Quebec politicians pass bill that will give themselves a $30K raise
Quebec Premier Francois Legault speaks during a end of session wrap up news conference, Friday, June 14, 2019 at his office in Quebec City. Quebec government House Leader and Minister of Immigration, Diversity and Inclusiveness Simon Jolin-Barrette, right, looks on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
Quebec MNAs passed a bill Tuesday that will give them a $30,000 salary increase.
The Coalition avenir Québec (CAQ) and the Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) voted in favour. The Parti québécois and Québec solidaire (QS) voted against it.
The bill's sponsor, Simon Jolin-Barrette, was absent from the vote.
The base salary of elected representatives will rise from $101,561 to $131,766. All MNAs with additional duties (ministers, leaders, opposition leaders) will receive an even greater increase.
For example, Premier François Legault's salary will rise from $208,200 to $270,120. Ministers, meanwhile, will earn $230,591.
QS MNAs will give back all or part of their salary increases. The political party assures that elected representatives will disclose the amounts donated. PQ MNAs, on the other hand, will limit their increase to that given to public sector workers.
QS members have been insisting for weeks that MNAs should not decide their own salaries and working conditions.
During the detailed study of the bill, QS used several means to oppose it. The party tabled a number of amendments, including one calling for the increase to be $10,000 or $20,000 rather than $30,000.
The CAQ and the Liberals attacked QS, accusing them of being incoherent. QS leader Alexandre Leduc defended himself, saying that he was trying to "lessen" the increase for taxpayers.
The Legault government accused Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois' party of "populism" by opposing the wage hike to the point of blocking it.
Government House Leader Simon Jolin-Barrette described QS's strategy as "stalling tactics" and "parliamentary piracy."
QS also proposed postponing the increase until 2026, after the next election.
Trying to justify the pay rise, government whip Éric Lefebvre had pleaded that his workload was so heavy that he could only see his mother once a year.
Legault had argued that politicians have "the right to earn as much money as possible to give as much as possible to their children."
CONFLICT OF INTEREST?
According to the National Assembly Ethics Commissioner Ariane Mignolet, the fact that MNAs debate their own salaries can raise issues of conflict of interest.
"It has been raised on several occasions that parliamentarians' ability to determine their own working conditions carries a real risk of conflict of interest," said the commissioner in a letter sent in response to a request from QS MNA Vincent Marissal, a copy of which was obtained by The Canadian Press on Monday.
Marissal wrote to the commissioner on May 24, asking her to look into the possibility that he may have been in a conflict of interest when he participated in the debates on Bill 24.
However, she says she is unable to give an opinion on this specific question, as it concerns all 125 members of the National Assembly.
The commissioner does, however, point out that the debate on MNAs' salaries raises issues of conflict of interest in relation to sections 15 and 16 of the "Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Members of the National Assembly."
PQ leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon agreed "to a certain extent" that MNAs are in conflict of interest when they debate and vote on their salaries and working conditions.
"But let's not be populist about it. When QS says that we vote on our own salaries, we have to be careful. The government referred to third parties, who had no interest, the task of determining what that salary should be," he explained at a press briefing on Tuesday before the vote on the bill.
St-Pierre Plamondon added that every law must be voted on in the National Assembly. Interim Liberal leader Marc Tanguay agreed.
CHANGING THE WAY THINGS ARE DONE?
In her letter, the ethics commissioner recalled that she -- and her predecessor, Jacques Saint-Laurent -- both suggested the implementation of an independent, decision-making committee to determine the working conditions of MNAs in reports.
In her 2019 report, Mignolet recommended that "the National Assembly consider the creation of a permanent independent committee with decision-making powers regarding the working conditions of MNAs."
"I'm asking that we hear from the ethics commissioner in committee so that we can update our code of ethics, and this could perhaps be part of one of her recommendations," said Tanguay on Tuesday.
Without commenting on the recommendation to create a permanent, independent decision-making committee, Tanguay said he was "in favour of discussions on this issue."
QS supported this recommendation. The party's position is essentially identical.
Mignolet also pointed out that the report, which inspired the government to raise MNAs' salaries, raises the ethical issue of MNAs determining their own working conditions. The report stated that "the question of the appearance of conflict of interest remains a key issue.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on June 6, 2023.