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.