Mr. Speaker, I rise today to present the position of our political party.
I want to say from the outset that the reason our opinion differs from that of the other political parties it that we refuse to engage in any form of hypocrisy regarding the salaries and allowances of members of the House of Commons.
Indeed, two years ago, members of the House unanimously decided to link the salaries of parliamentarians with those of justices of the Supreme Court and other courts in Canada.
For the benefit of the citizens paying these salaries and watching us, the basic principle was that the Prime Minister's salary should be equivalent to that of the chief justice of the Supreme Court. I realize that the Prime Minister is not performing very well and that, perhaps, he does not deserve to hold this position, but as long as he is the Prime Minister, as far as we are concerned, he deserves the salary of the position. In our opinion, the Prime Minister should earn at least the same salary as the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
These two salaries are paid by taxpayers. Let us stop being hypocritical and admit that from these same taxes the public is paying us. A comparable scale enables the public to evaluate the importance of the work we do. I think everyone agrees that the job of Prime Minister of Canada is equal to if not greater in importance than that of chief justice of the Supreme Court. Moreover, the latter does not have to get elected and he does not have to justify his decisions. He is appointed for life and he must work in a much more protected environment than the Prime Minister, the ministers or any parliamentarian in this Parliament. This is our first point.
How is it that, today, we find ourselves holding a debate that has already taken place? We are once again talking about the salaries of parliamentarians and an amendment is proposed to allow holders of certain positions to enjoy additional monetary benefits.
My comments and my refusal to support the amendment have nothing to do with the value of the work done by these people. Absolutely not. My comments and our position have to do with the whole bill and the process whereby we are once again talking about the salaries of elected members, because of the Prime Minister's lack of courage. That is the reality.
When the Prime Minister realized that the committee recommendation on judges salaries granted an 11% salary increase, there was an outcry across Canada. The Prime Minister addressed this matter quickly. We would have expected a statesman to say that 11% is high for a salary increase and that the salary determination process for judges and members of Parliament would be reviewed. He should have said that in today's economy, it made no sense to give an 11% salary increase to all these people, because it is the public who pays. That is what we would have expected a statesman to say.
However, totally grandstanding, the Prime Minister grabbed the first microphone he could to say that MPs would not be getting an 11% salary increase and that their pay would be delinked from judges' salaries. He acted as though Canadians felt that an 11% increase was too high for MPs, but not for judges. Let us not be hypocrites. For Canadians, an 11% salary increase was too high for judges and for MPs.
An examination of the mechanism is called for, not hypocritical behaviour and image polishing. The Liberals wanted to have everyone believe that they were being generous and that they did not want an 11% increase, but would grant it to the judges.
The public will start trusting politicians when politicians start having principles. To have principles is to be able to carry an argument through to its conclusion.
If the outcome of that argument is that the result is out of proportion, the entire process must be reviewed and not just one part or a little bit that serves our purposes and makes us look good. We must look at the entire process.
We cannot support the amendment and we cannot support the bill. We are busily undoing what this government had us doing 24 months ago. It is absolutely, incredibly, ridiculous. There is a limit to what the people can accept. The same members of Parliament rose in this House to tell us they had found the way to finally solve the problem of parliamentary salaries. Today, these same members are rising to tell us the opposite. I have never seen anything like it.
How can the people have confidence in this Liberal government? It is obvious that a Liberal government says whatever will give it an advantage at the time it is speaking. That is not discourse based on principles; that is discourse based on partisan political interests. That is what we face on the other side. That is why we refuse to act in the miserable film they are proposing. It is not right.
And as for the Conservative Party, to listen to them, it is time to start playing with salaries. We take the salary. We take it not. “I think I do not deserve it, so I will not take my allowance.” “I deserve half my salary, so I will take half.” What kind of society would we have if everyone applied the Conservatives' principles?
In schools, young teachers could say as they were hired, “I come from a well-off family; I will take half the salary to do the job”. Another might say, “I think I am very good; I will take the full salary”, or “I am going to do a good job, but I think being a teacher is not very tiring, so I will take three-quarters of the salary”. This is all nonsense.
This does not seem like a parliament but rather like a day care. Everyone is bringing their own idea and their own opinion to the table, and the impression is that this is how society is built. We have to build our society on principles. We had established principles for determining parliamentary compensation. These principles have been set aside. The Bloc Québécois said that, since the compensation system was being set aside, parliamentarians would not get an increase. Since this is the case and we want to people to be happy, let us ask the public what it thinks. No increase for any parliamentarian: this is the position of the Bloc Québécois.
When the members of this House are responsible enough to properly discuss this issue is when we can talk about linking parliamentary compensation to compensation for senior public servants, the judiciary and whomever else we decide to link our compensation to.
I do not believe there would be a conflict of interest if we were to tie parliamentary compensation to that of public servants. Would we vote for huge salaries for 300,000 public servants so we could give ourselves a $500 raise? That does not hold water. It is not fair, and the way the government is proceeding is not right.
There is one way of doing things for the judiciary, another for parliamentarians, which means much lower increases, yet another for senior officials, who get bigger raises than junior public servants, who in turn get a bigger increase than MPs. It is a total mess. Everything is on a case-by-case basis. Everything depends on partisan interests instead of on principles.
MPs, senior public servants, junior public servants, the judiciary and everyone, big or small, should get the same increase. The same principle should apply to everyone. In my mind, this would be the most logical solution and more acceptable to the public.