An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, to validate certain calculations and to amend other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in December 2009.

Sponsor

Peter Van Loan  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to add the provisions necessary for the implementation of amendments made to that Act by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act that relate to elective service and pension transfer agreements. It also brings into force certain provisions enacted by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act. Finally, the enactment validates certain calculations and amends other Acts.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2009 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Serge Ménard Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about how members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who have reached retirement age are treated. Many of them have had to make major sacrifices in the name of freedom and justice. Many of them have put their own lives and safety on the line. The Bloc is also aware that the RCMP is having some recruitment problems, and we believe that recognizing years of service with provincial or municipal police services could be part of the solution.

To ensure that all members of the RCMP receive just and fair treatment, the Bloc Québécois will support this bill at second reading so that it can go to committee. That way, we will hear what various witnesses have to say and we will be able to take a thorough look at parts of this bill that raise issues. Studying the bill in committee will give us a chance to call witnesses from various groups so that they can all have their say about Bill C-18.

During this time of economic crisis, and given the fragile state of public finances, the Bloc Québécois is also concerned about sound management of public funds. That is why we are committed to a thorough examination of the viability of the RCMP pension fund and all possible financial repercussions of this bill.

On March 9, the Minister of Public Safety introduced Bill C-18 at first reading. Bill C-18 amends the pension plan created under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. Principal changes to the act provide the necessary powers to broaden past service provisions and to implement pension transfer agreements. Past service means buying back years of service for entitlement to a full pension. Bill C-18 sets the cost of buying back service according to actuarial rules. According to information from the Library of Parliament, the member is responsible for the cost of buying back past years of service. Buy-back can be financed through the member's former pension plan.

This bill contains a number of very technical provisions. I share the view that promoting lateral entries from one police force to another is a good thing. In general, I share the concerns of the members who have already spoken that people who have been in a job for a certain length of time and who are no longer happy do not perform at their best. When they stay in a job just because they want to keep their pension benefits, they do not perform at their best. If they are allowed to change jobs and transfer their pensions, they will start their new jobs with new enthusiasm, contribute fully and be much more effective. The various technical provisions will be studied in committee.

The RCMP divisional representatives in Quebec have some concerns. For example, until a legislative change was made, the time spent in training by cadets, as recruits are known, was included in their pensionable service. According to the RCMP divisional representatives in Quebec, though, the definitions in Bill C-18 still do not recognize the years RCMP cadets spent in training. According to the RCMP, this is an anomaly, because under Bill C-18, recruit training in provincial and municipal police forces would be recognized when officers join the RCMP, at least, for all the officers coming from police forces in Ontario and Manitoba.

The Bloc Québécois will look at all of this in committee and will benefit from the testimony of the stakeholders. Many members of the RCMP will soon be receiving their pensions. The figure of 1,600 was mentioned. These police officers will have to be replaced. It is important that potential members continue to know that they are exposed to certain risks, but that those risks are offset by attractive salaries and pensions.

Therefore, we want this bill to go to committee so that we can hear all the stakeholders.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2009 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity speak today at second reading of Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, to validate certain calculations and to amend other Acts, which is a long title.

I will first tell the House what this bill is not about. It is not about the RCMP, in general, as an organization. I think as all Canadians know, and for the benefit of those watching, it is important to understand that this debate is not about the issues that our party and other Canadians have with some of the actions of the RCMP, in particular, RCMP management failing to take appropriate measures to protect Canadians in terms of the policies regarding tasers and the ongoing debate about that.

We are concerned of course about the failure to have policies that meet the test of Canadian values. We are very concerned about the failure of the government to provide proper civilian oversight of the RCMP, which was called for by Justice O'Connor and was implicit in Mr. Justice Iacobucci's recommendations. The Auditor General has pointed out some of the problems. We are also concerned about the government's failure to apologize for RCMP actions that contributed to the international torture of Canadians in Syria and Egypt.

Those are all things we have concerns about but this bill is not about those things. This bill is about the pay and benefits and the proper treatment of individuals who serve in our Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We have a great respect for the work they do in protecting our communities. They serve, as members know, in many provinces as the provincial police force. They do in British Columbia and in my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador, with the exception of St. John's, Cornerbrook and Labrador City which are under the jurisdiction of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. They are a very important part of rural Canada. They are the means of support for our communities, not only in terms of providing great policing and risking their lives in providing safety to our communities, but they also play an important role in community activities as volunteers, as leaders of sports activities, being role models for individuals and those who wish to serve their country. We do have a lot of respect for what the RCMP do in our communities across the country.

On the issue of pay and benefits, we are concerned that the government, after agreeing with the RCMP, through its special service representatives, on a pay increase that was to take effect this year, putting it in its manuals and in its HR provisions, unilaterally withdrew that and reduced the pay increase, effectively reducing their pay. We are very supportive of the RCMP members in their campaign to reverse that decision. We are not happy with some of the things that the government has done.

We do, however, support this legislation which is designed to provide a level playing field for Mounties when it comes to their pensions, particularly with respect to the portability of service.

In the federal public service, there are 75 transfer agreements with other agencies to allow the transfer of pensionable service from one employment to another. It is true for members of this House and it is true for most public servants under the public service pensions benefits act. It is also true in other parts of the country.

This legislation is long overdue. Legislation was passed in 1999 that was supposed to allow for portability of pensions. However, when the government finally, five or six years later, got around to drafting the regulations to make it possible, it was determined the legislation itself was inadequate to do what needed to be done.

Therefore, here we are again, 10 years later, passing legislation to enable this to happen. I am certainly disappointed in that because I know the RCMP members have been looking for this kind of pension portability since the mid-1990s.

This is long overdue but we do need to study it. We support the principle of it because it is very important. Many individuals serving in municipal police forces across the country providing yeomen service to their communities may want to transfer into the RCMP and they should be able to take their pension service and pension credits with them. This bill would allow them to do that.

It is important that we have that kind of portability. It should be available to Canadians generally, but in this particular case we are dealing with employees of the Government of Canada through the RCMP and we want to assure people that we support these changes.

The other important part of this bill is that it would allow agreements to be made with other agencies to transfer those pension credits and the money that goes with them, because, frankly, every time there is pensionable service, there has to be an amount of money set aside. It is usually defined by actuaries as to how much money it would take to actually pay out the pension that one has earned and that money would be transferred in.

This bill would also give members of the RCMP the opportunity to buy back previous service. Even though eligible service may not have been pensionable in the other work, it would now be pensionable through this bill. There are provisions for the member who is paying the actuarial value of that, essentially buying into the service that is deemed to be pensionable service for the purpose of this bill.

This bill has significant monetary implications for individual members but it is designed to create a system that provides fairness to RCMP members, whether they are coming into the RCMP from another service or with other pensionable service, such as Canadian Forces service, military police service and other kinds of service that are deemed appropriate to be included in pensionable service for police officers, or whether they are going out of the RCMP for another opportunity in a different police service.

We could have members of the RCMP who want to apply for jobs in other communities with another police service. This could be a significant advancement for that individual into a more senior position. We would not want them to be stuck in a job because of pension inflexibility when there are other opportunities for them.

We support the bill in principle. We have been advised that a couple of questions have been asked by RCMP officers, some of whom are part of the official group called the staff relations representatives, an internal RCMP group elected by the members in various provinces and who are on the RCMP payroll. It is not a union, which is another issue on which we are unhappy with the government. The government has been fighting unionization in the courts, despite the fact that the Supreme Court of Canada has said that RCMP officers are entitled to the benefits of the freedom of association guaranteed to everyone in this country under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. However, they are still having to fight and another court case is going on now.

The RCMP staff relations representatives are pleased that this bill is coming forward after more than a dozen years of trying to get this forward. However, other organizations and associations are seeking unionization and they brought forth some concerns as well.

As others have said, we do need to recognize that this is a very technical bill. Pensions are very technical and require actuarial considerations where costing is concerned. Any time a change is made, a cost is associated with it but the question is whether the cost will be borne by the individual who is getting the benefit or by the government for other policy reasons.

I will not be proposing changes here on the floor of this House at second reading. The bill will be referred to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security where there will be opportunities to look at the kinds of changes that might need to be made. There may need to be some adjustments to fix anomalies.

One anomaly that has been suggested to me is the potential problem of discriminatory treatment between people who have perhaps had their training with another force. I do not know all of the facts but the suggestion is that the training component in other police forces, the work they do as recruits, as cadets, is paid for in pensionable service. I think the OPP was mentioned as an example. Someone transferring from the OPP into the RCMP pension fund will be able to take that pensionable service with them and get credit for it.

RCMP officers who are recruited today and go to their training as cadets, are now paid. The six months that they spend training, they are salaried employees and, presumably, covered by the pensionable service. However, existing RCMP officers who were trained years ago, whether it was 2 years ago, 10 years ago or 15 years ago, that period of training is not included in their pensionable service. That seems to me to be an anomaly and there may need to be some arrangements made to allow that to be pensionable service so there is a level playing field. Some provision may need to be made for either that to be placed in pensionable service or that the members may be able to buy back that service as part of their overall pension.

Those are technical things about which we would look forward to hearing from the RCMP members themselves, whether retired or active, whether they are involved with a staff relations representative or whether they are involved with those organizations that are seeking unionization.

Having said all that, I do want to say that we support the bill. It is an important advancement for the benefits of RCMP members. It is something we can support on a stand-alone basis while we criticize the government for its inaction on a lot of other points, whether they be the wage rates that were rolled back, the failure to support unionization or the failure on another level to make changes to the RCMP organization that we think are desirable.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2009 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-18 which is an act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, to validate certain calculations and to amend other acts.

From some briefings that were provided in terms of the content of the bill, I want to highlight a couple of the aspects of the bill. I also want to thank the member for St. John's East for highlighting some of the challenges that will be brought forward in committee. The NDP is firmly in support of the bill and the member for St. John's East has identified a few problems that could be resolved at committee, and hopefully the government and other members of the House will take a look at some of the shortfalls in the bill.

The bill aims to make RCMP pensions more portable by allowing for the expansion of existing election for prior service provisions and permitting the introduction of pension transfer agreements.

The pension portability schemes are generally enacted to improve recruitment options especially for lateral applicants. Without pension portability provisions, such as those allowed by Bill C-18, pension credits with former employers, for example, with a municipal police force, would not be transferrable to the RCMP pension plan, making a lateral transfer to the RCMP less attractive.

The introduction of pension transfer arrangements will allow the RCMP to enter into formal arrangements with other Canadian pension plans to permit the transfer of pension credits into and out of the RCMP pension plan. Once implemented the pension transfer agreement sections will bring the RCMP pension plan into line with the federal public service pension plan which has approximately 770 pension transfer agreements.

We can see from that very brief outline that this is a very technical bill, but we can see that these kinds of pension agreements are already in place within the public service. It seems reasonable that the RCMP, who play such a critical role in many of our communities, should be able to have access to the same kinds of arrangements.

The member for St. John's East touched upon this, but I want to remind the House that these proposed changes have actually been in the works since 1995. Once again, what we have is long delays in dealing with some legislative amendments that could have been dealt with more than 10 to 15 years ago. It happened in 1995, in 1999, and it happened again in 2005.

Both the Conservatives and the Liberals simply could not get their act together in terms of addressing this anomaly.

I am pleased that it has now come before the House, but I want to touch on a couple of other points that I know the member for St. John's East raised. I want to touch on them just so that people understand that the bill is still not perfect.

There have been some questions raised about the anomalies in the fact that although current recruits are being paid during training, previous recruits were not being paid. There are some concerns that they will not get the pension credit for that six months of unpaid training. That has changed, but there are current RCMP officers who are serving, who do not have that pension credit or the possibility of that pension credit. Therefore, I am sure that will be raised in committee.

There are other concerns that have been raised around the fact that civilian employees for the RCMP are treated differently. Again, I am sure that will be raised in committee with an opportunity for potential amendments.

I just want to talk about the importance of this for a moment. In the briefing that was provided it talked about recruitment and retention. In my community of Nanaimo—Cowichan, the RCMP are a vital part of the community. The RCMP is our police force. In the province of British Columbia, many of our communities are in that position. I know in Newfoundland that is also the case.

Therefore, this bill is an important one in terms of both recruitment of officers and ongoing retention. I know that in my own community of North Cowichan, as a previous municipal councillor I was part of the protective services committee. One of our roles was examining the agreement that we had between the RCMP, the province and then of course the municipalities. We were consistently short of officers.

I live in a very beautiful part of the country. It was not an issue around RCMP officers wanting to work in my community. It was the fact that recruitment was often an issue. Retention was an issue. There were some challenges with leave provisions. For example, when an officer went on maternity leave at that time, there were no provisions to replace that officer.

Bill C-18 is a very important factor when we talk about recruitment and retention. In many remote communities, it is very difficult to find officers to serve there. We need to make sure we are providing a compensation package, which includes pensions, that is very attractive so that we can recruit and retain.

There is another issue that has come up and has been mentioned a number of times in the House. When Bill C-10, the budget implementation bill, was put forward, it negated the agreement that had been put in place with RCMP officers around wage improvements. I know members throughout the House have been receiving letters, phone calls and emails about the unfairness of this.

I have an email from an officer who wanted to make sure that members understood the potential impact of the negating of that agreement in Bill C-10. The email states:

For the last 135 years, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have been at the heart of our communities, serving Canadians and keeping us safe.

From stopping liquor trafficking and gaining the respect and confidence of Aboriginal peoples to fighting child sexual exploitation and clamping down on gang and gun crime; Canada's national police force has always counted on men and women of sound constitution and good character to serve and protect. And for more than a century, that's exactly what thousands have done.

On December 11, 2008, Treasury Board modified a previously signed wage agreement that ensured the RCMP could compete for the best and brightest new talent and offer an incentive for seasoned members to stay with the force. The original agreement was supported by the Commissioner, the Minister of Public Safety and approved by Treasury Board as recently as June 2008.

Changes to this previously-enshrined agreement will inflict irreparable damage to ongoing efforts to retain current members and will have serious consequences for recruiting new cadets--a stated priority for this government--who do not qualify for incentives afforded to members with more than five years experience.

This Treasury Board decision poses long-term challenges for bolstering public safety in Canada. Without significant changes, the legacy of this decision will be a series of negative and enduring repercussions for RCMP capacity building; particularly when it comes to recruiting new cadets.

Further on, the email goes on to state:

I write to ask that you act to protect the integrity of Canadian public safety; frontline RCMP officers ask only that the existing, signed agreement be allowed to stand. In full-recognition of the serious economic challenges we face as a country, the men and women of the RCMP are committed to abide by the letter and the spirit of that agreement for the next two years.

It goes on to talk about the fact that the RCMP, of course, played a significant role in this country's development and expansion, and that it will continue to play a very important role in public safety in our communities.

Again, I come back to my own community of Nanaimo-Cowichan. I know RCMP officers there are absolutely dedicated women and men who often contribute a lot of their own personal time to be involved with youth, first nations and a variety of community organizations. They often sit on committees contributing in a very positive way to the overall health and well-being of our communities.

I would argue that we should ensure once again to not only look at pension changes that will significantly contribute to recruitment and retention but that we also look at negotiated signed agreements. I know the member for St. John's East raised the fact that the Supreme Court has upheld the ability of the RCMP to form a union and the current government continues to fight that.

The RCMP has a staff association in place to represent its interests. My understanding is that RCMP members have stated that they would agree not to strike, but there is no reason why, in a democratic country, our police force could not have the mechanism to organize and represent itself in terms of labour management issues.

One of the reasons that this discussion around pensions is so critical is because in today's current economic climate there are some serious challenges with pensions. One of the elements that was raised in a current pension issues and trends paper talks about bankruptcy protection and pension insurance. Fortunately, at this point, the RCMP's pension fund is not in this kind of situation and would not likely ever be.

Many Canadians are very concerned about what is happening to their pensions in the current economic climate. One of the things that has been identified is this bankruptcy protection and pension insurance. It states:

The laws concerning bankruptcy protection and pension insurance are closely related to the rules governing pension funding. If pensions are fully funded when employers enter bankruptcy protection, then bankruptcy laws do not matter much to the fate of the pension plan. On the other hand, if pension plans are underfunded when the employer becomes bankrupt, then the question of the nature of the claim that the pension fund has on the bankrupt company is critical, as is the question of whether the pension deficiency is insured.

This is just one aspect of some very serious problems going on with pensions right now. The member from Hamilton will be going out to the public to talk about the kinds of reforms that are needed to pension plans.

Bill C-18 talks about portability. Many members will be surprised that I am quoting from a C.D. Howe Institute commentary on pensions, but the portability of pensions is an absolutely critical aspect. Again, for RCMP officers we are recognize that portability of their pensions is extremely important. Members of municipal police forces should have the ability to move from the municipal police force to the RCMP and not lose their pension credits. It is a very important aspect.

The C.D. Howe Institute is talking about pension portability from job to job across Canada. It is not talking specifically about RCMP officers; it is talking about all Canadians. I would argue that as we set the standard for RCMP officers to have that portability, we should make sure that other Canadians have that pension portability as well.

In this particular case, the C.D. Howe Institute makes another recommendation. To put it into context, it says, “Canadians must understand that they all do not need to become experts in life-cycle finance and investments to achieve this goal”. It is talking about maintaining standards of living in retirement. The member for Sault Ste. Marie has been a tireless advocate on poverty generally but certainly on poverty as it relates to seniors. One of the aspects that significantly impacts on seniors is changes that were made to the Canada pension plan.

In the context of the Canada pension plan, I am getting a number of emails from people who are concerned about what is happening with the investments in the Canada pension plan. People want us to raise that here in the House. They are concerned about how the Canada pension plan is currently managed. However, that is outside the scope of Bill C-18.

The C.D. Howe Institute indicates that Canadians should be insisting that their elected representatives and employers play informed and constructive roles in inserting the major missing piece in Canada's current pension system that would deal with the inadequate coverage in retirement savings facing millions of Canadians.

Part of the issue is that, first of all, many Canadians simply do not have a pension plan. We are talking about portability in the context of Bill C-18, that pension plans in Canada largely are not portable and we cannot take them from job to job, and because we are talking about this with Bill C-18, I would argue that at some point we need to introduce legislation that talks about portability across this country.

I touched on the bankruptcy provisions. Many pension plans in this country are underfunded. If a company goes into bankruptcy protection, workers are at risk. In my riding we see forestry company after forestry company laying off people. There are some concerns as these companies go into bankruptcy protection with their underfunded pensions that workers who have worked 30 and 40 years, rather than going into retirement, have to go back to work. It is critical that we, as a House, perhaps using Bill C-18 as a kickoff point, look at conducting a broader pension review. I know the government has been talking about examining what is happening with pensions, but we need to move on this very quickly.

Women have been very concerned about what is happening with pensions because many women do not have either a private or a public pension. We are very concerned that we will see an increase in seniors living in poverty.

Many women have been in part-time, seasonal, contractual employment. This means that when they retire at the age of 60 or 65, they will only have access to the Canada pension plan, and because they have been in that kind of part-time, seasonal, contract employment, they will not have the full Canada pension plan.

The group WE*ACT has put together a number of very good proposals for overall reforms to the pension system. Unless we act quickly, we are going to see a spike in seniors poverty once again. I would encourage the House to use Bill C-18 as a catalyst to move quickly.

Again with Bill C-18, we have seen a bill that was looking at amendments back in 1995. We simply cannot wait that long for the kind of pension reform that is necessary. There is a wave of baby boomers, the first edge of which is turning 65 as we speak, that is going to change the face of retirement in this country. All too often we ear very sad stories about people who, after working for over 40 years, come up to retirement and find that they have to work at a McJob to survive in retirement.

There are a whole number of other issues that are facing seniors as they retire, such as the lack of availability of long-term care, home care support, access to prescription drugs, access to hospitals, and access to all kinds of other support programs for seniors. That is outside the scope of Bill C-18, but I would hope that we would put together a proactive package that looks at that whole range of issues.

We often hear in this House of the social determinants of health. I would argue that we also need to look at the social determinants of aging, and at such things as housing and income security. Because there is this wave of baby boomers coming up to retirement, this would be an opportunity for us to be proactive and we could put together a package that would have some meaningful impact on people as they retire.

In conclusion, Bill C-18 is a very important move toward protecting our ability to make sure that our communities are kept safe. It is important that we put together a package that will encourage young men and women to see the RCMP as a viable career opportunity, and make sure that the pensions help in our ability to retain police officers.

I am very pleased to say that New Democrats will be supporting this bill. I look forward to hearing from the member for St. John's East about testimony that will come forward at committee. Perhaps some amendments will be made to deal with some of the deficiencies that are currently in the bill before the House. Hopefully it will help us to ensure that our communities stay safe and well protected.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. Anybody who has ever worked in human resources management knows that an essential part of recruiting people to a particular career or profession is to ensure that attractive packages are in place. One of the aspects of Bill C-18 is the portability of pensions when officers have served with other police forces. In many parts of this country there are tripartite agreements in place where the police force is band operated. I would hope the bill would include that.

Tripartite agreements are a whole separate issue. In many communities, we have had a great deal of difficulty because either the provincial government or the federal government is dragging its feet when it comes to signing those tripartite agreements so that first nations officers serve their own communities. However, that is another issue. The portability of pensions is extremely important around an attractive incentive program to recruit and retain officers.

Rural officers are the other aspect of this. Many of this country's communities are either fly-in communities or they are not easily accessible by rail or road. It is absolutely essential to recruit rural officers who have a good understanding of what it is like to live in a rural community. Again, the portability of pensions is an important aspect. Officers from large urban centres may want to go to remote and rural communities. However, they will not be able to transfer their pensions from a municipal police force to the RCMP force if we do not pass this bill.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

April 3rd, 2009 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her statement and the hon. member for Ottawa Centre standing up and making sure that we are able to ask questions. I want to highlight a couple of things about Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act.

Last month in my riding, I had the opportunity to attend the Tri-Force Regimental Charity Ball. It is an event that is put on by our local police forces: the RCMP, the OPP and the greater Sudbury regional police. This is just another example of the great work done by our law enforcement officers across our great land. They raise money for local charities. Specifically, this one was for Crime Stoppers. It was during that event that several RCMP officers approached me to talk about a few things that were happening here on the Hill. They talked about their concern for the rollback of their wages. Another discussion was about the portability of their pensions. Many of the officers approaching retirement age want to ensure that they have a secure retirement that they can enjoy.

It is important for us as parliamentarians to outline what we think are the important pieces of this bill that will benefit RCMP officers. I would like the hon. member to do that for us.