Mr. Speaker, I thank the opposition House leader for his comments. Because I know that members are so enthusiastic to give the bill third reading and passage, perhaps I was ahead of myself. The opposition House leader is absolutely correct. We will be addressing the report stage amendments and obviously I will be talking about the very worthy merits of the legislation.
I was saying that I am also delighted the committee reported back with the support of members of the NDP and the official opposition.
All the members know that, currently, parliamentary compensation is tied to compensation for the judiciary. Last September, the government promised that the changes to parliamentary compensation would reflect the average salary increase of Canadians. Bill C-30 follows up on this commitment.
In this bill, changes to parliamentary compensation are tied to the annual average wage settlement index, published by Human Resources and Skills Development. This index tracks annual pay increases in the private sector.
In particular, the index includes over 400 collective agreements for over 800,000 employees across Canada.It is published every February documenting the wage changes of the previous calendar year.
This index is widely regarded as an authoritative measure. It is used by governments, private sector employers and unions, including the Canadian Auto Workers, the Teamsters and the Confédération des syndicats nationaux.
As the government House leader has said before, linking parliamentary compensation to this index is the right thing to do, for three reasons.
First, it is a fair way to ensure that parliamentarians' salaries are adjusted in line with the changes received by Canadians. The former House leader for the official opposition said during second reading debate of this bill that “the private sector wage settlement process is a very good one”. He thinks “Canadians can accept that”. We on this side of the House agree with those sentiments.
Second, the index is a well-known, respected and predictable measure.
Third, members of this House have recognized that we should not be linked to an index that includes the public sector, because we could be in a situation where the government is negotiating compensation levels for public sector unions or other groups or where Parliament must legislate public sector wages. If these negotiations or such legislation were to affect our own salaries, then obviously this would appear to create a conflict of interest.
Given this consideration, we are proposing an index for parliamentary consideration and parliamentary compensation that covers salary changes in the private sector alone.
After the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs reported this bill, it was brought to the government's attention that a number of parliamentary functions were in fact not covered by the Parliament of Canada Act.
I am pleased that the official opposition and the NDP agreed that the deputy House leaders, deputy whips in the House and the Senate and the national caucus chairs receive modest compensation. These positions considerably increase parliamentary responsibilities and should therefore be compensated accordingly.
In conclusion, I want to say that, thanks to this bill, the government is keeping its commitment to delink compensation increases for parliamentarians and judges and, instead, to link them to the average pay increases of Canadians.
At the same time, I believe it is important that decisions on parliamentary compensation take into consideration the opinion of all members of this House. As a result, I am delighted that this bill has received generous support from both the government and opposition members.