Madam Speaker, as the parliamentary secretary noted in his brief remarks a moment ago, I have indicated that the official opposition will be supporting Bill C-30 and, I might add, we have always maintained that we should not place ourselves in an ongoing conflict of interest by having to debate and decide our own remuneration. Indeed, this bill's predecessor, which linked us to the judges' remuneration, was actually the reason that the House went down that road before. This is a fairer way to go about setting our remuneration and I indicated that during my remarks at report stage as well.
As was indicated, Bill C-30 proposes to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act to establish a new method of indexation of salaries and allowances for members of Parliament and ministers. It will come into effect from April 1, 2004. Salaries and allowances will no longer be adjusted by reference to the increase in the annual salary of the chief justices of the Supreme Court of Canada, but rather in accordance with the index of the average percentage increase and base rate wages for each and every calendar year resulting from major settlements negotiated with bargaining units of 500 or more employees in the private sector in Canada, as published by the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development.
The original objective for linking compensation for members of Parliament to that of the chief justices, which is determined by the Judicial Salary and Benefits Commission, was to discontinue the practice whereby members themselves legislate their own compensation. However when the commission recommended an 11% increase in pay, an unjustified increase I might add, the government changed its position that compensation for MPs should not be linked to judges.
On that point, I think the general public will recall the debate that took place just before and during last spring's election campaign. We and others raised the issue of the impending judges' increase which would have the ripple effect on our remuneration as well. To the government's credit, at that point in time it agreed with us and said that an increase of that amount would be unacceptable. Therefore last fall it brought in Bill C-30.
When the bill was introduced it created a public issue regarding compensation for judges as well. While the government has indicated that amendments regarding compensation for judges is forthcoming, we believe, and I have stated it repeatedly, that the government ought to have accompanied Bill C-30 with that, since it was the 11% pay hike proposed for judges that triggered the need for a new method to determine compensation for members of Parliament.
The link between compensation for judges and compensation for members of Parliament and the excessive pay hike proposed for judges led to the need for legislative change. Bill C-30 solves only half the problem by establishing a new mechanism for MPs only, leaving judges with a process that provides them, potentially, at least at this point, with that 11% pay hike, which is almost four times the Canadian average increase in wages.
Therefore the Conservative Party calls upon the government, as we have in the past, to forgo the 11% pay hike for judges and immediately introduce legislation to establish a new mechanism for compensating judges similar to what has been proposed for members of Parliament in Bill C-30. That would ensure that significant salary compensation adjustments would only occur when it can be demonstrated that responsibilities have changed accordingly.