Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address private member's Motion No. 418. Yesterday I had the honour of attending a memorial service jointly carried out by padres of both the Detroit and Windsor fire departments wherein honour was brought to those who laid down their lives in the service of our community. It has been said that there is no greater love than the love displayed by laying down one's life in the service of others.
Specific provisions in the Income Tax Act are what we are talking about and the fact that firefighters are in a very different situation than most other people in our society. Most are required to retire early due to contract provisions and the physically strenuous nature of their occupation.
Earlier this year I was able to convene a meeting with senior members of the finance department, those people responsible for the calculations and for putting forth the provisions of the legislation once it is passed by the House, along with the executive of the firefighters association. At that meeting, along with the member for Essex, we were able to discuss for several hours provisions of the pension plan and the firefighters request for the 2.33% integrated plan.
We understand there is scope within the existing pension tax rules for plans covering firefighters to increase pension plan benefits. This was explained to members of the association along with me. We understand that a number of firefighter pension plans provide a 2% pension benefit that is integrated with Canada pension benefits. This means that these plans are not currently providing the maximum pension benefits permissible under the Income Tax Act. However, due to the vagaries of collective bargaining, it would be very difficult for firefighters across the country to be able to negotiate the full benefit they seek.
I understand that firefighters would like to be provided with a 2.33% pension benefit that is integrated with CPP. I understand that by maximizing the benefits under the current rules the plans could possibly provide an even larger pension benefit than could be obtained in the 2.33% integration, but as I said earlier it would be subject to unprecedented success in collective bargaining.
It is clear that firefighters provide a service to our community that is desperately needed and absolutely essential.
It is clear that firefighters provide a service to our communities that is desperately needed and absolutely essential. In my 14 years of experience in municipal council I had the opportunity of seeing firsthand what some firefighters were doing and the dedication they brought to their jobs. We in Windsor are very proud of them.
Firefighters in Windsor were faced with a situation 15 years ago where there were very poor labour-management relations between the fire department and the city. They now enjoy an absolutely positive attitude and marvellous relationship. There can always be improvements, I suppose, but in talking to firefighters across the country it was brought to my attention that Windsor was a model others could only hope to follow.
Firefighters are out in the community doing the job of public relations and of increasing safety awareness in children and families. We are extremely proud that we have the type of relationship where everyone benefits.
It was explained to us yesterday during the memorial service that we do not take enough time to recognize and thank firefighters for the sacrifice they have made over the past century.
The motion speaks to the need for further consultation and consideration of the issue. It is paramount for firefighters and their families. I urge members of the House to support the motion before us.