Chretien champions pay raise for MPs

Prime Minister Jean Chrtien said Monday that federal MPs work hard and deserve a higher salary.

On Tuesday, a government commission on MPs salaries is expected to recommend a substantial raise one that some Liberal MPs say could be as high as 20 per cent.

The prime minister said that MPs haven't received a real raise in seven years and work seven days a week during their term.

"They're working during the week, they're working on weekends and I feel that they deserve better pay," Chrtien said.

Ed Lumley, a former Liberal cabinet minister, headed the three-person committee. Lumley said that MPs' salaries have fallen behind those in the private sector.

The prime minister said that if a member of Parliament can't justify his or her salary, they don't belong in the House of Commons. He said he's encouraged his caucus members to be prepared to defend an increase in salary.

"You need to make sure that something is fair for MPs but fair for taxpayers, too," Canadian Alliance MP Deborah Grey said regarding the potential raise.

Members of Parliament earn a base salary of $69,100 and a $22,800 tax-free expense allowance, putting them in the top two per cent of Canadian income earners.