Messages of the day: “MP pensions bad!”
Questions not answered
- Will changes to MP pensions include raising the age of eligibility or length of service to qualify?
- Will the Canadian Forces create an operational stress injury database?
On Power & Politics, Andrew Saxton, Peter Julian and Judy Sgro engaged in a frustratingly vague conversation on MP pensions. Saxton said the government is looking at a 50-50 contribution plan, but offered no details. Sgro said the Liberals are willing to make changes—preferring to direct savings to other seniors’ programs. Julian insisted changes should be decided by an independent panel.
On Power Play, pension expert Bill Tufts observed that pension plans are underfunded across Canada, so any changes may amount to tinkering around the edges. He urged MPs to show leadership on “gold-plated” public-sector pensions. Canadian Taxpayer Federation’s Gregory Thomas boasted that members of his organization were happy to hire a plane to fly a banner around Parliament Hill denouncing those pensions.
During an MP panel with Stella Ambler, Jinny Sims and Ted Hsu, Hsu suggested MPs must lead by example, then reform the pension system for all Canadians. Sims urged the government to focus on the 11 million Canadians without pensions. Ambler insisted Conservatives are willing to do their part.
Carbon tax feud:
Don Martin spoke to environmental lawyer and university professor Stewart Elgie, who said cap-and-trade systems are a 50 per cent less expensive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions than the government’s regulatory approach. He said economists and experts seem to agree a carbon tax is the best approach provided revenues get turned into income tax and corporate tax cuts. He noted the absence of concrete policy is creating market uncertainty.
In a wide-ranging interview on Power & Politics, Elizabeth May said cap-and-trade is more difficult to implement than a carbon tax, which the Greens favour. She suggested Thomas Mulcair consult social democratic governments in Europe to find out how they implemented carbon taxes. On the CNOOC-Nexen takeover, May said she worries a deal with a state-owned enterprise might effectively result in Beijing nationalizing Canadian resources. The Green Party leader said she worries a new omnibus bill might feature changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the Species at Risk Act.
Leona Aglukkaq and double lung transplant recipient Hélène Campbell were on Power Play to discuss the Canadian launch of Facebook’s organ donation tool. Campbell spoke about the potential for social media to raise donation awareness — a quarter of a million people have signed up since the Facebook tool launched. (Science-ish looks at that here.) The three then danced for the cameras.
Canadian Forces ombudsman’s report:
Military Ombudsman Pierre Daigle was on Power & Politics to discuss his report in which he noted the need in the Canadian Forces for mental health care workers. He said the situation is likely worse than last assessed prior to the Afghanistan mission. While he welcomes $11 million in new funding, he says there’s no way to know if it will be used effectively because the government lacks a database to track or prioritize PTSD and operational stress injuries.
During an MP panel, Chris Alexander acknowledged there is a nationwide shortage of mental health professionals. He said privacy constraints are an obstacle to creating the database. Jack Harris called the $11-million funding announcement “pre-emptive damage control.” John McKay praised attitudinal change within the Forces on PTSD, but noted the problems are deeper and wider than most people suspect. McKay said the Privacy Act shouldn’t be an impediment to a database if there is political will.
China vs. Japan:
Don Martin spoke to Joseph Caron, former ambassador to both Japan and China about the conflict between those two countries over a chain of uninhabited islands off the coast of Japan. Caron said the issue actually dates to the 16th century, though arose clearly in the 1970s. He said the discovery of oil deposits and the advent of the Law of the Sea means there are economic interests at play in the sovereignty fight.