House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was scientists.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made Wednesday, May 30 the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, June 6, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

Pursuant to Standing Order 30(7) the House will now proceed to the consideration of Motion No. 313 under private members' business.

The House resumed from March 27 consideration of the motion.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, at the present time, the Governor General of Canada pays no income tax.

Under this motion, our Governor General would have to pay his taxes. For reasons of transparency, we agree with this motion, that is, that the Governor General should pay income tax.

Queen Elizabeth pays income tax. The Governor General of New Zealand pays income tax. Moreover, the Lieutenant Governors of all the provinces of Canada pay income tax. So why should the Governor General of Canada not pay income tax?

There is no reason why he should not pay taxes. He should pay taxes, just like the Queen, like Governors General in other countries and just like all Canadians.

There is a precedent for this. Before 2001, a portion of the salary of members of the House was not taxable. In 2001, for reasons of transparency, the Chrétien government canceled this non-taxable portion and increased members' salaries. This case is similar. It is not a good idea for part or all of the Governor General's salary not to be taxable.

However, I would like to add an important condition: the Governor General should not be punished. He began his term some time ago for a given salary, which he accepted. If he is now required to pay tax, the government should increase his gross salary so that his net salary is the same as before. This is more or less what was done for the members and it is what the government should do in the Governor General's case.

I know Governor General David Johnston quite well. In fact, he was my boss in the 1990s, when he was the principal of McGill University and I was the dean of the Faculty of Arts. I know he worked very hard as principal of McGill University and president of the University of Waterloo for some 30 years before becoming Governor General.

However, there is another important element here. Unknown I think to the mover of this motion, it turns out that the government is proposing to do something just like what I had said in the budget bill, and that is increasing the salary of the Governor General and making that larger salary taxable. However, the government is increasing the salary as if the Governor General paid the highest marginal rate. Therefore, some might say that he is getting a pay hike.

The reason I talked about his three decades at McGill and at Waterloo as president is to state with certainty that his income, other than Governor General income, must certainly be in excess of $138,000. Therefore, the government is correct, and this is one rare occasion when I agree with it, that by increasing his salary by the amount that, it will indeed leave his after-tax salary unchanged.

Therefore, the Liberal Party agrees with the motion subject to the caveat that the pre-tax salary has to be raised. While we deplore the budget implementation bill for 1001 reasons, in this case we agree with the government.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame to think that the Bloc would use the privilege afforded by this place to play the same tired politics of division with Canadian unity and the very traditions we hold dear, but that is exactly what it does, time and time again.

Unlike the four remaining Bloc MPs opposite, I, for one, am proud of our country's heritage and I am sincerely disappointed that a member of the House would suggest that the Governor General is responsible for something he has no control over, for nothing else than cheap political gain. There is simply no question that this motion has nothing to do whatsoever with correcting an anachronism in the tax code, which our Conservative government has already done, but everything to do with attacking Canada's proud royal traditions in this, the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. That is why the government must oppose the motion.

It is no secret that the member opposite has deliberately timed the introduction of this debate to coincide with this momentous occasion. While Canadians view the 60th anniversary of Her Majesty's accession to the throne as Queen of Canada, as a time to celebrate our country's rich tradition and impressive achievements, the Bloc never misses an opportunity to try to tear the country apart.

The true intent of the member's motion is apparent in his reaction to our government's Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal program. During this year's celebrations, 60,000 deserving Canadians will be recognized for significant achievements and outstanding service to their communities, while honouring Her Majesty for her service to Canada.

Instead of fulfilling their duties as members of Parliament to recognize the contributions of their constituents to Canada and their communities, the Bloc members have hijacked an important and worthy program instead for political grandstanding. Not only have all four Bloc MPs sent the medals back, denying their constituents recognition for their selfless and outstanding service, but the member opposite has gone so far as to call them a “monarchistic joke”.

Unlike the separatist Bloc Quebecois, our Conservative government appreciates the monarchy's fundamental importance to our democratic history and tradition. As Canadians, this history and tradition defines and unites us.

That is why this year our government was proud to welcome His Highness, the Prince of Wales, to Canada this past month, to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen's service to our country for the past 60 years, inspiring Canadians and bringing them closer together. For some, Her Majesty is the Crown. She is the only queen they have ever known.

That is why it is so important we mark this year, this milestone, in our history. It is not only a celebration of the Queen, but also a celebration of what it means to be Canadian.

Despite the Bloc's red herring attempt to discredit our proud and united tradition of constitutional monarchy, I am happy to assure Canadians that our government has acted to ensure that the Governor General's salary is subject to tax in the same manner as the salary of all Canadians.

I should note that despite what is implied by today's motion, the Governor General had no say in the matter and could not have unilaterally corrected it. While it is true that the Governor General was for many years exempt from paying tax on income earned from the office, our government has acted quickly and fairly to correct this historic anachronism out of a sense of duty to the Canadian taxpayer and not as a thinly veiled attack on the Queen's representative in Canada.

We have already introduced legislation to end the income tax exemption for the Governor General's salary, which will subject it to tax in the same manner as the salary of every other Canadian. This measure will apply to the 2013 and subsequent taxation years.

This treatment is consistent with recent measures in other Commonwealth countries to make the salary of their governors general subject to income tax, such as Australia in 2001 and New Zealand in 2010. Indeed, the Queen herself has voluntarily paid tax on her private income in the United Kingdom since the early 1990s, setting an example for her representatives in Commonwealth countries around the world.

Since 2006, our government has been squarely focused on creating a tax system that fuels job creation and growth in the economy and allows Canadians to keep more of their hard earned money. Our tax system rewards Canadians for reaching their full potential and gives individuals and families the flexibility to make the choices that are right for them.

The words of Adrienne Clarkson, Canada's 26th Governor General, perfectly capture the fundamental relationship between taxes and indispensable government services to which all Canadians are entitled:

—I've always had the feeling whenever I hear people say they don't want to pay any income tax, I always wonder well, how do we get our medical care, or how do we get to the schools that we go to...How do we do all the things that we can do to make sure everybody gets their fair share? How can we do it? Well, income taxes do that.

While the former Liberal government did not fulfill Madam Clarkson's apparent desire to be taxed when she served as Governor General, I can assure her that our government would have done it.

Our Conservative government recognizes the fundamental importance of taxes, a responsibility and a benefit to be shared by all Canadians, and has rightly extended this duty to the Governor General.

I would remind members opposite that this side of the House flatly refuses to play politics with our Canadian democratic traditions. The Governor General plays a key role in promoting our national identity by supporting and promoting Canadian values of diversity, inclusion, culture and heritage, both at home and abroad. He or she encourages Canadians to build a compassionate society and work together to create strong and generous communities, fostering national unity.

It is abundantly clear why the separatist Bloc has chosen this, the year of the Diamond Jubilee, to launch this partisan attack on the Queen's representative in Canada. While our government has acted fairly to correct an outdated provision contained in the Income Tax Act, the Bloc wants nothing more from the motion than to gain media attention for its lamentable attempts to denigrate Canadian constitutional tradition, just like its refusal to honour outstanding achievements with the Diamond Jubilee Medal.

Members should not take my word for it. They just need to ask the deserving constituents from Richmond—Arthabaska, Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, Ahuntsic and, most important, Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, whose service to their communities still goes unrecognized by their elected representatives.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on the Royal Internet site about the Queen, it says:

As a constitutional monarch, The Queen abides by the decisions of the Canadian Government, but she continues to play important ceremonial and symbolic roles.

As for the Governor General's role, it is primarily representative. He represents both the Queen in Canada and Canadians abroad. If we define the Queen's role as symbolic and historical, the same is true for the Governor General.

Indeed, the Canadian political system is both a parliamentary democracy and a constitutional monarchy. The powers of the Queen, and therefore of the Governor General, are thus limited not by tradition, but by the Constitution. Canada is a sovereign nation.

In short, regardless of our opinion on the issue, the Canadian monarchy bears first and foremost the mantle of this nation’s traditions and history, rather than that of real executive powers. If we go back to the distant past—well, not so distant, in fact—when Canada was but a vulgar Dominion, it is understandable that it was inconceivable at the time to tax the Queen or her representatives. Not being sovereign, Canada could not have made this decision.

Members will agree that things have changed and that the government will not cause a diplomatic chill between the United Kingdom and Canada by taxing the Governor General's salary. I do not think that the Prime Minister has been threatened in any way by London after having revealed his intention to determine the Governor General's salary in Bill C-38. Moreover, since 1993, the Queen herself has consented, quite voluntarily, to pay taxes.

The Prime Minister, especially since achieving his majority in the House, seems to have taken his admiration for royalty up a notch. Without putting words in his mouth, I believe that the Conservative party is afraid to be perceived as lacking respect for tradition and the institutions that forged this country. The monarchy will always be part of our history, whether we like it or not, but nothing is forcing us to perpetuate illogical and archaic traditions. In fact, I do not think that the transition to a sovereign nation could have been more respectful and peaceful, despite everything, than it actually was.

Basically, the Queen's representative is being asked to participate in this transition and to follow the example of the Queen, who has made a choice and is participating in a more equitable and fairer society by paying taxes. No one is above the law in this country. In any case, nobody should be. Behind the image of the welfare state and assistance and the development of a more egalitarian society, there is the law. No one is beyond its reach, and the Governor General should not be either. The Prime Minister has finally given in.

The New Democratic Party, like all progressive forces in Canada, believes in a fairer and more egalitarian society in which everyone can do their share. Without wishing to upset anyone, I believe that this government has already shown a great deal of respect by perpetuating the very existence of the position, which is also remunerated.

It must not be forgotten that of the 54 Commonwealth countries, only 16 continue to acknowledge the monarch as the head of state. Their citizens should not have to bear even the slightest additional burden to allow the head of state to shirk her or his civic duty with impunity. Yes, I consider that a shirking of responsibility. I come from a union background and know it well. As a political party that supports workers, the NDP will never come out against people fighting for and succeeding in obtaining better working conditions.

But in a context in which everyone needs to tighten their belt and where for many, there is not much left of the belt to tighten, altering the Governor General's salary so that there is no net impact as a result of paying taxes shows a lack of respect for all workers and unemployed people who are victims of this budget's austerity measures.

If this government were to increase personal income tax one day, would the Treasury Board increase the salaries of public servants so that they would not have to bear the burden of the increase? Of course not. Similarly, it would not exempt them from an income tax increase if a salary increase meant they would have to pay more taxes. This would be illogical and run counter to the very principle of taxation.

But in particular, it runs counter to the principle of equity, which requires those who are better off to pay a little more to enable everyone to have access to public services. Why should the Governor General be entitled to more favourable treatment at a time when this government is planning to dismiss 19,000 people and penalize I don't know how many thousands of others through its employment insurance, pension plan and old age security measures?

The concept of equity is very important because it underpins the fundamental principle of every progressive society, in which those whose level of economic well-being is identical are treated identically under the taxation system.

Similarly, of course, those who are at different levels economically will not be treated identically from the taxation standpoint. Taxation is the principal way in which governments can collect income and redistribute it. From this standpoint, it remains the strategic key to achieving equity in Canada and in many other progressive democratic countries.

So the New Democratic Party is not criticizing the salary increase as such, but rather the fact that the measures proposed in Bill C-38, the budget implementation bill, do not observe the principle of equity to which all other citizens are subject.

And now, I would like to conclude by speaking about the impact of Bill C-38, which we are currently considering, and which I have currently been studying as a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. In connection with this, the specific provision concerning the Governor General’s salary does raise a problem.

We tried to propose a significant amendment that would fix the Governor General's salary at a certain level. The amendment in the government bill to the provision dealing with the Governor General's salary actually brings his salary up, presumably so as to keep it at the same level. We do not agree with the arguments that the Governor General's salary is not going to go up with this bill. Actually, if we quickly do the math, we can anticipate seeing a real increase in the Governor General's salary. Moreover, there are currently other provisions that favour the Governor General. He is exempted from paying sales tax, the harmonized tax in most provinces across the country. Currently, the Governor General, who should really be a citizen like everyone else, who holds an honorary position, who represents the Queen in our constitutional monarchy and democracy, receives special treatment compared to everyone else, treatment that even the Queen does not get in the United Kingdom.

We feel that, if we have to deal with this issue, we should not do so under the radar, allowing the Governor General to get more favours than he used to have. We have to set conditions that will make it possible to go back to the way the position and salary were before.

That is why we introduced an amendment fixing the Governor General's salary at exactly what he earned previously. Our amendment was defeated.

In this sense, we are currently following the example of Australia and New Zealand in taxing the Governor General's income, but granting him an increase relative to what he presently earns. Of course, we must also consider the fact that the Governor General will also have sources of income that are not generally considered part of the salary. It may be investment income, accommodation allowances and so on. That must be taken into consideration.

However, the position, as important as it may be in a constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy like ours, remains an honorary one. We have a good example of that, I feel, with the famous episode in 2008 when we went through what some might consider a political crisis in this country. The Governor General at the time received advice that she could have opposed the government's attempt at prorogation. But she chose not to do so, simply because her position is recognized first and foremost as honorary, with no executive power attached to it at all.

In that sense, I think that the Governor General's salary prior to the amendment proposed in Bill C-38 was quite appropriate given his responsibilities. His position is honorific and comes with many benefits, including the respect that other countries and our international partners pay when he travels as the country's representative, which is a reward in itself.

The government's proposal in Bill C-38 seems out of step with reality. Bill C-38 does not provide for a specific salary, but offers the Governor General a salary which will determine his or her income tax rate. This will give him pay raises that we consider unacceptable given that thousands of workers are being told to tighten their belts, and the federal government has announced plans to fire or lay off over 19,000 people across the country. Many organizations have suggested that number could be as high as 30,000.

In that sense, we understand the motion that was put forward and we support the spirit of the motion. We would have liked to see the government get on board with the proposed amendment to Bill C-38, but that did not happen.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, Motion M-313 simply makes sense. Every spring, Canadians prepare their tax returns and it is time that the head of our state also paid his taxes. We are far from the days when people believed in the divinity of the representative of the Crown. This outdated idea is why the salary of the representative of the Crown was not taxable.

This is the 21st century and even Queen Elizabeth II and her family pay their taxes in England. We are in an embarrassing situation. England, the origin of our constitutional monarchy, is more advanced than we are. It is simply a question of fairness.

The Dalai Lama visited Canada a few weeks ago. I refer to him because he is a good example of someone who, in the past, was chosen by divine right, which is justification for an undemocratic power, for he is chosen by God. At the same time, he was the leader of the Tibetan nation. He left that post, because he believed in the idea of a secular state. I recall him saying, “I am simply a monk”.

I believe that the Governor General is simply a Canadian citizen and that he should pay his taxes like everyone else.

At a time when the Minister of Finance and the minister responsible for the treasury are asking Canadians to tighten their belts, they should ask the Governor General to do the same. This would send Canadians the message that they are promoting a more progressive tax system, and this motion is a step in the right direction.

All the lieutenant governors' salaries are taxable, so why not the Governor General's? The other Commonwealth governors general, in New Zealand and Australia, are subject to income tax; so why not ours?

One of my constituents has something to say about this. I would like to read his email. Lucien Martel from Saint-Zotique says:

In today's news, we were reminded that Canada's lieutenant governors pay tax on their income. But to help them pay their taxes, the government has apparently doubled their salaries... If that's the case, that is another reason among so many others ruining our government's reputation.

In other words, when Canadians see that the members of Parliament and the Government of Canada are spending taxpayers' money like drunken sailors, they lose respect for the government, and their trust in the government here in Ottawa drops significantly.

Let me remind the government that its job is to defend the public interest, not the interests of the elite. If they forget that, we will be there to replace them in 2015; that is a fact. They would be better off supporting this motion and starting to regain the trust of Canadians.

I strongly urge the government to support this motion. Yes, this motion was moved by a party that supports Quebec sovereignty. However, we must show equality to all Canadians. We must explain to Quebeckers, who may not always venerate symbols such as Queen Elizabeth, that all Canadians are subject to the same tax system, that this is a progressive country and we are moving forward. We are not stuck in the past, stuck on our heritage, on this idea of the divine right. This is the 21st century and we must move forward progressively. This means that the Governor General must pay taxes.

I do not understand how, at a time when budget restrictions are being placed on a number of groups and organizations, when there are threats of cuts to environmental groups and women's groups, among others, the Governor General's right to not pay taxes is protected. It makes no sense.

I think we have to move forward in this country, not by protecting these old symbols financially by saying, “Governor General, you know what? Your position is honorific. It's descendant from this idea of the divine right of kings. Therefore, you shouldn't have to pay taxes”.

We are in the 21st century, and we have to advance into the 21st century by applying equitable rules to everyone. I do not see why the Governor General should not pay taxes. I have not heard a compelling argument from the government. That is not something rare; I rarely hear compelling arguments from it. I usually hear the talking points, which on this issue are that the opposition is not proud of the heritage of Canada, and it is attacking the hon. Governor General, the head of our state.

It is not about that at all. It is really about showing Canadians this idea of fairness. The greatest heritage of our country is this idea of fairness. Daily, from hearing the government speak, I can see why many Canadians from all provinces would lose their faith in the governing class because of this cheapening of the idea of fairness. By saying to the Governor General “You do not have to pay taxes, but everyone else does have to pay taxes”, it is really eroding this idea of fairness that exists in our nation's fabric.

I would hope that the government looks at this, not in terms of the divisive way the government member spoke about before, where she said this is typical and we are trying to promote a sovereignist agenda. I have given my discourse in both official languages, and I believe in the strength of our nation through the existence of both official languages, through discussions among all the founding nations of this country. I do not buy this argument that this is dividing Canada, making it Canada versus the province of Quebec. I do not buy that at all.

There are two parties in this House that would like that to be the narrative of this motion. Personally, I do not agree. The idea behind this motion is good. The Governor General should be treated be like an ordinary Canadian, like any other Canadian, paying his taxes.

I do not want to denigrate the reputation of our present Governor General. He has contributed fantastically to his community. He has given so much to the academic community that the government is currently attacking by cutting funding to science and research. It denigrates that community that our Governor General promoted for so long.

I do not want to give the impression that I am attacking the person of the Governor General, but in terms of the symbolic position, I believe it would send a good message to Canadians if next spring the Governor General filled out his tax forms and sent them in, like anyone else. It just makes sense.

Every MP in this chamber does the same thing. They file their taxes, as do all Canadians. Some do it later than others, and there are penalties and whatnot. We have a system in place. I do not see the logic in the Governor General position being outside of that rubric, that progressive fiscal regime.

I spoke a bit about the Governor General as a symbol and the Governor General as a person. I do want to drive home the point that I do not want to attack the person who is the Governor General. I think he has contributed excellently to his community. As McGill is my alma mater, I am proud of the time he was at McGill. We were not there at the same time, of course, since I am much younger. He had moved on at that point.

I am often conscious of all the contributions he has made to his community. I certainly would not want him to feel attacked as a person.

However, I think even the Governor General would agree that perhaps it is time for us to move into the 21st century and make the salary of the Governor General taxable just like that of all other Canadians. It is a question of fairness and equity.

I do hope the government will not see this as divisive, pitting Quebec against Canada, but will rather see the progressive nature of this motion and make the Governor General's salary taxable.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I request your co-operation to give me a few seconds at the end of my speech to table an amendment.

First, I want to congratulate the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour for presenting this motion to the House.

Earlier, a Conservative member accused the Bloc Québécois of being a separatist and sovereignist party—a fact known by all members in this House—and of having taken advantage of Queen Elizabeth's diamond jubilee to sneakily propose that the Governor General pay taxes.

In my opinion, the Bloc did not choose to do so this year. An election was held about a year ago and when the time came to introduce bills, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour felt it would be a good idea if the only Canadian who is not paying taxes did like everyone else and began paying taxes. In fact, many parliamentarians in this House supported the idea.

Even government members—who belong to the party of the member who spoke earlier—included my colleague's suggestion in the budget, after he proposed that the Governor General pay taxes. That recommendation was followed by the government so that the Governor General would do like everyone else, like all workers in Canada and in Quebec, and began paying taxes at last. Not everyone knew that. Again, I congratulate the hon. member for presenting this motion.

At public events taking place on weekends in our ridings, many people were surprised to learn that the Governor General, in addition to holding an honorary position and collecting a good salary and a pension for life, did not pay taxes, which is totally unfair. There is no other way of putting it. That situation will be corrected in the budget.

Of course, the Conservative government did not stop there. After all, we are used to its poison pills. This time, it increased the Governor General's salary. In fact, it doubled that salary, something which a Liberal member justified a little earlier.

The former leader of the Liberal Party of Canada had also suggested increasing the Governor General’s salary because taxes would henceforth have to be paid. I know of no employer who, after having seen an employee's taxes increase even slightly, took pity on the employee and offered a salary increase.

Worse still, the government doubled the Governor General’s salary, which is completely out of line. It can in no way be considered normal to do so. To tell people in the budget that the Governor General’s salary will be taxed and then to increase that salary from $135,000 to $270,000, which few people in Canada or Quebec earn, amounts to laughing at people.

The member criticized the Bloc Québécois for having chosen this particular moment, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, for moving such a motion. I, on the contrary, think that it is a good time to think about the fact that the monarchy is archaic. Although this is 2012, the monarchy still governs the way we live in Canada and Quebec.

The Queen is the Queen of Canada, but in my view, no one today thinks that she serves any purpose whatsoever. However, some may believe that she does. In Quebec, however, the survey was very clear. According to this survey, over 70% of people think that we should simply get rid of the monarchy—with all due respect.

The history is there. My father teaches history. I think it is obvious that at a certain time, the queens and kings had a role to play. But today, with the parliamentary system and democracy, the role performed by these people could very well be replaced—because it seems to be strictly ceremonial—by a role that could be played by Parliament. For example, the Speaker of the House of Commons could very well give assent to bills. If the Senate—which the Bloc could well do without— is still there, then the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons could give final assent to any bill democratically passed by parliamentarians elected legitimately and democratically by the people.

What useful role does the Governor General in fact perform? At the moment, apart from rubber stamping and making a few appearances, the Governor General costs us a great deal, it has to be said. It is not only the Governor General who is expensive, but everything concerning the monarchy, including of course the lieutenant-governors of each province. In Quebec, we had one who cost us dearly.

It is perhaps being settled in court. It is unfortunate, because she could have had a more honourable career had it not been for the allegations made against her. One thing is certain: our current system of government is absolutely archaic.

Moreover, since winning a majority, the Conservative government has gone practically crazy over the monarchy. The Canadian armed forces are once again the royal forces, and their uniforms and names have had to be changed. A stained glass window has also been made to honour Queen Victoria. There has been frenzied spending to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee. For example, money has been spent on medals. CBC took advantage of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee to give us information on what this is costing taxpayers. We learned a few days ago on a CBC program, that the monarchy costs us more than it actually does the English. Indeed, the monarchy costs approximately $1.50 per person here in Canada, and only $.93 per person in England. That is quite absurd.

In other former colonies, such as Australia, they also decided to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee this year, but not with as much pomp, and especially not with the same level of spending as here. I believe that the contradiction between this inappropriate spending and the cutbacks announced by the government was also raised in this House. In the same budget where it was announced that the Governor General would finally be taxed—thanks to my colleague from Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, who quite fairly raised this relevant issue—it was announced that not only would his salary be doubled, there would be a multitude of cuts, including those to the famous employment insurance system.

The unemployed are being told that their pay will be cut by 30%, that they will have to accept lower-paying jobs and that they will have to spend more on gas to get around. Indeed, they will have to work an hour or more from their homes, and they may even have to relocate from one region to another. At the same time, the government is acting like it has a lot of money, like it is rolling in it, like it can throw parties and continue to live with a system that is now obsolete. I am not ashamed to say that I feel this way, and I am not the only one; many people share this opinion. I hear people say this very often.

There is no need to be disloyal to the Queen of England. We can show her respect, and that is what we are doing. For example, this week, we chose not to block or interrupt MPs' messages on the occasion of her diamond jubilee. But at the same time, we told everyone that we are not jubilant and that we do not need a monarchy in Canada.

My colleague's motion was moved before the budget was tabled. That is why it was straightforward. All he wanted was for the only non-taxable salary in Canada to be taxed. The government took his advice and included the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour's proposal to tax the Governor General's salary in the budget, but it also included the following poison pill: the Governor General's salary will go up from $135,000 to $270,000, a two-fold increase.

I would therefore like to propose an amendment, seconded by my colleague from Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

I propose adding the following words to the end of the my colleague's motion concerning the Governor General's salary:

without increasing his salary

I think that would deal with the government's attempts to thumb its nose at the people.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2012 / 7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The amendment to motion M-313 would add the words “without increasing his salary” at the end. The amendment is in order.

It is therefore my duty to inform hon. members that, pursuant to Standing Order 93(3), no amendment may be proposed to a private member's motion unless the sponsor of the item indicates his or her consent.

Therefore, I ask the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour if he consents to the amendment being moved.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

I agree with the amendment, Mr. Speaker.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member consents to the amendment being moved. We now resume debate on the amendment.

The hon. member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in this debate on the motion made by my hon. colleague. It must be understood that the only Canadian citizen who paid no taxes, the Governor General, must be subject to the same rules of fairness that apply to all Canadians.

In that regard, and in a spirit of fairness, the motion made by the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour makes sense both for parliamentarians and for the public.

The amendment that my colleague, the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska, has just proposed logically blends this desire to tax the Governor General with the addition that his salary will not be increased. That is to say, he will maintain the same income that he had before. If we make an amendment that makes the Governor General's salary taxable and then we double that salary, there is no effect. The fact of adding an amendment that maintains the spirit of the motion introduced by the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour allows us to keep the essence of the motion as originally moved, given that, in the budget, the government has doubled the salary.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Resuming debate.

There being no other members rising for debate, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour may use his right of reply.

The hon. member has five minutes to conclude the debate on this issue.

Governor General
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to conclude this two-hour debate in which we were simply asking that the only person living in Canada who was not paying taxes began doing so like everyone else.

NDP and Liberal members said it is only normal that all citizens pay taxes. I was very pleased to learn that, in the last budget, the government followed up on this proposal and decided to make the Governor General pay taxes like everyone living in Canada, like the Queen and like all the other Governors Generals in the Commonwealth.

However, a few days later I was shocked when the government said that since the Governor General was going to pay taxes, it would double his salary. As my colleague pointed out earlier, to bring the Governor General's salary from $137,000 to $270,000 is a salary increase. He used to earn $135,000 net and now he will make about $150,000 net. Therefore, his salary has increased.

Moreover, his pension was taxable. When he was earning $135,000, he would later collect a pension of about $95,000 or $97,000 for the rest of his life, this after only five years of service. Now, he will collect $150,000 for the rest of his life. All this for just five years in office. It does not make any sense.

Does anyone know a worker in Canada who works five years and then collects a pension equal to 100% of his salary? It does not exist anywhere. Yet, that is the case with the Governor General. The government decided to make him pay taxes. However, by doubling his salary it has increased his annual pension by about $50,000. That just does not make any sense.

I am surprised that we have so much money to spend on a person who holds an honorary position, when the government is cutting benefits for the unemployed, when it is about to cut old age pensions for people who often live below the poverty line, and when it is slashing funding for environmental organizations and women's groups.

However, I am very pleased that my colleague tabled an amendment that adds meaning to this motion, since that amendment provides that the salary must remain the same. The Governor General must pay taxes on his current salary.

I wished that while debating this motion, we would also reflect on the relevancy of the honorary and archaic position of Governor General, which is a symbol of monarchy that is totally out of place in a democratic society. Monarchy and democracy do not go together. These two terms are totally opposed.

As the hon. member suggested earlier, for royal assent, we could have a letter from the Speaker of the House and a letter from the Speaker of the Senate confirming that there was a majority vote on the bill. In that way, the bill would be enacted, and we would not have to wait for the signature of the Governor General, a symbolic and archaic gesture.

The government is trying to make cuts right and left. Well, ladies and gentlemen, this is a perfect spot for cuts. You could cut tens of millions of dollars in spending right there instead of attacking the unemployed, seniors and non-profit organizations.

The Governor General costs us $60 million, almost the salary of 300 hon. members for one person. The Senate costs $45 million in total, with the expenses of all 104 senators.

Let me conclude by saying that we have to really think about the Governor General's role. I would also say to the members opposite that I am a Quebecker, that I am proud of it and that I have my Quebec symbols. Are they proud to be Canadian? If so, then why do they not have Canadian symbols instead of symbols of the monarchy, a vestige of colonialism?

Governor General
Private Members' Business

7:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The time provided for private members' business has expired. The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?