House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentences.

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The House resumed from April 21 consideration of Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-201 and support the reintroduction of its clauses. As with other speakers, I want to commend the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. His riding is very close to mine, both in proximity and in terms of the people who make it up. We both have largely military ridings. He has certainly honoured the tradition of the military for both veterans and serving members, and he has been tireless in his support of this bill.

In simple terms, this bill seeks to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. The essence of this problem is that, at age 65, veterans of the Canadian Forces and RCMP see their pensions decreased. This goes back to the 1966 introduction of the Canada pension plan and the integration of the Canada pension plan with existing pension plans.

I want to be clear that it is my view that all members of the House want to do their very best to support our veterans. This is not an issue that should be divided along partisan lines. I do not believe it is a political issue. The question is, how do we best serve former serving members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP? This is not a bill that is as easy to deal with as some might say, but I also do not think it is as complicated as others might have it either.

In my opinion, the heart of the matter is the question of what is fair. We are at a point in time when Canadians are quite common in their belief that we need more work on pensions. Many Canadians do not have adequate pensions. Others have seen their pensions disappear all of a sudden before their eyes. I have had the chance to talk to Nortel employees, both pensioners and also people who are on long-term disability, and their stories are quite frightening.

People thought they had secured their pension, secured their future, and secured the time that they would have after working, which in many cases is more and more years. People are living longer, but are they living better or living as well? I think that goes to the heart of this matter as well. I think it is appropriate for the House as well as the government to consider this idea of fairness, and to put it in the context of service offered to country and how country responds to service.

As I mentioned, I come from a military community and I am very proud to do so. From the time I was elected in 2004, I have felt both the responsibility and the privilege of coming from a military community. Shearwater borders my riding and the riding of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. We have other bases in Halifax, Dartmouth and others in Nova Scotia. There is a strong military presence.

One of the privileges of being a member of Parliament is to march with veterans and to be with veterans all year, but particularly on those days that are very special. In Dartmouth at the cenotaph and also in Cole Harbour at the cenotaph, we have very serious commemorations of events like Remembrance Day. Every year now, I have the opportunity to go into schools and talk to kids. Like other members in the House, I take great pleasure and pride in the fact that our children understand Remembrance Day in a much more significant way than my generation did.

When I went to school, I can recall the veterans coming in to talk to us, but there was always a bit of a sense back then that war and peace were different things. Everybody wanted to have peace without sometimes recognizing that war was an avenue to peace and that the people who had given up their lives and those who have had their lives altered by the experience of war are the profound heroes of our country.

Remembrance Day, the Battle of Britain, and the Battle of the Atlantic are very significant commemorations on the east coast, the home of Canada's east coast navy. On D-Day, we all gather at the Somme Branch Legion and walk down to the waterfront. It is a very sombre occasion, but it is an occasion that brings people together and allows them to remember the good, the bad, and particularly the sacrifice of people who have gone before.

Great veterans like Allan Moore still occasionally walk with us. He served in World War II. His brother was killed in World War II and he found out about it by reading a military journal. Allan Moore has gone into classes for many years and explained to children about the horrors of war in a way that they can understand it and by seeing pictures of it. They learn about the horrors of war and the sometimes necessity of war. Doug Shanks is a very special individual. He is one of the many who was involved in the liberation of Holland, which the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will be commemorating tomorrow.

These are the great heroes living among us, people who have made a huge difference, people who have given us the opportunity to bring bills forward in this very august chamber where things like this should be discussed, debated, and ultimately decided on by the people's representatives.

We have great heroes in this country. Whenever we go to a citizenship swearing-in ceremony, which is another great privilege of being a member of Parliament, we always see a veteran there to welcome people to Canada, in some cases new Canadians and in some cases people who have been here for a while but have decided to become citizens. It never fails to impress when somebody who has served Canada is there, sometimes with a cane, sometimes with a walker, sometimes with an assistant, but there to let people know that one of the rights and privileges of being Canadian is to honour the sacrifice of those who have gone before.

One cannot help but have a very specific understanding of the nature of war if one lives in an east coast community such as the one in which I live.

This year more than ever we have reason to look at Bill C-201 and to ask if we are being fair, are we providing fairness for the service that was provided by both the living and the dead?

A couple of months ago John Babcock, Canada's last World War I veteran, passed away at the age of 109. This is the 100th anniversary of Canada's navy, and Halifax is the east coast home of the navy.

Before I was elected, I was privileged to be a trustee of HMCS Sackville, the last of the corvettes. During World War II there were over 260 corvettes, 120 of which were built in Canada. The Sackville was built in Saint John. After the war the corvettes served different purposes, whether it was fishing or other purposes. They have all gone except for HMCS Sackville.

I recall a few years ago I had the opportunity when we were doing some finance committee travel to bring the members of the committee on to HMCS Sackville. Judy Wasylycia-Leis was there. She fit very comfortably inside the corvette. Brian Palliser, who was then the chair of the Conservative finance committee, had a little more trouble on the corvette. One can only image how these little ships, these rugged, heroic little vessels went out to patrol the water and open the channels during World War II in the icy north Atlantic and the men who served them in many ways. This is a microcosm of Canada.

During World War II people from the Prairies used to serve on these vessels. They would come to Halifax, never having really seen an ocean. On some occasions they would look across from Halifax to Dartmouth and think that was Europe because they had not seen that kind of expanse of water before.

They came and they served and they were heroes. We have to do everything we can to ensure that HMCS Sackville is preserved, brought ashore, and given the honour and the respect that it deserves. There are over 1,100 trustees of HMCS Sackville.

I can only encourage anybody who wants to really get connected to Canada's navy in this the 100th anniversary to google HMCS Sackville, and when in Halifax come and visit it.

We have to look at Bill C-201 and ask, is there a specific purpose here? I believe that there is. I want to quote from G.K. Chesterton who said:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die.

Those who served us in the armed forces and the RCMP have gone above and beyond. I acknowledge the work of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and my colleague from Avalon, who has supported this bill all the way through. This is the right thing to do. I encourage members of this House to support Bill C-201.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

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

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

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

It is no accident that this debate is happening now as we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic and the liberation of Holland. I know many veterans in my riding who did the horrible slogging with the Algonquin Regiment through the Leopold Canal, Scheldt and into Holland.

I was talking with Algonquin Regiment reservist Murray Tilson, who was there with the veterans for one of the big commemorations in Holland. Murray is of my generation and a young woman came up during the celebration, kissed him on the cheek and said, “Thank you for liberating us”. He said, “I did not liberate you”, and she said, “No, but if we needed you, we know that you would”. It shows that kind of bond that we have built in terms of the Canadian identity, our relationship to the people of Holland, and the sacrifice that was given.

I also remember doing a great interview with Johnny LeBlanc, who was a real tough-as-nails union organizer from northern Ontario. Johnny used to walk 26 miles into the bush in the middle of winter, by himself, to organize these bush camps. Shift bosses certainly did not like Johnny coming in. I asked him if there was ever a threat of violence with him walking into the bush camps that were militantly anti-union. He said that there was always a threat. I asked him, what gave him the courage to walk in and start organizing those camps for the workers who were cutting for Abitibi and Kimberly-Clark. He said, “I was with the tanks when we fought our way through Belgium and Holland, and when I came back, after I saw so many people die, nobody was going to deny me the rights that I had fought for”.

That message is something we need to think of today because it is not just about Remembrance Day, when we wrap ourselves in the flag. There was a sacrifice not just for Europe but for Canada and for a certain set of ideals and principles.

I think of Johnny LeBlanc who helped organize all those workers who ended up working for the largest pulp and paper company in the world, Abitibi, and I think of the Abitibi workers and pensioners today who are watching their pension savings and their futures being threatened. I see the absolute indifference of the federal Conservative government in terms of the pension crisis facing us.

Make no mistake. We are facing a full-blown pension crisis in this country and we see absolute indifference from the federal government.

Earlier this year, our leader from Toronto—Danforth attempted to work with the Conservatives. He said, “You have been giving one massive tax cut after another. Hold off on this latest round of what you are offering, this $1.7 billion to the big banks and the oil companies. Put some of that money into the GIS for the seniors who are living in poverty now. You could raise the basic income of every senior and out of poverty with the stroke of a pen”.

However, the Conservatives of course are not there to worry about the seniors and poverty. They are more worried about their friends at BP and Exxon, and making sure that they continue to do well.

We see now the HST that is being taken off corporate enterprises and put on senior citizens, people on fixed incomes, people in my riding who are barely scraping by, and who are now having to pay the extra HST on their home heating fuels. Even people who are working to save for the pensions that they do not have are having to pay the HST. We see a massive shift in the tax burden away from the large corporations onto people on fixed incomes, onto senior citizens, and we see nothing but contempt and ridicule from the government because it is not there for the people who need it.

I would argue that our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that there is a fair system for pensions in this country. New Democrats have pushed forward for a number of key changes. A simple change would be changing the bankruptcy protection laws so that the Nortel workers, the CanWest workers, and the Abitibi workers are not going to be at the end of the line if the CCAA protection fails and those companies go into full bankruptcy.

They are looking for action from us and they are not seeing anything from the Conservative government. We need to look at increasing the GIS, as I had mentioned, so that we can take seniors who are living in poverty out of poverty.

Of course, the other major issue is that the vast majority of Canadians now have no pension plans and they are moving from job to job. We have to start moving toward eventually doubling the CPP so people can actually have proper pension savings.

It is pretty shocking that in Canada in 2010, for all the talk about loving our troops, there are veterans using food banks. I would argue that our veterans having to use food banks is a disgrace and a sign of the failure of the government to look out for the people who are falling between the cracks.

I am very supportive of Bill C-201, which would bring an element of fairness to the people who put their lives on the line for us throughout their careers, former RCMP officers and military personnel who are looking for a fair deal.

The bill has to do with the Canada pension deductions, the clawbacks that happen if members become disabled or collect Canada pension disability and how it relates to their superannuation. We need to ensure that these people are not penalized unfairly for the service they have given this country.

This all goes back to 1966 when the Canada pension plan was first set up and the government split the contributions of the deductions to the superannuation and the Canada pension plan. Nobody told the military out there in the field defending us how it would affect them.

Here is a sad example. Let us say that an officer in the RCMP with 30 years of service becomes disabled. He would receive 64% of his superannuation and then Great West Life would top it up to 75% by adding 11%. Then, after two years, Great West Life would shut it off and he would have to then apply for the Canada pension disability. If he applies for the Canada pension disability, he would receive a lump sum of $16,000. He then would get a call from the RCMP annuity branch saying that he owes it over $11,000. That would have been the deduction if he had received CPP from the beginning. Therefore, he would have to pay back all the money he received.

However, Great West Life would tell him that he owes it $7,000 to $8,000. If he had received $16,000 in a lump sum payment, he would end up having to pay back over $19,000 because it would be clawing back the money that had been paid to him. When he turns 65, his Canada pension disability would be shut off and he would get the reduced CPP. I do not think that is fair, not for people who put their lives on the line for us.

We need to work more collaboratively as a House of Commons and stop using our soldiers as a political shield for the government's mistakes. We should ensure that when they come back from overseas after putting their lives on the line, they and their loved ones will be looked after and their pensions will be fully protected. I do not think that is too much to ask from any member of Parliament of any political party.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

An hon. member

No more lip service.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

We need to move away from the lip service about loving our troops. We should say that after they come home, when they are senior citizens, when they are disabled or if they leave widows, they will be looked after in a fair system in which their money is not clawed back by the government or insurance companies and that they will have what they need. That is the covenant that we must make within the House to veterans, the RCMP and other federal service people who risk their lives for us.

It also reminds us that we need to do better in addressing the pension crisis. Senior citizens are suffering and they are suffering from the indifference of a government that is pushing the HST on them because it wants to shift the tax burden off large corporations and put it on people with fixed incomes. They are suffering because we have a government that has no interest in standing up for the Abitibi or Nortel pensioners because it would rather help the big creditors of the big banks. That is a shame and that is not the great tradition of Canada.

We in the New Democratic Party will continue to fight for pension fairness for veterans, former police officers, firefighters and all senior citizens.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to participate in this debate because, like so many members here, I have veterans, active service personnel and members of the RCMP in my riding. A few years ago, as the House may know, O Division of the RCMP moved to London, Ontario. These folks are in our communities doing service and ensuring that federal laws are observed.

Interestingly enough, a few months ago RCMP officers from all over the nation went to Vancouver to ensure that people who were visiting our country for the Olympics were safe and secure in that community and that no one could disrupt those remarkable events. This took time away from their families and their homes but they were there when we needed them to ensure that young women were not being trafficked into Vancouver and made vulnerable by the fact that there were so many people who were visiting the city.

These officers and the veterans who come from the army, navy and air force, and those folks who serve at Wolseley Barracks in London all need to know that their government, their community and this nation will ensure that when their time comes for a pension they will receive the full pension they deserve.

I stand in support of the private member's bill proposed by my colleague because Bill C-201 is an important test of our will as a community, as a Parliament and as a nation. What the bill is saying is that we need to treat veterans and RCMP veterans fairly. The bill simply seeks to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to eliminate the deduction of Canada plan benefits from the annuity payable under each of these acts.

This goes back to 1966 when many of us were either very young or perhaps, in the case of my colleague, not even born. It goes back quite a long way and compelled the government to split the contributions of deductions to superannuation and to the Canada pension plan. As was previously mentioned, this was never explained to veterans or to those serving in the military. No one was advised of what would happen to them if they were disabled or when they reached the age of 65. This decision was made without their knowledge or consent and they did not understand it until many years later when they retired and saw that their superannuation was reduced because they were receiving Canada pension or because they were entitled to disability.

This is not how we treat the people who Parliament and the country say that it reveres, honours and wishes to ensure there is not poverty in the future of veterans.

We have talked a great deal about the need for pension reform in this country. My colleague from James Bay mentioned that too many people are falling through the cracks. In fact, I heard a report just recently that 70% of Canadians do not have adequate pension coverage. All they have to look forward to in their old age, after years of working, building their neighbourhoods, contributing to the tax base or, in the case of the RCMP and veterans, providing service and support to our nation, is poverty.

We need to act and we need to act now. We need pension reform. We need to look at those private pensions that are collapsing, like the Nortel pension. We need to look at the Canada pension plan, the OAS and the GIS because they are simply not adequate. Too many seniors are struggling and many of them are people who have served our country with great distinction.

I will now talk a bit about what is going on in my riding with the Parkwood Hospital for veterans which is located right in the middle of my riding. It, unfortunately, serves only those veterans who were in World War II or the Korean War. Anyone who served after 1953 cannot utilize the services of Parkwood Hospital. As we all know, the veterans of World War II and the Korean War are elderly and we are losing many of them because they are passing on.

The problem is that the people at Parkwood Hospital want to close 72 beds. However, once those beds are closed we will never see them re-opened. The truth is that when health care budgets are under stress and beds are closed, they are closed forever. The incredible staff who serve those beds and help those veterans are also lost because they are laid off or perhaps go into other parts of the medical delivery service. We lose important skills that have been accrued over years of working with fragile veterans and elderly people. We simply cannot allow that to happen.

It would be quite simple for the government to make changes to the mandate of veterans' hospitals. It could allow these hospitals to serve the veterans who came after 1953, those who served our country as peacekeepers or in other deployments. There are all kinds of them. We see them coming back from places like Kandahar. We see RCMP officers who have been wounded and who have risked a great deal in the service of their country. Those beds should be available for them.

As I mentioned before, we have a significant group of personnel, military and RCMP, in London, Ontario. I want to say a little bit about the legions in London, Ontario. We have some quite remarkable veterans and those who have served since 1953 in London at the Victory Branch Legion, the Duchess of Kent, the Air Force legion on Crumlin Side Road in my riding, and the Navy legion. By the way, this is the 100th anniversary of the navy. I think it would behoove all of us to celebrate that anniversary by showing respect to those veterans who served and who served so loyally.

At any rate, those legions provide remarkable support to the veterans at Parkwood. They bring them out on Remembrance Day and at Christmas. The Duchess of Kent is renowned for its efforts to ensure those vets get out of Parkwood for a few hours to know that they are appreciated.

We can show those people that we appreciate their work on behalf of veterans as we appreciate the veterans of World War II and Korea by extending the mandate of the hospitals, like Parkwood, and allowing those beds to be utilized by both the military personnel and their spouses. We call that the centres of excellence proposal. We would very much like to see that.

I want to end on an important note. We are seeing young men and women come back from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress syndrome. If we close beds and deny pensions to these people, we will be doing them a tremendous disservice. They need us. They were there when we needed them and they need us now.

I received a letter just last week from Ken Knisely who has a son, Andrew, who lost a leg in Afghanistan. He has to go to Ottawa for treatment because there is no available treatment in London.

We can do better. We can do better than food banks for veterans. We can do better by ensuring this bill is passed in this House.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-201 presented by the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore deals with the deduction of CPP benefits from the superannuation with respect to the military and RCMP. It affects them when they reach 65 years old and their CPP benefits, to which they are entitled as are all Canadians, are deducted from their superannuation, for which they are also eligible.

Interestingly, among those federal employees to whom this clawback does not apply are members of Parliament. MPs, senators and judges are not treated the same way as our RCMP and military.

To make matters worse, for those who are disabled and over 50 years of age, their disability benefits are also deducted from their superannuation. This is obviously unacceptable and must be rectified. When those disabled people turn 65, their disability stops and they are back into the first scenario where their CPP benefits are deducted from their superannuation.

This is an obvious problem that needs correcting. The Conservative Party does not seem at all disposed to correct it. The Liberals seem to be sitting on the fence, as is often the case; they have been back and forth and a little unclear on this subject. Hopefully, they will act with the rest of the opposition to right this wrong.

Speaking of the Liberals, back in 1999, the Chrétien-Martin government took $56 billion or $57 billion in EI funds and moved them into general revenues. That government took $20 billion or more of the surplus in the superannuation fund and moved it into general revenues, as well. It is time for the Liberals to make a step toward righting that grievous wrong and to vote on the right side of this issue.

The veterans are bearing the liabilities of their job, the responsibilities that they shouldered for Canadians in many ways. Today, it is our responsibility to balance their liabilities and protect them from a problem they did not create. They need that help.

What does the NDP want from this bill?

This private member's bill, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act , would eliminate those deductions, clawbacks, from their annuities. This was first introduced back in 2005. The time to rectify this problem is long overdue.

The NDP's veterans first motion passed in the House of Commons in 2006. That motion called for an end to the clawback of service pensions. Repeatedly, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has pressed the government and all parliamentarians to act on this issue.

There are many petitions on this subject. On one petition alone over 110,000 individuals from across Canada have signed it to support this initiative. There are signatures of many former colonels and generals on a petition developed by the RCMP and the Canadian Forces.

Wayne Wannamaker, a retired veteran from Whitehorse, encouraged politicians in the Yukon legislature to pass the following motion:

THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to recognize that the unilateral decision in 1966 to integrate the Canadian Forces Superannuation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation with the Canada Pension Plan contributions imposed an injustice and unfairness upon members and the retirees of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and therefore should take action to remedy that injustice.

In Nova Scotia Resolution No. 963 was adopted in 2006 urging “the Government of Canada to investigate this matter immediately and end the unfair policy of benefit reduction to our veterans of the military and the RCMP”.

To summarize, the bill would fix a problem where the RCMP and Canadian military veterans' benefits are clawed back unfairly. Under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act the clawback begins to take effect when a plan member retires and reaches age 65, or when a plan member becomes entitled to draw CPP disability benefits. But this issue is fundamentally about respect: respect for those serving in the line of duty, respect for veterans who have served our country willingly and honourably. The least that we could do is to support them with their needs after they have given so much to our country.

Veterans in my riding of Thunder Bay—Superior North are watching how the various parties deal with the bill. The disabled veterans are watching especially as Bill C-201 would really help them. Like many ridings, Thunder Bay--Superior North has many veterans from World War II, the Korean war and peacekeeping operations, just to name a few. I have met with many of the veterans in my riding who support the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore's initiative, veterans including those from Branch No. 5 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Port Arthur and Branch No. 219 as well. What do they think of the behaviour of the governing Conservatives in committee who gutted the bill? What do they think of the opposition Liberals who abstained from standing up for veterans in committee when the Conservatives were gutting the bill? They could have stopped this.

Thousands of veterans across the country and their families support Bill C-201 and seek an end to the reduction of pension benefits at age 65, or earlier if disabled. This is an issue of fairness.

Canadian Forces and RCMP members were not consulted as to how they wished to fund their plan contributions when the CPP was introduced. As well, the Canadian Forces and the RCMP have roles and a lifestyle distinct from the general community. They have faced dangerous conditions, extended family separations, hazards to their health and safety, long stretches of overtime, frequent postings and the difficulty for many spouses of members to retain employment and contribute to their own pension plans.

To end, men and women in the Canadian Forces and the RCMP pay the unlimited liability providing service to our country. As parliamentarians, we have the ultimate responsibility to ensure these men and women are taken care of from the moment they sign up until the moment they pass on. Canada's Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans are our greatest heroes and our country's greatest volunteers. With all of their sacrifice they deserve to be treated with fairness, with dignity and with security in their service years and in their retirement years.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act. As we know and as veterans, RCMP members and their families across the country know, this has to do with the CPP clawback for veterans and service people.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

It is not a clawback.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, someone said it is not a clawback, but a deduction from one's pension by any other name can be considered a clawback by the person whose military pension is being reduced. I understand that the Conservative Party does not support this bill, but the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, who has been championing this bill for some years now, and I agree that there ought to be special consideration given for veterans and RCMP officers. One might ask why. There are good reasons why and I will get to them shortly.

I want to echo what the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said. We as parliamentarians are in a very special position in this country. Not only do we get to sit in the House of Commons, in Parliament, but we also get invited on numerous occasions to join with veterans to remember the service they gave and to support their efforts to look after veterans.

The Royal Canadian Legion is one of those organizations. I am sure that many members of the House were at events over the past weekend. I visited and had dinner with Branch 50 at CBS, Conception Bay South, on Saturday night. They are working to rebuild a war memorial in their town. They are moving the one from the old place and building a memorial not only to veterans of the armed forces, but also police and firefighters. It is a combined memorial with a separate place for veterans. They have a private place in the middle of that memorial and there are side memorials for the others. That is a great community effort made by Branch 50 in CBS.

Yesterday afternoon I was on Bell Island celebrating the anniversary of the Battle of the Atlantic with veterans and the community. As some members may know, if they listened to my speech on the occasion of Juno Beach last June, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only place in North America with a direct hit from the German army and navy during the second world war. Four boats were sunk by torpedos from U-boats in September and November 1942 while docked on Bell Island to take on iron ore. The Caribou ferry also sank in the Cabot Strait with a significant loss of life. Again, that was enemy action during wartime, which Newfoundland and Labrador alone experienced in North America.

We do have a close connection with the veterans. The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has brought that to the House and we offer our support of that. I want to explain why. Aside from the great contribution that veterans, people in the armed forces and people in the RCMP have made to keep our communities and our country in keeping our country safe, they also have families that move around constantly during their careers. A member of the Canadian Forces could move from one base to another and over the course of a career move to many different places. It is the same with RCMP officers who are often moved from one community to another with their families.

This creates a particular family dynamic. It is often difficult for a spouse to maintain an employment career that is equal to those who might be in a stationary workforce. This obviously affects their long-term income as a family and clearly would have, as a consequence, a greater need for retirement income. This is one way to recognize that.

As my colleague from Timmins—James Bay mentioned earlier, we have a government that constantly reminds us and tries to suggest that, among all members of the House, its members are the ones who support our veterans, our troops and the armed forces. However, when we look at something like this, it pales. When there is a real opportunity to make the retirement lives of our veterans and serving RCMP officers better, the government does not support it.

It falls into the category of lip service. It is shameful that the government has taken away the opportunity or is not prepared to grant the opportunity for veterans to continue to receive their full pensions and enjoy their retirement instead of having them clawed back at age 65 when the Canada pension plan kicks in.

The government did not cause this problem. This was a problem that was inherent in the structure of the Canada pension plan when it was introduced in 1966, but it is a problem that it can help us fix. The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has been working on this for several years. He indicates five years. I have heard him talk about it many times in caucus, in the House and with veterans who are very interested in this issue.

I am sure veterans will be talking to the member from Alberta, whose riding I cannot remember at the moment. They have spoken to me about it. They raise it at events. I am sure when the member speaks, he will give an explanation as to why the government is saying no. Perhaps he will. I hope he is explaining it to the individual veterans who we speak with, who are concerned enough about this issue to sign petitions in massive numbers. More than 100,000 petitioners have signed in support of this.

It is well known in Canadian legions across the country that this action is taking place. I hope people are paying attention to the debate. Not only is it important that we support our troops and recognize they are providing a great service to us, but service to veterans is something that my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore has been championing ever since he has been in the House.

This year he is celebrating, along with other nationals of Holland, the liberation of Holland by Canadian troops. My colleague is both a native of Holland and a very proud Canadian citizen. However, also very dear to his heart is the relationship between Holland and not only the Canadian soldiers of today and yesterday but all Canadians. The Canadian people are recognized by the people of the Netherlands for the liberation and the commitment and sacrifice that Canadian soldiers were prepared to make during World War II to liberate them from the Nazi occupation and oppression.

This is one of the things that makes Canadians proud, that other countries respect the sacrifice and willingness that our young men and women were able and willing to undertake for the cause of freedom to fight off Nazi oppression during World War II. It had to be done and our young men and women were prepared to make the sacrifice to do that, in both Canada and Newfoundland and Labrador, which was a separate country at the time. I am sure all members of the House know that. If they do not, they will certainly know it by the time I leave here. It is obviously part of our constitutional history.

It is important to remember that our country is made up of many parts, and we all come together for the greater good and a great cause in the nation of Canada and our place in the world today. However, how we treat our veterans is also a mark of how well we respect the work they do on our behalf throughout their lives and working careers. The same goes for RCMP officers who put their lives on the line to protect our communities throughout their working careers as well.

I would ask all hon. members to support this bill and those who have been speaking against it to reconsider their vote, if it comes to a vote this morning.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, first of all let me say I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-201. I want to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for doing such a brilliant job in staying on this bill and bringing it forward.

We just heard from my colleague that he has been working on this for about five years. I think it is a testament to a member in the House that, when they get a bill and they know the issue is really important, they do not let it go. Certainly the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore is one of those members. He has understood this as an important issue not only in his own community but right across the country.

To support the bill, which amends the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to eliminate the deduction of the Canada pension plan benefits from the annuity payable under each of these acts, is one of those small things but it is a matter that has a big impact on people's lives and on their financial stability, particularly when they are retired.

Therefore I would like to thank the member for bringing this forward so that we are now having the opportunity to debate the bill at report stage and hopefully see it proceed to third reading.

I have to say that I always find it quite amusing when I hear from Conservative members. Somehow they have this sense of entitlement and ownership, that they are the only ones who speak for veterans or the military in the House and that is their territory.

The reality is that this is an issue that goes across all party lines. It is non-partisan. It is an issue that, as I have said, our member from Sackville—Eastern Shore and other members in the New Democrat caucus and members from other parties are very concerned about. It concerns what happens to our veterans when they return from Afghanistan, what happens to them when they become pensioners and what their quality of life is about.

It is easy to put the rhetoric out there about the military and supporting our troops. However, the bill is about what actually happens to people, whether it is the military families who are still here in Canada and the quality of life they have in terms of benefits on the military bases, access to education and health care, support and counselling or whether it is the members of the military and for sure what happens to the members when they are retired.

When we look at the overall picture, it is very regrettable that many veterans are actually living in poverty. The same may be true even of members of the RCMP when they retire; I am not so familiar with that. But certainly I can say in my community in east Vancouver we have an unbelievable problem of veterans who are living below the poverty line. They are homeless. They are people who are destitute on the streets.

In fact I was very happy that a couple of months ago theMinister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State for Agriculture came to east Vancouver, came to the downtown east side, and specifically announced an initiative to set up a storefront operation to actually do outreach to veterans who are in great distress, to make sure they are getting all of the benefits they are entitled to. It is a program that is being partnered with other organizations.

It is just the tip of the iceberg. When a minister has to go into a local community to announce something like that, it gives us a sense of understanding of the problem of what we are facing, that there are so many veterans in this country who are going without and who are facing difficulty.

Again I go back to the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and the fact that he raised in the House even last week, Friday it was, the unbelievable situation where we have a veteran's food bank in Calgary, visited by the Prime Minister. Maybe it is seen as a photo op or something. However, to us it is a very horrific situation and it is a very graphic example of what is happening to veterans in this country, that veterans are relying on food banks, that they are relying on outreach initiatives, that veterans are homeless, that they do not have even the bare essentials of a quality of life.

How could this be, in a country and with a government that claims to put this at the top of its agenda?

I am very glad that the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has raised this in the House of Commons, as has our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth. They have said to the Prime Minister what a political outrage it is that a photo op took place of a visit to a food bank set up for veterans. We are not addressing the systemic issues within the department that are facing veterans across the country.

We recognize that Bill C-201 is just one element of the bigger picture, and it has to do with the pension element. I am very proud as a New Democrat to say that our caucus has raised this issue many times in the House of Commons. Motions have passed in the House for a seniors' charter. We believe strongly that all seniors in this country should live with dignity, with respect, as all people should, but particularly seniors, who have contributed so much to our country, whether through military service, emergency services or many other occupations and fields.

That in this day and age we are facing this critical issue with seniors, particularly women, who are living in impoverished conditions, just shows how much has changed in this country and how big the gap has become between wealth and poverty.

This is not an issue of a lack of wealth and resources. We live in an extremely wealthy country. There is extraordinary wealth in our economy, in our natural resources and in our ability to make decisions that provide a basis of equality.

It is really very concerning that in this day and age we are still dealing with these kinds of issues. If anything, we have lost ground as a result of decades of deregulation, of privatization, of erosion of our social safety net and erosion of social services that help people and ensure there is a measure of equality.

Although we have made advances under the law and there have been significant court cases about equality issues, the fact is that this goes beyond what is written in the law. It goes to the heart of government policy. It goes to the heart of public policy and what we do here to represent the public interest and the interests of our constituents.

I for one am very glad that those three ex-service personnel, who visited the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore about five years ago, raised this issue and brought it to his attention. That resulted in this private member's bill being put forward.

Here we are today debating this bill with the ability to make sure this clawback is changed. We can ensure members of the military and the RCMP, who are on pension, do not have their superannuation affected but receive the full benefits they should be entitled to.

I know there is opposition to this bill. We are here today in this debate to say to members that this is an important bill. It is a bill we can adopt. This bill would improve the lives of individual seniors in this country. It would affect about 84,000 veterans and about 12,000 retirees from the RCMP. These are not small numbers. This bill would affect 100,000 people. Each of us, in determining how we are going to vote on this bill, can make a positive decision to ensure these members in our communities actually get their full benefits.

Let us make sure we not only pass this bill but we go beyond it, that we put into reality the seniors' charter, that we make sure seniors are not living below the poverty line, that we increase the guaranteed income supplement, that we improve our Canada pension plan. These things are all related.

Our caucus sees this issue as a priority and we are prepared to address it. We wholeheartedly support the bill that is before us.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.