House of Commons Hansard #17 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

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Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I never equated Liberal values to Canadian values. That is nonsense; I never said that at all. I do not believe that the Liberal Party has the monopoly on virtue or Canadian values or that it is the purest of the pure.

Surely the government has made mistakes. It has admitted to them. There are many mistakes but to say that this is exclusive to the Liberals and that everybody else in the land is pure is just demagoguery as it is to say that I should leave the Liberal caucus because of one issue or another where the government has made mistakes. There would not be any democracy left; we would all have to leave at one point or another. I am not even going to address that part of it because I think it is puerile.

At the same time I would like to state that certainly there are common values that we hold as a democratic society. A democratic society makes its decisions here in this Parliament and other parliaments, provincial and otherwise. The majority rules. We accept it. That is the way democracy works. For example, if we decided tomorrow that we were going to invest moneys in policies to stop smoking in society, at the same time we would say let us not invest in companies that promote smoking in society. That is what I am trying to say.

There are certain common values that we share. There are others where we differ. At the same time when Parliament rules in its majority that a certain line of conduct, a certain policy should be implemented, what I am saying is that surely it would be paradoxical for a pension plan to go in exactly the opposite direction to what democracy has chosen.

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1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments of the hon. member opposite.

At times I am a little uneasy with the government investing my money. If I want to invest money and lose it, and I probably would, I would take the loss.

Recently in Saskatchewan in my constituency the federal government put $22 million or more into an ethanol plant. Up the road on the same line the provincial government, along with an American investment firm, was building an ethanol plant but it fell through. Because it fell through, the provincial government lost several million dollars of taxpayers' money.

A company in which one invests has to be accountable for that money. Therefore the government, provincial or federal, must be accountable to the ratepayers for the money it has lost.

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1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Colleagues, we have strayed somewhat from the subject at hand. Let us try to bring the debate back to the CPP.

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Clifford Lincoln Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about government investments. We are talking about the Canada pension plan. This is why a separate board was created, to make sure that the investment follows basic principles and objectives as set out in the act. The act is the ruling instrument to decide how the moneys are going to be invested. This is the way it should be.

I am suggesting that within the powers of investment of the board, according to the objectives and principles of the act, the member for Winnipeg Centre has a point. We should look at this whole issue to see whether we can make the criteria, the principles, the objectives much more precise, much more in keeping with the values we share and we decide upon as a democratic society in this Parliament. This is really what I was trying to convey.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Drummond.

As members of the Bloc Quebecois, we are pleased not only to take part in this opposition day, which always lends some greater semblance of democracy to this House, but also to support the NDP member's motion.

This is a motion rooted in this Parliament. Our former colleague, Stéphan Tremblay, who represented Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay after Lucien Bouchard, is now a member of the National Assembly. He is the Parti Quebecois environment critic and was for years the green conscience of the Bloc. The torch was brilliantly taken up by the member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, who has done an excellent job in connection with the Kyoto protocol issue, the widening of the St. Lawrence seaway, and of course the whole GMO issue. It can be seen that ecological concerns are very much front and centre with the Bloc Quebecois.

The NDP motion is interesting in the way it links imperatives of economic development, workers' pension funds and values we support as Quebeckers, Canadians and even North Americans, since this issue is not confined to Quebec and to Canada.

Perhaps you would permit me to read the motion again. Those who have just joined us may not know what this is about. I can explain it after. This is an opposition day and the New Democratic Party member for Winnipeg-Centre has proposed the following motion:

That, in the opinion of this House, the Canada Pension Plan Investment Review Board should be guided by ethical investment policies which would ensure that our pension investments are socially responsible and do not support companies or enterprises that manufacture or trade in military arms and weapons, have records of poor labour practices, contribute to environmental degradation, or whose conduct, practices or activities are similarly contrary to Canadian values.

What does that mean? It means this: all workers in the public or private sector obviously pay contributions to a retirement fund. Once a person has retired from the work force, a pension will be paid. Naturally, the investment managers have very large sums to manage. For example, we can estimate $600 million dollars just for Canada. These investments last for years.

Let us take an example close to home. As members of Parliament, we contribute some of our salary to a pension plan. This is true in the private and public sectors. Thus, there are very large sums in the pension funds that are invested in the bond market every year.

Naturally, the pension fund managers are always looking for the best performance. The hon. member for Trois-Rivières must understand that since he is a former industrial commissioner. That is how important the pension fund market is to the economy.

Our former colleague, Stéphan Tremblay, who succeeded Lucien Bouchard as member for Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay and who now is the Parti Quebecois environment critic, once introduced a bill. It provided that pension fund managers were required not only to seek the highest return—which is legitimate because if the returns are high, the workers will be better off and we are not against that—but also to be selective in the investments they made, and would need to examine the purpose and mandate of the organizations in which they were investing.

That is called ethics. Before I give my examples, I have found a definition of ethical investing. We have not been discussing this concept a long time; it is even quite a recent idea. Since 1992 or 1993 there have been somewhat organized policies in this field.

To make it clearer for everyone, it is said that ethical investment is a socially responsible investment, a commitment to achieve public good in investments. It is not just about the best return, but public good, collective good.

The social investor therefore sees a double purpose in these activities: corporate social and financial performance.

To complement the financial criteria, investors look for ventures allowing them to support companies that subscribe to the same social objectives they do.

For instance, an investment board or private funds managers might say, “We are not going to invest; we are not going to buy any shares”. That is often who it works. The investor buys shares, trusts, or mutual funds, but does not look for corporate investment instruments.

Take for example the arms issue. Unfortunately, although Canada boast about not being an aggressive country, and about having a long tradition of pacifism, the fact remains that Canada produces military equipment.

At the Université du Québec in Montreal, there was a research group led by Yves Boulanger. In 1993, I was elected leader, or rather member of the Bloc Quebecois—pardon me, but that said, I can assure my colleagues that I have no other ambition in life than to serve the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve. I know that Sigmund Freud had a psychoanalytical theory about our subconscious thoughts coming to the surface. Dreams are the royal road to the subconscious. My colleague could certainly attest to the fact that I am blushing, I am so embarrassed. I want to be very clear about the fact that I have no other ambition than to serve the people of Hochelaga—Maisonneuve and to be an efficient health critic.

When I was elected in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve in 1993, Lucien Bouchard gave me two mandates. The first one was to be the research and development critic. That made me very happy, although I was somewhat surprised considering I cannot even program my VCR. I am not very adept at using new technologies. He also gave me a second mandate, which was to look into the whole issue of defence industry conversion for civilian purposes.

Industry Canada had an important program to encourage this conversion. However, encouraging conversion means that some industries were producing military equipment. This is quite logical.

An investment portfolio manager could decide, in making ethical investments, not to invest in companies that, in any way, shape or form, are connected to the nuclear weapon industry. As the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie indicated, a manager could decide not to invest or purchase shares in companies that are heavy polluters.

Unfortunately, this is still happening. There are companies that continue to be bad corporate citizens, dump waste in our waterways and pollute beyond the standards set by the major regulatory agencies. So we have here some models of ethical and socially responsible investments.

My colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville could say, “Yes, but we could also encourage investments in areas where companies are most concerned about gender equity in leadership positions”. This could also be a way to ask questions about ethical investments.

We could also look at all the social benefits and the entire way we encourage people to combine working and having a family. This is increasingly important in collective agreements. This criterion could guide how we pick our investments.

Since my time is up, I want to congratulate our colleague from Winnipeg Centre and to say that we will support this motion, which we consider a responsible motion and that, once again, the Bloc Quebecois, through Stéphan Tremblay, was a visionary in this regard.

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1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve on his excellent speech. In my opinion it was very pertinent. The people listening will certainly have recognized how one ought to act if one is seeking transparency in the handling of public funds.

I am particularly happy to take part in this debate on the NDP motion. I am happy because in the past, I also introduced, with a colleague, a bill along the same lines.

When trying to be transparent, one concern must be the criteria for investment. Workers who entrust their savings to pension funds have the right to know where their money is going.

This is why I think pension fund administrators should, in their annual reports, present the social, ethical or environmental considerations that they have taken into account before making their investments on the financial markets.

Must pension plan boards be compelled to make socially responsible investments? I think they must. I believe it would be a very good idea if we could, at the very least, oblige the administrators to adopt a policy like this themselves and let their contributors know about it.

Concretely, half the money traded on world financial markets belong to small investors in pension funds. This represents, Canada-wide, some $600 billion, about $90 billion of that for businesses under federal control. That is the money of workers, and it has become one of the major engines of globalization. These investors hold considerable influence in their hands with the potential to bring about sustainable development anywhere and everywhere on this planet.

An ethical investment policy would encourage businesses to provide broader progress reports than a mere financial report, because it introduces the concept of a three-fold approach to accountability: a financial statement coupled with a social and environmental statement. This new approach can very readily be integrated with the company's general strategy.

Institutional investors, pension funds in particular, carry considerable financial clout. Half of the shares of major Canadian corporations are owned by pension or mutual funds. In Quebec, the assets of complementary pension funds are estimated at over $100 billion, some $30 billion of that in the government and public employees pension plan.

In Canada, we find that pension fund administrators, lacking a precise definition of their fiduciary obligations, feel they do not have enough latitude to take social responsibility into consideration in their decisions.

Because the only demands upon them concern the financial aspect, these fund administrators must be capable of proving they have invested well from the financial point of view, regardless of where they have invested. For example, they may have invested in companies that use child labour. This is important, and this is what we are opposed to. The funds of the public, the pension funds of small investors, which the government has in its hands, must be invested in businesses that are not involved in human rights violations.

As I said, some governments have already adopted changes to their legislation to facilitate the introduction of non-financial criteria for their investment policies, particularly ones to enhance accountability on this aspect. This is the case in the United Kingdom, Belgium and France.

In Canada at present socially responsible investments, that is investments for which at least one of the three approaches to ethical investment is applied, apparently total around $50 billion, close to $5 billion of that in ethical funds and another $5 billion in union funds such as the CSN or the FTQ.

The federal government's role in promoting corporate social responsibility is to lead by example. In fact, when it purchases goods and services, the government supports economic development or is responsible for managing capital entrusted to it. We may wonder if it would be appropriate for this government to compel the companies it does business to apply socially responsible principles.

Even if I agree that retirement fund boards and administrators are responsible for determining to what extent retirement fund investments will be based on criteria to ensure social responsibility, I believe that the state can act to ensure that these choices are more transparent.

In the United Kingdom, Germany and France, retirement fund administrators or trustees are already required to make public the investment policies behind their pension plan investment policy. Observers believe this is a step in the right direction.

In Quebec, under the previous government, a parliamentary commission considered this issue. When will the federal government decide to act? No one knows. Consequently, we hope that government members will vote in favour of the motion by our NDP colleague.

In conclusion, investments can be made according to criteria that promote constructive corporate behaviour and balance between profitability and social responsibility.

Socially responsible investment means, first and foremost, that workers must be made aware of how their money is being invested. As a result, they need access to relevant information about the purpose of investments being made on their behalf.

While finance minister, the current Prime Minister said he supported the principles underlying the NDP motion. Now he just has to turn his words into actions.

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1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Alex Shepherd Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter into this debate on the NDP motion. As I read it over before getting up to speak, and also in researching my speech, I was taken aback by one profound thing. The money people contribute off their paycheques into the Canada pension plan does not belong to legislators or the government.

That money is left with the government in trust and people are concerned about that aspect in and of itself. It is not our money to play with. It is no different than other people's money that is held in trust, whether it is through an estate or other fiduciary relationship. It is given to the government in trust and the trust is allocated in such a way that its orientation is to invest people's money in the best way possible so that they will get a return on their investment.

Why is that important? It is very important because the whole concept of the CPP, originally founded in 1967, was to ensure that those people who were working would be able to put aside certain amounts of money for their retirement. It addressed people who were unable or could not save, and so forth.

It was kind of a forced savings and it is one of the pillars of our pension system. We have the old age pension, the Canada pension plan and private pensions. Unfortunately, many people do not have the last one, that is private pensions. In fact, there are those in our country who do not have the second one either, the Canada pension plan. There are many people simply trying to live on the old age pension which is very difficult to do.

The other aspect--and I speak from one of my previous vocations, a certified financial planner--is that in Canada we are witnessing that people are retiring a lot younger than they ever did before through voluntary retirement, and some would suggest forced retirement. The flip side of that is that we are living longer so the retirement years are becoming more extenuated.

Canadians are looking toward to those retirement years and are starting to ask a lot of questions about the CPP. One of the questions they are asking is: “Will we have enough income to live in dignity and respect?”

The NDP motion is sort of circular because it talks about activities that are contrary to Canadian values. It does not spell out what Canadian values are and certainly, Canadian values are not that a lot of our seniors should live in poverty.

It is incumbent upon us, from an administrative point of view of the Canada pension plan, to ensure that these moneys are invested effectively and efficiently so they generate the best possible return.

That does not mean that people who are entrusted with the money can invest in illegal activities. They cannot obviously invest in the drug trade or anything else that would possibly pay higher returns. They must invest in a milieu within our country which ensures that they go through an institutional order. We have a rule of law in the country.

They are required to invest through recognized stock exchanges and through the rule of law. I challenge the New Democratic Party, or anybody else who supports this motion, to point out to me any company that the CPP board has invested in that is carrying on an illegal activity in the country.

It is not for the investment board to make judgment calls on what is or what is not a good investment. It is simply a matter of that determination taking place in the general public and through our legal system. If something is an illegal activity then obviously the company would be reviewed and adjudicated and so forth. That is not a concern of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

I want to expand on this aspect of retirement years. I am 57. I was born in 1946. I see myself on the leading edge of the so-called baby boom generation.

I have talked to a lot of people of my generation. They say their major concern is that they will not have enough money to retire. It is a terrible thing to think that people are concerned that they will live too long, but that is a possibility. There has been so much medical science in our country that it has allowed people to live better and healthier lives for a longer time. However, at the same time, people are worried that it has been too successful, that they will live to the point where they cannot afford to carry on a normal lifestyle.

There are other areas where this kind of thing has happened in government. Government pension plans in the civil service, historically--

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1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member for Durham. I would also inform him that he has 14 minutes left in his speech after question period.

Cattle Industry
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, as all members know, BSE is an ongoing national tragedy. It has hit farm families in the Peterborough region very hard.

This week, the Holiday Inn Peterborough-Waterfront is hosting a fundraising dinner to assist the local farm community. This special event is the kick-off for a year of commitment to this cause. It will be followed by other activities, including beef specials with part of the price going to farmers.

The Peterborough County Cattlemen-Winemakers' Dinner sponsors include the Holiday Inn Riverside Grill, Colio Wines, Honeyman's Beef Purveyors and the Wolf Cruz. The target is $5,000 from individuals and service clubs who have bought tickets.

I urge all members to support local events such as this to help farmers hit by BSE. I urge all members to buy their meat from local farmers. This is something we can do to help while we work to get the U.S. border open again.

My thanks go out to the Holiday Inn and my best wishes to the Peterborough County Cattlemen. I urge other local groups to follow their example.

Estonia
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is the 86th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Estonia. The Republic of Estonia was founded on February 24, 1918, when the Salvation Committee declared the republic's independence.

This date was celebrated as the date of independence until the Soviet occupation of Estonia in 1940. During the Soviet occupation, Independence Day continued to be celebrated by Estonian communities around the world.

As the hope of restoring the nation's independence grew stronger in the late 1980s, the people already began to celebrate the day of independence publicly before the end of the Soviet occupation.

On February 24, 1989, the red flag of Soviet Estonia was replaced by the blue, black and white Estonia national flag on Toompea, and since that time independence has been celebrated once again as a public holiday.

I would like to offer my congratulations to President Rüütel, the Estonian parliament, the people of Estonia and Canadians of Estonian descent on this momentous occasion. Elagu eesti .

Cattle Industry
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is hard to believe that any government could mishandle a $30 billion industry that creates 225,000 jobs in this country, but that is exactly what the government has done in response to the crisis in our cattle industry.

Canadian ranchers have lost $2 billion due to the BSE crisis and the government is still quibbling with the province about who should help. Some provinces have already paid compensation to their beef producers, but this national issue begs a national response.

Matters are even worse for ranchers in and around my riding of Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys, who are still waiting for federal assistance to re-seed and re-fence land ravaged by fire last summer. Again, our legitimate pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

After the challenges they have faced, it is a shame that Canada's cattlemen must now suffer the consequences of this government's dithering.

City of Montreal
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge the results of a compilation of international studies by the Association for Canadian Studies.

Based on data from Statistics Canada and the U.S. Census Bureau, the association indicates that the City of Montreal is in first place in terms of the number of people who walk to work. The study looked at 21 centres with a population of 900,000 or more. It showed that 7.4% of workers in Montreal walk to work, putting them ahead of New York and Ottawa.

Among the top ten cities, six are Canadian. Canadians are ahead of the pack in not using cars to get to work. While American workers prefer to use a car 90.8% of the time, only 80.6% of Canadians in urban centres choose to drive to work.

When we look at the extent of the efforts made to counter climate change, we must applaud the workers in Canadian cities.

Government Programs
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 16 the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced Government of Canada funding of $10.9 million for 34 projects targeted to help youth and employment insurance recipients in the Greater Toronto Area.

The government is providing financial assistance through employment assistance services, local labour market partnerships, job creation partnerships, and youth employment strategy to enhance Canadians' employability, social inclusion, and skills and learning.

These projects support the Government of Canada's goals to encourage Canadians to upgrade their skills and knowledge to the fullest potential. Funding for them was provided for in the February 2003 federal budget.

As stated in the Speech from the Throne, these programs will help all Canadians gain a foothold in the labour market. The government is committed to developing programs that enhance the skills, knowledge and work experience of all Canadians, ensuring their full participation in society and in the workplace.

Government of Canada
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are not fooled by this so-called new Liberal government and Prime Minister. They know it is still the same old Liberal government that they have endured for a decade.

In my riding of Prince George—Peace River, constituents are still waiting for the government to properly address the environmental disaster brought on by the mountain pine beetle infestation.

They are waiting for a resolution to the softwood lumber dispute with the United States that has closed mills and left so many without a job.

They are waiting for the government to come up with a workable assistance program that will actually help beef producers devastated by the mad cow crisis.

They are waiting for quality health care to arrive in our remote northern region of the country where we continue to face a severe shortage of doctors.

And they are waiting in vain for tax relief while the government continues to throw their money away on scandal after scandal after scandal.

Just like my constituents, and after 10 years as their MP, I am increasingly frustrated with the government's misplaced priorities. Canadians deserve better, and with the Conservative Party of Canada they are going to get it.

Cattle Industry
Statements By Members

February 24th, 2004 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

David Kilgour Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Western Economic Diversification today announced $680,000 in funding for the development of a new testing technology for live cattle.

The project is a first step toward a system that will eliminate the need to slaughter animals in order to test for BSE and other diseases.

Canada must be a world leader in 21st century technologies. Even more importantly these days, the mandate assists our key beef industry in western Canada, on which thousands and thousands of families depend for their livelihoods.