April 3, 1998

?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there agreement to proceed as such?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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Some hon. members

Agreed.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Bill Gilmour

Reform

Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, my discussion will centre not on the bill, because by and large we support portions of the bill, but on the origins of the bill.

The bill originated in the Senate, and this is where the Reform Party has some difficulty. The Senate is unelected, unaccountable, unlike the House of Commons, and we feel bills should be originating in this House. They then should go through the other place for sober second thought. That is fine. We agree with that. However, we have major difficulty with having bills originate in the Senate

The reason we have the difficulty is the unelected and biased nature of the other place. I would like to go through the appointments the Prime Minister has made to the other place since he came to power.

There are 28 appointments and the reason I wish to go through this list is to show how biased the appointments are and that legislation originating in the other place has to be biased because of the make-up of the Senate.

The Prime Minister's appointments to the Senate were Sharon Carstairs, a former Manitoba Liberal leader; Landon Pearson, who is married to the son of former Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson; Lise Bacon, former Liberal deputy premier of Quebec; Jean-Robert Gauthier, a long time Liberal member of Parliament. John G. Bryden was a candidate for Liberal leader in New Brunswick and managed the Prime Minister's 1990 New Brunswick Liberal leadership campaign. The point I am making is that these people are all very biased.

Rose-Marie Losier-Cool has no patronage connection disclosed; Céline Hervieux-Payette, former Liberal cabinet minister under Prime Minister Trudeau; Marie-Paule Poulin, former deputy secretary to the cabinet in the privy council office. These are all senators appointed by the Prime Minister.

Doris Anderson has no patronage connection that was disclosed; Bill Rompkey, former Liberal cabinet minister in the Trudeau government; Lorna Milne, former Liberal riding president and a Liberal Party worker; Joseph Landry, former Liberal member of the New Brunswick legislative assembly; Shirley Maheu, former Liberal member of this House.

Nick Taylor is a former Alberta Liberal leader; Jean Forest's patronage connection was not disclosed; Eugene Whelan, former Liberal cabinet minister under Trudeau; Leonce Mercier, Quebec Liberal organizer; Wilfred Moore, no patronage connection; Lucie Pépin, former Liberal member of Parliament.

Catherine Callbeck is former Liberal premier of Prince Edward Island; Sister Peggy Butts, no Liberal connection that we could find; Fernand Robichaud, former Liberal MP in the government; Marisa Ferretti Barth, no connection; Serge Joyal, former Liberal MP and prominent Liberal backroom fellow. Thelma Chalifoux has no patronage connection; Joan Cook, failed provincial Liberal candidate and loyal Liberal worker; Archibald Johnstone, no patronage connection.

The last appointment which raised a lot of concern in this House and across the country was Ross Fitzpatrick, prominent B.C. Liberal organizer and golfing buddy of the Prime Minister. In fact, he is a former business associate of the Prime Minister.

The point I wish to make is that 20 of these 28 appointments have blatant Liberal connections. Any bill that originates in the Senate, as Bill S-3 did, and then comes to this House by definition has to be biased.

What these appointments demonstrate is that the Senate is not working and it needs to be reformed. The Senate was set up by the Fathers of Confederation to represent the provinces. That was the original intent of our Senate. Quite clearly from the list I have just read, the majority of senators appointed by the Prime Minister represent not the provinces they come from but the Liberal Party, the party of the Prime Minister.

Again, that is the concern we have with legislation that originates because it is by definition biased. The bill we largely support but we do not support the process. The process is flawed and any bill that comes through the Senate should be looked at. By definition, a money bill cannot come through the House but other bills we feel should originate with all of us who are elected, accountable.

If we go back to our constituents and they do not like what we have done, we will not be elected in the next election. That is accountability. There is no accountability in that other place. By definition we feel all bills should originate in the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Ken Epp

Reform

Mr. Ken Epp (Elk Island, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I ask my colleague to comment on the distribution of the members of the Senate in terms of how many there are from each province relative to the population of British Columbia and so on. I think he is aware of these numbers and he could enlighten us as to how well the Senate does in representing the different population areas of the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Bill Gilmour

Reform

Mr. Bill Gilmour

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for the opportunity to expand on the numbers in the Senate.

When the Senate first started and the country was small, between Upper and Lower Canada or Ontario and Quebec there were 24 senators each. The maritimes have 30 collectively. Where it falls apart is west of the Ontario border because instead of each of the western provinces being given a number of senators equal or in comparison to the other provinces that were already in, the four western provinces got only twenty-four senators, in other words, six for Alberta, six for B.C., six for Manitoba and six for Saskatchewan.

This is a major discrepancy and it is something that will take constitutional change. For example, electing a senator does not take constitutional change. That can be done as was shown with Senator Stan Waters. The difficulty in the numbers is what is going to take quite an arm wrestling match because there is a disproportionate number across the country.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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PC

Scott Brison

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, PC)

Madam Speaker, Bill S-3 proposes to update the Pension Benefits Standards Act, a law through which the federal government supervises private pension plans.

Canada's system of retirement income has three pillars. The first pillar is the basic old age security paid to all seniors together with the various supplements paid to low income seniors. This first pillar will soon be undermined by the proposed seniors benefits which will result in effective marginal tax rates approaching 70% for some seniors from the combined effect of existing tax rates and the 20% clawback on family incomes above $26,000.

Retirement savings experts are already telling middle income Canadians over the age of 50 to be wary of savings in RRSPs because what they save now will be most likely eaten up in higher taxes later. This creates a direct disincentive for Canadians to do what is right and that is to save for their own futures and for their retirements.

The second pillar consists of the employment based Canada and Quebec pension plans. Under the government's reforms to this pillar Canadians will have to pay more to get less.

The third pillar includes retirement savings such as RRSPs and employer pension plans. The government has moved to restrict access to RRSPs by freezing contribution limits and forcing seniors to mature their RRSPs two years earlier.

The legislation deals with the other part of the third pillar, employer pension plans. Most employer pension plans are governed by provincial law, but 500,000 Canadians belong to the 1,000 plans that fall under federal law.

Ten years ago the Progressive Conservative government overhauled the Pension Benefits Standards Act, the law that covers those plans. Significant changes were made to the minimum standards that plans must meet in areas ranging from survivor benefits to information disclosure. The bill before us updates that act.

The goals of the bill are to improve the way that plans are governed, to improve Ottawa's ability to step in when plan administrators do not appear to be following sound financial practices to set up rules for the withdrawal of pension surpluses. It will also allow Ottawa to enter into supervisory agreements with provincial regulators through the Canadian Association of Pension Supervisory Authorities.

Unlike other recent changes to our system of retirement savings, the only parts of the bill to generate even minor controversy are the provisions that pertain to the withdrawal of pension surpluses. Pension fund managers are concerned that the surplus and the wind-up provisions in the bill are weighed heavily against employers.

However, the bill is not particularly controversial. There has been some controversy over the introduction of some government bills in the Senate, a practice which has fallen into disuse in recent years.

Without getting into a debate on Senate reform, if bills are to be introduced in the Senate, Bill S-3 is especially the kind of bill on which the Senate can do solid work before sending it on to the Commons. This is particularly the case given the combination of the technical nature of the bill, the expertise of those on the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce in the area of corporate governance and the non-partisan spirit of co-operation with which members of this committee approach such legislation.

To not optimize the collective skills, wisdom and experience of these senators is an affront to the Canadian taxpayer. We do have a Senate. The senators on this committee have demonstrated prowess, ability and expertise in these areas. I would remind my colleagues in the Reform Party that to not optimize this expertise would be denying Canadian taxpayers another level of deliberation on this type of important legislation.

It is an approach that we could use here from time to time when we look at legislation, especially legislation affecting areas of corporate governance where there is a significant amount of institutional knowledge in the Senate.

The Senate banking committee has made six substantive amendments as a result of the testimony it heard from officials and from outside witnesses. The Senate amendments further clarify the rules to be followed when an employer wants to withdraw from the pension surplus. It struck a provision that would have given the Superintendent of Financial Institutions the ability to decide if a particular allocation of a surplus was fair, as the issue of fairness should be left to the employees and employers to be settled, not to a public servant.

It also improved a process for allocating the surplus in cases where a company goes bankrupt or winds down. It is very important that we protect individuals when a company is faced with the types of dramatic downsizing and corporate readjustments that have occurred over the past few years. The legislation will help improve that process.

Those amendments were developed by opposition and government members in the Senate, working in a spirit of co-operation with the officials. A spirit of co-operation might be something that we should try to duplicate in the House periodically when we are working on legislation as important as this legislation.

At the end of the process finance officials conceded that the bill had been improved by the contribution of the Senate. Our colleagues in the other place have done well on this rather technical bill. That does mean that we do not have to do our work or that we do not have further work to do.

I look forward to the committee examination of the bill and to further improving it through contributions by the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Roy H. Bailey

Reform

Mr. Roy Bailey (Souris—Moose Mountain, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask a question of my colleague who just spoke.

As I understand it, the opposition which my colleagues made to this was the fact that the issuance of the bill that came from the Senate was in violation of Standing Order 80 that says:

All aids and supplies granted to the Sovereign by the Parliament of Canada are the sole gift of the House of Commons—

Section 53 of the Constitution Act provides that only the House of Commons may table money bills. It goes on to say that bills which require the expenditure of public funds or invoking a tax or an impost. That means fines, levies, duties and penalties. These bills are totally out of order with Standing Order 80 and run opposite to section 53.

Does the member agree that these bills should not originate in the Senate but should come from here first?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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PC

Scott Brison

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Scott Brison

Madam Speaker, the hon. member would seek to deny Canadians the benefit of the expertise of the Senate on this type of legislation. As a parliamentarian I am quite proud of the spirit of co-operation and the level of expertise that benefited Canadians through the work of the Senate on the legislation. I work alongside senators to provide the good representation Canadians deserve.

Senate reform is another issue. It is arguable that there needs to be some significant Senate reform. It was under a Conservative government that Stan Waters was elected as a senator. While there is a need for Senate reform in the interim we need to maximize both houses. This may mean that some legislation will periodically be introduced in the Senate where more substantive, non-partisan co-operation and expertise can benefit Canadians before it reaches the House.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Diane Ablonczy

Reform

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I will follow up on the issue raised by my colleague. The member rightly points out that there are some very fine, dedicated and capable people serving in the Senate. We could all wish they were more democratically chosen but that does not necessarily reflect on their abilities. That is a good point.

However we have a different problem. We have an issue that lies at the heart of democracy. In a democracy it is the people who rule. When decisions are made with respect to spending their money, shaping their future and ordering their lives, should it not be the people through their elected representatives who bring those measures forward? If we are to endorse a situation where the other place—

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am afraid I have to interrupt at this point. The question of what emanates from the Senate is a question for the Senate and for the House. As far as the bill being receivable in the House is concerned, the Speaker has already ruled on that matter.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Diane Ablonczy

Reform

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy

Madam Speaker, with respect, that seems to be a very integral part of the bill which goes to the heart of who makes decisions for the people of Canada. If we are not allowed to discuss that issue here then the democratic process is not well served.

While I want to respect the concerns raised by the Chair, I might appeal to the Chair to consider whether we really want to cut off the issue of debate at this time.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The purpose of the debate is not to question what has already happened. I am prepared to let the debate continue at this time with the understanding that the Senate has to make its own rules.

As far as this is concerned, does the hon. member have a question to ask at this point?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Jay Hill

I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker, on the same question that was raised and for further clarification of where we are coming from here. In the bill there is an enacting clause which says “Her Majesty by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and the House of Commons”.

How can challenging the advice from the other place be out of order when it is in the enacting clause? Not only is the Senate mentioned in the enacting clause of the bill, but the bill was introduced in the Senate and it is the Senate that is asking the House of Commons to consider it.

When a bill is under time allocation it is appropriate to debate the use of time allocation. Time allocation has nothing to do with the principle of the bill. Yet it is fair game to debate it because time allocation was used to advance the bill through parliament.

In this case the government is using the Senate to introduce bills to advance its legislation through parliament. For this reason it should be in order to debate this procedure as it is in order to debate time allocation. How can it be relevant to debate some procedures and not relevant to debate others?

Citation 459(1) of Beauchesne's sixth edition states:

Relevance is not easy to define. In borderline cases the Member should be given the benefit of the doubt—

The case for debating the use of the Senate to introduce legislation must be allowed. You may have some personal doubts, Madam Speaker, but I would suggest that you give the member who is addressing the bill the benefit of the doubt.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
Permalink
?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

The matter has already been ruled on by the Speaker and the purpose of the debate today is to debate the bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Diane Ablonczy

Reform

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy (Calgary—Nose Hill, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, today we are debating a bill that probably does not affect a lot of Canadians, but every legislative procedure which ties the hands of and puts regulations in place for any Canadian is of interest to all of us.

The bill is entitled amendments to the Pension Benefits Standards Act. The bill amends an act that was brought into place some time ago. Its purpose is to improve the supervisory regime for pension plans that are regulated under the act, especially private pension plans established for employees who are subject to federal jurisdiction such as in the fields of banking, interprovincial transportation and telecommunications. Provinces have similar legislation to look after private pension plans that fall under provincial jurisdiction.

The whole point of the exercise is to make sure when employees put their hard earned dollars into the hands of their employers on the understanding that they are going to have some pension benefits at the end of the day, that their interests will be protected and looked after. This is so they will not end up 20 years later with the company in bankruptcy and a notice on the door saying sorry but they have no pension.

This is an important bill, not just in the federal jurisdiction. Quite often measures put into place federally are looked at, mirrored and seen as a benchmark for what is done in the provinces.

For at least a decade there has been controversy about actuarial surpluses in private employer-employee pension plans. This is a very nice problem to have. It is wonderful to be a member of a pension plan that actually has more money in the bank than will ever be needed to pay the full pensions of all the people in the plan.

That is such a nice situation one could only very much wish that the same prudence had been exhibited by our federal government with respect to the Canada pension plan. Far from having to worry about who gets a big surplus in the Canada pension fund, we have to worry about who is going to get stuck with paying for a debt in that plan of $485 billion. The government says it is no problem, that it will just make our kids and our grandkids pay it, so what is there to worry about? The money is not there but the government will just get it from them. That is how our federal public pension plan has been managed.

Fortunately there has been a bit more prudence in some of the private pension plans and there is actually a surplus. One issue which has been raised is what happens to a surplus when there is one. Obviously it should not just sit there for ever and ever. It needs to be allocated in some fair and reasonable manner.

This was not a problem much before the mid-1980s, but there has been spectacular growth in some of the private pension plans over the last few years. One plan we know about enjoyed a 21% growth in 1995, 20% growth in 1996 and 17% growth in 1997. It would be nice to have that kind of return on our Canada pension plan. Instead, our kids are promised less than 2% growth. That is what we are giving our kids but the private pension plans do not seem to have that trouble. It is nice for them. It is too bad the children and the youth of Canada cannot expect that kind of prudent management for their pensions.

If there is a surplus in the millions of dollars in these pension plans, who is entitled to it? One might think that the entitlement would be fairly simple, that it would go back to the people who put it in, the employers and the employees. But there always seems to be some tension.

Is the employer company entitled to the surplus because it managed the plan so well and therefore the surplus should be its reward? Or should the surplus belong to the workers who actually made the capital investment in the first place? These questions in the past have been left to the courts to decide. The judicial part of our system does rule in these kinds of disputes.

This issue was brought to a head in 1986 when the owner of Dominion stores took back $63 million from three employee pension plans. The employees were not too impressed with this so they went to court. The court ordered the owner of Dominion stores to return the funds to the employees. This caused some concern in the provincial sphere because at that time the province of Ontario had legislation that regulated these funds.

In 1986 Ontario put a moratorium on all the surpluses so they could not be taken or distributed. Although the moratorium has been relaxed somewhat, the provincial rules for division of surpluses are very stringent. There has to be agreement by 90% of the employees before any surplus in private pension funds can be distributed.

The official opposition believes there are some questions in Bill S-3 with respect to accountability. It is our duty, mandate and responsibility on behalf of the citizens of this country to hold the government accountable by being a watchdog to make sure when the government takes steps that it is doing the right thing.

The Reform Party has been playing that role vigorously with respect to the whole issue of payment of compensation to hepatitis C victims. In a host of other issues the official opposition looks at the issue and indicates its concern that the government is not treating citizens of this country fairly.

When this bill goes to committee and at third reading the Reform Party will work vigorously on behalf of Canadian citizens whose moneys are deposited with private pension plans. It is important to make sure that when government brings this legislation forward that we research and understand who it is that stands to benefit from it. There are not many big pension plans in the country. Therefore it is a limited number of people who may or may not benefit or who may or may not be penalized or who may or may not suffer potential loss with this kind of legislation.

The role of the superintendent of pension funds is set out under the Pension Benefit Standards Act which is the act we are talking about amending. The superintendent is supposed to make sure that the private pension plans are well funded. In other words the superintendent makes sure that if employees are putting their monthly or weekly contributions into a company pension plan that the company manages those funds in such a way to protect the interests of the employees.

It is unfortunate that the same standard of care and the same vigorous oversight of the Canada pension plan is not in place. There are millions of Canadians in a Canada pension plan that is not funded. Less than 10% of the funds needed to pay pensions under the Canada pension plan are actually in place. Imagine the outcry if private pension plans were allowed to operate with only 6% of the funds that would be needed at the end of the day to pay out pensions actually kept in the fund and the employer spent the rest of the money for its own business purposes. Somebody would be in jail but of course when the federal government does this, nothing happens.

Fortunately for people with private pension plans there is a little more diligence. Somebody does care what private employers do even if nobody seems to care how imprudent the federal government is. The superintendent makes sure that the plan remains solvent and does not hand out surpluses. The courts decide who gets any surplus.

Under these amendments, the role of the superintendent is broadened. If 50% of the employees agree, the superintendent appoints an arbitrator to decide how the surplus in a pension plan is to be distributed. The superintendent did not have this role before.

There is something we are going to be asking some pretty pointed questions on in committee. We understand that under the present act it is very unlikely that the employer would get anything out of a surplus in a private pension plan. Under the new act employers will now have the door opened to recover or to be able to use some of the surplus. Again we wonder whether there is any potential conflict of interest, whether this is appropriate and why this possibility is being opened up at this time. We are going to be asking some questions about that.

Right now an employer might try to approach employees for agreement saying he will get half and they will get half, but they will all get something. Even if the employers and employees agreed, the courts would still be required to give their blessing to any distribution. Under these amendments however, an arbitrator would be appointed by the superintendent who would make that decision. The question in our minds is whether that is a better way to go, whether this is something that is appropriate.

We want to raise this concern at second reading before the bill goes to committee. We want to make sure we do our job, not to just say that it looks like a good idea and modernizes the act so let us just go ahead. We have a responsibility to look into these matters and we will do that. I want to put on the record that is where we will be going on this.

We want to encourage modernization of some of the measures. We want to reduce administrative burdens where this can be done because it is really the employees, the people who benefit from pension plans, who have to pay those costs. If they can be reduced it is a good thing and we would applaud that.

We would also make sure there continues to be a very high level of supervision of these plans. No one wants to find out at the end of the day that the pension plan they paid into all their working lives and are counting on has gone missing, that the money is not there or has not been managed in a way that makes sure pensions are available.

That is the same concern the official opposition has regarding the Canada pension plan. Down the road we believe our children may say they are not going to pay money for a very low return for themselves and the Canada pension plan will simply not be available for us.

As with many bills, we see some positive measures. We see some benefits for the citizens who are affected. However we also do have some real concerns regarding how much this broadening of the ability outside the courts for the distribution of a surplus should be increased. That is a real concern. I urge other parties in the House to also look closely at this area.

We will continue to study the bill during the committee hearings. Other issues may arise. However we have identified the main one. We believe we need to be vigilant on behalf of Canadians to make sure there are not employers who seek to gain a disproportionate advantage from employees, as was the case with the Dominion stores distribution.

We as official opposition in this second reading stage see some good measures of streamlining in this bill. We also see some areas where we would like to probe a little more deeply, look at some of the winners and losers a bit more carefully.

With those remarks I hope we will be in a position to ensure that in whatever form this legislation comes back at third reading, it will truly be in the best interests of all Canadians, particularly those directly affected by the act.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Jay Hill

Reform

Mr. Jay Hill (Prince George—Peace River, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Calgary—Nose Hill for her excellent presentation on Bill S-3.

I noted in her speech that she mentioned the modernization of the pension plan regime, and I would like to add to that: What about modernization of the place where the bill originated?

I would like to clarify that earlier one of my other colleagues, the member for Souris—Moose Mountain, rose on questions and comments. I believe he was not questioning the validity of the Speaker's ruling. When the Speaker ruled that it was in order, that the Senate actually introduced Bill S-3, the bill that we are debating today, I do not believe he was questioning that.

Would the member for Calgary—Nose Hill like to comment on the general practice where a government would continue to introduce legislation through the back door, as it were, through an unelected, unequal and unaccountable Senate?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Diane Ablonczy

Reform

Mrs. Diane Ablonczy

Madam Speaker, this is an issue that will continue to be of concern to Canadians.

Democracy really means rule by the people. In a democracy, since we cannot all be in Athens and put our black bean or our white bean into the circle, we elect people to represent us in that capacity. We rule through the agent of our elected representatives.

We have another house of government in the country which is not elected and does not have a mandate from the people who are supposed to be the rulers of the country. That being the case, unelected people in a democracy should not be bringing forth measures on behalf of the people. That totally flies in the face of the whole principle of democracy.

When bills are introduced in that way, my position and I believe the position of most Canadians is that is terribly undemocratic. It contravenes some of the most cherished traditions and values of our country.

It must be fought vigorously, not because the people in the Senate are competent as many of them are and not because the people in the Senate do not have levels of expertise sometimes greater than that of many members of the House but simply and solely because senators are not the democratically chosen representatives of the people whose job it is to order their own lives, spend their own money and shape their own future.

We will oppose the introduction of bills at every turn of the wheel.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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REF

Myron Thompson

Reform

Mr. Myron Thompson (Wild Rose, Ref.)

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak for a moment. I probably will not take my allotted time because the member for Calgary—Nose Hill did a superb job of analysing what is in the bill and how it will affect the lives of a lot of people.

I would like to take a moment to say a couple of words with regard to the Senate. I ask the senators and constituents who are watching this debate on television to hang on to their armchairs because I am about to say something that is very nice regarding the Senate. That is probably a shock to a lot of people.

I want to allude to the fact that the bill originated in the Senate. At the present time a committee of senators are travelling around the country, particularly in the west, meeting with grassroots, hard working farmers regarding Bill C-4 respecting the wheat board. The senators are meeting with these people and I hope they are listening.

I feel it is very efficient for the Senate to be doing that. If someone were to identify it as a job description, a very important part of it would be getting into the country and representing the regional interests of all Canadians.

In this place 104 members of Parliament from Ontario and 79 members of Parliament from Quebec, which constitutes a high majority, voted in favour of a bill that does not affect any of their constituents but has an impact on western farmers in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and northern B.C.

I commend the senators for being out there in the region affected by a bill that is being passed. They are making certain that it is in the regional interest. If they are truly listening to the people, I am certain they will come back disillusioned that the House would pass such a bill based on the votes of people who live outside the territory being affected.

Let us look at the types of legislation being put into place in the land. We on this side of the House become quite concerned when decisions are made by judges who are unaccountable, unelected individuals or legislation is brought forward by people who are unelected and unaccountable. It is our duty as an opposition party to question the avenue used by the government to bring in the legislation and to suggest that it should stop.

The people of Canada have elected individuals to come to this place to represent their interests. These interests should be brought to this place by their elected representatives. That is what Canadians expect and that is what they want. They do not want unaccountable judges and unaccountable senators making laws of the land. They want their elected officials to do that task. That is what we were elected for.

I commend my colleagues from Calgary—Nose Hill and Prince George—Peace River for their comments on Bill S-3. I agree fully with their comments. The House can expect support from this side. Our only objection would be to the origination of the bill.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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LIB

Bob Kilger

Liberal

Mr. Bob Kilger

I rise on a point of order. Correct me if need be, Madam Speaker, but I do not believe anyone was rising on debate. We have had some discussion among the parties that if this occurred, before the normal adjournment of the debate, we would agree to adjourn the debate at this time, to see the clock as being 1.30 p.m. and to proceed to the Private Members' Business under the name of the member for Calgary Centre.

If you seek unanimous consent, Madam Speaker, you would find that we agree to adjourn the debate and to see the clock as being 1.30 p.m.

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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?

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to proceed in such a fashion?

Topic:   Government Orders
Subtopic:   Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985
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April 3, 1998