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.

Sponsor

Peter Stoffer  NDP

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 18, 2009
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment amends the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to eliminate the deduction of Canada Pension Plan benefits from the annuity payable under each of these 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.

Votes

  • 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

May 3rd, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

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.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

May 3rd, 2010 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today in support of my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore and for Bill C-201, which would bring fairness to pensions for ex-service officers and RCMP officers.

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 / 11:20 a.m.
See context

NDP

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 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

NDP

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 / 11:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

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.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

April 21st, 2010 / 6:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

moved:

Motion No. 1

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)”

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 1 as follows:

“1. Subsection 2(1) of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:

“Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings” has the same meaning as in the Canada Pension Plan.”

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 2 as follows:

“2. Paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(a) four per cent of the portion of his or her salary that is less than or equal to the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings; and”

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 3 as follows:

“3. (1) Subsections 15(2), (2.1) and (3) of the Act are repealed.

(2) Subsection 15(7) of the Act is repealed.”

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 4 as follows:

“4. The portion of section 40 of the Act before paragraph (a) is replaced by the following:

40. (1) If, on the death of a contributor who, on ceasing to be a member of the Canadian Forces, was entitled to an immediate annuity or an annual allowance, there is no person to whom an allowance provided in this Part may be paid, or where the persons to whom such allowance may be paid die or cease to be entitled to it and no other amount may be paid to them under this Part, any amount by which the calculated amount, within the meaning of subsection (2), exceeds the aggregate of all amounts paid to those persons and to the contributor under this Part or Part V of the former Act shall be paid”

Motion No. 6

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 5 as follows:

“5. Subparagraph 42(1.1)(a)(i) of the Act is replaced by the following

(i) four per cent of the portion of his or her salary that is less than or equal to the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings, and”

Motion No. 7

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 6 as follows:

“6. Paragraph 50(1)(k) of the Act is repealed.”

Motion No. 8

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 7 as follows:

“7. Subsection 3(1) of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:

“Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings” has the same meaning as in the Canada Pension Plan.”

Motion No. 9

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 8 as follows:

“8. Paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Act is replaced by the following:

(a) four per cent of the portion of his or her pay that is less than or equal to the Year’s Maximum Pensionable Earnings; and”

Motion No. 10

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 9 as follows:

“9. (1) Subsections 10(2), (2.1) and (3) of the Act are repealed.

(2) Subsection 10(7) of the Act is repealed.”

Motion No. 11

That Bill C-201 be amended by restoring Clause 10 as follows:

“10. Paragraph 26(g) of the Act is repealed.”

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak again to Bill C-201. For those who are listening and for those in the House, I will give a little history on Bill C-201.

About five years ago, three ex-service personnel came to my office and discussed with me the concerns of what they called the clawback of their military pensions at age 65, as well as the Canada pension deductions, or clawbacks when members were disabled and collected Canada pension disability, as related to their superannuation. Those three men were John Labelle, Roger Boutin and Mel Pittman, all of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

These fine gentlemen have petitioned people across the country, to the point where close to 125,000 individuals have written and talked about this issue. The territorial legislature of Yukon is fully supportive of it. The provincial government of Nova Scotia and the other two provincial parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives, have all agreed to it in their debates as well.

We are trying to ensure that the men and women who serve our country, the RCMP and the Canadian military, have financial dignity when they require it.

The premise began in 1966. When the Canada pension plan came into being, the government split the contributions of deductions to superannuation and to the Canada pension plan. The problem was nobody in the military was advised that this would happen to them. This was a decision made without their knowledge and without their consent. It was done on their behalf, not knowing that years later, when they retired, what they would receive was a CPP, Canada pension plan, or QPP, Quebec pension plan, deduction from their superannuation.

We have said very clearly that nobody, when they become disabled or when they turn 65, should lose money.

It fundamentally works like this in the disabled aspect. I know a gentleman who is an RCMP officer. After 30 years of service, he became disabled and had to leave the RCMP. He received 64% of his superannuation and then Great West Life topped it up to 75% by adding an additional 11%. After two years, Great West Life shut it off and then he had to apply for Canada pension disability.

He applied for Canada pension disability and received a lump sum of over $16,000. The first call he received was from the RCMP annuity branch, which said he owed it over $11,000. That would have been the deduction if he had received CPP from the beginning. Therefore, he had to pay all that money back. Then Great West Life told him he owed it close to $7,000 or $8,000.

Therefore, he received $16,000 and had to pay back over $19,000 because Great West Life clawed back all the money it had paid him. When he turns 65, his Canada pension disability will shut off and he will get a reduced CPP, which is deducted from his superannuation. Therefore, he loses money once again. We should not have to tell our heroes, the RCMP and our military, that this will happen to them.

I have spoken to many veterans, their families and RCMP officers across the country. Bill C-201 affects only 96,000 of them. There are 84,000 veterans of the military and 12,000 of the RCMP. We have close to 700,000 military and RCMP individuals who are retired, but this bill only applies to those who have received their superannuation, and they would have had to have served over 20 years to get that. As members know, a few years ago changes were made to the eligibility of an early pension plan and now these members have to serve 25 years to get an earlier pension plan.

Who am I talking about? The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is a tremendous individual in the House of Commons. He served 30 years in the Air Force and I believe he flew fighter jets as well. The former minister of defence, who I believe now is the whip of the Conservative Party, also was a general. These men have served their country. They are just two in the House, but there are many across the country who have gallantly put their lives on the line so we could all have a good night's sleep.

I remind everybody that when the men and women of the armed forces and the RCMP sign on the bottom line, they have unlimited liability. We in Parliament, whether in government or in opposition, have the ultimate responsibility of looking after their needs.

I have spoken to so many individuals who in their career have moved, in some cases 17 times, across the country and internationally. In many cases their spouses were not able to hold down jobs. If potential employers found out that the husband, for example, was in the service, they probably would not hire the wife because the family was constantly moving. The spouse lost the opportunity to contribute to his or her own pension plan.

Again, these men and women are the heroes of our country. These are the men and women who allow us to have a good night's sleep. With this bill, I am trying to ensure that their financial needs are met when they turn 65.

Is the government doing anything legally wrong? No, it is not. It is following the rules according to what happened in 1966. That is a fact. If the government were to follow what we have suggested, the average person of the 96,000 I am talking about would receive about $200 extra a month in total allotment.

What the government has refused to say is that they would receive less in old age security payments and in some cases less in GIS, and that would be a saving for the government. In some cases some of these individuals may end up in a higher tax bracket and would be taxed on that.

Most important, what would the average disabled veterans or RCMP officers or those who retired at age 65 do with these additional funds? They would pump that money right back into the economy.

What we are talking about in many cases is fairness and respect and financial dignity for these individuals when they retire.

Let us go over a few things that have happened this week alone when it comes to our veterans.

There is a long-term care facility in Cape Breton that has been refused money to get a proper kitchen area to feed hot meals to veterans.

We have found out that today one of the hospitals in London, Ontario, will shut down 72 beds over the next year. That is 72 hospital beds for veterans that will no longer be eligible for those we call the modern-day veteran. We also found out that Allied veterans cannot have access to hospital beds in this country.

We also found out that the government is still refusing to have a public inquiry into agent orange, even though it promised that when in opposition.

We also found out that the current Prime Minister, when he was in opposition, promised that all widows and widowers of VIP would receive it, immediately, not some of them and not under strict criteria.

These are some of the problems veterans and their families are having.

I was asked by these three gentlemen, Roger, Mel and John, if there was any way this could be fixed and if legislation could be brought forward to assist them. That is exactly what we have done.

I do not want members to get me wrong. There are certain things the government has done, with the previous government, to improve the lot of veterans and their families. The new veterans charter is an example of moving the yardsticks forward. Is it perfect? No. That is why committees are examining the veterans charter right now. There is so much more the government could be doing.

What I found quite despicable the other day was the Prime Minister of Canada on Easter Saturday standing at a Calgary food bank and filling up a hamper, a food bank designed specifically for veterans. Under no circumstances should any veteran or family member ever have to go to a food bank. That is despicable, and the Conservatives should hang their heads in shame for that.

The reality is that Bill C-201 is affordable. Even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence said it would cost about $100 million, and he is absolutely correct. However, if we take in all the savings the government could have, this is an investment in our veterans and in our RCMP members and their families.

My party and I firmly believe that the men and women who serve our country deserve our greatest gratitude. They deserve to have this bill passed through the House of Commons.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

April 21st, 2010 / 6:50 p.m.
See context

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore proposes restoring Bill C-201 to its original form, introduced last year after debate here in the House and lengthy consideration by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. Nothing has changed since the standing committee agreed to remove the proposed clauses. There are some issues that do deserve discussion, and the disability issue is one. However, as for the rest of it, I am sorry. I cannot support the hon. member's motions for the same reasons as before.

This does not take away from the deep respect and immense admiration we have for the Canadian Forces and the RCMP. I am proud of my own service and my comrades, and I am just as proud of the men and women in uniform today. These military personnel and their families make many sacrifices and, in return, the Government of Canada must take care of them. The Canadian Forces pension plan is there to look after our veterans. The system is flexible and generous, which is exactly what the Canadian Forces members deserve.

In 1966, members of the Canadian Forces were paying 6% of their salaries into their pension plan or CFSA. When the Canada pension plan was integrated with the CFSA, as were all other public service pension plans, CF members continued to pay 6% of their salaries into pension benefits. The only change was that 1.8% now went to CPP and 4.2% went to CFSA.

Upon retirement, a member receives 2% of his or her best five-year average salary per year or partial year of service. The member pays 25% of the cost of that pension and the public pays the other 75%.

Members of the CF typically retire well before age 65. When they collect their CFSA upon retirement, it consists of two parts. The larger part, approximately 70%, is the lifetime benefit. That is the amount from CFSA the member will continue to receive until he or she dies. The smaller part, approximately 30%, is termed the bridge benefit and serves to bridge the pensioner's income at the full 2% per year of service until age 65 when most people start collecting CPP.

At age 65, having done its job, the bridge benefit ceases. In most cases, the amount of CPP that commences will be at least equal to the amount of the bridge benefit that ceases, thus giving the pensioner a consistent income flow throughout retirement years. That is the way it is designed. That is the way it works.

This will not be the case, though, under two circumstances. If the member does not earn taxable income between CF retirement age and age 65, he or she will not have contributed to CPP for that period. In that case, the amount of CPP eligibility will be less and it will likely be less than the bridge benefit that ceases at 65. In most cases, working or not working is a decision the member makes.

Canadians can draw CPP as early as age 60, with a reduction of .5% per month before age 65. If someone took it at age 60, his or her total reduction would be 30%. That is the reduced amount, plus indexing, that the pensioner will receive from CPP for the rest of his or her life. A CF pensioner taking CPP at age 60 will, in effect, be receiving both the bridge benefit and CPP for that five-year period. That is a good thing, but he or she must be prepared for a reduction in overall benefit when the bridge benefit ceases at age 65.

I will repeat, those are the only cases where a person is liable to receive less from CPP than he or she is getting from the bridge benefit. The total pension benefit continues to be indexed and the decision to take CPP early rests with the member.

CFSA and CPP are working exactly as set up and paid for, and they provide for a consistent indexed level of retirement income for CF members and RCMP. The essence of the argument in Bill C-201 is that CF and RCMP pensioners should be able to collect both the bridge benefit and CPP beyond age 65. This would amount to stacking the CFSA lifetime and bridge benefits and CPP, amounting to approximately a 30% increase, even though we have not paid for a stacked pension plan. It is as simple as that.

The cost to implement Bill C-201, and my hon. colleague mentioned part of it, would be prohibitive, with a one-time cost, according to the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, of $7 billion and annual costs of $110 million, and increasing. Plan members and Canadian taxpayers would have to bear the burden of the increase in future contributions.

Are plan members prepared for additional deductions in pay? A soldier making $50,000 a year would see an increased annual pay deduction of $1,000. Would it be fair to ask taxpayers to pay the increase? The government has a responsibility to our service members, but we also have a responsibility to Canadian taxpayers to carefully manage the money they entrust to us.

Proponents of Bill C-201 suggest that the annual cost of implementation could be covered by diverting CF members' EI contributions. Annual EI contributions by CF members amount to $54 million per year, which covers less than half the annual cost. In addition, approximately 3,000 CF members use EI benefits every year for maternity leave and parental leave, and those important benefits would be denied. We care too much about our military families to do that.

Our government has acted. With the Budget Implementation Act 2006, the government approved an amendment that changed the calculation of the lifetime benefit in the recipient's favour. Therefore, the dollar amount reduced at age 65 will be less, resulting in an increased long-term pension benefit.

The very well organized advocates of Bill C-201 propose a number of what are essentially red herrings. They point to the lack of consultation and input by CF members in 1966. The CF is not a union and does not get to vote on pay and benefits. The leadership of the CF makes decisions for the members on their behalf, and that is not going to change.

There is no doubt that communication of the changes was sporadic at best, but since then, efforts have been made to inform our veterans and plan members and answer their questions. There is a website, informative publications, a 1-800 number and briefings upon approaching retirement. Ultimately, plan members are responsible for learning about and understanding their respective pay and benefits.

Some suggest that MPs have exempted themselves from what they call a clawback of the bridge benefit. I am glad the member did not bring it up, but it is on all of the websites. MPs come and go at all ages and do not collect their pensions until age 55, unlike CF members who can collect pensions years earlier. MPs do not collect any bridge benefit from or to any age; therefore, there is simply nothing to claw back. Being an easy target is part of the life of an MP, but it is simply intentionally misleading in this case.

Many point to petitions, as my hon. colleague did, signed by 100,000 or 125,000 people in support of Bill C-201. Anybody will sign a petition that holds an implied promise of more money. I do not suggest that anybody signed in bad faith; they have simply been misled. I have spoken to many former CF colleagues who knew the issue was bogus but signed anyway. Why not? While there are many former senior officers who have signed the petition, there are a great many more who have not signed. These include many former chiefs of the defence staff and leaders who are acknowledged as being strong supporters of the troops. They know it is simply not a legitimate issue.

The last time we debated the bill, I received hundreds of angry emails and phone calls, and I expect there will be more to come. Some send me their CFSA statements pointing out that at age 65, their CFSA would be reduced by x dollars per month and that they would lose indexing on that amount. What they do not send me is their CPP statement that says they will receive x dollars per month and that it will be indexed.

Some propose emotional arguments about how members of the CF have served and sacrificed themselves and their families. That is true, and I can attest to that from personal experience. Canadians respect that sacrifice and are grateful for it, but Canadians serve voluntarily. They are well paid, well treated and get excellent trades training and experience for future employment. I can also attest personally to the relevance and the generosity of the Canadian Forces superannuation plan, and retirement benefits are generous by any contemporary standard. The CF and RCMP plans are set up exactly the same way as all other public service pension plans and most other defined benefit pension plans, such as teachers plans. Where would the dominoes stop and at what cost if the bill were to be implemented?

With respect to our pension plan, our benefit is based on our investment. Members are receiving the full benefit from that investment and the pension plan is working the way it was intended.

Our government has taken our obligations to our veterans very seriously. We have implemented a veterans' bill of rights, veterans' charter and veterans' ombudsman, brought in pension income splitting and many other tax benefits for seniors, addressed the agent orange and atomic vets issues and a host of other points. In fact, we have invested about $2.1 billion more on our veterans than the previous Liberal administration did.

While we have done much for veterans and serving members, there will always be more to do and more to be considered. The disability issue is in fact a legitimate issue, and one that should be discussed, but it is lumped in with the majority of folks, the 96,000 that my colleague talked about, that have nothing to do with that issue.

Unfortunately, spending an inordinate amount of time on things like Bill C-201 distracts from examining those issues. It is a difficult issue for many, there is no doubt. I can tell hon. members it is no fun being the poster boy with my face on legion dart boards across the country.

We have all had to make tough decisions in our lives and careers and we all try to make them in the most honest and informed way possible.

As I said at the beginning, nothing has changed. Notwithstanding all of our respect and gratitude for our veterans, the bill is simply unrealistic, not founded on fact and unfortunately we cannot support it.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

April 21st, 2010 / 7 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rob Oliphant Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-201 and the reintroduction of its clauses at report stage.

I want to begin by thanking the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his hard work in this endeavour, for spearheading it and also for his tenacity. The member is known for three things, at least: his tenacity in keeping issues alive before this House and in the community; his commitment to veterans, which is outstanding; and also his compassionate understanding of the needs of veterans and how they relate to ordinary lives of people.

He may also be known for his constructive approach to his role as critic. I want to thank him for keeping that constructive role and ensuring that we continually look at how to improve benefits and programs for veterans. This is part of that process.

As official opposition critic for veterans affairs, it is always an honour and truly a privilege for me to work with and to learn from so many of Canada's bravest and finest men and women. Their courage and integrity as shown to us through their years of active service is outstanding. They lead by example in showing what Canada truly is as a country.

Canadian Forces members and members of the RCMP make this country proud in their service in this country and around the world. Whether they are traditional veterans who are becoming elderly, those from World War II and Korea, or modern veterans from the cold war, from peacekeeping operations, and from failed state operations, and now from Afghanistan and most recently from Haiti, they have earned our respect. They deserve our care and our commitment to their well-being.

Bill C-201 is an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act.

As has been explained by previous speakers, these two forces have superannuation plans that are meant to provide for members of the forces in their retirement years. Those who have served Canada in uniform inside and outside our borders receive annuities upon retirement. Like all pension plans, public and private, these annuities represent deferred income. They represent income that was forgone at one stage of life and the members receive it and accrued interest in earnings later in life. They take less income earlier, pay into a plan and receive it later. This is not some sort of a benefit that is being given to them. This is earned income, forgone income, which the government puts aside on their behalf, instead of receiving higher salaries or wages. It allows them to have a good retirement.

As the hon. member has stated very clearly that that is not the existence for many of our retired members. He spoke of the Calgary Poppy Fund. He spoke of homelessness. He spoke of a number of issues that are plaguing some of our veterans. Financial problems are part of it, but they are not the only problems. There are other problems that veterans face, but financial problems are one of them.

When veterans turn 65, some of them are surprised that the annuity they receive actually goes down by about the same amount as their CPP or QPP when it kicks in. Many of them did not know about it beforehand. Once they are able to receive those benefits at age 65, or earlier due to a disability, they realize that they have had a bridging amount they thought would continue. Many of them are surprised to not receive the full amount of CPP or QPP.

This reduction, as they perceive it, has caused a great deal of consternation in the community.

The hon. member who has presented this bill has continually reminded this House of that, and has done so eloquently and elegantly.

Members in the Liberal caucus who were here supported this bill at second reading to ensure that it received a full and fair hearing at committee. It was sent to committee for further study, consultation and deliberation. The committee did its work. At the end of the process, the Conservative members managed to vote to gut the bill completely. Every part of it was negated.

Today the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore is reintroducing each clause of the bill. We were reminded of his tenacity in doing this, and we offer our respect and our thanks for that.

As the Liberal Party critic for veterans affairs, I have recommended to our caucus that we support the reintroduction of these clauses and support the principles of this bill.

This issue is not uncomplicated. These pension plans are contributory plans. They are actuarially based on the integration of the CPP or QPP and the superannuation funds at hand. The member has advanced several reasons for supporting this bill, not the least of which is the recognition of the very special contribution of the members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP.

There is not a member in the House on either side, frankly, who does not show a sense of gratitude and commitment that we all have to honour the covenant that has been made with members of our Canadian Forces and the RCMP. There is not a member in the House who does not approach this with great respect and due care and concern for our veterans. These men and women, our soldiers, sailors and air crew, as well as our RCMP officers, have served us and protected us and demand that we consider this fully.

We understand that their commitment and sacrifice is part and parcel of their daily work. We understand it is necessary for their families as well to have the same sense of duty and sacrifice. We understand that this concept is in full what all members of our Canadian Forces undergo from the day they enlist until the day they retire. We know of the hazards, the risks to life and limb that they undertake every day on our behalf. We need to keep the promise to ensure that their retirement years are good years.

The committee heard all of that and more. Principally the committee heard that the veterans' knowledge of the superannuation plans was not complete. The committee repeatedly heard that the veterans were surprised when they saw the reduction. Whether they should have been surprised or not is not for me to judge. What I saw as veterans came to us was that the documentation was too complex for them to grasp at times, or it was not available or accessible to them in ways they could comprehend, or it was not part of their life experience. They were often young and not considering their retirement years and did not understand the concept of bridging. For this reason our party will be supporting the bill at this stage.

Compounded with the testimony that we heard from these men and women, non-commissioned and commissioned officers, enlisted people and officers from the RCMP was that the information, preparation and readiness for retirement programs offered in years gone by were not adequate. They did not have the needed information.

We have the responsibility to correct that wrong in two ways. We have to ensure that the documentation of superannuation plans is accessible, available and understandable. We also have to correct a wrong for those who have not received the income they thought they were due. The issue of fairness has to do with accessibility, comprehensibility of materials and making sure that people are prepared for their retirement.

The hon. member who has presented this bill has been very effective in mounting a campaign, to which the parliamentary secretary referred. I want to quote from one of the main activists, Mr. John Labelle. He has written:

It is time to put the politics aside and for all Members of Parliament to demonstrate their recognition and appreciation, in a tangible way, to the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country. Take action to terminate this undemocratic, unfair and unjust treatment of Veterans and terminate this pension benefit reduction that has been imposed on them without fair and open consultation. This misguided policy violates the principle of democracy, fairness and justice as it affects the welfare of Veterans and their Families in their Golden Years.

We are all aware there will be financial implications with this bill. It is somewhat disingenuous of the member who has proposed it to not have clearly signalled that to all who are affected by it. This bill will no doubt require a royal recommendation. We will not be able to fulfill this promise unless the Conservative government comes fully on board and supports it. I hope it does so.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

April 21st, 2010 / 7:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Guy André Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very interested in speaking once again about 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).

Concerned and sensitive as we always are, we are proud to defend veterans and members of the RCMP. In order to ensure that they will be treated fairly, the Bloc Québécois long ago decided to support the bill at second reading so that it would be studied in detail at the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Unfortunately, much to our disappointment and astonishment, once it went to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs we quickly realized that not only did the Conservatives and Liberals not want to study the bill in detail at that time, but they wanted it gutted. As the member who spoke before me said, veterans should be treated fairly, and this is not the case with the current pension plan.

As hon. members will recall, at second reading of this bill, the Liberals supported it and decided to vote in favour of this measure, so it could be examined in committee.

Unfortunately, on November 17, 2009, when the Conservatives were throwing out all the articles of this good bill introduced by my colleague, Bill C-201, most Liberals decided to abstain, thereby shirking the responsibility they had taken on previously, and in the end, Bill C-201 was defeated. That is why we are seeing this bill again in the House.

Once again, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore is showing his tenacity and courage by proposing amendments at the report stage, amendments that restore all the articles of Bill C-201.

Of course we will support those amendments, because we are consistent. We supported the bill because we wanted to examine it more thoroughly in committee. We still believe that this bill deserves the support of all members of this House as well as royal assent.

As parliamentarians, we must ensure that all the services provided are of good quality and adapted to the needs of veterans and their families, as a way to recognize what they did for us. That is what we are doing by examining the new veterans charter and Bill C-201.

Therefore, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about compensation for veterans and RCMP personnel when they reach retirement age.

We believe that Bill C-201 partially addresses that concern, because it is designed to put an end to the reduction of pensions for retired members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP when they reach age 65.

The reduction can be explained by the fact that since 1966, the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act have been part of the Canada pension plan, as is the case with all federal public pensions.

When the Canada pension plan was introduced in 1966, most Canadian employers, including the federal government, decided to integrate their pension plans with the CPP rather than maintain two parallel plans.

Bill C-201, introduced by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, would change that by deleting the deduction.

The government is asking why this bill includes only members of the armed forces and the RCMP.

I think all parliamentarians will agree that these individuals have played a unique role compared to other members of the federal public service. They have played a special role. The government and parliamentarians must honour what these people have done for Quebec and the rest of Canada. They deserve special treatment, because they have put and continue to put their lives in danger to protect the values our society holds dear.

We believe that Bill C-201 could facilitate an easier transition between military life and civilian life when a member leaves the armed forces.

That said, as I said earlier in my speech, the Bloc Québécois is concerned about how veterans' compensation is affected when they reach retirement age. I am pleased to see that, once again, the Liberals will support this bill. I hope that they will continue to support it at the committee stage. We ask them to remain consistent in their choices. I urge the Conservatives to do the same and to take a serious and thorough look at this bill, while keeping our veterans in mind. I believe that once they examine it more closely they will make the right choice and will support this bill.

The committee wishes to ensure that, three years after its adoption, this charter adequately meets the unique needs of today's veterans and their families. This was another aspect that we studied in committee. This bill is being introduced together with the new veterans charter, that we are currently studying, in recognition of their service.

We have to wonder whether it is reasonable to expect that a veteran can make the best decisions about the measures put forward in this bill. Committee review will allow us to closely examine the potential financial impact and the difficulties faced by veterans under the current pension system.

In the next few weeks, the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs will be dealing with a number of matters. The new veterans charter is definitely an important element, but other problems have been identified, especially post-traumatic stress syndrome.

We recently heard from witnesses that many soldiers, upon returning from Afghanistan, have been through very traumatic circumstances and that the Department of Veterans Affairs should provide services that are closer to where they live and more suited to their situations.

Not only do we want our veterans to have an adequate income to ensure their security and quality of life, but they should also be provided with a whole range of services to help them and their families. I believe that in the last budget the government once again missed an opportunity to provide additional support to our veterans. They have serious problems and the government has not increased resources enough to provide them with better services.

In closing, this bill will significantly improve the compensation for our veterans and RCMP members so they can have the type of retirement they deserve for the sacrifices they made during their term of service. For these reasons and in the interest of justice, I invite all members to vote for Bill C-201.

Motions in Amendment
Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

April 21st, 2010 / 7:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-201 this afternoon. I also was pleased to hear the comments of my good friend from the Bloc and certainly the new critic from the Liberal Party.

As the member from the Bloc has explained, Bill C-201 made it through second reading with the support of the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloc. However, when it went to committee, the Conservatives brought in motions and the Liberals abstained, therefore allowing the Liberal motions to pass and derailing the bill.

Now the member has brought back the motions at this stage, which, I guess, points to how tenacious the member is. He explained in his presentation that this has been a five-year effort on his part where he has had thousands of signatures on petitions. I must say that the veterans have an exceptional champion in the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I do not know of any other member in the House, past or present, who would go to that sort of effort, spending five years on a bill that involves potentially a royal recommendation. He is as energized now on this issue as I am sure he was five years ago.

It was not a big surprise when I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence make his speech tonight. Before I got ready for this speech I reviewed Hansard on all of the other speakers to the bill in the previous stages. I noticed that the parliamentary secretary was as downcast tonight as he was previously. He has experienced a hornet's nest dealing with this bill sponsored by the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. Tonight he was talking about how fearful he was of the hundreds and hundreds of emails that would be coming his way tomorrow and the hundreds and hundreds of emails that he had to deal with the last time. I know he is certainly not looking forward to that. The fact is that he has every reason to expect that and should know that is what his party deserves for the way it has acted on this bill.

The Prime Minister was recently in Calgary visiting a food bank for our veterans. The Prime Minister made promises when he was the leader of the opposition. It is easy to make promises but how good is he at keeping these promises? He has been in power now over four years. He promised that he would take care of the agent orange situation. He promised a public inquiry into agent orange. Where is it and when will it happen? It is something that has been swept under the rug and probably will never happen. Certainly, as Brian Mulroney used to say, a sacred trust. This is another broken trust of the government.

Also, we are hearing more stories of veterans hospital beds being closed. I believe the member mentioned some examples today. There may be examples in my home city of Winnipeg as well that the government is contemplating. This is not the signal that the veterans want to hear from the government. They want a government that supports veterans. The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore tells us that 96,000 people are affected by the bill, out of a total of about 700,000 retired military and RCMP personnel.

What we are talking about here is roughly, in a gross sense, around $200 a month. This $200 will be spent by these veterans and will flow right back into the economy, which is exactly what we need in the type of fiscal environment that we are in at this stage. Regardless, even if the economy was not in the fragile state it is right now, if we were in a robust part of the economy, the fact of the matter is that this money going to these people will actually be spent. We are not going to see this money squirreled away, it is going to be spent.

This money is owed to and properly due to people who sacrificed themselves in the military. We all know of military families. We all know of children of military members who spent a whole childhood being moved around, three years here, three years there and changing schools. When they do that, the spouses find it very difficult to get jobs because, as the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore mentioned, employers are reluctant to hire somebody who may only be there for a year or two.

These people end up not setting down roots and not establishing long-term careers. When they find themselves at retirement age, they are at a disadvantage. They are not the only segment of society that is disadvantaged. We have a huge section of the seniors population in the country as a whole who are in a disadvantaged situation right now.

It is incumbent on the government to take action, and to take action on pensions. In the last week our leader explained that if we took, I believe, $700 million, we could raise 400,000 people who are living below the poverty line above the poverty line. Once again, this is all money that will just find its way back into the economy because these people will spend the money. They are not going to squirrel it away, sending it to offshore tax havens or spending it on worldwide cruises and palaces in the Bahamas.

I think that is a much more sensible way to spend our money than to be giving more corporate tax breaks to the banks who, as I have indicated many times before, made $15 billion last year and are paying their CEOs up to $10.5 million a year.

Juxtapose that reality to the reality here. We call ourselves a first world country. We should be much more careful when we say things like that, when we treat our seniors, retirees and veterans the way we do.

For some time I have wanted to invite the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore to Winnipeg because we have active legions in Winnipeg. I have three in my home riding. I have Royal Canadian Legion Transcona Branch No. 7 on Regent Avenue, and I have certainly spent a lot of time there. I also have Royal Canadian Legion Elmwood Branch No. 9 at 920 Nairn Avenue, and I have Royal Canadian Legion Prince Edward Branch No. 81 at 300 Trent. While I was an MLA for 23 years, I certainly attended that legion.

All three of those legions would be thrilled to have the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore appear there to speak to them about veterans' issues because he does such a phenomenal job. He is an inspiration to veterans right across the country. There is basically an open invitation on my part for him to come to Manitoba to talk to veterans. I think that would be time well spent for all concerned.

I want to encourage the three opposition parties to stick together on this bill and get the government on side as well.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act
Government Orders

May 12th, 2009 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to provide a synopsis of what Bill C-18 proposes to do.

On March 9, the Minister of Public Safety introduced Bill C-18, An Act to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, to validate certain calculations and to amend other Acts.

The bill proposes changes to the pension plan provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. The key changes grant the necessary authorities the right to expand existing election for prior service provisions and introduce pension transfer agreements. The expanded election provisions will allow eligible pension plan members to elect for prior service under Canadian pension plans.

The introduction of pension transfer agreements will allow the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to enter into formal agreements with other Canadian pension plans to permit the transfer of pension credits into and out of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police pension plan. I am proud to say the NDP fully supports this initiative.

While I am on the subject of the RCMP, allow me to congratulate and thank every member of the RCMP and their families who have supported our country beyond Confederation.

We are talking about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is one of the few federal services in the world to have a “royal” designation. The men and women of the RCMP serve our country with great pride and great distinction. As well, many of them have paid the ultimate sacrifice in providing services to us, which has allowed us to have a good night's sleep.

Without our police forces, who knows what kind of things would happen on our streets. Some of our cities are facing big challenges in dealing with organized crime, drugs, et cetera. Who do we always call when we are in trouble? We always call the police. It is for this reason that I thank all honourable members of the RCMP and their families for the great service they provide to our country.

If I asked if everybody in this chamber supported the men and women of the RCMP and their families, the answer would probably be a unanimous yes. Why are the Conservatives, who like to pass themselves off as a law and order party, viciously attacking RCMP members when it comes to the other things they do?

Last year the pay council of the RCMP, which is not a union or an association but a group that negotiates with Treasury Board on future pay scales, negotiated a 3.5% increase in pay over a six month period. A 3.5% increase in a constable's pay is not much.

Just before Christmas, RCMP officers were sent an email telling them that the pay increase of 3.5% had been rolled back to 1.5%. An email is the coldest form of communication, and they received it just before Christmas. No negotiations were held and no discussions took place. They were told to take it.

That is not the way to treat our RCMP officers. They deserve a lot more respect. If changes were to be made, they should have been invited back to the bargaining table where explanations could be given and then return to the negotiation process again.

The Ontario Superior Court ruled recently that the RCMP had the right to unionize if it so wished. A union was not being forced on it. It said that if RCMP officers wished to form an association or a union for collective bargaining purposes, which over four million Canadians have the privilege of doing, then they should have the right do so as well.

What did the Conservative government do? It appealed the decision. Why would the Conservatives, who say they support the police force, not allow the RCMP to organize like other police forces? Halifax police are unionized as are police in Moncton, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. Why not the RCMP? Maybe the government is afraid that the good old NDP members will have their fingers all over this kind of thing. The ruling stated that the RCMP should be allowed to unionize if members so chose to do so. There is nothing saying they have to do that. It would give officers that right and that option, and they deserve it.

There is another issue that the RCMP has been working on for quite some time. We all know that when RCMP officers are injured, retire or have difficulties, whatever benefits they ascertain afterward go through the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is the DVA that looks after all their pensionable concerns, medical or whatever.

Many members of the RCMP, including Mr. Pumphrey of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia, in my riding, a retired RCMP officer, have been asking that RCMP officers be treated in the exact same way that our military veterans are treated and that is with regard to the veterans independence program. RCMP officers have been asking for quite some time that when they are at an age where they can no longer look after their housekeeping or groundskeeping services, that they be eligible for and be allowed to receive VIP benefits like our military men and women do now.

We know that a proposal was on the previous minister's desk. There is one on the current minister's desk. I asked the current minister if I could meet with him on this issue and he basically said, no. It was as simple as that.

So I will try it again. I am in the House right now, standing and asking the Conservative government to rethink this proposal and to treat our RCMP veterans the way that we treat our military veterans.

Now do not get me started on the military veterans because there are many faults of the government in the way it treats them. However, there are some who get treated very well, and DVA deserves credit for that. The VIP works very well for those who receive it. The problem is that many people do not get to receive it, and that is the flaw in the system. However, we believe that RCMP officers and their families should be treated the same when it comes to the VIP.

The RCMP looks after the internal laws of our country on a federal level, from coast to coast to coast. We all know the history of Sergeant Sam Steele, who brought law and order to the wild west and to Yukon at that time. These were people who did not get paid very much money for what they did.

A book written by an RCMP sergeant talked about the concerns that RCMP officers had when they went to rural postings, how they were not allowed to marry for the first five years, and how they were not allowed to enter the services if they were married at that time as well. This was back in the 1930s and the 1940s. When they could get married, then the spouse, although she never got paid in most cases, was expected to be the sort of second constable in those small towns. She was the one who would provide the jailing services. She would provide the food. She would provide the messages. She would do everything while her husband would leave to do his work. The problem is the spouse was left behind to do all the other duties and was never paid for them. Thus, when it came to pension time, an awful lot of the spouses were left out in what we call the “pension freezer” because they were not eligible for that. That is really something.

When we talk about RCMP officers, we do not just talk about the individual officer. There is an entire family unit around that officer. The husband or wife who is home along with the children are just as important to the security and the laws of this country as the officer who wears the red serge.

While I am on my feet, I cannot let it go without congratulating my good friend, Mr. Curt Wentzell. In October, Mr. Wentzell will be serving his 35th year as an RCMP officer in this country. What a great tribute to a wonderful man who will have provided services to his country uninterrupted, in October, for over 35 years. I personally want to congratulate Curt, his wife and his family for his tremendous service to our country. There is no man prouder in this country to wear the red serge than Curt Wentzell, and that is a fact. He is also from that great community of Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia.

There are other things that have happened to the RCMP over the years that are quite challenging as to why they were done.

The Liberals, in 1999, stole, actually took, over $20 billion of superannuation surplus money from all public servants in this country, including the RCMP and the military, in order to fight the deficit. They never once returned that money. There were court challenges for that. So why would the government take that money which was destined for pension benefits for RCMP officers, the military and the general public service? Why would it have done that?

Again, there was no consultation with the RCMP, no consultation with anyone else. It just arbitrarily did it and then used that money for other purposes.

It is ironic, when the government took this $20 billion they announced corporate tax cuts. In many ways the pensions of RCMP officers paid for corporate tax cuts.

That is just like the employment insurance premiums that RCMP officers have to pay, which they cannot collect by the way. That money, over $56 billion, accumulated by Liberals and Conservatives went toward the deficit. In many cases it also allowed the government to use that phoney surplus to give corporate tax cuts and other tax cuts to other concerns.

Anyone can pay off their car loan if they are going to steal from their mortgage. The reality is this was not the government's money. The EU money belonged to employers and employees, not the government. It is not for the government to decide what to do with that money. It is up to the employees and the employers to decide, in my personal view.

Instead of stealing the money from the superannuation plan and putting it into general revenues and thus equating that to tax cuts for companies like Exxon, Mobil, Shell and so on, and that is what the oil and petroleum companies need is further tax cuts and subsidies, that money should have stayed there to enhance the benefits of those who have served us.

I am thankful the minister today has reintroduced Bill C-18 and we are glad to see it proceed forward. However, if we are truly interested in the welfare of our RCMP officers and their families, there are many other ways to go. Ironically, at 5:30 this afternoon we are going to have that opportunity once again to talk about my bill, Bill C-201, which would end the clawback of RCMP pensions at age 65.

Let me give an example of what happened to an RCMP officer in my riding, Mr. Jim Hill. He had a stroke at work. He left the airport and went to the hospital. He was told he had cancer. He was also told that he would never go to work again, so he might as well apply for Canada pension disability. He applied and received it. The money he received from Canada pension disability he thought, if he survived his health problems and received his superannuation and CPP disability, would allow him and his wife to be okay financially. However, he was told, “Jim, sorry. You served your country for 32 years, wearing the red serge, that's not how it works. The CPP disability money would be immediately clawed back from your superannuation”. His question was, “Why did I bother applying for CPP disability?” That question has yet to be answered.

At 5:30 p.m. today, the House can show in another debate for RCMP and military personnel how we feel about them and getting that clawback stopped.

We thank the hon. minister for bringing in Bill C-18. We want to let the government know that our party fully supports it.

However, if we are on our feet talking about RCMP officers, let us not forget there are many other deficiencies that they are suffering that we can correct. There is absolutely no reason why members of Parliament or senators would not want to stand in their place and do everything to ensure that if anything happens to RCMP officers or their families that we are there to help them, no questions asked.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

May 12th, 2009 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on March 25, 2009, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the requirement for a royal recommendation for 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), standing in the name of the hon. member for Sackville-Eastern Shore.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for having raised this important matter, as well as the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his comments.

In drawing the attention of the House to this matter, the parliamentary secretary pointed out that existing provisions of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act provide retiring members of the armed forces and the RCMP with bridge benefits between the time of their retirement and the time at which they reach age 65. The bridge benefits provide these retirees with an amount which is equivalent to the amount which they receive under the Canada pension plan when they become eligible for CPP benefits at age 65.

The current provisions of the two pension plans eliminate the bridge benefits at age 65, when CPP benefits begin. The effect of C-201 would be to continue those bridge benefits after age 65 in addition to the benefits for which they are eligible under CPP.

As members will know, a proposed new and distinct government expenditure must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. Additionally, a royal recommendation is also required when an expenditure obligation not covered by existing authorities, is proposed.

In the present case, it is quite clear that the continuation of these benefits would result in the creation of a new government expenditure obligation with respect to the two pension funds.

The parliamentary secretary estimated that the adoption of Bill C-201 would increase the pension liability of the Canadian Forces by $5.5 billion and of the RCMP by $1.7 billion. He noted further that while payments are currently made from the existing pension funds, the government is responsible for the payment of any shortfall out of the consolidated revenue fund.

In his intervention, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore acknowledged the need for a royal recommendation and he recommended that the matter be given close attention by the government.

After reviewing the issue, the Chair can only subscribe to the arguments made by the two interveners. Simply put, the expenditure obligation which the government would assume if Bill C-201 were adopted is not currently authorized.

I am, therefore, obliged to rule that due to the proposed creation of a new government expenditure obligation, Bill C-201 does require a royal recommendation. Consequently, I will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

Today, however, the debate is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

May 12th, 2009 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for Sackville—Eastern Shore for the work he has done on this bill and to bring attention to this matter. Throughout the course of the debate we will have over the next little while, we will see if a royal recommendation is necessary. However, I would like to thank him for the work that he has done. He works very hard in n the veterans' affairs committee and I have learned a lot from him.

Bill C-201 calls for the elimination of the deduction from the annuity for retired and disabled Canadian Forces members and RCMP members paid under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.

Over the next 10 minutes I will talk a bit about the bill but I first would like to talk about being a member of the veterans affairs committee. This is my first time elected to Parliament and I am proud to be a member of the veterans affairs committee. It is an interesting committee. As a young person, I get to learn a lot about our veterans, what they have given to this country and some of the challenges that they are going through right now.

We are currently studying how we treat veterans in our country and we are looking at what other countries are doing to see how we can do better. I know we have some veterans here with us today. It is very important that we look at the work and how much veterans have contributed to our country.

The veterans affairs committee is looking at the VIP program, a very important program that provides some services to veterans. Hopefully, we will get to review the Veterans Bill of Rights in the near future to see how we can improve on it and make it a little bit better. We are also talking about the post-traumatic stress disorder that a lot of our current veterans who come back from theatres of war overseas are dealing with. It is a very important issue.

We must not forget what our veterans have given to their country. I would like to quote from the bottom of an email that I received from Mr. Graham Pike. He said:

Definition of a veteran - Whether active duty, retired or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his/her life signed a blank cheque made payable to "The People of Canada", for an amount "up to and including my life”.

A lot of veterans have put a lot on the line for this country and we must not forget that and we must thank them for it.

I will give a brief history of where we have come from to get to this stage. The CPP and other acts were introduced in 1965 and 1966. This is where the two pension plans have sort of merged into one pension plan for our Canadian Forces. When this was discussed and put forward to these members, I do not really know, from my research, whether people knew what we were signing on to back then. It is now almost 40 years later and it is time to review it.

The buzzwords like “stacking” and “integrating” were used at the time. I do not think we fully knew the circumstances and impact of that at that particular time. It is time for us to review it. Some members at the time might have said that they were part of the liability of this when it was signed onto. However, just because it was done then does not mean we cannot take the time to review it now. I think that is why it is important that we support this bill and get it to committee so we can have some further debate and get some more the facts out on it.

It amazes me when we try to put into perspective what we are talking about here. I had a conversation with a gentleman from my riding, Mr. Frank Sullivan, a retired Canadian Forces soldier. He put into perspective what this would actually mean to him in real dollar amounts. In January 2009, a statement came from his Canadian Forces pension stating that when he reached 65 years of age his military pension would be reduced to $651 per month. He was also informed that indexing of the benefit applicable to this portion would also cease to be paid. When he spoke to the old age pension division, he was informed that his pension from there would $516 per month when he reached 65. He would lose $135 per month in income when he reached the age of 65. Now that might not sound like a lot but for those on fixed pensions and those who have contributed to both plans all their lives that is a fair chunk of money.

That is what we are looking at. That puts a dollar amount on just one month for one particular veteran who has looked at this and it is of some concern to him.

We are doing this because of that. We cannot be afraid to revisit and have another look at what was done in the past. We all agree that we must enhance benefits for our veterans for what they have given to our great country.

As politicians, we might as well be honest. It is important to be realistic about this. For those who may be watching or listening to the debate, they should know that if the bill passes and it goes to committee, it will not suddenly fix things overnight. It is not as easy as that. We need to review and look at what it would cost. We are currently in difficult economic times so we need to be creative on how we fix this problem. I am sure there are a number of solutions that we could look forward to in trying to fix this problem.

It is important, as parliamentarians, that we look at all plans and, if it has to be costed, that we look at how much it will cost and where we can come up with the money. We might as well be honest with each other because sometimes it is nice to float these ideas out there but we need to be realistic about this and put some thought into this. This is why it is good to have this debate and send it to committee. I know from my dealings in committee, we get to have a closer look at things, call in some officials, talk to different experts in the field and ask them how we can fix this problem. This problem has been ongoing for some time. Do we look at it on a go forward basis? Do we look at it on how we can go retroactively? There are a number of different aspects that we can look at the committee stage.

We owe it to the men and women who have served our country to look at the bill, give it a fair hearing and support it in principle. We can then look at it on a go forward basis. Is this something from this point onward? Is this something that we should give to anyone currently retiring? There are many different aspects of how we could fix this situation.

I read a backgrounder on this by retired Colonel Jim Lumsden. He did a lot of work on this. Reading it and getting our heads around this particular proposal, he comes up with some suggestions on what we may do. To put it in his words, he said:

It is clear that members of the Canadian Forces have been unfairly dealt with by the unilateral decision to integrate their CFSA and CPP contributions....

That makes sense. A lot of Canadians pay into two pension plans and this is what is called integrating or stacking when they get one. It is kind of frustrating. In some particular organizations it has been negotiated away over years and their unions deal with that for them. I am not quite sure if at the time there were unions that looked at these sorts of things or it was something that was unilaterally done.

However, we need to seriously look at it and then, at the very least, allow members to choose whether they want to integrate it or use the stacking. We need to look at all this.

Three of the recommendations that retired Colonel Lumsden made were: the amount deducted from existing effective annuants, pensioners, the CFSA at age 65 be restored immediately; the practice of integrating contributions be ceased for present serving members; and the stacking provision of contributions be implemented at an individual's option.

We need to focus on that and we need to send the bill to committee. It is a pleasure to support the bill and I look forward to speaking to it again when it gets to committee.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

May 12th, 2009 / 5:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, of course, we respect your ruling, but it is still important to continue this debate. It really is our hope that through debate, the government will be convinced that enacting this legislation is not about cost but that it is about what is just and fair and the right thing to do.

I would like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his tireless work on behalf of our country's veterans. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge any veterans or retired RCMP officers who I know are watching the progress of this bill. I thank them for their service.

I have a particular interest in the bill because of the presence of CFB Halifax in my riding. CFB Halifax is home to over 10,000 military and civilian employees. It is home of the east coast navy and it is also the largest employer in the riding of Halifax. These men and women work hard every day defending our country and they deserve to be looked after when their service is ended.

We all have veterans and retired RCMP officers in our ridings. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that we support them during missions but also when they return home. Whether it is providing support for post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers and personnel returning from war in Afghanistan or ensuring that elderly veterans have access to health care and adequate housing, we have a special responsibility to those who give their lives in defence of this country. One of the best ways that we can signal our respect and appreciation to those who risk their lives for our protection is to end the unfair clawback on their pensions.

As my colleague already mentioned, Canadian Forces personnel and RCMP officers have had their pensions greatly reduced over the past four years when the Canada pension plan was integrated with their own service pensions. This decision was made despite the special circumstances that these workers face in their day-to-day lives, the impact on their families and the extreme risks involved.

Bill C-201 would correct this wrong. It has wide support including the Royal Canadian Legion, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada Association and the Air Force Association of Canada. This issue is also very important to Nova Scotians. In 2006, the province of Nova Scotia adopted a resolution 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”. That was 2006 and today the need for this change is even more pressing given the decline in value of many of our pensions.

Many of my constituents have written, asking that I support the bill. I would like to share their words because their words are so compelling. One currently serving member of the armed forces had this to say:

I'm putting my hope in a better future with you. I am passing on the words that are shared and currently on the minds of many currently serving veterans and retired veterans.

I would like to know if we will have your support and your party's support when this bill comes to be voted on. It is an injustice, an inequality to all who serve their county. How can MPs who are voted in by the people, who are ensured that their pensions (after serving a very short time) are not clawed back, yet are not ensuring the same for those who serve and protect this country.Please do not let this injustice continue.

That is from Lori Belle MacKinnon who is a currently serving member of the Canadian Forces.

Another writer, a retired RCMP officer, simply, but effectively wrote:

I respectfully request you support Bill C-201 and also request you seek support from other members of your party to do so.

That is from Noel Nurse, an RCMP officer from 1968-98. There we have it. Their message is clear. Their message is simple.

Veterans and retirees know that what has happened with their pensions is anything but fair. It is time to right that wrong. I would like to encourage all members of the House to join me in support of the bill. We parliamentarians, regardless of our political stripe, have one thing in common. We serve. We come here as elected representatives to serve Canadians. Our service is rewarded with a pension that is not clawed back. But sadly, members of the RCMP and armed forces are not rewarded in the same way and their service is far greater than ours as they risk their lives for us.

Recently, I had the extraordinary opportunity to witness the service of military personnel firsthand. Captain Josée Kurtz took command of HMCS Halifax in April in her namesake city. Captain Kurtz is the first woman to command a Canadian warship and she invited 12 women to join her at sea on her inaugural trip. I would like to take a moment in this honourable House to congratulate Captain Kurtz for her exceptional service.

During my 24 hours on the Halifax, I had the opportunity to talk to many of her crew, from the cooks to the XO, from the mechanics to the coxswain. These men and women are truly in service and they are proud to do it. It is exceptional service.

I want to be able to look them in the eye and be able to tell them that we respect their service enough to enact this legislation. I am proud to be a member of a party that supports members of our armed forces by ensuring that they are taken care of when their service is ended, and a party that takes its responsibility for parliamentary oversight of military missions seriously.

With Bill C-201, we have an opportunity to take the “Support our Troops” message from symbolic ribbons and magnets, and turn it into tangible support by recognizing the work that these great Canadians do in ensuring that they can have dignity in retirement. It is just, it is fair, and it is the right thing to do. It is the least we can do.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

May 12th, 2009 / 5:50 p.m.
See context

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the proposed legislation.

There is no question that the men and women of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP deserve Canada's deepest gratitude. I will refer mainly to the Canadian Forces but all comments would apply equally to the RCMP. In return for the sacrifices they make to defend us, our country and sovereignty, we have a responsibility to care for them, a responsibility that begins the moment they enlist and carries right through until long after they have donned their uniforms for the last time.

Nobody understands this responsibility better than our government. In looking back over our record since we took office, I do not think anyone could question our support for the Canadian Forces. We would never settle for a retirement plan that shortchanged the men and women who serve Canada.

I would like to support this bill, I really would, but I cannot because it would be dishonest and irresponsible to do so. I would not be able to look myself in the mirror if I was simply to bow to my own emotions and ignore the facts of the case, as the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has chosen to do. Frankly, I do not expect him to know the facts intuitively, but I would have expected him to do better research on the issue. It is easy to play the hero when one will never have to deal with the consequences.

This is off topic of the real issue of the bill at hand, but it is relevant to a complete understanding of the situation to appreciate that the mover of this bill has an appalling record of voting against measures that would actually help serving or retired members of the Canadian Forces.

The Liberals will also support this bill even though they know it can never be implemented and if they were government, they would be doing exactly the same thing we are. For them, it is simply the politics of trying to embarrass the current government.

The Canadian Forces pension plan is flexible and generous, and compares favourably with some of the best pension plans in the country. It has many desirable features, including its survivor benefits and the basic pension formula. It is fully indexed to the cost of living. It also has very generous early retirement provisions.

When CPP was introduced in 1966, employers recognized that paying into two completely separate pension funds could cause undue financial hardship. To avoid this, many employers, including the Canadian Forces, chose to integrate their plans with the new CPP.

Employees then had two premiums to pay and they collected two benefits, but the total cost of the two premiums was the same as what employees had been paying for their company plans alone prior to the introduction of CPP. Likewise, on the receiving end, the total pension benefits they collected remained much the same. This whole issue has been totally misrepresented and is based on emotion rather than facts.

Let me provide the facts. Canadian Forces members pay 25% of the cost of the plan while Canadian taxpayers pays 75%. Canadian Forces members can retire at almost any age so long as they have met the years of service requirements of the plan.

When they retire, they get 2% per year of service based on their best years of annual salary and they get it immediately, regardless of their age. Other people, including members of Parliament, do not collect their pensions until age 55 or later. Service members collect that 2% until they turn 65 when CPP kicks in, as set out in the 1965 agreement between the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Canada pension plan when the two were integrated.

The pension that a CF member receives prior to age 65 is made up of two parts. One part is the lifetime benefit that will continue for the rest of the member's life and the secondary bridge benefit is designed to bridge the retirement income of the member and provide a smooth income flow between the CF retirement age and the age at which he or she will collect CPP.

The bridge benefit is calculated in such a way as to be similar to the anticipated CPP benefit at age 65. At age 65, the bridge benefit disappears and is replaced by CPP according to the manner in which the member has contributed.

People talk about a clawback. There is no clawback. There is no clawback, as evocative and popular as that word may be. At age 65, the bridge benefit disappears and is replaced by the other pension that the member has paid for, the Canada pension plan. The total pension is now from two sources, both of which operating exactly as they were set up and in accordance with how much a person has contributed.

In most cases, CPP will be equal to or greater than the bridge benefit but that will depend on what members have done between retirement from the CF and when they turn 65. If members do not contribute to CPP at an appropriate level because they do not work at that level until age 65, the CPP that they have earned may well be less than the bridge benefit. They get what they pay for.

If they take CPP early, as early as age 60, they will double-dip the CPP and bridge benefit for that period. That is a good thing. When they turn 65, the bridge benefit will disappear. They will lose the double-dipping and their continuing CPP will be at a reduced level because they took it early. Obviously, in that circumstance, the total pension will be less after age 65.

All that said, if we run the numbers, it is generally beneficial to take CPP early and enjoy the double-dipping, but they need to plan for it. It is a personal choice and the decision is entirely within the control of plan members.

In budget 2008 our government changed the formula for calculating the lifetime benefit and the bridge benefit. This resulted in increasing the lifetime benefit portion and reducing the bridge benefit portion. That means that there is less bridge benefit to disappear when the retiree turns 65. This is obviously to the benefit of every CF retiree. The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and the NDP Party voted against that measure.

In my case, I retired at age 47, with 31 years of service. I have been collecting my 62%, indexed since age 55, ever since. When I turn 65, in three more years, my bridge benefit will disappear and it will be replaced by CPP. Because I have worked full time since age 47 and made maximum contributions to CPP, my total pension will actually go up by about $300. The pension plan works as advertised, and we are getting exactly what we paid for.

There are several misrepresentations out there. Comparing the CF pension plan and the parliamentary pension plan is apples and oranges. Both plans operate in accordance with how they were set up and paid for, and no one has been exempted from anything. The parliamentary pension is straightforward and there is no bridge benefit for an MP who retires before 65. Since there is no bridge benefit, there is nothing to be replaced at age 65.

MPs do not collect their pension until they turn 55, unlike the CF member who collects it right away. Also, MPs have zero input into these matters. There is no exemption for anyone and this red herring is simply put there to stir up emotion and resentment where none is justified. It is inaccurate and it is dishonest.

It was pointed out that we had no input into the integration of CFSA and CPP in 1966 and that we were not properly briefed. First, the CF is not a union. We do not get to negotiate pay or pension plans. Second, I cannot remember what we were briefed on in 1966, but I can guarantee that I was not paying attention anyway. I was too busy going through pilot training.

Ultimately it is every member's personal responsibility to understand his or her pay and benefits and there is always information available.

There are lots of emotional arguments put forward about how much CF members suffered and sacrificed during their careers, and that is valid, but they are emotional arguments. While we undoubtedly did have a lot of family disruption, and I certainly experienced that, and we were expected to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, I personally helped to bury several dozen friends, we signed up for that.

That is why we have such a generous pension plan, which we are allowed to collect immediately upon retirement. It is also why we have such excellent health care and dental benefits for the rest of our lives and survivor benefits for our families.

Emotional arguments may be fun to raise, but they do not take the place of properly constituted and financed plans that operate exactly as they are supposed to. People like the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore never concern themselves with details like, who pays? In their socialist view, government simply pays. We know exactly what that means.

The one-time cost to implement this bill for the CF and RCMP would be $7 billion. In addition, someone would have to pick up the 2.2% per year in future contributions. For a member making $50,000 a year, that would be an additional pay deduction of $1,100. That would not be too popular.

People like to wave around petitions that they say contain over 100,000 signatures. If somebody says “The government is unfair, you deserve more money”, will people sign his petition? Of course they will. However, people should ask themselves why clearly people-people, like Rick Hillier, Ray Henault, Paul Manson, Al DeQuetteville, Fred Sutherland and many other three and four star generals, are not making this an issue. It is because they know it is not legitimate.

The mover of this bill stated that members of the CF and RCMP could use their EI contributions to fund his proposed changes to the pension plans. He argued that members make EI contributions but are not eligible to receive benefits. He is wrong. Members of the CF can and do collect EI benefits and they are subject to the same rules and restrictions as other Canadians.

If a member of the CF is asked to leave early, he or she may be eligible to receive EI. As well, CF members are eligible to collect EI while on maternity and parental leave. Put simply, my hon. friend is incorrect. There are no surplus EI benefits that could fund the proposed changes and all this would do is take away EI benefits from members.

I said earlier that the Canadian government has a responsibility to care for the members of our military and RCMP, but we also have a responsibility to Canadian taxpayers, who already pay approximately 75% of the CF plan's pension costs. That responsibility is through the sure, careful stewardship of the money they entrust to us.

Fortunately our duties to CF and RCMP members and to Canadian taxpayers are not incompatible. As someone who has been collecting a force's pension since I was 47, I can assure members that our plan provides a generous return for our premiums.

I am proud of my service and I am proud of the people with whom I served. I am also very proud of the men and women in uniform today. They do amazing work. I will try not to be too hard on the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I will give him credit for sincerely caring about our service members, but this is not the right or responsible way to proceed. Bill C-201 should not be supported.