moved that Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak this afternoon on the third reading of Bill C-28, the parliamentary compensation legislation.
As I indicated in this House on Tuesday, Bill C-28 is straightforward. It simply implements the report of the independent Lumley Commission, a commission created by order in council last January. The Lumley Commission submitted a report in accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act. We approved this report and we are simply trying to implement it.
The Lumley Commission stated that:
A good day's work deserves a fair wage, and there is no reason that this should not apply to those who commit to public service.
The Lumley Commission recommendations, which are reflected in Bill C-28, are in my view fair. And I am very pleased with the broad support for the Lumley report.
The House leader for the official opposition supported key elements of the Lumley report when he said that his party had called for “an independent commission to make recommendations regarding MPs' salaries” in the future and that such recommendations “be done by the people who look at the judges' salaries, which is independent”. He further stated that his party had “promoted the concept that MPs' pensions should be more in line with the private sector”.
The NDP House leader said “the process we have embarked on today is much superior to ones I have experienced in the past”.
He further stated:
What we have here, with notice being given on a Friday, the bill introduced on a Monday, second reading debate on Tuesday, committee of the whole on Wednesday and third reading and final vote on Thursday...does give Canadians time to get in touch with their MPs and give them their opinions before dealing with a fait accompli.
Those are the words of the House leader for the New Democratic Party.
On Tuesday, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans said, and I quote:
We in the Bloc Quebecois are of the opinion that Mr. Lumley and the other two members of his committee have carried out a serious, detailed and well researched study of the situation.
So, several representatives of the political parties in the House have commented favourably on this report.
The subject of parliamentary pensions has been noted by members of the House during consideration of Bill C-28. The Leader of the Official Opposition raised it today during question period. He of course now knows, on verification, that the numbers he quoted from the newspaper were factually incorrect, grossly exaggerated and completely off base. I am sure the hon. member knows not to refer to things that are improperly researched. They are bound to get people in trouble. He knows something about that.
I would emphasize that Bill C-28 would implement the Lumley commission's recommendation that pension provisions be adjusted to limit the cost of compensation increases. According to Bill C-28, the accrual rate would be reduced by 25%, from 4% to 3%. The reduction would result in a saving of $400,000 annually for the Canadian taxpayer, and we all know why. There are two reasons. First, the accrual rate would decrease. Second, the premiums would be paid on a larger amount.
For the average MP, the premiums would be approximately $3,000 a year more. Because people like myself and the leader of the opposition get larger salaries, we would pay even more. The leader of the opposition and myself, and I say that because our salaries are identical and much higher than those of the average MP, would pay approximately $4,000 a year more than we pay now in premiums on the pension plan.
It is interesting to note that in a Toronto Star article today an evaluation was done on MP pensions, even the one paid to the Prime Minister. They were deemed not to be overly generous given the size of the premiums.
Higher compensation levels would of course result in an increase in pension benefits but those benefits would be fully paid for by members themselves through their contributions to the parliamentary pension plan as I have just described.
During the second reading debate on Tuesday, members of parliament rose to speak about the need for fair compensation for their demanding workload. Members recognized the Lumley commission's research in comparing parliamentary compensation with other professions.
It has been clear this week that almost all members, certainly the vast majority, agree that Bill C-28 would: first, strike an appropriate balance in determining a fair level of compensation; second, reinforce our ability to attract the best and brightest to public life; and third, strengthen accountability to taxpayers on the issue of parliamentary compensation, the judges commission, which will now rule, and so on.
I would remind those who have spoken against implementing the Lumley recommendations that compensation for MPs rose 6% between 1991 and 2000. Public sector increases have amounted to 15%, private sector increases have amounted to 22% and the conference board survey puts executives at 31%. Of course 31% is not even sought in the bill.
A comparison with judges, and I described it yesterday during report stage debate, shows that a member of parliament even with this increase would not be paid nearly what federal court judges were paid 30 years ago.
A survey comparing the salaries of legislators in 12 countries ranked Canadian legislators ninth behind those of G-7 nations such as the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, France and others.
Experts on compensation in the private sector have commented on parliamentary remuneration and the Lumley commission's recommendations.
Here is what the media had to say about the Lumley report. The Globe and Mail on May 30 stated:
We would do well to consider this as citizens in pursuit of good government...What job is comparable to being one of a few hundred legislators mastering difficult, complex subjects and passing laws that affect every Canadian's life? La Presse noted on May 31 that a good MP more than earns his salary, particularly when his workload and what he is paid are compared to equivalent jobs in the labour market.
I will take a minute to talk about the opting in provisions. A number of members yesterday commented about the opting in provisions. Under Bill C-28, parliamentarians would be given the right to decide whether the Lumley commission report should apply to themselves. I would say to all members that they are being given a choice and are free to do what they think.
I will say once again, if I can be so bold, that I advise all members to vote for the bill. Should they not vote for the bill they should opt in to the program anyway. I would ask all members to do this because they are all deserving of the salary that members of parliament are paid.
Opting in provisions have been used many times in the past. Some members alleged yesterday that it was unprecedented. However they were sought by members of the House only a few years ago regarding the pension program.