Bill C-421 (Historical)
Chief Actuary Act
An Act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other Acts in consequence thereof
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Diane Ablonczy Canadian Alliance
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Committee Report Presented
(This bill did not become law.)
Committees of the House
March 11th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-421, an act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other acts in consequence thereof, and agreed on Tuesday, March 9, to report it without amendment.
Business of the House
February 2nd, 2004 / 4:45 p.m.
Members will recall that on October 29, 2003, the House concurred in the 50th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs which had the effect of extending provisional Standing Orders in relation to private members' business until the earlier of June 23, 2004, or the dissolution of the 37th Parliament.
To ensure that private members' business will be conducted in an orderly fashion, the Chair wishes to clarify some of the provisions resulting from Standing Order 86.1, the Standing Order that deals with the reinstatement of all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons.
First of all, the List for the Consideration of Private Members’ Business, established on March 18, 2003, continues from last session to this session notwithstanding prorogation.
This list is available for consultation at the Private Members Business Office and on the Internet.
The items themselves, either in or outside the order of precedence, whether Motions, Notices of Motions (Papers) or Bills, will keep the same number as in the second session of the 37th Parliament. However, considering that he is no longer a member of this House, all the items standing in the name of Mr. Harb will be dropped from the Order Paper.
Ministers and parliamentary secretaries who are ineligible by virtue of their office will be dropped to the bottom of the list for the consideration of private members' business, where they will remain as long as they hold those offices. Consequently, the item in the name of the member for Don Valley West is withdrawn from the order of precedence.
Standing Order 86.1 states that at the beginning of the second or subsequent session of a Parliament, all items of private members' business originating in the House of Commons that have been listed on the Order Paper during the previous session shall be deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation and shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper or, as the case may be, referred to a committee and the list for the consideration of private members' business and the order of precedence established pursuant to Standing Order 87 shall continue from session to session.
So, pursuant to this Standing Order, the items in the Order of Precedence are deemed to have been considered and approved at all stages completed at the time of prorogation. Thus they shall stand, if necessary, on the Order Paper in the same place or, as the case may be, referred to committee or sent to the Senate.
There were five private members' bills originating in the House of Commons referred to committee. Therefore, pursuant to Standing Order 86.1, Bill C-231, an act to amend the Divorce Act (limits on rights of child access by sex offenders), is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Bill C-338, an act to amend the Criminal Code (street racing), is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
Bill C-408, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (oath or solemn affirmation), is deemed to havebeen introduced, read the first time, read the second time, and referred to the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.
Bill C-420, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Health.
Bill C-421, an act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other acts in consequence thereof, is deemed to have been introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.
(Bills deemed introduced, read the first time, read the second time and referred to a committee)
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
September 17th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.
Pursuant to order made on Tuesday, September 16, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-421 under private members' business.
(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
September 16th, 2003 / 6:35 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-421 which has been introduced by the member for Calgary--Nose Hill. I want to congratulate her, as some of my other colleagues have done today, for her initiative in bringing this matter before the House.
I believe that this is a long overdue and most welcome proposition for the House to consider. I certainly want to indicate my strong support for the bill. The Alliance and New Democrats may disagree on many issues, but today we stand together on the need for an independent chief actuary appointed by the House, directly reporting to the House, not to the government of the day, not to the Prime Minister's Office, and not to unelected officials, but to members of Parliament who are responsible for the well-being and welfare of Canadians, particularly when it comes to an issue of vital importance, that of pensions and security in old age.
My colleague, the finance critic for the Conservatives, talked about the stranglehold of power in the PMO. I agree with him on that point and say that here we have an idea, a well thought out proposition in the form of well constructed legislation that ought to be supported by all in the House.
I know this is a private member's bill and we are looking for individual support, but I would hope that members on the Liberal side would see this as an important contribution to the whole area of public policy and to the work that they should be doing as government of the land.
I want to address my support for the bill from several different perspectives. We must acknowledge in the House the shift within this institution toward officers who are appointed by Parliament and accountable to the House of Commons. A few years ago no officers reported directly to Parliament. Since then there has been a shift and a change, and a new trend has been set.
Today we have the Chief Electoral Officer reporting to Parliament at great distance from the notion of any political interference. This is important in terms of the electoral process in the country today. We have the Auditor General of this institution reporting directly to Parliament as an independent officer of the House.
There is no question around the positive impact that an independent position has in terms of our confidence in the system and in the scrutiny of the government but also, and I think other members have said this in the debate earlier, in terms of the confidence of Canadians in the function of this place from the point of view of accountability, transparency, integrity and honesty.
Therefore, it is important to acknowledge what has transpired in Parliament over the years on this front and what still needs to happen. Let us also keep in mind that the Commissioner of Official Languages is an independent officer reporting directly to Parliament. So we have had some movement in recent times.
We have also had some controversy over those officers who are neither independent nor appointed by Parliament. There are still questions around political interference and influence. Many members in the debate have focused on some of the controversy surrounding the ethics counsellor, a position that to this day is still appointed by the Prime Minister and is seen often as a rubber stamp of the Prime Minister and representing that stranglehold over decision making coming from the PMO. We have had all kinds of controversy dealing with Shawinigate and Canada Steamship Lines, the latter involving the former finance minister of the House.
We have had allegations and controversies surrounding the sponsorship ads involving the public works ministers, of course starting with Alfonso Gagliano. There have been questions and concerns raised about the ability of the ethics counsellor appointed by the Prime Minister to adequately scrutinize scandals in those areas and to provide objective analysis and recommendations. We also, of course, and I do not need to go into this today at any great length, have had enormous controversy around the privacy commissioner. There are many lessons to be learned from these developments.
Today we are dealing with the question of an independent chief actuary of Canada, a position, an individual who has responsibility to give actuarial information concerning the Canada Pension Plan, to give information and advice around the investments of the CPP Investment Board and the performance of the public service pension fund as well as the RCMP and the Canadian Forces pension funds.
I am referencing the work done by the member for Calgary—Nose Hill in describing the work of the chief actuary and laying the groundwork for the need to make this position absolutely an independently appointed person reporting to the House free from any kind of political influence. At no time has this been more important than today given people's uncertainty and concerns around the future of their pension funds.
We can just refer to recent findings published in the last week or so by Statistics Canada showing that one-third of Canadians from the ages of 45 to 59 years of age face an uncertain retirement future. They believe they face an uncertain retirement future. They believe their retirement incomes will be inadequate. The study went on to show that in fact the greatest concern was among Canadians who were without private pension plans. This is very important information relevant to the debate at hand and is reinforcement for why the position we are talking about has to be independent.
The concerns raised by Canadians may be fed by a lot of uncertainty and false fear spread by private corporate interests and think-tanks: that in fact public pensions will collapse under the weight of the baby boomers. All kinds of information may not be founded in fact and may in fact be inaccurate in terms of the analysis, but needless to say, those kinds of fears tell all of us we have to make sure that Canadians trust the information they are getting and that they are given absolute assurances that their pension funds and their retirement are secure.
Finally, let me point out how important the independence of this position is with respect to the CPP Investment Board. We have had recent concerns raised about the fact that the board is investing on the open market, in the stock exchange, and it has been reported that the board often loses great sums of money in terms of investment of Canadians' pension funds. Today it may be in the black, but that could change.
Finally, I want to point out why that could change and why we need this kind of independent scrutiny. Canadians get very nervous when they read, as they have done today in newspapers across this country, that the foreign Texas Pacific Group, in its effort to purchase Air Canada, “has wooed the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and other institutions about participating in a multibillion dollar fund that would invest in distressed companies”. We all get very nervous reading that this kind of development is taking place, as well as reading that the largest public pension fund in the United States, the California Public Employees' Retirement System, has had to sue a major corporation for losses it alleges resulted from “sham” transactions.
Enough said in terms of our worries and in terms of Canadians' fears. Let us get on with this very important legislative proposal.
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
September 16th, 2003 / 6:30 p.m.
Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-421 whose purpose is to provide for an independent chief actuary who would report directly to the House of Commons.
I remember, as many members of the House will remember, back to 1998 when Bernard Dussault was fired by the superintendent of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, OSFI, just weeks before he was to give a major report on the Canada pension plan. The firing of the former chief actuary highlights the need for greater autonomy in the office of the chief actuary. He sued for wrongful dismissal, claiming he was fired for refusing to put an optimistic spin on government CPP projections. He said that he was fired because he refused to keep projections for CPP premiums under 10%. That was a case where the chief actuary was about to contradict the then finance minister, the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, who at that time had drawn 9.9% as the line in the actuarial sand.
Mr. Dussault said that OSFI had asked on at least two occasions to change the figure so as not to embarrass the minister. As such, according to Mr. Dussault, he refused to succumb to such pressure and was fired. Last October, the government paid Mr. Dussault $364,000 in compensation for wrongful dismissal. What a waste of taxpayers' money.
All of this, the application of pressure to massage figures in order to avoid political embarrassment, transpired from direct political interference. To what extent the former minister was aware of what was going on perhaps we will never know, but the fact is that Parliament does need a referee who can call political interference from time to time.
The government's position on the bill is that we have ministerial accountability. The government has made a mockery out of the notion of ministerial accountability. In fact, no government in the history of Canada has done more to undermine the principle of ministerial accountability, which is a cornerstone of Parliament, than this government with the endless scandals and cover ups associated with it, whether it is HRDC, the sponsorship scandal or the Grand-Mère scandal. Again, the police in Toronto have identified more problems in HRDC. This is after $50 million was spent on an internal audit program designed to identify these sorts of problems.
It was not that audit program that identified the most recent issues with HRDC; it was the police in Toronto. In public works, we now see an investigation into the Liberal Party around the sponsorship program. It is little wonder that we do not have enough RCMP policing the streets of Canada when it is too busy policing the Liberal Party of Canada and the Department of Human Resources Development.
The fact is that the Prime Minister has set the ethical bar very low and the ministers continue to limbo under it. We need greater accountability to Parliament. It would make a great deal of sense to have the chief actuary report directly to Parliament. Furthermore, to have a chief actuary reporting directly to Parliament would benefit members on both sides of the House.
Many Liberal backbenchers ought to also consider it from the perspective that there is in fact more to empower individual members of Parliament and as such, diminish the stranglehold on power that the PMO currently has. Strengthening the House and individual members of Parliament ultimately strengthens democracy because we have more ability to represent effectively the people who put us here.
An independent chief actuary reporting directly to the House of Commons is a good idea that I support strongly.
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
September 16th, 2003 / 6:25 p.m.
Pauline Picard Drummond, QC
Mr. Speaker, this is my first speech since the summer vacation ended and I am pleased to speak today on the bill presented by the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill, and by the way, offer her my congratulations on her initiative.
The purpose of this bill is to establish the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada. This bill would give the Chief Actuary the same status as a senior official, acting independently and reporting directly to Parliament, just as the Auditor General does.
Basically, the purpose of Bill C-421 is to make the administration of the federal government even more transparent. During the first hour of debate, before the summer holiday, the parliamentary secretary gave us all a good laugh about the confidence Canadians have in their pension system.
But once upon a time, these same Canadians, and those who interest me most, the Quebeckers, had confidence in the employment insurance program.
However, the current state of the employment insurance fund is now known. An accounting process was used to literally make off with $46 billion from the fund and reallocate it to all kinds of things, and benefits and programs have been cut. The fund's programs have been completely eliminated. As a result, the confidence of Canadians in the pension system has been greatly reduced.
Not much more can be said today, as I mentioned, when fewer and fewer contributors are eligible for benefits, because this government has decided to restrict the eligibility criteria, continue to maintain premiums at levels beyond the fund's needs and dip into the fund's surplus to fund its other budget operations. I gave an example of this earlier.
What people need to remember is that the hon. member for Saint-Maurice, who is preparing to step down as Prime Minister, and the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard, the future Prime Minister, are the ones responsible for the financial disaster the government currently finds itself in.
Not so long ago, shortly before I was elected, we had the unemployment insurance system. Today, it is called employment insurance. The main purpose of unemployment insurance and the unemployment insurance fund was to provide workers who had lost their job with replacement income to help tide them over. This is no longer true. Consequently, we believe that an actuary would provide Canadians and Quebeckers with greater transparency.
If we had an independent fund and an actuary who answered to Parliament, $46 billion—soon to be $58 billion—would not have been diverted from a fund intended to provide workers with a replacement income.
The pension system needs an actuary to ensure greater transparency for Canadians and Quebeckers.
The Bloc Quebecois has said it numerous times, and I will say it again today, due to the political decisions of the Liberals, workers are no longer guaranteed access to a suitable employment insurance system, not to mention the fact that the fund will not be used for other means.
Members of the Standing Committee on Finance called on numerous occasions on the finance minister and his parliamentary secretary to justify the employment insurance fund contribution rate, a rate we feel is far higher than it needs to be, as proven by the surplus it accumulates year after year.
The response we got, on two separate occasions, was that this year income was going to be offset by expenditures.
It seems that there may be a flagrant lack of communication within this government, when the Minister of Human Resources Development maintains that there will be a surplus again this year, one that will be close to $3 billion. Obviously, there is a problem.
As for the bill before the House, I fail to see how the government could object to it. With the odour of scandal hanging yet again in the air, it has every interest in creating all the conditions necessary to ensure that there is indeed transparency, and not just lip service to it in speeches.
So that is what Bill C-421 is about. I feel it is a very good means of ensuring greater transparency and reassuring the people of Quebec and of Canada about their pension plan.
I believe that public servants need to be responsible for what they do on behalf of the state, and that the Liberal government must also raise its level of accountability with respect to its programs. This has already been mentioned by the member for Calgary—Nose Hill in introducing this bill, with the strong backing of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries. I wish to assure her of the support of the Bloc Quebecois.
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
September 16th, 2003 / 6:15 p.m.
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this bill today, notwithstanding what just went on in the vote before the House. It is a very disappointing moment for me personally but we must move on at this moment to this private member's bill.
Bill C-421, the chief actuary act, is a very important private member's bill. While chief actuaries are not exactly in demand as after dinner speakers, what they do and what they have to say about government business, about pension plans and about the security of our future is critically important. Actuaries are good speakers too, I just said that in jest.
It is very important that this bill go through as proposed by the member for Calgary--Nose Hill because a chief actuary, by giving a neutral or professional opinion without political interference on the stability and the long term viability of pension plans, basically assures us that our retirement years will be spent with a pension that is there to serve its purpose. In other words, we will not be shortchanged, we will not be shafted, we will not be left high and dry and we will not be experiencing freedom 75 instead of freedom 65. That is why the position of chief actuary, which would be created by this bill, is extremely important for the future of the country, for everything from the Canada pension plan and the actuarial information contained therein, the investments of the CPP investment board, the performance of the public service pension fund, plus the RCMP and Canadian forces pension funds.
A large number of people, most if not all Canadians, will be affected by the actuarial information which decides things like contribution rates and the investment priorities of these boards in years to come. It is critically important that the government and all Canadians have information available to them, free from interference by political masters of the day of whatever party. The chief actuary must be free to give information, both publicly and in private to ministers, that is not coerced or changed to meet someone's political agenda.
One would think that is obvious, but it was not so obvious when the last chief actuary, Mr. Bernard Dussault, was to give a major report on the Canada pension plan back in 1998 and was fired by the government because he refused to put an optimistic spin on the CPP projections. One might say that maybe it was just sour grapes, but in October of 2002 this man was awarded a compensation package for wrongful dismissal. In other words, he was fired from his job which he was doing. He was perfectly capable of giving good information. An actuary's entire reputation is built upon the accurate information he or she gives to ministers and others. For refusing to bend the political will of the department of the member for LaSalle--Émard, he was fired from his job. That is why we need an independent chief actuary.
I think all Canadians and people in the western world understand why this is important. It is important in the wake of Enron, for example. Why should the Enron example teach us something? It should teach us what it taught the Enron board members who were in charge of making public presentations of facts so that people could make investment decisions. This is a quote from the ruling on Enron's board:
[They] could have prevented many of the risky accounting practices, conflicts of interest, and hiding of debt that led to the company's implosion simply by asking some obvious questions [and making those public].
Enronitis, as we call it, is a failure to trust public companies, public pensions and publicly managed affairs because of a failure to have information available to the public that they can trust.
We can see what happens when we do not have an independent oversight into government systems. Mr. Dussault was fired because the government simply did not like his report, did not think it optimistic enough. The government wanted to ram through some legislation so he was let go on the eve of tabling a report that would contradict the finance minister, the member for LaSalle--Émard, and his department.
We see other improperly managed, I guess one might want to say, oversight positions like the ethics counsellor. There is a difference with an independent ethics counsellor who would report to Parliament, who would not be swayed by prime ministerial initiative, who would complete independence and who would not there at the pleasure of the Prime Minister but would be there because he or she would appointed by Parliament and would report back to Parliament. The current ethics counsellor of course has no such trust from the Canadian people.
Even though often I suppose he will give a good report, no one believes it because he does not report independently. He is not appointed independently. His word therefore is always suspect. He might be a good guy, he might have some good reports and might even have some good advice from time to time. However the fact that the position is not independent, does not report to Parliament and is not free from political influence makes people question the judgment.
It is just as the actuary in charge of pensions for the people in television land, the future of RCMP pensions and basically retirement futures is subject right now to political influence. That should not be. That is why this act should pass and we should have an independent chief actuary.
The fact even that the scandals that have been dealt with by the ethics counsellor will not go away should be enough evidence for members of Parliament to say that the best way to clear the name of whether it be the Minister of Finance, the Prime Minister or other people in cabinet, is to have independent people who report to Parliament, not to the Prime Minister.
Every time someone is hired by the Prime Minister and must report to the Prime Minister, that person is doing the Prime Minister's bidding. When we have someone hired by Parliament and who reports to Parliament, he or she is doing Parliament's bidding. That is why the chief actuary should be hired under an act of Parliament to create the position, independent of political influence and be able to report without fear of retribution from any prime minister or any finance minister on the facts of the day.
Having independence in reporting, when it does work well, affirms people's trust in the government and in whatever is being reported. I would point to numerous examples from the Auditor General. We can take a pick. I just pulled a few out. The Auditor General can speak freely. There is not much we can do to get at the Auditor General who is appointed by Parliament and reports to Parliament in a public manner.
When the auditor slams, for example, the process for appointing directors to crown corporations, like the auditor did back in February 2002, the audit is publicized. That report said that the monitoring of nuclear reactors in Canada was unacceptable. The way the Canadian Food Inspection Agency was managed and the way it gathered information was unacceptable. The workforce crisis was a failure of the government to address concerns of the public service and the people who they served, the public.
On and on it goes. There is no fear of retribution. In those days the auditor could speak his mind. The current person in charge of that can speak her mind without fear of retribution. There is not much the government can do to get at her. Her report is public. It is her job. It is done freely. It might be criticized by the government but there is not much it can do. People have faith in that system because it is independent of political interference.
There are lots of things that are political in nature. The choice of legislation before the House is political. That is fine. The priorities of the government are political decisions. The effort to redefine marriage is a political decision by the federal government. That is its decision to take. I do not like it, I think it is making a big mistake but that is a political decision.
Something like the actuarial statements before the Canadian people must be free of political interference just like the person who audits, for example, the employment insurance surplus must be free to say, as he has done in the past, that there is more than enough money in that fund now and that it is time to wrap it up. In fact the chief actuary at human resources development said that it was time to quit padding the books with more money and that too much was being charged for the EI surplus. That person must have the freedom to speak openly without fear of retribution.
I will wrap up by saying that the creation of the position of chief actuary independent of any minister of the Crown will give Canadians the assurance that down the road they will be able to get a pension that they paid into and one on which they count. That is why the bill should be passed as quickly as possible and put in position before the next federal election.
Business of the House
September 16th, 2003 / 4:35 p.m.
Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, there has been unanimous consent for the following:
That, during debate on Bill C-421, the Speaker shall not receive any quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent and when debate concludes, a division shall be deemed to have been requested and deferred to Wednesday, September 17, 2003 at 5:30 p.m.
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
May 15th, 2003 / 6:15 p.m.
Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise as well in the debate this afternoon. I heartily endorse my colleague's recommendation in Bill C-421, to have a chief actuary who would be accountable to someone.
We know that actuaries are managers of details. One need only look at accountants who, as one of my colleagues said earlier, are the best number crunchers anyone can get, and that is for sure. People who have risen to the position of chief actuary are surely pleased to be accountable. They are proud of their work and proud of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries to which they belong.
It is unfortunate when I see people, who have been very responsible public servants, rise to the post of chief actuary and then become embroiled in politics. I am sure none of them would care to be in that position.
I think my colleague's idea, the member for Calgary--Nose Hill, of de-politicizing the position of chief actuary and making the position accountable to Parliament is an excellent one. It is also an idea that members of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries support. This institution is a self-regulating organization representing over 2,500 actuaries who are qualified to practise in Canada. One can imagine that these people are not only very proud of their organization, but they are proud of the person who rises to the position of chief actuary in the country.
This is a group of people who are not only proud of their profession, but they are proud of thee chief actuary who oversees the enormous public pension funds of the RCMP, the Canadian Forces, and, in fact us as members of Parliament, and the entire public service. They want the chief actuary to be accountable and they want to know that somebody somewhere is taking the chief actuary's non-political, unbiased advice.
I think there are a tremendous number of benefits to making sure that the chief actuary is completely independent and completely accountable to Parliament, not just having coffee with someone. We do not want to see a chief actuary being dumped from his job, as we heard earlier, because someone in the political realm did not like his projections and what he had to say about the percentage of Canada pension plan funds needed to cover unfunded liabilities, et cetera. That was clearly wrong.
We know a lot of political influence goes on around this place and across the country but surely when it comes to the pension funds of Canadian citizens, the RCMP, et cetera, they deserve better.
I think the idea of creating an office of the chief actuary of Canada who is completely independent is a great idea. First, it would enhance confidence in public financial management. Lord knows there is not a great deal of that these days. I think what we could see is that the public would start to say that there is a higher priority on this right now, sound fiscal management. They have not seen a whole lot of that in the last generation or so. I think it is just absolutely terrific that they would be able to have that confidence instilled back in that position.
Second, the application of probability analysis, risk theory and statistics to the financial environment is the principal role of actuaries. I am a humanities girl and I do not understand all this mathematical and scientific stuff well enough but I know they do. I put my confidence as a Canadian citizen in the fact that they know their work, that they are experts at it and that they are proud of it.
Actuaries are a cornerstone of the risk management mechanisms of insurance companies and pension funds. We want to know that pension funds are there for people across the country. People have worked hard and for a long time to put money into their pension plans and they want to know that their pensions will be funded, that they will have a good accrual rate and that when they do get older and retire they will have some pension to take out.
Imagine what is going on in some of the private sector companies right now, where these big companies are saying, “Sorry, shucks, we just do not have any money for you. We are going bankrupt right now and we wish you well”. However all these people have been putting money into these pension plans for years, decades in fact.
We do not want to see that happen. I think there should be regulations in place. However we are talking public sector here today. Specifically, I think this would go a long way toward making people feel a whole lot more financially sound. There would be far less risk.
The office of the chief actuary would be responsible for all actuarial advice to the Government of Canada. That means they would be able to give advice and recommendations. Would it not be a wise thing for politicians to sit down and not only listen to the advice of these experts in the field but to take that advice and act on it?
I think the basic reason my colleague has brought this bill forward is to make sure there is not only sound financial management but that we have an expert in the field who will provide unbiased and non-political advice to someone in the government who will listen, not politicize it, and say that the advice is great, that the government will take advantage of it and that it will act on it.
The reporting relationship of the office of the chief actuary would be to report directly to Parliament, not just to someone having coffee, like we see with the ethics counsellor right now. That is just a great idea too but we know what happens over the coffee table; everybody is cleared of everything it seems to me, because again it is politicized. The reporting relationship of the chief actuary would be to report directly to Parliament, and free from the direct influence of cabinet or the civil service.
Unfortunately we saw what happened to the chief actuary a couple of years ago who was an expert in his field. My colleague mentioned him earlier. He had been the chief actuary for seven years and had done a super job. However, because he did not come in with the right numbers of what CPP ought to have been, which was above 10%, then heads had to roll. He had to be honest about it and say that it was over 10% because he had enough self-respect and enough dignity in his office and his own conscience to be a truth teller. It is always a good thing to be a truth teller but, as we see too often, in fact almost always, there is often a cost attached to being a truth teller.
When the chief actuary spoke up, told the truth and said that the numbers simply were not going to crunch, he was axed. Was he absolved in the end? Yes, he received a good settlement of over $300,000. Will that ever bring his name back? Probably not, but nonetheless he was proven innocent and that he was wrongfully dismissed.
We need to take all that stuff out of the position. We need to depoliticize it so the role will be performed well and benefits from it will be amazing. We need to ensure that actuarial analysis and advice is seen to be free from political and bureaucratic influence and based only on the highest professional standard.
The people in the Canadian Institute of Actuaries are professionals and they operate by the highest standards. We all could take a lesson from them, that they could attract the best from the profession to the office of the chief actuary. Their peers, among themselves, know who are the best and the brightest. When we look around here we do not have to listen too long to know who are the best and the brightest. Those members of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries know who their experts are. They know who will rise to the top. Regardless of who the person is, regardless of gender, regardless of where he or she lives in the country, the best person, based on merit and merit alone, should be named to that position of chief actuary.
Another benefit is that they could combine the resources of the actuaries, which currently exist in many of these programs, to ensure that statistical tools, theories and best practices are shared and maintained at the highest standard for all Government of Canada managed programs. Would it not be nice to know that EI, the Canada pension plan, social programs, the RCMP pension, the MP pensions, the public service pensions and Canadian Forces pensions are in good hands? I think people would rest a lot easier if they knew they were in good hands. I know I am using the Allstate motto there and that I might get sued, which, Lord knows, has happened before, but people would be in good hands with the chief actuary.
The bill would make the position non-political. It would make sure that somebody somewhere would be looking out for them and that they would be reporting directly to Parliament, not just having a secret coffee meeting somewhere, getting a pat on the back and being told that everything is okay, everything looks just slick. Nobody would know the unfunded liability or the true numbers. Nobody would have to feel that they were at risk of being fired very publicly and painfully because they stood up and told the truth.
I would say that the sooner we get on with this legislation the better. I am trusting that government members will realize how beneficial this is. It is nothing to be afraid of.
This is just wonderful. The Prime Minister makes everything a confidence motion. This will give the Canadian public, members of Parliament and all public servants great confidence. Therefore, I think they should vote with real confidence on this bill.
Chief Actuary Act
Private Members' Business
May 15th, 2003 / 6:05 p.m.
Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL
Madam Speaker, the purpose of this bill is to create an independent chief actuary of Canada who would report directly to the House of Commons. Bill C-421, brought forward by the hon. member for Calgary--Nose Hill, is a commendable bill and worthy of attention, support and passage.
As previously stated, the bill would provide that the chief actuary of Canada become an independent officer of Parliament, and report directly to the House of Commons and Senate when directed to do so, and when directed by statute.
Absolutely nothing about having an important financial officer reporting to Parliament could or would produce adverse effects. In fact, it is when officers do not report to Parliament that problems arise and issues of transparency and accountability are rightly questioned. These questions that need answers are not just asked by parliamentarians, but by many Canadians and rightly so. Many high ranking officers report to Parliament. These include: the Chief Electoral Officer, Official Languages Commissioner, Privacy Commissioner, Information Commissioner, and Auditor General.
In the name of a well balanced, functioning, transparent and accountable democracy, it is extremely important that these people report to Parliament and to no one else but Parliament. Because they are independent and report to Parliament, let us look at all the good work these officers have done in the past. There have been no black marks, scandals or cover-ups. They are just hard working officers doing their best at what they do.
No one is suggesting the Auditor General's Office suffers from a taint or is influenced by the PMO. Neither does anyone suggest that the Privacy Commissioner is anyone's lapdog, but I do not know if, at times, we can say the same regarding the ethics counsellor. The ethics counsellor does his job exactly the way the Prime Minister tells him to do it. It is laughable and shameful, and is all rolled into one big mess.
It is what happens when high ranking officers and public officials are placed in the hind pocket of the Prime Minister. Scandals erupt, corruption abounds, questions are asked, transparency becomes a foreign concept, and accountability is non-existent and trust erodes.
Canadians are losing faith in the trustworthiness of their elected officials and bureaucrats because of the never ending shower of scandal. True reports of corruption and cover ups have plagued the government for many years.
Everyone and his or her dog, except the Prime Minister and his lapdog ethics counsellor, thinks that the ethics counsellor should report to Parliament. Two people, maybe three if we include the former finance minister, think the position should be enshrouded in secrecy.
Most others in the House, and most across the country, would agree that the ethics counsellor should report to Parliament. It is time for the secrecy to end. Nothing adverse or bad could come about by having the ethics counsellor report to Parliament. In the same vein, nothing untoward or adverse would come about by having the chief actuary of Canada report directly to Parliament instead of having him or her report to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions.
The integrity and honesty of the government has stooped to unforeseen depths when it comes to ethics, corruption, conflict of interest allegations and cover-ups. This would not happen nearly as often if the ethics counsellor were to report to Parliament.
Having the chief actuary of Canada an officer of Parliament would be a step in the right direction. The chief actuary contends with some very important financial matters, especially matters dealing with pensions. Having the chief actuary report to Parliament would ensure that important issues such as pensions would be out in the open and it would ensure that the best interests of pensioners and others would be looked after.
I believe all members would agree that having high ranking officers of various portfolios report to Parliament would be a good thing. It is not only the ethics counsellor who has come under fire during the government's tenure, but the chief actuary's office has also been subject to political interference. It is exactly for this reason that the chief actuary should report to Parliament and not be another civil servant who in turn reports to the Minister of Finance.
In the fall of 2002 the chief actuary, who had an impeccable and unblemished personal and professional record, was fired just three weeks before he was to report on the status of the Canada pension plan.
Why was he fired? He was fired because he just about to report unfavourably on how the former minister of finance was running the CPP and how he mismanaged it. He was looking out for Canadians and would not lie to the public about a file that was botched. He was fired for his integrity and honesty before he was allowed to report his findings to the Canadian public.
Every party in the House, except the governing party, held the former finance minister to account, but how can there be accountability when everything is done behind closed doors?
Every party asked questions about the firing but the former finance minister, true to form, answered in half-truths.
No one ever had to account for that wrongful firing other than charging the taxpayers for his cash settlement for wrongful dismal, and no one will ever have to account for it. Why? It is because the office of the chief actuary is about as independent as a newborn baby. Anything the chief actuary does that the Minister of Finance does not like, he gets fired or he gets reprimanded like an infant.
This is unacceptable when it comes to a position of the man or woman who is dealing with these very important pension numbers that concern all Canadians, especially elderly Canadians. I guess the former finance minister was more worried about his job security than the retirement income of elderly Canadians, and that is shameful.
If there is something wrong with the way CPP is being administered then Canadians have a right to know. If there had been an independent chief actuary in Canada that unfortunate situation would never have arisen.
It is high time that the office of the chief actuary of Canada joined the office of the Auditor General, among others, to become an independent, objective institution reporting to Parliament. For the safety of the pensions of all Canadians, the chief actuary has to be in the same category as the Auditor General.
I thank the hon. member for bringing this important bill forward. I urge members from both sides of the House to support this long overdue bill.