Mr. Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre, NDP)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak on behalf of my party in support of Bill C-12, an act to amend the RCMP superannuation act. I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre.
It is our position that this legislation, which gives members of the RCMP serving abroad as peacekeepers the same benefits as their counterparts in the armed forces in the event of illness, injury and death, has been far too long in coming.
While we welcome the introduction of this bill and we urge its speedy passage, we hope that in future, when we ask our young men and women to place their lives on the line for their country, they will not have to worry about their benefits and about our commitment to them.
We must recognize that when our peacekeepers are serving abroad in war zones or areas of civil strife or natural disaster, they do not work eight hour shifts. On the contrary, they are on duty around the clock, putting their lives at risk for their country 24 hours a day. Bill C-12 recognizes the unique nature of this job and takes the necessary steps to remedy the unfairness of the current situation.
Canada is respected around the world for its commitment to peace and as a leader in peacekeeping nations. We, as representatives of the people, must ensure that every measure is taken to give full support to our peacekeepers and their families both at home and abroad.
This legislation that is intended to provide RCMP members who serve as peacekeepers the same health benefits as their counterparts in the armed forces is a step in the right direction and it is only fair. More must be done to recognize the service of our peacekeepers and the sacrifices they and their families make in the name of peace on behalf of all Canadians.
The issue of equity for all of those who serve Canada must be addressed both at home and abroad, particularly with respect to the RCMP who currently do not have the same collective bargaining rights as their brothers and sisters in other law enforcement agencies across the country.
They do not have the same opportunity to advocate on their own behalf through free collective bargaining. I hope we get an opportunity to address that issue in this House before long.
We hear stories of members of the Canadian armed forces and their families having to use food banks to sustain themselves. Why is it that men and women who put their lives on the line for their country and for peace around the world are forced to live in near poverty conditions when they return home to Canada?
There is something fundamentally wrong when long expected pay increases for service men and women have been put on hold for five, six and going on seven years when just last month the Treasury Board approved huge bonuses for an executive group of the public service, bonuses of $4,500, even reaching $12,000 per individual.
Believe me, the significance of this was not lost on the hard working public service employees. It is hard not to be jaded when they witness such a clear government bias in favour of the executive ranks while denying longstanding legally required pay settlements to the lowest paid workers.
RCMP members of the Canadian peacekeeping forces deserve equal pay for work of equal value, but so do all public sector employees.
We can only hope that this spirit of generosity and this new found sense of fairness on the part of the solicitor general can be extended to the Treasury Board. Public sector workers have been waiting for a decade for the federal government to make good on its obligation to pay equity and they are still waiting. They are waiting for fairness, they are waiting for equal pay for work of equal value regardless of their gender. They are a patient and long suffering group and they have come to realize that when you are waiting for a fair shake from this government you had better pack a lunch.
It is timely to address these issues, particularly as this week is veterans week, a time when all Canadians are encouraged to reflect on the great sacrifices made by all our members of the armed forces on behalf of Canada and on behalf of peace around the world.
We support the government's introduction of Bill C-12 and we hope that this is the beginning of a renewed commitment to our peacekeepers and indeed to all Canadians, for this government has a very long way to go to restore equity and fairness to Canadians. We in the New Democratic Party on behalf of working people everywhere will continue to ensure that it does.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act