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Michel Magnant

Report of the Commission to Review Salaries of Members of Parliament and Senators, document tabled in the Senate and House of Commons, December 2, 1980, 85 p. and appendices.

An amendment to the Senate and House of Commons Act in 1976, established that salaries for members of both Houses should be reviewed after every federal election. The Report tabled in November 1980 constituted the second enquiry conducted under this Act, the first being the Hales report of 1979.

The report, best known because of the large salary increases it recommended for Members of Parliament, was also characterized by the fact that it criticized the considerable lag in salaries of the Members of Parliament and ministers as compared to the pay scales for similar responsibilities in the public service, the private sector and other provincial legislatures some of' which are much higher than those of the Parliament of Canada.

The Commissioners, Cliff McIsaac and Léon Balcer, felt that the members should receive a significant increase in salary, for three main reasons: being a Member of Parliament has become a fulltime profession, the work load of a member is much heavier than that of comparable administrative positions; and lastly, low salaries are an obstacle in recruiting candidates who ha,, e successful careers outside of politics.

The McIsaac Report took great pains to describe the role of an MP as being the equivalent of a senior management position in the private sector. Indeed, just like his opposite number in the private sector, a Member of Parliament needs a good deal of expertise in management, skills in public relations, aptitude to meet people, a certain power of persuasion, and finally, he has to be able to bear a great deal of stress. An M P also needs to have a sure and rapid judgement regarding the possible solutions to a problem and to be able to obtain the co-operation of people with different backgrounds. Therefore, the report concluded, the technical complexity, the management responsibilities and the impact of an M P's activities are in all respects equivalent to a senior management position in a government department or in the private sector.

While quite plausible, this comparison with the private sector is presented in a very abstract way. There are no figures given to show the number of hours worked by a Member of Parliament, the number of meetings or public appearances, nor the frequency and distance of his travels. Various tables are given showing salary scales for senior managers as well as their recent pay increases. According to those figures. the salary of a Member of Parliament is 25 per cent lower than average in the private sector. It would also appear that increases in Members' salaries are twice as slow. Therefore, the report recommended that the basic salary be raised from $30,600 to $45,000 in 1983.

Furthermore, the Commission decided that the Members' expense allowance ($13,500) be cut in half for the following reasons: the allowance is unpopular, and is also unnecessary for members living in the National Capital Area who do not have to travel as often as those from more remote areas, and do not have to rent a second apartment or a second riding office. The expenses for members from remote areas should be directly paid for by Parliament upon submission of bills.

The report then evaluated the salaries of ministers and other elected officials. It concluded they are often lower than those of provincial ministers. Furthermore, these salaries are a mere pittance when compared with senior management of large corporations. Since the responsibility borne by Ministers is greater than that of their opposite numbers at the provincial level and senior management. The report recommended that ministerial salaries be significantly increased.

Finally, the report recommended that the salary of Senators be raised by approximately half of the increase recommended for members. No justification was given for this difference except that a number of proposals for Senate reform are currently under discussion and until such time as future reforms are clarified it would be difficult for the Commission to recommend significant increases.

Michel Magnant, Political and Social Affairs Division, Research Branch, Library of Parliament

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Last Updated: 2020-09-14