3 out of 4 Quebecers oppose raising politicians' salaries: survey
Quebec solidaire (QS) was in a tough spot Tuesday as it was forced to defend itself over the question of raising MNAs' salaries.
The Legault government's Bill 24, which increases the base salary of MNAs by $30,000, is currently being studied in the National Assembly. QS has always said it will vote against the bill.
However, QS parliamentary leader Alexandre Leduc tabled a series of amendments last Thursday, first proposing a $10,000 increase, then a $20,000 one.
QS's political opponents accused him of contradicting himself by opposing a $30,000 increase while appearing to be satisfied with a $20,000 increase.
Government House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette even accused QS of hypocrisy.
On Tuesday, QS co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois acknowledged that the amendments—of which he had no prior knowledge—were open to criticism.
"I see that it's generating confusion and questions. We didn't see it coming," said Nadeau-Dubois.
QS defended itself by saying the amendments it has been adding over the past week are part of a strategy to slow down the bill's adoption. According to the government, these "delaying tactics" are "a parliamentary ploy."
Nadeau-Dubois also announced that QS MNAs would be free to pocket their pay rise or not once it is voted by the CAQ majority government, with the support of the Quebec Liberal Party (QLP).
This admission seemed to come as a surprise to the other parties, which had understood that all QS MNAs would follow their leader's lead and donate their entire pay rise to charity.
However, Nadeau-Dubois insisted there was no question of dipping into MNAs' bank accounts: "There will be no party line on people's personal finances," he said.
"We all have different situations, and each person will make his or her own decision."
He did say, however, that it would be surprising for an elected QS member to keep 100 per cent of the increase.
For PLQ parliamentary leader Monsef Derraji, it's clear that "Quebec solidaire has lost all credibility."
"It was outrageous ... and unjustified ... and today he says: 'You can keep (the increase), that's fine.' I find it hard to follow them ... It's pathetic," added interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay.
POLL: 74 PER CENT AGAINST
Three out of four Quebecers would oppose a 30 per cent increase in MNAs' salaries, suggests a Quebec solidaire-sponsored Léger poll. About 1,000 Quebecers responded to the poll between May 26 and 29.
It suggested that only about 14 per cent agreed with the increase in MNAs' salaries pitched by the Legault government. On the other hand, 25 per cent disagreed with the proposal.
"A massive rejection like this is rare, and it's a signal that François Legault needs to hear," said Nadeau-Dubois. "Among the population, his $30,000 increase for MNAs does not pass."
"François Legault is about to make the most unpopular decision of his mandate," he added.
If Bill 24 is adopted, the base salary of MNAs will rise from $101,561 to $131,766. This was the recommendation of a committee made up of former Liberal minister Lise Theriault and former PQ MNA Martin Ouellet, among others.
Last week, to justify the salary increase, government whip Eric Lefebvre pleaded that his workload was so heavy that he could only see his mother once a year.
Premier François Legault argued that politicians have "the right to earn as much money as possible."
QS said it was absurd for elected officials to pay themselves such a salary increase and, along with the Parti Quebecois, asked that it be postponed until 2026, after the next election.
But in a press scrum on Tuesday, Legault said he would not back down.
"If I ask Quebecers: 'Do you agree with the salaries of senior civil servants?' Maybe the answer will be no. But my responsibility is to have competent senior civil servants," he declared.
"I also have a responsibility to govern for the good of Quebecers, not according to the mood of the polls and the wind," he added.
In his opinion, the work of MNAs must be "valued," and "the best" must be attracted. Moreover, he finds it "hard to see" why the private and public sectors should "pay more than politics."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 30, 2023.