House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.


Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Randy White Reform Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like Motion No. P-28 to be called.

Motion No. P-28

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all documents, reports, minutes of meetings, notes, memos, correspondence and invoices relating to senior citizen access to the nine-hole golf course at the Ferndale Penitentiary.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that this Motion for the Production of Papers be transferred for debate pursuant to Standing Order 97(1).

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate pursuant to Standing Order 97(1).

Is it agreed that the remaining Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers stand?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members


The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are two motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted on separately.

Motion No. 2 will be debated and voted on separately.

I am now going to put Motion No. 1 to the House.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC


Motion No. 1

That Bill C-37 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-37 is to amend the Judges Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The Bloc Quebecois is generally in favour of this bill, but has many reservations about certain aspects of it. The motion I am moving calls for the deletion of clause 5 which, in my view and in the view of the Bloc Quebecois, gives unreasonable salary increases to judges, in light of the financial situation and the cutbacks that have taken place in various departments and sectors in Canada and Quebec.

I see no need for a 40-minute speech about this. It is very easily understood and I will give figures to make it clear.

My motion reads as follows:

That Bill C-37 be amended by deleting Clause 5.

If members examine the bill, they will see that clause 5 deals with the determination of judges' salaries after June 1, 1997.

In committee, an attempt was made to convince me that Bill C-37 is not a retroactive bill. An attempt was made to convince me that judges in courts under federal jurisdiction, that is the Quebec Superior Court, the Ontario Supreme Court, appeal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of Canada, were not being given a retroactive increase.

If members read clause 5, however, they will clearly see that the period used to determine the salary goes back to April 1, 1997. The government should be aware that it is now June 3, 1998 and that this bill has not yet been passed. In other words, when it is passed, judges' salaries will be determined retroactive to April 1, 1997.

The poor judges did not have a big enough increase. Under the Judges Act, they received an increase of 2.08% on April 1, 1997 and of 2.08% on April 1, 1998. However, the government in its great wisdom thought it a good idea to ask a committee to look into judges salaries.

A report was released—the Scott report. From it and its study the government is proposing, in addition to the 2.08% for two years, an additional increase for the judges of 4.1% as of April 1, 1997 and 4.1% as of April 1, 1998. Thus, once parliament passes Bill C-37—today or in a week from now, it does not much matter—the judges will have a retroactive salary increase of some 13.8%, if we add up all the percentages.

For someone earning $25,000, 13.8% is not a whole lot. But federal judges currently earn, before the increase, between $165,000 and $210,000. That means that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, because he earns the most and it is the highest court as well, earns about $210,000 today. The 13.8% increase amounts to between $25,000 and $27,000—I do not have the calculations here—in retroactive increases as of April 1, 1998.

I do not think such increases are justified at the moment. Do not get me wrong. I am not saying that the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada, the Superior Court, the Court of Appeal or whatever do not deserve a salary increase. That is not what I am saying. I am saying that, right now, with the state of public finances and the terrible cuts the government opposite is imposing on the most disadvantaged, a salary increase of about 13% for people earning $165,000 to $210,000 is indecent.

While the government will have cut over $30 billion in transfer payments by 2003, it is considering increasing the salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada by $25,000 to $27,000. While the government is pocketing approximately $700,000 an hour with the employment insurance plan we discussed last week and again this week, accumulating a surplus in excess of $19 billion—

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

That it will pocket.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

That it will pocket. A 13.8% wage increase is contemplated for judges.

On the one hand, cuts are made in health and in transfer payments to the provinces for education, but on the other hand, a 13.8% wage increase is contemplated for judges.

Frankly, I think this is not the right time to give them a raise, the same way it is not the right time to give one to government employees. In the committee, judges were compared to senior government officials for the purpose of increasing their wages. In a few weeks or months, senior government officials will compare themselves to judges to get a raise. Where will this all end?

At present, we have good, well paid judges, earning between $165,000 and $210,000, plus a number of paid expenses like the ones the members of this House and the Prime Minister get. Perhaps the Prime Minister is not paid well enough, but we must also look at who is paid for the zero deficit the government has been so eager to achieve and rightly so.

Each of us must do our part. I do not think that it is appropriate to give the judges a raise on top of the one already provided for, because the existing legislation does provide for a raise for them, while many people have not had any raise in recent years. Under the Judges Act, they already have a 2.08% increase. I believe 2% is within the normal range, and reasonable.

But to add onto that, under the bill we have before us, 4.1% effective April 1, 1997 and another 4.1% effective April 1, 1998, is unreasonable in my opinion.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

That is four times the inflation rate.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

My colleague from Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot tells me it is four times the inflation rate. I think this should be taken into consideration, given his expertise in the matter. I am sure the government did not take it into consideration and, since we now say this is four times inflation, I think this is one more argument in support of my calling it unreasonable.

Since I have only one minute left, I would like to make it clear that, if we are to have quality judges, they must be paid accordingly. But I believe that a salary of $165,00 to $210,000 is plenty to ensure that we get judges of the quality we have at present. I have practiced law and I am the justice critic. I am very attentive to their rulings and I believe that, at the present time, the salary judges get is sufficient to get quality judges.

I am sure that members discuss these appointments within the Liberal Party. We know how appointments work in the judiciary, they are political appointments. If members look at the list of people waiting to be judges, they will agree with me that all of them feel that a salary of $165,000 to $210,000 is sufficient.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Ahuntsic Québec


Eleni Bakopanos LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is well aware, since he sits on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, this issue was discussed on a number of occasions when we reviewed the bill.

The government is following up on the recommendation made by an independent commission appointed by Parliament, the Scott commission. Such commissions play an important role, that is to preserve public confidence in the independence of the courts. This is a role to which the Supreme Court of Canada gave constitutional stature in a recent decision.

We took a very close look at the recommendations of the Scott commission, and we decided to follow up on the ones we felt were legitimate, which include raising the salaries of judges.

Judges are not considered public servants, even though they are paid by the Treasury Board. Canadian judges must receive an adequate salary that reflects the importance of their role in our society and the constraints related to their responsibilities.

In determining whether the recommendation was reasonable, the Scott commission—which, again, was an independent commission—took into consideration the specific constitutional role of the judiciary and other factors, such as the need to attract and to keep the best qualified candidates to carry out the responsibilities of a judge.

I want the House to know that there is a procedure in place, but it is not political one, contrary to what the hon. member suggested. Indeed, there is an independent commission which submits to the minister the names of the best qualified people.

Judges also made a contribution to the reduction of the government deficit, since their salaries have been frozen since 1992. The increase provided in Bill C-37 only applies in the future. I repeat. judges should be recruited from various groups, including lawyers in private practice.

Considering the salaries paid to lawyers in private practice, we have to be able to attract the best lawyers. We want our courts to be run by the most qualified people in Canada. The salaries paid to judges simply do not compare with those paid to lawyers.

Still, we will have to offer salaries that will not deter the best candidates from applying. The proposed raise, recommended by the Scott commission, will bring judges' salaries in line with those of senior deputy ministers. For example, on April 1, 1997, a deputy minister at the DM3 equivalent level was paid between $140,000 and $170,000. The lowest salary a judge could earn is $165,500. As of April 1, 1998, public servants received a 5% salary increase. Their salaries are now between $173,000 and $203,000. For judges, it amounts to almost $176,000. This compares reasonably, given their level of responsibility.

We could talk a little about salary increases approved in some provinces. I will give a few examples. For Newfoundland, the rate of increase is 13%. For Saskatchewan, it is 16%; for Nova Scotia, it is 25%. For Newfoundland, as I said, it is 13%. I must add that for Newfoundland—

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

And Quebec?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

I am coming to Quebec.

For Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, this increase is retroactive. For the other two it is not.

As for Quebec, if my information is correct, a committee is now looking at judges' salaries. There has been no increase since 1992. The salary of the chief justice of the Court of Quebec is $132,786, and that of the associate chief justice $130,516. As I said, there has been no increase yet because it is before a parliamentary committee. We do not know the percentage increase.

I would once again like to emphasize that the government looked carefully at the recommendations of the Scott commission and that it was guided by them in its recommendations to committee members. If we wish to attract the best candidates to judgeships, and I repeat that we want the judiciary to be independent, I think that these recommendations are very reasonable.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.


Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the motivation for this bill is very unusual. I want to speak to this bill and to this particular amendment.

I begin by pointing out to the House that when this bill was before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights only two witnesses appeared. We had Mr. David W. Scott, the author of the Scott report which had the recommendations that my hon. colleague across the way referred to, and we had the commissioner for federal judicial affairs. Only two witnesses.

We had asked for other witnesses. We asked for two constitutional lawyers who would have been able to answer some of the questions I had concerning the contents of the bill and the motivation for the bill. Even though the committee had time we were denied that. It had originally scheduled time to hear 10 witnesses. It appears that at least six refused to appear to give testimony to the committee on this bill. The witnesses we had asked for were not asked to attend. This was a decision made by the Liberal majority on the committee.

What do we have in this bill? I support my hon. colleague's motion. I will not spend as much time as my colleagues and others in this House will on the raises the judges will be receiving if this bill is passed without this particular amendment.

Over the next two years, the Chief Justice of Canada will receive a $17,000 increase in pay. The other justices will receive the same. The chief justice and associate chief justice of the Federal Court and Tax Court of Canada will receive a $15,000 increase in pay. Justices of the federal court will receive $13,000. When we get to the superior courts, the chief justice and associate chief justice will receive a $15,000 increase in pay over the next two years. Justices of the superior court will receive a $13,000 increase.

I agree with my hon. colleague that that is quite a raise in pay, considering that at this particular time there are families with children who are struggling to make ends meet. They are making $35,000 and less. The chief justices now make $208,200. Other justices of the Supreme Court of Canada make $192,000. I think a lot of Canadians would agree that that is a pretty comfortable salary.

Yes we have to attract top qualified people to the courts but nevertheless this is a subject that should be discussed in this House. I think my hon. colleague brought forward this amendment for that very purpose, to enable this matter to be looked at and debated and not rushed through this House unexamined as the bill was rushed through the justice committee.

I want to touch for a moment on the motivation for this bill in the first place. It was motivated by a ruling of the Supreme Court of Canada on the P.E.I. and Alberta cases where it was determined that a commission must be set up by all provincial governments as well as the federal government to examine the benefits and pay of judges. Recommendations must go to the government.

The problem with this is that it has been determined, if I understand correctly and I believe that I do, that if the government of a province or the federal government does not follow through with the recommendation, it can be taken to court. It can go to the Supreme Court of Canada. If the decision of the supreme court indicates that the decision of that government is not reasonable and that the raise or other benefits should be provided, that can be construed as interference by the Government of Canada or the government of a province into the judicial independence of the courts.

When I read Justice LaForest's dissenting opinion he said clearly what I think the common sense of this country would support. He indicated that any interference in any decision by any government, whether federal or provincial, that deals with judges pay or benefits that is not satisfactory to a court, including the supreme court of this country, ought not to be considered as an interference with the judicial independence of the court.

There is another area of grave concern which this bill raises. If the Parliament of Canada goes along with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, there is also an interference, an abridgement or an encroachment upon the supremacy of parliament to tax because the pay of judges comes from the public purse.

Suppose that the economic conditions of this country are such that everyone must take a pay reduction and the courts feel that that pay reduction is unacceptable or unfair, their subjective assessment is that it is not fair. According to that decision if the governments of this land do not want to face the consequences of the inference that that decision to reduce their pay interferes with the judicial independence of the court, then they are going to have to be guided by a decision of the court to tax the people in order to pay their salaries and benefits.

This is wrong. I agree with the dissenting opinion of Judge LaForest in this particular area. For the House of Commons to bring in this kind of bill in response to that decision of the Supreme Court of Canada is wrong as well. When they do that and refuse to bring in witnesses who could address some of the concerns that I and other members of the committee and perhaps this House have on that issue, this is wrong again.

What we are seeing is an encroachment by the powers of the judiciary into the supremacy of parliament not only to pass laws but also in the area of taxation. This is very serious. This is why I cannot support this bill.

My recommendation to members of the House, certainly my caucus but the rest of the members of this House is that we had better examine this very carefully because of the consequences of moving in concert with that judgment. If it is not challenged, where is it going to end?

I see that my time is up. I appreciate the indulgence of the Chair and the House. I will continue my debate when we arrive at the next amendment to this bill.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Peter Mancini NDP Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, I too rise to address the motion before the House. I indicate to the House that we will be supporting the motion from my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois.

I listened carefully when the member was presenting his arguments for this motion. He argued against an increase at this point in time for the members of the judiciary which this act to amend the Judges Act provides for. I concur with him on all of those remarks.

When this bill was first introduced in the House, I spoke against the bill. I said that at this point in time it was essential that moneys be returned to the provinces for support for those who are working in the courts.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice stood up and quoted statistics from other provinces. She said that there has been an increase in judicial salaries, and quoted my home province of Nova Scotia and said some 20% or 25%. She is right.

On Monday of this week I walked the picket lines with the crown attorneys for the province of Nova Scotia. They did not want to stop working but after four years of negotiations with the provincial government they could get nowhere in terms of talking about support services. They took the extraordinary step of work stoppage, of not attending court on Monday and Tuesday of this week. That is an extraordinary event in the history of my province.

On my way here today to speak to this bill, in fact walking across the street I was speaking on a cellphone with a lawyer in the Nova Scotia legal aid system. That lawyer has not been in court the last three days. It is because the judges have just received their 25% increase in salary and are on a judges conference. That lawyer cannot deal with the crushing caseload that has ended up on his desk in the last few days. It is to the point where they are spending their time answering complaints that have been written to their superiors. They do not have time to return calls. They do not have time to answer letters. They do not have the resources to cope with the crushing burden that the courts are faced with.

One of the examples that the crown prosecutors used is that they are still keeping file stats on those they are prosecuting on recipe cards. They do not have access to the Internet. They do not have up to date computers on their desks.

I know these matters all fall under provincial jurisdiction.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

An hon. member


Judges ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Peter Mancini NDP Sydney—Victoria, NS

The hon. member from the government says right.

But the reality is that the reason these dedicated public servants cannot access money from their provincial governments is that her government has cut the payments to the provinces for the last four years. This government has cut and cut and downloaded on the provinces. She sits there proud of that, laughs and takes pleasure in it.

These people cannot perform their functions but the money can be found to provide substantial increases for the federally appointed judges to the extent of over 8%. It is a substantial increase given the crushing burden that those who serve the public in the provinces are facing.

The parliamentary secretary talked a little about the appointment process which she defended. I questioned the Minister of Justice on this issue when she was before the standing committee on justice. She said there are committees in place and there is wide consultation. She is right that there are committees in place. It has been some time since I looked at the last committee in my own province. When I looked that committee was composed of a former campaign manager for the individual who had been the Liberal cabinet minister from my province.

I come from a small community where people wear their political affiliations on there sleeves so I knew who sat on that committee, I knew who was likely to get appointed. The last federally appointed justice was a good friend of mine and a good fellow. He had also been the collector of campaign contributions for the same cabinet minister.

That is not to say there are not good judges. I do not want to mislead the House or anyone who reads this. There are some very good judges who work long hours and deal with difficult cases and make good law. But there are some other judges. Part of the problem in the Judges Act is that there is no mechanism to keep in check or to make accountable or to separate the good judges from the bad or to separate those who are political appointees who do not perform their functions well from those appointees who go above and beyond their necessary work.

I thank the hon. member from the Bloc for bringing forward his amendment. I will be supporting it, because I think at this point it sends the wrong message. If the courts are struggling, as they are, with a backlog of cases and if the individuals going before the courts have not had increases, the lawyers I have mentioned, the crown attorneys and the legal aid lawyers, have had their wages either frozen or rolled back for nine years. At this point to suggest the judiciary ought to receive this salary increase is difficult for the morale of those who work in the courts and it sends the wrong message. And so I will be supporting my colleague's amendment.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 1 which would amend Bill C-37 by deleting clause 5, a clause that outlines the calculation of a judge's salary for the 12 months commencing April 1, 1997 and April 1, 1998. Not only should this clause be deleted but the whole bill should be deleted.

This is the third time the Liberals have amended the all important Judges Act. During the last parliament in 1996 they introduced Bill C-2 and Bill C-42, both which were inconsequential pieces of legislation of little significance to Canadians who were more concerned about their safety.

Here we are again spending precious time on judges' salaries and benefits when this Liberal government has failed to introduce anything that addresses the victims bill of right or the Young Offenders Act. They failed to limit the use of conditional sentences for violent offenders. They have failed in so much and here we are debating this kind of bill regarding judges' salaries.

It occupies the justice committee's valuable time with these administrative matters at the expense of more important issues like amending laws on drinking and driving or a lot of things that would so much more protect society. That whole thing has to change. At the heart of this legislation is that it increases judges' salaries retroactively from April 1, 1997 to March 31, 1998 by 4.1% and by an additional 4.1% from April 1 1998 to March 31, 1999. In other words they will get an 8.2% increase over two years. I understand the average salary of a judge is approximately $140,000. This will mean the average will go up to in excess of $151,000. That is a substantial increase. The salaries are $208,200, $192,900, $177,700, $162,300, another $177,700.

Those wages are going to go up in the amounts that were described by my colleague from Crowfoot. They are going to end up really making big bucks.

The whole thing that is really perturbing about this is that we have people called public servants who have not received a pay raise for a long time, certainly not a pay raise of 8.2%.

This government continually awards judges and senior bureaucrats, including its own ministers, with large pay raises and bonuses while frontline police officers and low level public servants receive little to nothing. This government does not care about frontline peace officers who risk their lives every day to protect Canadians. It does not care about the lowly prison guards who put their lives on the line constantly, every time they show up and go to work in these penitentiaries. They are at high risk and we do not talk about a retroactive pay raise for them. That would be the wildest of dreams to these people. These frontline workers have not had a pay raise for many years and here we are talking about the elite once again getting more money.

I have seen Liberals in this House, including the two who are here now, at one time or another every week since 1993, through a member's statement or through some kind of process, bringing forth the topic about the millions of children, thousands and thousands of families suffering in this country, living below the poverty line, having a tough time making ends meet. Some of these raises are $17,000 or $15,000. I know people with families of two or three children trying to get by on a salary that big, let alone an increase.

These members keep talking about what a shame it is and that we have to do something about it. Here it is 1998 and they have done diddly squat. They have not done one thing to help the people who are living in poverty. Those same numbers are still out there. People are still suffering. Young families are still being evicted from their homes because they cannot meet the high rents now or they cannot meet the mortgage payments. People are eating meals that would not even compare to half as good as what prisoners in penitentiaries get. People are not able to play in a big park or shoot pool or take in any movies because they cannot afford to go out.

We spend time with legislation that says to people who are drawing anywhere from $170,000 to $200,000 and down to $130,000 that we have to do something for them, we have to get them a raise. What kind of hypocrisy is that?

I will almost guarantee that before we leave here some Liberal member will stand and boldly say we must do something about the poverty in our land and help these people who are suffering.

I am really getting tired of their constantly making those kinds of statements and then turning around and taking $25 million to give away free flags and saying “aren't I a nice girl?” or boy, or whatever.

In the meantime, imagine what $25 million would do for children on the streets of Ottawa and how people who work in child services and in child poverty situations would love to have a little teeny chunk of that $25 million. I do not understand where they are coming from. The last thing we should ever talk about is how much more money we should make in a raise without addressing the problems that face this country because of poverty stricken people.

For that reason alone it is a really sad day. It is of extreme importance, though, that judges' needs be met. We have to address this issue immediately. I do not know what their needs are. I would like to have a little problem with some of those needs. I do not understand.

We hear about all these difficulties. Why are we not addressing that? Why are we not standing to talk about those who are genuinely suffering out there instead of talking about things like this? It is because we have a greedy Liberal government in charge. It is all yap, yap, yap. It talks but does not act.

It acts all right. It acts on giving judges raises. I know some fine judges, people who work hard in their profession and they deserve to be paid for what they are worth. But I also know what some of these fine judges would say, “why do we not try to help out some of these people who are standing in my court every day because poverty sent a lot of them there?”. Why do we not do that? Because it is not in the Liberal philosophy. They all went to university. Most of them are lawyers. They majored in bleeding heart 101 and tear drop 102 and they do not think of anything but themselves, so it is difficult for them to understand.

The Minister of Justice is able to table a copy of the commission report but parliament is given no opportunity to respond. This is the reason for my honourable colleague from Crowfoot's motion that is coming up next to rectify this situation.

The creation of this commission also provides the federal government with, guess what, more opportunities for good old fat cat patronage appointments, making more positions available to those little boys and girls out there in our wide country who have been good little Liberals. What a sick way to run things. It is absolutely pathetic.

That member over there talking now and heckling would stand on her feet and say is it not a shame we have all these starving children. If it is a shame, she should get up and say cancel these things and let us look after the real needs of people instead of heckling over whether judges should get pay raises. Here we go again, patronage heaven coming back.

Liberal philosophy has to go, and the sooner the better.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak on this motion from my colleagues from the Bloc, which I will be supporting.

My colleague from Wild Rose just asked what are the needs of these judges. One judge in Alberta said he should be able to go on holiday every year. That is their need.

When I ran in the election to represent the people of Calgary East they told me I was the custodian of tax dollars. “Remember we elected you, we who every day go to work and come home and who have not seen a pay raise for a long time, who have a hard time putting food on the table”. They represent small business. They represent workers. The average earnings in my riding are not more than $30,000. Lots will do with less than $17,000.

I am here representing them and therefore I cannot agree to this substantial increase that would be granted to judges. The money being granted here, as many colleagues of mine have pointed out, a $17,000 increase over two years, would feed a lot of families in my riding. A lot of families earn less than that. Here we are giving a substantial increase to judges who, by all standards, are earning a reasonable and fair wage.

The parliamentary secretary said it was the right time for such an increase. Is it really the right time for such an increase when increases have been frozen and workers have received an average increase of 2%? Here we are proposing increases of 4.1% for one year and 4.1% for the second year, which will be retroactive. Nobody is offering retroactive pay to the workers who are fighting for an increase. Why are the judges being offered this?

In all aspects, morally and everything else, this substantial increase is not, in my view, an acceptable situation.

As my colleague from Wild Rose said, I have a lot of friends who are judges. They do a tremendous job. My speech is not an attack on judges. What I am talking about here today is this reprehensible increase that has been given to judges in such a short time. It is a huge amount of money which will be spent at a time when we could better utilize the money for other causes which need urgent attention, as my colleague has suggested.

The member is right to ask why we are debating this issue. Why are we debating in the House of Commons a bill which will give Canada's elite, who are already earning a reasonable and fair sum of money, an increase that under any normal Canadian circumstance is way out of line.

The bill also recommends the creation of a judicial compensation and benefits commission. If we are to rely on anything that the government has done in the past, we can bet there will be some Liberal appointees on that commission. This is just another patronage appointment commission being formed by this government.

This increase, averaging $13,000, within such a short period of time is not a reasonable increase. It is actually an unreasonable increase. I find it extremely hard to swallow. If I went back to my riding and told working Canadians that I approved an increase of $13,000 for judges, they would look at me and ask “Where do you live? Do you live in Canada? Do you live in this riding? Why are you supporting the elite receiving such a substantial sum of money?”

We all recognize the job the judiciary is doing and the fine work the judges are doing and we agree that they should be compensated fairly. Nobody has a quarrel or an argument with that, but we certainly do have a major difficulty when it comes to such a substantial increase in such a short period of time. It should not surprise me that this is coming from a government that knows how to compensate its friends and the elite in this country.

The Reform Party would like to reform the appointment process for judges by removing the patronage appointment process. Of course the parliamentary secretary, who is sitting over there, would not agree with that because she is one of the people who proposed these increases for her friends.

The Reform Party would like to reform the patronage appointment process by making it more transparent and publicly accountable. If we did that, fair compensation for judges would also become transparent. That is the key. The most important aspect is that compensation for judges should become more transparent.

Therefore, I will wholeheartedly support Motion No. 1, put forward by my colleague from the Bloc, to amend the bill by deleting clause 5.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

4:20 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I wish I could say that it is a pleasure for me to rise today to address the report stage of Bill C-37, but I must confess that following my comments and the comments of others when it was before the House for second reading, I had hoped the government might rethink this legislation instead of bringing it back.

Today I am here to speak to Motion No. 1, which was put forward by my colleague from the Bloc Quebecois. The motion would amend Bill C-37 by deleting clause 5. We have heard previous speakers address this particular clause because it is controversial. I certainly feel that it is controversial insofar as it deals specifically with an increase in judges' salaries. It is duly noted that judges, on average, make about $140,000 a year. This will amount to an 8.3% increase over the next couple of years.

When I rose to speak to Bill C-37 the last time it was before the House I noted that it was April 1. I thought it was perhaps a cruel April Fool's joke which had been foisted upon the Canadian public by the government of this country at a time when Canadians were increasingly concerned about judgments that were being brought down by the justices of Canada. Rather than debating some of the judgments, which I feel quite confident do not carry the judgment of the Canadian people, we find ourselves today, as we did on April 1, discussing a very substantial salary increase, amongst other things, in Bill C-37.

As other speakers from the opposition have noted, I support the motion put forward by the hon. member of the Bloc Quebecois to entirely delete clause 5, which would increase judges' salaries, at least at this particular time. As I did at second reading, I would draw the comparison for the viewing public at home between the salary increases for judges and the more recent salary increases that were granted to our RCMP officers. Those increases amounted to a mere 2%, which was retroactive to January 1, and a subsequent 1% increase on April 1, which, ironically, was the day we were debating the second reading stage of this bill. Another .75% will become due to the Mounties on October 1.

The starting salary for a third year constable will go from $50,500 to a little better than $52,000. These are the people who every day put their lives on the line to protect society, yet we find that in the eyes of this particular government they only warrant a small increase. The judges, who increasingly are returning violent convicted criminals back to the streets, will enjoy this 8.3% increase over the next two years.

As a number of my colleagues have indicated, I want to put it on the record that I am not casting aspersions upon all justices. That is not the case. We had somewhat of a heated debate on April 1 when certain members of the government felt that the official opposition, the Reform Party, in citing certain examples of judgements that have come down were doing exactly that. I want to say at the outset that is not the case.

It has been indicated by a number of my colleagues in the Reform Party that many of the judges in Canada today, both at the provincial and federal level, do great work. They bring down many judgments which carry the confidence of the Canadian people. However, unfortunately, a lot of them do not.

In referring to this issue today I would like to mention three cases that happened either in my riding of Prince George—Peace River or very near to it.

The first case I would like to cite is what has become known as the Feeney case. Michael Feeney was convicted of second degree murder in the bludgeoning death of 85 year old Frank Boyle in his home in Likely, B.C. in June of 1991. Likely is a small community just outside Williams Lake, which is outside my riding. Ironically, the lawyer who took the case to the supreme court is a lawyer from Prince George, which is in my riding, so I am fairly familiar with the case.

This unfortunate victim was smashed in the head five times with a crowbar and his truck and $400 in cash was missing. RCMP officers, following up on a tip that Feeney had been seen near the victim's stolen truck, went to Feeney's trailer to investigate. They entered his trailer and found his shirt splattered with blood. Subsequently they arrested Mr. Feeney.

However, the supreme court judges ruled that the police did not have reasonable grounds to arrest Feeney when they entered the trailer without a warrant. All evidence gained as a result of the arrest and the subsequent search which was conducted with a warrant were ruled inadmissible. It was a majority decision. It was not unanimous. The evidence included the bloodied shirt and his fingerprints, matching prints which were found on the victim's refrigerator, money hidden under a mattress and cigarettes similar to those found in the victim's house. I would suggest that it is going to very difficult for the crown counsel to obtain a conviction, if it ever goes to retrial, without the use of this evidence.

I will draw to the House's attention another case which was known as the Sullivan case. This happened in the city of Prince George. Wayne Richard Sullivan of Prince George was found non-criminally responsible by reason of a mental disorder in the January 1992 shooting death of his wife and the sexual assault at gunpoint of another woman. After a night of drinking, Sullivan proposed a threesome between himself, his wife and the other woman. His proposal was rejected. He then shot his wife in the temple, pointed the gun at the second woman and ordered her to remove her clothing.

The trial judge instructed the jury on the law relating to mental illness and criminal responsibility. The B.C. court of appeal judges ruled that the judge was correct in his instruction. The verdict of December 11, 1993 meant that Sullivan was confined in a secure mental facility, but subsequently would be released once it was determined he was no longer mentally disordered. Sullivan's punishment was a conditional release.

That judgment has raised a lot of concern not only in the community of Prince George, but in communities across our country. I raise it today as another example of how the judgments brought down by our justices certainly do not at all relate to what average citizens in our communities would feel is right, fair and just.

The last case I would bring forward today is the Baldwin murder. Here we have a case of an elderly gent in the city of Dawson Creek located in the southern end of my riding of Prince George—Peace River. The elderly gentleman was set upon in a park by six local teenagers and kicked and beaten to death. Six local teenagers were charged in the murder of James Baldwin. Mr. Baldwin, a homeless person, had set up camp in the park less than a dozen metres from where his body was found.

I guess I am already out of time, unfortunately. The point I am trying to make is that all of these judgments reinforce the view of the general public that there is something seriously wrong with our justice system. In fact they do not even refer to it as a justice system any more, but a legal system.

It is pretty hard to defend an 8.3% increase when people see these types of judgments coming down.

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4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Halifax West, Aboriginal affairs; the hon. member for Verchères, Varennes Tokamak; the hon. member for Sarnia—Lambton, the North American Free Trade Agreement; the hon. member for Charlotte, Hepatitis C; and the hon. member for Churchill River, the Environment.

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4:30 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to comment on remarks made earlier by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and member for Ahuntsic, which did not sound right to me.

For instance, she said that, at the federal level, judicial appointments were not political appointments. I will remind her that these appointments are made by a committee of seven members, four of whom are appointed by the Minister of Justice, and that the majority prevails. So the minister can make appointments with the support of four out of seven committee members, which form a majority since all it takes is 50% plus one—as members need to be reminded once in a while. Therefore, judicial appointments are political appointments.

In addition, the parliamentary secretary cited some figures on Quebec which are not quite accurate. With respect to judges' salaries, I will remind her that, when he was elected premier of Quebec in 1995, Lucien Bouchard ordered a 6% salary reduction for all government employees, including judges. This means that judges' salaries have been reduced by 6%.

Contrary to what the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice said, and this is my third point, the fact that a huge increase—a 13.8% compounded increase over two years—is recommended in a report does not means that it must automatically be approved.

The Blais report recommended that the salaries of members of Parliament be raised, but everyone on this side of the House said no. That is what the report recommended, but we said no. Why? Because we find it indecent to be talking about raising judges' salaries by 13.8% over two years, retroactive to April 1, 1997, when, on the other side of the House, since the Minister of Finance tabled his second budget, in 1995, there is a plan under way to cut back transfer payments to the provinces for welfare, post-secondary education and health. By 2003, $30 billion will have been taken away from the recipients of social assistance, the sick and the students in higher education.

Furthermore, those on the other side of the House are happy to steal an accumulated surplus in the employment insurance fund, which will reach $25 billion by the end of next year and which comes from the excessive contributions of employers and employees. The Minister of Finance is blithely dipping into it. He will continue to take up to $25 billion by the end of fiscal year 1998-99.

After all the sacrifices required from the population, all the theft from funds that do not belong to the federal government, it now wants us to agree to compound salary increases for judges of 13.8%.

I find the way the parliamentary secretary put it to us indecent, saying that such a monumental increase in judges' salary was needed to ensure quality candidates. With their annual salaries between $170,000 and $230,000, I imagine people are knocking the doors down in an effort to get a judge's position.

I would remind the House that salary increases are awarded in large measure to reflect changes in the cost of living. The cost of living is reflected in the consumer price index, and in the past three years the rate of inflation has moved between 2% and 1%. This means that the 13.8% salary increase given to judges over the next two years is 13 times greater than the current inflation rate of about 1%.

This makes no sense at all. How can we justify such a decision to people who have been subjected to indirect tax increases totalling $23 billion over the last three years? How can we explain to them that, with all the sacrifices they made in the areas of social welfare, post-secondary education and health care, with the minister having failed to index the tax tables—there was an increase in tax receipts, and that is an indirect form of tax increase—judges will now be getting a 13.8% increase? How can we justify maintaining the status quo while judges' salaries will be increased prodigiously, at a compound rate?

It is totally unacceptable. I add my voice to that of my distinguished colleague from Berthier—Montcalm, who did the right thing in bringing this scandal to light. It makes absolutely no sense to present things in this fashion, especially with the kind of arguments we just heard.

Lucien Bouchard, Premier of Quebec and leader of the Parti Quebecois, has understood that. That is why, two or three years ago, Quebec ordered a salary decrease rather than a freeze or an increase. It is only logical.

When one asks people to make sacrifices and makes budget cuts to reduce the deficit and create annual surpluses, as the finance minister did on the back of the poor, one does not give judges a 13.8% salary increase. It is totally unacceptable, and we will all fight against that.

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4:35 p.m.


Dick Harris Reform Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-37. I would like to say right off the bat that I am in absolute opposition to this bill as are my colleagues but perhaps for different reasons.

My reasoning is that nowhere in this government's philosophy, nowhere in any type of justice legislation it has brought down pertaining to judges and the judiciary have I ever seen the word accountability. The fact is there is zero accountability for judges in this country. There is no effective mechanism that this government or the previous Tory government have put in or would be prepared to use to remove judges from the bench.

In many cases in their fuzzy logic they have let violent criminals walk out of the courtroom with little or no penalty. Judges have used the conditional sentencing law that the Liberal government brought down in the most insane ways we could possibly imagine. Judges have continually bewildered our society with some of the decisions that have been made in this country.

I can give the example of something which is near and dear to my heart, the issue of people who choose to drink and then to get into their cars, drive and kill people. Judges have a latitude of sentencing from zero to 14 years. Historically the sentences have been on the low side of three and a half years.

There is no way to hold these judges accountable for the insane decisions they make. Now this government has the audacity to bring in Bill C-37 to give them more money. The insane legislation in Bill C-37 takes no back seat to some of the insane decisions that are made by the judges in this country. They do it and there is no accountability. Before this House begins to even consider any type of salary increase or a compensation increase for judges, the government had better darn well do what it should do. It should bring in some legislation that will make judges accountable before it even considers giving them a single cent more.

Then they have the audacity to suggest an 8.3% increase over two years plus they want to talk about annuities, payments and survivor benefits. It is very clear these are the very people who are setting the bad guys free after the RCMP have worked their butts off to get them to court. The RCMP are getting little or nothing by way of salary increases, the ones who do all the work, only to see all their work for naught because the bad guys are set free by some judge with some fuzzy logic in his head about what his or her definition of justice is.

Never in my lifetime would I ever support this package on Bill C-37 until there was an ounce of accountability brought in by this Liberal government. Never.

I want to get off judges for a minute and talk about the way this Liberal government deals with the justice system or, as my colleague from Prince George—Peace River said quite appropriately, the legal system in this country.

All over this country people are upset about the legal system and is it any wonder when we look at the Liberals in government and the Tories before them. A good percentage of them were lawyers anyway in their past life. Not their real life; they say their past life. Why would they do anything else but support their friends who are still in the system out there? That is what they have done.

The legal system, the so-called justice system we have in this country is not doing what it is supposed to do. It is not protecting society. It is not punishing the bad guys. It is feeding the coffers of the legal people who make a very good living defending the scoundrels who come before the judges. They are very good at it and they charge lots of money. Why would a government want to do anything to hurt its buddies out there in the legal business?

This government should be making the number one priority in the criminal justice system the protection of law-abiding citizens and the protection of society. That is what it should be doing. The former Minister of Justice, now the disgraced Minister of Health, said in this House last year that the number one criteria in the justice system is the rehabilitation and reintegration of criminals back into society.

That made us all sleep well that night. It made Canadians feel really good that the Liberal government was looking after the safety of their homes, the safety of their streets, the safety of their families, the safety of their wives and their husbands. It gave them a really empty feeling inside that they were not living in a safe society and they had little hope of it because the Liberal government under the former Minister of Justice had no concern about the safety of their streets and their families.

Government members would do well to listen to Canadian people instead of their lawyer friends out there in legal land. They would do well to get out in the street and talk to the people instead of drinking cappuccino with their lawyer buddies in the restaurants beside the law courts. They would do well to listen to the real people out there. If they did they would start to address some issues where there is a huge void.

Let us talk about our prison system. In case anybody does not know, a prison is a place where bad guys go when they are incarcerated to pay a penalty for committing crimes. That is what prisons are supposed to be for. Prisons are not supposed to be places where there are prisoners' unions which tell the warden what kind of meals or what kind of recreation prisoners should have.

I understand that people are not supposed to have drugs in prisons. Safeguards are supposed to be in place to make sure drugs do not get into prisons. Canadians know that many times it was the drugs they obtained outside prison that got them into prison in the first place.

Logic would tell us that if there were no drugs inside the prisons people might get better. They might be rehabilitated so they could somehow go back into society. Drugs put them there. Liberals have a hard time making that connection: drugs put them there so let us give them more drugs so that when they get out they will be better citizens. They do not stop the flow of drugs. They say they will give the poor guys in there clean needles so they can use their drugs in a safer fashion and condoms so they can have sex—

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4:45 p.m.


Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I fail to see what jails, penitentiaries and everything else the hon. member has referred to in the debate have to do with the motion before the House.