April 19, 1993

PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS

REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE

PC

Barbara Jane (Bobbie) Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Barbara Sparrow (Calgary Southwest) moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should contract an independent non-government agency to review all salaries, allowances, benefits, and pensions of members of Parliament and senators and make recommendations on these to the House.

She said: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak to Motion No. 660 today. It has been a number of years since the compensation of members of Parliament-the salaries, pensions, and tax free benefits-has been reviewed. I feel very strongly about this.

When I was first elected to this House in 1984 I was unaware of how the pensions were calculated for members of Parliament and it truly shocked me that they did not parallel those in private enterprise.

In 1952 under the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act we started laying down the rules and guidelines with regard to pensions for MPs and how these were applicable. Since 1981 members of the House of Commons have contributed 10 per cent of their sessional indemnity plus 1 per cent, making a total of 11 per cent, into the pension fund. The House of Commons contributes 11 per cent.

A member of Parliament must serve six years in order to be in line for a pension after he or she retires or is defeated. Sometimes members of Parliament can be extremely young after six years of service. I feel very

strongly that our pensions should be reviewed again taking a look at private enterprise. Any pension that is due to an elected member of Parliament should come after a certain age, be it 55 years of age plus the number of years of service equalling a certain number.

Some people are age 30 when they come here and after working very hard choose to retire after six years. Therefore they are age 36 when they take a pension. That does not seem right to me and I am very pleased that this motion has come forward so I can express my concerns and the concerns of the constituents in Calgary Southwest.

Four or five years ago I wrote a letter to the Speaker- not to you, Sir, but a previous Speaker-requesting that an investigation and study be done in this particular area. I wrote a letter to the Board of Internal Economy. I even wrote a letter to some of my colleagues in the House in all parties stating that I felt it was time that members' pensions be looked at.

Are members of Parliament contributing enough or not enough? Should the House contribute an equal amount? Should we be able to take a pension after six years of service no matter what our age may be? Should members of Parliament who go on to another career in the Public Service be allowed to double dip? That means they could collect a pension from the House of Commons and be employed by the Public Service, getting a wage and a pension at the same time. These are all areas that need to be studied very carefully.

I did not get very far. I decided I would table a private member's motion which I did a year ago last March. As all of us are well aware it sometimes takes a period of time for these motions to get drawn.

I did not give up there. I spoke to the President of the Treasury Board who is the minister responsible for members' pensions and the legislation. I encouraged him to have a total review. I also worked with many of my colleagues throughout the House stating we simply had to come into line with private enterprise.

April 19, 1993

Private Members' Business

After two or three years of hounding the President of the Treasury Board he announced the first week of February that he would appoint an independent actuarial company to examine the entire MPs compensation package. This is good. The total package will be reviewed, not only the salaries, but also our allowances, any benefits, any perks, any contributions to the pension fund and the tax-free portion.

Today MPs have a basic salary of $64,800 which is earned income and on which we pay tax. Also, members of Parliament receive a tax-free per annum of about $21,400. This is non-taxable and helps many of the people in the House with their expenses.

A lot of things people right across Canada do not understand is that when many of us have to go from one building to another such as over to external affairs, to fisheries and oceans and indeed over to visit the people at Environment Canada, we take a cab and that cost comes out of our pocket. There are many parking expenditures. We attend many day and evening functions. Some we are obligated to attend and some we do quite of our own volition. We have many expenses which are not really listed and it is very difficult for people across the country to understand.

I could honestly say that just this past 10 days, the two weeks we were home in our ridings, it cost me between $500 and $600 for parking tickets, gasoline and the various functions that I attended. This comes out of the tax free portion of our compensation package.

It can be argued that maybe the tax-free portion should be dismissed and our salary increase and we be compensated on a receipt presented for all our expenses. That may be a way but before we ever decide, we would have to take a look at how much the administration of such a system would cost the taxpayers.

There is an average throughout the country of how much MPs spend with regard to making things available within their riding, being accessible and attending certain functions. I am very pleased the President of the Treasury Board went ahead and said we would review the whole package.

As I said earlier, the basic salary today is $64,800 which is taxable. We will review the non-taxable portion, which is $21,400. We will review the amount of money which each member of Parliament contributes to the pension fund. We will review how much the government puts into

the pension fund. We will review whether there should be double dipping and at what age a member may draw his pension. All these are very important, there is no doubt about it, but we have to come in line with private enterprise so that everybody across this country is treated equally and fairly.

There has been a lot in the papers over the last number of years concerning the pensions of members of Parliament. According to them, everyone is going to get the maximum amount. That is not true. Over 50 per cent of the members will not collect a pension because they will not have sat the six years required. Second, of the 50 per cent of the members left, probably around 5 per cent will collect the maximum, which means they will have served for 15 years or more. We are looking at a very small portion of members of Parliament who will serve the full length of time required and receive a full pension.

Having checked the pension fund last week for members of Parliament I found it was in a surplus position of about $30 million. It takes the members of Parliament working today to create the funds for the members of Parliament who retired yesterday or before.

I am very pleased after three, four or five years of working with my colleagues and working to get the President of the Treasury Board to review our compensation package and put it out to a non-government actuarial firm. Of course, the recommendations would have to come back to the House so we could have a full debate on that specific issue.

I thank my colleague from South Shore who seconded the motion today. I know he has been an active person concerning the fair treatment of pensions.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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?

An hon. member:

He is a good Canadian.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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PC

Barbara Jane (Bobbie) Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Sparrow:

Yes, he is a good Canadian and he represents his constituents in Nova Scotia extremely well.

April 19, 1993

Private Members' Business

Whether the recommendations that come back to the House say the salaries should go up and the pensions go down, or our contributions should be less than 7 per cent, will have to be reviewed.

The other part of it is indexation. Pensions are not indexed until the members receiving them reach the magic age of 60 and then they are indexed according to the CPI that has been involved since the time of retirement.

While I recognize that there is a lot of controversy, I do want the people of Calgary Southwest to know that this is now on the table and will be reviewed. Once the statistics and the criteria are set down, we will understand that pensions have to come in line with private enterprise and that is what we are hoping for.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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LIB

Don Boudria (Deputy House Leader of the Official Opposition; Liberal Party Deputy House Leader)

Liberal

Mr. Don Boudria (Glengarry-Prescott-Russell):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate this morning, on our first day back in Parliament.

I must say that when I first saw the motion on the Order Paper I wondered why we were debating it because I thought it had already been decided by the President of the Treasury Board. If it has been decided, why is it necessary to adopt a motion that has already been decided? Nevertheless, it makes for interesting conversation in the House for no other reason than it states again our commitment to doing what the motion says.

The member for Calgary Southwest said some moments ago that the President of the Treasury Board had agreed to establishing a commission to review the salaries and benefits of members of Parliament. To this date I have no knowledge of who is to sit on that commission. Perhaps the members have been appointed. If they have I do not recall a press release or a media advisory announcing that members of the commission had been appointed.

Perhaps the purpose behind this motion is really to incite the President of the Treasury Board to do that which he promised; not to just announce the commission would exist, but to actually appoint the commission and get it going.

I am not trying to put words in the mouth of the hon. member across the way. Perhaps she is trying to push the minister along to get him to appoint that commission. That is a good idea and I have no difficulty with that. I am not ashamed of the salary I make as an MP and neither is the hon. member from Calgary. She is a very hard-working member of Parliament, as are the vast majority of MPs in the House of Commons.

In terms of accountability, it is not a bad idea to get an independent commission to review it. I would guess that at this point whatever commission is appointed will likely recommend that MPs' salaries be increased but then we will not do it. That is usually what happens. Every time one of these commissions has been appointed, the recommendation has been to increase MPs' salaries when people thought that the recommendation would be to decrease them. Because the recommendation is to increase salaries no one dares do it particularly because economic times are tough and nothing happens. So be it. At the very least we will be able to confirm that what we are doing and the amount of salary we are getting for doing our jobs here is appropriate if that is what the commission decides. Now we are getting into the business of pensions and so on.

There is an organization, which really is a business calling itself the National Citizens' Coalition. It has nothing to do with being national, has nothing to do with being a citizens' group and is not a coalition. It is a business. This business raises funds by sending out huge flyers which include a little block at the bottom telling Canadians to send it their dough and it will continue to fight to lower MPs' salaries, cancel their pensions and whatever other things happen to go through its mind at the time and whatever will work to generate funds.

Right now, because politicians are not always seen in the best of light, particularly in an economic downturn, we have become a fair and easy target for that business calling itself the National Citizens' Coalition. Of course, nowhere does the National Citizens' Coalition ever say that MPs pay $7,000 or $8,000 a year in premiums for their pensions.

If those premiums were invested in a five-year GIC, a member of Parliament like the member for Saint-Denis would never recover the interest on his contributions toward the plan let alone the capital outlay he has contributed over the years. The same is undoubtedly true for the hon. member for Windsor West, or the hon.

April 19, 1993

Private Members' Business

member for Victoria-Haliburton who will be retiring shortly. I do not want to make him sound any older but he is a senior. All things being equal, he will probably not draw from this pension for as long as others will. Yet he has been a member for two or three decades and has paid the full premium.

The hon. member for Burlington is here in the House as well. He has been a member for a long time. I am not sure whether he will be a candidate again. I do not know whether he has announced that he will be running again. In any case, many members have paid the pension off fully. They have made hundreds of thousands of dollars of capital outlay and have forgone interest in their pensions and they will never collect.

However, that does not make news for the National Citizens' Coalition. What makes news is the fact that the hon. member for Shefford retired last year and it has added everything that he will draw from his pension. It forgot to put in the contributions he has put into the plan. The National Citizens' Coalition made an arbitrary decision based on how long it decided the hon. member for Shefford was going to live and attributed an amount of money to that. Actuarially, that does not make sense. It is not counted that way.

The chief actuary for Canada has indicated that the MPs' fund is not at all in a deficit position the way some organizations have portrayed it. As a matter of fact it is in a surplus position. When it talked about unfunded liabilities of the plan, that only works if there are three basic assumptions: that every member would retire today; that they will all live to be 75 years of age; and that no new member will ever be re-elected. Presumably, that would make this place a dictatorship and no one would ever contribute toward the plan again. It starts off with those three assumptions and then attributes a cost to all of that. That is sheer and utter nonsense.

The commission we are going to have is welcome. I am glad the minister is doing this but I wish he would appoint the members forthwith, announce them and choose a firm of unimpeachable integrity, such as a firm of actuaries. Let us do it. Maybe we can put this issue to rest at least for a little while until the National Citizens' Coalition thinks up another new scheme to raise funds for itself.

At least the money spent on this commission will make Canadians aware. Whatever recommendations it comes up with I will be ready to live with. If it thinks our salaries are too high, which I doubt, fine. If it thinks they are too low, I know we will not raise them. They will probably stay the same and that is fine too. If it decides that our pensions are too generous, we will have to live with that as well. However the story is a little different from what has been told.

I would like to take only two minutes to talk about occupational salaries. The Statistics Canada publication The Daily of April 13,1993 lists a number of occupations. I will read a few of them into the record. I will not say that MPs should make the same as the highest paid Canadians. Obviously that would not be correct. It should be remembered as well that notwithstanding the way some people are trying to portray it in the media, others certainly make salaries that are as high or higher.

I can give the example of a dentist who makes on average $95,000 a year. Physicians and judges make $102,000. General managers and senior officials of companies make on average $67,000 a year. Airline pilots make $64,893. Chiropractors make $64,299. Engineers make $63,000 and university teachers make $62,000. Therefore, when MPs are paid $65,000 it is certainly a good and handsome salary. However Canadians should not be misled into believing that MPs are of the highest income order because that certainly is not the case.

In any case, I support the motion of the member opposite and I hope that the government will appoint members of integrity to this commission so that Canadians can feel reassured once and for all on this issue and we can talk about something else.

In this Parliament we have spent as much time talking about this subject as we did about national issues. I think we have been getting nowhere on it and we have better things to do. Let us appoint that commission, get it over with and turn the page so that we can talk about other things which would be more important for most of our constituents.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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NDP

Iain Francis Angus (Whip of the N.D.P.)

New Democratic Party

Mr. Iain Angus (Thunder Bay-Atikokan):

Mr. Speaker, before I commence my remarks I want to advise the House that my colleague, the hon member for Port Moody-Coquitlam, will be sharing time with me and we will have approximately five minutes each.

April 19, 1993

I am pleased to rise and support the motion before us today. I want to point out that in theory the motion is not needed because the government has already indicated it is prepared to act in this way. I want to put a couple of things on the record.

On February 24, 1992 the President of the Treasury Board in a debate on government Bill C-55, the Public Service Superannuation Act, said:

At the same time 1 know that hon. members share my concern that some members of the public have criticized the current pension plan as too far out of line with general practice.

To be credible, a review of parliamentary pension arrangements must also provide for specific input from the public. I have already indicated that the views of those independent of Parliament will be actively solicited in this study.

On that same day I was sitting beside my leader, the hon. member for Yukon, who devoted most of her second reading speech to the question of compensation of members of Parliament and senators. In that speech she said the following:

I also believe that the time has come to establish a non-partisan, independent commission to deal with the issues of MP pensions; not ex-members of Parliament, as has been the case before, as many of the provinces have, to look at the whole issue of members of Parliament pensions.

She followed up on that comment in the House. On March 17 she wrote to the President of the Treasury Board as follows:

I noted with interest your speech in the House of Commons on February 24 where you indicated an openness to establishing a committee to study changes to MPs' pensions. I urge you to act immediately to set up such a committee.

The committee should be arm's length from Parliament and the government and be comprised of individuals with expertise in the area of pensions. The individuals should not be ex-MPs or senators. The committee should be empowered to examine all aspects of the MPs' pension plan.

I believe it is crucial that this issue be dealt with expeditiously. I propose that the committee be required to report to Parliament within six months of being struck.

I look forward to an early reply.

On June 12 the following reply came from the President of the Treasury Board:

Thank you for your letter of June 11, 1992 concerning the promised inquiry into MPs' pensions.

Private Members' Business

I did not think it appropriate to formally commence the review of the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act until after Bill C-55 has received Royal Assent. However, at this time I am developing final proposals on the terms of reference for and composition of the ad hoc group which will undertake this review. There is no question in my mind that all aspects of the MPRAA must be examined and that the study group should be made up of individuals with expertise and public credibility in the area of pensions and compensation. Although I understand your position on the independence of the study group, I am sure you would agree that the review process must fully take into account the views and interests of existing MPRAA plan members and pensioners. Pensions are, and will continue to be, a significant element of the remuneration package which is certainly a factor in enabling individuals to seek public office.

I am sorry that you did not receive my reply to your letter of March 17, 1992. I am enclosing a copy for your records.

That was back in June of last year. All the while the hon. member's motion has been sitting on the Order Paper waiting to be debated until today and no action. There was no public announcement or any indication that the Governor in Council had struck a group, whether it was ad hoc or otherwise, to do the work the minister promised.

On December 3, 1992 my leader again wrote to the President of the Treasury Board:

Further to your letter of June 11, 1992 I would like to know what progress has been made concerning a review of the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

In your letter you indicated that a formal review of the MPRAA would not be possible until Bill C-55 had received Royal Assent. Your commitment to a review of the MPRAA is unequivocal since you state: "There is no question in my mind that all aspects of the MPRAA must be examined". Since Bill C-55 received Royal Assent on September 29, 1992 I have seen no indication that you are prepared to fulfil your commitment to this review. I hope that your silence on this issue does not mean you have abandoned your decision to review the MPRAA. I am therefore formally repeating my request that a committee be struck immediately and proceed with a review so that it can report to Parliament next spring.

I would like to reiterate my belief that this is a very crucial issue and should be dealt with immediately. In my opinion, a committee reviewing the MPRAA should be at arm's length from Parliament and the government, and should be comprised of expert individuals who are not members of Parliament or senators, current or former. In addition, the committee should be empowered to examine every aspect of the MPs' pension plan.

In quick conclusion, before I turn this over to my colleague, the government has failed to live up to yet another promise. I hope this motion passes today in order to send a message to the government that it has to listen to Canadians. It is time for an independent review.

April 19, 1993

Private Members' Business

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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NDP

Ian Gardiner Waddell

New Democratic Party

Mr. Ian Waddell (Port Moody-Coquitlam):

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the remarks made by my colleague, the hon. member for Thunder Bay-Atikokan, especially as he pointed out the role of the hon. member for Yukon, the leader of our party who has pressed for a review of MPs' pensions.

I must say that while I support the motion and acknowledge the MP who is presenting it today, I smell a little politics here. Could it be that the leader of the Reform Party is running-

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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PC

Barbara Jane (Bobbie) Sparrow (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Health and Welfare)

Progressive Conservative

Mrs. Sparrow:

This was long before he became active.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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NDP

Ian Gardiner Waddell

New Democratic Party

Mr. Waddell:

Oh, so this is different. I see. Perhaps I should put my own view on the record.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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LIB

Dennis Joseph Mills

Liberal

Mr. Mills:

This is where the Reform Party got the idea.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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NDP

Ian Gardiner Waddell

New Democratic Party

Mr. Waddell:

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the pension benefits of members of Parliament should be brought into line with those available to other Canadians. It is as simple as that.

I was walking around my riding in the last two weeks going door to door and meeting constituents, as many members have done. People seemed very pleased to see me and to have the opportunity to talk with a member of Parliament. People said their concerns were about jobs, taxes, or transit in the local areas.

I represent a beautiful suburb of Vancouver that is nestled up against the coast mountains. People said they were concerned about clean air, crime and especially youth problems.

A gentleman I saw yesterday in Citadel Heights, an area of my riding, said: "There is something that sticks in my craw". I asked him what it was and he said it was MPs' pensions. We had a discussion about that. He was unaware that the leader of the NDP had raised this in the House of Commons. She said on February 24, 1992: "In short, I believe the time has come to recognize that these pensions must be brought in line with the general work force. The time has come to bring pensions for members of Parliament into line with the pensions of other Canadians".

We do need an independent commission to look at this. I stress independent. We should look at what age pensions should vest. Should it be age 55? Is six years

enough or too much for people to get pensions? We should have a look at that in a fair-minded manner. We should get the statistics on how many MPs have actually collected after that period.

We should look at the issue of double dipping. That is when one gets a pension from the House, leaves the House and takes another government position, such as being a judge, and receives more money from the government. Should one be allowed to collect the pension and the other salary? Those are the kinds of things that the commission should look into.

We in the NDP support good pensions for people. We have always done that in the House of Commons. However we want them to be fair pensions.

These are veiy tough times for the average citizen. We have to cut back. We have to pay our fair share of taxes. We have to look at everything.

I am a Scottish Canadian and am accused of being a bit cheap occasionally. I do not believe that but some of my friends believe that. If I had my way I would cut back even the little things.

While some of us may say that the pension amount is a small amount we still have to consider that, so that there can be more money available for health and education. We have to look at all our expenditures.

While we are doing that we should look at pensions for senators. If I had my druthers I would just abolish the Senate completely and we could save a heck of a lot of money there. At some point the government might get around to considering that.

Let me sum up by saying that we MPs should be no different than average citizens. We deserve fair pensions but should not place ourselves on a pedestal and be different from average citizens. What is good for the average citizen should be good for MPs and vice versa. That is why an independent commission should have another look at MPs' pensions.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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PC

William James Kempling (Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of State (Finance); Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board)

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Bill Kempling (Parliamentary Secretary to President of the Treasury Board and Minister of State (Finance)):

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on this motion urging the government to contract an independent, non-governmental agency to review all salaries, allowances, benefits and pensions of members of Parliament and senators and make recommendations on these to the House.

April 19, 1993

Clearly this is a matter of some importance to all members of this House. I would first like to direct hon. members' attention to what the government has already proposed be done regarding a review of members' pensions and benefits.

When the President of the Treasury Board spoke last year in this House on the second reading of Bill C-55 he outlined the approach the government intended to adopt regarding a review of this nature. The President of the Treasury Board said the first priority was to bring the MPs' pension plan in line with the requirements of the Income 'lax Act and regulations by enactment of an amendment contained in Bill C-55.

However, he stated that the government was aware that pension arrangements for members of Parliament had been subject to public scrutiny and therefore all aspects of the plan would be re-examined, including those features which have been criticized as being too generous.

The President of the Treasury Board made it clear that the views of hon. members would be a key element in this review since the government is very much aware of the importance members attach to their retiring allowances as part of their over-all compensation packages. Nevertheless the President of the Treasury Board added that he was aware hon. members shared his concerns and some members of the public have been vocal in their criticism that MPs' pension plans are too far out of line with general practice.

Therefore the President of the Treasury Board told members of this House: "To be credible a review of the parliamentary pension arrangements must also provide for a specific input from the public and the views of those independent of Parliament will be actively solicited in this study". I should add that this approach is quite in keeping with the government's intention with respect to the broad review of Public Service pension arrangements announced by the President of the Treasury Board in December 1991 and reiterated when Bill C-55 received second reading. That review closely involved the major stakeholders in pension plans as well as many other interested parties.

To return to the motion before us, it must be said that there is strong agreement in principle with the motion of

Private Members' Business

the member for Calgary Southwest. While the government recognizes the position of some hon. members that the review agency should be independent and non-partisan I am sure hon. members would agree that the review process must also take into account the views and interests of sitting and retired members of Parliament who are pension plan members and pensioners. I know hon. members attach great importance to their pensions as a very significant element in their compensation package.

A truly independent non-governmental agency will be able to provide us with an objective assessment of our present compensation package in relation to our duties and responsibilities as members of Parliament. It will also examine all elements of our benefits package in relation to the benefits packages of others who serve in public life, such as provincial MLAs and those serving in the legislatures of other countries such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom and so forth. Once this data has been gathered and analysed we will be in a position to determine the most suitable vehicle for examining whether adjustments should be made and the nature of those adjustments.

Finally, I could put on the record the fact that it would appear most hon. members from all sides of the House, while aware of public criticism of their pension arrangements, see their pension plan as an important part of the over-all compensation package attached to their jobs as elected representatives. Such pensions make it possible for all Canadians, including those of modest means, to consider running for public office. I am aware of a number of hon. members for whom the pension plan was a critical part of their decision to seek elected office. These pensions are, in part, intended to compensate for the sacrifices involved in public life, including the lost career opportunities and the lack of controlled retirement planning which is part and parcel of that life.

We all recognize that some former members have gone on from parliamentary careers to hold other public offices, but there are many more who have returned to private life to attempt to re-establish themselves. It might also be mentioned that about half the serving members never receive any pension at all, since members must be elected twice or be here for six years to qualify for a pension. A member contributes 11 per cent

April 19, 1993

Private Members' Business

of his salary toward the pension, a feature of the plan that is not mentioned very often by critics. There are many out there who believe that we do not contribute anything at all to our pensions.

As was evident from the debate in the House during the passage of Bill C-55, I have in mind particularly the hon. member for Glengarry-Prescott-Russell, many members do not believe that their pensions are excessively generous. They look at pensions in the context of the member's over-all compensation and in the context of the sacrifices inherent in public life. Many members do not believe that the citizens' coalition has the support of most Canadians.

Nonetheless the government is on record as favouring a review of MPs' pensions and will be soliciting and seriously examining concerns of the public in that context.

I know that all members will be eager to make their views known and that the government may expect co-operation from all members in this process.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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LIB

Dennis Joseph Mills

Liberal

Mr. Dennis Mills (Broadview-Greenwood):

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise in support of this motion put forward by the member for Calgary Southwest. I will be splitting my time with my colleague from St. Boniface.

I am a member from the downtown Toronto area. We see and hear most often the advertisements from the National Citizens' Coalition which buys full-page advertisements in The Toronto Star, The Toronto Sun, and the odd time in The Globe and Mail. The theme of this particular campaign of analysing the pensions of MPs is to basically discredit the system and discredit members of Parliament.

I have a background in the private sector and have been exposed to many successful entrepreneurs in this country and can honestly say, having had five years' experience as a member of Parliament, that I have met very few entrepreneurs in this country who worked as hard as 90 per cent of the MPs I have met and worked with in this House of Commons. In fact some of the hardest working entrepreneurs in this country, who are making $300,000, $400,000, $500,000, or over $1 million a year, do not in any way, shape or form do the same amount of travelling, put in the hours, give out their

private telephone numbers and are not on duty almost seven days a week, sometimes 24 hours a day.

This campaign put forward by the National Citizens' Coalition is a total sham in that it does not accurately portray what really goes on in the Parliament of Canada, in committees or in constituencies, which is too bad because it puts a stain on each and every member and ultimately does not do anyone in this country a service.

However I, as the member for Calgary Southwest stated in her motion, have enough confidence, as do most members in this House, that what we are saying should not be analysed by a committee of the House. It should go to an independent body which should analyse salaries of MPs, their so-called benefits, and their pension plan. As the member for Glengarry-Prescott- Russell said earlier today, very few people realize that the existing pension plan is not something that is gifted to MPs but is something they pay into. They pay a very generous sum of money. If the independent analysts say it should be deferred until the age of 55 or 60 is reached so be it. If they want to do that type of analysis I am sure every member of Parliament would support whatever recommendations they have.

The point I want to make, besides acknowledging that independent analysis is necessary, is that the problem we have is timing. We are about to go to the people of Canada in an election.

I think this independent committee should be set up immediately. We should not have a report back in six or eighteen months. This is something that can be done in 90 days. There is no need for this study to take an extended period of time. It is something that should be put to rest before it becomes an election issue, not created by the NDP, the Liberals or the Conservatives, but created by a third party because we have not dealt properly in this House with third party advertising.

I ask the member to urge her colleagues to put this motion to the House and ask for the report back within 90 days so that all of us in this House can vote on it.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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LIB

Ron J. Duhamel

Liberal

Mr. Ronald J. Duhamel (St. Boniface):

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to have the opportunity to speak on this particular motion this morning. Colleagues will perhaps recall that this is the third time I have had an opportunity to speak on the issue of MPs' pensions in the House of Commons during the last four years.

April 19, 1993

I do not want to suggest I have been the only one because I have been joined by colleagues such as the members for Winnipeg St. James, Edmonton Southeast, Winnipeg North and others.

The basic issue here is that irresponsible statements are being made about MPs' pensions. It is also linked to another basic principle, and that is the fact that we make those rules. In order to make sure that there is some fairness and objectivity brought into this highly sensitive issue at this particular point in time, it is particularly important to make sure it is an independent third party that makes those kinds of decisions.

After having reviewed I would suggest not only MPs' salaries, pensions and other benefits but those of members of the Senate, legislative assemblies, councils, the private sector and other organizations, we will see if there is a pattern.

Surely what we all want is an element of fairness. I believe even those who have been critical want us to be remunerated and benefit in a fair way. Until it is we who make the rules, until it is we who continue to decide what it is we are going to get, we are going to have this kind of difficulty. In fact we are open to attacks such as my colleague has just mentioned where people make unfair statements.

There are a number of MPs who because of their decision to run for Parliament-and it was their decision-will be getting less money from their pensions. There are numbers of individuals and I happen to be one of them. I am not at all being critical of that. It was I who decided to run but I am not the only one. It is rather interesting when you are attacked. It is always the examples of the extreme situation. I would very much like to have an independent third party commissioned to review this plan.

There are a number of anomalies and I will mention them very briefly. We cap at 75 per cent and the general public, normally 70 per cent of our salaries. People do not like that. If my memory serves me correctly we do not have to work nearly the same number of years to get the 50 per cent pension. That is held in high esteem by many people.

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There is the issue of double dipping, getting a job once one has in fact resigned from elected office or has not been re-elected. That annoys a lot of people. There are provisions for early retirement that are enjoyed nowhere else.

I really believe that this independent commission could in fact look at each one of these issues, address them in the context of what is happening in terms of pensions in the private and public sectors and then render a verdict of which we would have to take cognizance.

I could say a lot about it. As I just said, this is the third time that I have had an opportunity to speak on it. What I want above all is some fairness. We are being attacked now_and I understand that there are some grounds for it-but some things are being exaggerated as well. This does not mean that some things should not be changed, because I think that some things here should be altered. However I would like to have a review carried out by an independent non-governmental organization.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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PC

Charles Deblois (Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole)

Progressive Conservative

The Acting Speaker (Mr. DeBIois):

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but the time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96(1), the item is dropped from the Order Paper.

Topic:   PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
Subtopic:   REVIEW OF SALARIES, ALLOWANCES, BENEFITS AND PENSIONS OF MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND SENATE
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GOVERNMENT ORDERS



TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT

PC

Henry Perrin Beatty (Minister of Communications)

Progressive Conservative

Hon. Perrin Beatty (Minister of Communications) moved

that Bill C-62, an act respecting telecommunications, be read the second time and referred to a legislative committee in the Departmental envelope.

He said: Mr. Speaker, almost 84 years ago the Right Hon. George Percy Graham, the Minister of Railways and Canals, rose in this House of Commons to introduce the Railway Act. It was a well crafted piece of legislation

April 19, 1993

Government Orders

and in it were many of the principles that guide Canadian transportation and communications policy to this day.

I recently leafed through some of the debates on the Railway Act and found it most compelling that the members were concerned about the very things that concern members in this House today.

In the early days of this century the railroad was vital as both a tool of communication and a major commercial venture. As a result, early legislators recommended that the government exercise some control over this key sector while encouraging competition wherever possible. They proposed establishing a federal body to regulate the railways, which is an ancestor of the CRTC which regulates communications today. They also raised concerns about how to manage new technology and regulate telephone rates, especially long distance charges.

Robert Borden, who did not yet carry the title right honourable, described his approach this way: "The government has adopted the system of private ownership with public control. Of that system it may be said that it is very much better than private ownership without public control". It was a good principle then and it is still sound now.

Times have changed and legislation designed for steam engines and Morse code is not well suited to a world of satellites and microchips. In 1908, space travel and modem telecommunications were confined to the literary world of Jules Verne. In 1992, Canadian astronauts Roberta Bondar and Steve MacLean circled the earth in a space shuttle well beyond the imaginings of those early science fiction writers.

Telecommunications has progressed from being an infant industry to one of the fastest growing sectors of our economy. Our recent history demonstrates just how impressive that growth has been. From 1988 to 1990 the Canadian economy grew by 4.6 per cent, 2.6 per cent and .3 per cent respectively. During those same years the growth rates of the telecommunications industry were 9.6 per cent, 14.2 per cent and 8.6 per cent, impressive numbers by any standard.

The telecommunications industry is almost wholly Canadian owned and 90 per cent privately held. It is an essential instrument of our economic development, not simply because it is a dynamic and growing industry but also because it acts as a catalyst to the competitiveness of

many other industries. Without a telecommunications system that is on the front edge of modern technology, our banks, transport companies, retail industry, financial services and countless others would not be able to compete in international markets.

It is no longer possible to seek future solutions in past practices. This fact has not been lost on our trading competitors. The Japanese have targeted telecommunications as a prime interest and the Europeans have made it an essential part of their 1992 market unification. The Americans, our chief trading partners, have already completed a telecommunications reform which has given them a highly competitive system at both the domestic and international levels. We ignore these facts at our own peril.

Business, think-tanks and government studies alike have concluded that a modem legislative framework is crucial to Canada's ability to compete in telecommunications. Unfortunately, we do not have modem and efficient legislation. While Robert Borden and George Percy Graham are long since gone, our telecommunications industry is still governed by the Railway Act of 1908, which is so dated that it is not even used to regulate the railways any more.

The Railway Act was designed for a world of small, fragmented markets that adopted new technologies very gradually. That world has disappeared for good.

Anyone who doubts this should look at how the way new technologies are implemented has changed.

The first camera did not come on the market until 112 years after it was invented. It took 56 years for the first telephone, 35 years for radio, 15 years for radar and only 12 for television.

In the case of transistors, it took only three years, and only two for solar batteries. In microelectronics, the lag is now less than 18 months.

Because of this development, to be competitive today, a business must be able to determine, target and penetrate new markets faster than ever before.

The road to success is difficult and challenging, and the last thing our businesses need is to find their path strewn with regulatory barriers.

April 19, 1993

Nevertheless, reports, commissions and studies have told us repeatedly that Canadian businesses are faced with an overwhelming number of regulatory barriers. One of this government's main objectives has been to take down those barriers.

In his 1992 budget, my colleague, the Minister of Finance, announced a full review of government regulations in order to simplify procedures as much as possible.

The CRTC became part of this process last summer, when it completed the most thorough review in its history and announced its decision to allow competition on the long-distance market.

It must be clear to everyone here today that the Railway Act, which was designed to control monopoly activities, is not compatible with an ever changing competitive marketplace.

The telecommunications industry has been restructured to accommodate competition. We still have legislation in place which inhibits competition. For the restructuring to make sense we need new legislation. We simply cannot have one without the other.

Three years ago the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that members of Telecom Canada fell within federal jurisdiction. Since then we have successfully concluded agreements with six of the seven provinces affected. Now we need to build on those agreements. We must pull the current patchwork of legislation into one bill designed to encourage efficiency and excellence and help us compete in international markets.

Bill C-62 will do exactly that. It will eliminate the barriers which fragment our internal market, leaving us with one unified telecommunications market. It will establish a coherent policy for the entire country that will be co-ordinated by one regulatory agency, the CRTC.

Bill C-62 will give us a more regulatory framework, allowing the CRTC to forbear from regulating in those areas where the marketplace is already competitive. It will promote Canadian ownership and control of telecommunications carriers, thereby contributing to Canadian sovereignty. It will permit the government, which is responsible through Parliament to the Canadian public,

Government Orders

to make broad public policy decisions by issuing directives to the CRTC when it is appropriate to do so.

This bill will guarantee sensitivity to regional needs, giving people who are far away from Ottawa an unprecedented degree of participation. Finally, it will give the CRTC new powers to protect consumers from invasions of privacy such as the transmission of unsolicited advertising by telephone or fax.

Most members are already aware that I am very concerned that as we embrace new technology for its benefits we must also be aware of its limitations. Cellular telephones, for example, give callers incredible range and mobility, yet offer little more protection than simply shouting across the street.

Automatic telephone dialing equipment can give business a competitive edge, but it can also lead to a proliferation of unsolicited and sometimes intrusive telemarketing calls. No one knows this better than our colleagues from the Toronto region where the problem is especially acute. They have scores of written complaints to prove it.

Fax machines have revolutionized the exchange of printed and graphic information, but they have also opened a new channel for junk mail. Unlike its posted equivalent, the junk fax has the added disadvantage of arriving at the expense of the recipients. It uses their paper and ties up their phone lines and machines when others may want to use them for legitimate purposes.

Because of such concerns, I have explicitly included privacy in the policy objectives of Bill C-62 as well as a section which deals specifically with unsolicited telecommunications.

These provisions will give the CRTC the regulatory authority required to ensure the greatest possible level of privacy protection for Canadian consumers. By addressing privacy concerns, the bill goes hand in hand with changes we are making to the Radiocommunications Act and the establishment of the private sector telecommunications privacy protection agency.

Both the industry and consumers will benefit when Bill C-62 is adopted. In fact, the bill has met with widespread support across the country, because it will improve market conditions for both users and suppliers.

April 19, 1993

Government Orders

However, we must not forget it is not easy to develop legislation to adjust to a rapidly evolving sector, and it should come as no surprise that a number of questions about the intent and scope of the bill have been raised.

Some people feel that Bill C-62 would give cabinet too many powers, questioning the need for issuing directives. The philosophy behind this power is based on the principle that decisions on basic government policy should be made by the government, not by the regulatory body.

The purpose of this particular section is not to involve the minister in specific matters of regulatory procedure. Such matters come under the jurisdiction of the CRTC. However, I believe that decisions on basic government policy should be made by elected representatives, not by appointed administrators.

There are people who believe the bill gives the government too much leeway, and there are as many who believe the opposite. Others doubt the market will function in a responsible manner.

Although in my opinion this is a balanced piece of legislation, I am open to suggestions for improvement. In fact, a number of interesting proposals have been made so far.

In particular, I am thinking of the pre-study of Bill C-62, which was conducted by the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications last spring. I was pleased that the committee approved the three main objectives of the bill: to increase the competitiveness of the telecommunications industry; to promote Canadian ownership and control; and to ensure that Canadians have access to reliable and affordable services.

I appreciate the thoughtful and non-partisan changes the senators suggested with the view to strengthening the bill's effectiveness. As I indicated to the Senate committee, the government is always open to improvements, provided the basic principles behind this legislation are not compromised.

I have carefully studied comments made with respect to the proposed licensing regime: regulatory forbearance; the terms of federal-provincial consultation; the bill's objectives section; ways to improve regulatory efficiency; and other key issues.

The government will be proposing a number of amendments to Bill C-62, which are strongly influenced by the Senate committee's recommendations. I will speak to these amendments early during the House committee's considerations.

There has already been much said and written about Bill C-62. Some groups have expressed specific concerns, but we have also heard almost universal support for the goal of updating a legislative framework which is over 80 years old. Bill C-62, which is the product of many years of consultation, is the best solution.

Industry will win by having one national market, national standards across the country and a simplified and more flexible regulatory system. Provinces will win by having more productive businesses and more input in setting policy than ever before in the history of our country. Canadians as a people will win because we will be able to build upon the strengths of our one great winner in the high-tech field. Canadians as individuals will benefit by having guaranteed base levels of service across the country no matter where they live.

For most Canadians telecommunications regulation is a fairly arcane business. At first glance it appears to be of great interest to only a few select people who are active in the industry. However this bill is not only important to telephone companies. It will mean benefits for banks, hospitals, airlines, the transport and retail industries, and a host of other businesses. Since we all use these services it means that every consumer in Canada will be affected in a positive way.

The bill means jobs because it will help Canada's premier high-tech industry to become more competitive than ever before. It means new and better services will come to market more quickly as we strip away excessive regulation and encourage research and development.

Finally, this bill means that each and every one of us can expect first-class affordable service in our homes or at our businesses.

Back in 1908 our predecessors in this House of Commons showed extraordinary vision in passing the Railway Act, a law that would remain in place for the better part of a century. Today a new century is on the horizon. Bill C-62 is a worthy successor to the Railway Act. In passing it we will do more than simply place an eminently useful law on the statute books. It will enable

April 19, 1993

Canadians to face the telecommunications challenges of the year 2000 with confidence.

I believe it is a challenge that is worthy of each and every one of us in this House of Commons. When we talk to Canadians today we find that they recognize that we benefit in Canada from the best telecommunications industry anywhere in the world. Industry says that we need to ensure that innovation can continue and that the conditions are in place to allow competition to improve services for consumers and to allow new goods and services to be brought onto the market as quickly as possible. That is the challenge that faces each and every one of us.

As I indicated earlier, the government has very closely listened to suggestions for improvements to the bill. Today I repeat to my colleagues on the opposition side of the House that we will continue to take an approach that is consultative and open. We welcome input from them and other Canadians with regard to improvements that can be made to the bill.

However we are also prepared to act. As I indicated earlier in my remarks today, when the bill goes to committee we will be prepared to place before the committee at an early date substantive amendments to make improvements to the bill as a result of the hearings that were held before the Senate committee.

What is required now is for this House of Commons to act quickly to permit this bill to go to committee, to allow the government to table those amendments before the committee, to allow improvements to be made to the legislation and to allow us to put this legislation in place for the benefit of every Canadian. This legislation is modern and will bring benefits to every single region of Canada, ensure that Canadian industry becomes more competitive, better protect the privacy of Canadians, and help to protect and enhance the productivity of our country and create a wealthier society in which Canadians can live in the future.

I call upon all members of this House to give their speedy, favourable consideration to this legislation. It deserves the support of every member of this House just as it deserves the support of every Canadian from one coast to another.

Government Orders

Mr. Speaker, there has been consultation among the parties in this House and I believe that you will find consent for the following motion. I move:

That a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on

Communications and Culture be authorized to consider Bill C-62,

an act respecting telecommunications, and report thereon directly to

the House.

Topic:   GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic:   TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT
Sub-subtopic:   MEASURE TO ENACT
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April 19, 1993