House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was years.

Topics

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member from Strathcona a simple question, but there is a preamble to it.

He mentioned the floods in Manitoba, and I can certainly feel for him. I appreciate the fact that the military was there. My other colleague from the Bloc mentioned the ice storms in Quebec and I appreciate that as well. I found myself in the position this summer of knowing first hand just how valuable the military is in a domestic crisis. Military personnel were in my riding for the fires this summer and I do not know how we would have done it without them. I truly do appreciate them.

The member from Strathcona and I have some philosophical differences regarding the issues of the Canadian military. I do think we are on side on one issue, which is that we have treated our military very poorly.

With regard to the missile defence system which he also raised, I would only say to him that from my perspective and my point of view, I have to look at things in reality. We have Alaska above us and the United States below us. Whether or not a missile shield goes in is almost a foregone conclusion. Perhaps he would disagree with me, but I would like to be a part of that decision making process since I am fairly aware it is going to happen regardless.

The question I would like to ask concerns the superannuation that we are discussing today. Although it is a very small step toward treating military personnel the way they deserve to be treated and honouring them for what they do for us in the country and what they do for us overseas, would the member agree that it is a step in the right direction? I would like to confirm that he and I are on the same page on this and we are going to support this bill.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to be unkind but the hon. member should pay closer attention. I said right at the beginning that we supported the bill.

Also, the name of my riding is Winnipeg--Transcona, not Strathcona. Strathcona is in Edmonton. This is not an Alliance strategy for winning Winnipeg--Transcona, to confuse Transcona with Strathcona.

Seeing that the member brought this up, I would also say what the origin of the word Transcona is. It is not unrelated to Strathcona because the community of Transcona was created in 1909-10 when the railway shops in Transcona were built for the second transcontinental railway that was being built in our country at that time. Residents wondered what to call the community and it was suggested that it be a combination of transcontinental and Lord Strathcona, who was a founder of the railways. That is how the word Transcona came to be.

I thank the hon. member for the opportunity to give this little history lesson on the origin of the word Transcona but remind her that Strathcona is a community in Edmonton. She is not the first one to make that mistake, but I thought I should speak in a way that perhaps she would never make it again.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I heard something from somewhere in the House about relevance. I think we have just given it a whole new dimension.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, earlier in debate between myself and the hon. Minister of National Defence, he referred to the fact that in his opinion the government that he represents has been very forthcoming with funds to replace equipment. In fact he was bragging about the $160 million in last year's budget that was applied to the capital replacement program.

I note in today's Ottawa Sun in a story by Stephanie Rubec that our Prime Minister, who was in Kabul yesterday or the day before, criticized the military for having a never-ending wish list and for continually demanding more money. He is quoted as saying, “But it is never enough. They all need more. And they all have plans for more”. He went on to say that we have the best equipment, that we are better equipped than anybody else.

Would my hon. colleague from the NDP care to comment upon yet the latest example of the Prime Minister of our country addressing an issue of the gross neglect of our military on behalf of his government? The Prime Minister is basically blaming them or suggesting that they are simply crybabies, that they have this never-ending wish list when what they really need is the proper equipment to protect our young men and women when they are stationed overseas in harm's way.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure it is the case that the armed forces, like any other organization, have a wish list. It is the job of politicians to decide what on that wish list is appropriate to provide and what is not. When it comes to the Canadian armed forces at the moment, there are many things on that wish list for which they should never have to wish. They should already have these things.

As I said earlier, one thing they should already have and for which they should not have to wish is a replacement for the Sea King helicopters. However there are many other things one would think would be just part of something that would happen in due course. I have had people tell me that they have problems training people in the militia. Why? Because they have no ammunition.

This is not a debate about nuclear submarines. We are talking about people having bullets, rounds, call them whatever, so that when they point down the range something comes out of the end of the barrel. Something is going on when people say that it would be nice to be able to train people, but they only get issued two bullets per season or something like that. This is the kind of thing that makes a mockery of some of the things that are sometimes said about how well we look after our armed forces.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been reports recently of the United States becoming so desperate to gain public support about the missile defence, or star wars program, that it has actually floated opportunities for the public to be involved. One suggestion that has come back, in terms of a national missile defence fund, is that the Americans use interceptor balloons to hit the missiles.

Could the government have made different decisions about the use of tax cuts, for example, those which have gone to a select few, and instead invested more into our military to provide the rightful resources? It is a matter of choices. Does the member feel the government has made the right choices?

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I say to my colleague that I do not feel the government has made the right choices. I think it has a habit of making the wrong choices.

However this is interesting. What kind of choices does the opposition make in terms of what it opposes and what it supports? Many times we have heard speeches from the official opposition and from the Conservatives. Of course now they are now one big happy family under the tutelage of Brian Mulroney. It is a wonderful thing to see the Alliance members have come back under the wing of Mr. Mulroney and the elite.

They have come crawling back with their heads hanging down saying that this is a terrible failure, that they are sorry and asking if they can come back. To see what has happened to the Alliance, makes the story of the prodigal son look somewhat tame. I do not want to get diverted.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I know the hon. member would also want to stay within the confines of relevancy.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's question was about choices. The fact of the matter is those people who are constantly complaining and whining about a lack of resources for our national defence forces are the same people who do not blink an eye when there are $100 million in tax cuts and money goes to corporations and the wealthy in the country, money that would be much better spent on housing and other things for our armed forces.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Winnipeg—Transcona for the history lesson on the genesis of Transcona.

First, Bill C-37, which is an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, encompasses a number of things. I would note that substantively the House is in support of this bill. However a couple of points were raised. I heard the comments of the Bloc Quebecois this morning on the transitional provisions with regard to those who are already under the current plan and with regard to the widows' benefits, of which I am not sure of the details. I will try to find out.

Just in summary, I would like to remind the House that the bill would make changes to the pension benefit scheme provided under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. The key features of the revised scheme are: first, a reduction of the minimum period for qualifying for a pension to two years; second, tying benefit eligibility to years of pensionable service rather than completion of a period of engagement in the Canadian Forces; and third, the provision of an immediate pension to a person who has completed 25 years of paid service in the Canadian Forces and has at least two years of pensionable service. There are also some consequential amendments or adjustments to other acts as a result of these proposed changes.

Again from the debate so far today, we certainly have broadened out the subject matter from pensions for our military and we have heard some very complimentary words about the quality of our Canadian Forces, but not from all. It really concerns me that in this place from time to time we tend to take advantage of the political opportunism to maybe joust on points not realizing that the families of our military are also listening to the debate. They are very interested in what is happening in this place as it relates to our military.

Canadians have heard that we have not taken care of our military personnel, that we do not pay them enough. We do not give them enough bullets to defend themselves. We do not give them the trucks or equipment they need. We do not do this or we do not to that. We do not have housing. After it is all said and done, we have run down the military so badly. It was never the intent, and I do not believe it is in fact the belief of members in this place. There is no question--

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Moore Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, BC

Is the member for LaSalle--Émard going to do it?

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Here is a Reformer who is going to throw in his two cents, but let us not forget that it was members of the Reform Party that were going to slash military spending. Now, mea culpa , they are back again, “Oh, yes, we have to do this”. This is politics. It is not the reality of the military.

I had an opportunity in recent months to visit two of bases of our forces. Bagotville was one and Greenwood was another. I want to reiterate what members of the forces said to me as a visitor who was there to learn about what it was like to be in the military and what the concerns were.

When I was in Bagotville, I took the opportunity to meet some of the spouses of our military members. They did not talk about wanting more pay for their spouses' work. They talked about how difficult it was to lose spouses to a six month tour of duty, to have them come back for a short period and then maybe have them reassigned for another tour of duty. The spouses of our military members talked about the impacts on their families. They talked about the unfortunate increase in the levels of domestic violence within the military family. They talked about the impact on the children who were living on the bases. They talked about the fact that our military personnel got medical care on the base while their families who lived on the base did not. They had to go into the town to get the public health care. They wondered why their entire family should not be handled by the same physician. These are the kinds of things about which they talked.

In Bagotville they were not complaining about housing. They were not complaining about salary. When I met these families altogether, there was significant pride in the military life. There was significant pride in the contribution which they were making to safety and security, not only of Canada but around the world. There was a professionalism that most Canadians would not see and would not appreciate.

When I was in Greenwood at the end of last summer, I was part of a military program where I lived in barracks. I ate with the pilots and crews. I did maritime patrol for a week. I have a new found respect for the military. I met people who were a variety of range in age, but to the people, the dedication, the pride, the professionalism, the need to be better at what they did was very evident across the board.

I can remember sitting in a simulator with many of them who were training. The aircraft they fly on maritime patrol are capable of dropping torpedoes. They simulate tracking submarines and they make decision. The public and members of Parliament should see our military personnel in their work. They are not always engaged in theatre; they are preparing for theatre. They are not always doing some things. One member dwelt on how many bullets they had. Quite frankly, for many of our military, the issue is the impact of six month tours of duty, extended periods of duty and what that does to put strain on the family life.

I wanted to raise that because it is really important for us to understand that our military personnel should not be talked about as inanimate objects. They are people. They are moms and dads. They have children. They have the same concerns, the same needs and the same wants as any other Canadian, but they are in a profession, and the significance of their profession to us is not in question. The issue is that they are there by their choosing, because of their pride, their dedication to their work, their professionalism and military service is what they want to do.

There is no question that there are cases where people have not been able to stay in their positions. Retention of military personnel has been a problem. Recruitment from time to time has been a problem. I do not believe it helps our cause to continue to treat military personnel as inanimate objects. The military is made up of human beings. They are heroes. They are Canadians.

I would hope, as the debate continues in this place, that in addition to maybe mentioning a couple of things about the bill, because the bill is pretty important, that we do in fact deal with this subject with a sensitivity which takes into account the fact families are listening to what their parliamentarians are saying about people in military life. They do not live in squalor. They do not live in poverty. They do not live without the benefits they are entitled to receive. The bill does enhance benefits.

One of the Bloc members raised an issue about transitional provisions, that if people had planned to leave after 20 years and they had 18 years or 19 years in the military, this would cause them some problems. The member did not say, which he should have, that members under the transitional provisions would have an opportunity to stay under the existing plan and would start to collect their pensions after 20 years. They would not have to wait 25 years, as the members said.

Mathematically, if they stayed for an additional 5 years and got up to 25, and went under the new system, obviously their pension would be better.

One thing is for sure under this bill. No pensioner from the military would be worse off with this bill. Every pensioner from the military in fact would be better off as a consequence of this bill. For that reason alone, I am sure members in this place will be supporting Bill C-37.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke said that the reform party would slash military spending.

These off-handed comments diminish credibility when they are not true. I want the member to be honest and cite one example from the debates in this House, or our policies, where we have ever advocated that. We have always defended the military, and we always will.

Our military is essential to our sovereignty as a nation. Our military is essential for the respect other nations will have for Canada. Our military is essential to the well-being of our nation in many other ways.

I have been here since 1993 and I know that the men and women in the military have been a priority for us, even when the budget deficit was a huge deficit.

I would like the member to stand and give me one example when we have ever advocated cutting the budget of the military.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member did not look at his own platform when he ran in 1993. If he were to look back at the platform document for the reform party, he would see.

I will agree with the member that we should constantly be vigilant about supporting our military for the respect that it has earned, not only in Canada but also abroad. In recent years, it has not been so much peacekeeping as it has been peacemaking. There is a transitory thing going on here, in terms of the military, particularly as it relates to post 9/11 incidents.

This is not the place, nor the time, for anybody in this place, quite frankly, to be describing the military as some sort of leper.

Our military has a great tradition. It has great support in this place, on all sides I believe. I would hope that all members would simply use the sensitivity that I am sure they have when they are speaking about the heroes in our Canadian military.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have listened to the comments from the Liberal member. I held the portfolio of defence critic for some 10 years and over that time I had the opportunity to observe what has happened to our military. Forced changes were placed upon the military due to dramatic cutbacks in budget of somewhere in the neighbourhood of 25% or 26%.

Of all the departments in Ottawa, the Liberals chopped the military the most, right to the bone. Why? Because they knew they could get away with it. Who was going to object? They were not telling the truth to the people in this country. We in opposition party were vigilant in pointing that out to Canadians right from the very onset.

We sat in opposition. We did not chop that budget. The government did. It put the military in the position that it is presently in.

I have a question for the member from Mississauga. If he believes that this party was not vigilant, what does he call his own party?

The Liberals are downright obnoxious and untrustworthy when it comes to looking after our military men and women.