House of Commons Hansard #78 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was balance.

Topics

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add a few comments to this important debate. The Liberal Party absolutely believes that Canada's Copyright Act must be modernized. In this era of iPhones, iPads, cloud sourcing and so on, we must have modern laws.

That is not the challenge here. The challenge, or the issue, is to implement reforms that are fair and that balance the rights of authors and the rights of the Conservatives. We all know this is the objective of the bill. However, the Conservatives have not succeeded. That is obvious. A number of groups have told us and them that the bill is not balanced.

One of the greatest concerns for me is the fact that the Conservatives will continue with their agenda without listening to Canadian citizens, groups, experts and opposition members. We could call this dictatorial federalism.

We know that this bill has sparked a great deal of discussion and that many suggestions were made to improve it. But did the Conservatives add some ideas? Did they change what they will do? No. They introduced a bill that ignores everyone else's ideas. That is not democracy. That is not enough for those of us on this side of the House.

Why do we have to be in such a rush to pass a bill when, when it comes right down to it, the result is not acceptable for so many people and so many organizations in terms of the objectives we have here in Canada? Why? This is a complex issue. This bill is very detailed, and there are many valid arguments. It is worth listening to them and continuing to work on the bill in order to achieve a good result.

Why put forward a policy that is so important and that affects the lives of all Canadians, only to be satisfied with a poor result that does not achieve the balance that everyone wants, when that is the very goal of modernizing the legislation?

It is the same with other issues. The process used by this government and the Prime Minister is a bit dictatorial. They understand while others do not. It is insulting to those who oppose and also to organizations that work every day, every year, to explain the issues with respect to the modernization of the Copyright Act.

Why shorten the debate in such a manner? Why? There is no support for doing so outside that group.

In the beginning, I spoke about the process, which is faulty. I would like to continue in that direction and speak about something that is of great concern to me.

I just asked an NDP member a question about that. Who is managing our decisions as Canadians? Who is in charge of our country's legislation? Recently we learned that some diplomatic cables have shown that some parts of the Conservatives' copyright bill, which we are talking about this afternoon, were drafted to satisfy the concerns of the American industry instead of addressing the concerns of Canadians.

Many Canadians are opposed to the digital locks, which seem to only address American interests. That worries me a lot because the Americans are major partners. They are our friends and neighbours, but they are not in charge of our legislation. This strategy is very worrisome because it sends a message to specific industries in the United States that they can push Conservative MPs in a direction that does not serve the best interests of Canadians.

Our sovereignty belongs to us, to Canadians. It is very important to the people of Canada. Handing over our sovereignty on a silver platter by creating legislation for the American industry is very dangerous. Other industries are going to see that and expect Canada to do it more often. It is unacceptable and we must stop doing it right now.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

It being 1:15 p.m., pursuant to an order made Wednesday, February 8, 2012, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

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

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

All those opposed will please say nay.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, February 13, 2012, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you seek it, I believe you would find consent to see the clock as 1:30 p.m.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Copyright Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Accordingly, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from November 21, 2011, consideration of the motion that Bill C-215, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I stand today to speak to Bill C-215. It is a bill which we support in principle and we would like to see it go to committee. The Liberal Party has been fairly clear over the last couple of weeks, in terms of expressing how important pensions are to Canadians as a whole, and the action we need to take to improve the quality of retirement for all Canadians.

I approach this debate with a bit of a bias. I used to be a member of the Canadian Forces. I have had the opportunity to become friends with numerous individuals who have been able to benefit through retirement pensions and so forth. Having said that, I do not collect a Canadian Forces pension, nor will I collect a Canadian Forces pension, but I see the merit of what is actually being proposed in the legislation.

Taking into consideration the sacrifices that are made by our men and women in the forces, whether they are in the Canadian Forces or the RCMP, the bill has a great deal of merit. I am anxious to see how the government will respond to the legislation. At the very least, it would be beneficial to all Canadians to have this bill go to committee, where we might be able to receive presentations and get some perspective from Canadians, in particular, members from the forces.

I know first-hand that many people who join the forces do not join because they are thinking of their retirement or how much money they are going to make on an annual basis. Generally speaking, the annual income is not that great. Most people join the forces because they want to contribute to our country in terms of building it and making it a safe place to be. I have the deepest amount of respect for those men and women who have taken on the responsibility of joining the forces.

I see this bill as one of the ways in which we can acknowledge the sacrifices they make. I look forward to not only dealing with the pension for the forces and the RCMP, but also dealing with the broader pension issue as a whole.

The Liberal critic for seniors has talked at great length about pensions and the importance of our being able to develop an overall pension scheme that will satisfy the needs of people in their retirement years for generations to come.

Today, sadly, and this even applies to members of the forces who have retired, too many seniors, because of the limited income they receive, are having to decide between buying prescribed medication that they require or buying food or clothing they. We would all agree that food is absolutely critical. People have to have food. Often, that means it is the medications that will lose out or, as we are starting to see, more seniors will use food banks.

My assistant, Roldan Sevillano, placed a call and learned that approximately 7,000 seniors, 65 years and older, living in the province of Manitoba visit food banks. I can assure members that a good number of those individuals have retired from our forces.

I suspect that we will continue to see a growing dependency on our food banks. We need to look at ways in which we can improve the quality of life for all of our seniors who retire at age 65, and I say to my Conservative colleagues, age 65, not 67.

I hope and trust that the government will see the wisdom of rectifying the crisis and fear it has created for many individuals, including members of our armed forces, who are looking at retirement. When people take into consideration the applicable age for old age security increasing to 67 years, they put off their retirement plans. Even this legislation would be impacted by what the government is talking about.

I will take this opportunity to highlight what I think is important.

It was raised today in question period that when the Prime Minister was still dreaming of becoming the prime minister of Canada, he came up with what we thought was important to say to Canadians. In a speech he gave in Guelph back in December 2005, he made some fairly strong statements. I will quote a couple of them. He said, that a Conservative government will protect our public pension programs. He said, “My government will fully preserve the old age security, the guaranteed income supplement and the Canadian pension plan and all projected future increases to these programs. I will build on those commitments”.

That is what the Prime Minister was saying when he was telling Canadians that he wanted to be the prime minister of Canada. He has really fallen short.

I am unable to best describe what he has actually done for the simple reason that the words I would use would be unparliamentary. I am not allowed to talk of the Prime Minister's sense of commitment that he made to Canadians back then and his inability to fulfill that commitment.

As the debate taking place on the old age security would have an impact on the legislation before us today if it were to pass, there is some value in reminding the Prime Minister of his commitment. Canadians believed the Prime Minister when he said that he was going to maintain, preserve, expand and make better our public pension programs. I anxiously await the March budget to see what the Prime Minister's true intentions are. All we know for sure is that the government is going to be increasing the applicable age from 65 to 67 years.

Getting back to the bill at hand as it pertains to members of the forces and the RCMP, we need to take a look at the broader picture and all the different forms of pensions that are out there. As the bill attempts to deal with improving the quality of life for retiring individuals who are members of the forces and the RCMP, we need to take that same attitude and look at other ways to complement our current programs to enhance the retirement income for other seniors and individuals who are looking toward retirement. That is what is important.

We have had great prime ministers who have provided us programs such as the CPP, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. Those were bold initiatives. I believe that now is the time to look at ways to enhance our pension programs. Bill C-215 is one of the bills that could do just that. For that reason, we would like to see Bill C-215 go to committee.

Canadian Forces Superannuation Act
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, this is essential legislation if we are going to treat our Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel with dignity and respect. My friend and colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, has worked tirelessly on this issue over the years, so I am extra pleased today to speak to it.

Whether it is embarking on search and rescue missions, carrying out dangerous arrests on our streets or working alongside our international partners in peace building overseas, Canadian men and women in uniform make a tremendous sacrifice for our country every day. They often face dangerous conditions and extended family separations. Canadians and their families together make huge contributions, contributions that the rest of us can barely comprehend.

Sadly, the government is not prepared to make a similar contribution to the lives of men and women who serve our country. As it currently stands, as we have heard in the House, service pensions for retired Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel are significantly reduced at the age of 65 or when personnel begin to receive disability benefits. That is not just. Why would we reduce a veteran's pension at a time when he or she need it most? When veterans are grappling with permanent disabilities, visible, invisible or maybe with increased health risks because of old age, why would we not support them having a fair standard of living? Thousands of veteran Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel across this country want an answer, as do I.

In my riding of Halifax, the military is the largest employer. We have been a navy town since the beginning and we are proud of our military legacy, which began in the 18th century with the building of the dockyard. However, more than 300 years later, CFB Halifax is home to Canada's east coast naval base and the country's largest military base in terms of posted personnel, with more than 10,000 military and civilian employees. It is a major factor in the riding of Halifax.

Military personnel are actively engaged in my community. They enrich Halifax through their dedication to their work, their community and their volunteer work. They are involved in many different community partnerships, including the Military Family Resource Centre. However, like I said, too often many of the retired workers do not have an adequate standard of living. They do not enjoy the standard of living they deserve because of the current clawback to pensions.

The deduction that we are talking about was created nearly half a century ago and it is time for us to put this policy to an end. It hurts veterans, but, as I said, it also hurts their families. The Conservatives say that this is not a clawback. Maybe technically that is not the word that we should be using, but when money is missing from people's bank statements each month, that is a clawback and a clawback by any other name still stinks.

How does it work? I have an email from Leslie Sanders, who was impacted by this clawback. He did his deductions and talked about what he was getting before versus what he was getting now with this clawback and the difference was $130 a month. That is a lot of money for someone living on a pension. That is a couple of weeks of groceries. He told me that just because he had turned 65 did not mean that he needed less to live on than when I was 64. He wants an explanation of how this could happen. I think we would all appreciate that explanation.

It is not just service men and women. It is also their spouses that we need to think about. Due to the unique nature of life in uniform where families continuously move around this country and the world, CF and RCMP spouses often struggle to find and maintain employment. That makes it even more difficult for spouses to contribute to their own pension plans and support their families. We are seeing people left in the financial lurch yet again.

What is even more troubling is the unequal treatment of our troops. Currently, serving members of the Canadian Forces are able to draw their full salaries as well as disability pensions if they are injured, and rightly so, but discharged troops with a disability are not entitled to the same treatment. However, they have all made tremendous sacrifices so why would we not treat them the same?

Some of my colleagues across the way have expressed concerns about the financial implications of this legislation, but great credit should be given to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore because he has outlined so many opportunities to keep the costs of implementing the bill at a minimum or revenue neutral.

We could try avenues like current payments to employment insurance, which CF and RCMP personnel pay into but cannot collect. We could use those contributions to offset these costs. Plus, members would likely receive less old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments.

This legislation is about more than the bottom line. I am almost reluctant to talk about those measures because it is really about providing a quality of life for Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel who go above and beyond for Canada every day. Supporting our troops is not just about wearing a yellow ribbon.

New Democrats are not alone in support of righting this wrong. More than 112,000 Canadians have signed a petition supporting this initiative, including many former colonels and generals. The Canadian Legion, the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada Association and the national chairman of the Armed Forces Pensioners'/Annuitants' Association all back this proposal, as does Veterans ombudsman, Colonel Pat Stogran. He called it profoundly unfair.

In my home province of Nova Scotia. the clawback has become a concern for countless Nova Scotians. In 2006, our provincial government adopted a resolution urging:

...the Government of Canada to investigate this matter immediately and end the unfair policy of benefit reduction to our veterans of the military and the RCMP.

It is pretty profound when a provincial government would make a statement like that concerning a federal issue. I think we need to take that to heart.

Before I close, I would like to read part of a letter of support I received in response to Bill C-215 from a gentleman named Doug Grist, a retired RCMP officer. He is not from my riding but from the riding of South Shore—St. Margaret's, which is held currently by a Conservative MP. Mr. Grist said:

...there is more to recognizing all these brave men and women, who lay it all on the line both on foreign soil and here at home, than building monuments and holding an annual ceremony. These people provide us all with a secure, peaceful, enviable quality of life. They too deserve the same quality of life, not just while they serve but in their retirement.

I could not have put it more eloquently than Mr. Grist.

Throughout this debate I have been reminded of the old adage “no soldier left behind”. With the policy on service pensions in its current form, CF and RCMP personnel are being left behind. We need to ensure that this adage becomes a reality.

I urge members on all sides of the House to put down their partisan blinders, to go beyond our party affiliations and realize that this is the right thing to do. We need to stand up in the House and support the bill to ensure that none of them are left behind.