Tories attempt to 'hoist' pension bill to the spring

Teresa Wright
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Speaker Carolyn Bertram

The Opposition Tories filibustered the Ghiz government’s controversial pension bill Wednesday with a procedural tactic not used in P.E.I. in at least 27 years.

Just as Finance Minister Wes Sheridan was calling his pension legislation for second reading in the legislature Wednesday, Opposition Leader Steven Myers introduced a ‘hoist’ motion.

Its purpose was to delay the government’s pension legislation until the spring.

“I do not feel that democracy is best served by allowing this (bill) to go forward,” Myers said.

He repeatedly pointed to the clause in the pension act that gives government immunity from any future legal action or grievance over the pension reforms. 

Myers ardently defended his belief that this is undemocratic.

“I can’t believe I am standing here today, 2013 in the legislative assembly, trying to defend democracy in Prince Edward Island because this government and its members have no use for democracy,” he shouted.

“I urge the members of this government just to put this bill off. We’re not asking you to vote it down, we’re not asking you to not bring it back, we’re asking you to… bring in better legislation for it that doesn’t trample people’s rights.”

A ‘hoist’ motion is a filibustering manoeuvre commonly used on Parliament Hill and in other provinces, but has not been used in P.E.I. in at least 27 years, if ever.

It is a provision contained in Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms – the country’s standard parliamentary rulebook.

It overrides the bill or proceeding in question, either temporarily or permanently.

When Myers brought it forward, MLAs in the room were both incredulous and puzzled. Even Speaker Carolyn Bertram had to take a short recess to check the rules and confirm the motion was in order.

The intent of the motion – to delay the pension legislation until the spring – was also requested by Myers during question period earlier in the day.

Sheridan said over and over he is not willing or able to put the bill on hold.

An actuarial review performed every three years on the province’s pension funds will happen later this fiscal year. If nothing is done to change the way the pension fund is managed before Jan. 1st, it will mean a $450 million liability in the pension fund and on the province’s books in the spring.

That’s why the legislation must go through during this session, Sheridan said.

“We have to ensure that we get the accounting treatment right away, we have to ensure all the dates that coincide with January 1… all of those important pieces that are contingent on January 1 start,” Sheridan said.

“We can’t take on another $60 million worth of deficit this year, which would happen. We can’t take on another $450 million liability on our pension plan. It would be totally irresponsible.”

He continued to defend the immunity provision in the act, saying it must be there to protect not only government, but also the pension plan itself and the trustees who oversee it.

He said New Brunswick and Nova Scotia’s pension bills also have similar clauses.

“These clauses are very important part of that protection and we just have to ensure that we go forward and give this protection to those people,” Sheridan said.

He added the pension bill will be called to second reading on Thursday and, with his Liberal government’s majority, will easily pass this session.

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

 

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

 

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Parliament Hill, New Brunswick Nova Scotia

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  • For Once I Agree
    December 05, 2013 - 17:37

    This as Myers says is true . The main issue is not the pension , it's Democracy and do we still have it . Democracy was fought & blood spilled to get , a few present day MLA's because they miss managed our tax dollar should not be able to remove what is our rights . The Deficit that shows on his books is of his own making and shouldn't be hidden to just cover up someones mistakes from us the people of PEI . That's what the Courts are for & they and they alone should be the only ones to alter our past wars given rights. People died to give us Democracy . As much as I dislike Myers , he is correct this time .

  • don
    December 05, 2013 - 16:39

    well the law that wes is going to set up to cover has big butt. he does not know that every law has a loop hole. and as they say laws are wrote by crooks for crooks. i rest my case.

  • AMAZED
    December 05, 2013 - 13:06

    If Myers and the Conservative Party are willing to fund the shortfall in the liability of the fund then follow your Tea Party idols and filibuster away . Not a penny of this should come from tax dollars ,so either fund the pot or get off it .

    • grapefruit
      December 05, 2013 - 14:55

      Amazed, you must be a political appointment by the current Government.These people work for all of the Island residents and deserve the pensions that they earned. If the governments spent excess monies in good times then it is their responsibility to replace these monies to the pension account. Hopefully you can comprehend this reasoning.

  • Dundas Sue
    December 05, 2013 - 11:34

    Is the unfunded liability a result of the failure of the givernment and previous governments to set aside what was supposed to be set aside or is it market forces? What we all need at the end of the day are sustainable pension plans but you cant change the contractual obligations of one party because the second party didnot live up to their half. that is just wrong.

  • Adam
    December 05, 2013 - 11:21

    Wes, you are a bully! You will not benefit from this as bullies never really win by bullying. You will find out!

  • Rock and a Hard Spot
    December 05, 2013 - 09:23

    The truth often emerges at the most inopportune time. All along Wes Sheridan has characterized this Act as positive for the workers and pensioners and Islanders in general. Fine, but he has never explained why he smuggled in the immunity provision at the last minute, nor has he made the argument about the $450 million liability. At best, this is poor leadership. At worst, he has made Myers quite right about this being about democracy - a proposition that gives me the hives!

  • coiuntry boy
    December 05, 2013 - 09:22

    To say that government decisions can't be challenged in the courts is going beyond reason. The government does have a problem if a court challenge proceeds. Those who have retired and based their future on a plan negotiated over time through legal bargaining should have full expectation that those agreements will be honoured. Don't forget that during the bargaining, employees would give up certain things in exchange of getting certain things. If the government wants to engage in new negotiations for their employees that's fine.You don't change the benefits of the retired. They may not have chosen retirement had they known that the employer would change their benefits. The union must challenge the government in the courts.