House of Commons Hansard #77 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was students.

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Parliament of Canada Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard on behalf of the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved that Bill C-30, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Salaries Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:05 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me today to speak to Bill C-30 on compensation for parliamentarians.

Bill C-30 fulfills a commitment by the Prime Minister to delink compensation for parliamentarians and judges and to allow parliamentarians to receive salary increases in line with those of Canadians in the private sector.

Parliamentarians, under the proposed legislation, Bill C-30, would receive salary increases adjusted yearly according to what is called the major wage settlement index. This is a highly respected index used by governments, businesses and unions. It is published annually and measures the annual salary increases negotiated by collective bargaining for private sector units with 500 or more employees. Accordingly this index represents more than 800,000 private sector employees in Canada.

As members will have noted during report stage of this legislation, our colleague from Prince George—Peace River indicated that the official opposition supported the bill because future salary increases would be tied to those in the private sector. He called this initiative commendable. I thank him and his party for their support of the legislation.

Similarly, the member for Timmins—James Bay told the House that his party, the New Democratic Party, found the index fair and supported the bill as well. I also thank them for their support of what we believe to be fair and reasonable legislation.

The bill has been recognized as a fair and reasonable way to deal with the salaries of parliamentarians. I believe that when we vote on this legislation, we will find it receives the very broad support of members of the House.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary noted in his brief remarks a moment ago, I have indicated that the official opposition will be supporting Bill C-30 and, I might add, we have always maintained that we should not place ourselves in an ongoing conflict of interest by having to debate and decide our own remuneration. Indeed, this bill's predecessor, which linked us to the judges' remuneration, was actually the reason that the House went down that road before. This is a fairer way to go about setting our remuneration and I indicated that during my remarks at report stage as well.

As was indicated, Bill C-30 proposes to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act to establish a new method of indexation of salaries and allowances for members of Parliament and ministers. It will come into effect from April 1, 2004. Salaries and allowances will no longer be adjusted by reference to the increase in the annual salary of the chief justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, but rather in accordance with the index of the average percentage increase and base rate wages for each and every calendar year resulting from major settlements negotiated with bargaining units of 500 or more employees in the private sector in Canada, as published by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development.

The original objective for linking compensation for members of Parliament to that of the chief justices, which is determined by the Judicial Salary and Benefits Commission, was to discontinue the practice whereby members themselves legislate their own compensation. However when the commission recommended an 11% increase in pay, an unjustified increase I might add, the government changed its position that compensation for MPs should not be linked to judges.

On that point, I think the general public will recall the debate that took place just before and during last spring's election campaign. We and others raised the issue of the impending judges' increase which would have the ripple effect on our remuneration as well. To the government's credit, at that point in time it agreed with us and said that an increase of that amount would be unacceptable. Therefore last fall it brought in Bill C-30.

When the bill was introduced it created a public issue regarding compensation for judges as well. While the government has indicated that amendments regarding compensation for judges is forthcoming, we believe, and I have stated it repeatedly, that the government ought to have accompanied Bill C-30 with that, since it was the 11% pay hike proposed for judges that triggered the need for a new method to determine compensation for members of Parliament.

The link between compensation for judges and compensation for members of Parliament and the excessive pay hike proposed for judges led to the need for legislative change. Bill C-30 solves only half the problem by establishing a new mechanism for MPs only, leaving judges with a process that provides them, potentially, at least at this point, with that 11% pay hike, which is almost four times the Canadian average increase in wages.

Therefore the Conservative Party calls upon the government, as we have in the past, to forgo the 11% pay hike for judges and immediately introduce legislation to establish a new mechanism for compensating judges similar to what has been proposed for members of Parliament in Bill C-30. That would ensure that significant salary compensation adjustments would only occur when it can be demonstrated that responsibilities have changed accordingly.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Madam Speaker, I would begin by saying that my colleague, the hon. parliamentary leader of the Bloc Québécois and member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean had indicated that our party would be voting against this bill, for a number of reasons which I would like to explain in the few minutes available to me.

We know that the compensation of parliamentarians is the perfect subject when it comes to grandstanding. We have had proof of that here in the comments made on this by the Prime Minister of Canada, which once again reflected his attitude.

I have just heard the Conservative House Leader say that it is not right for MPs to determine their own remuneration. That is true, and that is why a committee on the modernization of Parliament, which was struck in January 2001 and made up of the parliamentary leaders, reached the following conclusion: we should stop discussing whether MPs ought to vote on their own salary increases. After that came the idea of linking increases to those given to judges.

If it is decided in an independent committee that judges get a salary increase, by that very fact, due to their linking, the MPs also get an automatic increase under this legislation, not because they have taken any action themselves. We cannot decide to raise our pay 25% or 30% simply because we have had no increase for the past seven or eight years. That is totally unacceptable.

I want this to be clear: the Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-30, as it is to any increase in MPs' salaries. We want to retain the status quo. We want to continue to receive the fair and proper salary we are currently receiving. This is where the hypocrisy lies in the mechanics of Bill C-30, which disengages us from the judges' salary increases, although this has been settled since June 2001.

The underlying principles behind the linking with judges' remuneration were as follows: Is it normal and acceptable for the Prime Minister to earn the same amount as the highest official he appoints? Is is normal and acceptable for an elected representative to earn less than a public servant? Take the example of a minister, who is earning less than a deputy minister. Is that acceptable? No it is not.

The first principle was established by the House leaders of all the parties, the leader of the Conservatives, the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country; the former Liberal House leader, the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell; the NDP House leader, the then hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona; and my colleague, the Bloc Québécois House leader. The basic principle was that the Prime Minister should earn the same salary as the highest ranking official he appoints, not a penny more, not a penny less. Who is the highest ranking official appointed by the Prime Minister? It is the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position currently held by a woman. That was the first principle.

Second, do we agree that a minister should earn a certain percentage less than the Prime Minister? The answer is yes.

Third, is it normal for an MP with no ministerial responsibility to earn half the Prime Minister's salary? It was established that, yes, this is normal and the ministers' salaries should be somewhere between the two.

So that we do not discuss our own salary increases, there is an independent committee in charge of reviewing judges' salaries. As an aside, I do not want anyone watching to think that the Bloc Québécois wants to be mean to the judiciary. The Bloc Québécois is a party of law. It has enormous respect for the courts, judges and their decisions. People should not think the Bloc Québécois wants to be mean to judges. On the contrary, we think that instead of elected representatives voting on their own salary increases, those increases should be tied to salary increases for judges.

So we have Bill C-30 and the Prime Minister takes a cheap shot at parliamentarians. I am going to make a non-partisan comment on that unfortunate remark. I think that, basically, we parliamentarians take our jobs to heart. We take it to heart that we need to properly represent those who trusted us enough to elect us.

I would ask each of the 135 Liberal members over there whether they think they earn their salaries, whether they are doing their jobs and deserve what they are paid? We have had some informal discussions and many of the members of the Liberal caucus do not agree with the comment, the mean-spirited, partisan and vengeful comment, made by the Prime Minister, who is incidentally a millionaire. He owned a shipping company and some of its ships were under foreign registration in order to escape having to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes. It is easy for the Prime Minister to make comments like that.

These are the reasons that we in the Bloc Québécois cannot agree with this bill. It delinks MPs' salaries from judges' salaries, yet that question was settled back in January 2001.

Why reconsider that decision in Bill C-30, when it was made with the unanimity of all the parliamentary leaders? Does denying work that has been done correct the democratic deficit? Does it mean that all consensual decisions reached by the parliamentary leaders before this PM was here no longer count?

Does parliamentary consensus only date from the arrival of this Prime Minister? I regret to say this, but we do not need any lectures on morality from this PM. I am certain, I repeat, that many of the 135 Liberal caucus members across the way agree with me. I even know that they told their caucus that this was not right.

I may seem to be repeating myself, but it is to be sure there is no ambiguity. The Bloc Québécois does not want to be mean to judges, nor to the workers who will serve as reference points for this new legislation if it is passed. That is why we are saying that, if they want to delink us from the judges, they ought to maintain the salary. If the present salary is not maintained, then the link ought to be.

Do you know what lies behind this? The independent committee on judges' remuneration has set the increase for the next four years at approximately 10.8%.

The aim was to avoid having to respond to those who might say: “That makes no sense. The MPs have just voted and given themselves 10.8% over four years based on the cost of living index.” If we do not think this 10.8% makes sense, we need only say: “It is true it makes no sense. While it may make no sense for parliamentarians, it makes no more sense for judges.”

There is a saying that a woman cannot be just a little pregnant. Either she is pregnant or she is not. The government should clue in. If it makes no sense for parliamentarians to be paid this—the government has an obligation to be consistent—the government should set the same criterion for the judges. If a 10.8% increase makes no sense for parliamentarians, it does not make any more sense for judges.

So, logically speaking, as parliamentarians—this is what the Bloc would like, and we made our position very clear on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, where we opposed all government amendments to this bill—we should just reject Bill C-30 and have a policy of no salary increase.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I listened to the member, but I have heard this argument before. I think it is important that the public also understand where we are right now. Maybe the member would like to comment.

He is quite right that the increase according to the former bill linked to judges would have been around 10% plus over four years, which is 2.5%. But the proposed increase linking it to an industrial wage index is already giving us about 2% for the current year and presumably will be 2% and 2% plus over the four years, which will almost be 10% if the level of inflation stays the same.

The differential between the link to the judges' salaries and what is being proposed is actually quite small. It is not 10%. It is the difference between the average industrial index over the next four years compared to 10%. Perhaps the member would like to comment.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Mississauga South for his question.

In January 2001, when we adopted the principle of linking the salaries of MPs and judges, the consensus was that the Prime Minister should earn as much as the highest official he appoints, namely the chief justice.

I do not want to get into mathematical formulae because, first, math is not my strong suit and second, I do not want to confuse the public. However, if, based on the industrial index that will serve as the reference for Bill C-30, this results in a maximum increase of 8% for the next four years instead of 10.8% spread over the same period, this means that at the end of that four-year period, starting in 2005-06, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada will earn more than the Prime Minister.

This violates the principle. This means that, ultimately, the Prime Minister will earn less than the highest official he appoints. I am not defending the Prime Minister and his salary increases. He has no need of his salary. With all the perks he gets, he does not need his salary.

However, this is about the principle and we fight for principles. After four years, the chief justice will earn more than the Prime Minister and that makes no sense.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, my question is quite simple. It relates to my very brief remarks on third reading of Bill C-30 today.

The main contention that my hon. colleague from the Bloc has, for which there is some argument to be made, is that the Prime Minister should not be making less than the people he appoints, especially the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

In my remarks, I put forward an idea that I believe would certainly be supported by the majority of people in Canada, and not only the majority of people in Canada but also the majority of people in Quebec. That idea is that members of Parliament should not be in a position where they get what I think would widely be viewed as an exorbitant raise.

If there is no increase in our responsibilities, why should we be getting 2% per year, or 10% per year, or 10% over four years, or 11% or whatever it is, if people out in the real world are getting substantially less? That is the whole point of tying our future salary increases to this index of the average increase that Canadians will be getting in what I refer to as the real world outside this place.

Having said that, my contention is that the government should have brought in amendments to the Judges Act to ensure that the judges would likewise be tied to that same index. I still believe the government should bring forward those amendments to do away with the commission that sets the salary and compensation for judges and should likewise tie the judges in Canada to this same index that Canadians in the real world face.

Would that not solve the problem? I know that my hon. colleague is really anxious to get up and have his say on this, but why that would not solve the problem? Instead of raising our compensation, our remuneration, up to the 11% that it is rumoured we would get if it goes ahead and stays the same way, why not bring judges down to the same salary increase that real Canadians out in the real world get?

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Madam Speaker, the reply I have in mind is going to displease the hon. parliamentary leader of the Conservative Party with whom I sit on various committees and for whom I have a great deal of respect.

I said that it is a perfect bill for grandstanding. We will be marching here on Wellington Street holding signs that say, “Do you think MPs earn too much?” We will take a poll of the people who sit in the galleries. We will hand out sheets asking, “Do you think MPs earn too much? They should work for nothing.” It sets the stage for grandstanding.

I will bring up some bad memories for the hon. member for Prince George—Peace River. When the members of the Reform Party were sitting here, Preston Manning sent out a memo objecting to the large number of Christmas lights on Parliament Hill. He said it was costing the taxpayers too much in electricity. Of course, that was popular.

When the Bloc Québécois was the official opposition, he said that Stornoway should be transformed into a bingo hall. But as soon as they became the official opposition, they jumped on Stornoway. Preston Manning once said that the free lunches, which make us fat—look what it has done to me, with the lunches we eat in the lobby—cost the taxpayers too much. But when the lunch comes, the Conservatives eat it. We could say that is not logical because it is the taxpayers who pay.

Once again, I say it is a fine bill for grandstanding, and I say with respect that my colleague from Prince George—Peace River has done just that.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Gagnon Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, it is not the first time that I have been involved in a debate on members' salaries. I was a member of the Quebec National Assembly and, before Mr. Lévesque—who was the premier at the time—found a formula, the issue would come up every year. As the hon. member said, this issue always leads to some grandstanding. We can have anyone say just about anything on MPs' salaries.

I agree with the hon. member. At some point, we have to find a basic principle, so that we stop talking about our salary. This does not make sense. In my view, the act that was passed made sense to some extent, because it was based on the principles that my colleague just mentioned.

I want to ask him if he thinks this is simply some kind of political pettiness.

It is easy to deal with a journalist's question by saying “This 10.8% increase over four years does not make sense. We will cancel it”. However, a Liberal member just said that we will get the equivalent, or some 2% annually, but that is grandstanding. I wonder if my colleague could comment on this way of managing things.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Charlevoix—Montmorency, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. I will try not to get too passionate in replying to my colleague, but I am just as passionate whether the questions come from one side or from the other side. I simply want to answer the question of the hon. member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain.

This is why I said at the beginning that this was a perfect issue for grandstanding. I want to go back to my colleague and to the Conservative member and ask them this question: What will be the position of each of the parties in this House when we will deal with the 10.8% salary increase for judges? If 10.8% is too much for MPs, it is probably too much for judges also.

Business of the House
Government Orders

April 6th, 2005 / 4:35 p.m.

Beauséjour
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions among all parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That, notwithstanding the extension of government orders due to the recorded divisions taken earlier today, private members' business shall begin at 5:30.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the House
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4:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Parliament of Canada Act
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4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Hon. Jean Augustine)

Is the House ready for the question?