Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise as well in the debate this afternoon. I heartily endorse my colleague's recommendation in Bill C-421, to have a chief actuary who would be accountable to someone.
We know that actuaries are managers of details. One need only look at accountants who, as one of my colleagues said earlier, are the best number crunchers anyone can get, and that is for sure. People who have risen to the position of chief actuary are surely pleased to be accountable. They are proud of their work and proud of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries to which they belong.
It is unfortunate when I see people, who have been very responsible public servants, rise to the post of chief actuary and then become embroiled in politics. I am sure none of them would care to be in that position.
I think my colleague's idea, the member for Calgary--Nose Hill, of de-politicizing the position of chief actuary and making the position accountable to Parliament is an excellent one. It is also an idea that members of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries support. This institution is a self-regulating organization representing over 2,500 actuaries who are qualified to practise in Canada. One can imagine that these people are not only very proud of their organization, but they are proud of the person who rises to the position of chief actuary in the country.
This is a group of people who are not only proud of their profession, but they are proud of thee chief actuary who oversees the enormous public pension funds of the RCMP, the Canadian Forces, and, in fact us as members of Parliament, and the entire public service. They want the chief actuary to be accountable and they want to know that somebody somewhere is taking the chief actuary's non-political, unbiased advice.
I think there are a tremendous number of benefits to making sure that the chief actuary is completely independent and completely accountable to Parliament, not just having coffee with someone. We do not want to see a chief actuary being dumped from his job, as we heard earlier, because someone in the political realm did not like his projections and what he had to say about the percentage of Canada pension plan funds needed to cover unfunded liabilities, et cetera. That was clearly wrong.
We know a lot of political influence goes on around this place and across the country but surely when it comes to the pension funds of Canadian citizens, the RCMP, et cetera, they deserve better.
I think the idea of creating an office of the chief actuary of Canada who is completely independent is a great idea. First, it would enhance confidence in public financial management. Lord knows there is not a great deal of that these days. I think what we could see is that the public would start to say that there is a higher priority on this right now, sound fiscal management. They have not seen a whole lot of that in the last generation or so. I think it is just absolutely terrific that they would be able to have that confidence instilled back in that position.
Second, the application of probability analysis, risk theory and statistics to the financial environment is the principal role of actuaries. I am a humanities girl and I do not understand all this mathematical and scientific stuff well enough but I know they do. I put my confidence as a Canadian citizen in the fact that they know their work, that they are experts at it and that they are proud of it.
Actuaries are a cornerstone of the risk management mechanisms of insurance companies and pension funds. We want to know that pension funds are there for people across the country. People have worked hard and for a long time to put money into their pension plans and they want to know that their pensions will be funded, that they will have a good accrual rate and that when they do get older and retire they will have some pension to take out.
Imagine what is going on in some of the private sector companies right now, where these big companies are saying, “Sorry, shucks, we just do not have any money for you. We are going bankrupt right now and we wish you well”. However all these people have been putting money into these pension plans for years, decades in fact.
We do not want to see that happen. I think there should be regulations in place. However we are talking public sector here today. Specifically, I think this would go a long way toward making people feel a whole lot more financially sound. There would be far less risk.
The office of the chief actuary would be responsible for all actuarial advice to the Government of Canada. That means they would be able to give advice and recommendations. Would it not be a wise thing for politicians to sit down and not only listen to the advice of these experts in the field but to take that advice and act on it?
I think the basic reason my colleague has brought this bill forward is to make sure there is not only sound financial management but that we have an expert in the field who will provide unbiased and non-political advice to someone in the government who will listen, not politicize it, and say that the advice is great, that the government will take advantage of it and that it will act on it.
The reporting relationship of the office of the chief actuary would be to report directly to Parliament, not just to someone having coffee, like we see with the ethics counsellor right now. That is just a great idea too but we know what happens over the coffee table; everybody is cleared of everything it seems to me, because again it is politicized. The reporting relationship of the chief actuary would be to report directly to Parliament, and free from the direct influence of cabinet or the civil service.
Unfortunately we saw what happened to the chief actuary a couple of years ago who was an expert in his field. My colleague mentioned him earlier. He had been the chief actuary for seven years and had done a super job. However, because he did not come in with the right numbers of what CPP ought to have been, which was above 10%, then heads had to roll. He had to be honest about it and say that it was over 10% because he had enough self-respect and enough dignity in his office and his own conscience to be a truth teller. It is always a good thing to be a truth teller but, as we see too often, in fact almost always, there is often a cost attached to being a truth teller.
When the chief actuary spoke up, told the truth and said that the numbers simply were not going to crunch, he was axed. Was he absolved in the end? Yes, he received a good settlement of over $300,000. Will that ever bring his name back? Probably not, but nonetheless he was proven innocent and that he was wrongfully dismissed.
We need to take all that stuff out of the position. We need to depoliticize it so the role will be performed well and benefits from it will be amazing. We need to ensure that actuarial analysis and advice is seen to be free from political and bureaucratic influence and based only on the highest professional standard.
The people in the Canadian Institute of Actuaries are professionals and they operate by the highest standards. We all could take a lesson from them, that they could attract the best from the profession to the office of the chief actuary. Their peers, among themselves, know who are the best and the brightest. When we look around here we do not have to listen too long to know who are the best and the brightest. Those members of the Canadian Institute of Actuaries know who their experts are. They know who will rise to the top. Regardless of who the person is, regardless of gender, regardless of where he or she lives in the country, the best person, based on merit and merit alone, should be named to that position of chief actuary.
Another benefit is that they could combine the resources of the actuaries, which currently exist in many of these programs, to ensure that statistical tools, theories and best practices are shared and maintained at the highest standard for all Government of Canada managed programs. Would it not be nice to know that EI, the Canada pension plan, social programs, the RCMP pension, the MP pensions, the public service pensions and Canadian Forces pensions are in good hands? I think people would rest a lot easier if they knew they were in good hands. I know I am using the Allstate motto there and that I might get sued, which, Lord knows, has happened before, but people would be in good hands with the chief actuary.
The bill would make the position non-political. It would make sure that somebody somewhere would be looking out for them and that they would be reporting directly to Parliament, not just having a secret coffee meeting somewhere, getting a pat on the back and being told that everything is okay, everything looks just slick. Nobody would know the unfunded liability or the true numbers. Nobody would have to feel that they were at risk of being fired very publicly and painfully because they stood up and told the truth.
I would say that the sooner we get on with this legislation the better. I am trusting that government members will realize how beneficial this is. It is nothing to be afraid of.
This is just wonderful. The Prime Minister makes everything a confidence motion. This will give the Canadian public, members of Parliament and all public servants great confidence. Therefore, I think they should vote with real confidence on this bill.