Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to participate in this debate because, like so many members here, I have veterans, active service personnel and members of the RCMP in my riding. A few years ago, as the House may know, O Division of the RCMP moved to London, Ontario. These folks are in our communities doing service and ensuring that federal laws are observed.
Interestingly enough, a few months ago RCMP officers from all over the nation went to Vancouver to ensure that people who were visiting our country for the Olympics were safe and secure in that community and that no one could disrupt those remarkable events. This took time away from their families and their homes but they were there when we needed them to ensure that young women were not being trafficked into Vancouver and made vulnerable by the fact that there were so many people who were visiting the city.
These officers and the veterans who come from the army, navy and air force, and those folks who serve at Wolseley Barracks in London all need to know that their government, their community and this nation will ensure that when their time comes for a pension they will receive the full pension they deserve.
I stand in support of the private member's bill proposed by my colleague because Bill C-201 is an important test of our will as a community, as a Parliament and as a nation. What the bill is saying is that we need to treat veterans and RCMP veterans fairly. The bill simply seeks to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act to eliminate the deduction of Canada plan benefits from the annuity payable under each of these acts.
This goes back to 1966 when many of us were either very young or perhaps, in the case of my colleague, not even born. It goes back quite a long way and compelled the government to split the contributions of deductions to superannuation and to the Canada pension plan. As was previously mentioned, this was never explained to veterans or to those serving in the military. No one was advised of what would happen to them if they were disabled or when they reached the age of 65. This decision was made without their knowledge or consent and they did not understand it until many years later when they retired and saw that their superannuation was reduced because they were receiving Canada pension or because they were entitled to disability.
This is not how we treat the people who Parliament and the country say that it reveres, honours and wishes to ensure there is not poverty in the future of veterans.
We have talked a great deal about the need for pension reform in this country. My colleague from James Bay mentioned that too many people are falling through the cracks. In fact, I heard a report just recently that 70% of Canadians do not have adequate pension coverage. All they have to look forward to in their old age, after years of working, building their neighbourhoods, contributing to the tax base or, in the case of the RCMP and veterans, providing service and support to our nation, is poverty.
We need to act and we need to act now. We need pension reform. We need to look at those private pensions that are collapsing, like the Nortel pension. We need to look at the Canada pension plan, the OAS and the GIS because they are simply not adequate. Too many seniors are struggling and many of them are people who have served our country with great distinction.
I will now talk a bit about what is going on in my riding with the Parkwood Hospital for veterans which is located right in the middle of my riding. It, unfortunately, serves only those veterans who were in World War II or the Korean War. Anyone who served after 1953 cannot utilize the services of Parkwood Hospital. As we all know, the veterans of World War II and the Korean War are elderly and we are losing many of them because they are passing on.
The problem is that the people at Parkwood Hospital want to close 72 beds. However, once those beds are closed we will never see them re-opened. The truth is that when health care budgets are under stress and beds are closed, they are closed forever. The incredible staff who serve those beds and help those veterans are also lost because they are laid off or perhaps go into other parts of the medical delivery service. We lose important skills that have been accrued over years of working with fragile veterans and elderly people. We simply cannot allow that to happen.
It would be quite simple for the government to make changes to the mandate of veterans' hospitals. It could allow these hospitals to serve the veterans who came after 1953, those who served our country as peacekeepers or in other deployments. There are all kinds of them. We see them coming back from places like Kandahar. We see RCMP officers who have been wounded and who have risked a great deal in the service of their country. Those beds should be available for them.
As I mentioned before, we have a significant group of personnel, military and RCMP, in London, Ontario. I want to say a little bit about the legions in London, Ontario. We have some quite remarkable veterans and those who have served since 1953 in London at the Victory Branch Legion, the Duchess of Kent, the Air Force legion on Crumlin Side Road in my riding, and the Navy legion. By the way, this is the 100th anniversary of the navy. I think it would behoove all of us to celebrate that anniversary by showing respect to those veterans who served and who served so loyally.
At any rate, those legions provide remarkable support to the veterans at Parkwood. They bring them out on Remembrance Day and at Christmas. The Duchess of Kent is renowned for its efforts to ensure those vets get out of Parkwood for a few hours to know that they are appreciated.
We can show those people that we appreciate their work on behalf of veterans as we appreciate the veterans of World War II and Korea by extending the mandate of the hospitals, like Parkwood, and allowing those beds to be utilized by both the military personnel and their spouses. We call that the centres of excellence proposal. We would very much like to see that.
I want to end on an important note. We are seeing young men and women come back from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress syndrome. If we close beds and deny pensions to these people, we will be doing them a tremendous disservice. They need us. They were there when we needed them and they need us now.
I received a letter just last week from Ken Knisely who has a son, Andrew, who lost a leg in Afghanistan. He has to go to Ottawa for treatment because there is no available treatment in London.
We can do better. We can do better than food banks for veterans. We can do better by ensuring this bill is passed in this House.