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


Joseph Henri Napoléon Bourassa


Mr. BOURASSA (Translation):

me, there were quite a number of them. The hon. member was absent, but others were here.
As to the tax levied on judges, let us be fair. One may calmly comment on judges' salaries, however, for the same reason which the hon. member for Beauharnois has just pointed out, under present circumstances, I contend that it is neither fair to the judges, nor to the army and navy officers, nor to any class whatsoever of the community, to

Income War Tax Act
state that, in the present crisis, they should be exempt from shouldering their share of the public burden. If we wish to guard against the feelings of public hatred and distrust spreading against the leading classes, it behooves us not to advertise in our legislation and budget that we exempted certain classes on account of the position they occupy.
One hears: Judges are deprived of the right to exercise their franchise. Is it to penalize them that they are so deprived? Quite the contrary, it is to more clearly bring out the importance of the duties they discharge and shield them from the criticism of public opinion, it is to place them, so to speak, on a higher plane than the masses. It is not a punishment but an acknowledgment of the importance of their duties and the impartiality they are expected to show towards everybody.
Judges, at times, are called upon to decide on political cases. Take for instance the Controverted Elections Act, by which parliament desists from its inherent and constitutional right to decide upon legislative functions. It has transferred to the courts the exclusive right of passing judgment on all controverted election matters or the obtaining of a parliamentary mandate by corrupt or other underhand means. Why was this done? So as to make it clear that the intention was to defer to an absolutely unbiased mind, the duty of carrying out a legislative mandate.
And in order to enable judges to discharge impartially this all important duty, which, to some extent, is linked with the parliamentary mandate, they were removed from the seat of political strife. That is why they do not exercise their right to the franchise. I think it would be a mistake to look upon this loss, by which judges are disfranchised, as belittling their office. Quite the contrary it is an acknowledgment-how shall I express it-it is a recognition of the importance of their office, it is a mark of respect extended to them. However, to conclude from this that, in a country-Whether one likes it or not-in a democratic country a particular class of public servants-I use the word in its broadest sense-a particular class of public servants- whether they be lieutenant-governoi's, who are after all officials appointed by the Dominion government, or judges designated to their post by the Dominion government to carry out duties which are assigned to them by pai'liament, or again whether they are army or navy officers, who are so delegated by parliament to maintain peace or defend their country, why, I wonder, under the present circumstances, should we exempt them
from contributing their quota to the public exchequer? Again do I say that the hon. member for Beauharnois was perfectly justified in stating that it was highly improper on the part of the ministers of the crown to grant themselves a salary increase, and it was a very improper thing for parliament to unanimously endorse this increase. But the fact of having blundered last year in this connection, is not a reason to blunder to-day and proclaim to the country, when thousands of needy people are unable to find food for their everyday subsistence, that a certain class of people who happen to be wearing a three-cornered hat, or sit on the bench will be exempted or that another class of people who parade the streets with decorations on their breast, or again others who are travelling on ships either on the Atlantic or the Pacific, paid by the government to idle away the time, must be exempted from carrying their share of the burden. No, the time has come when all classes must shoulder their share of the burden.
As to the aim of this measure, I entirely approve what the government has stated or rather what it is doing to-day. It is possible that they are doing so to cover their retreat, that they are presenting it under the guise of income tax, instead of doing what would have been the right thing, namely: reduce the salaries of judges and officers like those of other civil servants. However, there is an old English proverb which applies to all public administrations: "Let them down easy." The moment they perform a worthy act I have no fault to find whether they slip out by the side door instead of coming through the front door. The fact that the result attained is the same, that all classes of the community contribute to the public fund, to the liabilities of the state, gives us sufficient ground to approve them and, for my part, I do it heartily.

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