May 17, 1932 (17th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Henry Elvins Spencer

United Farmers of Alberta


We were informed by the Prime Minister that most judges were willing to pay the ten per cent.
Mr, LAPOINTE: I have no concern about that; it is possible they are willing to pay. If so, let them pay voluntarily. My point is that this parliament has no right to impose a special tax on the judges of Canada through the operation of a special bill such as the one now before us. Nobody speaks for them. We have taken away from them not only the right to vote but the right to speak. They cannot defend themselves. They have no right to say anything on public matters, and may I say that the present legislation is not very generous or courageous; it is not sportsmanlike to attack people who have not the right to defend themselves. They can say nothing in their defence. More than that, we have passed legislation prohibiting them entering other gainful occupations. We have prohibited them from deriving any other income or revenue from any sources whatever, as do other people in times of prosperity. Now we are asking them-we are forcing them, in a period of depression, despite the fact that when times were better they had no opportunity to benefit-to pay a special tax.
There is no doubt that the legislation now before us is makeshift, because the government found it could not place them under the bill to reduce salaries. They are doing indirectly what they could not do directly. Judges are not servants of the crown. Since the Act of Settlement that fact has been well established and accepted. They sit in judgment on differences and difficulties arising between the crown and the subjects. They cannot be removed by the crown as can other
[Mr. Lapointe.1
civil servants. After the Act of Settlement another law was passed affecting only the judges and enacting that they are not related, as are other civil servants, to the sovereign; they are not servants of the crown. I quite realize that the government could not have included them in the bill which has now become law. The present legislation, however, is only a subterfuge, and is opposed to the principles of British law. I know the Minister of Justice does not like it; he could not like it. I can remember very well a time when he blamed me for not taking the means to increase judges salaries. I can remember his eloquent words to the effect that judges are not paid adequately, and that in fact they were underpaid. Well, he is doing worse than I did; at least I did not reduce their salaries.
I know that in certain quarters it is stylish to attack judges. As I have already said they cannot defend themselves. The statement has been made that it is easy to find people prepared to accept a position on the bench. That may be so, but the present Minister of Justice knows as well as I do that it is difficult to find the men we would like to appoint to the higher courts of the land. Certainly it is possible to find some men, but let me tell hon. members that there is no doubt a poor servant is always overpaid. Let us suppose that we should apply the same principle to the House of Commons. When I came to parliament the indemnity was only $1,000. It was increased to $1,500, then to $2,500, and now it is $4,000. May I suggest that if it were again $1,000 quite possibly there would be people who would be willing to accept office. That, however, is not a fair basis upon which to decide the amount which should be paid to judges, to members of parliament or to any other servants of the people. I do not desire to say more in this connection except that it is of supreme importance to Canada that we should have an impartial and independent judiciary. I do not think it is right to subject judges to the necessity of looking to parliament to learn whether their salaries or taxes are going to be increased or decreased from year to year. Judges must be altogether independent of parliament; they must be fearless. They have a tremendous responsibility. We exact from them high standards of living, and as I said we exclude them from all other gainful occupations. We are proud of our Canadian bench, and I think we should make it so that our judiciary would be in a position to maintain the prestige with which it has always been surrounded.

Income War Tax Act
Last night when I entered the chamber the estimates of the Minister of National Defence were under review. There was discussion on an item of almost $2,000,000 for the training of the non-permanent militia. Let me tell hon. members that the country might more easily dispense with the training of the nonpermanent militia than impose a special tax on our judges. To please the hon. member for Southeast Grey may I say I would also be quite willing to cut off the amount set aside for cadet training, rather than make a levy on the salaries of judges.
There is another point upon which I should like to say a few words. The government was blamed for not having put a tax, similar to the one now under discussion, on the salaries of lieutenant-governors. Well, this one is bad, but the other one would also be bad. I have heard the suggestion in this house that we could very well dispense with the office of lieutenant-governor in the provinces. Well, my reply to that is that under the British North America Act the lieutenant-governor is part of the constitution; it is part of the legislature of a province. The act says that the legislature of the province of Quebec shall be composed of a lieutenant-governor, a legislative assembly and a legislative council. It states further that the legislature of Ontario shall be composed of a lieutenant-governor and a legislative assembly. Lieutenant-governors form part of legislative bodies. So long as we have autonomous provinces the lieutenant-governors represent the king in those provinces, and no hon. members in this parliament have the right to do away with that office in the provinces.
I am not sure either that the people of the provinces favour this change, and I know in Quebec they would not. In Quebec the office of lieutenant-governor is part of our national life. The home of the lieutenant-governor is the national home of the province. The lieutenant-governor represents the king; he represents law; he represents order; he represents authority. I do not think there would be even a very small minority in the province which would favour doing away with the lieutenant-governorship. Let me say also that the salaries of the lieutenant-governors are perhaps the only ones that have never been increased since confederation. All the other salaries have been increased; the lieutenant-governors are being paid to-day what they were paid in 1867. Is it to be suggested that we should have only wealthy people as representing the crown in the provinces? I am opposed to that suggestion. We have in my own province at the present time a lieutenant-governor whom I would not change for any
millionaire, no matter whence he came in this country; far from it; and he has the esteem, the good will and the affection of every citizen of the province. The salary which is being paid to the representatives of the crown, instead of being too large, in my opinion is much too small.
Those are the considerations I wanted to express to-day, and I am thankful to the Prime Minister for having given me the opportunity of doing so,

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