House of Commons Debates — November 22, 1867

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On motion of Sir John A. Macdonald the second reading of the Bill relating to Indemnity of Members and Salaries of the Speakers of both Houses of Parliament was taken up.

Hon. Mr. Dorion said the theory of the sessional allowance of six hundred dollars was that as the session was expected to last one hundred days the pay would be six dollars a day. As a matter of fact, however, in 1865 there were two sessions, lasting ninety-nine days, and members got eleven dollars seventy cents per day for one session and $15 for the other. In 1863, also, there were two sessions, and the pay equalled $9.67 per day in the one session, and $7.69 in the other. The true principle, he contended, was a fixed per diem allowance. He did not intend to divide the House, but did not wish by his silence to have it supposed that he acquiesced in the Bill.

Mr. Blake said it would be a waste of time to propose an amendment to the Bill. He admitted that the Government had a reasonable excuse for the principle upon which the Bill was based, it having been admitted by the Parliament of the late Province of Canada, still he must characterize it as a vicious principle. With regard to mileage, he hoped a better system would be arrived at. The honourable Minister of Justice had said the principle of constructive mileage was wrong and immoral. He agreed with the position of the leader of the Government in that respect. He referred to the views enunciated by the members from the Maritime Provinces. They had only the statements of a few honourable members as to the facts. He suggested that ten cents per mile was too much in Upper Canada, and showed that his own mileage at that rate would be more than double what it cost him. He proposed that every member should receive what he would certify to be his necessary travelling expenses up to a maximum of ten cents per mile.

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He contended that instead of 10¢ a mile which so far as Canada was concerned gave the members $30.00 more than their actual travelling expenses, members should receive what they declared to have been their actual expenses—not to exceed 10¢ a mile. He intimated that he would move an amendment to that effect in committee of the whole.

Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald said it was essential at the opening of a new Parliament that a measure should be introduced, and therefore the Government had taken that on to statute book of the late Province, against which there had been no objection. He knew that honourable members thought $6 not sufficient for expenses of members of Parliament. Under the Bill they would receive a little over $6, but very little. The matter was in the hands of the House to deal with. He thought there might be a fixed rate of mileage, and that members should not be compelled to contract their comforts for fear they should be accused of intailing too great a cost on the country. He thought if his honourable friend reduced the mileage much more members would have to travel on foot.

He thought $6 a day not quite sufficient on account of the increased expenses of living, but as the people had been accustomed to that rate they might not like to see it raised. As sessions of Parliament would probably not exceed three months, the sessional allowance would in fact give a little more than $6 per day which was only fair. As regarded the mileage, he thought it better to have a fixed rate than to require from members a declaration as to their actual expenses. The accounts would be contrasted and it might afterwards be thrown in face of a member on the hustings by an opposing candidate, that in going to the seat of Government he had travelled more like a prince than a representative of homespun people in the back woods. Members also would be looking what the others had charged before they made their declaration, and he was sure the great economical party of which his friend from West Durham was a member, would take care that their expenses were six pence less than the amounts charged by gentlemen on his side. (Laughter).

Hon. John Sandfield Macdonald said he would not take any objections to the proposal of the Government. Under the old system the constituents of honourable members had not complained, and it gave advantages to the Government.

Mr. Holton objected to the fact that the system did give the Government of the day an advantage, and for that reason he opposed it.

Hon. Mr. Johnson called attention to the provisions of the rules of the House, which provided that no member should vote upon a question in which he was personally interested.

Mr. F. Jones said the honourable member for Chateauguay had held the purse-strings of the Province, and did not at that time think it necessary to suggest indications of the amount of indemnity of members. He argued that a rate per diem and certified mileage would increase the expense.

Mr. Walsh said the indemnity was not for time spent by members, but for expenses. He objected to the Bill because it gave them increased indemnity. He thought this session should not be made an exceptional one, but that the two should be considered as one, and members receive allowance as if for one session. He approved of the present system of mileage.

He hoped questions would not be taken from a New Brunswick or Nova Scotian point of view, but upon their merits. The gentleman opposite did not propose a reduction, but only that individual members might reduce it if they saw fit. He proposed that this session with regard to mileage, should not be considered as two sessions but one.

The Bill was read a second time.

On motion the House went into committee on the Bill—Hon. Mr. Smith in the Chair.

Mr. Chamberlain said if the session extended beyond 90 days the members should have $600, but unless it did so extend, they should have but $6 per day.

Mr. Blake said his character as an independent member should not be impugned by imputing motives, as had been done by the honourable member for Norfolk. He moved his amendment respecting mileage.

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Mr. F. Jones said the honourable member for West Durham was the first to accuse honourable members of mercenary motives. He (Mr. J.) said his experience of honourable members for seven years was that honourable gentlemen were above such imputations.

Mr. Walsh said a fair allowance for mileage should be made, placing all upon the same footing, or none at all.

The amendment was put and lost.

Sir John A. Macdonald, moved that the committee rise and report the bill without amendment, and a third reading be ordered on Monday next. Carried.

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