House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was forces.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have always been committed to working with veterans. The parliamentary secretary works very hard on this issue. We support veterans and we will continue to support them.

The system we now have is a very good one, because it has a number of characteristics and includes generous provisions. Obviously, we are working very hard on this issue. We will have answers in due course, but we are working to ensure that our veterans retain their dignity at all times.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, we do want to be generous with our veterans' pensions, as the hon. member said in her answer to the question, but how do we deal with these pensions with the disparity in the cost of living that exists for many pensioners across the country? I think of the aboriginal people in northern Canada with the high cost of living, the remoteness and the fact that a lot of them have served in the armed forces and have been away from their communities for a very long time. When they return, how do they deal with re-establishing a lifestyle as a veteran and a pensioner in the situation where the cost of living is out of sight?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, the pension we have at this time is fully indexed to the cost of living. When the cost of living goes up, it is immediately indexed.

We are therefore working very hard to ensure that veterans do not have this problem.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will just pick one aspect of the motion, the veterans independence program. With respect to the widows and widowers who cared for our veterans in the last stages of their lives, does the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister not believe that all of them, every last one of them, should receive the VIP package regardless of the time of death of the veteran?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

November 2nd, 2006 / 1 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I must point out that we have the greatest respect for the widows and widowers of veterans and that we are working very hard to find a way of meeting their expectations.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to participate in this debate today. I will be sharing my time with the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

I would like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his work not just on this motion but generally on behalf of veterans. He gave some very moving comments this morning about his family's experience in Holland and their gratitude for the work that our armed forces did at that time.

On a personal note, I can certainly say that my years of experience of working with our armed forces personnel have allowed me to observe their dedication and their willingness to serve wherever and whenever they are asked by the government to do so.

A month ago, on October 5, I spoke in support of a bill to honour our soldiers by designating a peacekeepers day. It was a symbol of our gratitude, of our recognition of the service of soldiers who have risked their lives, and continue to do so, in the service of our country, of peace and of democracy.

Today, through this motion, we can do more than offer a token of gratitude. We can actually rectify a number of unjust situations that veterans and their families continue to face.

I will focus in particular on two aspects of this motion that several of my constituents have either spoken or written to me about. I will begin with clause 2 of the motion that proposes to extend the veterans independence program to all widows of all veterans, regardless of the time of death of the veteran and regardless of whether the veteran was in receipt of VIP services prior to his or her death.

The veterans independence program is a national home care program provided by Veterans Affairs Canada. It depends on the person's circumstances, health and needs, but it includes housekeeping, ground maintenance, personal care services, health support services and access to nutrition. The program was established to help clients remain healthy and independent in their own homes or communities. Widows whose husbands died prior to 1981 are not eligible for the program, nor are those widows whose husbands did not receive VIP benefits prior to their death.

The interesting thing about this part of the motion is that it would actually save money for the government by allowing seniors to stay in their homes longer. Many of the women cared for their husbands in their homes for years, assisting them with daily living and other caregiving duties. Some of these women are now facing declining health and need these services. Access to these services would give special recognition of their supportive work and allow many of them, as I said, to remain healthy and independent in their homes.

This is no simple program gap. It is a serious omission with real life consequences for Canadians every day.

Just this spring a local Royal Canadian Legion brought to my attention a case of a veteran from my riding who passed away in November 2005. Before he died, the Department of Veterans Affairs had installed a chairlift in his home. His wife, who is also not well, has difficulty with her mobility and is not able to get around in the house without the aid of the chairlift, yet they came to this veteran's home in late March of this year, a few months after his death, to remove the chairlift. They did not phone the veteran's wife or family to inquire about an opportune time to remove the lift, nor whether the lift was still required by the veteran's spouse.

The legion pointed out that this veteran's widow deserves to be able to use the chairlift. After all, she was the one who raised their children on her own while her husband was away serving our country in a theatre of war.

Her family is trying to give their aged mother the dignity of remaining in her own home for as long as possible, and it is not possible without the chairlift. I agree that it is the very least we can do to honour this woman for her sacrifice and the sacrifice of her husband to allow this device to stay for as long as she needs it. This chairlift I am happy to report is still in the home, but only because this couple's son stood strong and refused to let MEDIchair remove it.

It should not fall to the families of Canadian veterans to defend their parents' right to live with dignity. That should be a given from the government that waxes poetic about its commitment to our troops, yet somehow has continued to let the troops and their families fall through the cracks in their later years.

Now is the time to do more than talk about honouring our soldiers. The Conservatives can keep the promise the Prime Minister made while in opposition and help the spouses and the families of our veterans.

A second way to do that is to eliminate the deduction from annuity for retired and disabled Canadian Forces members. The service pensions of retired Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel are reduced significantly when the pensioner receives CPP or CPP disability benefits. This reduction formula is especially punishing for the military personnel and the RCMP now disabled and in receipt of CPP disability benefits.

Eliminating this clawback would assist in recognizing their special contributions to our country. During their working years they face dangerous conditions, extended family separations, hazards to health and safety, long stretches of overtime, and have to re-establish family life with new postings many times over their career.

One of my constituents recently wrote me to tell his story. When he became a pensioner on February 22, a portion of his Canadian Forces annuity, equal to about 70¢ per dollar of CPP disability pension, was clawed back. He wrote:

I have contributed to both the Canadian Forces Superannuation Plan and the Canada Pension Plan for all of my working life. I know that CF and RCMP members were SUPPOSED to have contributed to CPP at a lower rate than others; however, my records show that I have contributed the maximum allowable amount every year from 1974 to 2005. Both the CFSA and the CPP are pension plans, to which one contributes with the understanding that when one retires, one collects the benefits of that pension plan at the rate to which one has become entitled.

These two issues are in addition to three others that the Royal Canadian Legion has brought to our attention. This motion seeks to allow a veteran's spouse to receive pension benefits upon the veteran's death, removing this desperately antiquated clause that unfairly penalizes older women.

This motion would push to increase the inadequate survivors pension amount from 50% to 60% to give our veterans and their families comparable treatment from superannuation and survivor benefits to those received by individuals in public or private pension plans.

These five points are no-brainers in my opinion in recognizing the exceptional contribution and sacrifice of our Canadian Forces veterans and their families. Our inaction is a disservice to those who have served us very well. There are surely more issues than these to address, but let these five points be a beginning.

I would briefly like to mention the next immediate step to take after this and that is to reconsider the discontinuance of danger pay to our injured soldiers in Afghanistan. This is another issue that cuts to the heart of how we recognize the contribution of military families. Their family member comes home from a theatre of war with an injury and we dock his or her pay for getting injured. I agree with a constituent of mine who wrote, “I am in awe that Ottawa can't see the harm that is being caused to the morale of our troops over a relatively small amount of money”.

When a government makes that most solemn decision to send the men and women of our Canadian Forces to war, those men and women respond with wholehearted courage and commitment. Once our veterans have served Canada, it is time for Canada to serve our veterans.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Betty Hinton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is very obvious that everyone in the House has deep and emotional feelings toward our veterans. I am going to presume that the NDP member who put this motion forward has also done the due diligence and has looked into the costs of putting forward some of what is contained within the bill.

In terms of item 5 alone, a rough guesstimate, and it truly just a rough guesstimate, is $22 billion. I wonder if the member opposite could please tell us where she thinks we would be able to find $22 billion.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think the issue of due diligence is an important one in all areas of the military. It is not just important to do our due diligence when we send them abroad and send them to war or to the theatre of war such as we are doing now in Afghanistan, it also is important to do our due diligence in all cases of looking after them and their families when they return.

I believe that government has a role to play, if it is committed to our forces, in looking at the finances to allow this to happen. It is not just a question of buying equipment. It is also important to look after the people who are involved in serving us.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it ironic to hear the numbers being floated. On the record I would have to say that I think they are absurd in terms of what it is costing us.

I would like to give members an example. A senior in my community who grew up in the Depression asked me if I knew what it was like in the Depression when the kids were hungry and the government said there was not a cent for them. The government had no money for them.

When they went through the Depression, he said, there was no unemployment money and there was nothing for them, but when the war came, boy oh boy, cost was not an option. We got the boots on them and we sent them off. We sent them over by the thousands. Cost was no option. The government did not consider it. Most of them never came home and the ones who did have had to deal with a parsimonious response from government year after year.

In my own riding, there is a widow who was given a pension of $3.25 a month. There is no problem with feeding us at lunch every day in the House. What everyone in this House gets fed at lunch is worth more than the $3.25 a month we were giving that widow, and this is in 2006.

I would like to ask the member why she thinks it is that the Conservative government stands here and comes up with such outrageously inflated figures when we are dealing with the simple fact of coming up with an honourable conclusion for what our veterans and their widows have lived through.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

In the past month, Mr. Speaker, we have seen the government attribute $13 billion to our surplus without considering many other very important needs in our society. Basic literacy is important for people to participate in the economy, and now some figures are being brought out about this.

I would like to repeat and emphasize that I myself have been a witness to the incredible work that our military has done, whether it lies in being at sea for months or in jumping in the ocean out of a helicopter to save someone. That we now become stingy after the fact, after they either have to take medical leave or retire and leave their families in distress, is just not an acceptable response by the government.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo B.C.

Conservative

Betty Hinton ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I will assure both members of the NDP that I am not pulling numbers out of thin air. I suggested that this is a rough guesstimate, and that is only on one of the five points that has been brought forward. I am not challenging the member. I am asking the member to back up this particular motion that has been put forward. Has the due diligence been done? Would the member give an estimate as to what it will cost?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Yes, Mr. Speaker, there are estimates that have been provided for each of the programs. As I said when I referred to the veterans independence program, that program would in itself save money for the government for a long time. We have always known that a proper national home care program for all Canadians would keep seniors in their homes longer and out of hospitals and would at least be cost neutral, if not a saving.

For each one of these programs estimates have been done, and of course the government has more resources and analysts and researchers to look into the costs than does the opposition. I trust that if the government is interested in moving forward with this program--

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Resuming debate, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to rise today to speak in support of this New Democrat opposition day motion as the defence critic for my party and also in support of the veterans in my riding in New Westminster, in Coquitlam and in Port Moody.

I also want to take a moment to pay tribute to my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore who has worked so hard on veterans issues over so many years, understands them thoroughly and has actually done the research that brings this motion forward today for debate.

My grandfather volunteered to serve in the first world war as a young boy of 15. He was accepted and went overseas as a 15 year old. My father served in the second world war.

A few years ago, I had an opportunity to travel to Vimy Ridge, tour the monuments to the Canadian war dead from the first world war and go through the tunnels that the young Canadian soldiers were in during the night before they were told to go out over the top and attack the enemy lines.

When I was in Vimy Ridge and in that tunnel and was being given what I must say was a magnificent tour by a young Canadian university student, I saw carved into the wall of the tunnel a maple leaf. That maple leaf had been carved there by a young person who had been sent over to fight in the first world war. It brought tears to my eyes. I thought about that young person who spent that night in those tunnels before being sent out to fight in that terrible, terrible war, and I wondered about him and his family and whether he survived.

I also took the opportunity with my family to travel to Beaumont-Hamel, where there is a wonderful park that has been given to Canadians by the French government, as Vimy has, and is maintained. There is also a museum there that speaks to the Newfoundland Regiment, which had a higher percentage of soldiers killed than any other Commonwealth country. So many from Newfoundland were killed on that July 1 day.

This summer, my family and I travelled to Juno Beach, to Normandy, and saw the new museum there. While we were there on the beach, I came across a family from Victoria. These people were there with their father, a veteran of the landings at Juno Beach. I was struck in talking to this veteran by his modesty, his sense that he was only doing what he had to do, that he was not doing any more than the country expected of him when he put his life in danger that day, and when he lost friends and comrades in the landings at Juno Beach. His sense of modesty really touched my heart when he talked about his contributions of valour and bravery. He thought it was just the right thing to do.

These are the people we are talking about today. They are the very kind of people we are talking about. They are the sons and daughters of working class people who put their lives on hold, who put their youth on hold, and went to fight in Canada's wars. These are the people who deserve dignity and respect and the support they should be getting in their older years.

There are five components to the motion we have before us.

One of them would eliminate what is called the gold digger clause and would allow veterans' spouses to have the pension benefits upon their death. The root of this goes back to 1901 and the Militia Pension Act, which had the intent of preventing young women from marrying Boer war veterans for the purpose of collecting their pensions.

The clock has moved forward. The calendar has moved forward. This is a ridiculous kind of provision to have now. It also disqualifies spouses from receiving dental or health benefits. It is insulting to assume that spouses, women or men, would marry for some small amount of pension benefits. It is time for the government to eliminate this clause and to get with it and get into this century, particularly in terms of how women are treated by pension legislation.

We are also asking that the veterans independence program be extended to all widows regardless of the time of death of the veteran and regardless of whether he was in receipt of the VIP services prior to his death.

All widows, based on need, should be eligible for VIP services. These services depend upon one's circumstances and health needs, but they include the very kinds of services that allow widows to stay in their homes, be independent and not be a burden on the health care system in Canada and, as my colleague from Victoria said, would actually save us money in many respects.

Many widows came to Canada as war brides after the second world war. One of those women is a person in my riding named Yetty Foulds. She lives in Maillardville in Coquitlam. She is the president of the Greater Vancouver War Brides Association and the secretary of our local legion in the city of Coquitlam. She is the poppy chairperson. She organizes special candlelight services every October which gives veterans the opportunity to pass a candle on to the young people in our community. It is a way of passing the torch to remember and to instil in the young people in our community a sense of our history and the sacrifice that our veterans have made over the years.

The third point in this opposition day motion would increase the survivor's pension amount upon the death of a Canadian Forces retiree. It asks that the pension amount be increased from the current 50% to 66%, which is much more in line with other private and public pensions in Canada.

If this change were made it would recognize the contribution of the Canadian Forces personnel and their families. We feel they should receive the same fair and equitable treatment from their superannuation benefits that others do from public or private pension plans. I want to reiterate that all spouses should have fair access to the pensions of their partners.

The fourth point in our motion calls for the elimination of the unfair reduction in the SISIP, the long term disability benefits for medically released members of the Canadian Forces. This plan does not necessarily pay the whole 75% that it can pay. It takes into account other sources of income that a former member may receive and that is offset from the SISIP paid directly. This offset includes the Veterans Affairs Canada disability pension. It offsets the amount from a veterans affairs disability pension from the SISIP long term disability plan.

The veterans disability pension should not be considered income but disability benefits to compensate for injuries sustained in the line of duty. This is an unfair policy and it places an incredible financial hardship on disabled Canadian Forces personnel. We are asking the government to eliminate this unfair policy. It is something the Conservatives talked about doing while they were in opposition and therefore I urge them now to act while they are in government and have the power to do this.

The last part of the motion calls for the elimination of the deduction from annuity for retired and disabled Canadian Forces members. I know my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore has a private member's bill on this. Members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP have roles and a lifestyle distinct from those of us in the House of Commons and from the community at large. They face dangerous conditions, family separations and conditions that are hazardous to their health and safety. They need to re-establish family life many times with new postings.

In conclusion, I want to emphasize that veterans and their families should be accorded the utmost respect in Canada. This respect must include ensuring they and their families have the support they need to remain healthy and independent. I call upon the government and all members of the House to support this opposition day motion in advance of Remembrance Day.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be rising a few times today because I can speak to this issue with some authority.

I know my NDP colleague and her party care about people as individuals but, at the risk of sounding unkind, I would point out that if they had cared in the past about people in the military like they care about them now they would not have obstructed military spending as much as they have historically.

However, I do strongly support a couple of items in this motion, one being the VIP spousal benefits, because, frankly, anybody who gold digs for a military pension does not understand mathematics.

Somebody mentioned that more research resources were available to the government than to the opposition to come up with figures to cost out some of the programs that we are talking about, and there was some disbelief at the figures that my hon. Conservative colleague mentioned. However, I would point out that those resources are the same for the opposition as they are for us, and it is called the Library of Parliament. Why would they not go get accurate numbers? Is it because the answer is inconvenient?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I sit together on the defence committee and I know his concerns about the Canadian military are sincere, as are mine.

In terms of the cutbacks that were made, it seems to me that they go back to a previous Conservative government. Under the Mulroney government, the cuts were made to bases right across Canada. I do not recall the New Democratic Party supporting that action. I think it was a Conservative government.

In terms of the Library of Parliament, it is a wonderful resource and we use it a lot. I know my colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, has costed out these proposals that we have put forward today and the figures we have been given certainly differ from the ones the parliamentary secretary put on the table today.

My colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, communicates well with all members of this House and I know he would be happy to share the research he has done with the doubting Thomases on the government side.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I was visiting my local legion in Timmins, Legion Branch 88, the other day and talking with some of the people there, it occurred to me that the legion was not an old folks' home, a golden age club, but the repository in every community across the country that protects our future veterans. The young ones who are there now will be the legion 20 and 30 years from now protecting them.

While I was at the legion, a Korean war vet came up to me and said, “You know, Charlie, we went over there to a war and we fought in a war. We were still young when we came back and we didn't understand everything we were being told. But when we got home, we found out we weren't in a war, we were in a police action, and because we were technically in a police action, we weren't eligible for the same benefits that war veterans got”. He then said, “So, Charlie, when you see the Prime Minister on television saying this isn't a war in Afghanistan, this is a police action, or, yes, we're in a war but it's not a war”. He said, “You know why they're doing that? Because these young men who come back to our riding, 30 and 40 years from now ,when they need help, they will not be getting the same level of benefits that they deserve as veterans”.

Because the member has done such strong work on raising issues about Afghanistan, what obligations do we have as a nation to ensure that our Afghanistan veterans are given the full protection as veterans of war?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Dawn Black NDP New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three active legions in my community. The legion in Coquitlam has, over the last five years, donated a quarter of a million dollars to community organizations, most of them youth based. The legion in Port Moody and the legion in New Westminster work hard to provide housing for seniors and older British Columbians and they each maintain a housing unit called Legion Manor.

I am shocked to hear that members in my colleague's riding think that the Canadian Forces who are fighting in Afghanistan may not be entitled to full veterans' benefits when they come home. We know their danger pay has been cut if they are hurt in battle right now. We have had a commitment from the minister who says that it will be fixed. I certainly hope it is and I hope it happens quickly. I think we need to push that issue in our defence committee and I call upon members in the House of Commons who are on the defence committee to work with me to ensure our forces get full benefits.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that I will be splitting my time with my colleague, the member for Charlottetown.

I would like to commend my colleague from the other corner of this chamber, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, for bringing forward a very important to-do list for Parliament in relation to the needs of our veterans.

As we enter upon the remembrance period, with Veterans Week about to begin, the timing of this is very appropriate. My colleague has asked the House to consider five very important measures, each of which will have importance to our veterans.

Before I get into the particulars, I would like to not only commend our legions from coast to coast, but commend the 15 legions in my own riding of Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing that have carried the torch of remembrance on behalf of those who did not come home from wars and peacekeeping missions, past and present, and on behalf of those who came home injured and those who, thankfully, came home in better health. Regardless of how they returned from the wars, peacekeeping or peace time service, they all deserve our absolute and utmost respect now. They have provided and do provide a special service to our country and, without question, as we support our troops now we must support our retired troops, whether they were air, land or sea.

One of the things that I have learned in my years as a member of Parliament is that most of our veterans, when they first entered the service, were very young. Many of them were in their teens, even some in the early teens, but certainly late teens. If any of us remember back to our teen years, the last thing we thought about was what we would do when we retired from whatever our life's work would be. It was the last thing on our minds.

I am thinking of Tom Morrissette in Massey, Ontario, who turned 80 this past August. He injured a knee within a few weeks of basic training, which, for his whole life, has caused him difficulty. However, because he was only a teenager, he was afraid to go to the higher ups to report his injury. He was concerned that he would be picked out as being weaker than the rest, which he certainly was not. His injury was genuine and it happened during basic training. He was one of tens of thousands of young people who entered the service with a certain degree of naiveté. They were happy and honoured to serve their country and not really concerned about the long term. They left it up to the powers that be to ensure things would be there for them.

It is not just like taking a job at the local factory. Entering the military service for our country is a special undertaking. We owe it to our veterans to bring our minds back as much as possible to 50 and 60 years ago, and more if necessary for some of our older veterans, back to the days before Korea. Just a few years ago, before the conflicts in which our troops are now engaged, we could imagine what young people were concerned about. Most of them were concerned about what would happen to them if they got injured. That is our job.

I really appreciate the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore bringing forward this list of important measures that we are debating today. I will be supporting the motion when it comes to a vote because I think the veterans affairs committee, on behalf of the House, needs to and should do a very thorough study of every one of these measures. Some of the measures, as proposed in the motion, are easier to grapple than others but every one of them, regardless of that, needs to be grappled.

I have no dispute with the notion that the second wife of a veteran should qualify for a pension. Current measures are simply an anachronism. Who would not wish anything but a happy life for a veteran who decides to remarry? We simply need to do the analysis and get that right.

When it comes to the veterans independence program, we simply need go no further than to refer to the current Prime Minister's promise made during a campaign, and I think the word “immediately” was used, that a new Conservative government--which is what the Conservatives claim they are; I am not sure they are new, but they are a Conservative government--would immediately implement the VIP for all widows regardless of the date of death of a veteran.

We are ready to go. I urge my colleagues across the way to encourage the Prime Minister in caucus to get on this. The finance minister will be reporting his economic statement to the House I believe in the third week of November, after the recess week following Remembrance Day. I hope during that economic update he will introduce measures to immediately implement the VIP for all widows of veterans.

Indeed, there are a number of measures that he needs to institute to make up for the disaster of the income trust announcement a couple of days ago. It would be a good start, along with other measures he could announce and confirm toward making things better for senior veterans.

Who are our veterans? They are people who live among us and who deliberately put their lives at risk for us. Most of us here will never have to suffer the ravages of war. We really depend on them to carry that torch to make sure we never forget and we thank them. We thank our legions and veterans.

My good friend, the member for Cape Breton—Canso, who is a great advocate for veterans, always talks about one of his constituents, Mrs. Joyce Carter. She has been a constant reminder to all of us of the importance of getting on with the veterans independence program.

Our legions are not only local institutions which provide services to the community at large but individual veterans are among the greatest volunteers communities can have. The activities in my riding throughout the year, and I am sure all members in the House can relate to similar stories, whether they are remembrance activities or events in the community sponsored by the legion, are far too numerous to count. Their continued efforts on behalf of all of us are efforts for which we must be very grateful.

They not only gave their lives and put their lives in danger but they continue to do that in service to the country today. Many of them are very frail. Those of us who thought a few years ago that the legion and remembrance movement would diminish over time as our veterans passed away have thankfully been proven wrong. It has been my experience that the remembrance movement in northern Ontario, particularly in my riding and elsewhere, is extremely strong and is getting stronger. There are more events.

I was at a Korea vets dinner a couple of weeks ago in Elliot Lake. I will be at the legion branch dinner Saturday night. I will be at the remembrance ceremony in Kapuskasing on November 11 and then on to Hearst. I will get to many events across my riding. In fact, there are so many events I cannot get to them all, but thankfully our veterans are doing that for us.

But they are frail and they do need our attention, whether it is by increasing the survivors pension from 50% to 66% or dealing with the service income security insurance plan. We need to look at why there is a compromise to the benefits. We certainly need to look at the integration of the superannuation with the CPP, which occurred back in the 1960s. Let us review that. Let us make sure we have it right. Any clawback is not appropriate considering the special honour and special thanks we owe to our veterans.

We see the torch being passed on. I thank my colleagues and we thank our veterans.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Conservative Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I share in my colleague's remarks about the value of veterans and what they have given the country.

People who know me know that I am an emotional person and I respond to emotion. All the emotional things that go with being in the military and all of the sacrifices that we have talked about today are very real, but there is also a practical side to me and I think there has to be a practical side to what we do as well.

I ask the hon. member, whether the number is $20 billion, $40 billion or whatever the number is that we can argue about, is there a practical limit to the amount of dollars the hon. member would suggest that the Government of Canada spend to compensate somebody, strictly financially speaking, for what they have not paid for for 40 years, multiplied by tens of thousands?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton Centre has asked a similar question of other colleagues.

In anything there are practical limits, but the question is what the numbers are that we are talking about in this particular case. That is why my plan is to support this motion so that the veterans affairs committee can have a close look at all of the measures here.

With respect to the extension of the VIP, there should be really no question in the member's mind about proceeding on that one, because as I mentioned in my remarks, it was his leader who made a commitment during the campaign to immediately implement that. Let us at the very least take that one off the table. It need not even go to committee. I am sure my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore would be glad that that element not go to committee, that the government simply proceed, and then we would do the study and review of the other four measures.

I do not have the exact figure. I do not know even if the member has gone to the Library of Parliament, whether anybody really has a real sense of it. I gather that his concern is about the so-called clawback and that is worth a very close look.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to ask a question of my colleague. First I would like to thank my own colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, for his great work on this whole area of veterans issues and for the motion we have before us today, so close to November 11.

It is an emotional day for everyone, especially for those of us who have parents who are still alive and who were part of World War II. My father is 87. He was part of the Governor General's Horse Guards who liberated Holland. That is where he met my mother and that is why I am here today. I am so glad to be part of this debate and I am grateful to all those veterans.

In addition to the veterans independence program, which it is self-evident that it must be addressed, the same must be said about the survivor benefits. It seems just as obvious that we should be increasing the survivor benefit from 50% to 66%. In that context, I want to ask the member to respond to the following statement by Jack Frost, the head of the Royal Canadian Legion for this country, who at our finance committee in the middle of September said the following:

I think it's only fair that we look at our CF personnel, the ones who today are putting their lives on the line. For example, since 2002, 36 Canadian soldiers have lost their lives, including the four that just lost their lives yesterday. Since August, 13 have died and 150 have been seriously injured and have returned to Canada. They deserve not only great benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada, which they do receive, but they require the same eligibility and same fair and equitable treatment from the superannuation benefits, which, as we have suggested, would include a 60% survival benefit as well as the abatement of the CPP.

Does the member agree with that well-meaning request by the Royal Canadian Legion?

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Brent St. Denis Liberal Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, the president, Mr. Frost, recently spoke quite eloquently at the veterans affairs committee. We are studying the proposal for an ombudsman for veterans which I think has all party support. It is a matter of moving the yardsticks forward on that one.

As for increasing the survivors pension from 50% to 66%, I believe that veterans should have the opportunity to opt into that. I do not think there would be much disagreement with using industry standards for the actuarial application of that principle. I would be very happy to say yes to that particular proposal.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. There have been discussions between all the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion: That at the conclusion of today's debate on the opposition motion in the name of the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion be deemed put, and a recorded division deemed requested and deferred until Tuesday, November 7, 2006, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.

I ask that this motion be put forward.

Opposition Motion--Canadian ForcesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. House leader for the NDP have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?