House of Commons Hansard #56 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was officers.


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4:50 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I cannot let the member get away from us too quickly on this. I have been very impressed with the work she has done as a new member of Parliament on the listeriosis file and, as we know from her comments today, she digs in, does her homework, and comes up with constructive input for the House on important debates. I thank her for that.

I must admit I was very moved by the outlook presented when I viewed Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth. What struck me by the graphs that were provided was not so much what has been happening and the rate at which it has been happening but the slope of the curve and the spikes that are going to occur in the near term based on where we are right now.

It concerns me from the standpoint that the current government seems to think that all it has to do is protect its base, say that this is just a socialist plot to try to deal with greenhouse gases, and cancel every program that the previous government established. It basically put the brakes on and lost time.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on the kinds of things that we should do and the value that we must place on the survival of the planet. It really is a serious question.

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4:50 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the science first. The member is absolutely right. For two million years carbon dioxide stayed stable in the atmosphere. At the time of the Industrial Revolution, it started to increase and has increased 32% since the Industrial Revolution. Other gases have increased by 131%.

That may not mean much to people but we also see an increase in temperature. The earth's average temperature has increased .6°C. Again, that may not seem like much, but we must realize that if the earth's temperature decreases by 2°C to 4°C, that is enough to bring on an ice age. The .6°C increase is big.

In Canada the increase has been over 1°C and in northern Canada almost 2°C. These are big changes. Climate change is real. It is happening now and it is having an impact on the levels of the Great Lakes, which are going down. We have rising sea levels.

In the future, we predict that the average temperature of the earth by 2100 will increase by 2°C to 4°C. Again, that is a big change. The carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere will double by the end of this century. That means our children are going to grow up in a world that is very different than the world we know.

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4:50 p.m.


Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member dealt at length with an area that I am certainly interested in, and that is the whole issue of research jobs and the whole area of research where we are losing ground to the United States, particularly with the Obama administration promoting research.

The question I have for her is this. Why does she think the government is sitting idly by and allowing our research jobs to be taken from this country and taken to the United States, and where are we going to be after three or four years with a policy like that?

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4:55 p.m.


Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid I cannot comment on the government's position.

What I am concerned about, however, is that perhaps there is a lack of understanding regarding science. I think there has been investment in infrastructure, but the reality with scientists is that we need to fund people and we need to fund research.

We are already starting to see that scientists are moving south. The U.S. invested $10 billion in health, $2 billion to neuroscience. We recently lost an AIDS researcher and 25 of his team.

During my speech I mentioned that we have a climate scientist who is going to be able to fund his infrastructure but not his science. There is the threat that we will lose 24 climate change networks. When this is the most pressing environmental issue facing the planet, we cannot afford to lose one network.

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4:55 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the opportunity today to speak on Bill C-16, An Act to amend certain Acts that relate to the environment and to enact provisions respecting the enforcement of certain Acts that relate to the environment.

I would say that this bill is something like an apple pie. No one can be against apple pie: the only thing is, apple pie does not solve all our problems. I say this because we are talking about standardizing the framework for monitoring environmental legislation and imposing harsher fines on polluters. This is all very good, and I think everyone will be in favour of it.

That being said, it is clearly not enough because, even though the potential fines provided for in the bill would be staggering, if there is no one to enforce the law, if there are not enough resources in Environment Canada and not enough commitment from the government to implement these laws, then quite simply no one will be fined, and so the deterrent effect that is sought will simply not be there.

On this subject, I would direct your attention to the report by Hélène Buzzetti in Le Devoir of March 5, 2009, that officials in the environment department had admitted that since 2000 there have been an average of 3 to 14 charges relating to enforcement of environmental legislation by the federal government, one to five convictions per year, and the maximum fine of $1 million has been imposed only once in 20 years. We think this is inadequate, even though the principle of the bill is most praiseworthy.

This bill entirely avoids the most glaring and most urgent environmental problem on the planet, namely, global warming and the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere.

I would like to offer a little scientific reminder of what is happening to illustrate the difference between greenhouse gases and pollution. I remember hearing at the beginning of this government’s mandate, when we were studying the budget in the Standing Committee on Finance, that pollution would be tackled in order to reduce greenhouse gases. It must be clear that these are two different things. Once again, here we have a bill that aims to raise environmental standards and make them uniform—here this refers to pollution—but does not specifically target the greenhouse gas issue.

What is the difference? Pollutants are substances that are harmful to the environment, to human beings—in many cases—or to ecosystems. This includes oil spills, emissions of toxic products of all kinds and land development that is detrimental to an ecosystem's functioning. Wetlands are a good example; they are environments with very high biodiversity but where the ecological balance is also very fragile. There is a need for intervention on this issue.

Now, one might think that this bill is going in this direction. That is not entirely false, but at the same time—I repeat—this is only a way to paint things green. There must also be a real will to apply and enforce the law. However, all of this does not relate to the issue of the increase in greenhouse gas emissions.

When I heard the Conservatives confuse greenhouse gases with pollutants, I was a bit surprised because carbon dioxide, CO2, is not a pollutant. It occurs naturally in the environment and has no effect on the human body, provided it does not displace oxygen. Nothing changes. CO2 enters the lungs and comes out just the same.

The problem with greenhouse gases, as their name indicates, is that they reflect the sun’s rays back into the atmosphere, where the warmth is captured, like in a greenhouse. We are not talking about a pollutant here but an inert gas. There are other gases, too, but the main one is CO2, which is not affected by the legislation on toxic substances, spills, or any other legislation. It is not regulated because it is not a pollutant as such.

The Bloc Québécois has been asking for years for a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because, even if they are not really toxic, they can have a dramatic impact on our planet, on humanity, and on the citizens of Quebec and Canada. We need to take action and take it quickly. This is the greatest environmental issue of the day, and there is nothing in the bill before us to tackle it.

Canada is divided on this. Both the Liberals and Conservatives want Canada to be an oil-producer, an energy superpower when it comes to non-renewable fossil fuels. This primarily benefits the western provinces and some maritime provinces. In Quebec, there is a strong consensus instead that we should proceed with the Kyoto protocol and base our economy on non-renewable, non-polluting resources that do not emit greenhouse gases. We could speculate for a long time on how attached Quebeckers are to the environment versus people in the other provinces, but I think their contrasting positions are based more on some very concrete realities.

The Prime Minister obviously does not believe in the Kyoto protocol or even really in global warming. His counterpart, the Liberal opposition leader, argues in favour of the tar sands and is a firm believer in them. Why? Because it is in Canada’s economic interest, at least in the short term, in my opinion. If everyone in Quebec thinks we should follow the Kyoto protocol instead and abandon the other path, it is because this is in Quebec’s economic interest. Why? There is one very simple reason: Quebec produces no oil and very few hydrocarbons. Quebec is made poorer by oil and our dependence on it.

Some federalist parties have the temerity to come to Quebec and say that Alberta’s tar sands are making us richer. I fail to see how Quebec can be enriched by purchasing oil from outside its boundaries. I would make the following comparison. When someone goes to the gas station to fill up, he is made poorer not richer. Every time a barrel of oil enters Quebec, money flows in the other direction out of Quebec. It is in Quebeckers' economic interest to reduce our dependence on oil.

This is not just an economic issue. For a long time, the main political parties in Quebec, both the Parti Québécois and the Liberal Party which forms the present government—I want to be clear that I am referring to the Liberal Party of Quebec, for the Liberal Party of Canada wants to promote and develop the tar sands—have formed a strong consensus on complying with the Kyoto protocol. Basically, this means we have to set an absolute greenhouse gas reduction target relative to 1990 levels.

There is a mechanism whereby a corporation, province, state or territory that exceeds its objective, performs better than its assigned target, can sell emissions credits to an institution, organization, state, province or territory that has not met its targets. This trading principle derives from two things. First, this is a global problem. Reducing a tonne of GHG in Chapais or Djibouti changes nothing, since the objective is one less tonne of GHG on our planet. Global reduction is the objective. On the other hand, reductions may be less expensive in some places than in others, and so this mechanism is put in place.

When the Kyoto protocol was devised, 1990 was set as the base year. The Conservatives and Liberals want to change the base year, to move it ahead to 2003 or 2006. Why? This may seem very technical to those watching us. This is often the misfortune of the political issues we have to debate, for often they are not very sexy or entertaining. What can it change if the year on which our calculations are based is 2003 or 2006 rather than 1990? It changes everything. It is no longer the same concept at all.

Since 1990 industry in Quebec, particularly the manufacturing industry, has made substantial efforts to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile in the rest of Canada the emissions rate has simply exploded, reaching levels never seen in any other western country. That increase occurred under the Liberals, who did nothing to reduce greenhouse gases, and it has continued under the Conservatives. Unfortunately, we must acknowledge that it will probably continue, whether the Conservatives remain or are replaced by the Liberals. There is a consensus in Canada on developing the oil industry. The two parties have even supported a budget in which the main so-called environmental measures consist in helping out the oil companies, which you will agree are in great need of help. You will of course have noted the sarcasm in my words.

By setting the base year at 2003 or 2006, as the government would do, we wipe out all of the efforts that have been made by Quebec industry. At the same time, we wipe out all the economic potential and any possibility for these companies such as Alcan, which are asking the federal government to set up a system based on the Kyoto protocol with 1990 as the base year, to sell greenhouse gas emissions credits and to be somehow compensated for the efforts they have made to reduce their emissions.

Conversely, by moving from 1990 to 2006, we also wipe out the entire explosion of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the industrial sectors that made no effort, and in fact even increased their pollution levels.

The oil sands sector is the perfect example. Since the first efforts in any process of industrial rationalization are always the easiest, instead of it being polluter-pay, it is polluter-paid. Those who have made the least effort since 1990 will be economically rewarded now while those who have done their part, most of them in Quebec, the only province that has made absolute reductions in greenhouse gases, will be punished.

The government also wants to move from an absolute greenhouse gas reduction to a relative one in terms of intensity. What does this mean and what difference does it make? Are these not just highly technical terms that are the stock in trade of environmental specialists, and lack much effect? Absolutely not, they are not trifling in any way. On the contrary, they are very important.

The absolute targets set out in the Kyoto protocol say that there is a limit to what this planet can withstand, and that there is no connection between that limit and the economy. The planet cannot withstand more greenhouse gas emissions because the economy is in better shape. There is no connection between the two. Mankind has to reduce emissions, we must go from x tonnes to y tonnes, and we must not exceed that. Period. On the other hand, the government's approach, with Liberal backing, is intensity targets. They say we must not product more than x tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions per production unit. This means that a province, a company, or some other entity, with twice as much oil sands development, for instance, would be authorized to pollute twice as much.

Once again, a greater effort is being demanded of the manufacturing sector, when it has been experiencing economic difficulties and has the same or even lower production volume, than of industrial sectors that are in full development.

Clearly, there is a conflict between two visions that are not guided, at least not solely, by environmental issues. They are closely tied to economic interests, which is also the case for many of the decisions made by every other company in the world. The problem that Quebeckers are dealing with is that they are and always will be in the minority in this Parliament. The Conservative Party, with the support of the Liberal Party and the NDP, have ensured that a shrinking proportion of members of Parliament will be here representing Quebec. Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois members, who make up two-thirds of the members from Quebec, are still here to take a stand for Quebeckers. Unfortunately, Quebeckers are getting less and less representation in the other parties, and their voices are being drowned out in caucuses that care only about the Canadian majority's interests. Not because they are mean-spirited or because they dislike Quebeckers, but because the national parties are bound to defend the interests of the majority of citizens.

There is no way for Quebeckers to escape this situation other than by taking control of their own fate and becoming the majority in their own country. Once we become a sovereign country, we will develop our own environment and green energy policy, one that considers our future and the planet we will be leaving to our children, an environment and energy policy that is in line with our economic and development interests.

The Bloc Québécois is also working hard to help Quebeckers understand that it is impossible to advance Quebec's interests on a regular basis in the federal Parliament. The only solution available to Quebeckers in the medium term is to become a sovereign country and to make our own decisions according to our own values and our own interests.

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5:15 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc Québécois colleague for his passionate speech on the environment. We know that the Conservatives, with their minority government, are not very focused on the environment.

What does my Bloc Québécois colleague think would happen if the Conservatives were to have a majority government in Canada?

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5:15 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, that thought is frightening, as was the reality of a majority Liberal government in power for so many years, when greenhouse gas emissions exploded.

That worries me a great deal but what is even more worrisome is the fact that, no matter who forms the government, Canada's energy policy will be founded on the interests of the majority. The Leader of the Opposition clearly stated that he supports the oil sands industry, that the industry must be developed, that we would be crazy to pass on it, that we must go for it, and full steam ahead.

Nothing changes. It is natural for a country to defend and promote the interests of the majority. For that reason Quebeckers should also have their own country so that they can have a say on the world stage.

At the most recent climate change conference, the Quebec minister of the environment asked to address the conference for 30 seconds. He was asking for a mere 30 seconds. That is rather humiliating for one of the world's states that has the best record for greenhouse gas emissions. He was refused. That was too much for the federal government. If Quebec were a country like Norway, Finland or Sweden, it would not have been forced to beg for 30 seconds. It could have remained at the conference for the entire week and spoken on our behalf on the world stage.

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5:15 p.m.


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, in his speech, the Bloc Québécois member compared the Liberals to the Conservatives. We know that the Liberals do not have many new ideas.

Does my Bloc Québécois colleague think that the Liberals will take the same route as the Conservative Party if they ever form the Government of Canada?

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5:20 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the Liberals do not have many new ideas. Their new ideas are ones they copy from the opposition parties. For example, in the case of employment insurance, their proposals just rehash longstanding proposals made by the NDP and the Bloc Québécois.

That said, it is quite clear that we cannot expect anything more from the Liberal Party when it comes to defending the environment and implementing the Kyoto protocol with 1990 as the base year and absolute targets. Even in opposition, they are openly coming out in favour of expanding oil sands development, and they are being very timid about the necessary reforms and measures, which include a real carbon exchange in Montreal. They are in opposition.

When the Liberals were in opposition prior to 1993, they were at least a bit bolder. They said they wanted to do things differently from the Conservatives, but they did not. Now, they do not make such promises, and we know they will not do things differently. This party is just not reliable. It supported the latest Conservative budgets, despite their major flaws in terms of defending the environment.

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5:20 p.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière Québec


Jacques Gourde ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

In a previous budget, our government gave the Province of Quebec roughly $350 million for environmental initiatives. Since my hon. colleague is well aware of what is happening in Quebec, could he tell me what environmental initiative Quebec has implemented with that money?

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5:20 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, here we are again with the same old paternalistic attitude from Ottawa. What Quebec is calling for, and yes, there was a unanimous motion in the National Assembly on this, from the Liberal Party and the Parti Québécois, is the true implementation of Kyoto, because that has economic impacts on our businesses.

We agree, of course, with the $300 million for the Government of Quebec. It is not enough, however, just to offer us a few little goodies in order to conceal the neglectful conduct of the federal government. What we want is a real change of mindset. That will not be forthcoming, however, quite simply because the economic interests of Quebec and the economic interests of Canada are not the same. Of necessity, given the nature of our institutions, Canada's interests will always win out over Quebec's interests.

A little earlier I referred to the Quebec members who are in the caucuses of other parties. The question from my colleague is a clear illustration of what I said. He did not rise in this House to defend the consensus of the National Assembly. He did not rise in this House to ask what could be done to ensure that the Quebec reality is better represented. No, he rose in this House to tell us just how good the federal government is and how nice it was to give Quebec $300 million. That is a ridiculous amount compared to the environmental and economic damage to Quebec and the Quebec economy caused by this lack of will to take action.

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5:20 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

There are still two minutes left for questions and comments, but there being no one rising on questions and comments, we will resume debate.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

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5:25 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the House for this opportunity to express the views of my party and the constituents whom I represent in the riding of Winnipeg Centre.

Given that the time is brief, let me preface my remarks by saying that nothing offends the sensibilities of the people I represent as much as environmental degradation. Nothing annoys this generation of young people as much as the idea that there are those who would wilfully and knowingly harm the environment for their own interests, be it profit of corporations or whatever.

Fines are put in place for a number of reasons. We want to punish wrongdoing, but the penalties should be of such scope and magnitude that they accurately express the public's denunciation of what took place. We want these fines to be of such stature that they act as a deterrent as well so that people will think twice before they harm the environment for their own interests.

Let me point out that we do not find the regime in the bill satisfactory. It does speak about increasing the fines for individuals who knowingly or willingly degrade the environment, but it is very light on the corporate interests that may be ultimately directing--

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5:25 p.m.

An hon. member

Oh, oh.

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5:25 p.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, that guy had his turn to talk a long time ago. He tied us up for 20 minutes yammering away and now he is still tying us up yammering away. I have the floor, if I might point out.

When I think of the concentration of this bill on individuals rather than corporations, I look to the United States where a company like W.R. Grace has been penalized enormously for its environmental degradation. The chairman and the entire board of directors were perp-walked into the courtroom in handcuffs. All of them were tried criminally for the contamination that their business caused.

In this country fines for dumping PCBs into a river until very recently were tax deductible. Not only were they paltry and tiny and almost insignificant and in no way acted as a deterrent, but they could be written off as a legitimate business expense on taxes against income. I am very proud I played a role in changing that atrocity. In the mid-1990s, bribes could be written off as a tax deduction in this country.

We are way behind other developed nations in terms of meaningful penalties for those who would contaminate and degrade our environment.

The Conservative government says it wants to get tough on crime. There is a whole type of crime that it is wishy-washy on. There is a lot of crime that the Conservatives are soft on. The Conservatives do not want to offend any of their corporate buddies by imposing meaningful discipline and penalties. I can point to one example of what I am speaking about.

The government talks about getting tough on crime in Bill C-16. It talks about increasing penalties for individuals who may contaminate a waterway. In one category of the bill, the government talks about a vessel being a boat, obviously, and bilge waters not being allowed to be discharged in a harbour, et cetera. All that is good, but the bill does not mention fixed platforms anywhere. We all know with the explosion of offshore--

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5:25 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member will have 15 minutes left to finish his remarks when the bill is next before the House.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from March 25 consideration of the motion 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.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised on March 25, 2009, by the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons concerning the requirement for a royal recommendation for 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), standing in the name of the hon. member for Sackville-Eastern Shore.

I would like to thank the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader for having raised this important matter, as well as the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his comments.

In drawing the attention of the House to this matter, the parliamentary secretary pointed out that existing provisions of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act provide retiring members of the armed forces and the RCMP with bridge benefits between the time of their retirement and the time at which they reach age 65. The bridge benefits provide these retirees with an amount which is equivalent to the amount which they receive under the Canada pension plan when they become eligible for CPP benefits at age 65.

The current provisions of the two pension plans eliminate the bridge benefits at age 65, when CPP benefits begin. The effect of C-201 would be to continue those bridge benefits after age 65 in addition to the benefits for which they are eligible under CPP.

As members will know, a proposed new and distinct government expenditure must be accompanied by a royal recommendation. Additionally, a royal recommendation is also required when an expenditure obligation not covered by existing authorities, is proposed.

In the present case, it is quite clear that the continuation of these benefits would result in the creation of a new government expenditure obligation with respect to the two pension funds.

The parliamentary secretary estimated that the adoption of Bill C-201 would increase the pension liability of the Canadian Forces by $5.5 billion and of the RCMP by $1.7 billion. He noted further that while payments are currently made from the existing pension funds, the government is responsible for the payment of any shortfall out of the consolidated revenue fund.

In his intervention, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore acknowledged the need for a royal recommendation and he recommended that the matter be given close attention by the government.

After reviewing the issue, the Chair can only subscribe to the arguments made by the two interveners. Simply put, the expenditure obligation which the government would assume if Bill C-201 were adopted is not currently authorized.

I am, therefore, obliged to rule that due to the proposed creation of a new government expenditure obligation, Bill C-201 does require a royal recommendation. Consequently, I will decline to put the question on third reading of this bill in its present form unless a royal recommendation is received.

Today, however, the debate is on the motion for second reading and this motion shall be put to a vote at the close of the second reading debate.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. With all due respect to the ruling, the head Speaker of this House said that he would not have to make a ruling or recommendation until the bill got to third reading.

The government's figure of $5 billion or $7 billion is simply a myth. It is not even close to that figure. It is important to get this bill to the committee so that I can thoroughly explain to this House and to all the veterans who are watching exactly how that additional amount would be paid for.

The point is that there would be no additional cost to the taxpayer and the government knows that. We would transfer the EI deductions that the current service personnel are paying now, because it is legislated that they cannot collect it, and that amount would be transferred to the superannuation.

However, that debate would happen in the committee. I would refer to the fact that if this bill gets to the committee stage, I can validate those arguments at that time.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I should point out to the hon. member that there will be a vote at the end of second reading to refer it to committee and that the wording of the ruling I just read said that, in its present form, the bill requires a royal recommendation. We will proceed with the debate at second reading and if there is not a royal recommendation that is brought in for the bill in its present form, then it will not be put to a vote at third reading.

We will proceed with debate tonight. The hon. member for Avalon.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:35 p.m.


Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for Sackville—Eastern Shore for the work he has done on this bill and to bring attention to this matter. Throughout the course of the debate we will have over the next little while, we will see if a royal recommendation is necessary. However, I would like to thank him for the work that he has done. He works very hard in n the veterans' affairs committee and I have learned a lot from him.

Bill C-201 calls for the elimination of the deduction from the annuity for retired and disabled Canadian Forces members and RCMP members paid under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act.

Over the next 10 minutes I will talk a bit about the bill but I first would like to talk about being a member of the veterans affairs committee. This is my first time elected to Parliament and I am proud to be a member of the veterans affairs committee. It is an interesting committee. As a young person, I get to learn a lot about our veterans, what they have given to this country and some of the challenges that they are going through right now.

We are currently studying how we treat veterans in our country and we are looking at what other countries are doing to see how we can do better. I know we have some veterans here with us today. It is very important that we look at the work and how much veterans have contributed to our country.

The veterans affairs committee is looking at the VIP program, a very important program that provides some services to veterans. Hopefully, we will get to review the Veterans Bill of Rights in the near future to see how we can improve on it and make it a little bit better. We are also talking about the post-traumatic stress disorder that a lot of our current veterans who come back from theatres of war overseas are dealing with. It is a very important issue.

We must not forget what our veterans have given to their country. I would like to quote from the bottom of an email that I received from Mr. Graham Pike. He said:

Definition of a veteran - Whether active duty, retired or reserve - is someone who, at one point in his/her life signed a blank cheque made payable to "The People of Canada", for an amount "up to and including my life”.

A lot of veterans have put a lot on the line for this country and we must not forget that and we must thank them for it.

I will give a brief history of where we have come from to get to this stage. The CPP and other acts were introduced in 1965 and 1966. This is where the two pension plans have sort of merged into one pension plan for our Canadian Forces. When this was discussed and put forward to these members, I do not really know, from my research, whether people knew what we were signing on to back then. It is now almost 40 years later and it is time to review it.

The buzzwords like “stacking” and “integrating” were used at the time. I do not think we fully knew the circumstances and impact of that at that particular time. It is time for us to review it. Some members at the time might have said that they were part of the liability of this when it was signed onto. However, just because it was done then does not mean we cannot take the time to review it now. I think that is why it is important that we support this bill and get it to committee so we can have some further debate and get some more the facts out on it.

It amazes me when we try to put into perspective what we are talking about here. I had a conversation with a gentleman from my riding, Mr. Frank Sullivan, a retired Canadian Forces soldier. He put into perspective what this would actually mean to him in real dollar amounts. In January 2009, a statement came from his Canadian Forces pension stating that when he reached 65 years of age his military pension would be reduced to $651 per month. He was also informed that indexing of the benefit applicable to this portion would also cease to be paid. When he spoke to the old age pension division, he was informed that his pension from there would $516 per month when he reached 65. He would lose $135 per month in income when he reached the age of 65. Now that might not sound like a lot but for those on fixed pensions and those who have contributed to both plans all their lives that is a fair chunk of money.

That is what we are looking at. That puts a dollar amount on just one month for one particular veteran who has looked at this and it is of some concern to him.

We are doing this because of that. We cannot be afraid to revisit and have another look at what was done in the past. We all agree that we must enhance benefits for our veterans for what they have given to our great country.

As politicians, we might as well be honest. It is important to be realistic about this. For those who may be watching or listening to the debate, they should know that if the bill passes and it goes to committee, it will not suddenly fix things overnight. It is not as easy as that. We need to review and look at what it would cost. We are currently in difficult economic times so we need to be creative on how we fix this problem. I am sure there are a number of solutions that we could look forward to in trying to fix this problem.

It is important, as parliamentarians, that we look at all plans and, if it has to be costed, that we look at how much it will cost and where we can come up with the money. We might as well be honest with each other because sometimes it is nice to float these ideas out there but we need to be realistic about this and put some thought into this. This is why it is good to have this debate and send it to committee. I know from my dealings in committee, we get to have a closer look at things, call in some officials, talk to different experts in the field and ask them how we can fix this problem. This problem has been ongoing for some time. Do we look at it on a go forward basis? Do we look at it on how we can go retroactively? There are a number of different aspects that we can look at the committee stage.

We owe it to the men and women who have served our country to look at the bill, give it a fair hearing and support it in principle. We can then look at it on a go forward basis. Is this something from this point onward? Is this something that we should give to anyone currently retiring? There are many different aspects of how we could fix this situation.

I read a backgrounder on this by retired Colonel Jim Lumsden. He did a lot of work on this. Reading it and getting our heads around this particular proposal, he comes up with some suggestions on what we may do. To put it in his words, he said:

It is clear that members of the Canadian Forces have been unfairly dealt with by the unilateral decision to integrate their CFSA and CPP contributions....

That makes sense. A lot of Canadians pay into two pension plans and this is what is called integrating or stacking when they get one. It is kind of frustrating. In some particular organizations it has been negotiated away over years and their unions deal with that for them. I am not quite sure if at the time there were unions that looked at these sorts of things or it was something that was unilaterally done.

However, we need to seriously look at it and then, at the very least, allow members to choose whether they want to integrate it or use the stacking. We need to look at all this.

Three of the recommendations that retired Colonel Lumsden made were: the amount deducted from existing effective annuants, pensioners, the CFSA at age 65 be restored immediately; the practice of integrating contributions be ceased for present serving members; and the stacking provision of contributions be implemented at an individual's option.

We need to focus on that and we need to send the bill to committee. It is a pleasure to support the bill and I look forward to speaking to it again when it gets to committee.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, of course, we respect your ruling, but it is still important to continue this debate. It really is our hope that through debate, the government will be convinced that enacting this legislation is not about cost but that it is about what is just and fair and the right thing to do.

I would like to thank the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore for his tireless work on behalf of our country's veterans. I would like to take a moment to acknowledge any veterans or retired RCMP officers who I know are watching the progress of this bill. I thank them for their service.

I have a particular interest in the bill because of the presence of CFB Halifax in my riding. CFB Halifax is home to over 10,000 military and civilian employees. It is home of the east coast navy and it is also the largest employer in the riding of Halifax. These men and women work hard every day defending our country and they deserve to be looked after when their service is ended.

We all have veterans and retired RCMP officers in our ridings. It is incumbent upon us to make sure that we support them during missions but also when they return home. Whether it is providing support for post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers and personnel returning from war in Afghanistan or ensuring that elderly veterans have access to health care and adequate housing, we have a special responsibility to those who give their lives in defence of this country. One of the best ways that we can signal our respect and appreciation to those who risk their lives for our protection is to end the unfair clawback on their pensions.

As my colleague already mentioned, Canadian Forces personnel and RCMP officers have had their pensions greatly reduced over the past four years when the Canada pension plan was integrated with their own service pensions. This decision was made despite the special circumstances that these workers face in their day-to-day lives, the impact on their families and the extreme risks involved.

Bill C-201 would correct this wrong. It has wide support including the Royal Canadian Legion, the Army, Navy and Air Force Veterans of Canada Association and the Air Force Association of Canada. This issue is also very important to Nova Scotians. In 2006, the province of Nova Scotia adopted a resolution urging “--the Government of Canada to investigate this matter immediately and end the unfair policy of benefit reduction to our veterans of the military and the RCMP”. That was 2006 and today the need for this change is even more pressing given the decline in value of many of our pensions.

Many of my constituents have written, asking that I support the bill. I would like to share their words because their words are so compelling. One currently serving member of the armed forces had this to say:

I'm putting my hope in a better future with you. I am passing on the words that are shared and currently on the minds of many currently serving veterans and retired veterans.

I would like to know if we will have your support and your party's support when this bill comes to be voted on. It is an injustice, an inequality to all who serve their county. How can MPs who are voted in by the people, who are ensured that their pensions (after serving a very short time) are not clawed back, yet are not ensuring the same for those who serve and protect this country.Please do not let this injustice continue.

That is from Lori Belle MacKinnon who is a currently serving member of the Canadian Forces.

Another writer, a retired RCMP officer, simply, but effectively wrote:

I respectfully request you support Bill C-201 and also request you seek support from other members of your party to do so.

That is from Noel Nurse, an RCMP officer from 1968-98. There we have it. Their message is clear. Their message is simple.

Veterans and retirees know that what has happened with their pensions is anything but fair. It is time to right that wrong. I would like to encourage all members of the House to join me in support of the bill. We parliamentarians, regardless of our political stripe, have one thing in common. We serve. We come here as elected representatives to serve Canadians. Our service is rewarded with a pension that is not clawed back. But sadly, members of the RCMP and armed forces are not rewarded in the same way and their service is far greater than ours as they risk their lives for us.

Recently, I had the extraordinary opportunity to witness the service of military personnel firsthand. Captain Josée Kurtz took command of HMCS Halifax in April in her namesake city. Captain Kurtz is the first woman to command a Canadian warship and she invited 12 women to join her at sea on her inaugural trip. I would like to take a moment in this honourable House to congratulate Captain Kurtz for her exceptional service.

During my 24 hours on the Halifax, I had the opportunity to talk to many of her crew, from the cooks to the XO, from the mechanics to the coxswain. These men and women are truly in service and they are proud to do it. It is exceptional service.

I want to be able to look them in the eye and be able to tell them that we respect their service enough to enact this legislation. I am proud to be a member of a party that supports members of our armed forces by ensuring that they are taken care of when their service is ended, and a party that takes its responsibility for parliamentary oversight of military missions seriously.

With Bill C-201, we have an opportunity to take the “Support our Troops” message from symbolic ribbons and magnets, and turn it into tangible support by recognizing the work that these great Canadians do in ensuring that they can have dignity in retirement. It is just, it is fair, and it is the right thing to do. It is the least we can do.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Edmonton Centre Alberta


Laurie Hawn ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to the proposed legislation.

There is no question that the men and women of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP deserve Canada's deepest gratitude. I will refer mainly to the Canadian Forces but all comments would apply equally to the RCMP. In return for the sacrifices they make to defend us, our country and sovereignty, we have a responsibility to care for them, a responsibility that begins the moment they enlist and carries right through until long after they have donned their uniforms for the last time.

Nobody understands this responsibility better than our government. In looking back over our record since we took office, I do not think anyone could question our support for the Canadian Forces. We would never settle for a retirement plan that shortchanged the men and women who serve Canada.

I would like to support this bill, I really would, but I cannot because it would be dishonest and irresponsible to do so. I would not be able to look myself in the mirror if I was simply to bow to my own emotions and ignore the facts of the case, as the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has chosen to do. Frankly, I do not expect him to know the facts intuitively, but I would have expected him to do better research on the issue. It is easy to play the hero when one will never have to deal with the consequences.

This is off topic of the real issue of the bill at hand, but it is relevant to a complete understanding of the situation to appreciate that the mover of this bill has an appalling record of voting against measures that would actually help serving or retired members of the Canadian Forces.

The Liberals will also support this bill even though they know it can never be implemented and if they were government, they would be doing exactly the same thing we are. For them, it is simply the politics of trying to embarrass the current government.

The Canadian Forces pension plan is flexible and generous, and compares favourably with some of the best pension plans in the country. It has many desirable features, including its survivor benefits and the basic pension formula. It is fully indexed to the cost of living. It also has very generous early retirement provisions.

When CPP was introduced in 1966, employers recognized that paying into two completely separate pension funds could cause undue financial hardship. To avoid this, many employers, including the Canadian Forces, chose to integrate their plans with the new CPP.

Employees then had two premiums to pay and they collected two benefits, but the total cost of the two premiums was the same as what employees had been paying for their company plans alone prior to the introduction of CPP. Likewise, on the receiving end, the total pension benefits they collected remained much the same. This whole issue has been totally misrepresented and is based on emotion rather than facts.

Let me provide the facts. Canadian Forces members pay 25% of the cost of the plan while Canadian taxpayers pays 75%. Canadian Forces members can retire at almost any age so long as they have met the years of service requirements of the plan.

When they retire, they get 2% per year of service based on their best years of annual salary and they get it immediately, regardless of their age. Other people, including members of Parliament, do not collect their pensions until age 55 or later. Service members collect that 2% until they turn 65 when CPP kicks in, as set out in the 1965 agreement between the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Canada pension plan when the two were integrated.

The pension that a CF member receives prior to age 65 is made up of two parts. One part is the lifetime benefit that will continue for the rest of the member's life and the secondary bridge benefit is designed to bridge the retirement income of the member and provide a smooth income flow between the CF retirement age and the age at which he or she will collect CPP.

The bridge benefit is calculated in such a way as to be similar to the anticipated CPP benefit at age 65. At age 65, the bridge benefit disappears and is replaced by CPP according to the manner in which the member has contributed.

People talk about a clawback. There is no clawback. There is no clawback, as evocative and popular as that word may be. At age 65, the bridge benefit disappears and is replaced by the other pension that the member has paid for, the Canada pension plan. The total pension is now from two sources, both of which operating exactly as they were set up and in accordance with how much a person has contributed.

In most cases, CPP will be equal to or greater than the bridge benefit but that will depend on what members have done between retirement from the CF and when they turn 65. If members do not contribute to CPP at an appropriate level because they do not work at that level until age 65, the CPP that they have earned may well be less than the bridge benefit. They get what they pay for.

If they take CPP early, as early as age 60, they will double-dip the CPP and bridge benefit for that period. That is a good thing. When they turn 65, the bridge benefit will disappear. They will lose the double-dipping and their continuing CPP will be at a reduced level because they took it early. Obviously, in that circumstance, the total pension will be less after age 65.

All that said, if we run the numbers, it is generally beneficial to take CPP early and enjoy the double-dipping, but they need to plan for it. It is a personal choice and the decision is entirely within the control of plan members.

In budget 2008 our government changed the formula for calculating the lifetime benefit and the bridge benefit. This resulted in increasing the lifetime benefit portion and reducing the bridge benefit portion. That means that there is less bridge benefit to disappear when the retiree turns 65. This is obviously to the benefit of every CF retiree. The member for Sackville—Eastern Shore and the NDP Party voted against that measure.

In my case, I retired at age 47, with 31 years of service. I have been collecting my 62%, indexed since age 55, ever since. When I turn 65, in three more years, my bridge benefit will disappear and it will be replaced by CPP. Because I have worked full time since age 47 and made maximum contributions to CPP, my total pension will actually go up by about $300. The pension plan works as advertised, and we are getting exactly what we paid for.

There are several misrepresentations out there. Comparing the CF pension plan and the parliamentary pension plan is apples and oranges. Both plans operate in accordance with how they were set up and paid for, and no one has been exempted from anything. The parliamentary pension is straightforward and there is no bridge benefit for an MP who retires before 65. Since there is no bridge benefit, there is nothing to be replaced at age 65.

MPs do not collect their pension until they turn 55, unlike the CF member who collects it right away. Also, MPs have zero input into these matters. There is no exemption for anyone and this red herring is simply put there to stir up emotion and resentment where none is justified. It is inaccurate and it is dishonest.

It was pointed out that we had no input into the integration of CFSA and CPP in 1966 and that we were not properly briefed. First, the CF is not a union. We do not get to negotiate pay or pension plans. Second, I cannot remember what we were briefed on in 1966, but I can guarantee that I was not paying attention anyway. I was too busy going through pilot training.

Ultimately it is every member's personal responsibility to understand his or her pay and benefits and there is always information available.

There are lots of emotional arguments put forward about how much CF members suffered and sacrificed during their careers, and that is valid, but they are emotional arguments. While we undoubtedly did have a lot of family disruption, and I certainly experienced that, and we were expected to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice, I personally helped to bury several dozen friends, we signed up for that.

That is why we have such a generous pension plan, which we are allowed to collect immediately upon retirement. It is also why we have such excellent health care and dental benefits for the rest of our lives and survivor benefits for our families.

Emotional arguments may be fun to raise, but they do not take the place of properly constituted and financed plans that operate exactly as they are supposed to. People like the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore never concern themselves with details like, who pays? In their socialist view, government simply pays. We know exactly what that means.

The one-time cost to implement this bill for the CF and RCMP would be $7 billion. In addition, someone would have to pick up the 2.2% per year in future contributions. For a member making $50,000 a year, that would be an additional pay deduction of $1,100. That would not be too popular.

People like to wave around petitions that they say contain over 100,000 signatures. If somebody says “The government is unfair, you deserve more money”, will people sign his petition? Of course they will. However, people should ask themselves why clearly people-people, like Rick Hillier, Ray Henault, Paul Manson, Al DeQuetteville, Fred Sutherland and many other three and four star generals, are not making this an issue. It is because they know it is not legitimate.

The mover of this bill stated that members of the CF and RCMP could use their EI contributions to fund his proposed changes to the pension plans. He argued that members make EI contributions but are not eligible to receive benefits. He is wrong. Members of the CF can and do collect EI benefits and they are subject to the same rules and restrictions as other Canadians.

If a member of the CF is asked to leave early, he or she may be eligible to receive EI. As well, CF members are eligible to collect EI while on maternity and parental leave. Put simply, my hon. friend is incorrect. There are no surplus EI benefits that could fund the proposed changes and all this would do is take away EI benefits from members.

I said earlier that the Canadian government has a responsibility to care for the members of our military and RCMP, but we also have a responsibility to Canadian taxpayers, who already pay approximately 75% of the CF plan's pension costs. That responsibility is through the sure, careful stewardship of the money they entrust to us.

Fortunately our duties to CF and RCMP members and to Canadian taxpayers are not incompatible. As someone who has been collecting a force's pension since I was 47, I can assure members that our plan provides a generous return for our premiums.

I am proud of my service and I am proud of the people with whom I served. I am also very proud of the men and women in uniform today. They do amazing work. I will try not to be too hard on the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. I will give him credit for sincerely caring about our service members, but this is not the right or responsible way to proceed. Bill C-201 should not be supported.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.


Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleague from Sackville—Eastern Shore for introducing this very important bill.

The men and women who serve our country deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and dignity. Sadly, as the rules stand now, many retired RCMP and Canadian Forces members are not, and were not, respected by the current government or its predecessor.

The service pensions of retired Canadian Forces personnel and RCMP personnel are reduced significantly when the pensioner receives CPP at age 65 or when disabled CF or RCMP personnel receive the Canada pension plan disability benefits.

The reduction formula that applies to these pensioners was created in 1966, when the CPP was introduced and integrated with the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and RCMP Superannuation Act. At the time these plans were integrated, members were not given options or choices as to how they wished to fund their contribution obligations. A unilateral decision was taken to integrate the CFSA/CPP contributions rather than stack the plan or increase the CFSA contributions, with members left unaware of the reductions to their pensions in their retirement years.

Eliminating the clawback would assist in recognizing their special contributions to our country. Members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP have roles and a lifestyle distinct from the general community. 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 in their career. Due to frequent moves and postings, many spouses of military members also have difficulty finding and retaining employment, making it very difficult for them to contribute to their own pension plans.

This bill would eliminate this deduction from annuity, this unfair clawback.

People are very concerned about this and are demanding change. Constituents from my riding of London—Fanshawe have written to me about this bill, asking for my support. One person wrote, “It has been an injustice that has lingered for too long”. Those words were echoed by thousands. Over 110,000 individuals from across the country have signed a petition supporting this initiative, including many former colonels and generals. The petition was developed by Canadian Forces and RCMP veterans.

Several veterans groups, including the Royal Canadian Legion, about half a million strong, the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada Association, which has 20,000 members, and the Air Force Association of Canada, which has 12,000 members, unanimously adopted resolutions in 2006 supporting this initiative.

As well, the National Chairman of the Armed Forces Pensioners'/Annuitants' Association of Canada and Canada's Association for the Fifty-Plus supports this initiative. They cannot all be wrong.

Former Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command president, Jack Frost, wrote to the Minister of National Defence, asking him to cancel the clawback to reflect the years of commitment and loyal service of veterans. The Legion says, “This clawback occurs at time in life when the member needs the income the most because of declining health and other financial realities”.

Veterans have also met and asked for assistance from Colonel Patrick Stogran, the Veterans Ombudsman. They have encouraged provincial and territorial governments to support the campaign and pressure the federal government and their federal counterparts for some kind of real action.

Wayne Wannamaker, a retired veteran from Whitehorse, encouraged politicians in Yukon legislature to recently pass a motion that urged the Government of Canada to recognize that the unilateral decision in 1966 to integrate the Canadian Forces superannuation and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police superannuation with the Canada pension plan contributions imposed an injustice and unfairness upon members and the retirees of the CF and RCMP and, therefore, should take action to remedy that injustice.

In Nova Scotia a resolution was adopted in 2006, Resolution No. 963, urging the Government of Canada to investigate this matter immediately and end the unfair policy of benefit reduction to our veterans of the military and the RCMP.

This is clearly a national response to a national disgrace.

I want to conclude my remarks by telling the House a story. I see there are veterans in the gallery. I am glad they are here, and I want to acknowledge their service.

James Albert Neve was a veteran. He was my mother's older brother. He called himself Fightin' Jim Neve. From the day he was born, he was fighting. He fought childhood illness and he fought all kinds of problems.

When the time came for him to fight for his country, he was there. He joined the army and he served in Italy. You, Mr. Speaker, are too young to remember this campaign, but it was a campaign that was fought with great passion by the Canadians. They travelled up the Italian Peninsula, pushing back the Nazis at every step. Behind them was supposed to be American support, an American artillery.

Unfortunately, and we know this from recent experience, the Americans are not all that great in their aim and accuracy when they shoot armaments, and he was wounded by so-called friendly fire. He received grievous wounds, with shrapnel all up his back. He was told, when he was in hospital both in Europe and in Canada, that he would never walk again, that his wounds were such that he would be confined to a wheelchair.

Fightin' Jim Neve did not take that lying down and he did walk. He walked and he worked every day of his life until he was age 65. He raised a family and he never complained. He did not talk much about the war and he certainly never complained. It was reality. He was wounded and that was all there was to it. He never complained when his pension was rolled back or what he was entitled to was clawed back when he turned 65.

When the member opposite says that this is emotional, he is darn right it is. It is about the people in the gallery. It is about Fightin' Jim Neve. This is emotional and we have to do something as a Parliament to change the unfairness we have seen since 1966, the unfairness that these veterans have suffered.

I hope the members in the House put partisanship aside and come to terms with the fact that there are many things in the country that need to be changed and remedied, and this is among them. I hope members will simply do it for the sake of RCMP veterans, for the sake of Canadian Forces veterans and for the sake of our country so we can stand and be proud that we have served our veterans as they served us.

Canadian Forces Superannuation ActPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Oxford Ontario


Dave MacKenzie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-201.

This is a matter of importance to all Canadians as the amendments proposed in the bill would have significant long-term financial implications for the government and for taxpayers. I encourage hon. members to fully apprise themselves of the facts and recognize the real impact of the changes before agreeing to support Bill C-201.

Let me begin by saying how pleased I was to hear member after member rise in the House back on March 25 to express their support for RCMP and Canadian Forces personnel. Despite all the wonderful sentiments expressed, and I do not doubt their sincerity, we need to focus on the reality of the situation. We cannot allow good intentions to cloud our judgment only to face the consequences later.

I too have great respect for the people who serve this country in uniform. I must admit to a slight bias in this regard having served for 30 years as a police officer before being elected to Parliament. I have worked hard with my colleague, the Minister of Public Safety, and with others on the government side to make sure the RCMP and other police services have the tools and resources they need to do their work.

I feel confident that no government in the recent history of this country has done more to support police and military personnel than ours, and we are determined to continue to support them after the uniform comes off, to borrow a phrase from the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore. However, that support needs to be tempered by common sense.

As much as I value and understand the true role police officers play in society, and as much as I appreciate the sacrifices made by members of the Canadian Forces, I cannot support this proposed legislation in its current form.

Rather than trying to address the specific situations of a limited number of individuals who are receiving a disability pension, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore has put forth blanket amendments that would apply to all current and future pensioners of the RCMP and Canadian Forces.

The costs of such a proposal and the precedents it would set for other police and law enforcement personnel across Canada should cause hon. members on the other side to take a step back and carefully and responsibly reconsider their support for Bill C-201.

It is important to understand that nothing is being done improperly right now. No injustice has been perpetrated against the RCMP or any military pensioners. The pension programs for both groups are working as designed.

In his remarks during the first hour of debate on Bill C-201, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore repeatedly used the word “clawback” to describe the situation as he sees it. Not only does that term have negative connotations, but it is simply wrong to describe the elimination of the bridge pension as a clawback.

The hon. member also used the term “deficiency” to describe the reduction in their employer sponsored pension once retired members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces start receiving the Canada pension plan. Again, this is simply not an accurate representation of the facts. The reduction is not a deficiency. It is planned for and expressly taken into account in determining contribution rates when members are still working.

Members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces, like all other federal public servants, do not pay full contributions to their employer sponsored plan on that portion of their salary that is subject to Canada pension plan.

The goal of this integrated approach is to ensure that members are not burdened with excessively high contribution rates during their working lives when their day-to-day expenses for their family, such as children's sports, educational costs, mortgages and loans, are often at their highest, yet they are still afforded an opportunity to enjoy an acceptable level of income during the course of their retirement. This is a careful balancing act that minimizes the member's input during his or her working life while still maximizing the level of income during retirement.

It is no coincidence that this is the way the plan was designed. Incidentally, this is the way that most public service pension plans are administered in Canada today.

I can assure the House that retired RCMP and Canadian Forces personnel are receiving pension benefits that fully reflect the contributions they have made to both their employer sponsored plans and the Canada pension plan. When they start receiving the Canada pension plan and the bridge pension is eliminated, most pensioners continue to receive the same amount of money, just from two sources rather than one.

The proposal in Bill C-201 to eliminate the reduction in pensions would fundamentally change the design of the plan which has been in effect for some 40 years. It would also place an unreasonable burden on current members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces, who would see a significant jump in their pension contributions in order to fund this change.

We have already heard that the costs of the proposed change would be enormous. My colleague, the hon. member for Wild Rose, advised the House on March 25 that these proposed amendments would increase the past service liability for the RCMP pension plan by more than $1 billion and would result in ongoing costs of tens of millions of dollars each year. The much larger Canadian Forces pension plan would incur a one-time past service liability of several billion dollars if these changes were implemented and ongoing costs could be in the neighbourhood of $1 million per year.

How would these billions of dollars in additional costs be paid? They would be paid by taxpayers, of course, and also by working members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces, who would see their annual pension contributions increase by as much as 30%. I see no fairness in that situation, a sentiment that I am sure would be voiced loudly by the rank and file members who would be required to shoulder much of this massive financial burden.

The RCMP pension plan is already generous by Canadian standards and the level of taxpayer support is substantial. Members currently pay less than 30% of the plan's actual costs. For every dollar contributed by plan members in 2008, the Government of Canada contributed $2.29. When compared with pension plans for other police services, the RCMP pension plan ranks highest from the perspective of the employer's contributions.

We also heard during the first hour of debate that the changes proposed in Bill C-201 are opposed by the Federal Superannuates National Association, which represents pensioners from the RCMP, Canadian Forces and regular federal public service pension plans. The association agrees with the government that the current approach is correct and that retired members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces are receiving the full benefits to which they are entitled.

In her remarks during the earlier debate on this bill, the hon. member for York West conceded that this bill “is short on specifics and costing”. I am pleased that some hon. members on the other side recognize that costs would be far greater than expected. Bill C-201 is not a reasonable or balanced approach. It would cost taxpayers billions of dollars and would create a special class of retired public servants.

I urge hon. members on both sides of the House to take the responsible course of action and vote against sending this bill to committee.