Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was reform.

Last in Parliament April 1997, as Liberal MP for Saskatoon—Dundurn (Saskatchewan)

Lost his last election, in 2000, with 22% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Grain Export Protection Act November 24th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, because of time constraints I will give an abbreviated version of my speech. The comments of the hon. member are interesting especially in light of his saying that we should be looking at the idea behind it. Perhaps the idea is most commendable. It is a question of whether this legislation meets the needs we are looking at.

I would like to begin my remarks on Bill C-262 by noting that we have been asked to look at what I regard as a very unusual piece of legislation. The author of the bill, the hon. member for Lethbridge, has titled the bill the grain export protection act. I say it is unusual because the House is very seldom asked to pass legislation that seeks to protect an economic activity from the participants themselves.

We have passed legislation that protects people from dangerous products or dangerous working conditions and we have passed legislation that protects consumers from unfair competition. In Bill C-262 in contrast we are being asked to pass a piece of legislation that seeks to protect an economic process, which is the transportation of grain, from the participants who are capable of slowing down or stopping the transportation process.

The first question I would ask with regard to the stated intention of the bill is, who would the bill affect if it were to be passed? What companies and trade unions in the grain handling and transportation industry would be covered?

A shutdown of the national railway system or a shutdown of one of the major terminal elevators would certainly affect the transportation of grain and would come under the scope of the bill. What about a shutdown of one of the transfer elevators on the Great Lakes or along the St. Lawrence seaway system? What about a shutdown of the Prescott elevators or the Sorel elevators near Montreal? Would the legislation apply to the companies or unions at these points? They are involved in the transportation of grain to the export market.

Obviously, the scale of operations of these companies is much smaller than the terminal elevators at Thunder Bay or Vancouver. Therefore it is questionable as to whether or not they should be included. Unfortunately, the bill is unclear on this point and we are left to surmise for ourselves as to the companies and workers who might be covered by the bill.

I should like to emphasize the important role played by grain farmers throughout Canada to our national economy as indicated by the hon. member. As we examine Bill C-262 we will want to keep in mind that we are assessing the relevance of this bill to grain farmers principally in the prairie provinces as well as the men and women who work in the grain transportation system across Canada.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this is an abbreviated version of my speech. The management of the grain transportation and handling system is a complicated matter. There are an untold number of factors that contribute to the success in the operation of the system and there is an equally wide number of factors that can go wrong. The experience of this past year with the difficulties in the grain hopper car supply and weather conditions illustrates this point very well.

When we look at a bill such as C-262 and the drastic measures it proposes, we have to keep in perspective the fact that industrial relations is only one dimension in the workings of this very expensive and complex system.

I feel extremely uneasy about one implication of this bill which I believe should be highlighted. That is the fact that it seeks to ameliorate the conditions of one group in the western economy by restricting the rights of others, namely the parties involved in the grain handling and transportation system.

I would suggest that it would be an extremely questionable act for the House to enact such a measure. I say this especially in view of the fact that many of the difficulties in the prairie grain economy are attributable to the international competitive environment and the difficulties we experienced earlier this year with the hopper car situation.

I seriously doubt that the proposed legislative amendments would have the desired effect for the prairie economy and may in fact have negative implications for the agricultural sector.

There is well founded evidence in those countries that have institutionalized the use of arbitration that work stoppages albeit illegal in nature continue to occur. In addition the arbitra-

tion process can result in settlements which are not always reflective of the mutual interests of the parties.

The export of Canada's grain and its delivery to domestic markets depend on the vital activities of many companies and their workforces. On occasion the reliability of grain transportation and handling can be inconvenienced by work stoppages involving players in the system.

Hon. members will be aware there have been occasions in the past where the particular party in power has had to take action in the public interest and bring about a resolution of work stoppages by legislative intervention. However, these infrequent occurrences hardly warrant the passage of proposed Bill C-262 before us which would remove collective bargaining rights and provide for the drastic measures that are contained within it.

We need only look to the experience of countries in which compulsory arbitration is widely practised. That experience is instructive. It indicates very clearly that strikes continue to occur even with compulsory arbitration and that such a measure turns out to be less than the solution or the panacea it is purported to be.

I have stated that there is a widespread consensus on the source of present difficulties in international grain markets and in the measures that are being introduced to help augment the supply and efficiency of grain hopper cars. In view of this reality my feeling is that it would be unfortunate to inflict such a weighty and questionable measure as is proposed by Bill C-262 on the employers and workers in the industry.

Therefore, I have to say that Bill C-262 is not an appropriate measure for regulating collective bargaining in the Canadian grain handling and transportation system. I would urge hon. members of this House not to support the proposed legislation.

There has been mention made of the needs of Canadian farmers and certainly there are losses that occur in strikes. There are always losses that occur in strikes, losses that occur not just to the grain farmers, but losses that occur to the people who work in the industry and to the companies involved. This is part of the bargaining process and labour management and it should continue. Elimination of such processes causes bitter feelings, causes stress and tension. In fact it exacerbates the situation rather than improves it.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the member spoke eloquently about the need for pension reform. It is nice to hear that Reform is on side with us, that it is in favour of reforming pensions. It is a question of what to do.

Quite often people who most often ask for pension reform in a certain manner and ask for certain changes to be made are, as this member very eloquently said that she would not care for a pension from the government, are quite often independently well to do, have other sources of income, or otherwise.

My question is whether this member could tell us how many Reform MPs do not have another business such as farming, ranching, et cetera, or an income from another source or an income from another pension. How many do not have such a source of income?

Supply November 22nd, 1994

You never said it was an article before.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question. It is difficult to disagree with a suggestion that there have to be certain changes in the pension scheme. Obviously that is what we proposed in the red book, one of them being the elimination of double dipping.

Certainly another aspect that has to be looked at very seriously is the age at which pensions do commence. With pensions commencing as they do now, it is probably quite unfair. The age should be raised. The question would be at what age should a

member obtain pension benefits and as well what benefits should be attributed to that member at that age. It is difficult to disagree with the comments made by the member.

Supply November 22nd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on the motion before us. This is an important issue that, as has been pointed out, was dealt with in the red book. This appears to be a controversial issue. Much has been written in the papers and shown on television. The issue raises a question: Are the current pension provisions for members of Parliament appropriate?

The motion proposes to replace the existing pension plan with a pension plan that reflects the commitments made in the red book. It is an issue this government wants resolved. This government plans to keep its promises. The Prime Minister has given a clear indication that we will deal with this issue. The details still have to be worked out.

Today I want to place the issue in context. One of the measures by which we can judge whether the current provisions are appropriate is to look at what other governments are doing around the world. In its report on parliamentarians' compensation, Sobeco, Ernst and Young compared our overall compensation with that of parliamentarians in other countries. These countries were Australia, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Sweden, France and the United States.

As members recall, Sobeco based its studies on our indemnities, allowances, services and benefits as well as those of senators. The firm looked at compensation practices and policies, trying to determine similarities and differences in approach from other countries. Then it estimated the value of total compensation for parliamentarians in each nation. While the roles of parliamentarians differ somewhat in the various countries studied, that does not take away from the validity of the comparisons in the consulting study.

Looking first at total compensation the consultants included base salary, the annual value of the pension plan and private insurance. The results show that Canadian MPs rank in the mid-range of the seven countries studied. The best paid by far are American members who receive more than double what Canadian, Australian and French parliamentarians get.

Australia, Canada and France are closely bunched together and they are significantly ahead of the United Kingdom, Belgium and Sweden. Taking sessional indemnity, our basic salary, we are in much the same position internationally. American legislators are way ahead of us. Their salaries are estimated at over $169,000, while ours are $64,400. The Australians and the French get slightly more and the rest lag a bit behind.

In terms of pensions alone, we rank somewhat behind both Belgium and Australia and ahead of the remaining countries examined. The pension rules vary from country to country. Parliamentarians are entitled to a pension as soon as they are elected in Belgium, France and Britain, while they must serve at least five years in the United States, six years in Canada and Sweden and eight years in Australia. In other countries the pensionable age ranges from a low of 12 years service in Sweden and Australia.

In Britain pensions can be paid to former MPs at 60 if their age and years of service add up to at least 80. Some countries provide reduced pensions to former members if they are retired before the normal pensionable age. The amount of retirement pension required for each year of service is lower than the Canadian rate in Belgium, France, Britain and the United States. It is higher or comparable in Australia and Sweden.

There is quite a wide range in contribution rates as well. Members do not have to contribute at all in Sweden, while the rates are 7.5 per cent of salary in Belgium, 11.5 per cent in Australia, and 1.3 per cent in the United States.

It is difficult to compare group insurance plans in the various countries because of the different social programs in place. Group insurance is paid entirely by the government in all of the countries studied except the United States where the members pay about 50 per cent of their group insurance programs.

Australia and Belgium provide severance allowances to their parliamentarians. In Belgium it is equal to about one month of salary for each year of service and in Australia it ranges from three months salary after one year of service to 26 months after eight years of service.

It is interesting to look at the various allowances available to parliamentarians in Canada and other countries. With expense allowances there is a wide range of practices. France and Belgium have non-taxable and non-accountable expense allowances. In Australia and Sweden this allowance is taxable but work related tax deductions are permitted.

As for travel expenses, Australia, Belgium and Sweden pay for all work related travel by their legislators. In France only the costs of travel between the constituency and Paris are paid.

Most countries have some sort of severance allowance and resettlement provisions to help parliamentarians make the transition to private life. Interestingly, the personal financial situation faced by parliamentarians as they return to private life in France and Sweden has an impact on amounts they are entitled to receive.

From this overall comparison we are neither the best paid parliamentarians at the international level nor the worst. While our pensions may be better than those of parliamentarians in some countries, they are not quite as good as they are in others. In overall comparison we lag well behind our American cousins.

As I said earlier, the Prime Minister has made clear the government's commitment to introduce legislation to change the pension plan. Our party is committed to ending double dipping. I applaud pension reform. I do think it is important for everyone to realize that in terms of overall compensation, Canadian members of Parliament are no better paid than colleagues in most other major western countries and we lag behind a number of countries.

Social Security Program November 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the House today.

Six weeks ago the Minister of Human Resources Development released a discussion paper on social security in Canada in order to engender a lively debate across this country about what kind of social security system we want in the future. A debate should be based on facts not rumours and scare stories so let us make sure we all understand those facts.

We have created an excellent and highly accessible post-secondary education system in Canada but it is increasingly under pressure. Resources for everything are tight and there is a growing need for more access to the system. Our challenge is to ensure that we maintain and improve the system and broaden access.

First, why broaden access? Because there are three million people already in the workforce who want to improve and upgrade their skills in order to keep jobs. More and more people should be getting a post-secondary education. Of the new jobs created during the last three years 17 per cent went to people with university education. There were 19 per cent fewer jobs for those with less than high school.

Governments do not have any more money to pay for education. In fact most governments have less money to spend. The federal government is not proposing that we cut $2.6 billion out of the system as some people would suggest. Our proposal will put more in the system as I will explain.

Let us look at how education is paid for. Students pay about one-fifth of the costs of their college or university education through tuition fees. More than half of the students graduate without borrowing money or by borrowing very small amounts. Taxpayers pay about four-fifths or 80 per cent of the cost of post-secondary education, whether or not they personally benefit. That is a lot more than in most countries where students pay a larger share of tuition costs in recognition of the fact that they earn higher salaries and wages during their working lifetime.

Provincial governments are responsible for education, but the federal government pays half the costs for colleges and universities, about $8 billion a year. This currently includes $3.5 billion in tax points that allow the provinces to collect taxes for colleges and universities and $2.6 billion in transfers to provinces in cash. There is an additional $2 billion, mostly in support to university research and the cost of student loans through the Canada student loans program.

The $3.5 billion in tax points will always be there and it will keep growing. The tax points contribution will grow by an estimated $2 billion over the next decade, replacing the cash portion that will run out over the next 10 years.

Under the present system the cash will run out in about 10 years. Without extra government money it is likely that tuition fees will keep rising. That is why the government is considering an alternative, taking some of that cash before it disappears and using it to set up a permanent expanded student aid program. This would provide as much as $2 billion extra in student loans each year.

Under such a scheme the total amount of federal contributions to post-secondary education would increase by more than $10 billion over the next 10 years. Instead of leaving the system as it is now, which would put the federal government contribution at a total of about $60 billion over 10 years, it would be about $70 billion.

A new kind of student loans program would make it easier to finance education, not just for traditional students but for older Canadians who want to go back to school but do not qualify for student loans now. More people would be able to go to college or university. College and university fees could rise but it seems like a reasonable investment given the fact that university graduates' lifetime earnings will be 40 per cent higher than if they had not made that investment. That is about one-quarter million dollars more.

In addition if we were to make the replacement of student loans contingent on earnings after graduation, students would have a guarantee that their investment in learning will not burden them with impossible loan payments.

These are the ideas we have put forward for discussion. Canadians will have an opportunity to respond. They can fill out the work book which we have available for all Canadians to have their say on the reform of social programs. The booklet is available in postal outlets, Canada Employment Centres, YM-YWCAs and many grocery stores or by calling the toll free 1-800 number.

Social security reform affects all Canadians. The government encourages open debate to find the best solutions to take us into the next century.

Petitions November 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, the other petition is about the mining industry in Canada. The petitioners call upon Parliament to take action to help employment to grow in this particular sector, promote exploration and rebuild Canada's mineral reserves, sustain mining communities and keep mining in Canada.

This is a petition that I fully endorse.

Petitions November 18th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions today. The first is a petition from many individuals asking that Parliament desist from passing further legislation dealing with firearms and ammunition and to direct attention to the adequate punishment of the criminal element in society.

National Art Gallery November 15th, 1994

Mr. Speaker, recently I had the opportunity to tour the National Art Gallery. I was appalled as I toured the Canadiana section at the lack of representation of the many fine Canadian artists from western Canada, in particular Saskatchewan.

One would think that the only western artist since the dawn of Canadian art was Emily Carr. She is the only western artist who is prominently displayed in the gallery with more than one piece of art.

Great artists such as Kereluk rate only one or two representations on the walls of the gallery. Other talented artists such as Allan Sapp, Ernest Lindner, William Perehudoff, Dorothy Knowles, Rita Cowley and many other artists recognized across Canada and some around the world do not even rate one.

I am sure that Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia also have artists who are more than worthy of being displayed.

Social Security Programs November 3rd, 1994

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak on Bill C-54, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Children's Special Allowances Act and the Unemployment Insurance Act.

When I first had the chance to review the amendments contained in this bill it was immediately apparent that a good deal of time and effort have gone into determining ways in which the application rules for income security benefits could be made more flexible.

It is obvious that clients have complained about some of the application requirements and certain restrictions in the current legislation. Undoubtedly each of these requirements or restrictions had a reason for being at the time they were introduced. However, by listening to the public the government has found ways in which both the client and the integrity of the programs can both be well served.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to highlight some of the amendments where this is most obvious. Under the Old Age Security Act the 60 to 64-year old spouse of a low income old age security pensioner can, on application, receive the spouse's allowance benefit. Also eligible for this income tested benefit are low-income widowed persons in the same age group.

The only requirement for the spouse's allowance apart from age and income is that the younger spouse must have lived in Canada for a minimum of 10 years after age 18. Because residence is a qualifier for the spouse's allowance benefit, applicants for the allowance provide a history of their residence in Canada after age 18 and up to age 60.

When spouse's allowance recipients turn age 65 they become eligible for the old age security pension in their own right. However, the amount of their old age security pension is dependent on the total number of years they have lived in Canada after age 18. For those who were in Canada prior to July 1, 1976, 10 years of residence in Canada immediately prior to age 65 entitles them to payment of the full pension.

For those who came to Canada after July 1, 1976 the amount of their pension is equal to one-fortieth for each year they resided in Canada after age 18.

For the most part the administration knows from the information provided on the spouses allowance application combined with the payment history of the spouses allowance how many years of residence the client has at age 65. Therefore it is possible to calculate the old age security pension entitlement without going back to the client.

Currently, however, the client is required to apply for the basic old age security pension and to provide the administration with much of the same information and documentation that the individual provided with his or her spouses allowance application.

Given that in the majority of cases the administration already has the spouses allowance recipient's residence history in Canada the requirement that this individual apply for old age security is unnecessary.

Therefore I am pleased to see that this bill proposes to give the Minister of Human Resources Development discretion to deem an old age security application to have been made by the 64-year old recipient of spouse's allowance. In addition, given that the administration already has the income information it requires the income tested guaranteed income supplement form will also not be required for the remainder of the GIS payment year.

Approximately 20,000 recipients of the spouse's allowance turn 65 each year. As the majority of these clients have lived in Canada for the required number of years to receive a full old age security benefit, this amendment will benefit a great many people.

This automatic conversion from spouse's allowance to old age security is not a new concept. Currently under the Canada pension plan 64-year old disability recipients do not have to apply for their retirement pension to commence at age 65.

A Canada pension plan retirement application is deemed to have been received because the administration already has the information necessary to put a retirement pension into play.

I am pleased that we are now offering the same quality service to 64-year old spouse's allowance recipients.

Another provision of the Canada pension plan is also being mirrored in the amendment in this bill which recognizes that some individuals because of incapacity are unable to apply for their old age security benefits on time. Specifically, the minister will be able to deem an application to have been received earlier than it actually was received if the lateness is due to incapacity.

Benefit entitlement to the basic old age security pension and the income tested guaranteed income supplement and spouse's allowance is contingent on an application being made for these benefits.

If this bill becomes law retroactivity for all of these benefits will be a consistent 12 months. Therefore anyone applying more than 12 months after the first month in which they could have received benefits loses some benefits.

For the most part a limited period of retroactivity is considered fair.

Individuals have a certain responsibility to come forward in a timely manner to receive their correct benefit entitlement. However, there are cases in which the individual is mentally or physically incapacitated and this incapacity renders them incapable of making an application. Unless these individuals are fortunate enough to have someone who realizes that application can be made on behalf of such an incapacitated person, benefit entitlement can be lost.

The amendments in this bill would allow the minister to deem an application to have been made by or on behalf of an applicant. This would only apply if the applicant were at the time of application incapable of forming or expressing an intention to make an application.

As I noted earlier, the Canada pension plan already has such a provision and this important protection is now being proposed for old age security clients as well.

Another very interesting amendment contained in this bill would allow old age security pensioners to cancel their benefit entitlement. On the face of it one wonders why such an amendment is necessary. Surely if someone does not want the benefit all they have to do is not apply. For the small number of individuals who do not want to receive the old age security pension the majority do not make application. However, in some cases it is only after becoming a pensioner that an individual decides that he or she no longer wants to receive the old age security benefit. The current legislation, because it does not provide for benefit cancellation, cannot accede to these requests.

As I am sure most people will agree, someone should not be forced to take the application they do not want. Therefore this bill would allow individuals to cancel their benefit. However, recognizing that circumstances can change, the bill will also make provision for a cancelled benefit to be reinstated if the pensioner should subsequently change his or her mind. The reinstatement would be effective the month following the month the request for reinstatement was made. A pensioner would be reinstated on the same calculation of residence that had been used when application for the old age security pension was first made.

A very similar type of amendment is also being made to the Canada pension plan. Currently the Canada pension plan allows for an assignment of retirement pensions between spouses in an ongoing relationship. A Canada pension plan retirement beneficiary whose spouse is over 60 and receiving any retirement benefits he or she is entitled to under either the Canada or Quebec pension plans can apply for and receive a share of the retirement benefits they both earned during the course of the marriage.

The legislation currently provides that the assignment ceases on the death of either spouse, on the twelfth month following the month the couple separates, the month the non-contributing spouse becomes a contributor or the month a divorce or annulment of marriage is finalized. Therefore, even though pension assignment is done at the request of the couple, the couple who remains together cannot cancel the assignment.

While the administration has received very few requests for a pension assignment to be cancelled, there is absolutely no good reason this should not be allowed. Therefore, I am pleased that this bill provides for cancellation at the written request of both spouses.

This type of amendment emphasizes that the government is listening to what clients want and what they have every right to expect.

The last amendment I want to deal with is another obvious example of listening to the desires of clients. As I am sure we are all aware, the Canada pension plan was amended in 1977 to provide for a division of pension credits between spouses should the marriage end in divorce or annulment. While these provisions have been extended and improved over the years, the amendment I want to talk about has to do with limitations that only existed up until 1987.

Specifically because the administration had no experience with this type of provision in 1977 the division of pension credits earned by both spouses under the Canada pension plan during the course of the marriage was only allowed if very strict conditions were met. The marriage had to have lasted a minimum of three years. An application for a division of pension credits had to have been made within three years of the divorce or annulment.

This latter requirement was felt necessary so that divorced individuals would have some idea of what their retirement benefits were going to be when they reached retirement age. It was felt at the time that a CPP contributor should not be left in limbo. He or she had a right to know if the pension credits were going to be divided. In this way the individual could better plan for his or her retirement years.

Three years was considered to be long enough after the marriage was over for one of the spouses to make application for a division of pension credits. Unfortunately, what the original legislation did not provide was for an extension of the three-year time limit.

I am pleased to note that there are many divorced couples who hold no animosity toward each other. These individuals still want to ensure that their ex-spouses are treated fairly.

The administration has been approached by couples who were divorced prior to 1987 when the time limit was removed who would still like to have a division of pension credits. Such persons accept the fact that Canada pension plan contributions are a joint family asset to which both spouses contributed equally during the course of their marriage. Even though for the most part only the male partner made CPP contributions or at least consistently contributed to the plan during the course of the marriage, he recognizes that his ex-wife has as much right to these credits as he did.

The people who are coming forward do not want a three-year time limit to prevent them from dividing their pension credits with their ex-spouse. Therefore, an amendment contained in Bill C-54 will allow the three-year time limit to be waived where both spouses request this waiver in writing.

The Canada pension plan is an income security program that truly belongs to its clients. The plan is totally funded by the contributions that employers and their employees make and the investment of any moneys not immediately needed to pay benefits and expenses. Therefore, this plan should definitely listen to the people to whom it belongs and the waiver of the three-year time limit for spouses who divorced prior to 1987 is proof positive that this government is willing to both listen and act on what it hears.

This government has a commitment to improve the way it does business. This bill before us today exemplifies how this commitment can be acted upon.