MUSKOKA - As the federal government tabled its second budget implementation bill on Thursday last week, Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement focused on pension reforms.
Omnibus on the right track, says Clement.
Parry Sound-Muskoka MP Tony Clement
Clement, president of the Treasury Board, said he spearheaded the reform intended to bring public sector and MP contribution rates more fairly in line with the private sector.
The reforms, introduced in the 443-page Jobs and Growth 2012 Act, will see contribution rates for public service employees and MPs move toward a 50-50 cost-sharing model by 2017.
Clement estimates that over the next five years these measures will save taxpayers $2.6 billion, and upwards of $700 million annually thereafter.
The age at which MPs and newly hired public servants will begin collecting their pensions will increase to 65 from 55.
Once the changes are fully implemented, MPs’ annual contribution to their pension will increase from $11,060 to $38,769 a year.
“We’ve been talking about having a fairer system that respects the taxpayers,” said Clement. “It’s the right thing to do and I was pleased to lead the charge.”
On Friday, the pension reform section of the bill was separated from the rest of the omnibus, by all party consensus in Parliament, according to Clement.
As the bulk of the widely encompassing bill is debated, the pension reform section will be fast-tracked through the process that will enable increased contributions to begin Jan. 1, 2013.
Bill C-45, the Jobs and Growth Act, 2012 is the second budget implementation bill to begin the process of moving ahead with the federal government’s March budget.
There was much uproar and debate over the first bill, Bill C-38, due to its unprecedented size and extensive changes to legislation.
Bill C-45 is even larger and comes with its own share of controversy.
Critics have called it a cynical act of a majority government and maintain that it erodes the democratic process in Canada because it is too complex to be properly understood or debated in Parliament.
Clement says he makes “no apologies” for the size of the bill. In an interview with this newspaper he said the bill is ambitious, but the government is committed to reforms and moving ahead with its mandate.
“If it takes a few extra pages that the opposition has to read ... I don’t see anything wrong with that,’ he said.
While it will make changes to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the Fisheries Act and the Navigable Waters Protection Act, among many, Clement said most of the legislative changes have a logical connection to the budget and the bill is going to be reviewed and debated at several committees.
The act includes extending for one year the hiring credit for small businesses, a move Clement said will benefit small business owners in Muskoka.
Changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act will be welcomed by municipalities, said Clement, because they will no longer need federal approval for small works that won’t affect navigation on the body of water.
But the bill lists the major waterways for which regulatory approval is required prior to the placement or construction of a works; this list includes the Severn and Muskoka rivers, Lake of Bays, and Fairy, Peninsula, Mary, Vernon, Muskoka, Rosseau and Joseph lakes. Environmentalists say the changes in the act will erode environmental protection for bodies of water, but Clement says it doesn’t have anything to do with the environment.
“It’s about navigation,” he said. “The process was unwieldy — every time a bridge had to be altered there had to be review as to whether a boat can go under the bridge ... it’s just too much red tape.”
To read the entire bill see www.documentcloud.org/documents/472259-c-45-jobs-and-growth-act-2012.html.