June 23, 1920 (13th Parliament, 4th Session)


John Hampden Burnham



Well, he has got to take various journeys on the public business, and he. has got to pay for those journeys out of his own pocket, except in so far as transportation is concerned. To my disgust and annoyance I have seen it stated in the papers that members have franking privileges. So they have on public business. And in Heaven's name, do you suppose we pay postage on the public business? We carry our own postal matter. It is on the public business that we have the franking privilege, and it is natural to suppose that the public business would be franked. But if we are not to give ourselves that privilege, if the public will not accord to us that privilege, and we have got to pay our own postage, then I can only say that there will be a great decrease in the number of letters sent. The public will not get the satisfaction, the instantaneous response, that they get now. Loads of letters come here which are franked by the people who send them; for at the present time any one who writes to a member of Parliament may send the letter without a stamp. Bet the newspapers and the public not forget, when they are
casting aspersions upon us in connection with our having the franking privilege, that the whole public have the right to frank letters which they send to members of the Senate and the House of Commons or to public officers and departments. During the session is the only time that members of Parliament have the franking privilege, though they have a great deal of public business to do when they are at home; they are expected to answer all sorts of little queries and to give the utmost satisfaction to their constituents and to any other people who choose to consult them.
Now, let me recur to this fact: it is up to the three leaders to say whether or not they are in favour of an increase of indemnity; to say "No, we will not," or "Yes, we will,"-in any event, to stop this running to and fro and the circulation of rumours one way or the other, which, in my opinion-and I know that a great many other people feel the same way-is entirely beneath the dignity of common, ordinary men, let alone members of Parliament or any other people engaged in public business. I am strongly in favour, therefore, of the increasing of the indemnity up to that point where it was when we accepted it, namely, $2,600. It is now only $1,200, so that $1,300 would be the difference. Wherever 1 have gone in the country I have heard all sensible men say that they wondered how we continued at the very small salary that we got. It is different with the ministers. They have large pay, and large responsibilities from which they can shrink; we have small pay, and large responsibilities from which we cannot shrink. We have to eat just as much nourishing food; we have to wear just as decent clothes, as the ministers; ' consequently we must really be considered to be on a level with those people rwho receive large salaries. For example, I am credibly informed that the leader of the Farmers' Party is in receipt of no less a salary, outside this House, than $15,000 a year.' Many men in this House are highly paid, for doing .what? Doing nothing? Certainly not. They are dividing their time between the business of this House and their private interests. Now, that is all very well; it is allowed by the constitution; it is allowed by the law; it is allowed by the public. But the fundamental position which we ought to take in this regard must be understood, namely, that men who devote their energies to the interests of the public should be perfectly free to have laws brought up, discussed, passed and put upon the statute book in an untrammelled

way in the best interests of the public. If they have to depend upon something else in order to eke out their livelihood, how can this possibly be done? Once more, therefore, I appeal to the various leaders,- to the Prime Minister; to the leadef of the Opposition; to the leader of the farmers' Party-to say whether they are going to leave us in the predicament that we are in just now, where we are the envy of neither the gods nor man, or whether they are going to do the fair thing by us under the circumstances. Everybody else has received an increase; surely the poor member of Parliament should receive the same.
Mr. ALPHONSE VERVILLE (St. Denis); Mr. Speaker this question of increased indemnity came before the House some years ago; it was brought up, I believe by the member for Bonavemture (Mt. Marcil). I supported his contention at that time, and I have since had no reason to change my mind. There are many reasons why the indemnity of members of Parliament should he increased. The depreciation in the value of money and its effect upon the indemnity we are now receiving has been ably put forth by my hon. friend from Peterborough (Mr. Burnham). When this question came up previously I was in a different position from that an which I find myself to-day. My only income then was my indemnity as a member of Parliament, and I knew just what it meant to make both ends meet each year on that indemnity. Since then I have been more fortunate. It may be said that for that reason I should not speak in favour of an increased indemnity, but on the contrary that is really the reason why I do * speak in favour of it. When I hear members around the corridors say that they are .afraid they will not be re-elected if they vote for an increase in indemnity, I cannot help feeling that these hon. gentlemen ought not to be in the House if that is the view they take.
It has been pointed out that many mechanics are earning more than members of Parliament. A bricklayer or other mechanic who is at all lucky in his activities throughout the year earns more than a member of the House. Moreover, he is at home every day, and he does not have to keep up two residences. But there is another point. Mention has been made of farmers and business men in the House, but there is another class that should be considered. All hon. members will agree that the labour element should be represented in Parliament, but it is impossible for a labour man

to come here and live honestly on ,$2,500 a year. Accordingly, we are debarring from representation in this House a certain class of the population whose right to be represented here is fully recognized. They can earn more at their trade than they can by coming here; they have to keep up their families, and knowing that, they say: "Well, if I am elected to Parliament I cannot return to my work when the session is over; I must assume the obligations attaching to the office of a member of Parliament; I must meet demands which are made for contributions to various causes, and so on. "Where is he to get the money to do that? If, then, we agree 'that all classes in the community should be represented for the benefit of the country at large, we must make the representation of these classes possible. I am not going to speak for the business men; there are many business men in this House and they can speak for themselves,-though I suppose there are many business men here who will not speak because they are afraid their electors will not be satisfied. But I do not believe that the sensible people in any electoral division will begrudge an increase in indemnity to members of the House. The farmers surely will not do it; Why should they? When they sell their goods in the market those goods demand a certain price, and we have to pay it or do without the goods. I do not begrudge the farmers the high prices they are getting for their products. If it is urged that the cost of production is greater, it is also true that the cost of living to the member of Parliament has largely increased. As I say, I was strongly in favour of an increase in indemnity some years ago when I was more in need of it than I am to-day,-though my position a year or two from now may be the same as it was. But if there are hon. members, as I feel sure 'there are, who do not really need an increase in indemnity, they should not do anything to withhold it from those who find an increase absolutely necessary in order that they may maintain their families and at the same time be of some service to the country. That is the reason why I am supporting this proposal, and I hope it will be supported by all members who are anxious to accept the money. The other day I saw the statement that some member in this House-I believe it was the hon. member for Prescott (Mr. Broulx)- poses as a patriot.

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