Mr. Johnston (Westmount):
The hon. member says, "Let's try it", but I am personally not prepared to take the chance of losing some of the most able people in the country on this issue of remuneration. I think the Canadian people are prepared to pay according to responsibility assumed.
The hon. member has drawn upon the American experience, but the American experience, fortunately or unfortunately- and there are arguments both ways-is quite unlike our own in that policymakers in the United States change, by and large, with change in the administration. As we know, federal administrations in the United States change every four years. The difference is that people who assume the roles of undersecretaries, assistant undersecretaries and others in terms of the policymaking apparatus in the United States are essentially servants of the people during limited periods of time. It is a responsibility and an honour to take such positions, but these people are basically private sector people who return to the private sector at the end of a given four-year period. Some of them take leaves of absences from universities, businesses and so forth. In fact, in many respects I suggest that that aspect of the U.S. system is healthy because there is a constant interchange between private sector and public sector personnel due to this process.
There are very few major law firms, investment houses or corporations in the United States which do not have among their ranks some people who have served government in senior capacities in one or more administrations. Unfortunately-and I say "unfortunately" because our system as it now operates is not compatible with that kind of change-we have basically a permanent civil service in this country. There are great advantages and disadvantages to our system, but I suggest that in the absence of undertaking very fundamental reforms in the entire government apparatus in Canada it would be virtually impossible to adopt this motion at this time. It would have a severe impact and the civil service would experience severe dislocation, not to speak of Crown corporations and Crown agencies.
Hence I am drawn to the conclusion that as much as I agree with the motives which obviously underlie this motion, I cannot accept it as being a reasonable means of accomplishing the objectives the hon. member for Don Valley wishes to accomplish.
I say in conclusion that we must never forget the role of the elected representative of the people, the role which each of us in this chamber sees as being very distinct from that of the public servant. There is no reason to suggest that if any limitation is to be placed upon the remuneration paid to public servants, it should take the form of wage parity with the people
December 18, 1978
who represent the people of Canada. I really do not think the people of Canada believe that a deputy minister is more important than a minister just because the deputy is paid more. I believe that the people of Canada and the people in this House are willing to pay for performance.
I also believe-and the Auditor General endorses this-that if performance is not forthcoming, that man should go. That is one part of our system we should look at in terms of establishing checks. I would much prefer to see our public servants and the officers of Crown corporations and Crown agencies paid salaries, remuneration and benefits which are comparable with those paid to men of equal ability in the private sector, with the knowledge that, if performance is not forthcoming, the people of Canada have a right to terminate services in the same way they are terminated in the private sector.
Topic: PRIVATE MEMBERS' MOTIONS
Subtopic: GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURES