House of Commons Hansard #136 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was federal.

Topics

The Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-325, under private members' business.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

The Income Tax Act
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I declare the motion lost.

It being 6:24 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from March 21 consideration of the motion.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

October 8th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my distinct pleasure to speak to Motion No. 197 regarding the treatment of worker's compensation payments and consideration given to including these payments in the definition of pensionable employment within the meaning of the Canada pension plan.

First, I would like to congratulate my parliamentary colleague from Churchill for bringing the motion forward.

The treatment of injured workers is an issue of great importance to my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. So is the need to allow individuals the opportunity to accumulate the necessary savings to retire with dignity.

The troubling aspect that the motion, by virtue of it coming forward, alludes to is the manner in which the Liberal Party administers the Canada pension plan.

I believe I speak on behalf of members from all sides of the House when I suggest that the manner in which the Canada pension plan is administered, particularly to those individuals who through no fault of their own find it necessary to apply for CPP benefits, is done so in a callous and uncaring manner.

Of all the casework that I deal with on behalf of my constituents in the riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, Canada pension plan cases make up the bulk of the complaints directed at the Government of Canada.

It is a well known fact that it is not until the third appeal, after being rejected for benefits the first two times, is an application even seriously considered. The fact that Canadian citizens are treated so outrageously by their own government is a national scandal.

I challenge the federal government to tell Canadians the number of applicants which are successful after a single CPP appeal, no matter how long that takes. I then challenge this heartless, uncaring government to tell Canadians how many people have died waiting for the benefits.

Finally, Canadians would like to know why, if an appeal board finally grants a Canada pension, the government could not do a proper, thorough job in the first place and grant the pension when it was applied for, rather than putting individuals through the stressful process of fighting a huge, uncaring federal bureaucracy.

I would like now to read into the record a letter that I received from a medical doctor on behalf of a constituent from the town of Renfrew, which is located near Ottawa, along the river, in my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. It states:

Dear Member of Parliament:

Mr. Constituent has made at least four attempts to the CPP tribunal board for acceptance of CPP benefits. He has been denied on all four attempts. There is sufficient evidence to support his claim that he is totally disabled.

Once again we are writing to say that Mr. Constituent is totally disabled and has been for a period of twelve continuous months due to a re-injury of his back. He is unable to perform regular duties of full-time occupation for which he was employed prior to his injury date.

Mr. Constituent is now very depressed due to lack of function and the inability to obtain any financial help. His wife is having to work two part-time jobs to make ends meet. He suffers from insomnia, as he can't shut off his mind due to financial worries. He has had to go on anti-depressant medication now to control this.

I hope you can help this fellow obtain some sort of financial help. He is desperate.

This individual eventually ended up on welfare, but not before he was forced to cash in all his RRSP retirement savings, which is an ironic twist to the motion we are discussing today. The letter I received was from his medical doctor. Unfortunately it is the front line medical providers who in many cases bear the frustration of a system that does not work.

This is a real life situation that members of Parliament are called to act upon each and every day. I have no doubt that in the day to day responsibilities as an MP, the member for Churchill was approached by an individual whose only desire was to retire with dignity, and it was a genuine desire.

I know the member for Churchill would agree with me, as do most reasonable Canadians, that the fair treatment of injured workers is all a question of priorities. The Liberal Party can find a billion dollars to waste on a useless gun registry. It can find billions of dollars to waste on its fat cat friends in big business in so-called forgivable loans to profitable companies that never seem to have to repay them.

How about giving a few of these forgivable loans to the injured workers so that they can feed their families and put a roof over their heads? If the government could experience the hardship it insists on inflicting on some of the more unfortunate in our society, maybe fairness would prevail.

The expense claims of the former executive assistant to the heritage minister alone could feed a family of six in my riding for three years, as was pointed out to me by a family that is already scraping to make ends meet. It is all a matter of priorities. With the government, it is handout to friends. They are a greater priority than treating Canadians fairly.

The one observation I would like to make, as a form of constructive observation, is whether reforming the CPP in the way the motion suggests is the most beneficial way of dealing with the issue of retirement benefits.

In the province of Ontario workers' compensation is not even available for certain classes of employment. In these cases the individual's needs are provided for by private insurance companies that tailor policies to meet the specific needs of their clients.

I believe we need to consider whether the CPP as it stands can provide the flexibility to respond to the different levels of government in different provinces which have constitutional ability in some of these areas.

In closing, I would like to thank the member for Churchill for bringing forward her motion to allow me the opportunity to participate in the debate.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Gérard Binet Frontenac—Mégantic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to this motion urging the government to amend the definition of “pensionable employment” in the Canada Pension Plan to include worker's compensation payments.

I would like to take this opportunity to remind the House of some of the important provisions of the Canada Pension Plan and, in fact, of all Canadian income security programs, including the old age security program and the guaranteed income supplement.

I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development, the hon. member for Shefford, explained the issue rather well during the first hour of debate on this motion. We are talking here about a plan, the Canada Pension Plan, but also about the Canadian income security program for the elderly, survivors and the handicapped, a plan that has been part of our heritage since 1927 when the federal government, under Mackenzie King, passed the first Old Age Pensions Act.

Therefore, this debate should focus on the overall Canadian retirement income system, which is more than just the Canada Pension Plan.

Contrary to what the member for Halifax suggested, the government respects the spirit of the plan, and I would even say that we have to take the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement programs as well as the Canada and the Quebec pension plans into account when we talk about the impacts on retirement income.

Let me set the context. The Canada pension plan was established in 1966 to guarantee a basic level of income to Canadian workers who become disabled or retire from work. The Canada pension plan also provides benefits to dependants of deceased contributors.

Twelve million Canadians who work for an employer or are self-employed are covered by the Canada pension plan. The plan also protects migrant workers in Canada and Canadians working abroad.

Canada pension plan retirement benefits are intended to replace about one quarter of a person's income. Benefits are calculated mainly based on premiums paid and length of participation in the plan. The employee and the employer each pay half of the Canada pension plan premiums. Self-employed workers pay the whole premium.

This is how the Canada pension plan is funded; it is a contributory plan which takes income into account. The costs of the plan are covered by employees' and employers' contributions and by the return on investments generated by the Canada pension plan itself.

Each month, millions of Canadians receive benefits from the Canada pension plan. During the 2002-03 fiscal year, 4.3 million Canadians received Canada pension plan benefits for a total of approximately $2.6 billion.

During that period, the Canada pension plan paid 2.9 million Canadians a total of $15.1 billion in retirement benefits alone.

In August 2003, the maximum monthly retirement payment was $801; however, for various reasons, the majority of people do not receive that maximum. Pension benefits paid to Canadians average $455 a month.

In this debate, we should not forget one fundamental principle; the purpose of the Canada pension plan is to replace part of the income lost because of retirement, disability or the death of a salaried worker. This is why the amount provided by the Canada pension plan is based solely on employment income.

If we depart from that principle and adopt the motion proposed by the member for Churchill, which would broaden the scope of the Canada pension plan so that workers' compensation payments are considered pensionable income, where will we set the limits afterwards?

What will we do about future requests to include, as income, other forms of income support such as employment insurance or long-term disability benefits? Because if we pass this motion, there will be a precedent.

In the first hour of debate on this motion, the member for Dartmouth pointed out, and rightly so, that “worker's compensation is not considered pensionable employment for CPP purposes”. However, she added: “Since a retiree's CPP eligibility is based upon months of pensionable employment, each month of work a person misses due to injury counts against them when the CPP eligibility is calculated upon retirement”.

She also said last March that she could not understand “why the government has not already implemented this small but significant change to the CPP”.

I would like to take this opportunity to explain to the member why that is. It is because the legislation governing the Canada pension plan already contains provisions to exclude periods during which a worker cannot contribute to the plan. This means that low income months are not included in the calculation of CPP benefits and, therefore, have no negative impact on the retirement income.

Contrary to what the hon. member has said, people will not lose retirement income because they were temporarily out of the work force due to an accident. The general 15% dropout period allows people to deduct 15% of their lowest earning years, for calculation of CPP benefits.

Of course, one might well ask what happens when a person suffers severe and prolonged disability as the result of a work-related accident. What if the person is unable to make contributions? The CPP legislation has a provision for persons with severe long-term disability to be eligible for CPP disability benefits, and thus their retirement income is protected.

The CPP long-term disability program is the most important program of its type in Canada. In 2002-03, CPP paid out $3 billion to 285,000 disabled contributors and 91,000 of their children.

We have also made some positive tax changes for the disabled, and have helped national organizations for the disabled to strengthen their capacity and help advance an action plan for the disabled.

In conclusion, I would like to respectfully point out one last statement by the hon. member for Dartmouth, in which she said the government “treats injured workers as individuals who have deliberately opted out of the workforce”. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Our government believes it is important to create a wholly inclusive society. This means that it needs to ensure that the disabled can participate fully in the Canadian workforce. Our shared goal is to ensure that the disabled, including those who have become disabled in the workplace, benefit from the assistance they require in order to prepare for the job market, and to find and retain good jobs.

This is within the context of a global skills and knowledge based economy with its challenges of competitivity. In order to ensure its future prosperity, Canada must benefit from the abilities and talents of all its people. Both our society and our economy will benefit.

The change proposed in this motion, however, might run counter to the real needs of those it seeks to help, and might demand a major investment of new resources. That is why I cannot support the motion as presented.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Bloc

Sébastien Gagnon Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to thank my colleague from Frontenac—Mégantic for reviewing the history of the system and explaning how it works.

However, the purpose of the motion is not to question the program as a whole but rather to question its unfairness. Before I start, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Churchill, for her initiative. It is a worthwhile one.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of Motion No. 197. I will read it for the benefit of those of are listening to us.

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should amend the definition of “pensionable employment” in the Canada Pension Plan to include workers' compensation payments.

We support this motion. Why? Because it is a matter of fairness. Why should victims of industrial accidents and occupational diseases be penalized when they are already penalized by negligence in the workplace, among others? Why kick somebody who is already down?

As we know, it is already possible to exclude 15% of the employment period as time absent from work. That actually does increase the average salary and, in turn, the amount of the retirement pension, as pointed out by my colleague. However, that is not enough. The situation must be corrected and, once again, I invite the federal government to follow the lead of Quebec.

Since the 1920s, a social consensus has emerged in Quebec among employers, the state, workers as well as unions as a whole, making the employer responsible for industrial accidents. I would like to point out that a certain prerogative in the Quebec legislation is a determining element in the difference between what is done at the federal level and what is done in Quebec, and I quote:

For the purpose of benefit calculation, the months included in a period where compensation is paid may be excluded from the contribution period. Such an exclusion must be to the advantage of the beneficiary of the benefit, i.e. increase the monthly average of pensionable earnings. Thus both calculations, with and without the exclusion, must be made to establish whether it is advantageous for the contributor.

If the exclusion is favourable to the contributor, it will take effect, and the benefit will be financed in part by all contributors to the Quebec pension plan.

Those are two major differences. The federal government is going after the workers, while Quebec is trying to help them. Which brings me to my next point. Why is the federal government hurting the workers instead of helping them?

Some would argue that this measure would incur expenses. Yes, it would increase social costs. But I would remind the House that the government has built up a $45 billion surplus in the EI account at the expense of the workers. Why not decrease EI premiums to avoid such unfairness?

This is a very simple solution that would bring us closer to a compromise and address the concerns of EI contributors as well as Canada pension plan contributors. If the federal government were sensitive to workers, it would try to eliminate such inequities in Canada. But this is not the only inequity. Let me give you some examples.

The Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area is faced with some serious problems. Our young people are moving away, we are dealing with the softwood lumber issue, there are few jobs and businesses are closing down.

Let us talk about employment insurance, another program that affects workers. Graduating students in the tourism or hotel industry who would like to lend a hand to the tourist industry in the regions cannot afford to take seasonal jobs, since they need to work 900 hours to qualify for EI. This is a serious inequity that has to be dealt with for our region to develop, stand out and increase its tourism productivity on a yearly basis.

We have the same problems with the lumber workers. Again, these workers never wished for this lumber crisis. There are caught in the middle of a crisis involving two partners, the United States and Canada.

But it must be understood that the federal government has the power to intervene to help these workers. And yet it is not doing so.

The Bloc Quebecois has suggested to the federal government that it give loan guarantees to businesses so they can turn to secondary and tertiary processing, thus allowing industry to find other markets.

We talked about businesses. Now let us talk about workers. The federal government could very well have helped workers between seasons by increasing the benefit period, but it did not do so.

It could also have eliminated the two-week waiting period. This is a two-week period during which the worker does not receive any benefits. But it does not want to do that either. And there is another injustice in the fact that it did so for workers who were affected by the SARS crisis in Toronto. This is unacceptable. Why do it in one region and not in another?

There is another problem. Just recently, national unions released statistics, and I will refer here to another group that has been hard hit in our region, namely women. In 1996, 48% of women received employment insurance benefits. Today, that percentage has dropped to 36%. Who instigated these drastic measures? The former Minister of Finance, the future prime minister.

I would like to give another example of an injustice suffered by the workers. My colleague, the member for Laurentides, and myself are currently promoting an anti-scab bill. This bill is important for workers across Canada. Indeed, there is a major difference between those workers who are governed by the Quebec labour code and those who are governed by the Canada Labour Code. Right now, in Canada, it is possible for businesses to hire replacement workers.

In Quebec, we heard some witnesses, including those who spoke about the labour dispute at Cargill, in Baie-Comeau, which lasted three years. The federal government does not even want to recognize this, yet there is no cost attached. It is only a question of political will. According to the data, in Quebec, a labour dispute is solved twice as quickly as in Canada. The data is there, the benefits are there. Consequently, why is the federal government refusing to help workers? Such a measure has been in existence in Quebec since 1977. It was implemented when René Lévesque was in office. We have solved most labour disputes.

I come back to my colleague. You know that, in Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, there are four members of Parliament. Three are in the Bloc Quebecois and one is in the government party. Unfortunately, he cannot express his views. Yet, we have the same workers, the same problems in the area, but this member is muzzled by his government, by the interests of the party in power. This is unfortunate.

For the sake of justice, why would the government not have these people benefit from an appropriate pension plan, instead of penalizing people who are at an age where they should be thinking about retiring securely. These people have worked hard all their lives. The government, by using as an excuse a problem or an illness that that hits them at the age of 60, for example, would penalize them in their pension plan. But I believe and I am convinced that they rightly deserve this pension.

Simply for the sake of justice, let us show sensitivity to all these workers, let us provide them with all the dignity that they deserve.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Inky Mark Dauphin—Swan River, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party to take part in the debate on Motion No. 197, which would make workers' compensation payments pensionable employment for CPP.

I want to congratulate the member for Churchill for putting forth this motion. The issue is really about injured workers being prevented from contributing to CPP while collecting workman's compensation. Let me begin by enunciating the arguments in support of the motion as presented.

Allowing workers to continue making CPP contributions while injured most likely would result in larger CPP benefits upon retirement. After all, it is income. Another argument is that because CPP is calculated based on the number of months of pensionable employment, workers who are injured for significant periods of time receive significantly reduced CPP benefits upon retirement. Certainly this is a concern for a lot of workers, especially when people have been off work not for six months but for upwards of three to five years.

The important issue here to recognize that it is income; it is income not because workers do not want to work but because they are not able to work. The system really needs to treat this income from an income perspective and from a pensionable perspective as well.

The 15% dropout period in the CPP, which allows workers to exclude 15% of their working months from CPP calculations, is not adequate for workers who suffer severe injuries that require lengthy rehabilitation. In Quebec, injured workers receive benefits through the CSST, the Commission de la santé et de la sécurité du travail. That allows them to continue making contributions toward the Quebec pension plan.

Another argument in support of the motion is that in the federal public service pension plan workers who are absent due to injury or illness are able to, upon return to the workplace, make pension contributions retroactively in order to keep an unbroken record of pensionable service. That sounds pretty reasonable to me.

With a rapidly aging population, Canada is faced with the challenge of ensuring that its senior citizens are able to live out their retirement years in dignity. Because we are talking about pensions, recent studies indicate that approximately 70% of elderly Canadians are dependent on public pension plans. Progressive Conservatives have always viewed the CPP as a fundamental part of the Canadian social safety net, an obligation that governments must honour.

In 1997 Ottawa and the provinces agreed to two major changes to the CPP. First, CPP funds were to be invested in the marketplace and managed by an arm's length agency, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. The legislation creating the board was criticized for creating a weak governance structure without sufficient checks and balances. Second, premiums were to be increased more rapidly than previously planned, but capped at 9.95%, the level needed to fund the plan over the long run. By 2003 this equalled an $11 billion increase in annual premium revenues.

Policies must also be developed to enable a greater number of Canadian seniors in need of caregiving to remain in their own homes rather than in more expensive institutional accommodations where their independence suffers. A Progressive Conservative government would double the $800 value of the tax credit currently given to Canadians who care for low income elderly parents, grandparents or infirm relatives in their homes.

In addition to that, a Progressive Conservative government would not raise CPP contribution rates beyond adequate levels to ensure the long term viability of the plan. A Progressive Conservative government would require that members of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board have pension fund or investment expertise.

We would appoint a minister of state for seniors to ensure that the unique needs of seniors were properly addressed across government departments. We would appoint the Auditor General as the auditor of the CPP Investment Board. A Progressive Conservative government would redirect resources from within the existing budget of Human Resources Development Canada to process the current backlog of Canada pension plan disability applications.

In 2000 the Liberal government announced an increase in the caregiver tax credit amount from $2,386 to $3,500 for the 2001 tax year. The Canada pension plan is financially sound and on track to provide retirement pensions in the future. This was the announcement made by federal and provincial ministers of finance on February 9, 2003, following the conclusion of their financial review of the Canada pension plan.

As joint stewards of the Canada pension plan, ministers of finance are required by legislation to review the plan's long term financial health every three years. In their latest review, they agreed that no changes to benefits or the contribution rates are required. The 9.95% contribution rate should be sufficient to sustain the plan indefinitely.

On February 28, 2003, the member for Cumberland—Colchester, the PC critic for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency, presented a private member's bill that would see no application for the disability tax credit denied without it first being reviewed by a qualified medical practitioner.

Reducing the debt ratio will free up resources that will also give governments greater freedom to respond to future pressures. For example, the federal government will face pressures from an aging population, either directly through seniors' benefits or indirectly through demands from the provinces to increase transfers for health care.

According to David Zussman, president of Public Policy Forum, as printed in the Ottawa Citizen on November 25, 2002, currently seniors' benefits represent 2.3% of the GDP and are projected to rise to 4.7% of the GDP by 2040.

There are many other ways the government could ensure that we do not waste money so that there is more money for the CPP, for example, the failed long gun registry, which is into its second billion, and advertising contracts that we talked about in the House. The Privacy Commissioner's waste of public tax dollars is another example. So there are many ways of finding resources to fund the Canada pension plan.

In closing, I want to look at some of the arguments against the motion.

First, disability benefits within the Canada pension plan already exist for people who are disabled on the job. Second, if we include workers compensation as income, where do we draw the line? That question is often raised. What about employment insurance, CPP disability income, social assistance and other forms of income?

It is unfair to collect CPP premiums from people already facing a reduced income by way of workers compensation. However, if premiums were not collected to cover the increase in CPP benefits upon retirement, the CPP liability would increase.

Another question often raised is, who would pay the employer's half of the CPP premium for an injured worker? That is quite common. The last comment I have is that the 15% drop out period already exists as a provision for workplace absences.

There are pros and cons in this debate. I have presented them this evening on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, unlike my Progressive Conservative colleague, I would like to state that an NDP government, and that has a wonderful sound to it, would ensure that a motion of this nature, which, next to some of the motions I have presented, is one of the finest pieces of legislation to hit the floor of the House of Commons, is passed. My colleague from Churchill should be congratulated for her efforts on behalf of injured workers throughout the entire country.

Anyone who has ever dealt with workman's compensation, whether they live in the three territorial jurisdictions or the ten provinces, knows what a quagmire it can be. It is an absolute bureaucratic mess. All the member is doing is ensuring matters for people who are injured on the job. We know the statistics. Every day in Canada three people die on the job and hundreds are injured; they should not be punished in their long term retirement plans by deductions of CPP. It naturally should be included. As my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River said, it is part of a person's income and should be considered as such when it comes to retirement benefits such as CPP.

We know, of course, that this is a good motion. It is good for workers and good for their families, so the Liberals must be against it then, but what is new about that? They have voted against every positive resolution we have ever presented. This is a pragmatic motion. We know there is a problem and we know the motion will address that problem. Does it address all the problems? No, nor was the member indicating it would. This is just one small step toward fixing the problems.

I know of what the member speaks. Five years ago, I presented Bill C-206, the caregivers' legislation, which, basically and briefly, stated as an example that if my wife and I had a child and we were both working, either one of us could take a year off work and get unemployment insurance, through maternity benefits or paternity benefits.

However, what happens if the doctor diagnoses our seven year old child with cancer and says our child had six months to live? What are we supposed to do? I ask members to ask themselves what they as parents would do. Would they institutionalize the child? Would they take time off work? Would their company allow them to take time off work? Would they suffer a financial loss because of it? All of these questions go through the minds of Canadians every day.

All my bill said was that if a physician stated that someone has a relative under palliative care, the caregiver should be able to take time off work to prevent that person from being institutionalized. The bill stated that the caregiver should be able to collect unemployment insurance for up to one year, like maternity benefits, which would allow the caregiver to have job security, flexibility and an income while caring for that person. For every dollar spent through the EI system, $4 would be saved in the health care system. Those are facts, right there on pages 184 to 188 of the Romanow report.

The Liberals were against that but they did introduce a program, a very small one, a starter step, starting in January, for six weeks for children. I will give them credit for that.

However, I will come back to my colleague from Churchill, Manitoba, the polar bear capital of the world, by the way. My colleague states very clearly that there is a need for this type of legislation. I know the member quite well. She does not throw out legislation willy-nilly just to have a conversation and tie up this full House we have tonight, standing room only of course. She thought this over very carefully. She has worked with various groups, organizations and individuals who have gone through this. She, being a good member of Parliament and a fine representative of her beautiful area of northern Manitoba, has said very clearly that she would like to introduce this into legislation.

It has some merit, because the committee that deals with private members' business has made it a votable item. The committee of her peers is not made up of fools. They are good people from all the respective political parties. They know the motion has merit. We are rather ashamed that the Liberals are against it, but we have not spoken to every one of them. Hopefully we can change their minds and work toward this motion being passed.

No injured worker under any circumstance should have to suffer when it comes to CPP. We in the NDP have always stated that a pension plan is a cornerstone to retirement. Although the Canada pension plan has not done everything that we would like it to, it has prevented an awful lot of people from slipping into dire straits.

The public pension plan is a very good idea. In fact, it is a social democratic idea. It was people like Stanley Knowles, M.J. Caldwell and J.S. Woodsworth, and the pages are looking at me wondering who were those great people. They were the founders of our party. They were the ones who fought for health care. They were the ones who fought for pensions, long before it was ever cool to talk about these things. They knew the need was out there. If it were not for those great people, we would not have those things today.

The New Democratic Party, and previously the CCF, has done terrific work. Although we have never formed a federal government, one day I hope I to sit in this House as a member of an NDP government. The reality is that this is the type of legislation people would see from a very progressive government, a social democratic government.

Public health, public education, a publicly funded military, a publicly funded police force, a publicly funded system of roads and transportation are all social democratic ideas. We are very pleased when opposition parties right of centre, and the Liberals are the right of centre of party now, actually support some of those initiatives. They grew up in this country under those programs. Those programs were fought for by members of the New Democratic Party as well as many people in the social movement. Union members have died for these types of rights. If I can give the union movement a plug right now, if it were not for the unions, we would not have the concept known as the weekend.

Having said that, this is a fine piece of legislation. It is worthy of further debate. It should go to committee so we can have a more constructive debate and dialogue on it. There are those who would oppose it in any way through lack of information, lack of knowledge or maybe they just do not like it. Maybe we can change their minds to vote for something to help injured workers in this country in their retirement plans.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 7:09 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier this day, all questions necessary to dispose of Motion No. 197 are deemed put and a recorded division is deemed demanded and deferred until Tuesday, October 21, 2003, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Canada Pension Plan
Adjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member of Parliament for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke which includes Base Petawawa, I am honoured to fill my role in defending the brave men and women who serve in the Canadian armed forces from the actions of a callous uncaring government.

I want the military community in Canada, and particularly the families of each and every member who is part of Operation Athena, the current deployment to Afghanistan, to know that I will honour the deaths of their fallen comrades by holding the government accountable, particularly the Minister of National Defence, for their unnecessary and tragic deaths.

The Minister of National Defence is hiding in his statements when he says now is not the time to raise these questions. When it comes to the safety of our troops, now is always the right time.

Time and again the Minister of National Defence has demonstrated an absolute callous disregard for the safety of our soldiers. This was done when the minister ordered Canadian Forces logistics personnel in Afghanistan to give up their weapons. It was done when the decision was made not to provide proper arid uniforms. It was done when the decision was made not to provide the ballistic plates for the fragmentation protection vests until they were forced to.

And now it has been done with ordering Canadian soldiers to patrol in a combat zone in the Iltis jeep that affords no protection to its occupants from landmines.

The defence minister knew he was sending Canadian soldiers to their deaths when he went around making the statement “expect casualties”. The minister would not have been making that statement if he did not believe it. He was telling the families of our soldiers to expect casualties because he knew that the deaths were inevitable, given the state of some of the old equipment soldiers are expected to make do with.

Pre-announcing casualties was part of an elaborate PR campaign to try to deflect criticism when bodies started to be shipped home. If the minister spent as much time securing equipment for our troops as he does as an apologist for our old helicopters and leaky second-hand subs, our soldiers would have the equipment they need.

With a defence minister who is a pre-eminent armchair warrior, I know that he wants to deny the facts. The truth is, if our soldiers had the equipment they need, they would be alive today.

Former U.S. ground commander Colonel Frank Wiercinski warned Canada that the Iltis jeep was a death trap for any soldier using it in Afghanistan.

For Canadians who are unaware, the Iltis is a 25 year old vehicle based on a Volkswagen which at the time was built under contract by the perennial Liberal Party financial donor, Bombardier.

To the credit of our allies the Americans, they told the Minister of National Defence to leave the Iltis jeep at home when the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were deployed to Afghanistan last year. Knowing that Canada is short of having the proper equipment, the Americans insisted on supplying armoured Humvees that provide some element of protection for the occupants from landmines.

It is said that history repeats itself. We have a defence minister who is a modern day equivalent to Sam Hughes of World War I fame. The decision to provide our soldiers with a rifle that jammed more often than it was fired because it was provided by a “friend of the party” is still remembered by legions across Canada today.

Helicopters, jeeps, leaky subs, we can take our pick.

Canada Pension Plan
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence has four minutes to answer.

Canada Pension Plan
Adjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thought that adjournment proceedings were to focus on questions that in the opinion of the member were not answered properly when they were first posed.

This question was asked by the member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke on May 9. However in her comments she chose to add a series of rather exaggerated and outrageous statements, but I will follow what I thought was the procedure and try to clarify for her, as we have many times.

The hon. member's question related to the theatre activation team that was deployed in April 2003 and was not permitted to carry weapons without the proper authorization given by the ISAF commander. This did not solely apply to the Canadian Forces but also to NATO's own reconnaissance team.

The responsibility to provide for the theatre activation team's security rested with ISAF. Our advance team elements were protected at all times.

That being said, it is important perhaps to remind the House and Canadians that it has never been more needed than to have Canadian participation to secure and rebuild Afghanistan.

There are people who oppose the international community's efforts in Afghanistan and who will try to dissuade us from our mission. The Canadian Forces will neither retreat from their mission nor will we retreat from our international responsibilities.

The government and Canadians are fully committed to our mission in Afghanistan. The operation in Afghanistan is part of Canada's broader commitment to the worldwide campaign against terrorism.

The member referred to some of the tragic events of late last week and I think it would be important to paraphrase what Lieutenant-General Hillier said at this week's memorial service for our fallen soldiers. He said, “soldiers are tangible expressions of our nation's beliefs and extend our values and ideals worldwide”.

I know that I speak for everyone when I say the professionalism and expertise of the Canadian Forces is also renowned worldwide. They are remarkable ambassadors and promoters of Canadian values and they are making us proud in Afghanistan.

The House can rest assured that the priority of both the Canadian Forces and the government is always the security of our soldiers. This is certainly the case as the Canadian Forces prepared for their deployment last spring to Afghanistan. Every effort was made in the planning of our mission to provide for the safety of the troops and to ensure the success of the mission.

That is exactly why we are providing our troops in Afghanistan with excellent equipment, such as remotely piloted aircraft that allow Kabul to be surveyed from the air, counter-bombardment radars, which detect incoming projectiles and new night vision equipment.

Not only are our troops properly equipped for their mission but they have also received the best training possible. It is simply not accurate, or I find very responsible, to pretend that our troops were not secure when they were in Afghanistan last April, nor are they protected as they carry out their important mission there today.

Canada Pension Plan
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government just does not get it. It keeps on passing the buck. The drones are not yet there flying and the night vision goggles still fog up.

When it comes to the men and women who serve in our armed forces, in the eyes of this government they are nothing more than second class citizens. When the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Canadian Regiment was deployed to Afghanistan the Minister of National Defence promised that “No no effort and no money will be spared to protect Canadian Forces”.

More important, the Minister of National Defence made a promise to the people of Canada. In an interview with Craig Oliver he promised that he would resign if any Canadians died because they did not have the right equipment.

It is time for that promise to be kept. A man of honour would do the right thing. The right thing is to step aside for a full, independent, public and complete investigation.

Canada Pension Plan
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The parliamentary secretary has one minute to conclude this debate.

Canada Pension Plan
Adjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, as usual the member is full of rather dramatic exaggerations. It is in fact her goggles that are fogged up, not the night vision goggles that are there.

She talked about the Iltis jeep. General Leslie was on a patrol in Kabul in an Iltis jeep last Friday. To pretend that somehow this tragedy could have been avoided with different equipment is simply not borne out by the facts, and it is rather irresponsible for the member to make outrageous statements.

She said that the minister pre-announced casualties and sent these soldiers to their deaths. That is disgraceful to ascribe that kind of comment to the Minister of National Defence and she should be ashamed of herself.