Mr. Speaker, before I comment directly on Bill C-85 I remind the House it has been almost two years since the government took over office and Canada's deficit. The problem still remains unresolved.
During the last 24 hours the deficit has increased by $100 million and in the last hour the deficit has increased by $4 million. Since I began speaking the deficit has increased by about $40,000. When I an through with my remarks on the MP pension bill the deficit will have incredibly increased by about $700,000. Our country's debt stands at over $550 billion and the government has added about $100 billion to the debt over the last couple of years.
Into this kind of deficit disaster, this spending brinkmanship, the government introduced the outrageous, incredibly rich gold plated MP pension bill which government members are reluctant to debate in the House and which they certainly will not debate outside the House or across the country.
Government members should hang their heads in shame. Every member who votes for this bill, this elitist double standard bill, should be embarrassed. When MPs who support the bill go back to their ridings, how can they look their constituents straight in the eye and tell them they deserve a pension at least twice as rich as those of their constituents? For the 74 Liberal members of Parliament presently here, the trough heavies, how can they look their constituents in the eye and tell them they deserve a pension at least four times are rich as those of their constituents?
Politicians in Ottawa have created two sets of rules, one for the ruling elite and one for regular folks. A case in point recently of a double standard is the mileage allowance increase for MPs, about 12 per cent higher than is allowed in the private sector. Politicians set themselves apart, above regular folks.
I am talking about a double standard, which is really an euphemism for hypocrisy. The ultimate hypocrisy takes shape in the MP pension plan. It was an issue during the 1993 election campaign and it will grow to a major issue in the next election.
My constituents in the Yellowhead know what the federal government is doing about the gold plated pension plan and they do not like it one bit.
Sadly, the Liberal government lacks the intestinal fortitude to do the right thing and bring MP pension into line with pension plans available in the private sector. It is a double standard. Whether the Liberals want to accept it or not, we are all regular folks, just like the people who voted for us. Dignity and respect are in order for Canadians, not double standards or double talk.
There are many things hypocritical about Bill C-85, the pension bill. It allows benefits to accrue at double the rate legally allowed in the private sector under the Income Tax Act. Senior Liberal MPs, 74 of them with more than six years of service, will retain their gold plated pension and start collecting immediately on retirement regardless of age.
Seventy-four Liberal MPs even under the provisions of the bill will still receive a pension four times richer than most other Canadians'. Freshman MPs who opt into this new plan will still be part of a pension plan twice as generous as that available for most Canadians, and they can start collecting pensions at age 55. This group of MPs will also be able to collect 75 per cent of their salary after serving 19 years in office. Most Canadians have to
work 35 years to collect a pension worth 70 per cent of their final income.
It is this kind of better than thou attitude Canadians are tired of. Average folks are being asked to tighten their belts, to pay more in the form of all kinds of taxes. MPs have created an insulated world for themselves which shields them from the financial burden regular Canadians are asked to carry.
Perhaps one of the most hypocritical elements of the MP pension plan is it allows former parliamentarians who are wealthy to continue to collect an MP pension. Seniors citizens can only dream of such a system for them. These folks have to abide by the rules set by law. Any senior 65 years of age or over who has an income exceeding $53,215 must pay 15 per cent of the excess net income up to the full amount of old age security collected. In other words, seniors who cross a certain income threshold have their old age security benefits clawed back and most people would say it is fair and reasonable.
Those members who have six or more years experience can begin to collect their MP pension immediately on leaving office regardless of age. Freshmen MPs can begin collecting their MP pensions at age 55. To top it all off, former parliamentarians who are well off are not subject to any pension clawback. For some unknown reason they are put on a pedestal and are somehow deserving of every cent because they served their country.
What about the seniors who have their OAS pensions clawed back? Many of them are veterans. Most seniors helped build this country. Surely they can claim they have contributed to their country and are deserving of every cent as well. Again it is a double standard, one the public should not and will not tolerate.
To deal with this unfairness I will be introducing a private member's bill this fall which is the basis for an Amendment No. 39 to Bill C-85. Both require all former parliamentarians whether senators or MPs to have their pensions clawed back exactly the same way many seniors have their OAS benefits clawed back. This clawback would take effect immediately once the parliamentarian begins to collect his pension regardless of age. It would apply when a former member attains employment which pays him in excess of $53,215, the exact same threshold level which applies to seniors eligible to collect OAS.
I will be the first to admit such a clawback will not save the country billions of dollars. It will save the taxpayers money in the long run. That is something every member in the House should be interested in. It will help to alleviate the widespread cynicism federal politicians encounter. It will help to restore perhaps a little confidence. This is most important. It will send a signal to the long suffering taxpayers that cuts must start with those who legislate.
Why should former Tory Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who is independently wealthy, pocket $33,500 of taxpayers' dollars every year? That is his MP pension benefit and not one dime of it is clawed back. To add insult to Canadian taxpayers, Mulroney stands to collect an additional $50,000 per year in priministerial pension when he turns 65 in the year 2003. This is the man who brought the country to its knees. As the MP pension plan is laid out now none of that can be clawed back and after a member turns 60 it is all indexed.
Then there is millionaire Liberal Pierre Trudeau. With inflation protection he collects well over $100,000 per year from Canadian taxpayers. Here as well not one thin dime is clawed back.
We cannot forget some of our colleagues presently in the House. They will be the heavy troughers when they leave this place. The Deputy Prime Minister staunchly defends the obscene MP pension plan. It is no wonder, she would stand to collect about $34,000 per year if she retired today. That is almost $3 million by the time she reaches age 75. If on her retirement she gains meaningful employment or contracts from the ex-heritage minister certainly she should be susceptible to an MP pension clawback.
Then there is the leader of the Tory party. It appears we cannot get the rich blue blood out of the Tories. He has been extremely quiet about the ludicrous MP pension plan. I suspect it is because he stands to collect about $45,000 per year on retirement, with a total of $4.5 million, mostly taxpayers' money, until he reaches age 75. It is no wonder the Tory leader is silent about the MP pension plan.
Surely everyone would agree that on retirement the leader of the Tory party, the independents really, should be subject to an MP pension clawback if he earns over $53,000 per year in the private sector.
It is unfair to ask seniors in a certain wage category to give a portion of their pensions if former parliamentarians who fall under the same wage category do not have to give back a portion of their incredibly rich pensions.
I sincerely hope all members of this House will give careful consideration to amendment No. 39 under Bill C-85, which calls for an MP pension clawback to well off former parliamentarians. There cannot be two sets of government imposed rules, one for seniors collecting pensions and one for MPs collecting pensions. It is undemocratic, unfair, and just not right.