That this House urge the government to replace the current members of Parliament retirement allowance plan with a pension plan that reflects the current norms for private sector pensions, with a maximum contribution in accordance with the Income Tax Act.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased that we finally get a chance to debate this matter in the House. Yesterday trough day arrived and we see the important need for changes to the members of Parliament pension plan.
It is unfortunate that the government did not live up to its red book promise and make the changes before trough day yesterday. That certainly would have sent the signal loudly and clearly to the Canadian public.
The Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act is a very modest statute introduced in 1952. In the last dozen years or so it has become really divisive. It is destructive. It is an unfair and detested piece of legislation in the eyes of most Canadians.
I draw the attention of the House to a report that was just brought in by a commission to review allowances of members of Parliament. This plan was started in 1952, which is interesting because that is the year I arrived on the scene as well. We might take notice that the prime minister of the day, Louis St. Laurent, said they wanted to make sure what was happening in those days in terms of the public service made it impossible for somebody who was serving as a member of Parliament to provide adequately for his later years.
I appreciate that pensions are good things. A pension scheme is not wrong at all. But this particular MP pension is a "scheme a dream" when you think about what has gone on in the last several years to make sure MPs look after themselves. We need to come up with a plan that is fair and is going to sell itself to the Canadian taxpayers who are funding the pension plan.
I do not consider myself nor do I consider my friends across the aisle, who have just qualified for trough day yesterday to get an MP pension, later years. March 13 is my date coming up, and I make full awareness to the people of that. I mentioned it in Question Period the other day. If the government does choose to put in MP pension reform I find it very strange that it would do it to its own members to make sure that they were in safe as of November 21. I have a feeling that it is going to make changes before March 13 so that I may be set up as the fall guy. I do not mind being set up as the fall guy if there are going to be substantive changes to the pension plan. We want to see that.
I am being assured by my friend across the aisle that they will look after that or they will look after me. Nothing makes me more nervous than having Liberals say that they are going to look after me. I will look forward to any remarks in the future from the member for Kingston and the Islands when he discusses this plan I am sure later.
I might also mention that my friend from Kingston and the Islands will qualify if he lives to age 75 and all goes well for him and he will stand to gain $1,061,976. That is not a bad pay out at all.
You can see that this is a rather touchy subject across the aisle, Madam Speaker, and you are on the list as well of benefiting.
Yesterday the class of '88 qualified for "Lotto for Life", reveals editorial comments across the country. We saw yesterday such descriptions as outrageous, gold plated, golden parachute, inflation proof, pension paradise and probably the most descriptive and graphic of all, hog heaven.
I know there are many members across the aisle right now who are just dreaming of the day when they qualify for hog heaven. They need to be re-elected one more time.
Is this divisive, is it destructive and is it detested? Yes to all of the above. This does more to divide parliamentarians and taxpayers who pay the bills for these parliamentarians probably than anything else. We see that this is a system in which members of Parliament are totally exempt from everyone else in the country. As my friends know, many of them have been in other professions before. They will know clearly that this pension plan is more, bigger, better, higher, everything else, overbloated, than any pension plan they could have ever bought into when they were working in the private sector. They know it, we know it and the people who pay our bills know it.
My friend across the aisle says that is not true. There is not a pension plan in this country that pays dividends of employer-employee ratios of approximately six to one. I would like to bet on that and I am looking forward to the members bringing that to our attention in debate as well as proof.
We are demanded in this country as parliamentarians to put in 11 per cent of our earnings. We have no options on that. We must put in 11 per cent of our salary toward the MP pension plan.
I am a member of the Alberta Teachers Association and we put in $92 a month to our pension plan. That was in the regular private sector. I am forced by the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act to put in just under $600 a month out of my salary. Somehow that means that we are putting in a lot but the government kicks back far more than it puts in. For instance in Canada we are demanded, as I just said, to put in 11 per cent of our earnings. It is mandatory, there are no options about that. We qualify then for a minimum pension after six years of service. Madam Speaker, you know that, I know that and the Canadian taxpayers who pay the bills know that. As of age 60 it is fully indexed to the cost of living allowance-very expensive.
Let us look at the United Kingdom. Its members put in a 6 per cent contribution level and are eligible after age 55 or age 60 plus years of service equalling 80. That looks very fair. Most of them are full time. I suspect anyone in public life serves full time regardless of the number of hours they put in a week.
Let us look at the United States. People who serve in Congress in the United States have to put in a 1.3 per cent contribution level. They qualify at minimum age and serve age 62 or age 50 plus 20 years of service. This looks like something that is a little fairer, a little more level than the pension plan that we have now.
I suspect from the amount of noise across the aisle perhaps we have touched a raw nerve here. That is fine. Touch nerves we will.
The plan that the premier of Alberta has just brought in has in effect blitzed members of the legislative assemblies. My friend across asked me to talk about double dipping. We are against double dipping. When you are in one level of government, you may not collect a pension for another level of government.
We are asking this government to make sure that it follows its red book promises. I suspect these will turn out to be red face book promises very soon.
The members of Parliament retiring allowances plan simply must be replaced. There are two aspects to this, the first is the retiring allowances act which lets members contribute up to 2 per cent years of service on earnings on the limit up to 75 per cent. This first account under the whole retirement allowance plan qualifies as a registered retirement allowance plan under the Income Tax Act. That is fine, nobody has any problems with that, I suspect even new MPs in the House.
If the MP pension plan were restricted to this first account, the taxpayer would not complain because our plan would then conform to normal public service plans. The problem is the second part of this, the retiring compensation arrangement account, the RCA. I am reminded of the old ad, they really are now RCA victors as of yesterday. That is the account that leads one to question the judgment and fiscal integrity of those who put it in place and subsequently defended it.
This account draws contributions from members in the government that exceed the 6 per cent limits prescribed by the Income Tax Act. I have one word for that, shame. Shame on a government that would continue to do that and bring it in. It pays benefits prior to the age and length of service required by the Income Tax Act to allay accusations of one set of tax laws for ordinary Canadians and a different set of tax laws for parliamentarians.
The pretence is that these payments are as is said in the study, a retirement compensation allowance to compensate members for the volatile tenure of their jobs. There is not a job in this country that does not have volatile tenure. This is one of them
but this is certainly not the only job in the country that has volatile tenure for sure.
I am splitting my time with the member for Calgary West, and therefore I would like to just finish up by saying that this program is wrong. It needs to be changed. The government promised it would change it. It did not do it by November 21, trough day. Come on, colleagues, this is the time to take action on this. Let us do the honourable thing. Let us make sure that we get this thing changed. It is unfortunate it has lost so much credibility with the Canadian public and taxpayers. Now is the time to get our trotters out of the trough. It has to be very soon.