PARLIAMENT of CANADA
House of Commons Procedure and Practice
Edited by Robert Marleau and Camille Montpetit
2000 EditionMore information …
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4. The House of Commons and Its Members

Remuneration, Pensions and Entitlements

The compensation package for Members of the House of Commons consists of three main components: a sessional indemnity (also known as a sessional allowance or salary), an incidental expense allowance, and a pension plan. In addition, Members are provided with other benefits and allowances related to travel between Ottawa and their constituency and within the constituency, a budget to staff the Parliament Hill and the constituency offices, and goods and services provided for the Members’ use.

The Sessional Indemnity and Incidental Expense Allowance

The sessional indemnity, the equivalent of a salary, is stated as an annual amount and is paid monthly. [305]  Additional salaries are payable to Members of the House of Commons occupying certain offices and positions. These include the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, the Speaker and other Chair occupants, the Leaders of recognized opposition parties, House Leaders, Whips, and Parliamentary Secretaries. [306]  Members also receive an incidental expense allowance which is non-accountable (i.e., Members do not have to document their use of the allowance with receipts) and is not subject to income tax. Members representing remote or difficult-to-access constituencies (as listed in the Canada Elections Act) receive a slightly larger expense allowance. [307] 

In 1990, an accountable travel expense allowance (often referred to as the housing allowance) was introduced to compensate Members for the cost of meals, incidentals and accommodation expenses incurred while on official business more than 100 kilometres from their principal residence. The accountable expense allowance helps Members to offset some of the costs involved in maintaining two households, one in their constituency and one in Ottawa. Expenses claimed under the travel status expenses provision cannot exceed the amount set by the Board of Internal Economy. [308] 

Pension

The pension plan for Members was first established in 1952. At that time, Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent expressed concern about the reluctance of some people to run for a seat in the House of Commons because of their belief that long years spent in public service would not allow them to provide adequately for their later years. The Prime Minister believed that the establishment of a pension plan would strengthen the parliamentary institution and attract the right kind of person to public service. [309]  Under the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act, a retiring allowance (pension) is payable to former Members who have contributed to the pension plan for a minimum of six years and who have attained age 55. [310]  Should a Member retire with less than six years of service, the Member receives a withdrawal allowance in a single payment. [311] 

A former Member who is not entitled to a pension and who was a Member on the day of dissolution, but is not re-elected or did not seek re-election, is entitled to a severance allowance equal to 50% of the total of the basic annual sessional indemnity and any annual salary payable to Members occupying certain offices (such as that of a Minister, House Leader, Whip, or Parliamentary Secretary). [312]  The severance allowance is also payable to a Member who is not eligible for a pension and who resigned during an election period, following the dissolution of Parliament, or who resigned during a Parliament because of permanent illness or disability which in the opinion of the Speaker prevented the Member from performing his or her duties. [313] 

The provisions of the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowance Act continue to apply between the day of dissolution and election day. Contributions cease as of the day of the election for Members who are not re-elected.

Commission on Members’ Salaries and Indemnities

Since 1975, the law has required that a commission be appointed by the Governor in Council after each general election, within two months after the date fixed for the return of the writs, to determine the adequacy of indemnities and various allowances payable to Members of the Senate and the House of Commons and to report back with recommendations, if deemed necessary, within six months. [314] 

Commissions to review Members’ allowances are generally known by the name of their chairs or members. Since 1979, reports have been received from the Hales Commission (1979), [315]  the McIsaac-Balcer Commission (1980), [316]  the Clarke-Campbell Commission (1985), [317]  the St. Germain-Fox Commission (1989), [318]  the Lapointe Commission (1994) [319]  and the Blais Commission (1998). [320]  The Report of the Commission to Review Allowances of Members of Parliament is tabled in the House by a Minister, typically the Government House Leader, [321]  and permanently referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. [322] 

Every commission has recommended that the sessional indemnity be increased, but they have differed in how the increase should be made and how much the increase should be. The incidental expense was treated differently by each commission with no consensus on the amount, its status or how it should be changed. Similarly, each commission has recommended changes to the amount of other allowances and services, but recommendations were not consistent from one commission to another. [323]  Since 1980, following the tabling of each commission’s report, the government has subsequently introduced legislation respecting the indemnities and allowances of Members of Parliament. [324] 


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