moved that Bill C-201, An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act (deletion of deduction from annuity), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, in my almost 12 years as a member of Parliament, this has to be one of the proudest days on which I am able to speak as a member of Parliament in the hallowed chamber of comrades.
As many know, I was born in Holland. My parents were liberated by the Canadian military and her allies in the liberation of the Netherlands in 1944-45. Some of those liberators are with us today, and we thank them very much for that.
Thousands of military personnel and veterans and their families from across the country, from coast to coast to coast, are watching CPAC today on this very important debate.
Four years ago, three gentlemen came to my office, Mr. John Labelle, Mr. Roger Boutin and Mr. Mel Pittman. These three men served their country with pride, distinction and honour. They came to talk to me about a problem they had for many years. They called it the clawback of their pensions at age 65 and the clawback of deductions of Canada pension disability. When a person is retired or released from the RCMP or military and they collect Canada pension disability, that amount of money is deducted from their force's pension.
The deduction stops today. There is no way we will keep that going.
These men and women are our greatest Canadians. They serve our country, either domestically or overseas. Those who have served in the military and in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have paid the ultimate sacrifice as have their families. They deserve to have the respect of the House of Commons. Unquestionably, they serve with honour, dignity and pride.
When they wear their medals, it is with the greatest of distinction. They wear them because many of their colleagues never had the chance since they had paid the ultimate sacrifice. They are here today in spirit to honour this concern. They are asking for financial dignity when they retire at age 65, or become permanently disabled, or can no longer work again.
This happened in 1965-66 with the invention of the Canada pension plan. The government came up with what was called a blended program, which meant the folks at that time were paying into superannuation. When CPP came along, the government indicated it did not want to up the deductions of military men and women as well as all federal and provincial public servants. The government blended the package and said that they would pay so much into the Canada pension plan and into superannuation.
The men and women of the military and the RCMP at that time had no idea this was happening to them. It was done without their consent and without much public debate at that time. They have been arguing since then to correct the deficiency.
There is no question that every federal and provincial public servant in the country suffers what we call the clawback of their pension, except for Senators, judges and the friendly members of Parliament. It is amazing how we managed to escape that in 1966. Members serve six years and can get a pension. These men and women now have to serve 25 years and pay the unlimited liability in order to get that pension when they sign up.
There are two members of the Conservative Party, one from Edmonton and one from the Ottawa area, who have both served their country with distinction, with over 30 years of service. I congratulate those two gentlemen for their great service to our country and thank the them very much for being in the House of Commons, as well.
What happened to these men and women is simply not right, and we want to change it. The government has asked why the bill does not include everyone. The men and women of the armed forces and the RCMP have a completely different public service role from all other public servants in the country. I have repeated this before: they have unlimited liability. That means when they sign on the bottom line, they are willing to risk their lives so we and our families can have a good night's sleep. We want to ensure that when they serve us, and after their service, we serve them. It is that simple.
The amount of service these men and women have put in is incredible. I spoke to some of them today who have moved over 20 times in their careers, across the country and around the world. What that meant was their spouses, in many cases, were unable to get a secure job. This meant they were unable to contribute to their own pension plan, which put them financially behind the eight ball.
Many of them could not secure the opportunity to buy a home, because they would be gone in another couple of years. Therefore, they lost the proper opportunity to build equity in their homes. They lost that financial ability, and they did it willingly. This was not a surprise to them. They did this knowing that this was part of their service. For that, we thank them because they did it without question. They followed the orders to the letter.
The number one role of government or opposition is to maintain the security and protection of its citizens within our borders. Our number one role is to ensure that when we say we support the troops, we support them long after their uniforms come off.
We heard today that it would require a royal recommendation in order to get this passed. I know we have the support of the opposition Liberals and the Bloc Québécois and my colleague from Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, who has moved a motion on this very same bill and I thank him very much for that.
We believe, if the government is serious about supporting its troops long after their uniforms come off, then that royal recommendation should be automatic. However, if the government is concerned about the cost of this, I have broken it down. I have looked at this for over four years and I have discussed this with pension experts across the country.
There other thing the men and women pay into, which they do not get to collect afterwards, is the employment insurance program. These men and women pay for 20, 30 years into a plan that it is legislated but they cannot collect. Guess what? Members of Parliament do not pay into EI. Why? Because we do not get to collect it. The men and women of the armed forces and the RCMP have to pay into EI, but they do not get to collect it. That is going to stop today. It is unfortunate they have to keep doing that.
The financial solution is quite simple. The government is worried about the additional cost to the taxpayer. There would be no additional cost. If they are allowed to keep both of their moneys at age 65 or on disability, they would receive less OAS and GIS. Including OAS and GIS in the argument that they do not lose any money is simply incorrect. Those payments come from their general revenues, not from their defined benefit pension plans.
We know if they receive both CPP and their regular pension at age 65, they would get less OAS and GIS. The government would save there. There is nothing stopping the government from cancelling the EI deduction, taking that amount and putting it in the superannuation. That would cover it off.
These men and women have done yeoman's work, if I may use the military term, in serving their country. Again it is time for us to serve them. They deserve to know that our troops and the RCMP have the respect of this House of Commons. I know that individually, per person in the House, regardless of where one sits, there is not one person who does not support the troops.
For those who do not support the troops, if you cannot get behind them, try standing in front of them. That is a bumper sticker we have seen. They deserve financial dignity and respect when they turn 65.
I have asked of the government many times if they have received everything they have paid into and it has argued that they have. I have seen the various emails from various members of Parliament to their constituents. However, that is not true. They pay EI but cannot collect. Also, when they become disabled and collect Canada Pension Disability at an age in their 40s or 50s, that money is deducted right away. They are paying with life and limb, and psychologically in many cases, and they do not receive a benefit if they become permanently disabled and can no longer work.
No veteran and no RCMP officer or their family should ever have to dip into poverty after having served their country. We are going to put a stop to that today.
There is one question I ask bureaucratic officials time and time again and they have yet to answer this very simple question. They tell me there is no clawback, that it is a myth, that what I am doing is wrong. I have a question for them. Everybody in the country who has paid into CPP can take it early, at age 60 instead of age 65, but they automatically lose one-third. They know that.
For example, if RCMP or military personnel are receiving a pension of, say, $2,500 in superannuation and they take their CPP early, say they would get about $500, they would get them both. There is no deduction at age 60 from the superannuation. However, when they hit 65, the amount of money they could have collected is deducted from the superannuation.
I ask myself, I ask the government, and I ask everybody, if they did not pay enough in then to merit both of them, why is there no deduction at age 60, but there is at age 65? I still have not received the answer to that, and we are waiting for it, because I would love to hear the argument on that point.
This is the first hour of debate. There is no vote on it now. The bill will be returned to the order paper and then come back within 30 to 35 days.
Members of Parliament should not just take my word for it, they should visit their local Legion, visit the air force and peacekeeping organizations, visit the army, navy, air force, visit the hospitals where veterans are, visit their families, talk to them, and ask them what they want. They should come back in 30 days and tell me and the House what they heard. I am sure they will hear over and over again that the overwhelming majority of military and RCMP officials and their families want the clawback to stop, and stop now. If everybody goes out to their ridings afterwards in our two week break, they will hear very loudly and very clearly that this is what has to happen.
We have already outlined how it could be handled. We have outlined how it could be revenue neutral. We have outlined the respect it would give along with financial dignity, and how it would do that.
We do this to the men and women of the armed forces and the RCMP, but we do not do it to ourselves. It does not look good when members of Parliament, senators and judges can escape the clawback, and the men and women who sign on the bottom line to protect us, get the clawback. There is something very seriously wrong with that. We hope to change that very quickly.
I would like to focus on the RCMP, the men and women and what they have done. Anybody who read the book about the RCMP in the thirties, forties and fifties in this country knows that many of those officers served in isolated posts. They were not allowed to marry for the first five years. They were restricted from marriage. After they did get married, their wives, in most cases, were actually asked to perform an awful lot of duties unpaid: cook the prisoners' meals, take the phone calls, take the messages, stand guard in many cases, and never given a penny for their work. In fact, they can never collect it.
The pensions that many of them received from the widows and orphans fund, which is out there right now, was a mere pittance. Many of those wives went into desperate poverty after the death of their RCMP spouse. That was wrong. We want to change that because we know that the men and women who serve our country do not do it alone. They have a partner behind them. No, let me correct that, they have a partner beside them. When death comes to these individuals, we have to make sure that the spouses who looked after them, the spouses who were their partners, the spouses who allowed them to do their duties and responsibilities that we as a government, as an opposition party, and as a country, asked them to do are also well taken care of.
In November 2006 members of the House proudly stood up and voted for our veterans first motion, which had the five elements in it which would have supported veterans and their families in the RCMP. It was voted for by the Liberals, the Bloc and the NDP. Unfortunately, the Conservatives at that time voted against it.
I have one minute left in my discussion. I just wanted to say in this regard, my parents were liberated by the men and women who wear the uniform. There are people being liberated today in Afghanistan, the Middle East and around the world, by brave men and women who wear the Canadian patch. Those people, who stand at ramp ceremonies, watching their fallen go by them will serve long careers in the military. We want to make sure that 30 or 40 years from now they do not have a clawback facing them.
If it were not for the men and women of the armed forces and the RCMP, we would not have a country today. I am asking for financial dignity for each and every one of them. We love every one of them and salute them, and God bless the memories of each and every one who served our country.