Mr. Speaker, if someone is inconsistent in this House, it is certainly not anyone on this side. I do not see where the consistency is in saying-especially with respect to the Canada Pension Plan which, we will recall, provides benefits to people with disabilities of all kinds-that individuals who are denied benefits will have to appeal. It is stated in the bill that the minister may stay payment of any benefit until the later of the following dates.
How can those people who are often disadvantaged because they have problems getting around and defending their case, because they have to hire someone to help them-people who will now be expected to appeal if they are convinced they qualify, knowing that, if they are wrong, the law requires that they repay-how can they, on top of everything, be deprived of benefits while they have to defend themselves? It makes no sense.
This is beyond me. If there is someone who does not understand, it is not one of us. Examine actual cases and then try and look us straight in the face and tell us that benefits should be stayed, even though the legislation clearly provides for benefits to be repaid. The pensioners who will appeal are those who are sure they have a good case. But if they do not receive benefits during that time, chances are that people will not appeal because they are unable to do so. It does not make any sense to me. It makes no sense and this so-called Liberal government should examine this point closely before adopting this clause.
The clause reads as follows: "Where a decision is made by a Review Tribunal in respect to a benefit"-so there was a benefit to start with-"the Minister may stay payment of the benefit until the later of-"
This means that those to whom benefits are denied or cut will probably have to go on welfare and rely on the welfare plan in their province. In some places, single individuals get something like $250. When a handicapped person who has to pay a helper loses his or her benefits and is told to wait until the very end, at which time he or she will get benefits, this is absolutely inconsistent and illogical; it makes no sense but, more importantly, it shows a total lack of compassion.
I urge Liberal members to look at this legislation closely and not from a partisan point of view. We, on this side, certainly did not debate the issue on a partisan basis. We work for those who are the least able to take care of themselves. This is how we have to consider this issue. We took a close look at the amendment proposed by the Reform Party and we agree with part of it. However, we do not agree with the part which provides that the minister must wait, even if he is convinced that an amount should be remitted because an administrative error was made. We feel that those who suffer the prejudice should not have to wait.
In any case, the amendment proposed by the Reform Party did not remove the minister's discretionary power, since the motion only refers to a recommendation. That could only adversely affect the people concerned, since the minister still had discretionary power. I am answering the hon. member, because we always enjoy debating the substance of these issues, but that proposal does not make sense. The fact is that, if we look at all these provisions and amendments, which are supposed to be technical, we realize that this bill will significantly change the relationship between the elderly, the handicapped and families, on the one hand, and the state, on the other hand. This is what this legislation is about.
It seems to me that we are all trying to protect the interests of our fellow citizens. At the same time, we realize that the system must include some protection. However, that protection must not be provided at the expense of the public. We must not set the whole system against the public. To deprive people of the means to defend themselves when they risk losing their meagre benefits, is certainly not consistent with social fairness, accountability or good government. No. The government is trying to save money on the backs of Canadians, by not explicitly providing them with the right to appeal, a right which is theirs.
One must have worked with people who had to fight the system, whether as regards occupational safety and health issues, or eligibility to disability benefits, to measure the enormous challenge which these people face, given how hard it is for them to provide the required evidence. Consequently, there is no reason to come up with such a provision, in addition to all the other changes proposed in this bill to favour the system, at the expense of the public. To be sure, this is not a legislation which the Liberals can be proud of.