Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. My name is Pierre Mallette, the National President of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, a CSN affiliate. Since 1986, I have worked as a corrections officer at Donnacona Institution, a federal maximum security penitentiary in Quebec. I would first like to thank the committee members for giving us an opportunity to address the important issue of retirement.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers represents more than 6,000 members working in 58 institutions in eight provinces. We recognize and support Bill and its goal of substantially improving pension benefits for specific—and certainly deserving—groups, namely, Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP officers.
Both groups face risks in their professions that go far beyond what most people would normally expect to encounter in their jobs. The situation of correctional officers is in all respects identical to that of soldiers and RCMP officers. We face repeated violence and assault, and we have to use firearms and make rapid decisions that are matters of life and death. These situations have a major impact on the physical and mental health of correctional officers, and one of the possible effects is post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Improving pension income has been a concern for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers since 2002. In our brief, you will find a summary of the numerous efforts made by the union to persuade political parties, various governments and Treasury Board of the fairness of that demand. What we are asking is that the annual pension accrual rate be raised to 2.33% from 2% per year of service. Why? Because we believe our formula is preferable. When the people concerned retire, they will be able to receive a higher income more quickly than is provided in Bill .
Eliminating the age 65 reduction will provide additional money a few years after retirement, and not during the period when they need it most, before age 65. Why is this demand justified? Because we believe it is a question of fairness to the other employees in the public service.
It's because we believe it is a question of equity with other employees of the federal public service.
Those other employees work for 35 years and accumulate pension income equal to 70% of their five best years. For an employee in an occupation associated with public safety or the armed forces, the Government of Canada recognizes that the working conditions involved in their job is harmful to their health. Their pension plan therefore allows them to take retirement after 25 years' service. However, it then pays them a pension equal to 50% of their five best years.
To be fair to all its employees, the government has to change the pension plans to allow a minimum of 2.33% per year of service to be accumulated. Twenty-five years' service in corrections is equivalent to 35 years' regular service in the public service. The value of those years has to correspond to the same value in the pension plan. This is a matter of safety. The benefits currently paid by the plans are so low that very few employees retire after 25 years' service. As mentioned earlier, after 2 years' service, correctional officers' health and work are affected.
For the safety of the public and the employees, the government must not only allow them to retire after 25 years' service, it must also provide them with the resources. This is the responsibility of parliamentarians and not a mere matter of payment by Treasury Board. Treasury Board officials did not want to recommend changing the pension accrual rate for corrections officers. They compare corrections officers' annual earnings with the earnings of regular employees on an annual basis. They did not want to take into account principles such as fairness and safety.
The women and men elected to govern Canada cannot reject those principles when they analyze the problem. Not only do they have to take them into account, they must also ensure that those principles are respected. We think our demand is preferable to Bill . However, if Parliament decides to pass that bill, we are asking that we be included in it because improving retirement income is crucial for our members. It is also a matter of restoring fairness in relation to the military and the RCMP.
I would like to thank you for your attention during my intervention. I am now ready to answer your questions.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs. I am Brad White, the dominion secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion. On behalf of the dominion president of the Royal Canadian Legion, Comrade Wilfred Edmond, our 360,000 members, and with the support of the Naval Officers Association of Canada, it is a pleasure to appear today at your committee to discuss issues related to Bill . As well, I have provided each of you with a copy of my remarks.
As you are aware, members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP were not consulted when the Canada Pension Plan was introduced in 1966. They were not asked whether they wanted stacked or bridged benefits. It was simply assumed that with the introduction of the Canada Pension Plan, Canadian Forces members and members of the RCMP would decide to reduce the level of their total pension contribution costs by reducing the scope of the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act. This was done in a very paternalistic manner, as the CFSA contributions were reduced to offset CPP contributions. Similarly, Canadian Forces and RCMP members were not fully briefed or even consulted on the outcome of this decision by their employer, namely that the CFSA and RCMPSA benefits would be offset by their CPP benefits at age 65. Additionally, a ministerial promise was made at that time that pension cutback occurring at age 65 would never be larger than the actual CFSA, RCMPSA, and CPP benefits at age 65.
We are aware that this approach was consistent with what took place in the public service. We're also aware that the members of the RCMP and the Canadian Forces members and public servants can collect reduced CPP benefits starting at age 60. However, this assumes that employees retire from the workforce for a set period of time. We are aware that public servants can easily qualify for eight weeks of unpaid leave, leave without pay, as part of their bargaining agreements, and can thus start collecting Canada Pension Plan benefits at age 60, and then return to work, collecting both a government salary and their CPP, which more than offsets any CPP reduction at age 65.
This is not the case for members of the Canadian Forces and members of the RCMP. They generally retire at age 60 or before. The reality is that for those members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP who start collecting early CPP benefits at age 60, the payback will be negative within seven years of collecting the Canada Pension Plan benefits.
Canadian Forces and RCMP members are not public servants. They must retire before the age of 65. They do not have bargaining agents like public servants do. Members of the Canadian Forces and RCMP pay into unemployment insurance but are unable to collect any benefits related to this program if receiving an annuity. As a result of the offset of CPP benefits at age 65, some annuitants end up receiving a reduced CFSA/CPP annuity because of the bridge arrangement between the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act benefits and the CPP, notwithstanding the ministerial promise made to the contrary.
During the time that Canadian Forces and RCMP members were contributing to both the Canadian Forces and RCMP Superannuation Acts and the CPP, the superannuation pension fund accumulated a very large surplus, which was used by the government to pay down the national debt rather than to meet the needs of those who made voluntary payments. We are also being told that the ministerial promise was beyond the scope of the coordination provisions between the two pension schemes. This is an easy way to explain away a promise: blame the plan, not the promise.
There is no question that men and women of the Canadian Forces and of the RCMP serve their country at a risk to their lives. They often sacrifice their health. Their contributions to superannuation funds were used by the government not to provide them direct benefits, but to pay down the national debt. They were not consulted on whether they would favour stacked or bridged benefits for CPP and the superannuation acts disbursements.
Their overcontributions to the Canadian Forces and RCMP Superannuation Acts resulted in a large surplus, which was not used to provide direct benefits. In other words, they have been treated unfairly. This is an issue of simple fairness and recognition of the unique contributions that members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP make on behalf of a nation. We are not asking for retroactivity; we are simply advocating for justice and fairness through the elimination of the offset of CPP benefits, starting now.
Good morning to everyone present here today.
Let me first introduce myself by saying my name is Roddie O'Handley and I'm from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Thank you for having me here to speak on this important bill, Bill .
I was asked to speak on Bill because I have just experienced the ramifications of having my personal RCMP disability pension reduced. Let me tell you how I experienced that and how it directly resulted in a clawback to me.
I retired from the RCMP with a disability pension. As a result of the disability pension, I was entitled to 75% of my best five years of wages. When I retired, I had 32 years and 11 days of service. This meant I received 64% from my RCMP pension, provided by Morneau Sobeco. The other 11% was made up by the Great-West Life Assurance Company.
The RCMP's 64% gave me a total of $3,610.80 per month. Great-West Life paid me 11%, which was $1,036.42 per month. This gave me a total income, when I retired, of $4,647.22 per month. That's what I got.
After two years, Great-West Life sent me a letter advising me that I was no longer eligible to receive disability benefits from them. This reduced my pay by 11%, or $1,036.42--although there was no change to my medical profile. That stayed the same.
After that, I hired a pension advocate to try to get my Great-West Life pension back. The pension advocate advised me to apply for a Canada disability pension. On his advice, I applied for a Canada disability pension and I was successful in getting it.
As a result of being successful in obtaining a Canada disability pension, I informed the RCMP pension providers that I had received a Canada disability pension. They, in turn, sent me a letter on October 27, 2009, stating that because I was successful in obtaining a Canada disability pension, my RCMP pension would be reduced by $719.28, a considerable loss to me.
Now let's look at the actual dollar amounts I received after clawbacks and how much I have actually received in real money. Here is the breakdown from start to finish.
When I retired, I got $3,610.80, or 64%, from the RCMP. I got $1,036.42, or 11%, from Great-West Life. As I said before, that was a total of $4,647.22 per month. After two years, I lost the $1,036.42, the Great-West Life benefits, leaving me with $3,610.80 from my RCMP pension. Canada disability gave me $1,104.26. The RCMP clawed back $719.28. Out of that money, I gained $384.98 per month.
Canada disability also gave me a retroactive cheque in the amount of $16,405.26. The RCMP is taking $11,403.24. That leaves me with $5,002.02, on which I have to pay income tax.
The RCMP pension plan shouldn't have the right to take any of the money that was awarded to me from the Canada disability pension, because I paid into an RCMP pension plan to pay me a pension of 2% per year for each year I worked. I worked 32 years in the RCMP; therefore, I'm entitled to receive 64% of my best five years' salary when I retire. They shouldn't be allowed to reduce that because I received the Canada disability pension. In fact, because I retired from the RCMP with a disability pension, I'm entitled to 75% of my wages. When the RCMP reduced my pension by $719.28, that gave me less than the 75% I'm entitled to.
They didn't reduce the pension when I got it from Great-West Life, meaning when I got the pension from Great-West Life I was allowed to get the combination of the two. But because of the regulations, when I got it from Canada disability, the RCMP clawed back $719.
To me, this is the same as someone taking something out of my pocket. Why? Because I paid into the pension plan to pay me 2% per year for every year I worked for the RCMP. I worked for 32 years, therefore I'm entitled to 64% of my wages, regardless of what other source of income I may have.
I will leave you with this final thought: you have the power to treat all pensioners as equals, so please do so.
If I speak too loudly, simply nudge me and I'll try to move back from the microphone. Thank you.
Mr. David Sweet, chairman of the board, members of the committee, ladies and gentlemen...Bill . On behalf of Mr. Roger Boutin, Mel Pittman, and numerous committees across Canada, I wish to thank you for the opportunity to speak to the veterans affairs committee regarding member of Parliament Mr. Peter Stoffer's Bill C-201.
The purpose of this initiative is to convince the Prime Minister of Canada to take action to terminate the benefit reduction formula that has been applied to our military and RCMP veterans' annuity when they attain age 65, or sooner if they become disabled. The Government of Canada must right a wrong by amending the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and the RCMP Superannuation Act of a miscalculation in justice and fairness that now affects our retired veterans and their families during their golden years.
The 2006-07 annual pension report indicated that there were 84,728 military pensioners and 12,331 RCMP pensioners. The total cost for the Canadian Forces veterans' pension benefits was $2.2 billion and the cost of the RCMP pensioners' benefits was $451 million. It is estimated that the termination of the CPP benefit reduction program may affect 50,000 pensioned veterans.
You are aware that the Canada Pension Plan was introduced in 1965-66. Its intention was to provide another source for an income security program, supplementing old age security. Military and RCMP veterans maintain that in 1965-66 the Government of Canada, deliberately or otherwise, imposed on military and RCMP personnel a gross injustice and unfairness by merging rather than stacking their pension contributions and benefits and not providing any options to them.
Canadian Forces superannuation facts. On January 1, 1966, the Canadian Forces employee contribution rate was reduced from 9.3% to 7.5%. Hence, a “so-called” reduced annuity contribution to our Canadian Forces superannuation has accumulated a military annuity surplus of over $20 billion. It clearly indicates that our contributions to the Canadian Forces superannuation are sufficient to pay for our benefits without a reduction clause.
Canada Pension Plan facts. With regard to the CPP, the employee and the employer each paid half of the required contributions. In 1966 the government-levied rate of contribution for military personnel was 1.8% of basic earnings. Over the years the rate substantially increased to 4.95%. Military and RCMP personnel have always made the required maximum contribution to the plan. Recently the president and chief executive officer of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board advised that the CPP fund is financially healthy, with a surplus of $120 billion.
It is a known fact that veterans were dealt with in a negligent fashion. In those past years senior military officers were not appointed an assistant deputy minister to represent them. Veterans were not properly briefed on the pitfalls associated with the merging of their contributions. In short, democracy did not occur. Veterans were not given any options. They always made the required maximum contributions. Veterans' contributions were listed separately on their pay guides, therefore giving them a false sense of financial security.
The words “bridge benefits” are not listed in the manual A-FN-109-001/ID-001, and furthermore the manual was never made available to serving personnel. The bridge benefit term was never heard of prior to the establishment of our campaign of pension justice and fairness. When pensioners are age 73, the government has recovered all of its funds and yet continues to collect a 30% gratuity/penalty for the rest of their lives.
Veterans are getting “100% of what they paid for”. Well, they are not getting what they paid for or their pension plan would not have accumulated a $20 billion surplus. With all due respect, veterans and their families have given far more of themselves to the security of our country than any other segment of the population. Therefore, in their golden years, they deserve to be treated with fairness, justice, and dignity. Military/RCMP veterans are a distinct and different government provider, and they have encountered a varying number of issues on a regular basis.
What financial value can we associate to loss of spousal income opportunity, therefore loss of spousal CPP benefits; loss of overtime revenues with the loss of the member’s second income opportunity; and loss of ability to purchase a home and be mortgage-free during a career? Veterans are a distinct government provider. They have served far abroad on numerous 16-hour days of operational requirements, 24/7. Veterans have often faced dangerous conditions—health hazards, and extended family separation with elevated levels of stress—and Canadian Forces/RCMP personnel were prepared to give the ultimate sacrifice to our country.
On depletion of CFSA surplus funds, the Government of Canada has withdrawn a $16.5 billion surplus from the military annuity funds to pay down the national debt. In 2003-04, reports indicate that a further $630 million surplus was also retired from our pension account. The 2004-05 pension report indicates that no funds were withdrawn from the account and that there was a surplus of $1.099 billion recorded in that year. Surplus pension funds have accumulated and were sufficient to pay for the termination of the CPP benefit reduction formula.
Why are pensioners' indexing revenues reduced at age 65? Why are disabled veterans' pensions reduced? Why reduce disabled veterans' pensions indexing revenues? Why establish the CPP plan if it benefits no one?
With respect to suggested solutions—and I'm sure they are not the only ones—to solve the pension benefit reduction issue that affects over 50,000 veterans at age 65, we suggest the following. One, stop depleting the surpluses in our pension account. Two, to stabilize the depleted funds in our pension account, transfer 15% of serving personnel contributions from the employment insurance account to the pension account. We receive no benefits from the employment insurance account. Three, eliminate the pension reduction formula to military/RCMP veterans' annuity when they attain age 65, or sooner if they become disabled. And four, retroactive payments are not requested.
To endorse the campaign, we have received very positive comments of support from our former senior officers. They include Major-General Lewis MacKenzie, the highest decorated officer of the Canadian Forces; Colonel Don Ethell, the highest decorated peacekeeping officer of the Canadian Forces; Commodore David Cogdon; RCMP Deputy Commissioner Larry R. Proke; Mr. Bill Gidley, executive director, RCMP Veterans Association; Chief Warrant Officer John Marr, former Canadian Forces chief warrant officer; Lieutenant Joe Fillion, former Maritime Command chief petty officer; and Chief Petty Officer first class Don Brown, former Maritime Command chief petty officer. A great number of senior officers have clearly supported the initiative that military and RCMP veterans have been mistreated, and the situation needs to be rectified.
This worthwhile initiative continues to grow. Over 112,500 supporters have pronounced their support. The Royal Canadian Legion, with approximately 500,000 members; the Army, Navy, and Air Force Veterans in Canada, with 20,000 members; and the Air Force Association of Canada, with 12,000 members, adopted resolutions at their annual general meetings in 2006 in full support of the initiative.
The late Captain Ed Halayko, national chairman of the Armed Forces Pensioners'/Annuitants' Association of Canada, supported our initiative, and the new national chairman of the AFP-AAC, Tony Huntley, supports our initiative.
We have received support regarding our mission from Mrs. Lillian Morgenthau, founder and president of CARP, Canada’s association for the 50-plus.
Numerous other military associations have declared their support of the objective. We have received support from veterans living in 18 countries. They include England; Mexico; Germany; CYQQ force; Florida; Warsaw, Poland; the Syrian Arab Republic; Greece; the U.K.; the U.S.A.; the Cayman Islands; Afghanistan; South Africa; Iraq; Thailand; Sarajevo, Bosnia; Italy; and Japan.
In conclusion, it is time to put the politics aside. It is time for all members of Parliament to demonstrate their recognition and appreciation in a tangible way to the men and women who have served and are currently serving our country. It is time to take action to terminate this undemocratic, unfair, and unjust treatment of veterans. Terminate this pension benefit reduction that has been imposed on them without fair and open consultation.
This misguided policy violates the principles of democracy, fairness, and justice as it affects the welfare of veterans and their families in their golden years. The committee is requested to send Bill back to the House of Commons for its third and final debate and vote. All leaders of the House are requested to allow the democratic process to take place by permitting members of Parliament to vote freely when Bill is presented to the House of Commons for its final vote.
Military and RCMP veterans have gallantly served Canada. They deserve nothing less than to spend their golden years with the pensioned financial dignity that they and their families have earned and paid for in so many different ways and that they so fairly deserve.
It has been over 40 years. Now is the time to resolve this military and RCMP veteran pension issue. This issue affects our disabled and the lower ranks of veterans the most. God bless our military and RCMP veterans, for it is their sacrifices that allow me to speak freely to you today. Let us not forget them.
It has been an honour and a privilege to serve our country, Canada, and we continue to serve today. We shall remember them.
Thank you all very much for your interesting words this morning.
Every time I think we're getting ahead on this issue, to get a better understanding, you come back and throw out some more questions.
I certainly appreciate your contribution, all of you, what you've done for all of us. It's a difficult issue, and we've been hearing about this for some time, and Mr. Stoffer has, as always, championed these issues and makes sure that we're aware of them. The question is, where do we go from here on this issue?
Mr. Labelle, I appreciate some of the suggestions you have here. However, in regard to eliminating the pension reduction formula, I think it's very difficult to think we can go back, but the issue that continues to come up is clearly one of fairness. When any of you or your members went to retire, was this bridging issue not explained at that point?
We understood from our testimony the other day what's it's like when you're 25 or 30 and you're enlisting and you're not reading every page that says this is the way this is going to happen, but clearly, when you went on disability, Mr. O'Handley, did they not explain thoroughly that this is the income you have now but the following changes would happen?
If I had known I was going to fall into this situation, why would I have retired? I could have stayed in the RCMP and done a job working all day shifts. When I retired I was basically working shift work. I could have gone to a desk job or another RCMP job where I got paid the salary I was getting.
If I had known what I know today, what I would have done, in my own mind, is stay in the RCMP. I would have stayed there for 35 years, sat at a desk eight hours a day, had weekends off, had no overtime or call-outs in the middle of the night being confronted with people with guns and whatever other situations you can get into with stopping cars and all the rest of it. I could have relaxed. I could have gone into a position, worked a day-shift job, Monday to Friday 8:00 to 4:00, and gone home at the end of the day. I had 32 years; I could have done that for three or four years if I'd wanted to. Why not? Why would I go and give up the salary I was making to come to this? I don't know why I'd do that. I wouldn't do that; somebody else might. I have a value for money and what it can do for me. I don't know if anybody else has, but I do. When I get reductions like this and somebody's taking $719 out of my pocket because somebody else wrote laws and let them do it, I don't look upon that as being favourable to me, nor would anybody else in my situation.
You're asking me if I knew I was going to go to this. If I had thought I was going to be in the position I'm in today, I'd be making $85,000 a year today, basically doing very little for the RCMP compared to what I was doing, which was investigating crime and going from job to job trying to put out fires with very little manpower the way we were doing it. Why would I go to this, when I could have gone to an eight-hour-a-day job in the RCMP making $85,000 a year? To come and sit in front of a committee, to me, is like begging for money. I don't have to beg you people for money. This should be mine.
Thank you for the question.
First, it will always be difficult for corrections officers, because their occupation is not well known. I don't know how many 7-year-olds or 8- or 9-year-olds might tell their parents they would like to be corrections officers. On the other hand, the job we do puts us into all sorts of situations where we have to make decisions quickly. We work with firearms. We have to control situations that can become extremely serious. Sometimes, we have to go into cells to get an inmate who has committed suicide. We have to work with contaminated blood. We have to work with criminal gangs, inmates who are involved in crime both outside and inside the institutions. There are also threats. There are circumstances that mean that this occupation deserves as much attention as police services or the military.
We too are asking why we are excluded from Bill . We should have been included from the outset. That is sort of what we came here to say this morning. Don't forget us, we exist and we want to be included in this bill because we think that could solve some problems. You undoubtedly know that corrections officers have been trying to improve their pension plan since 2002. We are trying to solve some problems. In fact, a corrections officer is used up after 25 years inside institutions. It is an occupation that is extremely difficult, physically and mentally. Often, inmates go to prison when they are young, but we get on in years, and physical intervention becomes difficult to tolerate.
We really believe that these steps should allow us to be able to retire earlier. In fact, our pension plan allows us to leave after 25 years' service. So we can leave at 50, after 25 years' service. We can leave, but there is no fairness. A public servant retires after a 35-year career, and while we can leave earlier, the money isn't there.
Bill , in fact, prevents a reduction for people who are 65. We think that when someone retires at 50, that is when they most need to have the benefit of this. We are here as participants and we want to tell you not to forget us because we exist and we have been calling for this since 2002. We would like to be heard and to improve the pension plan for our correctional officer members.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Gentlemen, to all four of you, thank you very much for coming.
I'd like to also recognize a tremendous veteran we have in our country, Mr. Shawn Bray, who is in the room. He's done a fantastic job in defending the modern-day veterans on all types of issues that we've seen before.
First of all, Monsieur Mallette, merci beaucoup for your presentation. Thank you so much.
In your presentation you talked about the 2.33%, which was very similar to what the firefighters were asking for in terms of allowing them to retire early. So I'd like you to elaborate just a bit on that when you get a chance.
Mr. White, I say this to you, sir. We had a respected member of Parliament, a former colonel, I believe, in the air force, Mr. Laurie Hawn, the , appear before the committee, and in his presentation he said the following:
||Many people take CPP as early as age 60 and take the .5% reduction per month before 65. ... If they take CPP at 60, what the CF and RCMP members are doing for that five years is doubledipping their CPP...
I'd just like to know this. Have you ever heard, in all the years you've worked at the Royal Canadian Legion, in your command, the term “double-dipping” your pension at age 60?
I'd remind the committee and you that every federal and provincial public servant who retires at age 60 can elect to take their CPP early. Everyone can. But you do take a reduction from that CPP benefit because you're taking it earlier than 65.
Mr. O’Handley, my question is for you, sir, and for Monsieur Labelle. Sir, you said you had to pay back $11,000 to the RCMP annuity group. Can you please tell us what Great-West Life has asked from you for the money back, because you said you got a $16,000 lump sum, correct? If I'm correct, you said $11,000 of that $16,000 had to go back to the RCMP, right? Have you notified Great-West Life, because my understanding is that for those two years that Great-West Life paid you for that 11%, they're going to insist and demand that money back. Have you informed them of that yet? Are you aware that's happening? I'd like your comments on this.
Mr. Labelle, it's the same for you, sir. As you know, many people have been arguing this point for quite some time in terms of the fairness and the issue of it, but the reality is that there had to have been something somewhere that was written that all these things would be happening to you. And as an officer who advised other people, what can you say to them in terms of whatever fine print it was in or what discussions you had in terms of the explanation of the benefit reduction--or as it is popularly known, the clawback-- in this particular regard?
Let's start with Mr. Mallette, please. And be very brief, because I only have five minutes, sir.
You have to understand that since 2005, the Income Tax Act has allowed us to ask for up to 2.33% per year of service. That act now covers corrections officers. Since 2002, the union has been trying to raise the annual percentage and have the pension plan changed.
When that act was amended, in 2005, we said to ourselves that this was excellent news and we would finally be able to make progress. Because we are unionized, we thought we could negotiate and be able to get that provision for our members. Sometimes, being unionized does not automatically open all the doors.
For example, the 2.33% would allow our people, at age 50, after 25 years' service, to get a rate of about 70%. As I said earlier, their situation would be truly fair as compared to the situation of public servants who work for 35 years. It is a recognized fact that this occupation is complicated and difficult and our people have to be allowed to retire earlier. The 2.33% would make that possible. It would represent 4% of total earnings. We are there.
The change to the act allows us to do that, but unfortunately, no one is opening the door for us so we can sit down together and find a solution to this problem. That is what we are asking for. We are conducting media campaigns and talking with members of Parliament. We want a chance to resolve what we have been granted under this change, but that we have not been given in actual fact.
So that's a general category. Thank you for that.
Mr. O'Handley, you can do your paragraph as well, but what I really want to follow through on is that a lot of this has to do with information in terms of who knew what and when it happened, and so on, and I understand that.
You're giving your personal view and you're going to talk about a friend of yours. How widespread do you know this to be in terms of the disability pension and the reduction, not just from Great-West Life, but I assume this is a problem that may happen elsewhere; and what explanations have you been given? In other words, what are the official comments on that?
Secondly, when it went to the other adjustment, you say the RCMP then took it back out of the adjustment fund. What official explanation were you given on that? I'm trying to line up the ducks so we see what was done, where, and why.
If you want to get the paragraph in that Mr. Stoffer is asking for, that's fine, but I would like you to answer some of the other questions as well, please.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I thank the witnesses for being here.
This is a big issue for my constituency. I'm from British Columbia, and there are many veteran RCMP who have retired in our area--we're in kind of a retirement area--so I get a lot of e-mails on this issue. I do appreciate it.
Separating the issues around disability...and I'm very sympathetic with some of those things that maybe need to be changed. With regard to the actual pension and the term “clawback”, when it was set up there was a superannuation premium paid, but when the CPP came along it was blended into that payment. So you didn't have to pay the superannuation premium out of your paycheque on a monthly basis because it was blended into your superannuation.
Part of that whole agreement was that even though you wouldn't be able to collect your CPP until you were 65 or 60, there would be a bridge there--a pension--if you retired earlier. That's the way it was set up. It's unfortunate that maybe it wasn't communicated well enough to those who were being employed by the Government of Canada, whether it was the Canadian Forces or the RCMP.
As we all know, ignorance of a law is not an excuse. When you enter into a labour contract and go to work for somebody, you have those things--what your roles and responsibilities are, and what your compensation is going to be. This was over 40 years ago.
I've heard two comments. One is that it wasn't in your package about your compensation; then I heard that it was but you didn't realize the impact until afterwards. Was it in the package and just overlooked, or maybe the implications of that agreement...? It was basically signed by those who started employment, whether it was with the RCMP or the Canadian Forces.
Maybe I could direct that to Mr. White.
Maybe I don't want to go back to 1966, because I was born in 1964.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Pierre Mallette: You are from the Liberal Party.
Our union has been trying since 2002 to negotiate improvements to our pension plan. In 2005, your government amended that act that allows a pension to go from 2% to 2.33%. I repeat, we would like to find the forum where we could explain our views: why 25, why 2.33%?
Why could we get better than other groups? It is a question of fairness. If we recognize that some groups can leave after 35 years' service with 70% of salary, why do we let people leave after 25 years' service, without regard for the purchasing power the others have after 35 years' service? This is an essential question.
I am not minimizing the importance of other job categories, but they way they work is different from ours. It is recognized that after 35 years' service or more, they can get 70% of their salary. We are given the right to leave after 25 years, but then we get 50% of salary. We don't have the same purchasing power. We are told to go away, but we don't have the money to leave. In my workplace, no one works for 35 years. I said that when I began my presentation this morning; the inmates are always young, while we age, physically and mentally. Everywhere we go, we keep saying we want to have the chance to put what was allowed in 2005, the 2.33% rate, into practice.
This morning, I have heard comments about the fact that we are unionized. Being unionized does not always mean it is easier. Relations with Treasury Board are not always easy. The government passes laws, like Bill that was recently passed. It is all very well to be unionized, but we are still affected by that.
The union wants to sit down, talk, and look at the impacts. We are prepared to look at all of it. We have been working on it since 2002. There has been some progress and certain things have been resolved. The Act has enabled us to do some things, but we are not finding the forum where we could finish the job. This is what is taking so long. The next generations will have to engage in the same debate if we don't resolve it now.
Give us fairness, that will allow us to leave with the same salary rate as public servants who leave their positions after 35 years' service and receive 70% of their salary. You are giving us the right to leave earlier, but we don't have the money that would allow us to do it.