Roy Green: It’s time Canada’s members of Parliament shared the financial pain

Parliament Hill in Ottawa.
Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

Members of India’s Parliament have passed a bill which, for one year, will reduce the salaries of MPs by 30 per cent “to meet the exigencies arising out of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

New Zealand’s celebrated Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced in May that she and her cabinet would absorb a 20 per cent pay cut, saying “if there was ever a time to close the gap between groups of people across New Zealand in different positions, it is now,” adding the decision was taken to show “leadership and solidarity.”

Other N.Z. national government and public sector officials also were slated to experience a salary cut.

READ MORE: New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern, ministers take 20% pay cut in coronavirus solidarity

A month later, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, one of the highest-paid national leaders in the world, announced neither he nor his cabinet would absorb a reduction in pay. Instead, a national wage freeze for the Australian Public Service enacted in April for six months would remain in place.

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Canadians had their turn and offered a national opinion in May for an Angus Reid Forum survey, with roughly two-thirds urging members of Parliament to take a pandemic-related pay cut and 43 per cent agreeing strongly with the sentiment.

This has proven an option not in play with elected members of our national government.

Click to play video 'Looking ahead to next week’s throne speech' Looking ahead to next week’s throne speech
Looking ahead to next week’s throne speech

The base salaries of MPs remain sacrosanct, at least at their 2019 level of $178,900, while all around them Canadians have suffered and continue to endure financial stress. While jobs are lost and future prospects remain uncertain for the average person, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pockets roughly double the earnings of a backbench member of his caucus. Cabinet ministers and opposition party leaders also significantly outdistance the aforementioned backbench toiler of the parliamentary gulag.

Particularly hurting is the small business sector, the backbone national employer group. According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, at least 55,000 — and perhaps as high as 218,000 — small businesses may be sliding headlong toward closing permanently.

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To be sure, many MPs and party leaders did offer what amounts to a token reduction in take-home dollars by committing to redirecting their 2020 automatic April 1 annual pay raises to charity. To a member earning a base salary that means $3,756.90 will be bound for charities.

READ MORE: Trudeau, Scheer among MPs to donate pay increase to charities amid coronavirus

It also isn’t necessarily easy, but hardly impossible for MPs to decline a percentage of remuneration. They would, as a group, have to introduce and support legislative changes to their salary structure. That has not taken place.

It would seem only appropriate for exceedingly well-compensated members of Parliament, whose incomes are supplemented by a gold-plated pension plan, to engage in a publicly recorded vote on beginning, and carrying through, on the process of reducing their salaries — and why not in line with the precedent set by their New Zealand and India counterparts?

Such a decision would be greeted by populous national approval.

Roy Green is the host of the Roy Green Show on the Global News Radio network.

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