Mr. Chairman, on that same point, this bill was presented to members of parliament exactly 24 hours ago. It is unprecedented that a bill as complicated as this one would be laid on the desks of all members of parliament 24 hours before we proceed to clause by clause consideration.
The Canadian public watching tonight should understand that the minister because of the complexity of the bill has three officials with him at the table. He has three officials with him to interpret a bill, which members of parliament cannot do in a 24 hour period. We do not have the resources in a 24 hour period to go through the details of the bill.
The question I have for the minister would be simple. Why would he attempt in the old fashioned sense to rush through a bill like this one in the dying days of this session without consulting members of parliament and without having the bill before members of parliament so that they could examine it as closely as he has been able to do with the aid of assistants? I point to the three technical advisers that the minister has with him tonight. They were not available to individual members of parliament.
I would like to quote from the editorial section of the Hill Times . It deals with the point of individual members of parliament, and I am talking about the member of parliament from the Ontario region. The article suggests that everything is conducted by the Prime Minister's Office, basically keeping members of parliament, in fact Liberal members of parliament, out of the circle. We have Liberal members of parliament not knowing what the government is doing. They are being blindsided by their own ministers, particularly the PMO, and in this case I might suggest the minister responsible for this bill.
I want to quote from the article. The member says that there are at least 50 potential Guy Fawkes in the Liberal caucus. Historians would know that Guy Fawkes led a group of rebels who wanted to blow up King James I and parliament in 1605 in what was known as the gunpowder plot.
I guess the member is suggesting that there are a number of very disgruntled members of parliament on that side, the government side of the House. Obviously the government was pressured by the official opposition. The history of the bill will reveal that it has been brought in to appease what is now known as the Canadian Alliance, formerly known as the Reform Party.
Many Reform members landed in this place in 1993 because they railed against everything that we would consider the rightful duty of members of parliament. In other words, they pretended to be everything but parliamentarians. They exercised their lungs to a great extent on the benefits individual members of parliament would receive when they retired. They railed against it because it was a very convenient thing to do.
Now we have the CA members of parliament having second thoughts about what they did in the 1993 and 1997 elections. The interim leader of the CA, the member who formerly represented Beaver River, talked about pigs at the trough in terms of pensions. They made the Canadian people believe that every member of parliament would retire as millionaires if they were in this place for as little as six years because of the pension plan, only to find out that it was not the case.
The example I used last night was the member for Saint John, formerly the interim leader of the Conservative Party. She has spent the good part of her adult life in public life. In fact she has spent from 1993 to the present day in the House of Commons. If she were to retire today she would get a pension of about $20,000 a year. She would have to live to be 117 years old if it were to become a million dollar pension. If we simply multiple $20,000 by 50, that would put it in the $1 million range.
That type of absurdity, which the Reform Party preached in 1993 making all members of parliament look greedy and as if they were pigs at the trough, got them into this place. Now they suddenly realize that it was not as good as they thought it was. However, they did rail against it and it did get them into this place. Now there is a certain sense of reality.
It is like a lynching in the morning. They are now realizing that they are not quite as popular as they were back in 1993. There is a strong possibility that they will be defeated at the polls when the next election comes.
Let us think about it. They do not have a leader. They are still trying to determine if the leader will be coming from Ontario in the name of Tom Long, or from Alberta in the name of Stockwell Day, or the individual who formerly led the Reform Party whose name I cannot mention in the House because of the rules. He is the member who represents Calgary Southwest.
They are suddenly realizing that they are caught in a vacuum. Things are not going quite as well as they thought they were for them politically. Some of those members are saying that they have been in this place since 1993 and if they suddenly leave they will not have pensions.
They are realizing they may not run in the next election because it does not look quite as easy as it was back in 1993, or indeed in 1997 when they won again out west. They are saying they need a bit of a safety net, and understandably so. We do not argue with that.
Most intelligent people would say that when we dedicate 6, 8, 10, 12 or 15 years of our lives to public life, at the sacrifice of our families in many cases, we are entitled to some kind of a package at the end of the day.
In fact, some of the wives of the CA members are now saying that their husbands went to Ottawa and railed against the pension and are asking where it leaves them as spouses or as widows if something should happen to their husbands. That is the sad reality. It is a sad reality that some of us will not be here forever and some of us will leave a spouse back home alone. We are saying that they are entitled to pensions. We have always said that as members of the Conservative Party, and rightfully so the Liberals have said the same.
When I die my wife is entitled to some kind of compensation. This is a sad reality for CA members. They are willing to swallow themselves whole on this issue because they realize that they made a huge mistake back in 1993. Here is an example of the hypocritical nature of their position.
One of our members ran against a Reform member in the last election. I will not identify the member, but I can if necessary. The Reform candidate was railing about the pension the particular MP would get if he were re-elected: he was going to get a million dollar pension if he were re-elected to the House of Commons, which was absolutely not the truth. At that time that member was to get a $16,000 pension, not even equalling the $20,000 this member will get after eight years of service. The million dollar pension turned out to be a $16,000 at the age of 55.
The Reform candidate was railing against a golden pension of a million dollars that turned into a meagre $16,000 pension. The candidate for the Reform Party was yakking in that fashion, condemning that little pension if the other candidate were re-elected. If the Reform candidate had been eligible for a pension as a school bus driver, it would have surpassed by 100% the pension of the re-elected member of the House of Commons. In other words, his pension would be $32,000 a year as a bus driver, but he wanted to deny a pension to a member of parliament who had come to this place week in and week out, leaving his family behind, because it was fashionable at the time.
I want to quote from a former member of this place who did not come back as a Reformer. His name is Stephen Harper. This is what he had to say about the process we are now going through. It was very accurate.
I am trying to lay out that the official opposition, the CA formerly known as the Reform Party, has scrambled in the last number of weeks to make this happen. That is how it usually works. It is sort of like the Friday night special. It is getting late in the session, late in the week, and they will just kind of slide this thing through. Guess what? They are not going to force it to a vote or to a debate.
It will be a conspiracy of silence to put this bill through the House of Commons without any public input, without any transparency. There is no transparency. As I mentioned, the bill was laid on every member's desk last night at six o'clock.