Bill C-28 could have been stopped
By Alexa McDonough
The New Democratic Caucus did not agree with the rationale for a 20 per cent increase in MP's pay and have stated this publicly. We share the feeling of many Canadians that a 20 per cent raise is incomprehensible to them. It is for this reason our party put forth an amendment that would have had the effect of reducing the raise from 20 to 10 per cent. Unfortunately, the majority of the House of Commons did not support this change.

There were things in Bill C-28 that the NDP had asked for over the years. First of all, we support the demand for transparency and that the tax-free allowance be converted to taxable income so that there is no illusion as to what Members are making. Also, Bill C-28 has a provision that takes the determination of Members' salaries out of the House of Commons so that Members of Parliament will never again be involved in deciding on their own remuneration.

Although Bill C-28 did address these important concerns, the NDP Caucus voted against salary increases in the past, and we did so again on June 7.

Regrettably, there is much about the handling of Bill C-28 that is perceived by the public to be expedient. As much as the legislation was a response to the report of a commission created by statute after every election, there is no question that the impetus and momentum for this pay package came about because members of the Liberal government decided it was time for a pay raise. And although the Canadian Alliance Party publicly complained about Bill C-28 being fast-tracked through Parliament, the fact remains the process was allowed pursuant to a House of Commons order that could have been stopped if 25 MPs stood to refuse it. The Alliance is one of the parties that had the numbers to stop it and chose not to do so.

We viewed the opting-in clause in the Bill as particularly offensive because the Liberals deliberately put it there as a form of intimidation.

NDP House Leader Bill Blaikie, MP, challenged this in Parliament when he said, "It is a form of intimidation on the part of the Prime Minister. It is basically trying to put us in a position where, politically, we will be vulnerable if we both express our opinion on what we think is proper and vote accordingly."

New Democrats remain committed to making government more accountable and to fighting for parliamentary reforms that will help to create a Parliament worthy of the trust and respect of Canadians. We believe that it is this challenge that Members of Parliament should be concerned about, instead of dealing with their own salary compensation.
Alexa McDonough is Leader of the New Democratic Party.