Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise to speak today to a particularly compelling issue, which is the MP pension reform.
So many of my colleagues on this side of the House have spoken with thoughtfulness and compassion for Canadians who, like us, are struggling to make ends meet.
During the 1993 campaign this issue came up over and over again on the doorsteps of those hard working taxpayers in my constituency. They were very frustrated with the fact that MPs could come into such a wonderful job as this and were greatly compensated for their work here after only having spent a short six years in the job. At that time I realized the importance of the issue and I made a pledge to my constituents that I would never ever participate in any kind of an MP pension plan while I was a member of Parliament or afterward.
I would like to read to the House for the record the promise I made to my constituents. It was signed by me on June 15, 1993 and witnessed by members of the riding who were at the town hall. This is what I said:
I, the undersigned, Jan Brown, Reform Party candidate for Calgary Southeast, strongly oppose the current extravagant pension plan of members of Parliament. It is time our leaders demonstrated some leadership. I therefore totally oppose former members of Parliament receiving excessive pensions, when Canadians are being asked to tighten their belt. I will, moreover, vote against any bill maintaining or increasing members' pensions. I therefore state that I, personally, will not participate in the current extravagant pension plan of members of Parliament.
I went on to say:
I support the policy of the Reform Party to significantly reduce the pension plan for MPs to bring them into line with pensions offered in the private sector and I will work vigorously toward achieving that objective. However, I hereby declare that I will personally choose not to participate in any taxpayer funded MP pension plan. As your elected MP, I, like many of you, will plan for my future financial needs independently and free of taxpayer support.
As I said, I signed that on June 15, 1993. Now more than ever, my sense of that declaration has gathered importance in my life and certainly to those members of Calgary Southeast who I represent.
There seems to have been a great deception in the Liberal red book when it came to pension reform. I say that because the public was given a perception that the Liberals were most intent about pension reform. However, the red book did not say anything concrete about the reform of pensions.
The Liberals just said that the pension regime of members of Parliament had been the focus of considerable controversy and it remains so. The red book went on to state: "It is now the subject of an independent review, which Liberals support". This constant focus on reviews, consultations and discussions continues over and over as a mantra of the Liberals.
The red book further states: "Whatever the results of an independent review, a Liberal government will reform the pension plan of members of Parliament to end double dipping. MPs should not be able to leave office and receive a pension from the federal government if they accept a new full time
paying job from the federal government". The Liberals went on and on with issues that have not been addressed at all in the bill.
In fact, this is what has happened with the new Liberal proposals. The lower benefit accrual rate has gone from 5 per cent to 4 per cent per year, twice the rate allowed in the private sector under the Income Tax Act. Once again, there was the perception in the red book that there was change whereas in actual fact there has been no real change, just a perception.
Benefits will increase with inflation, unlike 80 per cent of private plans. MPs are to collect 75 per cent of the annual salary after 19 years in office. The average Canadian has to work 35 years to collect 70 per cent of an annual salary.
The Liberals have also allowed a one time opportunity for MPs to opt out of the new plan, but MPs elected in the next election will be forced to take part in the plan. That sounds like some kind of arbitrary punishment for those of us who brought forward the whole issue of reform of our pensions.
Former MPs or senators appointed after retirement stop receiving their pensions while serving, but the benefits continue to grow.
It sounds like I have struck a chord over there. The babble starts once again when we strike a nerve over there that there is something which is not quite fair here.