Mr. Speaker, I will speak frankly. The Bloc Québécois proposes that the next Governor General of Canada be given a salary of $1. The reason for this is very simple: When one holds a position of symbolic value, it only makes sense that one should receive a salary of equally symbolic value.
Historically, as it was mentioned earlier, the role of the Governor General called for the incumbent to make several decisions about the future of Canada. The role has become ceremonial and symbolic; nevertheless, the Governor General's approval is at the heart of certain processes, despite what I would qualify as its redundant quality, and the absence of this approval could even keep government from functioning.
Let us run through the Governor General's duties: He is governor-in-chief of the army; he gives royal assent to bills adopted by the House of Commons and the Senate; he signs official documents; he reads the throne speech; he presides over the swearing in of the Prime Minister, the Chief Justice of Canada and the cabinet ministers; he appoints the lieutenant governors, who are the Queen's representatives in Quebec and the provinces; and the list goes on, of course.
Now let us look at the various forms of compensation. If there are any, they seem less significant. That is actually more or less the point of today's dispute. Under current Canadian legislation, the Governor General's compensation package includes, but is not limited to, an annual salary of more than $270,000, a generous expense account associated with the office and a lifetime pension of $150,000.
I will spare my colleagues the details of each case, but I could go on an on and break them down into all the associated expenses that are covered. I could talk about Julie Payette, for example. It may sound amusing to call it a party, but that is really what it was: a swearing-in party, a $650,000 swearing-in party at taxpayers' expense, because that is what was spent on the last governor general. That is to saying nothing of the plans for a $150,000 staircase that never came to fruition, or the millions paid by the National Capital Commission or even all the repairs and upgrades to redecorate Rideau Hall. Clearly, it can be a long list.
I could give other examples. I did not mention Michaëlle Jean, whose party cost $1.3 million. That is twice as much as Ms. Payette's.
It is quite simply outrageous for taxpayers to have to cover all of the expenses incurred by the Government of Canada to maintain a symbolic position of critical insignificance, to paraphrase constitutional expert Patrick Taillon, expenses that include this person's activities, personal expenses and a comfortable retirement.
Speaking of redundant symbolism, I would say that we have our share of that in the House. Since I arrived here, I have seen all kinds of things. Some that I expected to see and others I did not quite expect, but maybe I was naive. The monarchy and prayer are examples of that.
I cannot ignore the monarchy because it is closely connected to the role of governor general. I must say that, as a Quebecker, I find it is rather hard to constantly be hit over the head with this reminder that we were colonized and are still not free. It is beyond hard; it is unbearable, and is something that I quite simply refuse. It is just as outrageous as thanking and venerating a sovereign who, I should point out, is the head of the Church of England and the Anglican Church, and who lives on the other side of the ocean. That is outrageous to me.
Closer to home, we have the governor general. I mentioned that position, but I want to talk about it again. The logic is similar. I find it insulting to be paying for the monarchy, the Crown's representative or the Governor General. As I already pointed out, this is all a symbol of an outdated monarchy. That may even be an oxymoron.
I am a little emotional because it makes absolutely no sense. It is just beyond comprehension, especially in 2021. I represent people, I represent Quebeckers, I represent my riding. As members know, 75% of Quebeckers are in favour of abolishing the monarchy, but not the position of Governor General, which will happen afterwards.
Naturally, to some extent, figuratively speaking, I am also revolted. I see that we cannot manage to separate religion from state, which really concerns me. I am saying this in the House, but we need only think about this past week. This separation has not yet been achieved.
Holding on to symbols that are devoid of meaning and colonial relics prevents us from seeing elements that are symbolic, but on which a democracy is founded. I will humbly and very briefly pay tribute to the Patriotes. As I am a Quebecker, I will speak of the Patriotes in Quebec, but there were some on this side of the river as well. The Patriotes fought. We know the story of these people who fought so we could have more rights, freedoms, transparency, responsibilities and representation.
Preserving the spirit of freedom is a matter of honour, dignity and collective memory. That is what I humbly strive for as a parliamentarian. I would like to see us stand up and reject the link that still chains us to colonial times. The Patriotes dreamed of a representative democracy. They would turn over in their graves if they knew that we were still at the mercy of the British Crown. We often wonder what people learn from history. In this case, I do not think we have learned a thing.
I would humbly say that I do not need all that to be able to represent the ideals of democracy and liberty. I have no need for any superfluous symbols.
On another note, I spoke briefly about my history in the House, where I learned a lot of things. I would also like to talk about the prayer that we say before every sitting of the House. In the last Parliament, I moved a motion to consider doing away with that practice, which is absolutely archaic, in my opinion. Canada prides itself on its secularism, but it still prays to God, the Queen and the Governor General before every sitting of the House. That is another symbol. Sometimes I get the impression that these symbols are forcing us not to take our own responsibilities. I am a parliamentarian and, if I want to talk about democracy and freedom, then I do not need someone to remind me of that. I am capable of doing it myself. I am capable of being responsible and of thinking critically and rationally so that I can properly represent my constituents and Quebeckers. I do not need to pray to ask someone to save me or to tell me how to think in order to do my job properly.
As a parliamentarian and a legislator, I also believe that the role of governor general is a relic of the monarchy. As for the prayer, a gesture that is still current, I refuse to participate in this cheap symbolic practice. It goes without saying that I am against spending money to be represented by someone who in fact does not represent me at all.
In closing, I represent the people of my riding and Quebeckers. I would note that 75% of people are in favour of abolishing the monarchy and I am accountable to them. I am not a humble subject of Her Majesty. I am the member for Manicouagan and I am accountable to my constituents. I hope that Canada will divest itself of these archaic symbols. I hope it will turn to something tangible, based on stories that are more meaningful, freer—I can say freer since I was talking about patriots earlier—instead of relying on a Crown overseas.
The Bloc Québécois and I firmly believe that our vision of the future is the exact opposite of what the governor general exemplifies. Quebec and Quebeckers would like to be free and to be respected. We want to make our own decisions. Until the Quebec nation achieves independence, we wish to take a first step to detach ourselves from the monarchy and reduce the salary of the governor general to one dollar. As one of my economist friends, Jean-Denis Garon, says, this amount would not even be indexed to inflation, because a symbol should remain a symbol.