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House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was park.

Topics

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point. I just want to help out the hon. member. His members have taken great pains to point out that they should be called the Canadian Alliance and not the Reform Party. He called himself the Reform Party.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, that party is in such a pathetic state that it cannot even use progressive political terminology such as reform without getting nervous.

The reality is that I am proud of my colleagues for having led the fight on this issue over the past two parliaments, for having forced the moderation of these benefits, something that party on the fringe has never advocated, has never stood for and is fighting against here tonight.

I look forward to the moment when we will see under an alliance government a commission report back that we should have an actuarially sound, fully funded pension plan. As the Blais commission recommended, we ought to eliminate the hide and seek game of the tax free expense allowances. We ought to put ourselves on the same standard as the rest of Canadians and remove the conflict of interest which we are now in. I look forward to that moment. Unfortunately the only bitterness for me is that members at the other end will not be in this place to enjoy our retroactive reduction of their pension benefits.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have a very simple question for my hon. colleague.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:30 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Do you have any other kind?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2000 / 11:30 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Wow, we are full of interesting comments tonight. I would like to ask my hon. colleague a very simple question.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

Simple colleague.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I did not say my simple colleague. I said I had a simple question for my hon. colleague. Today my hon. colleague's successor, Walter Robinson, called what the alliance was doing slimy, slimy politics. I would like my hon. colleague to respond to that comment.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I concur with that comment with respect to this government, its approach to this issue and its legislation. I think it is irresponsible and that is why I will vote against it. I think it is irresponsible not to accept the recommendations of the independent commission. I think it is irresponsible not to bring in legislation which adopted the recommendations of the Blais commission. I agree completely with Mr. Robinson and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation when they fully and heartily endorsed the recommendations of the Blais commission.

However, let me tell the House what is really slimy. It is a party that continues to defend a pension plan which Canadians do not think is reasonable. It does so without any shred of humility. It pains me to see my colleagues at that end, after all of these years, refusing to learn the lessons of their tragic defeat in 1993. It was a tragic fall. Tragic falls come after the hubris. They still have not divested themselves of the hubris of their government. Had they simply taken the steps recommended by the Blais commission in 1984, I suspect there might still be a Tory party worth talking about in this place.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Liberal Leeds—Grenville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member quite a specific question. He talked about the Canadian Alliance's intention if it is elected. Let us hope that never happens. It will retroactively change the pension. He sang the praises of Mike Harris. Mike Harris took action in Ontario. I do not care what hat he wants to wear, the former president of whatever. Mike Harris got $900,000 when he changed that pension. Bob Runciman got $900,000. Ernie Eves got $850,000. Norm Sterling got $800,000.

In other words, they calculated the unfunded liability, what an annuity would be, and rather than put the annuity in trust they gave themselves the principal. It is a heck of a deal. Just before Christmas an order in council in the Ontario government allowed them to access that money immediately.

Is the member singing the praises of Mike Harris style of pension reform? Is that what he is talking about? The silence was deafening. The silence in this regard from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation and from the Reform Party was deafening. They made instant millionaires out of these people. Yet they parade themselves around as great pension reformers.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, that member was shouting so loudly a few moments ago that he was deafening himself with his heckling. I pointed out to the member that the annuities paid out to those MPPs of the Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario were substantially less than the benefits would have been paid under the status quo defined benefit pension plan. That was clearly the case. That was clearly the intention.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Not bad. The member can say that with a straight face, but the member beside him cannot listen to it with a straight face.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member for Ottawa—Vanier is not an actuary. Perhaps he is not familiar with the figures. I looked very closely at that issue and understand that the members of the Government of Ontario saved the Ontario taxpayers millions of dollars by reforming the pension plan. They received a one time benefit based on years of service, based on what they had funded in terms of contributions.

It is marvellous that the Ontario government decided by order of council to allow those MPPs to manage those dollars themselves through their own annuities to generate a higher rate of return than they would otherwise get through a government managed annuity. That is essentially the same principle that we advocate for all Canadians. They should be free to invest what belongs to them. Those are benefits vested in them for the future. They ought to be able to invest them to maximize the rate of return. The point is that the MPPs are then taking the risk and not the taxpayer, which is the case in an unfunded defined benefit plan.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, the question at hand is the amount of rhetoric that we receive from the member when he talks about the hypocrisy of the situation and attacks our government.

This debate is about the unprecedented rhetoric and the stunts that were played by putting replicas of pigs in the House of Commons and by giving away keys to cars. They said they would not take the chauffeur and would not move into Stornoway.

On August 6, 1998, when a member of that party decided to opt into the pension plan this member said, according to an article in the Vancouver Sun , that MPs who opted back in were liars and hypocrites. He went on to say that he opted out and told the voters he was opting out. Now he has broken his word. This is the same pension.

My question is quite simple. Which one of the members who voted yes to Bill C-37 is a liar and which one is a hypocrite?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We settled this yesterday. I am going to refresh everybody's memory. We will not sanitize the English language to the point where it loses all its spice, but we will not use hypocrite or liar when we are directing those words directly at any member in any circumstance. I said yesterday that hypocrite in the general sense of an action that is hypocritical in nature was fine. Hypocrite singularly will not be permitted.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will rephrase the question. I think the way I phrased it was indeed over the top and I do apologize in that regard.

Which one of his members who voted yes to this bill would he add to the comments he made to the Vancouver Sun ? Would the members who actually voted yes to this bill fall in the same class and receive the same kind of reaction on an internal basis?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

Reform

Jason Kenney Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, there are no members of parliament opting into this pension plan under this legislation. I think the question is immaterial. At the end of the day constituents will make a judgment about the conduct of their MPs in all these matters.

I can say with confidence that when they do so they will see that this party and its members have fought tirelessly for the moderation of these benefits so that they are put on a fair, fully funded basis. They will see that members of the regional party at the other end continue to this day not to have learned the lessons of 1993 and continue to apologize and promote a double standard for MPs.

They have not said a single word tonight about the Blais commission. I have not heard a Tory MP utter a single word about the principle that the compensation of MPs ought to be set independently and at arm's length. They seem not to care about the conflict of interest in which we are put by legislation such as this bill.

I have not heard a single word of concern about the unfunded liability which exists in this sort of pension plan. I have not heard a single word of commendation for the Progressive Conservative provincial governments which have brought in sensible legislation to moderate pensions plans, not a single constructive word, not a single word of humility, not a single word that would contribute positively to the debate about how to make the compensation of MPs a matter for independent scrutiny and not this kind of conflict of interest. Canadians will make a judgment and I think that the judgment will be on that party.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:40 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will only take a couple of minutes. I think we have had all the fun we can probably stand for one night. I should like to correct some misconceptions that have been said tonight.

The first one was corrected by my colleagues. I am referring to the allegation by the fifth party, the Conservative Party, that Reform MPs and now Canadian Alliance MPs have always been against an MP pension plan. That is just simply not the case. What we have been against is a pension plan that is unfair and is out of line with what Canadians expect from us.

The second one is that the bill is about the Canadian Alliance forcing the government into allowing Canadian Alliance members back into the pension plan. That is what one of the Conservative Party members said. That is so absurd we should think about it again. He said that the Canadian Alliance House leader somehow put pressure on the government House leader to bring in a pension bill to allow members of the Canadian Alliance party to get back into the pension.

If we are that powerful as the official opposition, imagine what we will do when we are in government a year from now. I would like to know why the Conservative members, the few who are left, are not rushing to join us given that kind of power. That was an interesting comment by the member from the Conservative Party.

The third thing is members of the Conservative Party have said that some kind of dealing went on which allowed the bill to go ahead with unanimous consent and that there would not be a debate or a vote.

Any member of the House can deny unanimous consent. There are still about 17 members in the Conservative Party. Where were they to deny unanimous consent? If they were doing their jobs, they would have denied unanimous consent. They went along with it too, because all that unanimous consent did was to allow the legislation to come to the House two days earlier than normal.

With full debate, we could debate it for the next 10 days if we chose to. That is what is allowed here. For the Conservative Party members to suggest that there was conniving which took place to allow this to go ahead and that they were tricked, I do not know what they are saying really. The fact is that any member of the Conservative Party could have denied unanimous consent to allow the bill to go ahead two days earlier than normal.

When the Canadian Alliance forms the government, we will change this plan. We will change it based on the recommendations of an independent commission. We supported the Blais commission recommendations. An independent commission is needed to set the pay and benefits of members of parliament. That is what will happen when we form the government, I believe a year from now. Because that has not been allowed to happen in this situation, I will vote against the bill at third reading, as I did at second reading.

There has been a lot said about the bill. I think we have had full debate on it. There is still a lot I could say about it but I think it has been said. I will leave my comments at that.

I agree with others who have said that our constituents will judge each one of us on this issue. I welcome that.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's comments. As with the previous speaker, it was a cross between vitriol, high octane fuel and pure adrenalin. At the end of the day it really boils down to a simple question. He has told us what he would do and we have heard about what they would do before. That seems to have dissipated. Why should Canadians believe the member now?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:45 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member asks why Canadians should believe me now. The answer is that I am trustworthy. I make a point of speaking the truth. I would like the member to say so if he doubts that. That is my answer. I do not know what he was referring to beyond that.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:50 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Lakeland put to rest some of the absurd comments from the Progressive Conservatives tonight. I am not sure whether they were trying to be progressive or conservative or just completely irrelevant which I think they have succeeded in.

I do find it interesting that there is one thing that was not covered by the member for Lakeland. Many members of the Tory caucus said that they did not know anything about the bill and it was a complete and absolute surprise.

Perhaps the member for Lakeland could describe what exactly they think their House leader was doing for the past three or four weeks and if he is not talking to his own caucus what exactly he thinks his role is. It seems to me, and I am just guessing, that there were discussions about it. The government House leader said members did not even have to go to a caucus meeting. They could pick up a newspaper a month ago and read that people were talking about it.

The Tories seemed to be completely and utterly surprised at this, that it came out of nowhere. It was just laid on the table and then the Canadian Alliance gave unanimous consent, just like the Tories said they did, “Just like us in the Tory party, they gave unanimous consent”. Whoops.

I do not mind someone giving unanimous consent because we knew this was being talked about. What I find remarkable is they gave unanimous consent to something they say they had no idea existed. They said, “We will give unanimous consent to something which we have not got a clue what we are talking about”. I give up.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:50 p.m.

Reform

Leon Benoit Reform Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I cannot say it as well as my colleague did. It shows the state of that party. Those members granted unanimous consent, obviously according to what they said, not knowing what is going on. It shows the state of communication within that party when the House leader who was involved in all of these negotiations did not tell his own members what was going on. My question is what is going on over there?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:50 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Reform Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes to be on record at third reading of the bill. I greatly regret what is happening in the House these days. We should be debating what is good for Canadian taxpayers and we find that distant party over there has used pretty well all of the time to spread misinformation about us and to try to make political points in a very cheap way. That is very unfortunate and I also found it very hurtful. The things they said about me are things which are just not accurate. It reminds of the 1997 election campaign.

I will say this. In the 1993 election campaign the Conservative who was the sitting member of parliament was a real gentleman. He was a really good man. When we had the all-candidate debates in the different fora he was a real gentleman. He was thoughtful and considerate. I do not hesitate for a moment to give him, Mr. Brian O'Kurley, great accolades for the way he conducted himself.

Somehow the party which was defeated and annihilated in 1993 decided to use the approach of attacking people viscerally and personally. That was why the Conservative candidate in the 1997 election, whom I will not name, said things about me which anyone who knew knew were not true. They were just not true. When he said these things publicly on one occasion I remember I stood up and said at a meeting, “Mr. Chairman, anyone who knows me knows that what this candidate has said about me is untrue. Why should they consider even voting for a person who has so little regard for the truth?” As a matter of fact, that Conservative candidate did not even get his deposit back because people saw through that.

Earlier this evening things were attributed to me that I take personally because they were attributed to me as a member of the Canadian Alliance, formerly the Reform Party. Publicly and loudly the members of that distant party put me into a category which is frankly not true.

I came here with great ideals. I believed then and I believe now, that the MP pension, because it exceeded what was available to other Canadians under the Income Tax Act rules, was excessively generous. Very frankly, for them to say these things is very demeaning and I was hurt by it when they spoke that way.

Be that as it may, I guess one cannot be in this business and not expect to be falsely accused occasionally. However, I would like to say unequivocally that I have been committed for the last seven years and continue to be committed to bringing into this place a pension plan which a person of honour can participate in without shame. I do not believe that we are there yet.

It is important for me to also say that this plan is particularly bad for me because I decided in 1995 to opt out of the other plan. I have been making contributions to an RRSP. I am trying to organize my financial life so my wife and I will not be on welfare when we finally retire. This particular plan is a real dilemma for me. As soon as this plan is brought into place, money will be taken from my paycheque without my ability to stop it which will thereby take away my RRSP deposit room. I find that distressing because I had hoped to do it that way.

It was not my choice to change this system and plan. To be falsely accused that I wanted it and that I want back in is hurtful, harmful and simply is not true. I think it is unbecoming of the members who have made those accusations.

Nonetheless, it is almost midnight. I am on the record as saying that I am opposed to it and that I will vote against the bill again, as I did earlier. This is being done against my will. I want that to be clearly on the record. Very frankly, my integrity is not for sale and I really regret that even that implication is being made.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is the House ready for the question?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

11:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?