House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was military.


Bill C-41. On the Order: Government Orders

June 4, 2003--the Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates of Bill C-41, an act to amend certain Acts.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons


That Bill C-41, an act to amend certain Acts, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak briefly today about Bill C-41, the technical adjustments bill, which proposes minor corrections to a number of statutes that would not justify stand-alone bills in Parliament.

The government has introduced this kind of bill as a housekeeping initiative to make the most effective use of parliamentarians' time and to ensure that our laws are accurate and up to date and often particularly reflect changes in terminology between the French and the English languages.

By proceeding now with this bill, Parliament can consider minor amendments to statutes without having to wait for legislation dealing with more fundamental changes to the statutes in question.

Bill C-41 is the second technical corrections bill the government has introduced. A similar bill was introduced in 2001 to correct a variety of statutes.

I want to quickly summarize the provisions of this bill.

For example, amendments to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act would change the French title for the new one that is now accepted for deputy commissioner from “commissaire adjoint” to the new term “commissaire délégué”, which I understand reflects the modern way of describing this term in French.

The title for the executive director of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy would be changed from executive director to president. Again, this is a more up to date title.

The Financial Administration Act would be amended to clarify the definition of officers-directors to provide for clearer administration of these positions.

There is a provision involving lieutenant governors. Bill C-41 updates the disability provisions for lieutenant governors over age 65 consistent with provisions for lieutenant governors under 65 and changes for parliamentarians made in 2001. The bill would also allow lieutenant governors to contribute to their pensions for up to five years in the event they become disabled and receive disability benefits.

This provision would ensure that disabled lieutenant governors can become eligible for their pensions, consistent with the provisions available to MPs and public servants. We addressed these issues in the MPs' plan a little while back. This merely standardizes the form for lieutenant governors as well.

With respect to fees for consular services, since 1998, the government has been levying such fees based on a decision made by the Treasury Board.

An administrative correction is needed to validate this authorization to levy these fees between January 1998 and January 2003.

Bill C-41 also makes corrections with respect to customs-related matters, notably the coordination provisions in the Canada-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, and the references to tariffs in the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.

As I indicated earlier, these amendments are purely technical and do not imply any general policy change. I hope that the members will facilitate the passage of these amendments to correct and update our legislation, as required.

I call on my colleagues to support this initiative so that we may make corrections and have proper translations in our legislation as soon as possible.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-41 is an omnibus bill containing a number of provisions that would normally have been subjected to the miscellaneous statute law amendment program. This program was initiated in 1975 and was established to allow for minor, non-controversial amendments to federal statutes in an omnibus bill. Under the program, a draft version of the bill is submitted to the Standing Committees on Justice of the House and the Senate.

The MSLA process requires any item objected to by the Senate or the House committee to be withdrawn from the bill. To be included, the proposed amendments must meet certain criteria. They must not be controversial, not involve the spending of public funds, not prejudicially affect the rights of persons, not create a new offence, and not subject a new class of persons to an existing offence.

The procedure is designed to eliminate any potential controversial items, ensuring quick passage of the bill. Meeting these criteria and going through the MSLA process legitimizes the use of the omnibus bill. Since the process was not followed, the official opposition would like to register an objection to the use of an omnibus bill. When this bill goes to committee, we will be asking the government to explain why it has abandoned the MSLA process.

The purpose of this act is to make technical amendments and corrections to various statutes. This enactment makes technical corrections to: the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act; the Customs Act; the Financial Administration Act; the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act; the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act; the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act; the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act; the Salaries Act; the Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act; the Public Service Modernization Act; and the consular fees regulations coming into force.

Several amendments correct the French versions, bringing them in line with the English versions, namely: amendments to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act, the Customs Act, the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act, and the Public Service Modernization Act.

Several amendments clean up the language and correct misuse of gender. These corrections are made to the Financial Administration Act, the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act and the Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act.

One amendment brings the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act into line with the Costa Rica free trade agreement Canada signed and the House passed in the last session.

With respect to the changes to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act, the environment critic for the official opposition will address that matter later.

Changes to the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act make provisions for the partner of a former lieutenant governor to have a pension.

Finally, the changes to the Salaries Act entitle lieutenant governors to a disability allowance.

My party will support the bill, but we wish it had been done in a different manner.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

September 26th, 2003 / 10:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Progressive Conservative Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-41, an act to amend certain acts. Let me state from the outset that this piece of legislation is not as straightforward as some would have us believe. The bill is very technical and one that requires tough scrutiny and examination prior to its passage.

The bill proposes a series of minor technical amendments to various federal acts, including the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act and the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act.

Bill C-41 is not in itself a so-called statute law amendment act. To be such it would have to meet certain criteria established by the justice department's legislative section. For example, the proposed amendment should not be controversial or require the expenditure of public funds, which is not the case with Bill C-41. Rather, this is an omnibus bill that will update and maintain certain laws. The last parliamentary initiative of this sort dates back to June 2002 when Parliament passed Bill C-43.

According to the government, Bill C-41 permits minor corrections which do not warrant separate bills to be made to a number of existing federal laws. In some cases the amendments aim to make the English and French versions of an act more consistent with one another. In others they clarify the definition of certain terms to make an act's provisions easier to interpret.

The technical amendments are to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act, the Customs Act, the Financial Administration Act, and the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act.

Despite what the Liberals say, Bill C-41 also contains major amendments to two other federal acts. The bill amends the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act so that they may continue to pay into their pension plan up to a maximum of five years should they become disabled and have to leave office before completing the five years of service required to be entitled to a pension plan.

Moreover, Bill C-41 establishes a formula for the segment of a pension if, following the death of the lieutenant governor, there are two surviving spouses. Corresponding amendments to the Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act and the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act will complement the government's proposed amendments in this area.

Bill C-41 also amends the Salaries Act to establish a disability allowance for lieutenant governors who become disabled after 65 years of age. This will provide them with the same coverage that they had before turning 65. According to the government, this amendment is based on provisions applicable to parliamentarians over the age of 65.

These amendments seem to be part of the ongoing review of the benefits and obligations scheme for lieutenant governors. Last year Bill C-43 also amended the Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act to lower from 65 to 60 the age at which provincial representatives of the Queen became eligible for a deferred pension. It is interesting to note that instead of using a single bill to do so, the government has decided to modernize this plan under the guise of technical amendments.

Bill C-41 makes two amendments to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. First, the person responsible for managing the round table, who in passing is appointed by the governor in council to hold office during pleasure, will now hold the title of president instead of executive director. Second, this person from now on will hold office for a term not exceeding five years, rather than the three years currently provided under subsection 10(1) of the act.

The Progressive Conservative Party of Canada supports the bill in principle at this time; however, we feel that Bill C-41 requires further study and examination, which requires our full attention.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-41. I will just go through the area that relates to the environment.

This omnibus bill does nothing substantial to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. It simply changes the title of the executive director to president. I would like to take this opportunity to talk about this national round table and what I feel it stands for and let Canadians know some of the problems with it.

First, I do not think the job title particularly matters. The current president, as he will now be called instead of executive director, is David McGuinty. That probably says quite a bit currently. It tells us who has to be named to the position. The person obviously has to be a good Liberal.

Like most publicly funded Liberal boards, there are a huge number of Liberal supporters on them. The national round table is no different. I am not saying that many of these people are not qualified; some of them do an excellent job. The problem is they have to be Liberals in order to be there. That is pretty much a major problem.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:15 a.m.


Paul MacKlin Liberal Northumberland, ON

Almost everyone is a Liberal.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Bob Mills Canadian Alliance Red Deer, AB

Not in my area, sir. They are a rare breed. They are an endangered species in some parts of the country.

The other problem is that those people are appointed by the Prime Minister. Again, we have this top down process where the Prime Minister has all of the power to name this particular group. I suppose it follows that he is going to name his friends.

Therefore we see people like Mr. McGuinty, people like Quebec lawyer Alfred Pilon, career politicians like Mike Harcourt and so on. As I say some of them do a very good job but the problem is there is not that broad base which really would be a better way to do it.

We are really saying that it should be based on a person's qualifications. It should be a wide range of people. It should be open and accountable. The budgeting should be done up front so we know exactly what these things are going to cost.

Let me relate a couple of experiences that I have had over the last 10 years with similar types of government boards and meetings. The first one was in Vancouver. I was there as a critic and sat at a table. It is very interesting because around that table of 10 people, nine of them were Liberals. Eight of them had been candidates who had lost in the previous election. They had come with their wives to Vancouver. They were staying in a five star hotel. They complained rather bitterly that they had been forced to come to the banquet because it really interfered with some of the other activities that they and their wives had planned to do while visiting Vancouver.

They had absolutely no interest in the topic of discussion. They had absolutely no concern for what it was about. They were on a two or three day paid junket to Vancouver. That was what it was all about. They were very clear and open. This was early in my political career and they probably thought I was one of them as well. It was interesting rather than to talk to listen to what they had to say.

They had a lot to say about what they expected. I recall one fellow saying, “If I run three times for the party, even if I lose I will get a really good appointment, so that is my motivation for running”. I would hope most people in the House had a better motivation than that for wanting to be a member of Parliament.

As well, I am pleased that we can debate the environment and speak about the Kyoto round table. That was very interesting. There was an invitation list primarily of people who supported the protocol.

The media were not allowed in. No one who was not on the list basically at the beginning was allowed in. Eventually I said that I was the official opposition critic for the environment and it would seem that maybe I should be there. I was advised by the bureaucrat I was talking to that they would see if I could come in but if I did come in, I could not talk, I could not ask questions and certainly they would not expect me to be politically partisan out in the coffee room.

It was a set up deal. It was a bunch of supporters who were out getting public opinion at 14 meetings across the country with a set list of invitees who were all on one side of the issue. There was no media allowed in and it was paid for by the Canadian taxpayer.

That is the problem with these round tables. They are not for the public. They are a way of rewarding political people for whether they run, whether they raise funds or whatever they do.

While the change in title from executive director to president is what Bill C-41 talks about, that is not the issue. Should we have round tables? Yes, I think it is good that the minister wants to hear from the Canadian public, from all of the interest groups on all sides of the issue, but I do not believe that is what the round table is all about. As a result obviously I think it is time that the Canadian public engaged and said “Look, if we are paying the bill, we want to be sure we are getting value for money. We don't particularly care whether you call him an executive director or a president. That is not the point”.

A good example would be a report that came out this week which was done by the University of Alberta and was commissioned by the Alberta Chamber of Commerce. It was a three or four month study. It was very in-depth. A lot of Canadians would have liked to have looked at all of those things. As the member for LaSalle—Émard has said, we need much more discussion. Canadians need to understand what it means.

The government says it will ask every Canadian to reduce by 20% and that it will pay $64 million per carbon credit. Of course, the plan is not totally in place and it really does not know. If it is like the REDI program, for every dollar that is spent on the environment, $4.35 will be spent on bureaucracy and administration. That is just an example of what happens.

The government does not engage with Canadians, that for $64 million per megatonne, it may reduce a maximum of 20 megatonnes. The forest fires in B.C. produced a 100 megatonnes. Our commitment is 240 and the government plan at very best would hit 170.

Would it not be better to engage Canadians and ask them what they really want for the environment? I think the answer would be, if we had that round table of all Canadians, that they want clean air. They want clean water. They want us to emphasize the smog days in Toronto. They want us to talk about the smog that one can literally chew in places along the border and in the Fraser Valley where the Americans are building power plants.

They want us to talk about those issues. They want that out in front where they can participate, not simply a bunch of political people getting together to be rewarded with a nice long weekend in Whistler, Banff, the Gatineaus or wherever. That is not what Canadians want to pay for. That is not what they should get.

While our party is supporting the bill and we are supporting the change in title of the executive director to president, we certainly would have a much better way of conducting national round tables on the environment than the way they are being done at present.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add some comments, but not to the same extent as my hon. colleague. He did a great job in dissecting some of the challenges in the acts when it comes to the amendments and the concerns we still have with the appointments of some positions.

As we heard, Bill C-41, an act to amend certain acts, lists a number of different areas that will be dealt with. I will read them into the record. However, I will focus on a couple of the areas that pertain to revenue and customs, the portfolio for which I am responsible.

This particular bill would amend the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act, the Customs Act, the Financial Administration Act, Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, Lieutenant Governors Superannuation Act, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act, the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act, the Salaries Act ,and the Supplementary Retirement Benefits Act.

My colleague from Red Deer was very eloquent about highlighting the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy Act. There are still challenges in the act that we in the House should be looking at very closely.

The changes that are being made in the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency Act, the Customs Act, and the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act are mostly housekeeping that are not too significant but need to be shared with the public.

Other areas of change deal with benefits and obligations in some of the retirement benefits. There will be some minor changes to the disability allowance and other benefits for former lieutenant governors, and also consular fees and specialized services regulations.

As my hon. colleague mentioned, we are supporting the changes. We do have some challenges still facing this particular bill that would amend some of the acts.

In the area of the CCRA Act, the Customs Act and the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act, I will share specifically the changes. They are simple housekeeping changes. Changes in the CCRA Act bring the French version in line with the English version of the act. Specifically it adds the French word “délégué” after “commissaire” throughout the act. Other than that there is nothing of which we are aware that is too significant, but significant enough to mention.

The Customs Act has a similar wording change, especially to update the French version with regard to the Costa Rican Free Trade Agreement. All members in the House and most Canadians know that the members of the official opposition have always been staunch supporters of free trade and obviously will continue to fight for free trade, because not only Canadians, but many developing countries in the world benefit directly from free trade.

Much of our strategy when we talk about foreign aid and development emphasizes that if we have a balanced free trade policy alongside the aid to many of these countries, it helps them develop even faster than just dumping money into them. We need to have that two-pronged strategy and we in the Alliance support it very strongly.

Finally, the Importation of Intoxicating Liquors Act has changes in the wording in the English language version to reflect the Costa Rican Free Trade Agreement.

That is about all that pertains to revenue and customs. I thought I would mention those changes. Hearing all this talk about intoxicating liquors, I am sure hon. members are getting thirsty, so I will stop right there.

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members


Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Some hon. members


Amendments and Corrections Act, 2003Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

(Motion agreed to and bill referred to a committee)

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Edmonton Strathcona Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliancefor the Minister of National Defence

moved that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac New Brunswick


Dominic LeBlanc LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this morning in support of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.

The Canadian Forces Superannuation Act dates from the 1960s. Although the fundamental principles of the system are still valid, the act has been improved a number of times over the years, and major changes were made in 1999.

Despite these changes, the act has not been substantially amended for some thirty years.

Times have certainly changed since the 1960s and new issues have arisen, issues that oblige us to take a fresh look at military pension legislation and begin working toward its modernization. One significant issue that has come up in recent years is the recruitment and retention challenge facing the Canadian Forces.

When the 1960 pension plan was drafted, the situation was quite different. At that time it was assumed that the Canadian Forces could count on being able to draw from a large pool of labour. The act was therefore designed with a view to supporting the forces profile and human resource realities of that time.

Today, we are facing a radically different job market. The trend toward smaller families, the aging population, and an increased enrollment in post-secondary education have all meant a smaller pool of potential recruits for the Canadian Forces. Competition for skilled workers is fierce and employment options available to people with the right skills are greater than ever.

For this reason, the Canadian Forces have taken, and are continuing to take, action to position itself as an employer of choice. Pension modernization is an essential part of this process.

In order to be competitive in today's labour market, the Canadian Forces must be able to offer a very complete benefits package comparable to those offered by other employers.

At present, the Canadian Forces need a pension plan that strongly favours recruitment and retention. They need a modern system with more flexible retirement programs that offer military personnel more control and choice with regard to their career path and financial planning.

However, modernizing the Canadian Forces pension arrangements is not just about recruitment and retention. It is about the government doing the right thing for the men and women who serve this country in the Canadian armed forces. It is also a quality of life issue.

The government has made impressive strides in improving the quality of life of our military personnel. There is still considerable work to be done. The amendments contained in this bill represent another positive step forward on the quality of life agenda by bringing fairness, flexibility, efficiency and inclusion to the military pension plan.

With these amendments we can ensure that our military personnel and their families are well taken care of and are properly compensated for their dedicated service to Canada. They deserve nothing less.

The bill before the House today would modernize military pensions through a series of major and minor amendments to the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act. For example, some of the changes being proposed in this bill would shorten the period of time required to qualify for a pension benefit from 10 years to 2 years, improve pension portability, provide greater flexibility for members of the forces in building their pension incomes by basing calculations on total pensionable service rather than on completing a precise term of engagement, offer entitlement to an immediate unreduced pension after 25 years of service, and improve pension benefits for survivors. And a final but important point, the new bill would provide pension coverage for reservists.

I think we are all aware of the enormous contributions made by our reservists to the country and to the Canadian Forces. We have a duty to ensure that they are adequately recognized for their service.

In 1997, the Reserve Force Retirement Gratuity was established. This benefit is intended to encourage reservists to stay longer in the Primary Reserve and to reward them if they do.

Nevertheless, the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs, among others, continues to push for a real pension system for reservists. The modernization of the pension plan lays the foundation for implementing just such a system.

The amendments set out in Bill C-37 bring long term, full time reservists under the same pension arrangements as their regular force counterparts. The bill lays the foundation needed to develop a pension plan for reservists who serve on a part time basis.

Pension modernization would not require new funding from the defence services program. Any cost increases are related to the implementation of the initiatives approved under the 1999 pension legislation. The costs for these initiatives have already been earmarked in the fiscal framework.

The chief actuary of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions estimated that the other changes contained in Bill C-37 would not result in cost increases and might, in fact, result in modest savings.

The benefits associated with this legislation are self-evident. To conclude, let me reiterate the two reasons why this legislation is not just important, but why it is crucial. First, the amendments would provide for a pension plan that better meets the needs of our regular and reserve forces, and their families as well. It is a plan that would ensure they get the benefits they need and deserve. Second, the proposed changes to the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act will support the human resources strategy of the Canadian Forces in the critical areas of recruitment and retention.

For these reasons I hope the House will support the proposed amendments contained in the bill.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to the legislation introduced today by the government on behalf of pensioners and future pensioners currently employed in the armed forces in the defence of our country and in the many other functions our armed forces personnel are required to fulfill these days.

I have a considerable interest in the matter of pensions. Some people will remember that on one occasion I took part in a philosophical debate about how pensions could be improved but unfortunately the timing was wrong. It made some interesting headlines in the newspapers, and we received a bit of flak about it.

Whether we are talking about Canadian pensioners at large, members of the armed forces, members of the RCMP or whomever, my interest is primarily and solely to improve the benefits and the fairness of the benefits received by people who work on our behalf.

We probably are not aware of the debt of gratitude we owe to our armed forces personnel as much as we should be. In my mind they are very special people. Not only have they chosen a career in the armed forces in the defence of either our civil or international liberties, they are willing, if necessary, to put their lives on the line on behalf of others as well. That is something which most of us do not think of often enough or deeply enough.

It is important to recognize that our armed forces personnel are serving in peacekeeping missions abroad in places like Afghanistan and others trying to improve the situation for people around the world as well as preserving our rights and freedoms in our country. These people occasionally live in very high risk situations. The fact that they are willing to do that makes them special people. We should pay particular attention to ensuring that they and their families are adequately and properly looked after when they reach retirement age, or heaven forbid, if they have some calamity in their lives requiring those benefits to be paid out before they reach that age.

I would like to commend the government for most of what is contained in Bill C-37, and the House may find that surprising. It is usually considered that the opposition's role is to oppose, and indeed it is. We oppose those things which are wrong. By the same token, our party is a party which is based on principle, and I am very proud of that fact. We are not here just for political reasons. We want to promote the principles that are good for our country.

Bill C-37 would improve the superannuation and retirement conditions for our armed services personnel. It is an improvement, and therefore I cannot, on that principle, oppose it. I agree with it because we need to make these improvements.

One very important change is one which strikes at some work that I did in my riding on behalf of several individuals who were with the armed forces and then for various reasons were asked to leave. The Canadian armed forces was reducing its personnel due to cutbacks and these individuals received a buyout which was fair according to the rules at the time but which was scarcely defensible. Then they were asked to return to the forces and continue serving in the capacity in which they were trained.

These individuals came to my office and said that little exercise had cut them out of their pension. I could not believe it. We tried to go to bat for them and very frankly did not have success in that case. The regulations were very clear. Once having been in the armed forces, if they quit for whatever reason, there was a final deal on the pension. It was a payout, or a transfer or whatever, and they could not buy back in. These individuals were, if I may be permitted to use a slightly unparliamentary term, shafted. They were not given a fair deal and it was not possible to correct it. I still feel badly about that.

I do not know whether the bill will serve retroactively to correct that error. I rather doubt it. However this is one of the issues which is addressed in Bill C-37 and it is one of the items I would like to include in my list of things for which I want to commend the government. No longer does it talk about continuous service to earn pension, but it talks about years of pensionable service, so if it is interrupted the member does not take a hit. I can only say, in a mild but sincere way, kudos to the government for recognizing that flaw and for repairing it. This is probably the most important feature of Bill C-37 and I wanted to talk about that first.

The second thing the government has included in this bill, with which I agree, is it gives access to armed forces personnel to their deferred pension benefits. This is a very common situation when people retire or they are pushed out of their positions early, often because of injury or other factors. The bill will give them access to pension benefits all the way down to age 50.

I do not know whether members are aware of this fact, but when one does this, actuarially the pension is reduced, which sometimes puts these people under some duress financially. However I really do not know any other way that that can be done. It would not be right to have one person who serves until age 60 or age 65 receive no more pension for the years of pensionable service left than the person who has been collecting pension since age 50. Actuarially reducing the pension is fair and we have to live with that. That is provided for in the bill and it is a very good situation.

Some people in the armed forces choose to retire early. In some cases it is a combination. Some individuals get into positions of extremely high stress and they really need to get out because of that stress they have had to endure. Even though they are not asked to retire, some of them recognize that their effectiveness in the armed forces is being diminished because of the toll the stress has taken on them over the years.

I commend the government for making these provisions available to members of the armed forces. I have not had a chance to read the bill in its entirety unfortunately, but I believe that those provisions, or at least some variation of them, are also being made available in this bill to the RCMP. That is another area where we have had presentations or representations from people who say that due to the very nature of the job, it is really unrealistic to expect them to work for 45 years before they reach retirement age, say from age 20 to age 65.

The RCMP also has made representation to all members of Parliament and have asked if its members could, for the sake of for example the Canada pension plan, make a one-third greater contribution to it to enable them to receive full benefits at age 55 instead of 65. Therefore there would be an additional contribution rate in proportion to the time that they have paid in.

Of course I had some discussions with them. I have this slight mathematical bent which I have difficulty turning off. I pointed out to them that even though they were asking for the contributions to be increased in proportion to the time the contributions would be made in fewer years, they failed to take into account the actuarial fact that the pension was now paid out for many more years, assuming that their age of death was about the same as if they would have kept on working to age 65. In fact if the stress relief provided by retiring early actually worked, they would probably live longer, actuarially speaking. Therefore one has to take those things into account as well.

However I still support that measure. Canadians benefit greatly by the work of our peacekeepers in our country, our police forces, and we ought to have that ready for them on behalf of taxpayers. I know I would much rather spend my money on providing decent benefits for our armed forces personnel and our RCMP officers than I would spending it in the many ways that the government wastes money.

For example, I would much rather put $1 billion into the RCMP and armed forces pension fund than I would to have them register duck hunters who go hunting in fall. Absurdities like that are very obnoxious to Canadian people at large, especially to the people who work in the defence of peace in our country. We ought to really be thinking about that.

The next element I would like to refer to briefly is the element of portability. I really think we have a lot of work, in total, on the portability of pension plans. This is true in the domestic world as well as for our armed forces.

A person who works for 20 years in one business, or who works for 20 years in the armed forces, should not be a slave to staying in that position simply because if they leave they lose any pension benefits they have accumulated. I would like to see full and total portability. I would like to see that among industries. I would like to see that among schools and colleges, for people in my profession. It is outrageous that people can lose their benefits and be forced to simply take a payout.

I do not know if members are aware of this but in most contributory pension benefit plans the contribution rates are usually matched by the employer.

This actually happened to me when I taught high school math for four years, when I was a youngster. When I left that to go to the college, I had a choice. I could either transfer it, which at that time was a gift because it was not to be included to make any greater benefits for myself, or I could take back the contributions I had made, forgoing the ones that were made on my behalf by the employer. This is true for armed forces personnel as well.

I am very pleased the bill addresses that issue. It states that if a person who has been serving in the armed forces for more than two years and leaves the position, the pension benefits they have earned are portable. That is a very good provision. At that stage, under the Income Tax Act, they can move it into an RRSP or they can transfer it to another pension plan if they go to another employer, specifically one in the government. In other words, they can transfer that pension benefit over and carry it over in the next plan.

It is my understanding the bill does that. If my understanding is right, then that is a positive step and I need to commend the government for it.

National Arthritis Awareness MonthStatements by Members

10:55 a.m.


Dominic LeBlanc Liberal Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that September will mark National Arthritis Awareness Month.

This debilitating disease can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime—no one is immune. Arthritis comes in more than 100 different forms and affects four million Canadians—from infants to seniors. Joint paint and inflammation are the common factors, though their impact can range from minor aches to immobility.

The Arthritis Society has indicated that the annual funding for their research and career development program is $5.5 million.

Please join me in extending our appreciation to the collaborating organizations and individuals by applauding their efforts in monitoring the health and quality of life of Canadians living with arthritis.

Forest IndustryStatements by Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, two years ago the forest industry in Canada was hit with a severe blow, softwood lumber tariffs. To date the government has bungled the handling of this problem and it remains unresolved.

My riding is very forestry dependent, especially in the West Kootenay and Boundary regions. Employers like Slocan Forest Products, Kalesnikoff Lumber, Atco Lumber, Pope and Talbot and Hilmoe Forest Products have been hard hit, not only with this latest problem, but also from the government's previous fiasco, the softwood quota system.

In an apparent effort to help the forest industry communities cope with the impact, the government came up with a funding plan that was to see the province of B.C. get $50 million in aid to impacted communities.

Long after this was set up, how is the government doing? Funding to West Kootenay communities is zero and funding to Boundary communities is zero. The only money that came into our entire riding was $14,387. Although the community that received this money is extremely grateful and used the money wisely, it does not have a sawmill.

To the Liberal government, all I have to say is thanks very little.

Les Invasions barbaresStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the House that, following its recent release in France, the film Les Invasions barbares by Canadian director Denys Arcand is a box office success.

Although I cannot give exact figures, an article in today's La Presse hinted that initial ticket sales for the feature film are very encouraging.

Regardless of what France thinks of the film Les Invasions barbares , I wanted to rise in the House to confirm my pride in this country's ability to produce excellent feature films.

Whether they speak the language of Molière or Shakespeare, Canadians everywhere have always done well at exporting our culture beyond our borders.

We all take great pride in this.

Unite the RightStatements by Members

11 a.m.


John Bryden Liberal Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was delighted to read this morning that negotiations to unite the right are proceeding at pace. Certainly Canadians would be better served if there were a viable opposition in the House of Commons, a voice that could criticize constructively.

So far, and I do not want you to take this as a criticism, Mr. Speaker, both the leader of the Canadian Alliance and the leader of the Conservatives have failed miserably.

But there is hope. Waiting outside with his chauffeur is former Ontario premier, Mike Harris.

Well, as an Ontario Liberal MP I cannot think of anyone I would rather see lead a united right. Considering his track record in Ontario, if Mr. Harris is over there, we will be over here leading the country for a very long time yet to come.

Jewish CommunityStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Diane St-Jacques Liberal Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, today marks the start of a very important period for all of our fellow Canadians of the Jewish faith.

Today they are celebrating Rosh Hashanah.

The high holy days are governed by the lunar calendar, so they fall either in September or October. The ten-day period starts with Rosh Hashanah, which marks the start of the Jewish new year, and ends with the fast for Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

Canada's Jewish community is an important component of Canadian society.

On this important day, I take this opportunity in the House to express the heartfelt wish of all Canadians for peace at last in the Middle East.

ReginaStatements by Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Larry Spencer Canadian Alliance Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to congratulate Mayor Pat Fiacco on his outstanding win by acclamation of a second term as mayor of Regina.

This outstanding feat has been accomplished only twice before in Regina's history. Mayor Fiacco has thrown a political knockout punch. His extraordinary dedication and enthusiasm have earned him tremendous popularity with Regina residents, thereby eliminating all contenders.

Mayor Fiacco's “I love Regina” campaign is boosting the image of the Queen's city, raising the level of pride in the citizens and building enthusiasm in the business community.

The city of Regina has a low cost of doing business, some of the friendliest people in Canada and a lifestyle second to none.

As a long time resident of the city of Regina, I too take great pride in saying with Mayor Fiacco “I love Regina”.

Police and Peace Officers National Memorial DayStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Joe Peschisolido Liberal Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, this weekend, thousands of police and peace officers will gather on Parliament Hill to honour colleagues who have died in the line of duty.

They meet annually to keep their memory alive and to ensure that the magnitude of their sacrifice will never be forgotten.

This year a young officer from Richmond, British Columbia will be honoured. Jimmy Ng was just 32 years old and a six year member of the RCMP when he was killed in the line of duty in a motor vehicle collision last September.

Jimmy was a well-respected and dedicated police officer. His fellow officers paid tribute to his memory last weekend outside the Richmond RCMP detachment by unveiling a plaque in his name and his honour. His colleagues fondly remembered him as an officer who “led by doing and showing” and exemplified the RCMP's core values of honesty, integrity and professionalism.

Jimmy is truly missed.

Journées de la cultureStatements by Members

11 a.m.


Roger Gaudet Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, today is the opening day of the seventh annual Journées de la culture, which are being held all over Quebec.

Over the next three days, everyone is invited to take part in numerous activities organized in various cultural centres. This wonderful event is only possible because of the over 5,000 participants willing to share their passion for culture.

The Journées provide all of us with an opportunity to experience a number of different facets of Quebec's rich cultural tradition, through visual arts, poetry, arts and crafts, history, and the performing arts. Participants will be encouraged to choose their means of expression, and as a result will be more aware than ever of the importance of recognizing and safeguarding the cultural diversity of Quebec.

Everyone is invited to take this opportunity to let out the artist that lies within them.

Duke of Edinburgh AwardStatements by Members

11:05 a.m.


Tony Tirabassi Liberal Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my constituent, Chief Warrant Officer Paul Brown of the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, Army Cadet Corps., who was presented with the Duke of Edinburgh award by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, last June 24.

The Duke of Edinburgh award is designed to help young people between the ages of 14 and 25 develop a sense of responsibility in themselves and their community by expanding their horizons. The award has evolved into one of the most comprehensive, personal achievement programs in the world.

Chief Warrant Officer Brown is presently studying business administration logistics at the Royal Military College in Kingston. A nine year contract that he signed with the Canadian military includes his four years at RMC and five years of work with a possible six month period overseas.

I want to congratulate him on this most prestigious award and I wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavours.