the extra stipends paid to MPs who serve in some post or capacity other than as members of parliament, for example as chair or vice chair of a committee or as a party leader or a House leader, can opt out of one of those or are they mandatory without an opting out clause?

The second question relates to opting out permanently. I gather it would mean that in the next election should someone on this side opt out, the voters would know that the Liberal candidate opposing him or her, for example, would be paid more following the election than that incumbent MP, and that in future elections that difference would grow over time.

Does the inflation rate clause mentioned in his previous comments apply in perpetuity as well for those who opt out? Can we assume that over time the differential will grow and grow?

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Chairman, I believe that enthusiasm is growing in the Chamber. The hon. member asked a few interesting questions. I will forget about the editorial comment at the beginning.

This is a very important clause and it is important for the House to have the information. The bill is structured in such a way that if members do not opt in, they do not opt in to anything. They are opted out of extra emolument for the chair, vice chair, extra pay for anything, grossing up the increased part of salary and so on and so forth. If one opts out, one opts out of everything.

The hon. member asked if all of the provisions of the existing package continue. The answer is yes. For instance, if the cost of living increase was 2% next year and an hon. member did not participate in the program, the hon. member would get 2% less 1% or a 1% increase.

The hon. member is right in saying that the disparity could grow. Of course that really depends on the size of the inflation rate. The irony is that if the inflation rate is higher proportionately the member would lose less than if the inflation rate is lower.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Chairman, I rise on a point of order. I believe it is very important for members to make informed decisions. In view of the fact that after the vote is called I will not be able to rise on a point of order, I would like to ask that when the votes are called on the amendments there be a brief statement of what the amendment actually does. Otherwise I believe members will be voting from a base of ignorance.

Parliament Of Canada Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

The Chairman

With respect to my colleague from Elk Island, we are under an order of the House. Unless the House chooses to do otherwise, I will not be complying with his wishes.