Bill C-201 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity)
This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.
This bill was previously introduced in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session and the 40th Parliament, 1st Session.
Peter Stoffer NDP
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
- May 5, 2010 Passed That Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), as amended, be concurred in at report stage with further amendments.
- May 5, 2010 Passed That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring the title as follows: “An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity)”
- May 13, 2009 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
November 21st, 2011 / 11:40 a.m.
Annick Papillon Québec, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak to Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity).
This bill is very important to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore. For over six years now, he has been working, with the support of hundreds of thousands of army and RCMP veterans from across the country, to ensure that the Government of Canada provides compensation for the reduction in pension benefits that applies to our veterans and members of the RCMP. My colleague told me that over the years he has met with veterans and former RCMP members who have spoken about a persistent problem: their pension is reduced at the age of 65 and the Canada pension disability is reduced.
To reiterate what my colleague already explained in more detail, it all started in 1965-66, when the Canada pension plan was created. The government proposed what it called a blended plan, because at the time, people had contributed to a retirement pension. When the Canada pension plan was created, the government said that its purpose was not to increase contributions for men and women in the armed forces or for members of the federal and provincial public service. The government therefore blended the program and determined how many people had to contribute to the Canada pension plan and a retirement pension. However, this was done without the consent of the men and women of our armed forces and the RCMP, and without their full understanding of the impact of these new measures.
In the past, the government has asked why we are giving priority solely to veterans of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP given that all sectors of the federal public service are affected by this clawback. It is important to recognize that the men and women of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP play a different role from all other members of the country's public service. They have an enormous responsibility. They are ready to risk their lives to defend Canadian ideals and to protect our country. They also ensure that our communities are safe. I have the utmost respect for the incredible work done by our men and women in uniform.
Every federal government worker is affected by this pension clawback, except senators, judges and members of Parliament. The pensions of the men and women of the armed forces and the RCMP are clawed back, but this does not happen to members. It is unacceptable that members, senators and judges are not affected by this rule, but that the men and women who protect us are.
If the government is concerned about how much this measure would cost, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has already broken it down. He has been looking into this issue for over six years. During that time, he has had the opportunity to discuss it with pension experts across the country. This bill presents a very interesting proposal, and we have a plan to minimize additional costs for taxpayers.
As the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has already explained, if veterans are allowed to keep both of their moneys at age 65 or on disability, they would receive less old age security and guaranteed income supplement. Including old age security and the guaranteed income supplement in the argument that they do not lose any money is simply incorrect. Those payments come from general revenues, not from defined benefit pension plans. There is nothing stopping the government from cancelling the employment insurance deduction, taking that amount and putting it in the veterans' superannuation. That would cover the cost of the bill.
A committee review of Bill C-215, as introduced by my colleague, would also be a logical follow-up to the report adopted by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in June 2010. That committee report was on the living new veterans charter. Here is what the committee report had to say about the uncertainty surrounding veterans' standard of living at the age of 65:
Committee members expressed concern about the lack of information that would enable them to anticipate the situation of a seriously wounded veteran upon reaching the age of 65. The earnings loss benefit stops at the age of 65, and the permanent impairment allowance is only paid under exceptional circumstances. Consequently, all that is left is the Canada pension plan or the Quebec pension plan and old age security. Since the earnings loss benefit does not grant entitlement to make contributions to pension plans, it is reasonable to expect a significant drop in income for injured veterans who are not receiving a substantial pension from the CF.
My colleagues and I are committed to working very hard on behalf of Canada's veterans, and we will fight not only to protect their pensions but also to invest in their well-being. I know that many members here in the House are willing to do a lot more to enhance the quality of life of those who fought for us.
That is why I would also like to take this opportunity to say that we also need to take care of our veterans' most recent health concerns. The intensity of the combat operations in Afghanistan took its toll on front-line soldiers both in the field and on their return home. The government needs to be proactive when it comes to the mental and physical health of Canadian soldiers and veterans. More support is needed for veterans making the transition to work outside the military, as well as support for caregivers and other family members. Better follow-up with our veterans is also needed after their service, since post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries may manifest themselves many years after their period of active service. We are all very concerned about this issue and we will continue to work for Canada's soldiers to ensure that they get the services they need.
To understand veterans' issues, we have to take the time to speak with veterans and their families. I hope the Conservative MPs will at least go visit their local legion branch and meet with veterans. They should talk to them and ask them what they want. They should talk to them about Bill C-215. Then the Conservative MPs might realize that the vast majority of military personnel, RCMP officers and their families want to eliminate the clawback of their pension by the government.
A few years ago now, a number of veterans' groups, including the Royal Canadian Legion and the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans in Canada, unanimously adopted resolutions in support of the initiative of the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. What is more, 110,000 people from across the country have signed a petition in support of this bill. Among the signatories we have Major-General Lewis MacKenzie and Senator Roméo Dallaire. Nevertheless, this government continues to deny that there is a problem.
On May 5, 2010, the vote on bill C-201—to which Bill C-215 is identical—was successful. Unfortunately, the Speaker of the House at that time subsequently declared that Bill C-201 could not proceed because the Prime Minister had refused to ask for a royal recommendation. However, the Prime Minister has said in the past that, when a bill is passed by a majority of members democratically elected to the House of Commons, this government must honour the request.
I would also like to remind this House that in November 2006 the NDP members proudly voted in favour of the “veterans first” motion, a five point motion that would have helped former RCMP officers and their families. Unfortunately, the Conservatives were fiercely opposed to the motion.
Thus, we are giving the government another opportunity to respect not only the democratic process, but in particular, to honour the sacrifices made by veterans of our armed forces and the RCMP. Finally, we should at least study the bill in committee, which would afford us the opportunity to call experts and to have an honest, open and thorough debate about this matter.
I am proud to defend this bill today because it provides an opportunity to address an injustice that has gone on for too long. No veteran or RCMP officer, nor their families, should live in poverty after serving their country. For that reason, we must put an end to this situation today.
In conclusion, I would like to highlight the exceptional work of my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore and thank him for it. For years he has listened to veterans, visited them and tried to understand and summarize their proposals. That is what is truly important—to listen and to be grateful. Bill C-215 would be a great way, so soon after Veterans' Week, to permanently support and recognize what veterans do for us every day of our lives.
Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
May 6th, 2010 / 5:10 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
Mr. Speaker, this is the greatest show in town, there is no doubt about it. That was quite the blistering little argument back and forth. I hope they will continue that a little further.
First, I want to congratulate my hon. colleague on Bill C-201. I also want to congratulate him for all the work he has done for veterans over the years. I agree with him. I do not think all the good work that has been done for troops, soldiers and veterans is exclusive to one party. Despite the fact that some parties do take credit for it, it is all parties in the House over time. We can prove that.
I want to ask him a question about this bill, and it is confined to a certain amount. One thing I would like him to discuss is ways of expanding it to include people who are in a situation similar to many troops, posted overseas or away on duty. Perhaps the diplomatic corps is one example. Perhaps other uses of this one and the spouses who are not soldiers, for example, is a good way of addressing that issue.
Again, I congratulate my colleague and I would like him to comment on that.
Fairness for Military Families (Employment Insurance) Act
May 6th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to this bill, which was introduced a couple of weeks ago and has come up today.
I want to divide my comments into a few areas. I am going to talk about the bill itself, what it actually means and what it actually does. I want to chat a little bit about the challenge for military families, coming from a military area. That is the second thing. The third thing I want to do is talk a little bit about EI itself and how this fits into the whole context of what could have been done for EI. That is what I am going to talk about, so members who are here and were planning to doze off can adjust their schedules accordingly.
First, this is a bill that is designed to assist members who are serving in the Canadian Forces. Although it is very specific in nature, does not capture many Canadians, and does not make a huge impact on the national level, it certainly could be argued it would make an impact for certain military families.
It addresses the special situation in which CF members can be placed when they are called to return to duty while they are on parental leave. In some cases such a call could translate into a loss of parental benefits, since parents have a limited period of 52 weeks after the child is born to claim those benefits.
When a child is born, a claim for employment insurance must be made within 52 weeks. This bill would address this by extending the period during which CF members can claim their parental benefits if they are called for duty during their parental leave, extending the benefit from 52 weeks to 104 weeks.
It does not mean that Canadian Forces members would have more than 35 weeks of parental benefits. It is the same as everybody else has, it is just that it recognizes that Canadian Forces members are sometimes not actually here in Canada to start that benefit. According to HRSDC officials this will only affect approximately 60 people a year, and it is somewhere in the range of $500,000 to $600,000 a year.
It is the position of the official opposition that it makes sense to support the bill. In fact, I think we should support it as quickly as we can, get it into committee, and have a look at it. Also, as I indicated a few minutes ago, I do not think it needs a whole lot of study. There are many things in our committee, including a report on poverty that we are hoping to finish that has to be done. However, as soon as this gets to committee, it will get the attention that it requires.
I do want to commend the member for Nepean—Carleton, who is one of the members of this House, like myself, who has constituents who might be affected by this. I am quoting from the Nepean-Barrhaven newspaper from April of this year, referencing the family the member for Nepean—Carleton came across, the Duquette family. The article states:
Four days following the birth of their first son, Jacob, in July 2004, Major Jim Duquette had to leave for duty in the Golan Heights in the Middle East. He returned to Canada in August 2005 and attempted to apply for a deferred parental leave, only to find that the benefits had expired in his time away from home.
“That was really difficult”, said Anne Duquette, his wife. “Part of what got us though in that first year of parenting was the thought that we could have that extra time together”.
During the 52 weeks following a birth or adoption, 35 weeks of parental benefits may be paid.
That is a specific case that was brought forward by the member for Nepean—Carleton. I wish he had mentioned this last summer when I had the occasion to spend many hours in small rooms with the member and the Minister of HRSDC. We might have been able to deal with this last year. Nonetheless, it has now been brought forward.
I come from a strong military area. I come from a part of Canada where we have the east coast navy, 12-Wing Shearwater, Windsor Park, Stadacona, and a very long and distinguished military history in Dartmouth and the greater Halifax area.
One of the great pleasures and one of my great prides is the opportunity to be a member of Parliament for an area that is rich in veterans and also rich in serving members of the Canadian Forces. I was reminded of this the other day when I went to the launch of Senator Bill Rompkey's book about St. John's, Newfoundland and the Battle of the Atlantic. It is a fabulous book. I commend it to all members. If members move quickly, they could get an autographed copy from the senator.
It talks about St. John's, and keep in mind that Newfoundland and Labrador were not part of Canada during World War II, they joined us in 1949. They played an integral role, particularly in keeping the channels open between North America and Europe.
I know, coming from Halifax where a number of the great corvettes sailed from, how important that was. Where I come from, HMCS Sackville is called Canada's naval memorial. It is the last of the corvettes, the last of those great sturdy, rugged, small vessels that kept those shipping lanes open in the cold north Atlantic.
I am a proud trustee of HMCS Sackville. I was a trustee before I was a member of Parliament and I suspect I will be a trustee when I am finished in this place.
When one lives in Halifax-Dartmouth, when one meets people like Allan Moore, Doug Shanks, Hank Einerson, Charlie Carroll and people like this, that I have the opportunity to rub shoulders with on a regular basis, one gets a sense of the great heroism. However, the heroism does not come from what they say because they will not talk about. The heroism comes from being in their presence, knowing what they went through and getting little pieces of information from them about their experience in World War II or talking to Tom Estabrooks about what he went through in the Korean War and talking to our many peacekeeping veterans who have served this country so well.
I think it is incumbent upon us as a country to ensure that all of our social infrastructure, including employment insurance, is designed in such a way that the great veterans of this country, including the very recent ones and the serving members of the Canadian Forces, have full access to those benefits.
I think, living in an area as I do, that we have an even greater respect and a greater understanding of our military. Everyone knows people who have served in Afghanistan. I know many people who have been in Afghanistan. I know people who are in Afghanistan today. I think of a family in my community whose father right now is serving in Afghanistan whose son is on my son's soccer team. Although they keep it inside and they deal with their responsibilities in a very personal, respectful manner, I know how difficult it is when families are called upon to serve their country. All members of the House would share the respect that we have for them.
I have seen how families adjust. I have seen how families make sacrifices. I have seen how families have had to adjust everything from their finances, to the school year, to vacations, in order to have one member serve. We should do whatever we can to make it as easy as possible on those families.
Of course, not everyone who serves comes back the way that we would like them to come back. One of the darkest days that I have had as a member of Parliament was the day in 2006 when we flew back from Ottawa. There were a number of parliamentarians on the plane. As we touched down we all turned on our Blackberrys to the news that Corporal Paul Davis had died. He was one of the first casualties in Afghanistan. His father Jim and wife Sharon are very good friends of mine and I know other members of the House. We would all hope that when people who serve their country and choose to do something to make the world a better place, as Paul Davis did, that they come back obviously in different circumstances. Not everyone does.
I have had the opportunity to meet people in my constituency who suffer with PTSD. I recall sitting on a deck with a constituent. This was a person who we could just tell was a very vibrant individual who joined the Armed Forces as a robust, energetic person who wanted to serve the world. Now in many ways he is a broken person and he needs help. He needs more help than he is getting.
I meet with veterans who do not qualify for the VIP who are having trouble keeping up with their daily chores and obligations.
However, many people do come back and we need to ensure that whatever we do, we know and respect the challenges that they face when they come back.
I get to meet with a number of constituents in that circumstance with my assistant, Percy Fleet, who is a former member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. He understands the situation very well. One of the great pleasures of being a member of Parliament is to help veterans to advance their cause and to pay them back in some small tangible way for the service that they have given this country.
We should do more. Though this is a small step, it is a significant step. It will have my support. I want to look at the bill in committee to see who is covered and see whether there are other people who might be covered considering the small cost of the bill.
It seems to me that there may be opportunities. I certainly will not hold the bill up, but we might want to look at some of those considerations.
Over the past year or so, employment insurance has been a hot topic. It has been a hot topic because this country has gone through a difficult time. I want to quote from a report that came out this week from the Citizens for Public Justice, which was developed with funding support from World Vision Canada's programs. CPJ is a faith-based organization. It looks at issues of poverty and it is a great advocate for Canada doing more to assist those most in need.
It produced a report that puts some numbers and figures behind what Canada has been going through in this recession. We all have a sense that things have been difficult, but it has been hard to quantify exactly how difficult it has been, particularly for Canadians most in need. This report, released on Tuesday, said:
The recession also demonstrated the inadequacies of EI. While the rate of EI coverage increased, just over half of unemployed Canadians qualified for EI benefits. Over 770,000 unemployed Canadians did not qualify for EI. Benefits for those who qualified for EI were low, with the average weekly benefit representing a poverty income for households without any other source of income. As many as 500,000 Canadians may have exhausted their benefits in the past few months, as the average length of unemployment increased during the recession. Workers who exhaust their benefits or who do not qualify for benefits at all either need to turn to social assistance or live off of savings or credit. Social assistance caseloads increased across the country, as social assistance had to fill in the gap created by EI.
Employment insurance has been a hot topic and the response of the government has been inadequate. While the numbers have changed month to month, I recall that last year less than half of 1.6 million unemployed Canadians qualified for EI.
There was a call across the country that we should have a national standard, at least during this period of recession, for employment insurance. It was called for by the Leader of the Opposition and all opposition parties. It was called for by labour unions and public policy think tanks. It was called for by the wife of the federal Minister of Finance. It was called for by all the western premiers and just about everybody else.
If we are going to look at employment insurance as a fundamental piece of the social infrastructure of this country, let us do something significant. Let us have a national standard. The government decided that it would not do that and I think that was a mistake.
We have had private members' bills in the House. The member for Brome—Missisquoi, the member for Chambly—Borduas, the member for Acadie—Bathurst, the member for Madawaska—Restigouche, and the member for Sydney—Victoria have all brought forward bills in the House that could have improved employment insurance for those who need help and need help immediately.
There is no shortage of people who have been shortchanged by the employment insurance system. We could get into all kinds of reasons for that. I know that people like to blame different people for what happened on employment insurance. The fact is that at some point in time we have to move from history to current events. We have to look at the recession that came upon this country. It was not as if people were not saying that we should do more. It was not as if the case was not being made by a wide range of people from all political parties and from all across society who said that this is when EI should be invested in, this is why we have an employment insurance system.
This bill brings to mind another case from a year or so ago and that is the case of Trooper Kyle Ricketts. This was brought to national attention by the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte. In this case, I am going to quote from the Ottawa Citizen. It said:
Trooper Ricketts was severely injured by an IED on March 8 while in Afghanistan. He was enduring a dozen or more reconstructive operations and his parents wanted to be by his bedside when that was happening. As the CBC originally reported the military flew Sadie and Maurice Ricketts, who live in Pollard's Point in Newfoundland's White Bay, to Ottawa to help care for their son. The couple, however, was told they will lose the employment insurance benefits they were collecting since they were laid off if they stayed away from their home for more than a week. Officials told the couple that only one of them is entitled to “compassion leave”, meaning that the other would lose EI benefits unless they returned to Newfoundland within a week. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development said the case will be revisited.
In the end, I think Trooper Ricketts got taken care of through the heroes fund. It was only due to the intervention of the member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte.
I use that case to illustrate how many potential ways we could use the employment insurance system, even specifically for the people who choose to serve in this country's military.
We come to this bill now. As the critic for the Liberal Party, I expect all members of the Liberal Party will support this bill. To that extent, we think the government has done a sensible and a wise thing. The problem is it leaves so many holes unfilled as we continue to go through a difficult time.
A report came out this week from the Citizens for Public Justice indicating the statistics it has put together in terms of caseloads for social assistance in Canada. Alberta is a prime example. It went up by 43% during the recession. Ontario and B.C. both went up by 20% or more. They may still be going up.
It is not good enough to suggest that we are at the end of a difficult time. We do not know when the end of a difficult time will be. It may be that for people who do well enough the recession may be over. Now we are looking to see what happens in Greece and Spain and other economies. For many people who were poor going into the recession, it certainly is not over. For those who were driven into poverty during the recession, it certainly is not over.
We have to look at this bill in the context of the overall situation that affects Canadians. We are helping 60 families. It may be that in committee we can look at how we can help others. There are millions of Canadians who go to bed hungry. There are millions of children who wake up hungry, who go to school on an empty stomach, who do not have the social infrastructure that a country as wealthy as Canada could afford. I hope that is something that will be addressed by the government.
On Bill C-13 I offer my support. I hope that at committee we can deal with it reasonably quickly. If we can find a way to strengthen the bill, we should do that. I am pleased that the minister and the parliamentary secretary have indicated that they are open to those kinds of considerations.
The people who choose to serve in our military, the people who choose to go to foreign lands on behalf of Canada in the sincere and honest belief that they are making the world a better place, deserve to be well treated.
We need to have fair standards for all Canadians, but I also believe it is reasonable and fair and aligned with most Canadians that those who serve in our military, those who take on dangerous tasks without complaint, deserve the very best that we can offer them.
This bill goes partway toward that goal, and for that reason, I would be pleased to support it.
The House resumed from May 3 consideration of Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
May 3rd, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, first of all let me say I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-201. I want to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for doing such a brilliant job in staying on this bill and bringing it forward.
We just heard from my colleague that he has been working on this for about five years. I think it is a testament to a member in the House that, when they get a bill and they know the issue is really important, they do not let it go. Certainly the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore is one of those members. He has understood this as an important issue not only in his own community but right across the country.
To support the bill, which amends the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to eliminate the deduction of the Canada pension plan benefits from the annuity payable under each of these acts, is one of those small things but it is a matter that has a big impact on people's lives and on their financial stability, particularly when they are retired.
Therefore I would like to thank the member for bringing this forward so that we are now having the opportunity to debate the bill at report stage and hopefully see it proceed to third reading.
I have to say that I always find it quite amusing when I hear from Conservative members. Somehow they have this sense of entitlement and ownership, that they are the only ones who speak for veterans or the military in the House and that is their territory.
The reality is that this is an issue that goes across all party lines. It is non-partisan. It is an issue that, as I have said, our member from Sackville—Eastern Shore and other members in the New Democrat caucus and members from other parties are very concerned about. It concerns what happens to our veterans when they return from Afghanistan, what happens to them when they become pensioners and what their quality of life is about.
It is easy to put the rhetoric out there about the military and supporting our troops. However, the bill is about what actually happens to people, whether it is the military families who are still here in Canada and the quality of life they have in terms of benefits on the military bases, access to education and health care, support and counselling or whether it is the members of the military and for sure what happens to the members when they are retired.
When we look at the overall picture, it is very regrettable that many veterans are actually living in poverty. The same may be true even of members of the RCMP when they retire; I am not so familiar with that. But certainly I can say in my community in east Vancouver we have an unbelievable problem of veterans who are living below the poverty line. They are homeless. They are people who are destitute on the streets.
In fact I was very happy that a couple of months ago theMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State for Agriculture came to east Vancouver, came to the downtown east side, and specifically announced an initiative to set up a storefront operation to actually do outreach to veterans who are in great distress, to make sure they are getting all of the benefits they are entitled to. It is a program that is being partnered with other organizations.
It is just the tip of the iceberg. When a minister has to go into a local community to announce something like that, it gives us a sense of understanding of the problem of what we are facing, that there are so many veterans in this country who are going without and who are facing difficulty.
Again I go back to the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and the fact that he raised in the House even last week, Friday it was, the unbelievable situation where we have a veteran's food bank in Calgary, visited by the Prime Minister. Maybe it is seen as a photo op or something. However, to us it is a very horrific situation and it is a very graphic example of what is happening to veterans in this country, that veterans are relying on food banks, that they are relying on outreach initiatives, that veterans are homeless, that they do not have even the bare essentials of a quality of life.
How could this be, in a country and with a government that claims to put this at the top of its agenda?
I am very glad that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has raised this in the House of Commons, as has our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth. They have said to the Prime Minister what a political outrage it is that a photo op took place of a visit to a food bank set up for veterans. We are not addressing the systemic issues within the department that are facing veterans across the country.
We recognize that Bill C-201 is just one element of the bigger picture, and it has to do with the pension element. I am very proud as a New Democrat to say that our caucus has raised this issue many times in the House of Commons. Motions have passed in the House for a seniors' charter. We believe strongly that all seniors in this country should live with dignity, with respect, as all people should, but particularly seniors, who have contributed so much to our country, whether through military service, emergency services or many other occupations and fields.
That in this day and age we are facing this critical issue with seniors, particularly women, who are living in impoverished conditions, just shows how much has changed in this country and how big the gap has become between wealth and poverty.
This is not an issue of a lack of wealth and resources. We live in an extremely wealthy country. There is extraordinary wealth in our economy, in our natural resources and in our ability to make decisions that provide a basis of equality.
It is really very concerning that in this day and age we are still dealing with these kinds of issues. If anything, we have lost ground as a result of decades of deregulation, of privatization, of erosion of our social safety net and erosion of social services that help people and ensure there is a measure of equality.
Although we have made advances under the law and there have been significant court cases about equality issues, the fact is that this goes beyond what is written in the law. It goes to the heart of government policy. It goes to the heart of public policy and what we do here to represent the public interest and the interests of our constituents.
I for one am very glad that those three ex-service personnel, who visited the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore about five years ago, raised this issue and brought it to his attention. That resulted in this private member's bill being put forward.
Here we are today debating this bill with the ability to make sure this clawback is changed. We can ensure members of the military and the RCMP, who are on pension, do not have their superannuation affected but receive the full benefits they should be entitled to.
I know there is opposition to this bill. We are here today in this debate to say to members that this is an important bill. It is a bill we can adopt. This bill would improve the lives of individual seniors in this country. It would affect about 84,000 veterans and about 12,000 retirees from the RCMP. These are not small numbers. This bill would affect 100,000 people. Each of us, in determining how we are going to vote on this bill, can make a positive decision to ensure these members in our communities actually get their full benefits.
Let us make sure we not only pass this bill but we go beyond it, that we put into reality the seniors' charter, that we make sure seniors are not living below the poverty line, that we increase the guaranteed income supplement, that we improve our Canada pension plan. These things are all related.
Our caucus sees this issue as a priority and we are prepared to address it. We wholeheartedly support the bill that is before us.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
May 3rd, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
Jack Harris St. John's East, NL
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. As we know and as veterans, RCMP members and their families across the country know, this has to do with the CPP clawback for veterans and service people.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
May 3rd, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-201 presented by the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore deals with the deduction of CPP benefits from the superannuation with respect to the military and RCMP. It affects them when they reach 65 years old and their CPP benefits, to which they are entitled as are all Canadians, are deducted from their superannuation, for which they are also eligible.
Interestingly, among those federal employees to whom this clawback does not apply are members of Parliament. MPs, senators and judges are not treated the same way as our RCMP and military.
To make matters worse, for those who are disabled and over 50 years of age, their disability benefits are also deducted from their superannuation. This is obviously unacceptable and must be rectified. When those disabled people turn 65, their disability stops and they are back into the first scenario where their CPP benefits are deducted from their superannuation.
This is an obvious problem that needs correcting. The Conservative Party does not seem at all disposed to correct it. The Liberals seem to be sitting on the fence, as is often the case; they have been back and forth and a little unclear on this subject. Hopefully, they will act with the rest of the opposition to right this wrong.
Speaking of the Liberals, back in 1999, the Chrétien-Martin government took $56 billion or $57 billion in EI funds and moved them into general revenues. That government took $20 billion or more of the surplus in the superannuation fund and moved it into general revenues, as well. It is time for the Liberals to make a step toward righting that grievous wrong and to vote on the right side of this issue.
The veterans are bearing the liabilities of their job, the responsibilities that they shouldered for Canadians in many ways. Today, it is our responsibility to balance their liabilities and protect them from a problem they did not create. They need that help.
What does the NDP want from this bill?
This private member's bill, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act , would eliminate those deductions, clawbacks, from their annuities. This was first introduced back in 2005. The time to rectify this problem is long overdue.
The NDP's veterans first motion passed in the House of Commons in 2006. That motion called for an end to the clawback of service pensions. Repeatedly, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has pressed the government and all parliamentarians to act on this issue.
There are many petitions on this subject. On one petition alone over 110,000 individuals from across Canada have signed it to support this initiative. There are signatures of many former colonels and generals on a petition developed by the RCMP and the Canadian Forces.
Wayne Wannamaker, a retired veteran from Whitehorse, encouraged politicians in the Yukon legislature to pass the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to recognize that the unilateral decision in 1966 to integrate the Canadian Forces Superannuation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation with the Canada Pension Plan contributions imposed an injustice and unfairness upon members and the retirees of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and therefore should take action to remedy that injustice.
In Nova Scotia Resolution No. 963 was adopted in 2006 urging “the Government of Canada to investigate this matter immediately and end the unfair policy of benefit reduction to our veterans of the military and the RCMP”.
To summarize, the bill would fix a problem where the RCMP and Canadian military veterans' benefits are clawed back unfairly. Under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act the clawback begins to take effect when a plan member retires and reaches age 65, or when a plan member becomes entitled to draw CPP disability benefits. But this issue is fundamentally about respect: respect for those serving in the line of duty, respect for veterans who have served our country willingly and honourably. The least that we could do is to support them with their needs after they have given so much to our country.
Veterans in my riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North are watching how the various parties deal with the bill. The disabled veterans are watching especially as Bill C-201 would really help them. Like many ridings, Thunder Bay--Superior North has many veterans from World War II, the Korean war and peacekeeping operations, just to name a few. I have met with many of the veterans in my riding who support the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore's initiative, veterans including those from Branch No. 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Port Arthur and Branch No. 219 as well. What do they think of the behaviour of the governing Conservatives in committee who gutted the bill? What do they think of the opposition Liberals who abstained from standing up for veterans in committee when the Conservatives were gutting the bill? They could have stopped this.
Thousands of veterans across the country and their families support Bill C-201 and seek an end to the reduction of pension benefits at age 65, or earlier if disabled. This is an issue of fairness.
Canadian Forces and RCMP members were not consulted as to how they wished to fund their plan contributions when the CPP was introduced. As well, the Canadian Forces and the RCMP have roles and a lifestyle distinct from the general community. They have faced dangerous conditions, extended family separations, hazards to their health and safety, long stretches of overtime, frequent postings and the difficulty for many spouses of members to retain employment and contribute to their own pension plans.
To end, men and women in the Canadian Forces and the RCMP pay the unlimited liability providing service to our country. As parliamentarians, we have the ultimate responsibility to ensure these men and women are taken care of from the moment they sign up until the moment they pass on. Canada's Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans are our greatest heroes and our country's greatest volunteers. With all of their sacrifice they deserve to be treated with fairness, with dignity and with security in their service years and in their retirement years.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
May 3rd, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to participate in this debate because, like so many members here, I have veterans, active service personnel and members of the RCMP in my riding. A few years ago, as the House may know, O Division of the RCMP moved to London, Ontario. These folks are in our communities doing service and ensuring that federal laws are observed.
Interestingly enough, a few months ago RCMP officers from all over the nation went to Vancouver to ensure that people who were visiting our country for the Olympics were safe and secure in that community and that no one could disrupt those remarkable events. This took time away from their families and their homes but they were there when we needed them to ensure that young women were not being trafficked into Vancouver and made vulnerable by the fact that there were so many people who were visiting the city.
These officers and the veterans who come from the army, navy and air force, and those folks who serve at Wolseley Barracks in London all need to know that their government, their community and this nation will ensure that when their time comes for a pension they will receive the full pension they deserve.
I stand in support of the private member's bill proposed by my colleague because Bill C-201 is an important test of our will as a community, as a Parliament and as a nation. What the bill is saying is that we need to treat veterans and RCMP veterans fairly. The bill simply seeks to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to eliminate the deduction of Canada plan benefits from the annuity payable under each of these acts.
This goes back to 1966 when many of us were either very young or perhaps, in the case of my colleague, not even born. It goes back quite a long way and compelled the government to split the contributions of deductions to superannuation and to the Canada pension plan. As was previously mentioned, this was never explained to veterans or to those serving in the military. No one was advised of what would happen to them if they were disabled or when they reached the age of 65. This decision was made without their knowledge or consent and they did not understand it until many years later when they retired and saw that their superannuation was reduced because they were receiving Canada pension or because they were entitled to disability.
This is not how we treat the people who Parliament and the country say that it reveres, honours and wishes to ensure there is not poverty in the future of veterans.
We have talked a great deal about the need for pension reform in this country. My colleague from James Bay mentioned that too many people are falling through the cracks. In fact, I heard a report just recently that 70% of Canadians do not have adequate pension coverage. All they have to look forward to in their old age, after years of working, building their neighbourhoods, contributing to the tax base or, in the case of the RCMP and veterans, providing service and support to our nation, is poverty.
We need to act and we need to act now. We need pension reform. We need to look at those private pensions that are collapsing, like the Nortel pension. We need to look at the Canada pension plan, the OAS and the GIS because they are simply not adequate. Too many seniors are struggling and many of them are people who have served our country with great distinction.
I will now talk a bit about what is going on in my riding with the Parkwood Hospital for veterans which is located right in the middle of my riding. It, unfortunately, serves only those veterans who were in World War II or the Korean War. Anyone who served after 1953 cannot utilize the services of Parkwood Hospital. As we all know, the veterans of World War II and the Korean War are elderly and we are losing many of them because they are passing on.
The problem is that the people at Parkwood Hospital want to close 72 beds. However, once those beds are closed we will never see them re-opened. The truth is that when health care budgets are under stress and beds are closed, they are closed forever. The incredible staff who serve those beds and help those veterans are also lost because they are laid off or perhaps go into other parts of the medical delivery service. We lose important skills that have been accrued over years of working with fragile veterans and elderly people. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
It would be quite simple for the government to make changes to the mandate of veterans' hospitals. It could allow these hospitals to serve the veterans who came after 1953, those who served our country as peacekeepers or in other deployments. There are all kinds of them. We see them coming back from places like Kandahar. We see RCMP officers who have been wounded and who have risked a great deal in the service of their country. Those beds should be available for them.
As I mentioned before, we have a significant group of personnel, military and RCMP, in London, Ontario. I want to say a little bit about the legions in London, Ontario. We have some quite remarkable veterans and those who have served since 1953 in London at the Victory Branch Legion, the Duchess of Kent, the Air Force legion on Crumlin Side Road in my riding, and the Navy legion. By the way, this is the 100th anniversary of the navy. I think it would behoove all of us to celebrate that anniversary by showing respect to those veterans who served and who served so loyally.
At any rate, those legions provide remarkable support to the veterans at Parkwood. They bring them out on Remembrance Day and at Christmas. The Duchess of Kent is renowned for its efforts to ensure those vets get out of Parkwood for a few hours to know that they are appreciated.
We can show those people that we appreciate their work on behalf of veterans as we appreciate the veterans of World War II and Korea by extending the mandate of the hospitals, like Parkwood, and allowing those beds to be utilized by both the military personnel and their spouses. We call that the centres of excellence proposal. We would very much like to see that.
I want to end on an important note. We are seeing young men and women come back from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress syndrome. If we close beds and deny pensions to these people, we will be doing them a tremendous disservice. They need us. They were there when we needed them and they need us now.
I received a letter just last week from Ken Knisely who has a son, Andrew, who lost a leg in Afghanistan. He has to go to Ottawa for treatment because there is no available treatment in London.
We can do better. We can do better than food banks for veterans. We can do better by ensuring this bill is passed in this House.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
May 3rd, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON
It is no accident that this debate is happening now as we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic and the liberation of Holland. I know many veterans in my riding who did the horrible slogging with the Algonquin Regiment through the Leopold Canal, Scheldt and into Holland.
I was talking with Algonquin Regiment reservist Murray Tilson, who was there with the veterans for one of the big commemorations in Holland. Murray is of my generation and a young woman came up during the celebration, kissed him on the cheek and said, “Thank you for liberating us”. He said, “I did not liberate you”, and she said, “No, but if we needed you, we know that you would”. It shows that kind of bond that we have built in terms of the Canadian identity, our relationship to the people of Holland, and the sacrifice that was given.
I also remember doing a great interview with Johnny LeBlanc, who was a real tough-as-nails union organizer from northern Ontario. Johnny used to walk 26 miles into the bush in the middle of winter, by himself, to organize these bush camps. Shift bosses certainly did not like Johnny coming in. I asked him if there was ever a threat of violence with him walking into the bush camps that were militantly anti-union. He said that there was always a threat. I asked him, what gave him the courage to walk in and start organizing those camps for the workers who were cutting for Abitibi and Kimberly-Clark. He said, “I was with the tanks when we fought our way through Belgium and Holland, and when I came back, after I saw so many people die, nobody was going to deny me the rights that I had fought for”.
That message is something we need to think of today because it is not just about Remembrance Day, when we wrap ourselves in the flag. There was a sacrifice not just for Europe but for Canada and for a certain set of ideals and principles.
I think of Johnny LeBlanc who helped organize all those workers who ended up working for the largest pulp and paper company in the world, Abitibi, and I think of the Abitibi workers and pensioners today who are watching their pension savings and their futures being threatened. I see the absolute indifference of the federal Conservative government in terms of the pension crisis facing us.
Make no mistake. We are facing a full-blown pension crisis in this country and we see absolute indifference from the federal government.
Earlier this year, our leader from Toronto—Danforth attempted to work with the Conservatives. He said, “You have been giving one massive tax cut after another. Hold off on this latest round of what you are offering, this $1.7 billion to the big banks and the oil companies. Put some of that money into the GIS for the seniors who are living in poverty now. You could raise the basic income of every senior and out of poverty with the stroke of a pen”.
However, the Conservatives of course are not there to worry about the seniors and poverty. They are more worried about their friends at BP and Exxon, and making sure that they continue to do well.
We see now the HST that is being taken off corporate enterprises and put on senior citizens, people on fixed incomes, people in my riding who are barely scraping by, and who are now having to pay the extra HST on their home heating fuels. Even people who are working to save for the pensions that they do not have are having to pay the HST. We see a massive shift in the tax burden away from the large corporations onto people on fixed incomes, onto senior citizens, and we see nothing but contempt and ridicule from the government because it is not there for the people who need it.
I would argue that our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that there is a fair system for pensions in this country. New Democrats have pushed forward for a number of key changes. A simple change would be changing the bankruptcy protection laws so that the Nortel workers, the CanWest workers, and the Abitibi workers are not going to be at the end of the line if the CCAA protection fails and those companies go into full bankruptcy.
They are looking for action from us and they are not seeing anything from the Conservative government. We need to look at increasing the GIS, as I had mentioned, so that we can take seniors who are living in poverty out of poverty.
Of course, the other major issue is that the vast majority of Canadians now have no pension plans and they are moving from job to job. We have to start moving toward eventually doubling the CPP so people can actually have proper pension savings.
It is pretty shocking that in Canada in 2010, for all the talk about loving our troops, there are veterans using food banks. I would argue that our veterans having to use food banks is a disgrace and a sign of the failure of the government to look out for the people who are falling between the cracks.
I am very supportive of Bill C-201, which would bring an element of fairness to the people who put their lives on the line for us throughout their careers, former RCMP officers and military personnel who are looking for a fair deal.
The bill has to do with the Canada pension deductions, the clawbacks that happen if members become disabled or collect Canada pension disability and how it relates to their superannuation. We need to ensure that these people are not penalized unfairly for the service they have given this country.
This all goes back to 1966 when the Canada pension plan was first set up and the government split the contributions of the deductions to the superannuation and the Canada pension plan. Nobody told the military out there in the field defending us how it would affect them.
Here is a sad example. Let us say that an officer in the RCMP with 30 years of service becomes disabled. He would receive 64% of his superannuation and then Great West Life would top it up to 75% by adding 11%. Then, after two years, Great West Life would shut it off and he would have to then apply for the Canada pension disability. If he applies for the Canada pension disability, he would receive a lump sum of $16,000. He then would get a call from the RCMP annuity branch saying that he owes it over $11,000. That would have been the deduction if he had received CPP from the beginning. Therefore, he would have to pay back all the money he received.
However, Great West Life would tell him that he owes it $7,000 to $8,000. If he had received $16,000 in a lump sum payment, he would end up having to pay back over $19,000 because it would be clawing back the money that had been paid to him. When he turns 65, his Canada pension disability would be shut off and he would get the reduced CPP. I do not think that is fair, not for people who put their lives on the line for us.
We need to work more collaboratively as a House of Commons and stop using our soldiers as a political shield for the government's mistakes. We should ensure that when they come back from overseas after putting their lives on the line, they and their loved ones will be looked after and their pensions will be fully protected. I do not think that is too much to ask from any member of Parliament of any political party.
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business
May 3rd, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-201 and support the reintroduction of its clauses. As with other speakers, I want to commend the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. His riding is very close to mine, both in proximity and in terms of the people who make it up. We both have largely military ridings. He has certainly honoured the tradition of the military for both veterans and serving members, and he has been tireless in his support of this bill.
In simple terms, this bill seeks to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. The essence of this problem is that, at age 65, veterans of the Canadian Forces and RCMP see their pensions decreased. This goes back to the 1966 introduction of the Canada pension plan and the integration of the Canada pension plan with existing pension plans.
I want to be clear that it is my view that all members of the House want to do their very best to support our veterans. This is not an issue that should be divided along partisan lines. I do not believe it is a political issue. The question is, how do we best serve former serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP? This is not a bill that is as easy to deal with as some might say, but I also do not think it is as complicated as others might have it either.
In my opinion, the heart of the matter is the question of what is fair. We are at a point in time when Canadians are quite common in their belief that we need more work on pensions. Many Canadians do not have adequate pensions. Others have seen their pensions disappear all of a sudden before their eyes. I have had the chance to talk to Nortel employees, both pensioners and also people who are on long-term disability, and their stories are quite frightening.
People thought they had secured their pension, secured their future, and secured the time that they would have after working, which in many cases is more and more years. People are living longer, but are they living better or living as well? I think that goes to the heart of this matter as well. I think it is appropriate for the House as well as the government to consider this idea of fairness, and to put it in the context of service offered to country and how country responds to service.
As I mentioned, I come from a military community and I am very proud to do so. From the time I was elected in 2004, I have felt both the responsibility and the privilege of coming from a military community. Shearwater borders my riding and the riding of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. We have other bases in Halifax, Dartmouth and others in Nova Scotia. There is a strong military presence.
One of the privileges of being a member of Parliament is to march with veterans and to be with veterans all year, but particularly on those days that are very special. In Dartmouth at the cenotaph and also in Cole Harbour at the cenotaph, we have very serious commemorations of events like Remembrance Day. Every year now, I have the opportunity to go into schools and talk to kids. Like other members in the House, I take great pleasure and pride in the fact that our children understand Remembrance Day in a much more significant way than my generation did.
When I went to school, I can recall the veterans coming in to talk to us, but there was always a bit of a sense back then that war and peace were different things. Everybody wanted to have peace without sometimes recognizing that war was an avenue to peace and that the people who had given up their lives and those who have had their lives altered by the experience of war are the profound heroes of our country.
Remembrance Day, the Battle of Britain, and the Battle of the Atlantic are very significant commemorations on the east coast, the home of Canada's east coast navy. On D-Day, we all gather at the Somme Branch Legion and walk down to the waterfront. It is a very sombre occasion, but it is an occasion that brings people together and allows them to remember the good, the bad, and particularly the sacrifice of people who have gone before.
Great veterans like Allan Moore still occasionally walk with us. He served in World War II. His brother was killed in World War II and he found out about it by reading a military journal. Allan Moore has gone into classes for many years and explained to children about the horrors of war in a way that they can understand it and by seeing pictures of it. They learn about the horrors of war and the sometimes necessity of war. Doug Shanks is a very special individual. He is one of the many who was involved in the liberation of Holland, which the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will be commemorating tomorrow.
These are the great heroes living among us, people who have made a huge difference, people who have given us the opportunity to bring bills forward in this very august chamber where things like this should be discussed, debated, and ultimately decided on by the people's representatives.
We have great heroes in this country. Whenever we go to a citizenship swearing-in ceremony, which is another great privilege of being a member of Parliament, we always see a veteran there to welcome people to Canada, in some cases new Canadians and in some cases people who have been here for a while but have decided to become citizens. It never fails to impress when somebody who has served Canada is there, sometimes with a cane, sometimes with a walker, sometimes with an assistant, but there to let people know that one of the rights and privileges of being Canadian is to honour the sacrifice of those who have gone before.
One cannot help but have a very specific understanding of the nature of war if one lives in an east coast community such as the one in which I live.
This year more than ever we have reason to look at Bill C-201 and to ask if we are being fair, are we providing fairness for the service that was provided by both the living and the dead?
A couple of months ago John Babcock, Canada's last World War I veteran, passed away at the age of 109. This is the 100th anniversary of Canada's navy, and Halifax is the east coast home of the navy.
Before I was elected, I was privileged to be a trustee of HMCS Sackville, the last of the corvettes. During World War II there were over 260 corvettes, 120 of which were built in Canada. The Sackville was built in Saint John. After the war the corvettes served different purposes, whether it was fishing or other purposes. They have all gone except for HMCS Sackville.
I recall a few years ago I had the opportunity when we were doing some finance committee travel to bring the members of the committee on to HMCS Sackville. Judy Wasylycia-Leis was there. She fit very comfortably inside the corvette. Brian Palliser, who was then the chair of the Conservative finance committee, had a little more trouble on the corvette. One can only image how these little ships, these rugged, heroic little vessels went out to patrol the water and open the channels during World War II in the icy north Atlantic and the men who served them in many ways. This is a microcosm of Canada.
During World War II people from the Prairies used to serve on these vessels. They would come to Halifax, never having really seen an ocean. On some occasions they would look across from Halifax to Dartmouth and think that was Europe because they had not seen that kind of expanse of water before.
They came and they served and they were heroes. We have to do everything we can to ensure that HMCS Sackville is preserved, brought ashore, and given the honour and the respect that it deserves. There are over 1,100 trustees of HMCS Sackville.
I can only encourage anybody who wants to really get connected to Canada's navy in this the 100th anniversary to google HMCS Sackville, and when in Halifax come and visit it.
We have to look at Bill C-201 and ask, is there a specific purpose here? I believe that there is. I want to quote from G.K. Chesterton who said:
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.
Those who served us in the armed forces and the RCMP have gone above and beyond. I acknowledge the work of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and my colleague from Avalon, who has supported this bill all the way through. This is the right thing to do. I encourage members of this House to support Bill C-201.