Madam Speaker, I might suggest coming from a House leader, I think we could probably wind up this debate. I want to make a few comments to capsulize what we have been saying with regard to Bill C-37.
To remind people who may be channel surfing and watching this ordeal, Bill C-37 is an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act. Being a former educator, I think it is important to lay out what the debate is all about in such a fashion that the Canadian viewers understand. From time to time we tend to get off track to make our point and I am no exception.
This bill will allow members of parliament who opted out of the pension plan to get back in. This is the third go around for what was formerly known as the Reform Party. Those members have basically swallowed themselves whole. I have used that expression a couple of times tonight.
Members of that party, as my hon. friend mentioned, railed against pensions for years until they came to this place. Many of them got elected on that issue. There are other issues and we concede that, but many of them got elected on that issue because it was a popular thing to say, only to find out that once they were here it does put limitations on what they can do back home in terms of a business and what they can do in the future when they leave this place. They have suddenly realized they might need it. They actually conceded that last night in the debate.
How this was brought about was there were secret meetings on this issue between the House leader of the Canadian Alliance, formerly known as the Reform Party, and the government House leader. They did it behind closed doors. They were pressured by members of the Canadian Alliance to do something about the state of their pensions because obviously they had since found out that they may need a little bit of a safety net when they leave this place, understandably. They had to do it in such a fashion that it would not appear that they were pushing that agenda. They were pretty clever at it. They almost succeeded until our party decided to rail against it and vote against it, which we did.
Whatever twisted logic the CA wants to use in terms of our position, it just ain't going to work. The fact is we will vote against the bill in the way in which it was brought about. It was brought about by secret meetings between the House leader of the former Reform Party and the government House leader.
The National Post tells it just about as well as anybody else in its June 13, 2000 edition. That would be today's, almost yesterday's edition by now. The headline reads, “Grit pension plan ploy divides alliance” and goes on to say, “Bill prompts party to drop hardline stance against system it has often attacked”. Our House leader often refers to the National Post as the Reform Party daily bugle, I guess with a little sense of humour to be fair. This capsulizes what we are talking about tonight. That is why we have been up on our feet so much on this. The National Post article said:
The pension bill, introduced in the dying days of Parliament's spring session, also allows dozens of Alliance MPs who were elected as Reformers in 1993 to “buy back” years of forgone contributions to the plan. The party which once threatened MPs with punishment for joining the plan has apparently dropped its opposition. Its MPs agreed to give unanimous consent to the tabling of the legislation last night, which ensures its speedy passage through the House of Commons before Parliament's spring session ends this week.
They did exactly that. They gave unanimous consent to push the bill through the House truly without debate. They did not want a debate on it. They did not want to vote on it. They did not want members to express their feelings on it, as we are doing tonight. I would say it was a conspiracy of silence on their part. They simply wanted to slide it through in the dying days of this session, which in fact they have done on a couple of occasions, pressuring the government to do so.
The government has a legitimate interest in this as well. We do not want to deny that. But the fact is that MPs were left outside of the process. Again this is to educate the people back home. Hopefully as the final speaker we can get a sense of what is actually happening. We will not deviate onto the national debt and past history.
The bill was laid on the desks of members of parliament one-half hour before we came into this place last night. That rarely happens unless the government is trying to push something through quickly without debate. That is what it is attempting to do with the help of the Reform Party. There was unanimous consent to push it through, ram it through.
The bill is complex. Tonight in the House of Commons the minister responsible for this bill, the hon. government House leader, who is still here with us to give him credit, had three officials with him, three technical advisers to explain to him what the bill is about if he got questions from the floor of the House of Commons.
This bill was laid on our desks one-half hour before it was debated. There was no opportunity to review it or to get any kind of consultation or advice on it. The House leader tonight had the audacity to say, “We are going to pass this bill and you people will have an opportunity to ask these officials exactly what you want to know about it. Let us get it through the House of Commons”. That is truly what he said tonight, let us get it through the House of Commons.
I am going to quote from the bill, just to give an idea of how complex it is. We have to go back into a lot of past history and bills that preceded this to truly understand it. I am reading from page 1 of the bill. Listen to this:
Section 1(1)(70)(4) of the Parliament of Canada Act is replaced by the following:
(4) Subject to subsections (4.1) and (5), the severance allowance to be paid to or in respect of a person under subsection (1) or (2) shall be a lump sum amount equal to 50% of the aggregate of
(a) the sessional allowance under section 55;
(b) any salary or allowance under section 60, 61 or 62 of this act or section 4 or 5 of the Salaries Act.
That tells us exactly the complexity of this bill. And it was laid on the desk of every member of parliament minutes before it was going to be introduced and debated. They did not want debate. We have to remember that. They did not want debate on this issue.
What has to be known when this bill is read is that the Reformers are now in the pension plan. They have achieved exactly what they wanted to do. They have done it by stealth.
Last night the Canadian Alliance House leader spoke in this House. To quote from the Hansard of Monday, June 12, he said, “We have to vote on this issue”. He was talking about the bill in question here.
We will have to move on it and defend it and explain it. All of the speeches and all of the debate will give people confidence that members of parliament have applied themselves to this thoughtfully and have come to a conclusion collectively.
That is the member for Fraser Valley who happens to be the House leader for the Canadian Alliance. He went on to say:
It is very unfortunate that those of us who have remained out of the pension plan have run that gauntlet and, as I said earlier, have reaped what we have sown. We had hoped that by staying out of the plan we could press for a more modest and acceptable plan but alas, it was not to be.
He went on to talk about the Blais commission.
The National Post actually picked up on part of what he had to say. He is basically saying they railed against this in 1993; they railed against it for almost 10 years, actually long before 1993 leading up to the 1993 election. The House leader of the Canadian Alliance, the member for Fraser Valley said, “We have no one to blame for this but ourselves. This is a bit of a dilemma of our own making”. Imagine. He was being quite modest, “This is a bit of a dilemma of our own making. Let us not kid ourselves”.
He got up in the House tonight and 24 hours has given him enough time to spin his story. As the member for Winnipeg—Transcona said tonight, it is almost unbelievable that the same House leader of the Canadian Alliance allowed his party to give unanimous consent to push this bill through without debate.
Now, after 24 hours of reflection and probably getting some calls from back home, he has completely flip-flopped on his position. It has basically allowed him to massage the message that he was giving last night. Although every one of them unanimously consented to ram the legislation through the House, they stood in their places tonight and voted against it. They want to have the best of both worlds.
I have received a note from my House leader which says that Reformers are in an suspended existence of purgatory, caught between the devil and the deep blue sea: what they said to get elected and what they truly want and desire. They now walk softly and avoid the big stick with which they like to club other members of the House. That is pretty good humour, but does it not tell the whole story about exactly what they are attempting to do.
That pretty well winds it up from our point of view. They truly have swallowed themselves whole. That is the long and the short of it. I think the Canadian people have basically figured them out. They have attempted everything. We have talked about some of the things they have attempted to do in terms of watering down their policies, trying to broaden the base of their party, changing the name of their party, and so on and so forth. We could go on and on forever on some of the things they have attempted to do.
The truth is they wanted this to slide through the House in the dying days of this session without any opposition. They conspired secretly with the House leader of the Liberal Party to make this happen. In terms of the cynicism that is sometimes expressed about the way this place works, that is living proof of it. The House leader of the government does not have a lot to be proud of. Certainly the House leader of the CA has nothing much to brag about on the particular bill. It is a sad day for parliament when we see a display of arrogance like we have seen in the last couple of days. On that note, I rest my case.