An Act to amend the Governor General’s Act (retiring annuity and other benefits)

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of June 1, 2021

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill S-232.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Governor General’s Act to provide that a Governor General is not eligible for a retiring annuity or other benefits unless they hold office for at least five consecutive years.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Governor General's ActPrivate Members' Business

April 26th, 2021 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Marilyn Gladu Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-271, which seeks to amend the Governor General's Act.

The Bloc Québécois member wants the Governor General to be paid an annual salary of $1 and not be entitled to a pension. I cannot support that.

The more important question regarding the Governor General is why this bill has even been brought forward, and it is clear to me the reason is that Canadians are angry. They are angry the Prime Minister failed to vet Julie Payette. He failed to follow what had been done in previous parliaments, which was to have a committee that selected and vetted the candidates, so we could be sure the candidate for Governor General was actually able to perform the duty well.

There was plenty of evidence that Julie Payette was not going to meet that criteria, just from the stories of what was happening from the United States and her previous places of employment, where there were clearly issues similar to the harassment allegations that were brought forward when she was here. The Prime Minister totally failed to vet her, and so Canadians are rightly angry.

I see now that going forward the government has recognized that we do need to have a selection committee. Even though it has a selection committee of the Prime Minister's Liberal friends, at least it is a committee that will vet the candidate, which is important.

The other thing that is clear is that the Prime Minister failed to quickly respond to the allegations of serious harassment that were being made from the time the Governor General was put in place. This behaviour was allowed to go on for years before it was finally addressed. I am not surprised to see that. I am currently at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women studying the sexual misconduct in the military, where, for three years, the Minister of National Defence took no action on allegations against General Vance and many of the other sexual misconduct allegations.

It is a chronic behaviour, a failure to act, on the part of the Liberal government. Obviously, when it comes to issues of employee performance, there is a documentation process that is usually put in place so one does not have employees who have been a disaster leave the position and receive a pension of $150,000 a year and expenses of $200,000 at the discretion of the government. That is another failure, and Canadians are rightly outraged about that.

That said, the Governor General's role is an important role. I have attended many of the honouring ceremonies at Rideau Hall, where the Order of Canada is presented, as well as many of the recognitions for excellence in arts and science and the number of the medals of honour that are presented. To recognize excellence in our country is something that is important to Canadians. It is also important to have that role represent our monarchy.

Although the Bloc member who spoke earlier is not a fan of the Queen, there are many in Canada who love being part of the Commonwealth, love the Queen and love being part of an institution that has, as the previous speaker pointed out, been essential in the treaties that have been put in place in many of the systems of our democracy that exist.

When it comes to picking a future Governor General, I would really hope the Prime Minister's committee would consider that the Governor General is here to represent the Queen within Canada. The Queen is the head of the Church of England. It was an absolute affront that the previous Governor General mocked Canadians who believe in God, when she is supposed to be representing the Queen, who is the head of the Church of England. I would hope that, when vetting the next candidate, due consideration is given to a person who can at least respect and represent our monarchy here in Canada.

In terms of salary, we want to attract an excellent candidate, and a dollar is actually rather insulting for the amount of time the Governor General is required to attend various events, such as the honours I mentioned, and in light of the fact we want somebody who can represent Canada and represent us to the world. It is a very important role, and to get that kind of candidate, we need to have a salary that is commensurate with that.

I understand that the salary of $330,000 is what is currently merited. I think that is open to discussion, as the previous member said, but certainly a dollar is far too low for the kind of candidate that we would want. I will also note that the salary is commensurate with other Commonwealth places such as Australia and New Zealand, so it is in line with that.

In terms of the pension, it is good to have a discussion about pensions. I find that often in government pensions are not commensurate with the private sector. It would not be acceptable in the private sector, after working for five years, to get a pension of $150,000 a year. That would be outrageous. This is something worthy of consideration.

At the same time, in order to attract a good candidate, the salary has to be high. I know there are a lot of discussions about even MPs should not be receiving a pension, but on the other hand, many people taking this position are taking a salary cut in order to serve the public. There is that to consider, and I certainly would be open to discussions about what should happen there. To me, a full pension of $150,000 a year after being in any role for five years is really excessive.

In terms of the expense account, it depends what Canadians want the Governor General to do once the Governor General is out of that role. There are some examples where they have taken up charitable causes, but should the taxpayer really be funding that desire of a person to have a charitable cause? As was rightly pointed out, Adrienne Clarkson did spend a million dollars of taxpayer money. There is not a lot of auditing of what is in that expenditure. Canadians have clearly expressed that they are not really willing to continue the pomp and splendour of the Governor General after they have left their position. That should be a consideration when the government considers what it is going to give.

I would say that a better bill would be Senator Claude Carignan's bill, Bill S-232, which is hoping to be before the Senate. It has been presented, but with the pandemic, the Senate is consumed with government bills and is not able to pay as much attention to Senate Private Members' Business.

That bill says that if the Governor General leaves their position before their term is done for any reason other than a medical reason, that person would not then be eligible for pension or for the expenses that are at the discretion of the government. That is a very good bill because it would correct things going forward to make sure that people serve their role, and if they do, then they receive what is due. However, if the same thing happened that happened with Julie Payette, that person would not be eligible for pension or expenses. In fact, if that went into law, it would not take away the money she has received to date, but it would take away any money in the future.

That is a very good bill brought forward by the senator. Hopefully, we will see the discussion and debate in the Senate, and then it will make its way over to this place, so we could have a discussion. That is where Canadians are. They realize the Governor General's position is important and that it is worthy of pay and worthy of some remuneration, but not in a situation where the Governor General leaves in disgrace and the person is equally meriting that compensation.

For those who may not be aware, there is a petition my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable has put forward, e-petition 3314. It essentially does what Senator Carignan's bill is asking for. It calls on the government to implement the new requirement that, if one does not serve their full five years and leaves for reasons other than medical, they would not receive a pension and would not be eligible for the expenses. I encourage everyone to sign that petition.

I am very happy to have been able to speak today about the value of the role of Governor General and to give honour to the many who have served well in that role, such as the Right Hon. David Johnston.