We don’t vote for part-time MPs

We don’t vote for part-time MPs
We don’t vote for part-time MPs

Member of Parliament is a full-time job. A demanding job, no offense to former conservative MP Claire Samson who compared her role in the National Assembly to that of a green plant.

Published at 12:54 a.m.

Updated at 5:00 a.m.

In reality, the weeks are long for elected officials who are constantly commuting between their constituency and the national capital, who must respond to voters on the ground while participating in parliamentary work.

It is therefore difficult to see how they can find time for “extracurricular” activities such as part-time employment or even sporadic contracts. Not to mention that this poses risks of conflict or appearance of conflict of interest.

This week, we learned that Guillaume Cliche-Rivard remains a shareholder in the immigration law firm he founded, even though he is spokesperson for Québec solidaire on immigration matters. Same scenario for Liberal MP Brigitte Garceau.

We can bet that if a member of the Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) had found himself in a similar situation, many shirts would have been torn!

But in his defense, it must be said that Mr. Cliche-Rivard followed the rules of the Ethics Commissioner. As a deputy, he can remain a shareholder in his company and receive dividends (others have done so before him). And even if he assures that he has not billed for hours, nothing prevents an MP from having a second job. *

Many elected officials do not deprive themselves of it, in Quebec as in Ottawa.

A few years ago, a compilation of Montreal Journal had shown that nearly 20% of senators held a second job⁠1. THE Toronto Star had also revealed that a dozen federal deputies had employment or business income⁠2.

On the municipal scene, many elected officials have another paid job. But in their case, it is almost inevitable since the remuneration is often less than $10,000 in small communities.

We are very far from that in the National Assembly, where the deputies voted for a copious salary increase of 30%, in 2023. From now on, their basic compensation exceeds $130,000. Adding up the additional allowances, many earn more than $150,000 per year, not including their spending allowance of some $38,000.

As such, they are expected to devote themselves fully to their public office, even if nothing forces them to do so.

However, there are certain guidelines.

First, provincial deputies cannot hold a job incompatible with their duties, in particular another paid position for a government. They cannot hold the position of federal deputy or mayor either, as was the case in another era. Simon-Napoléon Parent was even prime minister of Quebec while being mayor of Quebec.

Second, provincial deputies must not place themselves in a situation of conflict of interest. We saw this in the past when the member for Mirabel Sylvie D’Amours, shareholder of a farm, was involved in debates on a bill affecting the agricultural sector, which constitutes a breach, had ruled the commissioner.

Third, deputies can be sanctioned if they do not regularly participate in the work of the National Assembly. However, no one validates the work they do (or not do) in their constituency, except the whip in charge of party discipline.

That being said, there is no rule dictating how many hours an MP can reasonably devote to another job without neglecting the mandate that voters have entrusted to them.

In the “this goes beyond the limits” category, the case of Yves Bolduc springs to mind.

When Pauline Marois took power from the Liberals, Yves Bolduc returned to the practice of medicine, while remaining an opposition MP. He received a bonus of $215,000 for caring for 1,500 patients. A heavy task, no doubt. When the Liberals took back power, 18 months later, he had abandoned his patients… but not the bonus that he himself had put in place when he was Minister of Health.

Faced with the very justified scandal, Prime Minister Philippe Couillard then admitted that the extra-parliamentary work of deputies would benefit from being better supervised. Fully agree ! But what has changed since then? Nothing !

Periodically, the question therefore comes up in the news. And it is the test of public opinion that applies, for lack of better defined guidelines.

But preventing MPs from having other income is not so simple.

Are we going to force an MP who earns income from a plex to sell his property?

Are we going to force an entrepreneur to get rid of his business if he is elected MP, which will prevent him from taking over the reins if he is defeated in the next elections?

Are we going to prevent a doctor from practicing a few hours a month as the former solidarity MP Amir Khadir did to keep control?

If we want to attract a variety of profiles in politics, in order to enrich our social debates, we must keep in mind that there is life after the National Assembly.

But we don’t want our MPs to play both sides.

*Mr. Cliche-Rivard says he devotes only 8 hours per month of his personal time to his practice.

1. Read the article from Montreal Journal “One in five senators has a second job”

2. Read the article from Toronto Star “Does your representative in the House of Commons have a second job? ” (in English)



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