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Hansard Transcript for Nov 14 2013

Pensions

M. Melanson : Je n’ai pas un grand préambule à ma question cet après-midi. Hier, le ministre des Finances a dit qu’il ne fournirait pas d’information concernant la réflexion pour favoriser le modèle du régime de pension à risques partagés. Il a dit qu’il ne le ferait pas parce que c’était trop compliqué pour les gens et que ceux-ci ne comprendraient pas. Est-ce la nouvelle politique du gouvernement Alward de ne pas dévoiler les informations demandées par les gens du Nouveau-Brunswick, parce que ce modèle est tellement compliqué que les gens ne pourront pas le comprendre?

Hon. Mr. Higgs: For clarification on yesterday’s comment, what I said was that the pensioners themselves wanted to hire an actuary. They picked one, and we paid for it. They got one because they recognize the complexity of a pension plan. This is not easy stuff. I do not understand it, but I get help when I need it. Sometimes, it is important to recognize when you need help and get it, not just expect that you know everything.

We have had the right people look at this. We hired the task force. We have had actuaries. We have had Jim Leech, who has written a book about this plan. We have seen a plan that was developed and that worked for 15 years, with great security.

We have a plan that works for pensioners, for current employees, and for future employees. It is affordable for New Brunswick. It was part of an original plan of a government that was going to fix a real issue. This government has a plan, it is fixed, and it is moving forward.

Mr. Melanson: I have to admit that the minister’s comments yesterday were quite condescending, really, and offensive. We have retirees from the public service and existing employees from the public service who have lots of experience in and lots of knowledge of financial analysis, pensions, law, and related fields.

Is the position of the government . . . I am asking this of the Premier: Is the position of this government, not wanting to disclose any information, because of the fact that it believes that it is too complicated for people?

Hon. Mr. Higgs: The people in the government that you speak of have been very involved in this, in the areas of their expertise, to help work through this plan. These are current employees who are working on a plan, not only for themselves but for future generations and for the people who are retired. We brought in people who have experience in pensions, not only the task force but also other actuaries who really know the business. This is a complicated business. It is not something where you just throw a bunch of numbers on the floor and see if you can wade your way through it. It is something that you really spend a lot of time on. It is a profession by itself. That is why we hired people who have that professional experience. We have asked for opinions from everyone to help us work through it. Do you know what? They want to know that there is a sustainable pension plan. They want to know that we can afford to pay for it, and they do not want to do it on the backs of every taxpayer in the province. We have a plan to do all of that, and we are proud to be part of it.

Mr. Melanson: It is unfortunate that the Minister of Finance is trying to divide New Brunswickers on this issue. It is really unfortunate.

Si l’information est si compliquée, le ministre des Finances s’engage-t-il à donner l’information aux gens et à les laisser juger de la complexité de l’information qu’ils recevront? Ce sont des gens informés, éduqués et intelligents. Suite à plusieurs demandes de ma part et de plusieurs autres personnes, le ministre des Finances s’engage-t-il une fois pour toutes cet après-midi à déposer sur le parquet de la Chambre toute information disponible? L’actuaire qui a été payé par le gouvernement pour la coalition a dû signer une entente de confidentialité ; alors, l’information n’a pas toute été dévoilée. Pouvez-vous vous engager, cet après-midi, à dévoiler toute l’information et à laisser les gens qui vont la lire décider si elle est vraiment trop compliquée ou non?

Hon. Mr. Higgs: The only people who want to divide on this issue are the members opposite, because they do not want to move forward on any issue. They want to find a roadblock for everything. Stagnation seems to be the key.

The union members that we worked with hired an actuary. They worked with their own actuary and they worked with a government actuary to find out what the numbers looked like. The pensioners asked for an actuary to look at the numbers so that they could get an interpretation of what this meant to them. The teachers are doing the same thing. They are hiring an actuary to look at what the numbers are. They are doing this because the pension calculations are very, very complicated. I do not understand them. I do not pretend to be an expert on this. To throw numbers out on the floor is not the answer.

If you want to hire an actuary, what I said yesterday is that we are not going to pay for your actuary. If you want to hire an actuary to look at the numbers, bring him on or bring her on. We are ready to do that. Thank you.