House of Commons Hansard #100 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was financial.

Topics

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 5:45 p.m. so we can move on.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is it agreed?

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Financial System Review Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

March 27th, 2012 / 5:30 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Governor General should exercise the same financial discipline that the government is asking of the public, and that the government should make the Governor General’s salary subject to the general tax regime.

Mr. Speaker, the motion I tabled states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the Governor General should exercise the same financial discipline that the government is asking of the public, and that the government should make the governor general’s salary subject to the general tax regime.

The tax system applies to all Canadians. I tabled this motion when I learned, while doing some research with the help of the Library of Parliament researchers, that the Governor General is the only person in Canada who does not pay taxes. A tiny paragraph in the Income Tax Act states that he is not subject to the tax regime.

That raises a huge number of questions, at a time when everybody is concerned about the measures contained in the upcoming budget, at a time when there is talk of reducing government spending, or of controlling spending, and at a time when there is discussion about cutting back transfer payments to the provinces in the areas of social services and health, for example, beginning in 2016. Members will recall that, in 1994, the federal government covered 50% of the provinces’ health care expenses. This has now been reduced to 25%. With the measures announced by the minister, this will drop to 20%.

Cutbacks are being made everywhere. There are cuts to government agencies. There will soon be cuts to fisheries. The number of inspectors at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has been reduced. There have been huge cutbacks in the environmental field. For example, surveillance and rescue stations are being closed in the Quebec City region. Employment insurance centres are being amalgamated to reduce expenses. Radical cuts to the public service have been announced. The elderly have been targeted. Henceforth, seniors will have to wait till they are 67, instead of 65, to collect their pensions. For many people, that means two years of living in poverty. It also becomes an extra burden for the provinces.

There will be huge cuts in spending. There will be restrictions, cutbacks, and the reassessment of all federal organizations.

The end result will be that people will pay more and more but receive less and less, except for one person, the Governor General. He has no limit on his spending. He receives a salary of $135,000 without paying a cent in taxes. Worse still, after 5 years of service, he will receive his salary for life. That is quite surprising.

In these conditions, is it normal that a person who holds an honorary position—and I remind members that the Governor General has no ministerial responsibility—who has been appointed, not elected, be exempt from paying tax on his salary? That does not make sense.

The only person in Canada who has this privilege, which is written in the law, is the Governor General of Canada. It is not normal; it is unfair and the situation must be addressed.

I should say immediately that this demand has nothing to do with the person occupying the position. Regardless of who this person might be, and independent of his or her reputation, experience, and influence, the Governor General must, like all Canadians, pay his fair share in taxes and contribute to the running of government, especially since he enjoys exceptional privileges. He is fed, dressed and housed. He has a car and a private chauffeur. He can go on as many international trips as he wants, with the government's Challenger or armed forces' planes.

The least he could do would be to pay income tax on his $135,000 salary. I would remind the House that some years ago the Queen of England decided to pay income tax. She requested it herself. I would also note that the governors general of Australia and New Zealand pay their share of tax, like other citizens in their countries.

The motion presented today calls on the Governor General to pay income tax, but should we not also be questioning the fact that governors general of Canada receive a pension equal to 100% of their salary immediately after their five-year term? That makes no sense. I do not know anyone in the world who receives a pension like that after five years—100% of his or her salary.

Ms. Jean, for example, who left office at the age of about 53, receives 100% of her salary for the rest of her life. The same is true for Ms. Clarkson, who was Governor General for five years and receives a pension equal to 100% of her salary for life. When a governor general dies, his or her spouse receives 50% for life. For example, the widow of former Governor General Roméo Leblanc, has been receiving 50% of his salary for 17 or 18 years. The principle that a spouse receives something is acceptable, but the amount should be more balanced.

A member has to sit in this House for 25 years to receive the maximum, which is 75%. The lieutenant governors of the provinces do not receive a pension until age 60, and it is 30% of their salary. That also makes no sense. This is not in my motion, but I urge the government to take action regarding income tax and also remedy the fact that the pension is for life, equal to 100% of the salary and paid immediately, regardless of the age of the retiring governor general. That is unacceptable. That incomprehensible position has to be reviewed. No one receives 100% of their salary for life, particularly when they hold an honorary office.

On the question of honorary offices, the tradition is that this office was created because we are members of the Commonwealth and have agreed to the British parliamentary form of government. This means that bills passed by the House of Commons are reviewed and voted on in the Senate. If there are amendments, they are sent back to the House where they are voted on again, and then they go back to the Senate and ultimately receive what is called royal assent.

Thus, there has to be someone who officially signs the papers on behalf of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. But the person who is designated has, over time, assumed the powers of what is virtually a head of state. The Governor General goes travelling all over the world, which costs tens of millions of dollars, and has a huge staff working for him. But essentially, his real role is to sign bills. Would it not be reasonable, in a time of budget cuts and the government’s desire to cut spending, for the Governor General to have an office in Parliament with three or four employees, for him to sign bills once or twice a month, as required, and for this office to be regarded as honorary?

The trouble is that over time governors general have come to think of themselves as the head of state. The Queen of England designates this person, as suggested by the prime minister, to represent her in Canada. Therefore it is not the role of a governor general to travel throughout the world. The Governor General does not represent Canada in the world; he represents the Queen of England in Canada. He should remain in Canada and look after his affairs, which consists of one thing: signing bills that end up on his desk after they are adopted at third reading in the House of Commons, have gone to the Senate to be enhanced, amended or agreed to, thus giving royal assent. The role of a governor general is to sign the royal assent, that is all. Let us stop this extravagant spending and these trips, and give the Governor General back his intended role, that of representing the Queen in a Commonwealth country.

I would also insist that we think about what I call the monarchy madness that has taken hold of the Conservative government. The Conservatives want the portrait of the Queen to be displayed everywhere in Canada's embassies. They want to put the word “royal” on every aircraft, and boat, which basically means repainting every building, ship and war plane, and redesigning military uniforms. This will cost a fortune.

Once again, in the name of this monarchy madness, the Conservatives want to honour the War of 1812. I would point out to parliamentarians that in 1812 Canada did not exist. Canada was founded in 1837. The War of 1812 was a war between England and the United States. The Conservatives want to spend $76 million to commemorate this war. It was the British Empire's war, not Canada's.

The Conservatives are also going to produce $3 million worth of medals. In fact, they intend to spend $100 million on visits, among other things. Is it really a good time to spend $100 million when we are being told about budget cutbacks in the public service and government organizations, for example, the CBC, which has done so much in terms of news coverage in remote regions both in Canada and Quebec? The Conservatives are getting ready to take an axe to all of this while gleefully celebrating the monarchy.

In closing, I have a question to ask parliamentarians. I am a Quebecker, and a proud one at that. I identify with Quebec symbols. Are my colleagues proud to be Canadian? Why do they identify with symbols of the monarchy, this vestige of colonialism? Why do they not identify with Canadian symbols, if they are proud to be Canadian? I am proud to be a Quebecker.

Let us put an end to this pointless and incomprehensible spending that not only perpetuates the monarchy, but also confers upon the Governor General the role of head of state when his real role is simply to represent the Queen and to sign bills.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, it wounds me deeply to hear a member of Canada's Parliament say things like that. It surprises and hurts me. I cannot believe that anyone here in Canada would refer to our monarchy as madness.

I really want this to be clear to all Quebeckers and Canadians. I have a question for my colleague. I have a lot of respect for him in other areas, but in this area, there is a problem. He has just attacked the monarchy. That is the real purpose of his motion. Will he make it clear to Canadians and Quebeckers that he is loyal to our head of state, the Queen of England, who is also the Queen of Canada? I expect him to confirm that now.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a lot of respect for the hon. member. We were both members of the International Assembly of French-Speaking Parliamentarians, and her comment made me smile a little.

When I said “monarchy madness”, I made it clear that I was talking about the government's monarchy mania, its obsession. It never mentioned the monarchy during the election campaign or in its campaign promises, nor did it consult the other parties.

I have no doubt that, had the government consulted the NDP, the Liberals, the Bloc Québécois or the Green Party, it would not have found unanimous support for putting symbols of the monarchy back into every embassy and replacing paintings by great Canadian and Quebec artists with a photo of the Queen. This government is obsessed with bringing back symbols of the monarchy. Thirty years ago, Canada was looking for ways to express itself through Canadian symbols. Consider the rise of the CBC back then. Consider Petro-Canada. Consider the patriation of the Constitution. Those were all symbols to help show Canadian pride. Now the government is going in the opposite direction.

To me, this is about my pride as a Quebecker. My goal is to enhance Quebec's international profile. But if you are proud to be Canadian, look to Canadian symbols, not symbols of the monarchy.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. Bloc Québécois member for this excellent motion, M-313, which calls on the government to make the Governor General’s salary subject to the general tax regime. Under the Income Tax Act, income from the office of Governor General of Canada is not included in computing an individual’s income for a taxation year. When this news hit in the media, the people of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord were stunned.

I agree with the member. Even though he is a member of a sovereignist party and mine is a federalist party, as a Quebecker and citizen of Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, I agree that the Conservative government is obsessed with the monarchy. It is always trying to ram it down our throats.

I do not have a question for the Bloc member. I simply wish to support him. On behalf of everyone in Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, I will be pleased to vote in favour of this motion.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord for his intervention.

It goes without saying that all Quebeckers, regardless of their political stripes, any many Canadians outside Quebec, primarily among the many ethnicities that make up Canada's vast mosaic, do not identify with the monarchy. They do not identify with this symbol.

The government did not consult anyone on this. That is why I said the Conservative Party embodies this monarchy madness and why it is doing so without consulting the other parties.

To come back to my motion, it seems to me that it is a simple matter of social justice. Someone who earns $135,000 should pay taxes like anyone else, especially since he is also housed, fed, dressed and driven around, not to mention that all of his trips are paid for, as I said. It is the least he could do, and it is up to the government to see that he does.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about private member's Motion No. M-313, moved by the sovereignists from the Bloc Québécois, who want to make the Governor General's salary subject to income tax.

Before I begin, I would first like to say how disappointed I am that the Bloc Québécois has once again chosen to play the same old political division card. As we just heard, the hon. member is pretending to have the country's economic interests at heart in order to hide his own personal interests. In reality, he did not even hide them. He just said that he wants to attack the monarchy here in Canada. It is shameful.

Rather than focusing on issues that are important to Quebeckers and Canadians, such as the economy or the fight against crime, the Bloc Québécois always chooses divisive policies. This philosophy is completely out of touch with Quebec families and that explains why the Bloc Québécois has been practically wiped off the electoral map.

While the Bloc Québécois is playing petty politics, I am going to present some important facts that will further the debate.

In the year of the diamond jubilee, the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the throne as Queen of Canada, Canadians have chosen to commemorate her service and dedication to our country. Our Conservative government has embraced this historic opportunity to celebrate the traditions, the history, the symbols, the values and institutions which make our country great.

The jubilee will highlight how Canada has evolved over the past 60 years under Her Majesty's reign and look to the future of our nation and how our young people will contribute to our democracy.

For 60 years, Her Majesty has proven to be a perfect example of selflessness toward Canada and Canadians, demonstrating her strong will and commitment. The diamond jubilee is an opportunity to pay tribute to Canadians who, like her Majesty, have devoted themselves to their families, their communities and their country.

While we are celebrating the reign of Her Majesty and the leadership she inspires in Canadians, we are also thinking about the history and tradition embodied by the Crown since our country was founded. Canadians understand and recognize the major role that the Crown has played in unifying our country, a unification that was not achieved through a revolution but through a peaceful consensus.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Through colonization.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, if the Bloc Québécois continues to interrupt me, I hope that you will do something so that its members discover there are rules here in Parliament.

In reality, the constitutional monarchy represents the continuity of democratic principles acquired over time, which are based on the rule of law and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.

The Crown is the principle behind our institutional unity and a key component of our Parliament and our democracy. The Crown serves discreetly behind the scenes to ensure the government's continuity and accountability.

When they think of the monarchy, most Canadians think of a visit by the Queen or a member of the royal family, the reading of the Speech from the Throne by the Governor General or, perhaps, the visit of a Lieutenant Governor to a community or an award ceremony for a deserving citizen.

This visible presence of the monarchy is extremely important. It reminds us that the Crown and its representatives are living symbols of our freedoms and our collective institutions and that they are the guardians of our democratic system of government. That is the very foundation of Canada's democracy and national unity.

I am very disappointed that the Bloc Québécois sovereignists have presented this motion just for the sake of playing petty politics.

As the Queen's representative in Canada, the Governor General is indeed a visible and present reminder of our ties to the Crown. The most important characteristic of our constitutional monarchy has been its ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our democracy.

Indeed, the responsibilities of the Governor General have evolved over time, along with the evolution of Canada as an independent and sovereign nation.

The Governor General has important parliamentary responsibilities, such as to ensure that Canada always has a prime minister and a government in place that has the confidence of Parliament.

Furthermore, he or she sets out the government's program by reading the Speech from the Throne and giving royal assent, which makes acts of Parliament into law.

The Governor General is also the Commander-in-Chief in Canada. He visits military bases and honours our brave men and women in uniform on behalf of the Queen. He also fulfills important ceremonial duties, such as recognizing the achievements of outstanding Canadians, receiving foreign dignitaries, travelling overseas as a representative of Canada's head of state, and hosting official events.

Perhaps the principal role of the Governor General, beyond constitutional duties, is to promote national unity and identity, something unfortunately the Bloc Québécois does not recognize.

In cities and towns from coast to coast to coast, he participates in community events, visits hospitals and schools, celebrates important anniversaries, and supports a wide range of organizations.

The Governor General encourages Canadians to be proud of their country and to work together to build strong and compassionate communities. It is through an appreciation of ourselves as a unique people that we come to a fuller appreciation of our unity and pride in our country.

The office of Governor General is the oldest continuous institution in Canada and is an unbroken link with the early days of our country's recorded history.

In 1952, the appointment of Vincent Massey ushered in a new era in both the history of the office of Governor General and of Canada. Governors general would now be Canadian citizens who represented Her Majesty The Queen and, at the same time, were a true and accurate reflection of the richness of Canadian society.

For more than half a century, 11 governors general—Vincent Massey, Georges P. Vanier, Roland Michener, Jules Léger, Edward Schreyer, Jeanne Sauvé, Ramon John Hnatyshyn, Roméo LeBlanc, Adrienne Clarkson, Michaëlle Jean and David Johnston—have mirrored our bilingual and multicultural reality and, above all else, demonstrated a strong desire to represent the Canadian Crown with dignity and to use the office to highlight the best that is Canada.

This role is synonymous with national unity and is the legacy of the successive governors general. While some exceptional people from French and English Canada have used their role to bring our country together, the Bloc is obsessed with political games that go completely against the interests of Canadians.

In this, the year of Her Majesty's diamond jubilee, we celebrate the service and history of the Queen and her representative here in Canada. As our country has matured, Canada has adapted the Crown to suit its needs as a clear reflection of its regional, bilingual and multicultural character.

Once again, I would like to express my grave disappointment with the Bloc for ignoring economic growth and jobs and everything else that matters to Quebec families. Canadians and our Conservative government know that the Crown embodies our past, our present, our future, and most important of all, the lasting legacy of a united Canada that I am proud to call my home.

Madam Speaker, I want to express to Canadians and Quebeckers across the televised viewership that I am very disappointed. The entire time I was making my speech, members of the Bloc Québécois heckled and made comments that were absolutely unrealistic and disrespectful not only of the Crown, but of Parliament. They have absolutely no respect for what is being said.

I truly feel sorry for Quebeckers who have no representation here with the Bloc Québécois.