December 18, 1978 (30th Parliament, 4th Session)


Donald James Johnston


Mr. Johnston (Westmount):

I am glad to see hon. members have a sense of humour. I detected an ambiguity in the remarks of the hon. member. Are we being asked to increase the level of remuneration of legislators in this country, specifically of the Prime Minister, since that is to be the touchstone used to determine maximum compensation to be paid elsewhere? Or are we being asked to roll back the remuneration paid to senior civil servants, presidents of Crown corporations and so on? I gather from the comments made by the hon. member that it is the latter.
I personally favour the hon. gentleman's view because the people who are involved in the political process are not essentially seeking remuneration. As the hon. gentleman knows very well, "Man does not live by bread alone", and nothing could be truer of the representatives of the people involved in the legislative process. I would suggest, however, when we turn to the people who are serving as employees of government agencies and Crown corporations, that this is not the case. The hon. member is seeking a form of wage parity which does not accord with what 1 understand to be a classical philosophy of the Conservative party, one to which I happen to subscribe myself, namely that we are not to be envious of what is paid to others, of what is paid to members of the public service.
I share the view of the Auditor General, expressed some weeks ago, that we should be prepared to remunerate the public servants of this country by paying the highest wages required to obtain the best possible people, while at the same time we should retain the right to terminate those services in the manner adopted by the private sector. I have no doubt that, notwithstanding the argument put forward by the hon. member, deputy ministers and senior officials in Crown corporations and government agencies discharge responsibilities which in many instances are as great as those undertaken in the private sector, sometimes greater.
The hon. gentleman made the point that officials in the public service wear only one hat-the spending hat-whereas in the private sector they have responsibility both for spending and for raising money. I do not think the analogy holds. I believe there are many officials of major corporations whose roles are almost identical to those of the deputy ministers of many of our departments. I believe that at the top level of responsibility our public servants are probably underpaid, not overpaid as the hon. member suggests. It may be that adjustments ought to be made elsewhere in the public service, but they should not affect senior public servants nor should they affect presidents and senior executive officers of Crown corporations.

I return to my view that if this motion were adopted we would not be able to attract necessary skills into the public service.

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