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Speech in Senate Chamber: Senator Cools speaks to Bill C-28, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act.

Hon. Sharon Carstairs (Leader of the Government) moved the third reading of Bill C-28, to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act.

Hon. Anne C. Cools: Honourable senators, I rise to add a few words in this debate on Bill C-28. Just days ago on May 9 and May 29, 2001, I had spoken to Bill C-12. That bill amended the Judges Act to increase their salaries. These salaries and their increments largely flowed from the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission. I began my speech on May 9 saying:

...at the outset, I wish to state definitively that I do not take issue with either the actual quantum or the fact of salary increases for section 96 judges in this bill. Judges should be well remunerated. My concerns are the process and the persistent alienation of Parliament from this process of fixing judges' salaries, which is contrary to our notion of judicial independence, that constitutional convention that supports the proper exercise of power within proper constitutional relations between cabinet, the judiciary and Parliament. Canada never had the American separation of powers doctrine. Instead, we had responsible government, meaning that powers are not separated but are fused in responsible ministers of the Crown. Our Constitution chose to separate the personalities exercising the powers and not the actual powers.

Honourable senators, about Bill C-28 and the salaries of senators and members, I will say the same thing. Again, I take no issue with the quantum of the increase in parliamentarians' salaries as proposed in this bill. However, as with the Judges Act, I do take the very same exceptions with the process used to arrive at the quantum for the salaries. In addition, I strongly object to the tying of parliamentarians' salaries to the salaries of the judges, being the salary of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. Bill C-28's clause 1 makes this tie. It establishes a valuation point as the basis for the salaries of members of both Houses of Parliament. It names that valuation point a remuneration reference. That remuneration reference is the Chief Justice's salary. I take strong exception to the statutory inclusion of even a mention of the Chief Justice in the Parliament of Canada Act.

Honourable senators, the phenomenon of using the Chief Justice's salary as the valuation base for parliamentary salaries is not an appropriate or a desirable parliamentary action, and is unknown and even unhealthy to Parliament, the high court of Parliament. Bill C-28's technique of enshrining in statute the link between the salary of the Supreme Court's Chief Justice with the salaries of parliamentarians is not properly respectful of the coordinate constitutional roles of Parliament, the judiciary and the cabinet. Bill C-28 is not respectful and does not honour our constitutional principles and practices around constitutional comity between Parliament, the judges, and the cabinet. Furthermore, it undermines those principles.

Honourable senators, in my speeches on judges' salaries, I had raised my objections to the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission's process, asserting that it impaired Parliament from exercising its proper role, pursuant to the Constitution Act, 1867, section 100's words that "judges' salaries shall be fixed and provided by the Parliament of Canada." I had also opposed the arbitrariness employed by the commission in determining the amounts of the judges' salaries. With Bill C-28, the situation will be worsened because the Judicial Compensation and Benefits Commission, which I already think is insufficient, will now, in effect, be setting parliamentarians' salaries.

Honourable senators, the government certainly could have done better than this in drafting Bill C-28. The government could have observed the principles that govern the balance of the Constitution and the proper relations between the coordinate parts of the Constitution.

Honourable senators, there are a host of problems with this bill that I shall not raise. In point of fact, I had not planned to speak or even raise any of these issues because it is my practice to leave the issue of our remuneration to other senators. However, today I speak briefly because in his remarks yesterday on this bill, Senator Grafstein referred to me, although not by name. Therefore, honourable senators, I thought I should add my few words to the record. The matter of reckoning parliamentarians' salaries by relying on a control amount, that is, a judge's salary, is not something that I could have let go without note.

Honourable senators, good governance requires the proper observance of these constitutional rules. Public servants should receive adequate compensation. These two Houses of Parliament should endeavour to establish proper mechanisms to determine the salaries of its members, its ministers, other high officials and judges — proper mechanisms that will uphold the public representative interest.

In closing, I would like to add, in respect to Senator Joyal's and Senator Grafstein's remarks yesterday, that I support most of what they had to say.

The remainder of this day's Senate Debates available here.