House of Commons Hansard #213 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.


Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have two short questions for the hon. member opposite.

Currently, there is no provision concerning the surplus of over $30 billion in the funds' current accounts. With this bill, is the government trying to do exactly what it did with the surpluses accumulated in the employment insurance fund?

Does the government want to repeat what it did and use the surplus in the public service pension plan for the same purposes?

I would like to hear the hon. member opposite on this and I may then have other questions for him.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for her question. Of course there is no real analogy to the EI fund as it exists. As members know, it was a decision of the auditor general back in 1986 to have that fund put into the consolidated revenue fund of the Government of Canada.

I think it is important to note that Bill C-78 is a strengthened bill that will enable us to move forward as a government in a very positive and meaningful way. It will ensure that pensioners and people looking forward to that income will be able to enjoy it in a way that is in their best interests and those of their families. I think it is important to note that they will not have to pay any more, nor will they have to pay any less.

It is important that we proceed with Bill C-78. It is an important piece of legislation which will ensure that Canadians on pensions will find the resources necessary to carry on with the quality of life necessary for their circumstances.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to go back to the membership of the committee.

I do not know if the hon. member comes from a riding where there are many union members, but I want to ask him how he feels about the membership of that committee, on which unions members would not truly be represented, and on which pensioners would not be represented by a majority.

I find that the membership of that committee is tantamount to the minister telling people “I will do as I have always done. I will strike committees and appoint people who are on my side through a bogus process”.

I would like to hear the hon. member on this point.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I think it is important to keep in mind and keep in perspective that the pension advisory committee and board, as the hon. member refers to it, will in fact be a much strengthened committee. It will underscore the commitment of the government to ensure that men and women from across Canada are placed in that position, to listen to all sides and make recommendations which are important to people who need that kind of advice and who are looking forward to that ability to give it.

I say to the hon. member that as usual, we on the government side will ensure that qualified people will be sitting on that committee and will offer the kind of assistance that is necessary for Canadians wherever they may live to ensure that their voices are heard and that the right thing at the end of the day is done on behalf of those people.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, Bill C-78, what an incredible piece of legislation brought forward by the Liberal government. I could not believe it when I first saw it. It seemed more like a page out of MAD magazine rather than serious legislation.

This bill will allow the tax and spend Liberal government to seize the money for more government spending which is currently held by public sector pension plans both now and in the future. A new government appointed—not necessarily qualified, just appointed—pension board with no employee representation will get to manage the funds. The board will operate without the scrutiny of the auditor general or parliament and will be exempt from access to information laws.

In addition to seizing the surpluses in the employee pension plans, this bill will also see the government increasing the employee contributions. If these pension plans have a shortfall in the future when the surplus has been spent or when the funds have been mismanaged, the good old Canadian taxpayer gets to make up the shortfall.

All this is crazy enough, but there is more. In order to appease the justifiably upset pension plan members, the government's bill states that “survivor benefits are extended to an expanded class of beneficiaries”. It looks good from a distance, Madam Speaker, but before you trade in your old reliable car on the new improved model, take a closer look. Look past the flashy paint job and you will find that on the new model the tires are flat, the engine will not even idle and it is full of electrical shorts. The new improved model does not even run.

Bill C-78 proposes to extend pension survivor benefits not only to married couples but also to include couples who cohabit in a relationship of a conjugal nature. The words survivor or survivors replace all 249 references to spouse, wives, widow in the current legislation.

In Bill C-78, pension benefits of the contributor will be paid to the survivor. The definition of a survivor depends on the term “a relationship of a conjugal nature”, that is, the survivor must be in a relationship of a conjugal nature with the contributor to qualify as a survivor. This is where it starts to get strange. Nowhere is this critical term “a relationship of a conjugal nature” defined in the bill. Yet other than married, survivor eligibility depends on it.

Without defining this term, Bill C-78 survivor benefit provisions will be subject to claims from individuals in all manner of relationships which they deem to be of a conjugal nature. If any two roommates regardless of gender who have lived together for at least a year qualify for survivor benefits, the cost of the plan could greatly increase and the good old Canadian taxpayer will be picking up the tab.

What does conjugal mean? I looked it up. The Canadian Law Dictionary , third edition states that conjugal rights are “the rights of married persons, which include the intimacies of domestic relations”. The Concise Oxford Dictionary , ninth edition, states that conjugate means to unite sexually. To the extent that conjugal means having sexual relations, one wonders how the government intends to verify that the relationship is indeed conjugal in nature.

The profound irony here is that the party of Pierre Trudeau who was famous for stating that the government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation would now put forward a bill that seems to call for the establishment of some sort of government conjugality or sexual activity test or inspectors.

Perhaps it is proposing that some report be filed or a sign-off by both people. Maybe it could just be added to the Statistics Canada questions. Lord knows, they ask for every other kind of personal information. No doubt, someone would get the bright idea not only to report frequency but maybe quality. We could compare ourselves with the Swedes. We could boost Viagra sales. The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Interestingly, we do not have this problem with married couples, because there is a legal recognition of their life commitment. No conjugality assessment is required. This is probably a good thing, particularly for MPs with the hours we keep and the time away from home. I do not know about all of the other members, but I am sure this lifestyle does not necessarily have a positive effect on the conjugality component of our marriages.

How do these other relationships gain recognition as conjugal? Is it just because they say so? How many roommates will claim conjugality in order to get survivor benefits? What will the cost be? If taxpayers are backstopping the entire plan, should they not be informed?

There appears to be nothing stopping one from being in a conjugal relationship with more than one person. If a person cohabits with more than one person and they are “conjugal” with them all, it appears they would qualify for survivor benefits under Bill C-78. They all would. Conversely two roommates, the same sex or otherwise, who are close and maybe share expenses, but do not have intimate physical relations, do they qualify for survivor benefits? If not, why not?

Are people included or excluded based on private physical intimacy? Is this the new policy of the party that said the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation? The more one thinks about it, the goofier it gets to tie survivor pension eligibility for relationships outside of marriage on the conjugality of the relationship.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would appreciate it if the hon. member addressed the bill. Right now he is all over the map.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

In my opinion this is not a point of order.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly this is Bill C-78 and I am quoting directly from the bill. I do not understand the hon. member's comments.

The more one thinks about this as I said, the goofier it gets. To tie survivor pension eligibility for relationships outside of marriage to the conjugality of the relationship without defining what that means or how conjugality will be assessed, who is included or excluded and on what basis, makes the whole terms and the whole test meaningless. Essentially anything goes.

There was one little ray of light. Somebody was thinking and there is one thing they did pick up on. The only thing they seem to have limited for survivor benefits is when the survivor is found to be criminally responsible for the death of the contributor. No survivor benefits will be paid in that situation.

I have seen some strange things done in the land of the Ottawa sun, but this bill is a blatant grab for unaccountable control of the surplus of the public sector pension fund. It is increasing employee contributions and extending survivor benefits using inappropriate and undefined terms and then placing all this mess on the back of the Canadian taxpayer to bankroll. The eventual screw-ups will be a wonder to behold.

The capper will be when every Liberal member, many of whom I respect in other circumstances, will dutifully vote in support of such an outrageous blank cheque on the taxpayers' account.

I can see that you, Madam Speaker, are as awestruck as I am. It is in that condition that I will take my seat.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I liked the beginning of my reform colleague's speech. He said we had to ensure the long term viability of the system and that it could be done while respecting the thousands of Canadian and Quebec workers who paid into the plan. I agree. He also said he found it suspicious that this act will not be audited by the Auditor General of Canada.

I would like my colleague to elaborate on that. I would also ask him if he could draw a parallel between the treatment of the EI fund by the federal government and what it intends to do with the public service pension plan.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly I did say in my speech that we do not know if this board that is intended to be appointed is qualified for managing funds. They are just appointed.

It will be required to have an auditor but that auditor is in no way connected to the auditor general. These funds that now have the scrutiny of the auditor general, that have public reporting on how they are managed, will be hidden from public view and the view of the pensioners perhaps. This is tragic. This is similar to the EI scenario we saw this government use earlier to remove accountability from the public arena. It is wrong and it is part of the lunacy of this bill.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Garry Breitkreuz Reform Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, if we dress up a thief in a three-piece suit and tie and put him behind a desk and elect him to office and give him a fancy title, is he still not a thief?

We have seen the unemployment insurance fund being raided by government. It should be an insurance fund, but the government has turned it into another tax to go into its general revenues. The surplus in that EI fund is supposed to be $20 billion but there is no fund. The money is not in the fund. It has been spent.

Now with Bill C-78 we have the government looking to raid the public service pensions, take the money in the fund and use it just like all other tax revenues. This is robbery.

Just because the Liberal government ministers are confiscating the money, taking the money that has been collected from civil servants and using it like any other tax money collected by government does not change the fact that it is theft. And we know what someone who commits a theft is called.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Eric C. Lowther Reform Calgary Centre, AB

Madam Speaker, I cannot agree more with the intent of the question. Absolutely correct. This bill as I said in my opening comments was more like a page out of MAD magazine than a serious piece of legislation.

Public Sector Pension Investment Board ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Réginald Bélair Liberal Timmins—James Bay, ON

moved that Bill C-453, an act to regulate the issue of ceremonial statements of service and recognition of duty, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, first I would like to thank the member for London—Fanshawe for seconding my bill and for believing in what I am about to say.

This bill proposes that a certificate of service and duty be issued to all war veterans who, for one reason or another, do not carry tangible evidence of their service in war time for their country. This is a bit of an aberration.

The reason I am saying this is that for the 20 years I have been actively involved in federal politics, I have, on many occasions, encountered veterans who were frustrated to see that those who fought on the front or took a direct part in a conflict are carrying a health card that they cherish.

The reason they do is because they have something tangible that they can show, that they can leave to their descendants, proving that they risked their life so that we, their juniors, would always have our freedom and all our democratic rights.

The purpose of this certificate, which would take the form of a laminated card, like a credit card, would simply be to acknowledge that the bearer participated in a conflict.

Who would be eligible? First of all, veterans who went to the front, obviously; then, members of civilian groups that supported the Canadian armed forces, such as the Red Cross. Also eligible would be members of the merchant marine, who were recognized last year for their military participation during World War II. Other candidates would include members of UN peacekeeping missions and any other civilians who participated directly in a war or armed conflict.

I introduced this bill for the specific purpose of letting our veterans know that we greatly appreciate what they did during these extremely difficult times. Just like those with health cards, these persons were thirsty, afraid, hungry, cold, and just as courageous as those who were wounded, except that they were not fortunate enough, as it were, to earn that distinction and be able to carry this small card.

This is a non-partisan and apolitical private member's bill. I appeal to the common sense of all members of the House to pass this bill.

In my discussions with them, I made it clear that there was no question of any compensation. This was a concern for the great majority of them. There is no compensation involved; this is simply a certificate recognizing participation.

It is not the policy of the federal government, the Department of Veteran Affairs or the Department of National Defence to give compensation to those who were not injured during these conflicts.

How many people are we talking about? All in all, we are talking about approximately 600,000 people who had some form of involvement in these conflicts, including 450,000 veterans, between 120,000 and 130,000 peacekeepers who served with units dispatched to maintain peace in various countries, and about 5,000 others, including nurses and Red Cross staff, who would be eligible for this card.

Who would issue these certificates? The Department of Veteran Affairs, obviously. It would approve the application made by the person who took part in the conflict or by a descendant in cases where the person is deceased. That is how the certificates would be issued.

In conclusion, Bill C-453 is relatively simple, non-partisan and apolitical. I am proud to introduce this bill in the House today so that I can promote it and ensure that all those who took part in a conflict on behalf of Canada are recognized, and not just a chosen few.

Such recognition is long overdue, and I sincerely hope the opposition parties will support this bill at second reading stage.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Peter Goldring Reform Edmonton East, AB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to contribute to this debate and commend the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay for bringing this issue to the House.

This is a non-votable matter, illustrating yet once again how it may be preferable that all business in the House be votable. The reason that all House business should be votable is that many important legislative initiatives come from individual members rather than from the government of the day.

We know from recent media commentary on House business that well thought out legislative initiatives may be procedurally scuttled by the government of the day based simply on the fact that it is the private member rather than the government or its ministers who is credited.

If the efforts of individual members are non-votable, what transpires in the House is more of a discussion than a debate with the advantage that there is no need for position entrenchment. We are able despite our differences in political outlook to arrive at a consensus as to a direction that is generally positive and of benefit to Canadians. We may also air our differences without the rancour and partisanship that often accompany political posturing.

In the end the Hansard record acts as a permanent reference to a moment in Canadian history when a particular issue of merit was debated by members. It is up to us to make Canadians aware of the importance of what goes on in this place. Much is discussed that becomes fertile ground for historians 20 and 50 years hence but goes largely unnoticed by the contemporary Canadian populace.

The issues before us today go to the heart of respect for our history, the need to acknowledge service to Canada and the need to counter historical revisionism which denies that war is an imperative to historical progress. I wish we had a vote on today's issue although I would have to oppose it.

Why should the bill introduced by the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay be votable? It is because it raises the issue of ceremonial recognition of veteran and civilian contributions to Canada's war efforts. I would argue that any such recognition should not be generally given but rather limited to those who actually served in war.

In terms of recent developments in the House concerning our merchant navy, even those who served in war had to wait some 50 years before being accorded ceremonial recognition simply because they were not enlisted members of Canada's armed forces during World War II.

It may be said that during the two world wars some Canadians who contributed to Canada's war effort were not ceremonially recognized. In terms of subsequent conflicts it may be said that many Canadians have contributed to our peacekeeping efforts and that not all are ceremonially recognized.

In introducing this legislation last November, the member for Timmins—James Bay described his motivation as having to do with the fact that over the years he had met veterans on numerous occasions who had nothing to show for their participation in world conflicts. They may have been awarded service medals but one does not carry medals on a day to day basis. They may have been given lapel pins but some regard such pins as ostentatious regalia.

As I understand it, what the hon. member proposes is a certificate comparable to a wallet size health card that wounded veterans are now able to show to interested persons, much like a wallet snapshot. In the case of the health card, it becomes a snapshot of past life of valour. For those who were not wounded in conflict there is no comparable snapshot to show someone and say “I was a veteran of this conflict and stand before you today as someone who has personally contributed to the defence of Canada's interest”.

The bill however is flawed. First it is out of date. If the member would take a look at subsection 2(c) he would notice that it refers to the merchant navy under the old legislation. With the passing of Bill C-61 they will now be full status war veterans.

The idea of giving ceremonial recognition to those who contributed to Canada's war efforts is a noble one and worth exploring, but we must not be in too much of a hurry. The bill as it currently stands is too broad and will diminish the contribution of those who gave the most while elevating those who played a less important role.

At this moment the war in Kosovo is expanding in what many would regard as disturbing directions. Some have argued that Kosovo should more properly provide NATO with an opportunity to reassess its purposes and objectives. Yet a few short years ago our soldiers were addressing peacekeeping issues in Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia. Many of these soldiers are no longer in active service.

It was only in the last parliament that the creation of a medal for service in Somalia was accepted by the House based on a private member's initiative, that of Mr. Jack Frazer, the former hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and the predecessor to current veterans affairs critic of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition.

Would it not enhance our sense of history and military service to Canada and the world if all such persons were able to carry a wallet size certificate acknowledging their service? In this regard I am pleased to report to the House that subsequent to inquiries by my office of the War Amputations Canada, Mr. Clifford Chadderton, chief executive officer, communicated to me as follows:

The proposal to issue a ceremonial statement recognizing individual contributions to Canada's war effort should have far- reaching effect. Traditionally, veterans have been reluctant to speak about their military service. The issuance of a ceremonial statement of service may well serve as encouragement, so that future generations will know what veterans and other members of the military have done to preserve our freedom. However, as has been noted, the legislation is inclusive, rather than exclusive, through also permitting the ceremonial recognition of civilian contributions to Canada's war and peacekeeping efforts. I feel this is too broad a stroke to make.

Mr. Chadderton supports recognizing veterans and members of the military, but the bill has much more in mind. In section 3 it would allow any person who believes he or she helped Canada in a significant way in a war or armed conflict in which Canada took part or a veteran received recognition.

Does an armed conflict mean journalists covering the Oka crisis can get a statement of service? Under this piece of legislation it indicates that. All it would require is the individuals' belief and they would get the recognition. They do not even have to be on the conflict side of the ocean.

Would members of the House who stood to speak about the Kosovo crisis believe they are worthy of official recognition for their contributions to peacekeeping?

Imagine how insignificant its true meaning would be. Under clause 3(2) any spouse or descendant can apply for a deceased person. Technically somebody could get certificates for their great-grandparents with respect to the war of 1812.

We can easily see there are some flaws. I have some serious questions as an individual. This has helped to formulate my opinion on this. I am sure we could think of other examples that are worth asking about.

One last analogy which came to mind on reviewing this bill is my own family. My elderly father who just passed away operated a factory in Toronto which supplied war materials during World War II. Was that a contribution to the war effort? Should he receive a certificate on my mother making application? Is this the same certificate that somebody would have who was actually engaged in the fighting?

With this in mind, I have to decline my support. I realize and respect the initiative. I believe this would be a much more commendable and worthwhile initiative if it focused on Canada's military. I want to thank the member for his initiative, but unfortunately I have to decline my support.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, it is also a pleasure for me to take part in this debate and I hope that the few comments I will make will be a positive contribution.

It is a very good idea to propose to reward or even only to recognize the service of certain persons during an armed conflict.

Of course I agree with the hon. member from the Reform Party that this would not make a big difference for our veterans, whose service is already recognized under the act, which, incidentally, now gives merchant sailors the same privileges as them.

But, many other persons distinguished themselves by their battle exploits or simple acts of courage or voluntary work. These are recognized with medals like the governor general medals, but for various reasons, there are other anonymous persons who would not qualify for such medals.

I think for example of a person who, during a war, would have taken a group of soldiers in for a few days to hide them from the enemy, protect them, feed them or treat their wounds. We know that many people did that during world wars.

They are not necessarily Canadians. They could be foreigners. In World War II, for example, Canadian soldiers on campaign in Normandy were taken in by French men and women who fed them and tended to their wounds. We should recognize not only Canadians, but extend that recognition to other persons as well.

What is more important in life than being recognized by one's peers? Those who work as volunteers never do it for money or other financial considerations, but rather for the love of the cause they believe in or for the sake of those they love.

Usually, these people do not ask for recognition, but when they do get it, they are both pleased and honoured. It is a bit like an honorary degree. When a university or a school decides to recognize, on the basis of merit, the action, experience, know-how, dedication or expertise of a person who is not one of its graduates, it awards this person an honorary degree.

Many people would deserve the same kind of recognition for their service at war or in humanitarian causes.

People are not asking for any kind of compensation, and the bill says so. Those who would receive a ceremonial statement could not expect any compensation, benefit, or financial consideration. The only purpose of the statement would be simply to recognize people for their effort, work, dedication, volunteer work or outstanding feats during a conflict in which Canada was taking part.

This does not entail any financial commitment. We not need pass any financial motion and the finance minister does not have to figure out how much it would cost. My understanding is that the bill introduced by the hon. member for Timmins—Baie-James is simply intended to provide some official recognition to those who deserve it because they served their country and their fellow citizens.

I am happy to support this bill. Although it is not votable, I hope that the comments and thoughts shared during the debate will bring the government to reflect on this and come back later with a votable bill this time.

As regards the concerns of the hon. member of the Reform Party about the bill being too broad, not addressing such and such point, or about the form this recognition would take, we can see that the bill grants the minister enough discretion.

Like any other good bill, this bill could be followed by regulations established by the minister. These regulations could define more precisely in what circumstances and according to what criteria the government could recognize that the actions of a citizen entitle this person to a ceremonial certificate of service.

This certificate should not be a mere piece of paper. It should not be the kind that anyone can get. Otherwise, it would not mean anything. This certificate would be proof that the actions of a veteran were really extraordinary and special. It should be a document that is not easily obtainable.

The specifics could be covered in regulations. I do not believe it is necessary to put everything in the bill. The more you put in a bill, the higher the risks of making a mistake and leaving out certain circumstances.

This bill deserves support in order to show these people who are still living quiet lives, unnoticed, that Canada, the country to which they have made a great contribution, Canadians, Quebeckers, are all grateful to them and acknowledge their contribution and their work.

We would like the world to know about it. We would like to see an official gesture showing that these persons have earned recognition of their fellow citizens, not just a few lines in a weekend newspaper or a little thank you when we happen to meet them. We would like to say that they deserve our gratitude and that we are pleased to set this recognition out in an official document called a ceremonial statement.

Once again, I congratulate the Hon member for Timmins—James Bay for preparing a bill like this. I trust that it will receive the greatest possible support in the days and weeks to come.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, we on this side of the House wish to thank the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay for bringing this bill to the House for debate. Any time we talk about veterans it is very good.

I rise in support of this bill which would provide ceremonial statements of recognition to those who have helped Canada in a significant way in a war or armed conflict in which Canada took part. There are many veterans and civilians who have contributed much to this country through their efforts during wartime who are owed a debt of gratitude from all Canadians. It would provide one opportunity to show our respect to so many Canadians, many of whom still fight for the recognition they deserve from this government.

I think of those who served with the Mackenzie—Papineau Battalion fighting fascism in Spain. Those brave Canadians have fought long and hard to get the recognition they deserve from a Liberal government that would rather act as though they did not even exist.

Recognition should also be given to the many who served with the segregated No. 2 Construction Battalion in World War I. There are also many aboriginal veterans who have been terribly mistreated by the Canadian government who deserve recognition for their efforts in the two world wars and in the Korean war.

I am pleased that my New Democratic colleague, the hon. member for Regina—Qu'Appelle, is working to right this historical wrong. I do wish there was capacity in this bill to right a couple of terrible misdeeds of the Liberal government.

While this bill speaks of issuing ceremonial statements, it is sometimes essential to go beyond statements of recognition.

The Liberal government has turned its back on the Canadian veterans condemned by the Gestapo in the Buchenwald Nazi concentration camp. The issue at hand is the seeking of reparations by Canadian veterans who are members of the Koncentration-Lager-Buchenwald Club. Out of 15 countries with veterans condemned to Nazi concentration camps instead of POW camps, Canada sits alone in not having reached a proper resolution. We on this side of the House believe that is absolutely shameful.

After years of presenting their case for compensation to deaf ears in Ottawa, these veterans were presented cheques of barely over $1,000 each. This compensation is nothing short of a disgrace. One of the veterans, Mr. Bill Gibson, wrote “refused” across the cheque and sent it back.

I just wish there were some way in this bill to force the government to do the right thing and provide just compensation for these veterans and successfully complete negotiations with the German government to ensure a proper resolution is reached.

As well, I wish this legislation could redress the enormous injustice done to Canada's merchant mariners. On November 24, 1998 in the House of Commons my hon. colleague from Halifax West asked the Minister of Veterans Affairs to finally commit to a just settlement with Canada's merchant marine.

The government has seen fit to provide an ex gratia payment to Hong Kong veterans who were Japanese prisoners of war of $23,940 each. This payment was promised just last December and strikes me as at least an effort to achieve a just settlement.

It is simply a disgrace that the government has betrayed Canada's merchant mariners by refusing to compensate them for the discrimination the merchant mariners faced upon their return home from serving in Canada's war effort.

There are a great many Canadians who have done so much for our country and who have not had the recognition they deserve. I trust the government will support the bill, allowing for all of them some of the recognition that is due.

If I may also say on a more personal note, on behalf of my mother and father and my oldest brother Arnold who were rescued and liberated by the Canadian veterans, who are here with us today, and the many others who have already passed on, thank you. To all the veterans of that time, to all the current military personnel who are fighting for freedom of our country and for liberation of free people around the world, my entire family will forever honour the statement, lest we forget.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

David Price Progressive Conservative Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak on Private Member's Bill C-453, entitled an act to regulate the issue of ceremonial statements of service and recognition of duty.

It is a fitting tribute to the unsung heroes of Canada's past wars. The member should be applauded for bringing this bill forward.

The purpose of the bill is to enable the Minister of Veterans Affairs to issue a ceremonial certificate of service to any veteran or person who in the opinion of the minister helped Canada in a significant way in a war or armed conflict in which Canada took part.

It is important for the Government of Canada to say thank you to Canadians. In our hearts we honour you for your service to this country and your fellow Canadians at a time of peril.

I am also pleased to see that the merchant navy war veterans were included. My colleagues, the hon. member for Saint John and Senator J. Michael Forrestall and Senator Jack Marshall, have worked long and hard to help these brave Canadians.

Sadly, during the second world war 80 merchant ships were lost. There were 1,509 merchant mariners killed and 198 captured. The merchant navy suffered a higher rate of casualty than any other service.

The Government of Canada on May 19, 1941 by order in council P.C. 14/3550 stated: “The merchant marine on which our seaborne commerce depends, is, under present conditions, virtually an arm of our fighting services, and the provision of merchant seamen, their training, care and protection is essential to the proper conduct of the war, and vitally necessary to keeping open of the sea lanes on which the successful outcome of the present conflict so largely depends”.

After November 1942 merchant seamen were officially called the Canadian Merchant Navy. Merchant mariners were treated as prisoners of war by the multinational agreement after 1942. Merchant mariners were subject to military law under admiralty orders and discipline by the navy JAG. Merchant seamen were subject to the “sail or jail” order by order in council P.C. 4751, the merchant seaman order of 1941, and P.C. 4312, the merchant seamen foreign jurisdiction order of 1944.

There are an estimated 2,400 merchant navy veterans left and that number is rapidly declining. They must be recognized for their war service. My party and I are hoping for compensation for these men and their families after years of neglect.

We hope that the government will move forward immediately with compensation. The recognition of their services and other services to Canada in time of war has been limited. This bill would give further recognition to war veterans who have been marginalized and forgotten. I think it is important recognition for all of our veterans.

I have to say that the government has made another good move just recently. I had the pleasure of attending a ceremony two weeks ago for the John McCrae Medal, a medal brought out this year for veterans of the first world war, recognizing that it has been 80 years since that war.

In my riding there is a gentleman who is 102 years old who received this medal. He fought in both the first world war and the second world war. Also on hand for the ceremony was the Lieutenant-Governor of Quebec who read a letter from the Queen.

Recognition like this is important, not just for the veterans themselves, but for all of their families who attend these ceremonies.

In summary, this is a very simple bill. Thus, on behalf of my party, I support the bill.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Madam Speaker, I am always pleased to have an opportunity to speak about the contributions that are made by the men and women of this country, who since Confederation have answered the call to service whenever their nation has asked.

Except for Veterans Week or perhaps during debate on a bill, we do not often get the opportunity to speak to the sacrifices made by our forefathers and mothers in time of need and in time of war. Therefore, I thank the hon. member for presenting us with such an opportunity today.

This bill suggests ceremonial certificates for those who contributed significantly to Canada in a time of war or armed conflict. Although the bill presents several logistical and other concerns, it seems to me that its intent is all about remembrance and acknowledgement of sacrifice.

We who live in Ottawa and work on Parliament Hill are reminded of that sacrifice every day as we walk past the magnificent war memorial on the way to work. On May 21 this year it will be the 60th anniversary of its unveiling by His Majesty King George VI. One hundred thousand people showed up on that day, six decades ago, to witness the dedication. His opening words were “The memorial speaks to her world of Canada's heart”.

Surely that is what this nation has done in two world wars, in Korea and in peacekeeping missions around the world. We spoke with our hearts and said no to tyranny and enslavement.

We who live in Ottawa and work on Parliament Hill are fortunate to be able to visit the memorial chamber in the Peace Tower to see the magnificent books of remembrance, books that contain the names of Canadians who fought in wars and died either during or after them. They commemorate the lives of the 114,710 Canadians who died since Confederation because of service to their country in battle outside Canada. They remain testaments to our past, for by their very title the books remind us never to forget the foundations of courage on which Canada is built.

Now, through the wonders of technology, Canadians can log on to the Internet to see for themselves the same pages which members of the House have the privilege of accessing in person.

We who live in Ottawa and work on Parliament Hill are reminded that it was not just the soldier, the sailor, or the pilot who risked their lives and shed blood; we are also reminded every time we walk by the nursing sisters' memorial located in the Hall of Honour in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill.

It tells the story of unyielding women who braved all the hardships of war to do their duty and serve their patients, and of those who nursed the casualties left in the wake of war. Every soldier who fell wounded by bullet or bayonet would often wake and the first person he would see would be the face of a nursing sister who bound up his wounds and soothed his fears. They truly were angels of mercy that no veteran would ever forget.

Of course, people do not have to live and work in Ottawa or on Parliament Hill to see memorials and reminders of sacrifice. In towns and cities across the nation are statues and monuments raised in praise and remembrance of those who paid with their very lives to uphold the values we hold so very dear in this country.

Of course, not all monuments are of steel and stone. We have a wonderful tradition in the provinces to name many of our mountains, rivers and lakes in honour of individuals who made the ultimate sacrifice. So in the natural beauty of this nation their names and our history are memorialized in perpetuity.

Canadians are also well recognized overseas. Unlike our American cousins, we have a tradition, like many of our Commonwealth neighbours, of burying our war dead near where they fell. To follow the contributions of Canada's veterans we need only to visit the cemeteries that are filled with simple headstones, laid out row on row across the landscape of Europe and the Far East.

We need only to see the great monuments at Vimy or Beaumont Hamel, at Cassino in Italy, Sai Wan Bay in Hong Kong, or Naechon in Korea to appreciate that our war dead are not forgotten. We need only to talk to the people and to the children and the grandchildren of those nations we helped liberate to understand that these Canadians will never be forgotten.

Those of us who have been fortunate enough to travel with veterans overseas on a pilgrimage have only to watch the expression in the eyes of a veteran when a child approaches. A flower, a kiss on the cheek and a thank you from a little one brings a tear to the eye and a true understanding of the notion of gratitude to anyone who witnesses such a scene, and the knowledge that these Canadians live on in the hearts and minds of generations of grateful citizens the world over.

At the dedication of the war memorial 60 years ago, His Majesty concluded with the following:

This memorial, however, does more than commemorate a great event in the past. It has a message for all generations and for all countries—the message which called for Canada's response. Not by chance both the crowning figures of peace and freedom appear side by side. Peace and freedom cannot be long separated. It is well that we have, in one of the world capitals, a visible reminder of so great a truth. Without freedom there can be no enduring peace, and without peace no enduring freedom.

We will always remember those who have gone on before, and as we pray today for the safety of our service men and women in Yugoslavia and for freedom for those who have none, we would do well to remember those words.

As I said earlier, Bill C-453 is all about remembrance and I applaud the member for Timmins—James Bay for his efforts on behalf of Canada's veterans.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Réginald Bélair Liberal Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to say that I have accomplished a lot here today in the sense that four parties out of five recognize that indeed this is a very good initiative. There have been comments both positive and negative. I recognize also that in some instances the bill may be too vague and too open to interpretation.

Nothing says that in the future I will not bring it back. I repeat that this is a non-partisan bill. It is apolitical. Next time around I will ensure that individual members of parliament are given a second chance to reflect upon the value of the bill in order to recognize once and for all those from near or far who participated in world armed conflicts.

It should be a votable item. As all the members have mentioned one after another, it is not often enough that in this country we recognize the merits of those who went overseas to participate in war on our behalf, to preserve our liberties and our democracy, and not those who participated in a support manner and, as the parliamentary secretary has said, in many different ways. These people feel extremely important. They are proud of what they have done for this country and somehow they need to be recognized.

It is in this sense that some time in the future, maybe next parliament if there is a prorogation, I will bring the bill back. I am deeply convinced that good sense will prevail and that individual members of parliament will recognize its merits and will vote for it.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

As no other member wishes to participate in the debate and the motion was not selected as a votable item, the time provided for consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the item is dropped from the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:10 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, on March 11 of this year, I asked the secretary of state responsible for agriculture a question regarding shipbuilding, but I got an answer from the Minister of Industry instead.

I remind members that the Secretary of State for Agriculture and Agri-Food and Fisheries and Oceans is also the member for Bellechasse—Etchemins—Montmagny—L'Islet and that his riding is next to mine.

When there were 3,000 workers at the Lévis shipyard, 500 of them came from his riding. A lot of people from his riding have individually or collectively reminded him of that. I honestly think that the secretary of state responsible for agriculture, who is also a cabinet member, has tried to convince his cabinet colleagues to adopt a new shipbuilding policy.

I have noticed that other members in the House have tried to do certain things too, including the Minister of Labour who, recently, commissioned a study on the status of shipyards in Atlantic Canada.

Recently, I have seen a certain openness on the part of these two people. Being a member of the industry committee, I have also noticed recently a certain openness on the part of the Liberal majority, which accepted to include shipbuilding in a productivity study, and I am very happy about that. I obviously would have liked something more specific, broader, but it is an opening.

However, the Minister of Industry failed to be as open. Yet recently, he said “If the member for Lévis-et-Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has something to propose, other than grants, I will agree to examine it”.

That is exactly what I did on April 15 when I introduced, like my colleague opposite did a while ago, a private member's bill, which may come up for debate.

People are mobilizing all over, and support has come from the Liberal Premier of New Brunswick, Camille Thériault, who has asked to meet the Prime Minister of Canada. This follows on the fact that his predecessor, Mr. McKenna, had put the same issue on the agenda of a first ministers' conference two years ago. Even activists in the Liberal Party of Canada, people from the Atlantic, managed to have a similar position approved.

When, once again, will there be real policy on shipbuilding with additional measures that will make Canadian shipyards more competitive?

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the hon. member from Lévis has given me the opportunity once again to speak to the subject of shipbuilding.

The federal government acknowledges the important contribution the marine industry makes to our national economy. The hon. member is well aware of the generous package of measures the federal government provides, which in conjunction with provincial policies and sound industrial practices benefits shipbuilders.

This package includes an accelerated capital cost allowance which many industries would like to have, a duty on ship imports, a domestic procurement for all government shipbuilding and ship repair needs, Export Development Corporation financing, and a very favourable research and development tax credit system.

Despite this support the industry continues to face considerable challenges in international markets. For instance, at the December 1997 OECD workshop on shipbuilding policies it was reported that a substantial overcapacity exists. In fact the estimate for 2005 is 40%.

The Canadian shipbuilding sector went through a voluntary industry led rationalization process in which the government participated by contributing nearly $200 million. Through the reorganization and streamlining of its operations over the past decade, the Canadian industry has been able to improve its productivity levels.

Concerning shipbuilding in Quebec, the federal government invested almost $1.6 billion in Davey Industries during the period of 1983 to 1996 in the form of contracts, contributions and loan guarantees. Moreover, commercial arrangements by the Export Development Corporation are currently moving forward to provide additional support to this company through a loan guarantee on the Spirit of Columbus .

In summary, substantial support has been provided to the shipbuilding industry in the past and we continue to support it through a variety of initiatives. If provinces wish to supplement our initiatives, as has been done by Quebec and Nova Scotia, they are free to do so.

Issue Of Ceremonial Statements Of Service ActAdjournment Proceedings

6:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.18 p.m.)