June 23, 1920

UNION

John Hampden Burnham

Unionist

Mr. BURNHAM:

He is away on private business.

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L LIB

Alphonse Verville

Laurier Liberal

Mr. VERVILLE:

All that those who are such patriots have to -do is to let the money lie and not draw it. Patriots! I should like to see the hon. member who, if he were granted this increased indemnity, would not take it. Let us be frank about the matter. Every member of this House is anxious to have it, but some are perhaps afraid to stand up and speak in favour of the increase. I am not; I am willing to face the music and face the people. I know the people whom I represent are going to say, as they have always said in the past: We want to give a fair day's pay for a fair day's work. And when the indemnity of a member has come down lower than the wage of some mechanics, the very mechanics themselves say: " You are a lot of cheap guys." There is all the more reason why we should be granted this increased indemnity when the labour members in the Provincial Legislature of Ontario were in favour of it. Do you suppose they are going to be afraid to face their electors at the next election? Not by any means. These are some of my reasons-and there are many others which I do not need to occupy the time of the House in statpig-why I am strongly in favour of an increased indemnity. If the Government bring in a measure of this kind, I will hold up both hands for it.

Mr. JACQUES BUREAU (Three Rivers); Mr. Speaker, last Saturday while we were discussing the increase of salaries of judges, the Prime Minister (Sir Robert Borden) was in his seat and I made an appeal to him, stating that he should increase the indemnities of members of Parliament. The last words of my remarks were these:

To make my point clear beyond the possibility of doubt and in order not to leave any ambiguity-because people have been afraid to talk about it-I for one declare that in my opinion the indemnity paid to the members of this Parliament should be increased.

I repeat the same thing, and as has been said by the hon. member for St. Denis (Mr. Verville), I am willing to face the music and face the people. I would rather stand up on the platform and say that I had voted, and asked for, and counselled, an increased indemnity than say the contrary. Conditions have changed in this country, and as the hon. member for Peterborough West (Mr. Burnham) so well said just now, we have here two homes. We have double obligations. During the session we belong to Ottawa, and there is not a week- and I may say this happens sometimes two

or three times a week-but we are besieged in the corridors, in our offices, in all parts of the building, to subscribe to very worthy objects, to charitable objects and we often cannot very well afford to decLine. Not only during sessions, but outside of sessions in your home also, you have to contribute to various demands of this kind that are made upon you. An indemnity of $2,500 is very poor remuneration for the kind of work we are called upon to do here.

It has been stated that ordinary bricklayers -I think that is the example that was used -could earn that much. Certainly, they can, and far more. Bricklayers in the town in which I live and which I have the honour to represent in Parliament are paid $1 an hour, and that is far more than members of Parliament are paid here. To use the same argument as that used by the hon. member for Peterborough West, I do not think there is any disparagement in stating that in the position we occupy we believe we are worth more to the country than $2,500 a year. Speaking for myself, I consider I am worth more than that to Parliament.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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L LIB

Jacques Bureau

Laurier Liberal

Mr. BUREAU:

I do not say that as a

boast. The same thing applies to all my hon. friends around me and opposite me who abandon their business and devote their time for about half a year in Ottawa, for what? After all, we may have our differences of opinion, but we have one common aim. Whether we sit at your right, or at your left, Mr. Speaker, we want this country to go ahead and be prosperous, and if we come here and devote our time as we do, our aim is to try to help the country go ahead and be worthy of its future.

If an expression of opinion coming from the hon. member for Quebec East (Mr. Lapointe) would have any weight to convince hon. members, and especially those who face me, who do not seem to 'be anxious to express their views', I may say foT and on his behalf ithat he entirely shares my views, and1 if he were here, he would not hesitate fox one minute to island up and supplement what I am saying by stating that he also takes the some position. There is no use arguing-.the question is : Do the members of the House of Commons of Canada want an increase of indemnity or do they not? I do not care what comments may be made in regard to what I say. I aim, sincere when I ask for this increased indemnity and if I were not

I would not ask for it. If it is given, I do not care what comments are made on either side, I aim going to keep it and to uise it. I do not think I can add anything further to make my position clearer in the matter. I ask the Government to increase the indemnities, of imemibers- of Parliament, and I shall take any share of the responsibility. This is not a .political question; this is an individual question. This is not a party question, and there is not an bon. member who is not willing to say: If the increase in the indemnity is granted, (because iit is a demand made by a majority of the members, I shall not use the fact that another has- pleaded or that I have abstained, to try to beat him or to try to have the people vote against him. I, for my part, will never do that, because I do not consider that this is a question of Liberals, Unionists, Tories or Farmers'; it is a question that affects every member of this House. We have enough people knocking us; if we do not look out for ourselves, believe me, other people will not look our for us.

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UNION

Henry Arthur Mackie

Unionist

Mr. HENRY ARTHUR MACKIE (Edmonton East):

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LIB

William Lyon Mackenzie King (Leader of the Official Opposition)

Liberal

Hon. W. L. MACKENZIE KING (leader of the Opposition):

I have been waiting

until my right hon. friend the Prime Minister was in his seat before participating in this debate, as I did not wish to say what I now desire to without saying it to him in the presence of hon. members of the House. I am obliged to my hon. friend from West Peterborough (Mr. 'Burnham) for having brought up this subject of the indemnity, if for no other reason than that it gives me an opportunity to refer to a report which I see in the Montreal Gazette of to-day, and which purports to be the report of a caucus which was held yesterday by members of the party opposite. Hon. gentlemen opposite will know whether or not the report is *correct, and my right hon. friend the Prime Minister will know whether or not he has been correctly reported. The report is headed " Belief Grows that Premier will Remain -Right to Leadership will not be Challenged-Another Caucus Called-Final Decision on National Policy will then be Made." The report contains a paragraph with reference to the indemnity, headed "No Indemnity Increase." It reads as follows :

Sir Robert informed the caucus that he had been in conference with Hon. W. T., Mackenzie King and Hon. T. A. Crerar on the question of increased salaries for judges, Cabinet Ministers and parliamentary representatives. They had agreed on raising the salaries of the first two, but neither of the Opposition leaders would agree to support in Parliament the third proposal. Hon. Mr. King admitted that many of his supporters favoured an increase in the indemnity, but he reserved the right to take any position he desired if the question came up in Parliament. Hon. T. A. Crerar said that he and his party would oppose an increase. Sir Robert then stated to the caucus that he would not be a party to giving Hon. Mr. King and his supporters both political glory and financial reward on such an issue. His position was endorsed by the caucus.

I am prepared to leave to hon. gentlemen opposite and to my right hon. friend to say whether that report is a correct statement of what took place yesterday. If it is a correct statement, I have only this to say: It would disclose that my right

hon. friend the Prime Minister had spoken to me on the subject of this indemnity. If I am at liberty to say that he did so, I should like to say that he did, but in speaking to me my right hon. friend said he wished to speak in the utmost confidence, and I regarded the conversation that I had with him as a confidential conversation. I think my right hon. friend had every reason to believe that it was such. If it was a confidential conversation, I will leave it

to hon. gentlemen opposite to say whether or not in their opinion what purported to be the substance of that conversation should have been disclosed to a party caucus, when I myself was necessarily not present to hear the particular representations made with reference to what I had said.

Further, I would say that, according to this report, the Prime Minister gave to his supporters in the House and to this Parliament and to the country what purports to ,be the position of myself, as leader of the .Opposition, and of the hon. member for .Marquette, (Mr. iCrerar) on this question. Did my right hon. friend tell the caucus what his own position was? Did he tell the caucus what he said to me was his position on this matter? My lips are sealed jn this respect, because I regarded, and still regard, the conversation as confidential, and I intend to hold to what I regard as .the obligations of a confidential conversation.

Apart altogether from any conversation that we had let me say that what the Prime .Minister is reported to have said as to ,what I said is quite correct. I did intimate to my right hon. friend that I thought .ninety per cent at least of hon. gentlemen ,on this side of the House felt that the question of the indemnity was an important .one from a public point of view, not from a personal, private point of view, but from a public point of view, and were jn favour of an increase, but that I did pot feel at liberty to be a party to any secret agreement on this matter, and that ,1 reserved my right to make such statement as I thought proper on the floor of Parliament, where I thought it should be discussed. I said to my right hon. friend that I had spoken with some hon. members pn this side of the House and that they lagreed with me that the matter should be discussed freely and openly on the floor of Parliament where every member could -express his opinion before his fellow-members, .and that the question should not be regarded as one of secret arrangement or secret negotiation one way or the other. In view of ,what I now see reported in the press I ;think I have no reason to doubt that I was wise in taking the stand I did in the conversation that took place. At any rate it is my view of what is the right and proper (way to deal with this matter. Why should .this question any more than any other he .made a matter of bargain between party leaders? 'This is a matter of public interest, Of public concern to every member and to the people of the country generally, and

like every other public matter, should be discussed here openly and frankly on its merits, and on its merits alone. That is the ground on "which I think this question .should be discussed and decided. I do' not pee "why in a matter of this kind the Government should not have a policy just as much as in any other matter if it is possible for the Government to have a policy ,in regard to anything.

, Let me say further that several 'hon. members on this side of Ithe House have (spoken to me of my attitude on this question. From the very start I have said to pach one of them, and I think they will bear me out, that I did not regard the question as a party matter at all, and II hoped that each member would feel free to 'Speaik his mind openly and frankly and give his opinion in an unreserved way. I do not regard the question as a party question, and I do- not think it should! be made a party issue. More than that, I should' like to say that when, some; few (days ago, we were discussing in this House the question of the duration of the session and it was suggested that we should have morning sittings in order to rush through the business of the House, I took strong exception to that method of procedure and 'Contended that the first duty of every representative of the people in Parliament was to give1 his time and thought and attention to public business; I expressed! the view that members did not come to Parliament for the purpose of getting through business in a haphazard manner,- or that it should! be neglected in order to get home as expeditiously as possible. I stated on that occasion that it was the duty of hon. members .to give intelligent attention to all matters that came before them for consideration, and that due care should be exercised in dealing with all public questions in a manner befitting the importance of those questions. In this connection I took occasion to point out what seemed to me to' be the point of view from which this question of indemnity should) be approached, and if hon. members desire to see what I siaid on that occasion they will find! my remarks recorded in Hansard) of May 27, 1920. If the matter comes- up in the form of a. discussion in this House in which- the merits have to be argued- one way or the other, I am -quite prepared -to- give my views along with other hon. members. (I am prepared to discuss the question on its merits, and I am not afraid to take full responsibility in regard -to whatever I may have to say. But I do refuse-to use a

popular expression-to be made the goat ini a matter of this kind through entering into any secret agreement whereby, if it should) suit th-e Government to say that this thing cannot be done because the leader of the Opposition is opposed! to it, I shall be held responsible for the fact that the Government has no policy; or, on the other hand, should it please- the Government to say -that the leader of the Opposition having favoured it, they are granting the proposal', I shall be held accountable for their action in the matter. Let me say, 'Mr. Speaker, I am. ready to take responsibility for a 'Government policy if hon. gentlemen opposite are not; but so long as they are members of the Government it is. their duty -to take that responsibility and my duty to assume the responsibility which devolves upon me on this side of the House.

Rt. Hon. .Sir ROBERT BORDEN (Prime Minister): I should be very sorry to have my hon. friend think that I had violated any confidence which he had reposed in me, but I am not going to affirm or deny any rumour in the press as to what took place in caucus. My hon. friend regarded my conversation with him as confidential. I think it is pretty well understood among hon. members in this House-at least, it ought to he understood-that discussion in caucus is also confidential. -My hon. friend seems to imagine that I desired to enter into some secret agreement with him. I did not so desire; I do not desire to enter into any secret agreement with him. But every one familiar with what has been the practice in this House in the past is aware that in matters of this kind, which are matters rather for Parliament itself than for the Government, it has been customary for the -leaders on -one side and on the other to confer with each other. I had an experience of something like ten and a half years in Opposition, and during that time, on one occasion at least-I am not sure whether on more than one occasion, but certainly on one occasion-there was an increase in the indemnity; and I perfectly well remember that on that particular occasion the then leader of the Government invited an expression of my views before the measure was introduced into the House. More than that, I did not follow the example of my ti-on. friend; I told the then Prime Minister what my views were, and I carried out those views wihen the measure came up in Parliament. Now, if my hon. friend thinks that he is deserving of any sympathy or of any

congratulation in respect of the difference between the one case and the other, why, so far as I am concerned, he is entirely welcome to it. The hon. gentleman has not yet given the House hie opinion on the subject. He has reserved to himself the right to tell us what his views are at some future date. Well, I am disposed, notwithstanding his unwillingness in that regard, to tell the House something about my own views. I shall proceed to do so. My hon. friend refers to the necessity of a policy on the part of the 'Government in this'matter and to the lack of any such necessity on his part. May I observe that he as well as myself occupies in this House an official position which is recognized by Statute.

So far as I am concerned, the eubject has been mentioned to me by members of Parliament, and considerations have been placed before me-I do not know whether they have been alluded to in the debate this evening-setting forth the amount of indemnity which under the law of the United States is accorded to members of Congress. Representations have been made with regard to the recent increase of indemnity in the 'Commonwealth of Australia, and reference has been made to recent increases of indemnity in some of the provinces of Canada. Unfortunately, I was detained by other matters in the earlier stage of this debate, and I do not know whether or not these matters have been brought to the attention of the House.

Same hon. MEMBERS: No.

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

Well, I did not anticipate that this debate would be precipitated and I have not at hand the facts in regard to those matters. However, I understand that in the United States members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives receive an indemnity of $7,500, and in addition to that they have an allowance of $1,500 a year as a provision for .a secretary.

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An hon. MEMBER:

The allowance is

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

That is right.

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

In the province of .Saskatchewan the indemnity has recently been raised from $1,500 to $1,800; in the

province o.f Alberta it has been raised from $1,500 to $2,000; and in the province of Quebec there nas been an increase this year from $1,500 to $2,000. In 1905 the indemnity of members of this House was increased from $1,500 to $2,500, and upon that occasion the then leader of the Government invited my opinion before the measure was introduced into 'Parliament. We believed then that we were fixing the indemnity at so liberal an amount that there would be no occasion in the lifetime of any of us to suggest an increase. But conditions have changed very much since that time. Every hon. gentleman in the House is conscious of that; and I am perfectly well aware that the duty of representing a constituency in this Parliament involves a very considerable financial sacrifice upon many hon. members. I will not say upon all, because There are some who, fortunately, are living so near Ottawa that the ordinary pursuit of their business avocations is not interrupted to nearly the same extent as is the case with members from the western provinces, and members from distant parts of Ontario, and from the Maritime Provinces. It would be impossible in respect to a matter so complicated, to attempt to do exact and complete justice in every instance. One hon. member of this House recently told me that when he came to this Parliament he was obliged to engage a professional man for the purpose of attending to his business and to pay him a salary of $5,000 a year. He further said that within the past two years he has been obliged to increase that salary to $7,000. Other illustrations of a like character have been brought to my attention. Now I say at once and unreservedly, to my hon. friend who leads the Opposition that I think the indemnity of members in this House is too low unuder present conditions.

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Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

My hon. friend has not given his opinion upon that .subject as yet. Let me, however, submit this further consideration as to which I expressed an opinion to hon. gentlemen who spoke to me some time ago on this subject; and T have not varied from that view, I think, on any occasion in speaking to any member of this House: I pointed out to them that in my opinion there was a very grave question indeed as to whether it would be expedient, at this juncture in the history of our country, to increase the indemnity, and for reasons which seemed to

me very obvious. Public opinion in this country at the present time is somewhat unsettled. (Conditions are not quite normal and there is some unrest. We, as a Government and as a Parliament, are inviting economy and practising it as far as we can to the extent that the public necessities will permit. We have had demands of a very extraordinary character made upon us by what I believe is a small minority of the soldiers who have returned from the Front. We have declined to entertain those claims, and we have cut down the public appropriations in many parts of the country to the very lowest limits that could be devised.-It is our duty to reflect and to consider whether, under those circumstances, Parliament and the members of Parliament would be doing justice to the situation and would be doing justice to themselves if they proceeded at this session to pledge the public exchequer to the very considerable sums that would be involved in an increase of the indemnity to the amount suggested. The amount suggested to me was an increase to the sum of $4,000 or, as urged by some, to $5,000.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

Hear, hear.

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An hon. MEMBER:

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

Now I am perfectly willing to have my views known in this regard. They may be summed up in these words: First, that I think in justice to a majority of the members of this House the indemnity ought to be increased, and that it is1 too low at the present time. But on the other hand -there is according to my. mind-and I commend this consideration to hon>. members on both sides1-a very grave and serious doubt whether it would be in the public interest, whether it would be in the interest of parliamentary institutions, whether it would be in the interest of hon. members themselves, to press for such- an, indemnity at this- session of Parliament.

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UNION

John Hampden Burnham

Unionist

Mr. BURNHAM:

May I ask the Prime Minister if -he thinks that should apply to all wage-earners and others throughout the country who have been seeking an increase in stipend?

An h-on. MEMBER: Even to civil

servants?

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UNION

Robert Laird Borden (Prime Minister; Secretary of State for External Affairs)

Unionist

Sir ROBERT BORDEN:

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UNI L

William Stevens Fielding

Unionist (Liberal)

Hon. W. S. FIELDING (Shelburne and Queen's):

-Several weeks -ago I was appreached by a brother member of Parliament who desired an -expression of my views on this question of indemnity which had then been referred -to on several occasions in the public pres-s. I told- my friend that there was one point upon, which II had- a very strong opinion, and that was that this indemnity should not be increased by any, arrangement that might be made-as: rumor, said it was to be made-by the leaders' of the several 'parties. I said if the question was worthy of consideration at all it should be brought up for open discussion in the frankest way on .the floor of Parliament, and I said if it was brought up in that way I should not hesitate to express my opinion. And so, in fulfilment of what I told my friend, I will say a few words now.

There -are strong, logical grounds upon which a case could he made out ,in favour of an, increase in the indemnity. The statements made by the right hon. Prime Minister with regard to the payments- in other places with which we might reasonably make a comparison -are, as far as I know, substantially correct. 'They indicate that this question is being dealt with elsewhere, and that if we should increase the indemnity here we should not be pursuing a course different from that which has been pursued in other countries. When we consider that the purchasing power of a dollar, for almost any purpose, is today only fifty cents, there is>

force in the argument advanced by an hon. member that practically speaking the indemnity 'paid as compared with former times only -amounts to $1,250, and you can make out a strong case logically for the increase of the indemnity. But we cannot always afford- to be logical. This is a question, unfortunately, as to which

public opinion will be very sensitive, perhaps unreasonably sensitive, and the members of Parliament of Canada will be expected to set a particularly good example in these days when there is so much talk of economy and thrift. Probably many people-especially those who have not given the subject much thought-will be strongly disposed to think that .the indemnity is large enough and that we ought not increase it. 1 told my hon. Mend with whom' I was discussing the question that if it was deemed expedient to raise the indemnity, and if it was the general feeling of the House that the indemnity ought to be increased, my suggestion would be-although II thought the wiser course was to let the thing alone; and that I say now- and it was the general feeling of the House that the indemnity ought to be increased, that an increase be provided for, but that it should not take effect until the new Parliament assembled.

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?

Some hon. MEMBERS:

No, no.

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June 23, 1920