October 24, 1973 (29th Parliament, 1st Session)


Paul Joseph James Martin (Leader of the Government in the Senate)


Mr. Martin:

Personally, I know of such a situation in the brotherhood where an older man at the prison-
Canada Pension Plan
I think that must be a misprint; I think it should be "community".
-decided on his own behind the curtains, but the situation has been corrected. It is not tolerated.
Certainly, the bill is not clear. The clause provides that the minister shall certify a religious sect or a division of a religious sect. Do those words mean that each individual will have to be certified, or the whole sect? As I have said, before the committee the Old Order Mennonites stated that the bishop would not be able to veto any application. In other words, if an individual member wanted to get out of the Canada Pension Plan, then as I understand it he would apply to do so and the bishop would not have the power to veto his application. I suppose such an individual could also apply to join the Canada Pension Plan. If the bishop found out an application had been made, I suppose he could ask the applicant to leave his church or following; but that is beyond the purview of our study. That is their concern, not ours.
Under the provisions of the bill, any money collected since 1970 will be returned to the individuals concerned, I suppose on their application. I believe that it should be for the individual to declare whether he is in the Canada Pension Plan or out of the plan, rather than a whole group being certified. If it is left up to the individual, there is a certain degree of freedom. A member of the modern Men-nonite faith can apply to get out of the CPP, but leaving it to the bishop is directly opposed to the wishes of the Mennonites who appeared before the committee. Because Mr. Martin clearly said:
If this bill passes, the person's standing will determine it.
Then, I asked them whether the bishop would be able to veto, and both Mr. Snyder and Mr. Martin said no. The clause refers to a religious sect or a division of a religious sect, and I should like to know what that means. Is a division of a religious sect one-half of the following, one-quarter or one-tenth? Or is it just one person within the following?
For some strange reason, the Minister of National Revenue was not asked to appear before the committee which studied this bill to explain exactly how this money that has been collected from these people is going to be returned to them or how these people will be exempted. Surely, we should be able to ask the minister a couple of questions on that, particularly the question who can apply to get out of the plan, and whether if an individual applies the Department of National Revenue will automatically check off his name with the bishop, thereby giving power of veto to the bishop. Or is a person going to make an individual application to have himself and perhaps his family exempted? These questions make a major difference to the application of the act. If application is left to the individual with no power of veto given to the bishop, then anyone can apply to be exempt from the Canada Pension Plan on religious grounds providing they can convince the minister that their religious tenets and teachings are such that they wish to provide for themselves if they become disabled or retire.
I know my hon. friends in the NDP party-I always add the word "party"; they are just a group really and I should

Canada Pension Plan
call them the NDP group-will shudder at the thought that this is the beginning of the erosion of the compulsory aspects of the Canada Pension Plan. Four per cent of the Old Order Mennonites in Canada want to get out of the plan; the other 96 per cent may at some later date, if premiums rise and it is beneficial for them to do so.
I read the newspapers and am aware that this government follows very closely the teachings of Quebec. If Quebec says that the pension plan should be changed, then the government will change it. In Quebec, the premiums are now nearly double because of the amount of money collected, so without alarming anyone unduly we can rest assured that our contributions to the plan next year will be nearly double what they are this year, and that in the next session of parliament the Minister of National Health and Welfare will bring in another of these little bills and change the whole concept of the plan.
Taxes never go down, it seems; they just go up and up, and without a doubt the stage will come when many individuals want to get out of the plan and will ask for certification by the minister because they say their tenets and teachings are such as to enable them to provide for themselves when they become old or disabled, or for that matter widowed.
I hope the minister will clear up this question. I realize I can only speak once on any motion and this does handicap me to some extent because I should like to pursue a line of questioning with the minister on this point. As I say, the committee never called him before it, and this is part of my complaint about the way the committee handled the bill. They were slightly less than diligent in their examination of what may be the beginning of the erosion of the Canada Pension Plan if the minister readily certifies the exemption of too many people, or if he takes the bishop's word that his flock is really several times larger than it actually is. The plan, in other words, will fail to be universal in its application if we continue to allow people to get out of the plan. The principle on which the plan was founded was that of universality. This is why participation was compulsory. This aspect is now being eroded. This particular part will determine how great that erosion might be in years ahead.
Perhaps the minister could explain what is meant by "certificate" and who will apply for certification. Will it be the bishop of the church or a minister in charge of one single Hutterite community, or will the bishop of the Hutterite group in Canada apply for a certificate across the board? As I understand their religion, there are two groups of Hutterites in Canada and perhaps one from each group would be required to apply for certification. I think this is a matter that should be cleared up, and perhaps the minister could give us an explanation.

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