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SOCI - Standing Committee

Social Affairs, Science and Technology


Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Issue 6 - Evidence - April 22, 2004

OTTAWA, Thursday, April 22, 2004

The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-24, to amend the Parliament of Canada Act; and Bill S-17, to amend the Citizenship Act, met this day at 11 a.m. to give consideration to the bills.

Senator Marjory LeBreton (Deputy Chairman) in the Chair.


The Deputy Chairman: We have two panels today dealing with two different pieces of legislation. The first is Bill C- 24, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, medical and dental benefits. Of course, we have had hearings on that bill before. The second bill that we are going to deal with today is Bill S-17, an act to amend the Citizenship Act, and this is the first day we will have heard witnesses on that bill.

We will start with Bill C-24. We have two witnesses this morning from Mercer Human Resources Consulting, Bernard Potvin, principal of that firm, and from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Mr. Bruce Winchester, who is a research director. Welcome gentlemen and thank you very much for agreeing to appear before us as witnesses.

We will start with Mr. Potvin.


Mr. Bernard Potvin, Senior Consultant, Mercer Human Resource Consulting: Thank you for inviting me to appear before your committee this morning. I will begin by making a few preliminary remarks.

Mercer Human Resource Consulting is a large national consulting firm in the area of human resources, including pension and benefits consulting. Our clients include a mix of private and public sector employers as well as not-for- profit organizations.

I have been with the firm for 16 years. I am an actuary specializing in the design and pricing of employee benefit programs. I would like to share with you some statistics that could interest the committee and make a few general comments as well.

Each year, we conduct a policies and practices survey of employers. Based on our 2003 survey, 53 per cent of employers in Canada provide post-retirement health care coverage to their retirees.

The first comment I want to make is that about half of employers provide no post-retirement health care coverage to retirees, who must then rely on personal savings and provincial health care coverage. In that respect, the MPs' plan is more generous than the plans available to many Canadians.

In both the public and private sectors, the majority of plans require retirement with an immediate pension for medical coverage entitlement. The vast majority of private insurance plans work this way. One exception is the federal public service plan, but in the majority of instances, an employee must retire with an immediate pension for entitlement to health care benefits.

For example, if a person works for a company for 20 years, retires at age 50 or 55 and immediately begins to draw a pension, that person will not be entitled to the health care coverage provided by his former employer.

While the aforementioned employee would lose entitlement to retiree medical coverage from the age of 50 and thereafter, under the MPs pension plan, entitlement to health care benefits is not lost. At age 55, they are eligible for PSHCP coverage. In that respect, the MPs plan is probably more generous than the majority of plans, whether public or private.

Essentially, these were the comments I wished to make. I can appreciate that the case that led to this situation may be somewhat unique, from a legislative standpoint. Generally speaking, in both the private and public sectors, it is often possible to make an exception when there are special circumstances that warrant a person's entitlement to benefits, instead of bringing in a general amendment.


The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Potvin. It is important that we have an opinion from an actuary and I think you very clearly clarified some of the questions we had from our last set of witnesses.

I will now turn to Mr. Bruce Winchester from the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and I thank you as well for appearing today, Mr. Winchester.

Mr. Bruce Winchester, Research Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation: The Canadian Taxpayers Federation is pleased to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to speak to Bill C- 24.


I will be making my presentation in English, but if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them in either English or French.


Though taxpayers share the instinct of compassion for public servants and parliamentarians who may require extended health and long-term disability insurance, in the specific case of member compensation outlined in Bill C-24, we have strong reservations.

Let me begin my remarks by giving honourable senators a précis of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, CTF. Founded in 1990 in Western Canada, the CTF has grown to 65,000 members nationally. Our mandate is to advocate for lower taxes, less waste and accountable government. I am appearing today on behalf of taxpayers for those three reasons.

Taxpayers object to the bill on three grounds: for reasons of process; for reasons of the potential cost to taxpayers; and for reasons of fairness for all taxpayers.

In terms of the process, Bill C-24 passed through the House of Commons in near record time, and without any announcements or public fanfare. Presumably, the Commons house leaders felt the issue was of such great importance that it was better kept out of sight and out of the minds of voters. Fortunately, you honourable senators have chosen to give this legislation the sober second thought it requires.

In the past, an independent committee deliberated upon questions of member compensation. However, with the Lumley commission on member compensation, in its report delivered in 2001, this process was eliminated in favour of tying members' compensation to judicial salaries. Despite the good work of the Lumley commission, questions of real member pension reform were left out of the commission's final report. So, too, was any mention of reforms to member benefits such as supplementary health insurance and long-term disability benefits. When the CTF presented to the Lumley commission, we outlined the need to move away from the current pension and benefit regime to one solely based on a registered retirement savings plan, RRSP.

If there was any oversight at the time of the Lumley report, it was retaining the current member pension and benefit regime. Taxpayer recommendations for reforming member pension were straightforward in proposing a RRSP regime. With respect to additional benefits, the CTF does not favour matching parliamentarians with senior public servants. Unlike a lifelong career as a professional public servant, parliamentarians have both the privilege and the duty to serve at the pleasure of the electorate. That, by definition, implies something quite different from the commitment made by career public servants. A parliamentarian's time horizon is much shorter — at least it should be — and although supplementary benefits may be part of the job while serving, they should not be extend the beyond that time. Moreover, it is obvious that however compensation for politicians is set, it should be in line with the public's expectation. That may require a level less than what elected official wants or believe they deserve.

In terms of the cost to taxpayers, many will argue that small change carries little in terms of cost. That may be so at the outset but often what was once thought to be a small cost when first proposed can balloon over time and become a big cost. Regardless of the particulars of who pays what premium, new benefits or extended benefits to parliamentarians add to the cost of running Parliament and to the government's overall non-funded liabilities.

According to the Estimates for 2004-2005, Parliament will cost $451 million. That is up 41 per cent over the last 10 years — 31 per cent higher than the overall increase in government spending. Part of the increased cost has come from meeting rising compensation, pension and benefit requirements for parliamentarians.

Contrary to the thinking in much of Ottawa, taxpayers are concerned with the costs of conferring benefits on public servants who seek public office and receive a salary, which, at $141,000 per year is more than two times the average household income. In terms of the taxpaying public, earners with incomes of greater than $100,000 represent less than 3 per cent of all taxpayers. Certainly, parliamentarians are in an elite income group and taxpayers wonder why another benefit is required for them.

Much of the discussion of fairness raised by Minister Saada, when he appeared before this committee, focused on the narrow concept of fairness for 406 parliamentarians vis à vis public servants. For the remaining 32 million Canadians, fairness is a much broader concept.

Members may complain that they are not properly compensated for their hard work. They seem to have forgotten that holding public office is not meant to be lucrative; no one is forced to run for office and elected public service is, in part, intended to be its own reward. It is certainly not intended to vault the "people's servants" into highest income echelons or guarantee them an assortment of special benefits.

The majority of Canadians do not enjoy the supplementary insurance benefits proposed in Bill C-24. Only 46 per cent of workers in Canada have access to a registered pension plan and only one-half have access to employer- sponsored extended dental, medical, life or disability insurance. These statistics do not capture the extent of the coverage or their value. In respect of retirement savings plans, simplifying compensation and benefits remains a key outstanding recommendation that would ensure fairness.

The fundamental problem with any employer-sponsored benefit is that limited or no opportunity exists to retain the benefits when one changes jobs. This is particularly problematic for insurance benefits. Being part of an employer's pool can deliver substantial premium savings and exiting that pool by leaving the job also requires one to re-qualify for insurance coverage. The freedom of today's work life allows many to take on new jobs, change careers and have a rich work life. However, for some, supplementary benefits can become a trap — good benefits are often lost with job changes. In every case, individuals can and should make the decision to purchase their own coverage. There is not much the government can do to fill potential gaps resulting from insurance and underwriting rules; the buck stops with the decision to forego or purchase long-term disability and any other form of insurance. Bill C-24 does not create options for Canadian workers.

The clear need for health and extended coverage points to the fundamental failure of Canada's multi-tier health system. We have all the disadvantages of a single-tier health system: no choice, limited insurance options, no pre- funding vehicles, and low care and income replacement standards. Canadians do not have the advantage of fully funded first-class health care because, on the other side of the ledger, there are substantial and growing gaps in public health coverage. For many Canadians, supplementary health benefits are part of the solution, but even these fall short of offering true remedies to declining health coverage. These are real concerns for Canadians, but one can appreciate the specific concern of members who fear being confronted with these realities upon leaving politics. However, Bill C- 24 does nothing to advance the lot of all Canadians with respect to freeing up new options, and delivering and funding health care.

How can MPs say to Canadians that the health care system is adequate and then deny them the right to spend after- tax dollars on additional health coverage, while concluding that they need additional health coverage at an earlier age?

In the end, taxpayers have good reason to be cynical. The Romanow report took 18 months and produced no meaningful changes in health care. The Kirby Senate committee spent more than two years studying and reporting on health care with few of their good recommendations enacted. In less than 20 minutes, parliamentarians voted themselves an extension of their generous health and disability insurance and then had the gall to wrap themselves in the language of fairness.

It is not fair that privileges for parliamentarians take precedence while Canadians must wait for innovative policies such as medical savings accounts, pre-funding of health care or mandatory retirement savings plans. These ideas do not appear on the radar screens of parliamentarians, and they should.

There is a simpler solution to this problem. Certainly, parliamentarians should do as the rest of us do and choose to purchase their own supplementary health coverage and disability insurance.

The Deputy Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Winchester, for presenting very clear views of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. From previous testimony, you know that many of us are troubled by the way that this was rushed through the House of Commons.

I have one question for clarification. Mr. Potvin, you said that when about half of Canadians retire, unless they access their retirement benefits immediately, they lose their health benefits. If they wait until they are 55 and then exercise retirement benefits, they are not eligible to get them back, whereas members of Parliament are eligible. Is that correct?

Mr. Potvin: I should clarify that. I was talking about access to private plans. Generally speaking, under the terms of the vast majority of private plans, you need to retire from employment with an immediate pension in order to keep your entitlement to the benefits of the employer-sponsored plan. If you leave your employment at 50 but do not access your pension until the age of 55, you will not have the benefits of the employer-sponsored plan.

The Deputy Chairman: I have one more question. It is known that this legislation was put together and passed with one particular Member of Parliament in mind. Members of Parliament are eligible for long-term disability. Mr. Potvin, you said that individual cases should be treated as one-off. At the time, I asked whether it would have been improper for this particular MP to draw on the long-term disability because the individual is still a full-time MP? Would that not have been one way to deal with this case without introducing legislation? Would that not have been financially beneficial?

Mr. Potvin: That is a good question. My understanding is that a Member of Parliament would have access to a disability pension. I am not familiar with the specifics of the particular case to which we are referring. The only reason I can think of for handling it that way is that the person's disability may not qualify under the terms of the disability plan. Otherwise, yes, it would have been beneficial to apply for the disability benefit, if the condition were severe enough. At the same time, in addition to the disability income, the individual would remain qualified for medical protection.

The Deputy Chairman: Do you have any comments, Mr. Winchester?

Mr. Winchester: I am surprised that approach was not exercised. There may be another case of a member who will also be in that same position and may claim long-term disability for different reasons. However, I would assume that in this specific case the individual does not qualify yet but knows that — if it is the individual I am thinking of — the disease in question, or the disability in question, will become progressive and will later qualify to get coverage. That may be the problem.

However, I would return to our remarks that the individual should then consider running again or whatever. This individual must make a personal choice about what she or he needs to do in life.

Senator Keon: Mr. Winchester, I got the idea that you are not supportive of this bill. The question came up before and I thought you were going to address it but you did not, quite. If this bill were passed would it not escalate into the entire public service? I would like your opinion on that.

Mr. Winchester: I will not prejudge the negotiations and machinations that may come after if the bill is passed but it does certainly open up that thin edge of the wedge and might allow for wider benefits for public servants. If that were to happen, we would raise even stronger objections. As I said, this is one case and does not seem it will be awfully expensive but that is how you get to $1 billion at the end of a period of time.

Senator Keon: Would you care to comment, Mr. Potvin?

Mr. Potvin: I also agree that it would create a precedent. In the public service right now, an employee could retire at age 50 and choose not to receive a pension until he or she is 55 or 60. If, for a member of Parliament, we argue that while they are not in the receipt of a pension they should have medical coverage, certainly that could create a precedent to have the same argument for public servants.

Senator Cook: I need clarification of this issue. Let us say that I, as a parliamentarian, have be diagnosed with chronic illness. Looking to the future when I am no longer a parliamentarian, no longer able to run for elected office, what would be my options at that point when I need to make a decision to purchase insurance? Would I be eligible, knowing that I have an illness?

Mr. Winchester: I have not read the particulars of what kind of coverage parliamentarians have and when. Presumably, if one had a chronic illness one could opt to claim long-term disability and then cease to be a parliamentarian at some point. However, in terms of purchasing your own insurance after learning that you have some kind of chronic illness, you would be faced with a very difficult problem but that is no different from the problem that all Canadians face when they find out — often too late — that they may have a certain disease or may be vulnerable to a certain disability. The insurance industry is unequivocal in saying everyone should buy critical illness and long-term disability insurance that is their own that they take with them wherever they go.

We know that already exists. However, from a public policy perspective, members, senators and members of the House of Commons ought to be proposing other vehicles that allow people other options. It is all well and good if your employer provides you with that benefit — in fact, you are quite lucky if you get that. However, you also have to take responsibility for yourself, your family, and your own long-term financial planning. If public policy and the government do not give you options to save for, for instance, medical problems or medical expenses later in life, then we as a society are letting those people down. We are not providing that. We have RRSPs, but we do not have medical savings accounts and we have limited supplementary insurance and health insurance options. There has not a lot been done to change that, partly because the Canada Health Act is a straight jacket on that.

Senator Cook: I understand that you are saying no, that my options at that point in time are not there for me to purchase. I have to purchase when I am in reasonably good health and there is nothing wrong. I know from my own personal experience that when my husband died and I had no income or no group insurance, I just went out and purchased a package at that point in time. My question was whether there is an option to purchase supplementary insurance at the point of entry when you know you have a chronic illness. I take it that that is not an option.

Mr. Winchester: I believe in some cases it is not an option and in other cases it is prohibitively expensive.

Senator Morin: I would like to address my questions to Mr. Winchester. In your document you say, if I am right, that 50 per cent of Canadian employees have access to medical, dental and disability insurance. Is that right?

Mr. Winchester: That is according to Statistics Canada.

Senator Morin: Why do you say that in your final closing remarks that all parliamentarians should do as the rest of us and choose to purchase their own health coverage and disability? Either it is 50 per cent or the rest of us. What does that statement mean?

Mr. Winchester: The 50 per cent pertains to people who have some kind of supplementary insurance. They do not necessarily have access to supplementary insurance that they can take with them after they leave their employment. I have supplementary health insurance but as soon as I no longer work at the Canadian Taxpayers Federation — be that at age 65 or next week — I cannot buy those benefits or take them with me. A lot of workers are in that position.

Senator Morin: I realize that. You are telling me that when you retire you will not have your dental and medical insurance with you.

Mr. Winchester: That is not assured under the plan I have.

Senator Morin: You have a small plan but Mr. Potvin will agree that many large institutions and companies and employers carry on the coverage after the person has retired so there is nothing unusual about that. Am I right?

Mr. Potvin: That is correct. It is not all employers and I was quoting from statistics, about 53 per cent of employers across the country.

Senator Morin: The fact that it is carried on after retirement is not by itself unusual, or exceptional. I want to make that clear because the rhetoric here seems to say that the fact that the coverage is extended after retirement would be unusual and quite different from the other employees. That is not the fact. On the contrary, most large industries and employers would carry on the coverage after retirement.

Mr. Potvin: That is correct.

Senator Morin: In that respect, parliamentarians are not that different. Am I right in saying that?

Mr. Potvin: Yes.

Senator Morin: Then we are not really discussing the fact that coverage has extended after retirement. We are discussing is the fact that there is a very narrow window, between 50 and 55, under which the retirement is not in force but that the coverage for medical, dental and disability insurance would be extended. We are discussing a very narrow issue. Am I right in saying that?

Mr. Potvin: Yes.

Senator Morin: How could such a narrow window balloon over time into such a big cost by looking at the legislation itself?

Mr. Potvin: I am not sure I understand your question.

Senator Morin: Let me repeat the question by quoting from Mr. Winchester's testimony. He said that "...what was once thought to be a small cost when first proposed can balloon over time and become a big cost." How can the legislation, by itself, "balloon into a big cost?" Parliamentarians between the age of 50 and 55 who have not retired would be extended medical, life and disability insurance. That is a very narrow window. It could not balloon into a big cost.

Mr. Winchester: I know with respect to certain honourable senators you would like to see this as a narrow issue and would like to portray it as such. As one of your colleagues pointed out, it has the potential to carry over into the public service. The number of people employed in the public service is a growing number. It has grown steadily since about 1997. You are talking about close to half a million employees. Therein, it does actually carry quite a substantial cost.

We also know that what happens with federal public servants sets the tone for provincial and local public servants. Now, we are talking about a pool of roughly 3 million people this year. That could carry substantial costs not only for federal taxpayers — with whom you are of course all quite concerned — but also for provincial and local taxpayers, who we as organization represent.

We feel that it is in fact a much broader issue. I understand the desire to see it as a much narrower issue and focus in on this one piece of legislation and, indeed, focus it on one individual. However, this is not something to which every single Canadian has access. It is not fair to those Canadians. There may be the sense that it is not fair vis-à-vis senior public servants or well-heeled managers in a select number of companies. The reality for most Canadians is small business and individual businesses that do not have the option of these big pools of insurance.

We object to this is in part because it will cost money and in part because it ignores some fundamental problems that ought to be fixed. I am not directing this at honourable senators, of course, because you are talking about it today. However, is there so little for parliamentarians to talk about and deliberate upon that they have to talk about how and deliberate how they can pay themselves more benefits? I am not sure that sits well with taxpayers. It does not sit well with our supporters, which is why I am here.

Perhaps I should apologize for the strong rhetoric but I was upset when I read the minister's testimony before this committee. He wants to see it as a narrow issue, which I understand, but I reject it. Taxpayers at large see it as a bigger issue.

Senator Morin: You complain that it was introduced in great haste, and now you are objecting to the fact that we are deliberating it. It is either one or the other.

Mr. Winchester: I congratulate you for deliberating on it and I directed my scorn —

Senator Morin: You said we have nothing else to do.

Mr. Winchester: My scorn was entirely directed at the members of the House of Commons and not honourable senators. I apologize if I conveyed the wrong impression.

The Deputy Chairman: You did not, Mr. Winchester. That is what the witness said, Senator Morin.

Senator Morin: I will move to another issue. Parliament costs $450 million, up 41 per cent. What percentage of the increasing costs comes from compensation?

Mr. Winchester: Off the top of my head, I so not know. I would have to consult the public accounts.

Senator Morin: If you do a quick calculation, it is between 10 and 20 per cent.

Mr. Winchester: I would be prepared to send, by e-mail or fax, a detailed breakdown of those based on the public accounts. However, I do not have the figures off the top of my head.

Senator Morin: How does your organization feel about empowering parliamentarians and giving them greater say and role and more power in dealing with government issues? How do you feel about giving them more resources? If we give them more resources, do you not think that Parliament costs would go up?

Mr. Winchester: There are good and legitimate reasons for government costs to go up. It is interesting that you mention the empowerment of parliamentarians. I think that is a good thinking. Parliamentarians — be they members of the House of Commons or members of the Senate — should exercise their independence and should have the resources to make poignant observations.

One news item I noticed with respect to increased costs at the House of Commons and increased resources in reference to the term "democratic deficit," was a move that paid senior chiefs of staff or cabinet ministers that resulted in some chiefs of staff actually earning more money than a back-bench MP.

I am not sure what that says vis-à-vis accountability and democratic deficits. However, I do know that if you are going to give parliamentarians more money for their office budget, more opportunity to buy and contract resources and studies, and more opportunity to speak to legislation, it costs money. It costs money to send parliamentarians out to speak with Canadians about matters of public policy and importance. We would support those kinds of expenses.

However, when we see the negative kind of expenses, we are doubly concerned because that is money not spent the way it should be and money spent frivolously and in a way that is quite galling to taxpayers.

Senator Morin: My point is you did not break it down. You said there was a 40 per cent increase in costs in Parliament over 10 years. Some of it as you have just said may have been —

Mr. Winchester: The cost of member compensation has increased by 22 per cent. They have increased their wages by 22 per cent. The face value of the pensions has increased by 42 per cent. I do not have the exact number but the actuary on the pension required that additional funds be put into the members' fund anticipating the retirement of members and anticipating increased costs.

Although I may not know what the breakdown is, I know anecdotally that a big mover of that cost is more compensation for members. We do not have a problem with members being paid the way that the Lumley Commission has presented it. You do not have the tax-free allowance. It is nice and straightforward. It is really not a particularly outrageous pay scale.

What does become outrageous is the generous pension and benefits because in the face of a salary that puts you in the top 2 per cent of wage earners, one would presume you had some money left over to put into savings, purchase supplementary insurance or something. You know what? That is a decision that the 406 members can make individually. I will not tell them what to do.

Senator Morin: We already dealt with the fact that 50 per cent of Canadians have that type of insurance.

I would like to move to your comments about the health care system. I am not too sure exactly what you mean. You seem to feel that it is a disadvantage that we have single tier health system with no choice, insurance options, low care and so forth. Could you elaborate on this statement?

The Deputy Chairman: Before you answer that question, Mr. Winchester I noticed that that was sort of thrown into your statement. We addressed many of these things in our health care study. It is a bit off topic from the legislation we are here to study. In any event, since he put —

Senator Morin: He has a full page on it. If he wants to remove it from his document, I have no objection.

The Deputy Chairman: I am saying we are getting off the topic of Bill C-24. Mr. Winchester if you could answer that as briefly as you can.

Mr. Winchester: I will not move off topic because I know your committee spent much time on this issue and honourable senators are aware of the deficiencies of our multi-tier health system.

I will say this. The mere fact that parliamentarians feel they need supplementary health benefits and disability benefits illustrates that we do have a multi-tier health system. We have the bottom line, which is the state-funded health system that everybody gets, and a number of other tiers depending on what supplementary coverage you decide to purchase, limited though it is, or is provided to you by your employer. That is not a problem. There is nothing wrong with that.

On the other side, if you do not balance the equation by allowing supplementary purchase and procurement of not just health coverage but health services — and I will be unequivocal here, a parallel private system of health care, I think we need to move to that — that is what my reference is to. Again, I wish that honourable senators and members of the House of Commons would get serious about making that sort of thing a reality. In an equitable way, yes, and fair way, yes, but nevertheless that is where the real solution lies on health care.

I would be happy to return to talk about health care on another occasion and/or draw your attention to some of the writings that our organization has done over the last four or five years on the subject. We have been fairly consistent. I will say no more on that.

The Deputy Chairman: Mr. Winchester, we will probably take you up on that offer at some point in the future.

As a point of clarification, when public servants leave the Public Service or take early retirement but does not immediately access their retirement benefits, and then five years later — say they leave at 50 — they access their retirement benefits, are they eligible to get their medical and dental at that point?

Mr. Potvin: They become eligible at that point to receive their medical and dental.

The Deputy Chairman: However, they cannot from the time they are 50 to 55?

Mr. Potvin: That is right.

The Deputy Chairman: Therefore, to underscore the point made by Senator Keon, this could be a tremendous bargaining position for public servants who wanted to —

Mr. Potvin: Definitely, it would be a precedent, yes.

Senator Fairbairn: Mr. Potvin, when you mentioned in your comments that aside from the purpose of this bill, there are exceptions for people getting coverage who have health problems or whatever in regular life. Could you give us some examples of what those might be?

Mr. Potvin: I am not saying that there are exceptions. I am referring to a particular situation that may warrant exceptions. It is often the way, for example, a private sector employer would deal with the situation if the general design of the plan does not cover specific situations, but there are specific circumstances that warrant an exception, then that is the way it will be handled, generally speaking, as opposed to broadly changing the plan design.

Senator Fairbairn: Would it be done on an individual basis?

Mr. Potvin: Yes, on an individual basis. It is not unusual, for example, to see a medical plan that does not cover certain conditions. If, for whatever reason, there is an individual where the employer feels it is warranted and whatever treatment should be covered in that specific case, an exception will be made. That is not unusual.

Senator Callbeck: The area I wanted to question has already been dealt with, but I do have a short question for Mr. Winchester. You say that it is obvious that however compensation for politicians is set, it should be in line with the public's expectations.

I assume you feel that compensation today is not in line with public expectations. What process would you set up to determine what the public expectations are?

Mr. Winchester: First, I think the current salary paid to members and senators is in line with public expectations. Certainly, there is a minority of Canadians who probably feel strongly it is a bit too high, and a minority who feel it is not high enough. However, right down the middle most people are pretty comfortable with the pay side. However, when you look at things like the supplementary benefits and the pension, there is a lot more discomfort.

I receive media inquiries and inquiries from our supporters on a regular basis asking me — usually it is after a member announces he or she will not run again — what that member's pension is worth. There is, in some cases, a misperception that these pensions are worth vastly more than they are, and that is because we went from a system where six to 14 years paid a pension to one where, if a member were elected in 2001, they would have to serve 10 to 25 years to get a pension.

There is some miscommunication out there. The House of Commons and parliamentarians in general would be better served if they post compensation clearly, visibly and in an understandable format as the Government of Alberta does — particularly the pension and salary compensation component.

There are many Canadians who do not get supplementary benefits. They work in small businesses or work in their own shop, or alternatively work somewhere where the benefits they get — if they are in that 50 to 53 per cent who receive the benefits — are more limited and not as generous as these. In terms of getting one's supplementary medical and disability carried over, in almost all cases you have to actually be claiming your pension to get those. I am sure there are some exceptions; highly paid executives in places such as Nortel enjoy all sorts of other exceptions as well.

However, for the average Canadian, this issue of supplementary disability coverage is not in line with what they get. I think many Canadians do not really understand what this bill is about. If they understood it better, rather than in sort of these narrow terms that some want to portray it in, I think they would be more upset about it. Perhaps it was a good strategy on the part of the parliamentarians to wait until this point in time, when most people are more concerned about, say, Mr. Guité's testimony today and some of these other issues than this particular one, but it really does smack of unfairness that parliamentarians would do this.

You asked about the process. I think what came out of the Lumley report was very good. It did fall short on the issue of pensions. It is in the best interests of all parliamentarians to move to a registered retirement savings plan. They have more control over their pensions in this case; they can use it for medical or pension reasons and can have more or less money. It is portable and they can take it where they want. They do not have to feel stuck here — not that any of you would feel stuck, you probably all enjoy serving — but it would offer more options, which is good.

When it comes to benefits, we should be clear about severance and other benefits for political appointees and parliamentarians. For this level of government and every other level of government, it is a simple principle: If you are a professional public servant, you are entitled to severance and certain long-term disability coverage, and you may even be entitled to get that earlier than retirement. However, when it comes to a political appointee or someone who is elected and serves at the pleasure of the public, those benefits have to stop the day they cease to be in that position.

Although members get severance — and we will not argue tremendously about that — even that is a bit much. We have seen cases of elected and appointed members and committee members and various types of public appointees receiving huge and generous severance packages upon leaving. I cannot think of anything that raises the ire more of taxpayers than that.

It is important that parliamentarians and appointees know what the rules are when they come in so that when they leave they know they are not getting extension of benefits. They can then act accordingly and if they fear or have concern that they will be taken ill or have a disability, they can buy additional coverage or save money if coverage is not available to them in anticipation of that. That is what the rest of Canadian taxpayers do.

The process is good. I wish it were a RRSP system. If you could make that happen, that would be my request to you today. Some of these other issues are certainly for another day and another time. I am struck by the fact, as I said before, that parliamentarians have time to do this but they do not have time to deal with meaningful public policy issues, which is a shame.

Senator Callbeck: My question was on the process and you agree with the Lumley commission.

Mr. Winchester: Yes, it is a good process.

Senator Cook: We are talking about a person who becomes disabled and needs a quality of life that we all should have here in this great country. We are talking about a possible six years of employment. In proposing a RRSP regime, the amount that would accumulate in six years would be how much?

Mr. Winchester: In a RRSP?

Senator Cook: I know it depends on what you buy.

Mr. Winchester: I will look into my crystal ball and see where the financial markets will go. RRSPs are not perfect but they are good retirement vehicles.

Senator Cook: Are you saying it is possible to take you from the age 50 to the age 55? If there were something built in here today, we would not need to have this?

Mr. Winchester: It would depend on how much money an individual had in a RRSP. Remember some of that would be what a parliamentarian brought from before and other things such inheritances and royalties. There can be any number of things one could bring in as supplementary income to put into an RRSP.

The real solution to this problem is less RRSP. Members should get a RRSP because it is in their best interests. They will have more as a result of a RRSP — particularly younger members. It gives more freedom, which is a valuable intangible thing. The solution is to be found in a supplementary medical concern. It has to do with the medical savings account. It is a totally ally different topic and a totally different issue, but it is a darn shame that that is not what parliamentarians decided to set their attention on and make happen instead of this measure.

The Deputy Chairman: That is the completion of our questions. I would like to thank both Mr. Potvin and Mr. Winchester for a lively debate. You certainly made some excellent points on this particular piece of legislation.

I said at the last meetings that I felt that this had been rushed through the House of Commons with undue haste. I am really glad that we were able to have the benefit of your testimony today.

On behalf of my colleagues, I would like to thank you for appearing.

We will turn our attention to Bill S-17, to amend the Citizenship Act.

Our witnesses today are from the Department of Citizenship and Immigration Canada and from the Department of Justice.

We shall hear from Ms. Patricia Birkett next. Thank you very much for appearing to address this piece of legislation.

Ms. Patricia Birkett, Acting Director General, Integration Branch, Citizenship and Immigration Canada: As background to the motivation for Bill C-17, between January 1, 1947 and February 14, 1977 certain children who were under 21 years of age lost Canadian citizenship when their Canadian citizen responsible parent ceased to be a Canadian by becoming a citizen of another country. "Responsible parent" had a particular definition in the context of that law. It was usually the father for children born in wedlock and the mother for children born out of wedlock or if the mother was widowed or had legal custody of the child.

For those people who ceased to be Canadian citizens, our Citizenship Act today, which came into force in February 1977, provides for the resumption of Canadian citizenship by former Canadians. Persons who wish to resume being Canadian must become a permanent resident of Canada, must live in Canada for one year and must not be subject to certain prohibitions. In 2003, a public policy was implemented to make it easier for persons who lost their citizenship as minors to obtain permanent resident status in Canada, seeing as one of the requirements for resuming citizenship is to be a permanent resident.

Bill C-17 amends section 11 of the current Citizenship Act, which requires former Canadians to acquire permanent resident status and live in Canada for one year. It eliminates the requirement to become a permanent resident and live here for one year, but only for persons who ceased to be Canadian when they were under 21 — when they were minors.

Stepping back, I would point out that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and the Citizenship Act work in conjunction when dealing with grants of citizenship, and this is a grant. Under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, anyone seeking to become a permanent resident has to meet the admissibility requirements. People who have any serious criminality, whether in Canada or some other country, or security problems, can be inadmissible.

The Citizenship Act, under which people apply to resume their citizenship, only deals with the prohibitions relating to criminal convictions in Canada, and these criminal prohibitions are not permanent. They only last for a limited time.

In matters of security, the Citizenship Act allows us to refuse citizenship for security reasons under process in section 20, but it is difficult to apply those kinds of provisions if the person was not living in Canada because the system works with the Security Intelligence Review Committee, et cetera, in regard to threats to Canada. The immigration approach with security is quite a bit broader than the Citizenship Act approach.

The consequences of Bill S-17 are such that it would give access to Canada to former Canadians who are now inadmissible for reasons of security or criminality. It also could provoke complaints by other former Canadians who had to go through the resumption process, including obtaining permanent residence and living here for one year.

I want to talk about the issue of statelessness. There has been a lot of publicity about the issue of loss of citizenship, and certain things that have appeared in the media are not quite accurate. The loss provisions of the 1947 act did not make people stateless. The provision under which people lost their citizenship provided that the person had to be a citizen of another country. In having that kind of a provision between 1947 and 1977, Canada did not violate any international obligations and did respect its obligations under the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness.

On the topic of issues concerning women and children, in an effort to correct certain things that have appeared, the 1947 Citizenship Act did provide rights for women and children. In fact, the 1947 act corrected certain inequities with respect to women that had been created by British legislation, which applied to people in Canada before 1947 when we got our own citizenship act.

In respect of children, we have a court decision in the case of Sieradzki v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration). In that, the court ruled that no discrimination occurred because a parent made a decision for a minor child. Parents have to make a lot of decisions for children and some of those decisions do have long-term impacts, and it is not discriminatory for a parent to make a decision for a child.

There is a choice factor here. When those provisions discouraging double nationality or multiple nationality were in force in Canada, some people chose not to become nationals of other countries. By making the choice to remain Canadian, they had to forgo opportunities of employment and other benefits because they wanted to remain Canadian. It was their choice to remain Canadian or not.

I would like to put before you for consideration the public perception. Between 1947 and 1977, there were a variety of circumstances that led to a person losing Canadian citizenship. Today it is not the same. Today loss of citizenship occurs by voluntary renunciation, for a small number of people, and by revocation of citizenship for another very small number of people. I could add that people who fail to retain their citizenship in the second generation born abroad will also lose citizenship, but that is a technical point and applies only to people born abroad whose parents were also born abroad.

Under the Citizenship Act as it exists today, applications for resumption are evaluated consistently. No matter the circumstances that led to the loss, the resumption requirement in the Citizenship Act is the same.

Changes to the requirements for resuming citizenship that we could put into place now for some people who lost it under the former legislation may lead to a series of challenges from other groups who would consider that their situation was equally meritorious.

The appropriate remedies exist under the current law to resume citizenship for anyone who lost it. The permanent resident requirements are put there for reasons of program integrity. The public policy that was put into place for people who lost their citizenship when they were minors is very flexible, but it is under immigration public policy. Changes to the requirement for permanent residents could create other problems by attempting to undo the effect of past events.

The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much.

Senator Morin: Can you elaborate on program integrity? Could you elaborate on the difficulties with this bill? I can see the advantages, but what are the difficulties? For example, you referred to program integrity. Are we referring to medicare and things like that?

Ms. Birkett: No. Program integrity in this context refers to people who have been living in other countries since they were children, have been convicted of crimes in those countries or engaged in organized crime or other activities, and if they do not have to go through the immigration process because of this bill, they can come back to Canada as Canadians notwithstanding criminality or certain security problems in another country.

Senator Morin: As a Canadian, if I am convicted of a crime in another country, I can return to Canada as a Canadian?

Ms. Birkett: Yes.

Senator Morin: Even if I have been convicted of a crime outside?

Ms. Birkett: Yes. That is part of the right of being Canadian. This bill is referring to people who are not Canadian.

Senator Morin: They are not Canadians. It is not the same as abandoning their citizenship.

You said that other problems could be created in attempting to undo past events? What does that mean?

Ms. Birkett: That Citizenship Act was in place for 30 years, between 1947 and 1977. Many people have complied with the requirements for resumption. If, as of tomorrow, I say we are changing the rules for someone who lost way back in 1952 , we are undoing the consequences of what happened in the past. Therefore, it has a retroactive application when it is played out. The other person, who had to go through that resumption process, including the permanent resident process, will probably challenge that.

Second, we have the public policy for the immigration program with respect to people who are in the situation of minors, but that public policy still allows us to look at the whole picture. Indeed, the humanitarian considerations under the immigration program allowed us to look at any former Canadian or any other person who has a case to be made that they should be allowed to come into Canada.

If we start making a law that changes things for certain categories, other categories of people will come forward and start challenge it.

Senator Morin: The dual citizenship issue does not play a role at all here. Has that changed? That people now have dual citizenship, does that play a role in the fact that there is a change in the legislation?

Ms. Birkett: Between 1947 and 1977, Canada had in place rules discouraging dual nationality. That was consistent with the way things worked out at that time, including in other countries and Canada had the same kind of approach. In 1977, when the present Citizenship Act came into force, the rules about discouraging dual nationality were dropped. People had a choice. Between 1947 and 1977, if they went somewhere else, they had to know that if they take out another nationality, they would lose their Canadian citizenship. Since 1977, people know that taking out another nationality does not necessarily impact Canadian citizenship.

I say that with reserve; this is a complex issue. There are countries that if, for instance, if you want to take out their nationality. You have to renounce your Canadian citizenship and that still goes on. Some countries still have rules discouraging multiple nationality; we do not.

Senator Keon: I take it that you feel that this bill is best not passed, is that right?

Ms. Birkett: Yes, that is correct.

Senator Keon: If the bill were passed, how could it be amended to get around this business of non-Canadians citizens who are criminals being sorted out in some way so that they do not block access to people who are not criminals?

Ms. Birkett: I do not think there is an easy answer to that, senator. We would have to rethink the whole process. The way things work now is that the immigration process for people who are not Canadian serves to deal with those people whom we do not want to become Canadian while they are still not Canadian.

I do not think it is feasible to try and say that under the Citizenship Act we will start putting in a whole bunch of rules to cover that, but accept certain other people.

Senator Keon: Do you feel the process is fair now? Some people feel it is not, that they cannot get through the bureaucracy and so forth. Are you convinced it is fair if they persist?

Ms. Birkett: My notion of fair is that everyone is treated the same. In 2004, I am still answering people, saying here are the rules about resuming. I would like to continue having the same answer and not suddenly change and say, "Now we decided that even if you did something back in 1952 we have changed the rules." That is not fair. For me, "fair" means we have consistent rules and apply them the same way to everyone. Fairness in the sense of what is nice or kind is a different issue.

Under the immigration program, we always have a way to deal with people. In looking at their individual circumstances we say, "This does not work out well." I can give you an example. I have worked in both the citizenship and immigration programs over my career. Before 1977, I dealt with a middle-aged couple who came in. They were upset. They explained to me that their daughter had moved to Australia with her husband. At that time, they took out Australian citizenship, which meant they lost their Canadian citizenship and they knew that. They felt that they were remaking their life in Australia and that is the way they should do that. They had five children. Everything was going well. The husband was killed suddenly in an accident. This woman found herself in Australia with five children, all born there, not Canadian. The parents said, "We would really like our daughter to be able to come back to Canada." As an immigration officer, I take an application, at those times we used to do a nominated relative form. On the back I write out this sad story to the visa officer saying, "You might want to look at this no matter what her qualifications are as an immigrant because this is a kind of humanitarian situation."

The parents never came back to see me. I was working in a very small office at that time. I strongly believe that if that had not worked, those people would have come to me. They knew that I was saying, "Okay, I can see where this needs to be looked at," in a generous and kind way.

Fairness means the same rules for everybody. The Immigration Act has the room for discretion on a case-by-case basis. The Citizenship Act is more cut and dry. You are either a Canadian or you are not a Canadian. That is it. It is not whether you deserve to be a Canadian, it is whether you are or are not in terms of nationality. It works better that way.

Senator Keon: To someone sitting opposite you who is trying to come in, you come across as a pretty tough lady. I am not sure if I agree with your definition of fairness. At times we have suffocating bureaucracy and that is completely unfair, regardless of what the rules are. Your presentation was excellent and I fully appreciate what you have to say.

I am inundated with doctors who want to become Canadian citizens but I cannot really say that I know of an individual case where someone has not been treated fairly. It seems awfully hard to get into this country when some of the people who are trying to get in could contribute significantly.

Ms. Birkett: It is hard to make decisions about individuals by rules, but if you do not have the rules, it is even worse trying to make decisions about individuals, because then it becomes really arbitrary. By nature, training and career I like a rule system that is out there and everyone knows what it is and we stick to it.

It is fairly easy to resume Canadian citizenship. What I perhaps did not mention in the requirements is that unlike other people they do not have the requirements of language, knowledge and so on. One year, that is a minimal commitment to Canada, and we give them back their citizenship.

We could spend time talking about the ins and outs of the immigration program, but that is not what I am here to talk about today.

The Deputy Chairman: I would like to ask a supplementary on this question of fairness. You are undoubtedly aware of the Supreme Court decision Benner v. Canada where the court found that the 1947 act blatantly violated the rights of children born abroad to Canadian women. They then put into effect rights so that the children, even though they were foreign-born of Canadian women, were allowed to return to Canada as Canadian citizens by simply petitioning the government.

In the name of fairness, then, how do you justify not giving the same treatment to children who were born in Canada? In the name of fairness, how can children born of Canadian mothers abroad be treated one way and yet children born in Canada, which this bill is trying to address, are treated a different way?

Ms. Birkett: The situation of Benner was that the law was declared unfair. It was declared unfair because at the time Mr. Benner said, "I would like to take advantage of a temporary clause that says children of women can now access citizenship." He was found to be criminally inadmissible. He argued that that was wrong because by requiring him to not be criminally inadmissible, he was being treated differently than the children of fathers. Seeing as he learned that he was being treated differently after the Charter came into force, it was found that the current act is unfair. Therefore, the paragraph under which the children of mothers can access citizenship has been reinterpreted. They do not have to pass through the prohibitions, criminality or take the oath.

The Benner decision was really talking about the present act. Whether the 1947 to 1977 legislation was fair by the standards we have in place today is probably a debatable issue. The 1947 act was a product of its time, so it contained all kind of notions that do not exist any more. That was all changed in 1977.

However, we cannot go backwards to undo what happened a long time ago. When faced with a meritorious case today, we can look at the merits of the case. We have all the tools in place to do that.

The Deputy Chairman: If a person needs to stay in Canada for a year before they can resume their citizenship, how do they get into the country and work to earn a living? What processes are in place now to allow them to get into the country in order to meet the one-year criterion?

Ms. Birkett: The person has to first become a permanent resident, which means that the person must apply for an immigrant visa and start living in Canada for one year. The public policy states that when we evaluate whether the person is admissible as an immigrant, we will take into account this humanitarian angle if it is someone who was a Canadian.

The Deputy Chairman: It is a tall order for someone to uproot and come live here as a permanent resident. These people are well into their adult years. It goes to Senator Keon's point; do you not think it is kind of overly bureaucratic?

Ms. Birkett: I do not. I think it is a process that is quite accessible. We are talking about people who have been living outside of Canada for at least 27 years. We are asking them to make this commitment to show that they are sincere and committed to Canada by coming back and living here for that minimal one-year period.

Senator Callbeck: I want to get clear in my own mind what the situation is now and what it would be with this legislation. People who have lost their Canadian citizenship and want to get it back, under the present legislation, could be turned down for reasons of security or criminal offence?

Ms. Birkett: Yes.

Senator Callbeck: With this new legislation, those reasons would be eliminated?

Ms. Birkett: Yes, for those who were lost as minors. That is because people would no longer have to go through the immigration process. It is that process that has the fine filter on criminality and security.

Senator Callbeck: You say that in 2003 a public policy was implemented to make it easier for persons who lost their citizenship as minors to obtain permanent resident status in Canada. I would like to know what that policy is.

When I was an MP I dealt with a lot of people who found it difficult to get that Canadian citizenship. How was it eased in 2003?

Ms. Birkett: This was an immigration public policy, not a citizenship one as such, although it related to the circumstances under the Citizenship Act. There was a news release issued back in 2003 in respect of people who lost their citizenship as minors. I will quote what Minister Coderre said:

I have listened to the concerns of former Canadians ... and I'm willing to apply more lenient rules to these cases. ... To this end, I have asked my officials to ensure that these cases are dealt with as quickly as possible under Canada's current immigration and citizenship legislation. ... The normal selection criteria for permanent residence will be waived for these individuals. I have also instructed that an exemption from the medical inadmissibility requirement related to excessive demand on the health-care system be granted to these people.

Those are the two key elements that make it easier for people in this situation. First, they not expected to meet the immigration selection criteria — the point system, if you will. Second, the usual inadmissibility with respect to people who represent excessive demand on the social medical system is waived for those people. That is why I answered earlier that this really was not about medicare.

Senator Callbeck: Do you know how many people this might affect? Is it hundreds or thousands?

Ms. Birkett: We do not know how many moved and are living somewhere else since 1947 or even before. It is hard to say.

I do have some statistics here. In the past five years, 215 people have resumed citizenship. I cannot tell you how many lost it when they were minors. We know that those people who have a serious intention to return and live here have been able to go through that process. The requirement is to come back. We do not know how many people are out there who have no interest in coming back or are perfectly happy under the conditions they are. I should say that most of the cases I have seen are people who had moved to the United States.

Senator Fairbairn: When you say that it is mostly in the United States, are there any records to indicate whether the people who are seeking to return are elderly people or people who are prompted for medical reasons to want to come back to Canada?

Ms. Birkett: No. By the numbers, they are inevitably people who lost citizenship before February 1977. Therefore the youngest of these people could only be 27 years old. They are certainly older than that. I do not like to speculate. It is anecdotal. I occasionally see a letter of information. They are people born in the 1930s who are seeking citizenship now. I cannot tell you whether they are returning for medical reasons.

Senator Fairbairn: What about the situation of people who have been abroad and, in the interim, have been convicted of crimes? Is there an open door for them to return?

Ms. Birkett: Are you referring to people who were formerly Canadian?

Senator Fairbairn: Yes.

Ms. Birkett: The door is not open for people to obtain a permanent resident's visa if they have been convicted of a serious crime. A crime such as shoplifting is a different matter; but when I say "crime," I am talking about acts equivalent to indictable offences listed in our Criminal Code.

Senator Fairbairn: That would come into play.

Ms. Birkett: Yes it would at this time, because the people have to go through the immigration process first.

The Deputy Chairman: You may not be familiar with the following case. I read a newspaper account of a teacher in Kelowna, British Columbia, Ms. Magali Castro-Gyr, who happens to be fluent in French, English and Spanish. According to the story, she has spent $20,000 in legal fees to reclaim her stolen birthright. She was born in Montreal, a fourth-generation Canadian. Her father immigrated to Canada from France in 1952 and became a Canadian citizen in 1958. In 1968, he took a job in the United States on a green card and became a U.S. citizen in 1975 when Magali was 16 years old, at which point she creased to be a Canadian citizen. She is quoted in the article as saying that as a minor, she was the property of her father and his act of obtaining American citizenship caused her to lose her Canadian citizenship. She says, "Today, I am being denied my right to preserve my birthright as a Canadian." The article states that, "ironically, in the year 2000, her father resumed his Canadian citizenship, but not Magali." Furthermore, she was able to sponsor her Swiss-born husband into Canada and he became a citizen. Today, he is a Canadian citizen but she is not.

There might be circumstances in this particular case that you are not able to comment on but that is the kind of story that makes the national news and causes people to tear their hair out.

Ms. Birkett: You are aware that I cannot talk about the individual case and reveal any information. The complete story is never in the paper.

The Deputy Chairman: This particular story aside, when a Canadian citizen moves to the United States, takes out U.S. citizenship and then returns to Canada, does the child of that individual not have some rights? Obviously, the child is not even aware that citizenship is transferable with the parent.

Are you saying in your testimony that, as a general rule, normally this would not be a problem? If a person's citizenship is taken away without their knowledge by the fact that the parent had moved to the United States, and they follow the normal process, this would not have been a problem because Canadian citizenship had been established by right of birth in Canada?

Ms. Birkett: I have some question about the notion that people do not know. People who have been living in other countries for many years needed a travel document. If they thought they were Canadian, they had to apply for a Canadian passport. There are questions on the passport application that would have lead the passport office to refer that person to citizenship authorities who might decide that the individual is not Canadian.

I do not know how that happened and each case is different. When people say that they did not know, that is possible; and we occasionally run into such a situation. Suppose a person returned to Canada at the age of 22 with an old birth certificate in hand at the land border, went forward and said that they did not know.

Today, that person may come forward and says, "Oops, I am now 65 and I have been here for many years but I did not know that I had ceased to be Canadian." We have ways to deal with a person in such a circumstance. We have a policy in our books to deal with just such a case. We occasionally run into very strange stories. A person may have been born outside Canada and brought back as a babe in arms and the whole story was not told at the border. The person may learn the complete story many years later but we have plenty of ways to deal with those cases; and we do deal with them.

The Deputy Chairman: That was the intent of my question.

Ms. Birkett: Cases have been dealt with and successfully resolved, shall I say?

The Deputy Chairman: When Canadians now go to the United States and work on a green card, and eventually apply for and obtain U.S. citizenship, do they retain their Canadian citizenship?

Ms. Birkett: They do today because we no longer have the rules in place that say you cease to be Canadians.

The Deputy Chairman: Do the Americans make that demand?

Ms. Birkett: The Americans are wonderful people — I am married to one — but they have some strange rules and the Oath of Citizenship in the United States is an oath of renunciation. It says, "I hereby renounce all my loyalty..." et cetera, et cetera.

The Deputy Chairman: We do not make it binding in Canada.

Ms. Birkett: No, but I have heard people say they did not know about taking that kind of oath. At least, they should have checked it out because that oath has been in place for a very long time.

Under American law, you cease to be American if you swear allegiance to another country. We know that people have challenged that in the United States courts and, depending upon the circumstances of your particular case, that rule might not apply. I am happy that we have, in my view, more transparent rules that are clear and readily available.

The Deputy Chairman: I am certain that many Canadians, because of their contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, would not appreciate becoming ineligible for their CPP benefits by retiring to the U.S. and losing their Canadian citizenship.

Ms. Birkett: Many of the social benefits are not based on citizenship but on contribution. Medicare is based on residency status. Many of the peripheral issues have nothing to do with citizenship. Rather they pertain to the tax rules, which are based on residency. I do not claim to be an expert on all of those rules.

The Deputy Chairman: At any rate, they would not affect one another.

Ms. Birkett: CPP benefits have nothing to do with citizenship.

The Deputy Chairman: On behalf of the committee, I would like to thank our witnesses for appearing and providing excellent testimony in respect of Bill S-17.

The committee adjourned.

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