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House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sexual.

Topics

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, March 24, 2003, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties and there is an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to further delay the recorded division scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 24, until the end of government orders on Tuesday, March 25.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to take part in this important debate, which has been a long time coming. Although this issue has been debated numerous times in the House, every time initiated by the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, it is the first time an actual bill, Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, has been the topic of discussion.

I stood in the House more than two years ago in support of a Canadian Alliance motion requesting the establishment of a national sex offender registry. Two years ago, that motion resulted in the government committing to the establishment of a registry. At that time, members opposite stood unanimously in support of their government's commitment to establish a national sex offender registry by January 30, 2002.

Quite obviously the government again has failed to meet another commitment. It failed to meet its commitment of having the sex offender registry up and running by January 2002. I am confident that had we not pushed and prodded the government, it never would have met that commitment on its own accord. The time it has taken to force the government to bring Bill C-23 before the House clearly demonstrates to all Canadians and all parliamentarians the priority, or the lack thereof, that it places on the protection of our children in this country.

Ontario established a registry three years ago. Christopher's law, or Bill 31, received royal assent in April 2000. That bill established a registry to enhance public safety by providing law enforcement agencies with a modern, reliable and effective electronic tool to support services to track sex offenders in our communities and to improve the investigation of crimes of a sexual nature.

Despite the efforts of Ontario and other provincial governments, the Liberal government has failed to protect Canadian children from sexual predators.

This will be the third time that I have stood in the House quoting from a document that was produced by the Liberal Party of Canada, produced before the 1993 election. Before the election, their promise, their commitment and their vision sounded pretty good in the red book. I quote this today because it is absolutely imperative that we point out the clear justification for a national sex offender registry as recognized not just recently but 10 years ago by those who now sit across the way in government. Yet the government has moved very slowly. It has done absolutely nothing to this point but fail to once again make good on a promise. It has failed, and that is this government's record. It has a record of failure.

In 1993 the Liberals fully supported the establishment of a national sex offender registry of convicted child abusers. Their rationale, quoting directly from their own document, was this:

Sex offenders represent almost 20 per cent of the incarcerated population and 10 per cent of the conditionally released population.

Repeat sex offenders are more than twice as likely to commit further sex offences, much more likely to violate conditional release conditions and more likely than other offenders to reoffend... However, treatment programs for sexual offenders are sorely lacking.

The Liberal government recognized the chances of reoffending. It recognized that they were a threat. All those it recognized. These facts were highlighted three years prior to the publication of the Liberal document.

A 1990 report by a working group established by the Department of the Solicitor General concluded that offender treatment programs have shown limited results. The report said that they gauged and looked at the programs that were in place, followed them through, did an evaluation and the programs showed limited results. The report showed that practitioners in the field of sex offender treatment do not claim to cure sex offenders. The Solicitor General's department in 1990, in a previous government, recognized that they cannot simply claim to have 100% cured the sex offender, but rather the treatment strategy is to manage the risk of reoffending.

That document says that although they will put them in a program, although they will give them treatment, at the end of the day they recognize that basically the best they can do is risk manage. I am not sure as a parent that I am quite satisfied with the response the report brought out, although it is true. As a parent it causes me some concern that people who recognize that programs are not working and recognize the recidivism rate are saying they are going to risk manage pedophiles and sex offenders back into the communities.

The report also said that there were not enough experts to meet the demand for sex offender treatment and the limitations of treatment were recognized. This research based information, produced by the Department of the Solicitor General, clearly demonstrated well over 10 years ago why Canada needed a national sex offender registry. Yet the government and its predecessor failed to establish such a registry despite recognizing the risks, despite the ample justification to do so.

The question must be asked, recognizing the rights, recognizing the risk, why would it fail to meet such a requirement? The only plausible answer in my mind to that question is that the government has and continues to place the rights of the offender before the rights of the victim. It has continuously placed the rights of the offender above the concerns of the protection of our society. We have seen this over and over and over again.

This is evident in almost all of the justice legislation the government has brought forward in the last few years, including the establishment of the DNA database. Enacted in 1998, Bill C-3, an act respecting DNA identification, created a new statute governing the establishment and the administration of a national DNA bank. It also amended the Criminal Code to permit a judge to make a post-conviction order authorizing the taking of bodily substances from a person found guilty of a designated Criminal Code offence in order to include the offender's DNA profile in the national DNA database.

The DNA data bank was officially opened on July 5, 2000. My party, the Canadian Alliance Party, is firmly committed to restoring confidence in our justice system by providing law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies the latest technological tools to quickly detect and apprehend criminals. The attempt to amend Bill C-3 was unsuccessful.

We live in a day and age where every sector of society is looking for the newest technology available to enhance their way of life, to enhance their business, to enhance their safety perhaps, every aspect, every area of society.

Look at some of the things that are happening in health care and the new technologies that are available. It has only been for a few years that we have been able to have laser surgery done on our eyes to repair loss of vision. That is old technology now. Now health care has the technology to do many things.

We demand high technology in travel. There are vehicles now with global positioning systems that can detect when there has been an accident. When the air bag is inflated a signal is sent automatically by satellite to an office and medical attention is called without ever making a 911 call.

Our society has moved to a place where we accept and want the latest in technology. We see it. We have turned the television on in the last few days and we have seen the latest technology in the war on Iraq. We have seen missiles being sent from hundreds of miles away. We have seen the latest in laser guided missiles.

We see it in health sciences with research and development. We want the newest in technology. However, when it comes to law enforcement, when it comes to dealing with crime, when it comes to dealing with criminal offences and offenders, the Canadian Alliance argued that DNA identification, if used to its full potential, could be one of the newest technologies. We argued that DNA identification could be one of the greatest resources in fighting crime since the introduction of dusting for fingerprints.

To deny the police agencies the full use of this technology, as Bill C-3, did was reprehensible. It was unacceptable, inasmuch as it maintains an unnecessary level of risk to the lives and safety of our citizens. We have the technology. We have the ability to fight crime. When it comes to giving those resources to our law enforcement agencies, we handcuff them and then tell them to go out and do their job. Shame on the government.

There are literally hundreds of unsolved rapes. Hundreds of murders are outstanding in the country. There are victims across the nation where one event, one criminal offence has changed their life forever.

I have looked into the faces of mothers whose children have been murdered, some who have been murdered in prison. The twinkle in their eye is gone forever. When we talk with a parent whose young child has been sexually molested or raped, it not only leaves a scar on the primary victim, the child, it scars that family and the extended family forever.

Many dangerous offenders remain on our streets because of the government's failure to deploy the DNA tool properly as requested by police across the country. Bill C-3 did not allow for the taking of DNA samples at the time of the charge. The bill did not permit samples to be taken retroactively from incarcerated criminals, other than designated dangerous offenders or multiple sex offenders or multiple murderers.

However, Bill C-3 did provide a dangerous and an unnecessary exemption that could be authorized by judges not to issue a warrant for the taking of a sample if they believed that in doing so it would impact on an individual's privacy and security. Here again we see where the courts have the ability to disallow the taking of a DNA sample if that individual's privacy or security could be jeopardized.

This misplaced consideration for the privacy of offenders is more than apparent in the bill we are debating today. It is more than apparent in Bill C-23.

Sex offenders may be excluded from the registry, according to Criminal Code section 490.03(4) as set out in clause 20, if the court is satisfied:

--that the person has established that, if the order were made, the impact on them, including on their privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society through the effective investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, to be achieved by the registration of information relating to sex offenders.

While not all sex offenders will be successful in exempting themselves from the registry, this one thing we can be sure of: many will delay having their names put on that registry and many will not register their whereabouts, arguing in court that with regard to their privacy, their liberty and their freedom, it would be too negative an impact for them to handle. One thing we can be sure of is we will see a log jam in the court system like we have never seen before. The lawyers across the way sit back and wipe their hands and lick their chops. This becomes a lawyer's dream.

If they are not successful in convincing the judge that their names should not be on the registry, we can be sure they will take their cases to the Supreme Court of Canada and they will string out those cases for just as long as they can.

In the papers just two days ago, one headline read, “Rapist asks Supreme Court to strike down DNA law. Lawyer argues sampling bodily substances violates constitutional rights”. The article went on to say:

An Edmonton man convicted of raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl has made the first Supreme Court of Canada challenge to laws allowing police to take DNA from suspects....The case being argued involves a man whose name is subject to a publication ban, who was boarding during the week with the victim and her family at their Hinton, Alberta trailer....The man had sex with her against her will for 30 minutes....Four months later she realized she was pregnant....The girl, described as intellectual delayed, told her mother what had happened and was taken for an abortion....Police seized the fetal tissue as evidence. In January, 1997, RCMP officers armed with a search warrant, pricked the man's finger for a blood sample to make a DNA comparison with the tissue [that they had taken]....He was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to six years in prison. In 2001, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled two to one to uphold the conviction. Mr. Anderson, whose client is free on $5,000 bail, wants the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.

The defence is contending that the DNA legislation breaches the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that it hinders the protection of his personal security and that it should be banned because it was an unreasonable search.

The convicted rapist's lawyer is not arguing his client's innocence. He is not arguing in a court of law that there has been a miscarriage of justice, that the individual was innocent of the charge that was put against him. He is arguing against how the police obtained the evidence to prove that he was guilty. He is arguing a technicality.

While the wheels of justice grind slowly or they grind to a halt, our sons and daughters may be victimized all because the government continues to stack the deck in favour of the offender and the offence over the protection of society.

A number of years ago the Supreme Court of Canada in a 5 to 4 decision held that privacy rights under the charter demanded that police obtain a warrant prior to entry into a dwelling house to arrest a suspect. The decision in response to the Feeney case resulted in evidence being thrown out because the police did not have a warrant when entering his premises. Feeney's blood soaked shirt which had been obtained by the police, and blood all over the place where this individual lived, clearly proved his guilt to the first degree murder charge. That shirt or that blood was not allowed as evidence.

In her dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Judge L'Heureux-Dubé said that while the rights of the accused people are certainly important under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “they are not all the equation”. I like what the judge said. The judge did not question whether someone who was charged had rights under the charter. She did not question whether someone who was a suspect by the police force and who had a charge levied against them had rights. She did not question whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied. She said that it was only one part of the equation and not all the equation.

That quote should be a wake-up call to the government. That quote should be a wake-up call to those who are continuously looking only at the rights of the offenders with the rights of the victims forgotten.

The judge cautioned her colleagues not to automatically exclude even illegally obtained evidence without considering the consequence for victims, the protection of society and the reputation of the justice system. She stated:

When an attacker or a murderer is acquitted in the name of the regularity of the criminal process, it is not only past victims who are ignored, but also future victims who are sacrificed.

The Supreme Court judge boldly suggested that it was time to reassess the balance the court has struck between protecting the individual rights of the accused and preserving society's capacity to protect its most vulnerable members and to bring and to expose the truth. I challenge the government today to strike the necessary balance because as Judge L'Heureuz-Dubé said:

--perhaps it is time to recall that public respect and confidence in the justice system lies not only in protection against police abuse, but also in the system's capacity to uncover the truth and ensure that, at the end of the day, it is more likely than not that justice will have been done.

I emphasize this, “it is more likely than not that justice will have been done”.

She is saying that when someone goes through the system, the public wants to look and have the faith that justice has been served. When we read about offenders back on the street because of technicalities, the public begins to question if justice was served. Did they come to justice? Although they are very seldom ever satisfied when the offender is caught, the public questions if there a degree of closure that can be brought to the victim because justice has been served. That is the question. That is the secondary part of the equation that needs to be considered.

The only way we can ensure that justice is done is to ensure that police officers in Canada have all the investigative tools necessary to do their jobs effectively and to uncover the truth through the bringing together of all the evidence that they can gather.

It will indeed be an injustice if the DNA warrant provisions are found unconstitutional. It will indeed be an injustice if it severely restricted the use of DNA as evidence.

More than 10 years ago six year old Punky Gustavson was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and then murdered. The story captivated all the country, certainly my province of Alberta. It was a story that, not only in Edmonton where it happened but throughout the province, horrified people as when they heard about little Punky Gustavson going missing.

It happened over 10 years ago. Less than a week ago, Punky Gustavson's murderer was finally charged. In November of last year, an Alberta provincial court ordered that DNA sample be taken from Clifford Mathew Sleigh, who is a prisoner in the Bowden Institution. That sample was matched with a very small sample of DNA that was taken in 1992 when Punky's body was found.

As I stated earlier, only three types of prisoners who were found guilty prior to June 2000, when the DNA data bank was created, were eligible to be included. The first were those who were listed as being dangerous offenders. The second was multiple murderers. The third was multiple sex offenders. Across Canada 2,000 such offenders were identified. Three hundred of them were in Alberta prisons. The Alberta court however had to obtain court orders for the seizure and inclusion of DNA from the 300 inmates as it was not automatic.

The Canadian Alliance Party has argued that DNA samples should be automatic, should be retroactive and should be taken from all convicted offenders. Similarly, we have argued, not so successfully apparently, to have all convicted sex offenders retroactively entered into the registry. However we will continue to push for the inclusion of all past and current sex offenders to be listed on the registry with absolutely no exceptions.

The retroactively part of the bill is of huge concern to Canadians. The fact that the government boasts of a registry with no names on it and the fact that the government boasts of a registry that for many years down the road will not help law enforcement is wrong. It is wrong for the minister to stand up in front of the House or in front of any television camera across the country and brag about how the registry, as soon as it is brought into legislation and is passed, will help. Without retroactivity on that list, absolutely nobody will benefit.

We will push to have any sex offender who fails to comply with an order to register to be held liable for a significant terms of imprisonment. Currently, clause 20 of Bill C-23 adds subsection 490.09(1). It states:

Every person who knowingly contravenes an order...is guilty of an offence and liable

(a) in the case of a first offence, on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.

It is absolutely outrageous and a complete insult to law-abiding firearm--

Sex Offender Information Registration ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member will have another 10 minutes and 25 seconds when we resume debate on the bill.

It being 1:30, the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill NDP Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of my colleague for Churchill, and her excellent Motion No. 197, which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the definition of “pensionable employment” in the Canada Pension Plan to include worker's compensation payments.

The motion is designed to allow injured workers who have had to take temporary leave from their workplace to, on retirement, get the same level of CPP that they would have received had they not had to leave for a certain period of time because of injury.

The idea is very simple and I believe it is very sensible. I really cannot understand why the government has not already implemented this small but significant change to the CPP.

To understand what the motion does, we have to look at the problems that injured workers face relating to the pension system.

At present, worker's compensation is not considered pensionable employment for CPP purposes. Since a retiree's CPP eligibility is based upon months of pensionable employment, each month of work a person misses due to injury counts against them when the CPP eligibility is calculated upon retirement.

In cases of severe injuries that require lengthy rehabilitation periods, such as amputations, severe burns and electrocution, these lost months of CPP eligibility can dramatically reduce an individual's retirement income or leave them ineligible for any CPP benefits at all. This is in essence a second injury.

The CPP program was created to provide Canadian workers with a secure retirement income. There is no intention in the design of the public pension plan that workers would lose their pension simply because they had the bad fortune to be injured on the job. This problem is in fact significant in size.

In the nine provinces covered by the CPP, there were over 800,000 claims via worker's compensation in 2000. The fact that these people could potentially lose or see a reduced retirement pension is, I believe, unacceptable. After all, worker's compensation systems are designed to get people back into the workforce, and most treat their clients as workers temporarily on leave from their jobs. That is of course how we should treat them.

These people want to work and they strive to work. With the proper accommodation and support, most will work. The problem is with systems the governments have in place, like the CPP, that seem to treat injured workers as individuals who have deliberately opted out of the workforce and then reduce their retirement benefits accordingly.

As the critic for persons with disabilities for the New Democrats, I see courage and determination every day and every week from people who have had to leave work due to a disability, including a workplace injury.

What is most frustrating to these people is not that they face life with a disability but that the public support systems that most Canadians take for granted, things like the CPP, public transit, health supports and income supports further penalize them on a systematic and repeated basis.

We should have a public pension plan which acknowledges that injured workers are simply on a temporary leave and therefore should not suffer a financial penalty of a reduced pension due to their injury.

Since worker's compensation programs are provincially administered, implementation of the motion would require agreements with the provinces. Passing Motion No.197 would therefore only be a first step. It would nevertheless be an important first step as it would signal to the federal and provincial executive branches that there is a legislative support for the principle that injured workers should not have to suffer the loss of pension benefits.

This is not a huge problem because the provinces already meet with the federal government over CPP issues regularly and the provinces understand injured workers better than the federal government does.

I should note that the motion would have no impact on Quebec where a separate program administered by the Quebec government, the Quebec pension plan, takes the place of the CPP which exists in the rest of Canada.

While I wholeheartedly support the motion, I want to also take the opportunity to discuss a parallel problem and situation: another group that suffers a similar penalty under the CPP, as injured workers currently do, and that is the group of caregivers.

On March 10 in The Toronto Star there was an article by Carol Goar about a woman named Marie Taylor. I will quote a bit from Ms. Goar's succinct and well written article about Ms. Taylor's situation:

She worked all her life as a legal secretary. Her husband was head of security at the Lennox generating station in eastern Ontario. They spent their spare time building a comfortable home in Napanee to share in their retirement years.

Twice during Taylor's career, she took leaves of absence. The first was to look after her gravely ill stepson. The second was to care for her dying mother.

She had no idea how costly these acts of compassion would turn out to be.

Shortly after retiring, Taylor lost her life partner. Now she's struggling to hang on to her home.

The reason her finances are so precarious is that her Canada Pension is smaller than she anticipated. The government chopped her entitlement by 20 per cent because of the two interruptions in her working life.

Ms. Taylor was not ill herself but she was caring for others who were ill. She is in the same situation that injured workers face and that Motion No. 197 is trying to address, namely, losing retirement benefits under the CPP because of temporary interruptions in a career. But in the case of Ms. Taylor, her workplace interruption was not because she was injured or ill, but because she became a caregiver during the terminal illnesses of her stepson and mother. If she had been callous and had left her family's care to the inadequacies of the Ontario health care system, then she would not have suffered this financial penalty. Instead, she did the right thing and therefore lost 20¢ on the dollar of her retirement income.

Because of caring for loved ones, she is currently at the CPP appeals tribunal fighting for sufficient income so she can stay in her modest home and keep from sliding into poverty. Most shamefully, the federal government is fighting her all the way with its lawyers through its appeal system. The federal government should stop harassing this woman and intervene so she and other caregivers do not face penalties for caring for a dying relative.

In fairness, the government has started to see that caregivers deserve support, not punishment. I acknowledge that baby steps were taken on the employment insurance front in the budget, but our overall social safety net, both federally and provincially, has to be looked at so we can take away the barriers that persecute caregivers.

We need to look at welfare and disability programs, CPP and private insurance programs, and compassionate leave systems in the workplace. We need to institute a national home care and respite care program and reform our overly bureaucratic, financially unfair and almost incomprehensible income tax system. Other countries already have brought in these common sense, compassionate policies without causing economic problems. Some have even started to directly compensate caregivers, including Britain, Norway, Sweden and Australia, so a rethinking of our overall policy for both injured workers and for caregivers is not only doable but long overdue.

In summary, I say that injured workers need our support, not our punishment, that caregivers need our support, not our punishment, and that we should reform the CPP program in order to do this. Caregivers and injured workers do not deserve to be punished.

I once again thank my friend from Churchill for this visionary motion and I call upon the government and all members to support the motion and start the journey to a more compassionate society.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to address this motion asking that the government amend the definition of pensionable employment in the Canada pension plan to include worker's compensation payments.

First, I commend the hon. member who sponsored this motion on her concern for Canadians who are prevented from working by a disability or a serious illness.

I want to point out that this is an issue that the Government of Canada takes very seriously.

Since coming into office, we have endeavoured to find new and improved ways to help people with disabilities so that they can adequately support themselves and their families.

We have developed programs to help workers with disabilities acquire the skills and training necessary to re-enter the labour force.

For example, we have introduced the Opportunities Fund under which, every year since 1997, $30 million was used to help persons with disabilities take their place in the labour force.

We have introduced and enhanced tax relief measures for persons with disabilities and their families.

In 1998, we introduced the Canada study grants for persons with disabilities, and increased the amount of the grants in 2001.

In budget 2003, we renewed a transfer of $193 million a year for the employability assistance for people with disabilities program. This money will be transferred to the provincial and territorial governments to fund programs and services designed to help Canadians with disabilities overcome employment barriers.

In addition, the Minister of Human Resources Development and her colleagues are working closely with their provincial and territorial counterparts to make sure there is a coordinated approach to meeting the needs of people with disabilities, one that will provide them with the best possible services and eliminate duplication.

Of course, one of the most important programs is the Canada pension plan disability benefits program, which provides an income to contributors who are unable to work because of a serious long-term illness or disability.

The Canada pension plan is the most significant income program for people on long term disability. During fiscal year 2000, the Canada pension plan paid out $2.6 billion to 280,000 contributors with disabilities, and $245 million to the 97,000 children of these contributors. No fewer than 55,000 applications are received each year.

The Canada pension plan offers more than just disability benefits. It also provides retirement pensions, death benefits, survivor benefits, and child benefits. Almost all Canadian residents contribute to the Canada pension plan and will eventually receive benefits from it.

Clearly we must ensure that the Canada pension plan is able to continue this important work over the coming years.

This means that we must ensure that it is financially viable and can count on the necessary assets to provide future generations of workers and their families with the same level of protection that their predecessors are now enjoying.

One way to do this is to ensure that the rules governing eligibility for benefits are relevant, clear and easy to administer and that they allow for the right balance between providing enough support to those who are entitled to the benefits and ensuring healthy management of Canadians' contributions.

A very good example that illustrates this principle is the clear and precise definition of “pensionable employment” contained in the Canada pension plan and intended to be used in determining eligibility for benefits and the amount thereof.

This definition, which excludes compensation for workplace accidents, employment insurance benefits, social assistance and other benefits of this kind, has struck the right balance and shown that it is here to stay.

This definition was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, when an applicant claimed that the workplace accident compensation he received should have been considered income for the purposes of eligibility under the Canada pension plan.

The Court's decision was very clear: Part I of the Canada pension plan is adequate and corresponds to the objective that was set out by Parliament.

There are other reasons that suggest that the proposed change is not relevant.

First, implementing such a change would lead to increased Canada pension plan contributions for both workers and employers.

This would place an additional burden on many workers already having trouble making ends meet.

It might also act as a disincentive for some employers to hiring new workers, something no member of this House would want to see happen.

Moreover, this measure would have a negative impact on many workers' compensation recipients, because CPP would have to be deducted from their benefits, thus reducing their already pretty modest incomes still further.

Are these results we would want to see? I think not.

Extension of CPP coverage to workers' compensation recipients might seem unfair, particularly to injured self-employed people who would not be entitled to it.

Finally, if such a change were approved, it might have repercussions on such provincially administered programs as social assistance and worker's compensation.

The long term disability plans offered by private insurers would also be impacted.

The provincial and territorial governments might refuse to consent to such a change, and this would greatly complicate implementation.

All of this points to the fact that the change proposed in this motion would not be as desirable as it might seem at first glance. Worse yet, it might end up doing harm to those it seeks to help.

That is why I cannot support the motion as presented, but I do congratulate the hon. member for her efforts and her determination to help disabled workers and their families.

I say again, this is an important matter which the government is determined to address, but everyone must do his or her part in this.

I am therefore calling upon each and every member of this House, regardless of political affiliation, to work with us in our efforts to ensure that programs are put in place that can provide disabled persons and their families with the support they require to cope with their most challenging circumstances.

This is the only way we will be able to find a satisfactory solution to this situation, and to provide Canadians with the help they need and deserve.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Motion No. 197 put forward by the member for Churchill. I wish to congratulate her for bringing this forward. Clearly, her intention is to help people who are facing difficult situations and this is admirable.

By the nature of the motion, being a motion, there is not a lot of detail attached to it. We are talking about an intent when we talk about this. Many questions are raised as a result of this proposal and in order for it to work those questions must be answered.

One of the questions that I have yet to hear the mover of this motion or the previous speaker address has to do with CPP premiums themselves. For example, a logical question to ask would be whether moving WCB benefits would be counted as a salary to calculate Canada pension plan benefits? Would that mean that people would pay 4.95% of their WCB cheque into the Canada pension plan initially? That important question needs to be addressed.

The obvious follow up question would be, if not, where would the money come from? Right now, the Canada pension plan is running very close to the line. Some people argue it is actually in deficit. Where would that money come from? Where would the money come from on the employer side? Would provincial governments be expected to pay it? If people were in business and drawing a salary, then they would pay 4.95% of their salary and the employer would pay 4.95% of the salary into this plan. Those are some of the questions that need to be addressed.

What would we do about other types of benefits people receive where the same sort of arguments could be made? Canada pension plan disability is a good example. If someone is on CPP disability, that money is not counted as a salary and therefore it would lower the overall Canada pension plan that the individual might be eligible for. Do we then apply the same remedy for CPP disability as applied to WCB? The same thing would apply to private insurance because that is also not counted as a salary for the purpose of calculating Canada pension plan.

These are all important things that need to be addressed. In order for me to support this motion I would like to at least hear how these sort of things could be addressed.

Another issue that is important and one that we need to talk about to make it clear is the fact that a remedy is already in place to some degree for people whose Canada pension plan is lowered because at some point they were injured on the job and had to go on workmen's compensation. When people hit retirement they do not just have access to the Canada pension plan because there are other safety nets in place, including old age security and the guaranteed income supplement for example.

If individuals have a low income in their retirement then these safety net programs supplement that income and take into account to some degree the lower Canada pension plan they might receive as a result of being injured on the job, going on workmen's compensation, and for a period of time at least, not contributing into their Canada pension plan and building up a level of benefits. I do not think we should understate that because it is an important point to make.

If we go to all of this trouble, we may find out that people who all of a sudden enjoy better benefits from Canada pension plan may ultimately see it eroded or they may end up being no better off in the end because the benefits they would have received from old age security and/or the guaranteed income supplement may actually go down.

That is an important point to make. It requires a little bit of study in maybe a number of different scenarios to identify what would happen to these people who earn different amounts of income based on this change that is being proposed by the member for Churchill. We need those kinds of scenarios to have a good idea of whether or not in the end this would leave people materially better off, because that is obviously the goal here.

I do not think this can be overemphasized, but another problem we have and should address, which is something that would leave people better off generally, is that if people would pay lower taxes throughout the course of their lives, not only would it leave them better off in that moment, but it would allow them to save more for their retirement. It would allow them to save more in the event that they become disabled and save more to purchase their own disability insurance. I always hasten to add that aspect when we are talking about social programs to help people because often that gets discounted as a way of helping people out a lot.

It disturbs me today that in Canada people can have very low levels of income and still pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in taxes. Perhaps we should be looking at ways to raise those basic exemptions higher so that people who are already pinching pennies to survive do not have to send the government a big chunk of the benefits that they may receive through Canada pension plan, old age security or whatever. This is something that I would like all parliamentarians to consider. There is a way to help people beyond just providing better social programs. One of those ways is to lower the level of taxes that we all pay. If we were to do that people would be better off in a number of ways.

I appreciate the intention of the motion very much. I know the member for Churchill is a big-hearted person and she wants to help. That is admirable, but if we are serious about ever having this passed, the provinces, for instance, and certainly the federal treasury would want to have some of the answers to those questions I have raised with respect to how these payments would be treated. Would the CPP premium come off these payments? Who would pay the other half of the CPP premium, would it be the provinces, et cetera? Those things must be addressed before this motion can get proper consideration.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Churchill for her initiative. As my colleague, the member for Laurentides already said, the Bloc Quebecois supports Motion No. 197, which I will read again for the benefit of those who are listening.

Motion No. 197 reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the definition of “pensionable employment” in the Canada Pension Plan to include worker's compensation payments.

We believe that this is a simple question of justice. Why should victims of accidents at work and occupational illnesses be punished when they have already been victimized by negligence in the workplace? Under the CPP, workers can already subtract 15% of their employment period as leave. This makes it possible to increase the average earnings and the pension that will be collected at retirement.

However, for many workers who have a workplace accident or an occupational illness, this period is not enough. I think that in the interest of justice we must rectify this situation that currently exists in the Canada pension plan and render justice to those who, as I already mentioned, have already been punished because of poor working conditions.

The attitude of the government and the parliamentary secretary, in his comments, is completely unacceptable. The Liberal government is acting as though people who have workplace accidents or occupational illnesses are responsible for their own plight. The government is penalizing them again by refusing to recognize workers' compensation payments as though they were employment income.

In Quebec, there has been consensus among employers, the government and workers and their organizations since 1920 that the employer is responsible for workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. People who have workplace accidents and occupational illnesses are not responsible for their accident or their illness. It is the employer.

It is up to the employer to pay and that is how it has been since 1920 in Quebec. People who have workplace accidents and occupational illnesses are not punished because they suffered as the result of problems in their workplace, in terms of workplace health and safety.

But this is not the only social program where the federal government believes that the victims are responsible for their situation. Just as the Canada pension plan penalizes injured workers or workers with an occupational illness, employment insurance penalizes people laid off by their employer due to an economic downturn—be it in the company, the industry or the whole economy—by imposing a waiting period, as if they were responsible for what has happened to them. The same backwards attitude applies to both this situation and the Canada pension plan.

As a result, the federal government is encouraging prejudice against injured workers or workers with an occupational illness. The government inundates us with propaganda and is constantly telling us that discrimination is a no-no. It is guilty of discrimination in this case, as in the case of the unemployed.

It is essential, therefore, that the federal government fix this situation if it wants to do more than just pay lip service, to prove that injured workers and those with occupational illnesses are not responsible for their situation and, therefore, should not be penalized with regard to their pension under the pretext that they have suffered as a result of a workplace accident or an occupational illness.

The reason given—which was unfortunately taken up by the hon. member for the Canadian Alliance—is that this will increase premiums. This is the first time I have seen the federal government worry about the effects of a payroll tax on employment.

For a number of years now, with regard to employment insurance premiums, we—not just the Bloc Quebecois, but Quebec employers and unions—have been telling the government that the premium rate is much too high. The federal government has never reacted. I know that the Minister of Finance likes to boast that the rate has been lowered ten times already. Yes, it has been lowered ten times, but it is still too high.

When the actuary did an assessment of the premium rate needed to ensure employment insurance coverage, he told us that it would take $1.75 per $100 of insurable earnings. Currently, the government is still taking $2.10, and the Minister of Finance announced in his budget that he was going to lower it to $1.98.

Even at $1.98, the government is still collecting too much to ask from workers and employers in employment insurance premiums.

Employment insurance premiums need to be lowered to correspond to the coverage in the plan. We know that out of ten workers who contribute, four are eligible for benefits and six are not, because of extremely strict rules imposed by this government. Let us lower employment insurance premiums and, if necessary, increase CPP contributions to do justice to people who are victims of workplace accidents or occupational illness.

The same argument is being made to us that was made 10 or 15 years ago when we were told that pay equity for women was unattainable. We were told that, in theory, this discrimination was unjustifiable, but that there was no money to do anything about it. That is what employers are telling us and today the federal government is saying the same thing. Unfortunately, the Canadian Alliance is stuck in its backward mentality.

If we had listened to the federal government and used the arguments it is using today, we would not have gotten anywhere in the pay equity situation. It really dug in its heels, just as it is doing now in this and other situations.

If the federal government is sincere in its concern that an increase on payroll taxes or on contributions may have a negative impact on employment, it must, since it has the means to do so, lower EI contributions to do justice to those who are injured while at work and to those who suffer from occupational diseases.

The government is using another argument that is just as unjustifiable when it says that self-employed workers may feel left out. One does not justify an injustice with another injustice. It is true that self-employed workers should be covered when it comes to social insurance. It is true that the government should be more innovative.

In Quebec, Pauline Marois set an example in her most recent budget by granting a tax credit for parental leave to self-employed workers.

However, the federal government says that it would not be fair to self-employed workers to include injured or sick people, since they themselves are not covered. There is an injustice here, but the government will create another one by penalizing those who are injured at work or who suffer from an occupational disease. This reasoning is faulty.

I am extremely disappointed to hear the parliamentary secretary say, “We think that the initiative of the hon. member for Churchill is a good one, but she is going about this the wrong way”. Let the parliamentary secretary suggest other ways to achieve the same objectives.

Until proven otherwise, the motion by the hon. member for Churchill is the right way to correct the injustice done to those who are injured while at work and to victims of occupational diseases. I am convinced that this fair measure would cost very little to Canadian society, and nothing to Quebec society, since we are not affected by this discriminatory and unfair situation.

The parliamentary secretary also claims that the Supreme Court issued a ruling to that effect. In Canada, do we live, as a number of people think, in a democracy run by judges, or is it elected representatives who are responsible for lawmaking? I do hope that it is still this Parliament, this House that has the last word regarding the vision and the structures that we want for our society, particularly at the legislative level.

When it suits its needs, the federal government does not hesitate to retroactively amend an act.

I give the example of school bus transportation. We will get to examine ways and means motions. In one instance, with respect to school bus transportation, the federal government changed the rules after losing in court. It decided this change would be deemed to have come into effect on December 17, 1990. It does not bother the government when it comes to grabbing money that is intended for school boards in Quebec and Ontario.

Do not make us laugh. If the federal government were serious about wanting to correct this injustice, it could correct it; instead, it is hiding behind the courts. I hope that it will be equally consistent in the ways and means motion and remove the GST retroactivity for school boards.

None of the arguments we have heard from the government side hold water. Simply put, in this case, as with the guaranteed income supplement and the tax credit for persons with disabilities, this Liberal federal government does not care about the people. This is a heartless government.

Like all hon. members in this House, I hope, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of the motion put forward by the hon. member.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to speak briefly in support of the bill that is before the House, a bill introduced by my colleague from the federal riding of Churchill, which I might remind all members is the NDP province of Manitoba. I congratulate the member for Churchill for having taken this important initiative to remedy what clearly is an injustice and a sort of double injury to workers who are injured or diseased on the job.

I do not think it is an accident that the member for Churchill has taken this initiative. Not only is she a health care worker who has seen injured and diseased workers being discriminated against in a very particular way, but she also represents a riding that is very heavily dependent upon resource industries.

It is a well-known fact that a great number of workers are injured in the course of doing their jobs in the mining sector for example, and in the forestry sector. I believe the forestry sector has the highest incidence of worker injuries of any economic sector. She of course has seen the amount of hardship that is imposed on people's lives through any discriminatory measures that are inherent in our current public policies. I congratulate her for bringing the concerns forward.

Of course it is self-evident that if there is discrimination economically against individual injured workers and a higher incidence of injury in the workplace in a particular area, then it becomes a matter that has a discriminatory effect economically on the whole community. Therefore, it is first and foremost a bill that attempts to address the negative economic impact, the double penalty in effect, on injured workers for their Canada pension plan benefits to be affected negatively in the future, but it is also an attempt to remedy the fact that there is a discriminatory impact in some cases on particular communities that are dependent upon industries where there is a higher level of workplace injury or disease.

I think members are very clear on the purpose of the bill. It is quite a straightforward, simple remedy that is being proposed here. My colleague from Dartmouth has reminded us that what is being sought by the Churchill member's bill is an amendment to the definition of what constitutes pensionable employment for purposes of determining one's future Canada pension plan benefits. This is really a matter of simple justice. I do not think those of us in this corner of the House like to use the terminology common sense as it conjures up images of the Mike Harris government, but it really is a reasonable measure that is fairly straightforward to deal with a form of discrimination that exists now that rears its ugly head in one's retirement years.

We have a Canada pension plan in the first place, something we should be proud of, something for which the New Democratic Party fought very long and hard in the early years to get into place and continues to fight hard to ensure is maintained at adequate levels so that seniors are lifted out of poverty, but also that it remains in the public domain. This has not been an easy struggle in the current climate.

On the other hand, I think there is reason to be optimistic that we have turned the corner somewhat on a climate over the last 10 years which has constantly eroded the value of our public provisions, like the Canada pension plan.

This pension is in place because it recognizes that all workers should have the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a pension plan that will be in place for them in their senior years.

The reality is that because pensionable income is not now defined to include workers' compensation benefits, we have the situation where workers, first, suffer the penalty of being injured or diseased in the workplace, then second, find themselves unable to have their workers' compensation benefits deemed to be pensionable so that there is the double injury, and then third, when they reach the retirement years, find their pensions are actually lower than they would otherwise have been.

That clearly does not meet the intentions of the Canada pension plan, nor is it simple justice.

I know that several other members who have spoken have taken the opportunity, which is perfectly in order, to raise some concerns about other aspects of our broad income security system, our disability pensions and unemployment insurance provisions, all of which have effectively been under assault by the government in a number of different ways.

I think we need to be clear that with respect to this particular issue we are talking about recognizing that workers who are injured or diseased on the job, through no fault of their own, find themselves unable to go to work and therefore the substitute income, which is in place and to which they and their employer have contributed, should be considered pensionable income for calculating the level of their Canada pension plan benefits when they reach their retirement years.

I know the Alliance members never fail to take an opportunity, and in this I guess we can say at least they are consistent. It is as if every single problem that presents itself is best solved by lower taxes.

However I think it is a ridiculous to go down that path when we are talking about dealing specifically with a pan-Canadian Canada pension plan and the very particular way in which workers' compensation income is calculated, or, in this case, fails to be calculated, for the purpose of determining the pension for which they are eligible in their senior years.

It really is a matter of agreeing that there is an important principle: workers should not be discriminated against in their retirement years because they suffered a workplace injury or disease. It is not as though we do not know how to do this.

I appreciate that the Alliance member said that he understood the problem and that he was interested in knowing how it could be solved but that a lot of questions needed to be addressed to solve it. That is fair game. That is part of our jobs as members of Parliament. If we are going to support a particular measure we should know how the matter can be dealt with.

I take the opportunity to say, without hesitation, that one fortunately can look at the Province of Quebec and say that it has already addressed the problem. It is my understanding that the Quebec government, in having availed itself of the opportunity to opt out of the Canada pension plan, has put in place its own Quebec pension plan to address the problem. It recognized the discriminatory element in the current workers' compensation program in every other province and it simply said that there ought to be the opportunity for injured or diseased workers who are on workers' compensation to maintain their level of contributions to the Canada pension plan.

The question was raised by government members as well. How would it be paid for? I am not saying that the way in which the Quebec government is now paying for this is the only way to do it but I think it does show that the Quebec government has recognized the double injury involved and said that through the CSST, basically the health and social security commission, that provision will be made to pay for those benefits. That in turn removes the discriminatory element. Perhaps there are other ways in which it can be done.

Let me reiterate a point that the member for Churchill and every other member who has spoken from the NDP caucus in support of this private member's bill have made, and that is that this is not a simple matter of the federal government legislating a solution.

This is a case of where there is a federal presence in the Canada pension plan. There are provincial workers compensation programs. Clearly, we would have to negotiate the way in which this would be implemented. Quebec has already shown that where there is a will there is a way. There is every reason for the provinces to be receptive to this important improvement in the existing provisions for injured workers who are being discriminated against under the Canada pension plan.

I hope other members will continue to help us address the problem. It is fundamentally a moral issue that has to do with treating all Canadian workers equally.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I will say a few brief words on this topic in support of the motion. Why I say they will be a few brief words is that I think we talk too much about issues such as this one and we do not do enough about them. An issue such as this should not be one that we have to debate for hours, days, weeks, months or years as has been happening. It should be a cut and dried issue.

Canada is the type of country that leads to people being injured on the job because Canada is a country of very rich resources. Developing resources is always dangerous work, whether it is working in the mines, working in relation to hydro developments, working offshore or working in the fishery and I could go on and on. All of these professions cause one to be working in dangerous situations.

Even working in what we call ordinary everyday work can lead to someone slipping and falling and injuring oneself. Often people can be out of the workplace for quite some time. This means that the total amount of Canada pension down the road is diminished according to the number of years the person is out of work.

The person is still considered as an active person in the workplace, not someone who has quit or was fired or whose job ran out. The person not working in a specific position simply because he or she has been injured. The person will return to the position whenever he or she is fit and is cleared by the appropriate doctors to go back to work.

In the meantime the time off, which unfortunately sometimes can be considerable, is not factored in in relation to Canada pension. Why?

The only legitimate argument I hear is that the employer who is involved will have to hire someone else to replace the person who is off. That is understandable. It would be very unfair to ask the employer to pay Canada pension premiums for the new worker who is doing the job and pay Canada pension premiums for someone who is listed as a worker in that factory or whatever, but is unable to work or assist the employer because he or she is off on workers compensation.

The question I ask is, why should the employer have to pay? I do not think the employer should have to pay. There is no reason to double the burden of the employers who are hit by two great premiums in relation to Canada pension, and particularly in relation to employment insurance.

There are two other options if premiums must be paid. Certainly, one is the government and some will say, “Well, that is people again doubling up on it”. A proper mechanism could be put in place in consultation with the three parties involved, the employer, who I will say up front I do not think should be handed any extra burden, the government and the person who is directly involved. It would not be unreasonable with the amount of money we are talking about here to give somebody the option of having his or her time count toward possible Canada pension benefits down the road and benefiting from that provided they were willing to pay the double premium. It is basically an insurance for the future.

It is not unreasonable whatsoever. It is not a major additional burden on the individual who has been injured. What it does do is it certainly enhances the income of that person down the road when the days, months or years he or she is off on workers compensation are now counted as time toward the drawing of Canada pension benefits.

Somewhere in between there is an answer. Instead of arguing and fighting and saying yes, it is hard, why do all parties involved not sit down and find a solution? I am sure we can, and in an amount of time similar to the time we have spent discussing this here in the House, unless we bring in a pile of bureaucrats.

I solidly support this. I see a lot of people, particularly people who are working in positions that do not have great pay, who are doing very ordinary work and making a very ordinary wage and suddenly find themselves trying to live on the 80% that some provinces pay, or somewhere in that vicinity. It is difficult enough to be sick or hurt and trying to live on less money. However we cut it, it is less money. People might say that they do not have to pay any extra amount for benefits and so on, but a lot of the benefits we pay into come back to us one in way or another. If we are not paying in they are not going to come back.

It is bad enough to be in that position, but let us look at people who in 10 or 5 or maybe 2 years' time are finishing up work and looking toward their meagre Canada pensions and who find that pension reduced significantly, especially if it was in their latter years of work, because they were on workers' compensation. In reality, they were not out of work through any choice of their own, because of layoffs or because they quit or because they did not want to work. They were out of work because they were injured. In reality, they are really still on the lists of the unemployed as it affects the companies with which they would have worked.

I certainly think there is a solution here, one that could be found quickly if the will were there. Again, I and my party solidly support this suggestion provided that it is done without the extra onus on the employers, many of whom are small business people who are having it tough enough with government red tape, bureaucracy and regulations.

Maybe we could do two things here. Let us zero in on this matter and, realizing how easily something like this could be solved, maybe it will give government the incentive to look back and say to itself that maybe it could solve a lot of problems negatively affecting the people in our country if it would sit down and, with a bit of common sense, deal directly with these problems. It could change or cut out the foolish regulations in place that delay and procrastinate, or it could implement new fine-tuned regulations that can cut quickly through red tape and bureaucracy. Perhaps for a change we can get down to one-stop shopping.

An issue came up the other day. It dealt with a relatively small issue in fisheries. In order to deal with the topic, which we should be able to do with a snap of our fingers, seven different departments had to be consulted because there were seven different pieces of legislation dealing with a very minuscule topic.

For instance, in relation to the development of the offshore in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am sure this is true in the development of other resources in other places, if we want to do some exploration, I understand, we must deal with either 13 or 14 boards, agencies and departments. From the time the first application is initiated until a permit is issued, we are looking at at least two years, if we are lucky. We can imagine the time and effort that companies have to put in for two years, whereas in Norway they deal with one organization. It is inconceivable the number of burdens that we put on our people.

Let us take a lesson from that. Let us start right here and let us get this one out of the way.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper. This House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)