The recently introduced bill in the National Assembly by the governing CAQ that will increase the base salary of MNAs from $101,561 to $131,766 is a bad policy with horrible timing. At a time when everyone is struggling with food price increases, rising interest rates and an uncertain economic environment, this is not the time for elected officials to be giving themselves a pay raise. Fundamentally, making over $100,000 is already more than enough for anyone to live comfortably, and anyone who says differently is out of touch.
The rationale provided by the CAQ is that we need to pay elected officials more in order to attract talent. This may sound reasonable, but it doesn’t hold up under scutiny.
High-level elected officials already have jobs that provide them with enormous privileges. Political power, public recognition, expense accounts, pensions, transition allowances and an almost guaranteed-to-be lucrative post-political career are just some notable perks of high office. This is in addition to the fact that all too often politicians come from already privileged family backgrounds and well-compensated careers.
This is not to say that many MNAs, such as Pontiac’s André Fortin, don’t work hard for their communities and shouldn’t be compensated. But again, a base of $101,561 already seems reasonable, especially at a time when essential public workers such as school bus drivers and teachers are struggling for pay increases. Almost everyone else in the province can’t even expect a modest pay boost anytime soon, let alone a $30,000 increase.
On a more idealistic note, people should be getting into politics out of a desire to serve the public rather than of a desire to get paid. If someone isn’t running for office because they’re “only” going to make $101,561, then maybe it’s no great loss if they chose not to run. Instead of trying to attract people who are wealthy professionals, a group that is already overrepresented in our politics, we should focus on ways of changing our political system to ensure people from more diverse socio-economic categories are elected as our representatives.
How about instead of trying to attract people for who $101,561 would be a pay cut, we work on attracting people where that salary would be more than enough. Why shouldn’t we see more nurses, farmers, teachers, tradespeople, or anyone else from a middle/working class job, be represented in our legislature? We seem to have more than enough business people, lawyers and people from management backgrounds right now.
Anyone who believes that people from more modest careers have less to offer to elected office might be an elitist. If anything, our government would do well to have more insight into what it is like to work a regular job and experience financial insecurity. Perhaps then we’d have public policy that more seriously addresses the proliferation of food bank recipients, unaffordable housing and an exhausted medical system.
Overall, in times like this a lot of people deserve a pay raise. Politicians, however, should be at the back instead of at the front of that line.
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