Mr. Lee Morrison (Cypress Hills—Grasslands, Canadian Alliance)
Madam Speaker, here we go again. I thought all this had been put behind us back in 1998 but this pension issue is kind of like a smelly dead animal. The dog buried it in 1995 and then he dug it up in 1998 and then he buried it again. Now he has dug it up again within the last few days. Maybe, just maybe, some day the public will be sufficiently offended by the smell of this dead animal that they will react against the Liberal Party and make it pay a price for its Machiavellian games.
This bill, this action on the part of the government, has had the effect of reinforcing the very unfortunate public perception that politics is a dishonourable profession and that MPs as a group are self-serving and venal.
As an institution, why on earth would we do this to ourselves? Why do we want to send out that message? More properly, I would say, what motivated the government to do this?
The most charitable interpretation is that it was simple mischief. It wanted to start the type of debate that we have heard going on in this House for the last 20 minutes, which went on last night and which will probably continue on interminably and forever. I would have to say that unfortunately there is a more probable cause than simple mischief, which is simple venality on the part of some of government members.
The member for Edmonton West, for example, with her defeat imminent, has to be protected, along with many of her colleagues who want to have the best of both worlds. They want to have their pension at 55, but they would like to have severance pay as well. It is a new twist on double-dipping. However, even if mischief were not the prime consideration, it did give the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough the opportunity to make a campaign speech tonight.
Did he attack the government for its perfidy? Of course not. He raised this silly fiction that somehow the government is doing this to help the official opposition.
I have been around this place for seven years and I have yet to see the government do anything to help the official opposition. That is not the way the game is played. The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough should know that. It would be extraordinarily naive to think that we could move the government. We cannot even move it on the really big, important stuff. How on earth could we move it on something like this?
Anyway, the member supported his good friends on the government side, irrationally attacked the official opposition on a great variety of issues, and no doubt will have his reward in heaven or will be rewarded by his good buddies across the aisle. It must be really tough to belong to a dying political party and be reduced to licking the hands of government members.
This pension scheme was wrong in 1995 and it is still wrong. It gives members of this House an indecent advantage over ordinary citizens. It is as simple as that. People who sit in parliament should in no way receive a greater public benefit than that to which ordinary citizens are entitled. This is quite fundamental in my view to the way democracy is supposed to work.
People who rationalize and say that we work hard and we really deserve this pension forget that a lot of them would not have had a pension of any kind if they had not been elected to parliament. Now that they are here, they say it is a good idea.
I am not saying that a pension per se would be wrong. I never have said that. However, the pension that we are talking about today is wrong, wrong, wrong. It is an indecent assault on the taxpayers of Canada. I do not know of a single member of parliament who was dragged kicking and screaming into the House of Commons and forced to work for menial wages. Then, to take a pension at the end of that work perhaps would not fit with his views of what is right and what is wrong. We are all volunteers.
I simply cannot go back to my constituents and say that I have changed my mind and that I will buy my way back into this pension plan because I sure could use the money. My self-respect precludes that. I have to look in the mirror every morning when I shave. We cannot do that if we do not feel good about ourselves.
Five years ago, two years ago and again this week the government could have fixed this plan. It could have made it acceptable to all, but it did not. Originally it could have abided by the recommendations of the Blais commission. It ignored it. It had to have the lollipops inserted into the legislation, and the lollipops have stayed all the way through the various ramifications of the legislation that we have seen over the past few years.
I would like to comment on a comment which was made by the member for Winnipeg—Transcona which suggested that our party was not playing by “the rules” because some of our officers, after having agreed to let the government bring this legislation forward on a fast track, then followed our party policy for heaven's sake and voted against it. How terrible to vote against something to support the policies of one's own party. How dare we do that.
With respect to the hon. member for Winnipeg—Transcona, I would like to point out that some years ago I had a long and spirited but friendly correspondence with the late Stanley Knowles, one of my political icons. If Stanley Knowles were alive today he would be horrified. He is probably spinning in his grave when he sees his party supporting this perfidious pension scheme. This is a party that has, unfortunately, forgotten its roots.
Well, by God, I have not forgotten mine. I know where I came from. I know who my constituents are. I know who pays the bills around this place. I will not support legislation which unfairly takes money from the pockets of ordinary, decent, taxpaying Canadians in order to create a completely unacceptable and immoral pension scheme for members of parliament.
The hon. government House leader alluded to private pension plans, which he said are just as rich as the one we are discussing here. I wish that he would name one as a specific example. In his statement he talked about a one to one contributory rate, to which I say amen. That has been our policy forever, a one to one contributory rate, but we get $3.61 of taxpayer funding for every dollar which members put into this plan. That is why it is not right. It is both fiscally and morally unacceptable to me and I believe to the great majority of my colleagues.
Let us not kid ourselves. It is easy to rationalize. It is easy to throw out one's chest, as the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who is going to get his pension has done, and criticize the rest of us. The bottom line is that it is a bad plan. It smells. It is that dead animal dug up for the third time. I hope that this time we bury it and bury it for good, and that the next government of Canada will again revisit this situation, appoint a completely neutral commission, with no ties whatsoever to this place, and say “Gentlemen and ladies, sit down and give us a plan. What is an MP worth? Show us the remuneration. Show us what the pension should be and then we will act on it”. Then we would not have to have these nasty, divisive debates again and again. It is unproductive and I am getting sick of it.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Parliament Of Canada Act