Bill C-490 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
Robert Carrier Bloc
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
- June 4, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act
November 30th, 2010 / 11 a.m.
Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC
Madam Speaker, Bill C-47, a budget implementation act, is at third reading.
The Bloc Québécois spoke out on several occasions against the budget presented by this government. The budget proposed by the Conservatives perpetuates the federal government's encroachment on areas of Quebec jurisdiction. The budget also clearly penalizes the Quebec government. Another source of major dissatisfaction for Quebec is the fact that this budget maintains a tax system that is extremely generous to the banks and oil companies while putting the burden of the deficit on the middle class, workers and seniors.
The Bloc Québécois's budget suggestions have always been consistent with the expectations of Quebeckers and, if the government had implemented them, they would have ensured that Quebec came out of the crisis prosperous, sustainable and green.
The Conservatives, supported by the Liberals, have continued to focus their policies on the needs of Ontario and Alberta to the detriment of Quebec. Despite all the fine Conservative promises of 2006 about a new openness toward Quebec, the Conservative budget does not satisfy the needs of Quebec's economy. Forestry, aerospace, the environment and culture are priorities of Quebeckers that have been completely ignored. What is more, Quebec's top priorities—enhancing employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, harmonizing the QST with the GST, and implementing a real plan to help the forestry industry—have not been addressed in the budget.
The government is also confirming its intention to create a Canada-wide securities commission despite opposition from economic players in Quebec and its National Assembly.
It is clear that the Conservative government has many priorities other than Quebec. The automotive industry in Ontario has received $9.7 billion, while the forestry industry, which is so vital to the regions of Quebec, has received only $170 million.
For all intents and purposes, the environment was ignored in the budget. However, the Conservative government has put $1 billion toward developing nuclear power, which benefits Ontario, Alberta and the oil companies. These companies already have generous tax benefits.
What I find the most upsetting in this budget is that it ignores the need to improve employment insurance and the guaranteed income supplement, which is keeping our seniors in poverty. It also ignores the need to deal with the issues of social housing and homelessness.
As for the guaranteed income supplement, an issue that is dear to my heart and concerns many of my constituents, for years now the Bloc Québécois has been calling on the various Liberal and Conservative governments—we had a Liberal government in 2004 when I was first elected—to stop pulling the wool over seniors' eyes. We have asked the government many times to take concrete action in order to help the thousands of seniors throughout Quebec who are lacking the basic resources they need to live in dignity. In 2007, I introduced Bill C-490 to make significant changes in order to allow our seniors to live in dignity.
Since coming to power, the Conservatives have gotten into the habit of being misleading and telling half-truths in order to govern according to their ideology while keeping public discontent at bay. Just recently, we saw another shocking example of their bad faith when they distributed documents congratulating themselves on increasing guaranteed income supplement benefits.
Those increases are nothing more than adjustments that have been planned since 2005. In reality, the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing since 2006 to help older people who are struggling financially, and needs remain considerable and urgent.
But let us go back to the legislation before us, Bill C-47, to implement various initiatives presented in the budget on March 4, 2010. The Bloc Québécois voted against the budget because it was unfair to Quebec, but does not object ideologically to all the measures resulting from it. The Bloc Québécois actually supports many of the initiatives presented in the bill, which our party helped to enhance. We especially support the clauses to improve the allocation of child benefits. The government agrees to pay half to each of two parents who have joint custody in order to ease the tax burden on beneficiaries of a registered disability savings plan, a plan that was designed to provide severely disabled children with financial security.
We also support the provisions to reduce the administrative burden on charities and some small businesses and tighten the rules around the TFSA in order to prevent tax avoidance, as well as those that will prevent companies from benefiting from double deductions for stock options.
However, despite our support, we also have many reservations. This bill confirms the Conservative government's intention to spare rich taxpayers at all costs and have the workers and the middle class pay off the deficit. The government will continue to treat stock options like capital gains for ordinary taxpayers. The Bloc Québécois deplores the fact that only half of the income derived from stock options is subject to federal income tax. The Conservative government could show fairness to workers and collect $1 billion in tax by cutting off this gift.
Businesses are not being asked to pay their fair share to increase government revenue, except that they have to make source deductions to ensure that employees with stock options pay their taxes. Furthermore, this bill attests to the Conservative government's inertia with respect to the environment and the fight against greenhouse gases. Only one environmental measure is included: encouraging the production of clean energy.
The government is ignoring the Bloc's urgent calls concerning equalization payments and increased transfers for education and social programs. It is ignoring our recommendations concerning income security for pensioners.
I would like to address some of the measures in this bill that affect entire areas of Quebec society. First, I want to address the measures regarding income tax on charities, as included in part 1.
The government is changing the rules on sums that have to be spent on charitable activities by repealing the rule on charitable spending, changing the rules on capital accumulation, and strengthening the rules against tax avoidance. In Quebec, we can count on the dedication of 16,000 charities registered with the Canada Revenue Agency. The Bloc Québécois believes it is vital that charitable organizations be able to focus on their activities, rather than on constant fundraising. Accordingly, we supported the campaign to eliminate the capital gains tax on donations of securities and private equity holdings to charities.
In addition, the Bloc Québécois is open to the idea of extending the tax credit for charitable donations.
In response to the 2010 budget, the Bloc Québécois deplored the fact that the government did not consider the issue of charity funding. The survival of these organizations is especially important given that the Conservative government has used terrible methods to reduce its deficit, which could lead to reduced public services. The decisions related to health transfers are one example of this.
When it comes to international aid, we cannot help but be concerned by the major withdrawal and the politics of fear imposed on NGOs by this government. This withdrawal is particularly apparent in the case of organizations whose positions are at odds with the government's viewpoints.
In budget 2010, the federal government announced its plans to cap expenditures for development assistance, thereby confirming that it would not make the effort needed to achieve its target of 0.7% of GNP.
The Bloc Québécois recognizes the important role of charitable organizations in Quebec society and around the world. They all need predictable, long-term funding in order to fulfill their respective mandates. The federal government must stop extending certain programs on a temporary basis and stop being so secretive about its intentions regarding the funding of organizations. In doing so, the government creates uncertainty among the most vulnerable, our community groups and the charitable organizations that help them.
The Bloc Québécois will also continue to call on the federal government to implement a realistic plan to achieve the UN target of 0.7% of GDP for international assistance as quickly as possible. If the federal government does not increase its budget for development assistance, it will greatly impede the vital work that is being done by charitable organizations in the developing world.
Part 3 of the bill deals with measures pertaining to federal-provincial fiscal arrangements. The purpose of these piecemeal arrangements, made at the behest of the federal government, is to facilitate tax sharing by Canada and Quebec. The Bloc Québécois believes that it is high time to come up with a vigorous mechanism ensuring that Quebec receives all taxes paid in the province. For that reason, we are asking the federal government to initiate talks with the Government of Quebec in order to create a single tax return in Quebec, on the basis of an agreement similar to that for the GST, for all taxes paid by Quebeckers.
Since 1991, the Government of Quebec has collected the goods and services tax for the federal government, which compensates it for this service. The Bloc Québécois believes that Quebec should collect all income tax. Not only would corporations and individuals save considerable sums every year, but the reduced cost of tax collection would lead to recurring savings that, in turn, would lower pressure on public finances. The introduction of a single tax return by the Government of Quebec would save hundreds of millions of dollars by reducing duplication.
Part 7 of the bill, which also deals with federal-provincial fiscal arrangements, particularly addresses total transfers, including equalization. The Quebec government is the loser with this implementation bill, as it was with the 2010 budget, because the Conservatives have maintained their decision to unilaterally cap equalization payments.
Since the equalization envelope is now capped, the total amount of equalization payments will be calculated in line with economic growth, which means that Quebec will lose several billion dollars over the coming years.
There is nothing in this bill about the formula affecting a segment of Hydro-Québec's revenue, either, which deprives the Quebec government of an additional $250 million. Lastly, there is nothing planned with regard to education and social program transfers. The Bloc Québécois is calling for a substantial increase in investments in these programs to return to the 1994-95 indexed level. Such an increase would mean that Quebec would receive $800 million more annually for the funding of its social programs.
The government is flatly refusing Quebec's urgent calls for an increase in federal transfer payments, in particular in education. The growth in health and education transfers will be compromised as of 2014-15 since the Federal Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act does not allow for any further growth in these transfers beyond 2014.
Furthermore, the bill currently before us provides no compensation for the harmonization of Quebec's sales tax. Even though Quebec has been unanimously calling on the government to provide financial compensation of $2.2 billion, this is still being denied. Total compensation of $6.86 billion has been allocated, including $4.3 billion to Ontario, and the rest to British Columbia and three Atlantic provinces.
For days there have been rumours from the office of Quebec's finance minister that Quebec and Ottawa will reach an agreement on this by spring. It is only a glimmer of hope, but if this agreement goes through, more than 20 years of injustice will finally be remedied.
The Bloc Québécois will support this bill to implement various initiatives in budget 2010, but the many reservations we have expressed about this budget and its serious shortcomings show that the Conservatives still have not understood the economic and cultural reality of Quebeckers.
The public cannot be fooled so easily, as we saw in yesterday's byelection in Quebec. The Liberal government in Quebec, which for months has been ignoring calls by the public to hold a public inquiry into the ties between the construction industry and political parties, was defeated in a riding that it had held for more than 25 years.
The fact of the matter is that Quebeckers do not identify with this Conservative government. They deplore the fact that their cultural and economic development are being hindered by this government and they are not shy to make that known at election time.
Financial Statement of Minister of Finance
March 9th, 2010 / 12:25 p.m.
Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Chambly—Borduas.
I would like to take this time to share with the House my comments on the budget brought down by the Conservative government.
During the prorogation imposed by the government at the end of 2009, I had the chance to take part in the Bloc Québécois' prebudget consultation tour of the various regions of Quebec with my colleague from Hochelaga, who is also the Bloc finance critic.
Quebeckers were very happy to see us and share their needs and expectations with regard to a budget they dreaded. They often told us that other political parties did not visit their region. The Bloc's closeness to Quebeckers is a key reason why the Bloc has always enjoyed the support of the majority of voters in Quebec.
Whether we are talking about forestry, aerospace, the environment or culture, Quebeckers' priorities, as expressed during our tour, are completely ignored in this budget.
By bringing down such an empty budget, the Conservative government is showing us once again that federalism simply does not benefit Quebec.
Once again, the Conservatives are missing an opportunity to properly address Quebec's economic, social, environmental and financial needs.
They have shown once again that, as far as Canada is concerned, it is as though Quebec does not exist. The Conservative government is continuing to follow the course set by its 2006 economic statement, which established policies geared to the needs of Ontario and Alberta to the detriment of the very pressing needs of Quebec.
Despite all the wonderful Conservative promises in 2006 of a new openness towards Quebec, there is nothing in the new Conservative budget to address the needs of Quebec's economy.
Like the Quebec Forest Industry Council, the Bloc Québécois is calling for loans and loan guarantees, such as those made available by Investissement Québec, an agency of the Quebec government.
Furthermore, a comprehensive policy to support and modernize the forestry industry is needed. For example—as shown so clearly in the budget where the figures are set out side-by-side—the automotive sector, which is concentrated in Ontario, has received $9.7 billion over the past two years whereas the forestry industry, which is so important to Quebec, received only $170 million for the whole country.
Investment in Ontario was 57 times greater. After the government invested so much money to save jobs in Ontario, which was legitimate, forestry workers would have expected that protecting the forestry industry and its jobs would be given consideration in this budget.
In another area, in response to the budget, the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, the FRAPRU, a well-known community organization in Quebec, accused the government of creating a deficit at the expense of the poor. In fact, fighting the deficit will affect the most disadvantaged in society: those living without proper housing, the homeless and individuals and families living in poverty. During our consultation tour, people inevitably talked about the lack of social housing.
In Montreal alone, more than 23,000 households are waiting for affordable housing. In the province of Quebec, there are 35,000 households on the waiting list.
Although construction of social housing for seniors and the disabled is required because it was already in the government's action plan, the current budget does not propose to construct social housing for the poorest families. That would be housing with more than two or three bedrooms, which it makes sense to build for our society.
People from across Quebec also pointed out many flaws in the EI system. My colleague from Chambly—Borduas will surely expand on this later.
In any case, the budget does not propose any measures for unemployed workers, except for an extension of the work sharing program. This is not a new measure, since it was announced in the last budget.
There is no mention of the reforms needed in order to improve accessibility. It must be repeated over and over that less than 50% of workers have access to employment insurance. That is why a major overhaul is so important, although it has yet to be included in a budget.
Although the budget will lift the freeze that had been placed on premium rates, this will not improve the system.
What is most appalling about all of this is the fact that the government plans to pilfer a total of $19 billion from the EI fund between 2011 and 2015. Those figures are written in black and white in the budget. That money will be taken directly from the workers. Instead of helping workers improve their situation, the Conservatives are going to take more money from them.
Now what about our seniors who are living in poverty? The guaranteed income supplement paid to the most disadvantaged is keeping them below the poverty line. In addition, over 40,000 people in Quebec are still not receiving it, because they do not know it exists or because they cannot understand and complete the application form.
On June 4, 2008, Bill C-490, which I had the honour to introduce, passed second reading in the House after being supported by a majority of members, with the exception of the Conservatives. I find that shameful.
The government put an end to the bill when it called an election in September 2008, thereby preventing the bill's passage.
The bill proposed automatic registration for the guaranteed income supplement—since the government has access to people's income, and an additional $110 a month just to help them reach the low-income cutoff, which used to be called the poverty line, as well as full retroactivity for seniors who have been shortchanged and realized it when they finally applied. At present, retroactivity is limited to 11 months. The bill proposed full retroactivity, since that money was owed to them.
Now that the worst of this crisis is behind us, we could have expected the government to use this budget to correct the situation by helping people who are relatively poor and allowing our seniors to live in dignity.
I say dignity because that is the word seniors used when they spoke to us during the guaranteed income supplement consultation tour we went on when we introduced the bill. These people are not looking for charity. They just want to live in a dignified way.
Unfortunately, despite all the steps often taken by the Bloc Québécois, our seniors will again have to settle for their government's lack of consideration because there is nothing for them in this budget.
I would now like to reiterate that Quebec is the only province to have harmonized its sales tax and not receive compensation for it. The Atlantic provinces are receiving a $1 billion compensation over four years, Ontario will receive $4.3 billion and British Columbia will receive $1.6 billion.
It is very complicated for Quebec. The government has been saying for a year that it is in talks with Quebec to finalize compensation for harmonizing the tax, which has been applied in that province for 18 years now.
Quebec assessed the cost at $2.2 billion and it said officially that it needed that money in order to prepare its budget in the coming weeks. It is inconceivable that the current budget is not correcting this injustice, which has been dragging on for so many years.
Unless there are major changes, it is clear that the Bloc Québécois will vote against this budget.
Guaranteed Income Supplement
Private Members' Business
March 10th, 2009 / 6 p.m.
Ève-Mary Thaï Thi Lac Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should as soon as possible introduce a bill providing: a 110 dollar monthly increase in the guaranteed income supplement paid to pensioners; the continuation of the payment, for a period of six months, of the old age security pension and supplement to a person whose spouse or common-law partner has died; automatic registration for people 65 entitled to the guaranteed income supplement; full retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement for seniors who have been short-changed.
Mr. Speaker, this is the first time since the voters of my riding of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot first elected me in 2007 that I have had the privilege to present a motion as a member of Parliament.
The motion I have chosen to sponsor is a good example of my interest in creating bridges between the generations. I am also very pleased to have the cooperation of my colleague from Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors.
Motion M-300 proposes some more specific amendments to the guaranteed income supplement. It is a reintroduction of Bills C-301 and C-490 introduced during past sessions by the Bloc Québécois. Its intention is to help our needy seniors and demonstrate our desire to improve their situation. This motion is intended as an answer to their wishes.
I cannot help but be delighted by the support of my motion by the hon. member for Laval, the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women. We are well aware that many women are affected by the current unfairness in the guaranteed income supplement program.
This motion therefore proposes four different items: automatic registration for the guaranteed income supplement; a $110 per month increase for recipients of the guaranteed income supplement; full retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement for seniors who have been short-changed; and a compensatory continuation of benefits to recipients of the guaranteed income supplement when a partner has died.
The tour undertaken by my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois to consult seniors and seniors' organizations in all parts of Quebec cast light on the poverty of seniors. They asked us to pay attention to their needs, because many of them live in real poverty. The rise in the cost of living is more likely to affect seniors as they have to pay more for drugs, essential services and housing.
Do I really need to convince my colleagues that this money will be going to the neediest of our seniors?
Our elders deserve more than the Conservatives want to give them at this time. Tax credits are all very fine, but a person has to pay income tax to be able to benefit from them.
For those most in need, the support measures proposed in my motion are essential, because these people cannot meet their basic needs. This is a form of isolation and social exclusion that can lead to other problems such as bad health, depression and dysfunction. There is no doubt that poverty can quickly strip people of their confidence, dignity and hope.
It is not uncommon to see recipients unable to fully retire, because they need to earn some additional income just to survive.
I am using the term survive, because this is indeed what it is all about.
By being unfair to them, the government is choking our seniors and keeping them in extreme poverty.
Honouring our elders is a fundamental value in our society. We must respect these people, who worked so hard for the well-being of future generations. This is a matter of dignity, social justice, respect and, above all, rights for our elderly. Personally, I believe that this dignity begins first and foremost with financial security.
For years the Bloc Québécois has been criticizing the irregularities in the federal guaranteed income supplement program, which provides supplementary income to low income seniors.
Over the past few years, an extensive operation carried out by the Bloc Québécois has helped track down some 42,000 of these people in Quebec. However, there are still about 135,000 seniors who are being shortchanged, including 40,000 in Quebec alone.
The reason why so many seniors are not receiving the guaranteed income supplement is simply the Liberals' inaction, which is now being imitated by the Conservatives.
The government says that seniors only have to register once to get this supplement. This shows the government's ignorance of the situation and of the needs of our elderly.
The 135,000 people who are not getting this money are precisely those who are not aware of the existence of that program, who do not understand the application form or who cannot fill it out properly.
The government has an obligation to track down all those seniors who were forgotten. It must immediately set up an automatic registration system. It has the means to do so, since the exchange of information with the Canada Revenue Agency is now allowed.
The $110 monthly increase in the guaranteed income supplement is essential and would help our seniors improve their living conditions. Right now, the guaranteed income supplement paid to low-income pensioners does not even allow them to reach the low income cutoff. Increasing the guaranteed income supplement by $110 would help these people to at least have a revenue equivalent to the low income cutoff.
In 2006, the guaranteed income supplement was increased by $18, then by $18 again in 2007 and by $16 in 2008, for a total of $52 over three years. We are definitely not talking about exceptional generosity. Do hon. members really believe that such measures will not trigger a reaction from our seniors?
There is another problem: the Bloc Québécois found 42,000 people in Quebec who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but they will receive only 11 months' retroactivity from the federal government. When a Canadian taxpayer ends up owing money to Revenue Canada after an audit of past tax years, the government does not settle for 11 months' retroactivity; it wants every penny it is due.
I myself handled files for seniors who were being told to pay back overpayments from the department. The department has occasionally used pretty ruthless measures to recover such overpayments. But the government does not settle for 11 months' retroactivity; it collects every penny of the overpayment. That is a striking example of how the government takes advantage of the most vulnerable.
I should add that full retroactivity of the guaranteed income supplement would cost some $12 billion. We know that the government has recorded surpluses in the neighbourhood of $10 billion over the past few years. It might have been nice for some of that money to go to our seniors, who are becoming both more numerous and poorer.
It is just disgusting to see so much money spent on the military—$17.1 billion for the purchase of helicopters, planes and other equipment—on top of the billions Ottawa has given to “poor” oil companies. The Conservatives should be ashamed of their plan to reduce taxes on oil companies to 15% over the next five years, while reducing the tax rate to 22% for SMEs that have been hit hard by the economic crisis. Thanks to the government, oil companies will get $2 billion worth of tax breaks in 2009. But they do not see this as scandalous.
Why does the government not want to invest a little more in our seniors? Seniors' associations have also asked that guaranteed income supplement co-beneficiaries be allowed to continue collecting benefits for six months after a spouse's death. Currently, surviving spouses receive just one month of benefits after their spouse's death, which is a heavy penalty.
I want to make it clear that this compassionate payout will last for just six months. It is not permanent. The goal is to enable seniors going through a grieving process to create a more stable situation for themselves.
An individual who loses his or her spouse has to think about whether or not they will move or how they will maintain or keep the family home. These questions have to be asked. This compassionate measure shows a bit of humanity in dealing with our seniors. I am also convinced that my colleagues from all parties recognize our responsibility towards those who made us what we are and who expect our appreciation.
When in opposition, the Conservatives supported Bill C-301, which was introduced by the Bloc Québécois before the 2005 election was called. All Conservative members in this House voted for the bill. In order to demonstrate their sincerity, and thus honour the position taken previously, I urge them to support my motion now that they are in government.
The government can count on Quebec, which it has recognized as a nation. Members of the Bloc Québécois have known for a long time that our role is to defend the most disadvantaged. Rest assured that in a sovereign Quebec our seniors would not be penalized. The National Assembly of Quebec has adopted a unanimous motion in support of seniors who do not receive the guaranteed income supplement to which they are entitled. More than ever I will promote an independent Quebec that will respect our seniors. The guaranteed income supplement is intended for the most vulnerable. Our seniors wish to live with dignity. It is a question of social justice, rights and what is due to our seniors.
Our seniors built the Quebec of today and my generation will build the Quebec of tomorrow. These are intergenerational bridges.
Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne
November 27th, 2008 / 12:20 p.m.
Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Before doing so, I would like to take this first opportunity to send a warm thank you to the voters of Châteauguay—Saint-Constant for their continued trust. They gave me a very strong mandate with a margin of 15,000 votes. I thank them.
Their trust is an honour. I will proudly represent every single citizen in my riding during this 40th Parliament. I will defend their interests and the consensus of the Quebec nation. Thank you again to all. Congratulations, Madam Speaker, on your appointment.
For several weeks we have been tracking the serious global financial crisis which, sooner or later, will affect the businesses and citizens in our regions. Having seen what is being done elsewhere in the world to counter this global recession, people expect the federal government to play a decisive role in supporting them and getting the economy back on track as soon as possible.
In my opinion, when we talk about this central role, we need to keep in mind that a government is not a business. A government exists to serve and protect the people. It is there to prevent people from suffering needlessly from this widespread financial crisis.
As I listened to the broad statements in the throne speech on November 19, I was expecting that the government would take action on the economy to help people get through these difficult times. I believed it would act in the best interests of the people. But, sadly, people are going to have to be patient and bite the bullet.
My leader, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, took the words right out of my mouth when he described the throne speech as insensitive. The speech is particularly insensitive because it all but ignores the poorest members of our society. And I am not even talking about how the consensuses of the Quebec nation are simply ignored. This speech is insensitive, all the more so because of the many important issues it fails to address, including seniors. Not only do our seniors continue to be deprived of government pension money that is owed them, but they are left out of the throne speech.
People who spent their whole lives saving for their retirement are worried today when they see their savings threatened by the global financial crisis. What is the government proposing to do to carry out its fundamental duty to protect our seniors? Nothing. Not one word.
The government may turn its back on seniors, but the Bloc Québécois and I will not, because we understand the urgent needs that seniors and their associations shared with us when we toured Quebec during the summer and fall of 2007. We got a very clear message: seniors have become impoverished in the past decade. Even though pensions and the guaranteed income supplement have generally increased in step with the consumer price index, it does not reflect the real circumstances in which pensioners and GIS recipients live.
In fact, the cost of living for seniors tends to be affected more by the cost of drugs, health care services and housing. In order to establish an acceptable quality of life for our seniors and to restore their dignity, the Bloc Québécois developed four important approaches that were included in Bill C-490: increase by $110 per month the amount of the guaranteed income supplement; continue paying the benefits, for a period of six months, to a surviving spouse; automatically enrol people over 65 who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement; and ensure full retroactive payment of the guaranteed income supplement for all those who were shortchanged.
Not only will we continue to defend with equal fervour our seniors' legitimate demands to improve their quality of life, but we are also thinking of those who have been cheated by their pension funds. Clearly, we should raise the age limit from 71 to 73 for converting RRSPs and registered pension plans into taxable annuities and RRIFs.
I said earlier that I was disappointed by the direction taken in the throne speech and total silence regarding protection of the most vulnerable. My colleagues and my constituents are well aware of the great interest I take in all matters of justice, and especially social justice. One thing is clear and I think it was quite deliberate: the major omissions are all social issues.
I note that apart from seniors, the glaring omissions in this throne speech concern women, people with inadequate housing, older workers, the unemployed, the cultural industry, francophones outside Quebec, students and others in the education system who are waiting for $800 million to be reinvested to remedy the fiscal imbalance, and non-profit economic development organizations.
This is certainly not mere coincidence. I am sad to say that I see once again the same groups of people that were ignored by the Conservative government in the last Parliament. It is quite simply disheartening.
I would also add that it is not just the most disadvantaged people who are bearing the cost of the Conservative government's insensitivity. There are consensuses in the Quebec nation that have again been ignored in this throne speech. They alone could provide the subject for a lengthy speech, but I will simply name those I find most urgent.
First, there are the cuts to culture and to economic development organizations. In Quebec, the consensus is that culture is one of the fundamental pillars of our identity and must be protected.
Second, there are the repressive laws to be applied to young offenders. In Quebec, the consensus is that we focus on rehabilitation and that our system is working well, since we have one of the lowest crime rates in North America. Punishment instead of prevention, to reduce crime, is absolutely not acceptable.
Third, there is the creation of a federal securities commission. In Quebec, the consensus is that we already have our own and it is fine that way.
Fourth, there is the fact that the Kyoto protocol is not mentioned. In Quebec, the consensus is that we have chosen the Kyoto protocol route, and not some sort of compromise or inaction.
Finally, there is the rejection of our own affirmation by reducing Quebec's political weight in Parliament and creating new intrusions into areas under Quebec's jurisdiction. In Quebec, the consensus is that we are in the best position to define our needs, and that affirming our identity in our institutions is necessary if we want our culture to be able to survive.
There are many other instances of insensitivity that my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois have discussed at length in their speeches, to demonstrate the point to which the consensuses in Quebec are still being jeopardized by this government.
I will close by saying that I, with all the Bloc members, will not be supporting this throne speech, for all of the reasons I have stated.
Status of Women
Committees of the House
June 18th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
Nicole Demers Laval, QC
Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development by simply saying that if there really was a strategy to decrease poverty in Quebec and Canada, the Conservative government would have voted in favour of Bill C-207 to keep young people in the regions. The Conservative government would have voted in favour of Bill C-269 to give women and youth access to employment insurance. The Conservative government would have voted in favour of Bill C-490 to give seniors the right to an increased and retroactive guaranteed income supplement. And the Conservative government would have voted against Bill C-484 to ensure that women will always have access to legal and free abortion.
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, I do not need two-and-a-half minutes to respond to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development because I think I have summarized the situation.
Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business
June 4th, 2008 / 3:35 p.m.
The House resumed from June 2 consideration of the motion that Bill C-490, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Statements By Members
June 4th, 2008 / 2:15 p.m.
Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC
Mr. Speaker, today, June 4, members of the House are invited to vote on the bill introduced by the Bloc Québécois, Bill C-490, at second reading. The bill calls on the government to correct the terrible injustice to seniors who have been cheated by the guaranteed income supplement or GIS program, and improve the lives of those most vulnerable.
Introduced in December 2007 by my colleague, the hon. member for Alfred-Pellan, this bill has four components: automatic registration; an increase of $110 a month; full retroactivity for seniors entitled to the GIS; and a six-month compassionate measure for seniors who have lost their spouse.
With this bill, we will really find out if the Conservative members are willing to respond to the appeals of the many seniors' associations that have shown their support.
Since this is Seniors Month, I urge all members to vote unanimously in favour of Bill C-490. It is a matter of justice and dignity for all seniors in Quebec.
Business of the House
June 3rd, 2008 / 5:35 p.m.
Prince George—Peace River
Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip
Mr. Speaker, there has been consultations between all the parties and I think you would find unanimous consent for the following two motions concerning upcoming votes. I move:
That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practice of the House, the deferred recorded divisions on second reading of Bill C-393, on report stage amendments, concurrence and third reading of Bill C-377, and on second reading of Bill C-490, currently scheduled to be held immediately before the time provided for private members' business on June 4, be held instead at 3 p.m. on June 4.
Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business
June 2nd, 2008 / 11:50 a.m.
Robert Carrier Alfred-Pellan, QC
Mr. Speaker, in the short time I have left, I would like to set the record straight regarding certain arguments I heard during the two hours of debate on the bill I introduced on December 5, 2007, Bill C-490 concerning the Old Age Security Act and specifically the guaranteed income supplement.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development lavishly congratulated her government for increasing the GIS by $18 a month in 2006 and 2007. I would remind her, once again, that people who receive it are still $110 below the low-income cutoff. That is what is important in this bill.
According to the parliamentary secretary, the increase of $110 for GIS recipients would not go to the seniors who need it most. What a ridiculous argument. It seems that no other response could be found.
How can a government be so insensitive and deliberately force our seniors to continue living in poverty? If she were to meet with seniors, they would tell her just how difficult things are for them and that they do not understand how the government can let them live in such conditions.
With respect to the full retroactivity called for by the bill, the parliamentary secretary referred to the very high cost involved, which could go up to $6 billion. I would like her to provide the details of that estimate, because the Bloc Québécois, which has a much better reputation when it comes to predicting budgetary surpluses, estimates the cost at $3.1 billion.
I think it is shameful that the parliamentary secretary should use such an argument against disadvantaged people who have had their money taken from them. Yet her government recently spent $17 billion on military equipment, plans another $96 billion in military spending and offers hundreds of millions of dollars in gifts to rich oil companies by granting them accelerated capital cost allowance for the oil sands. Even worse, the government had a surplus of $11.6 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008. It therefore could have allocated the money needed to implement this bill, as the Bloc Québécois was calling for.
During the debate on Bill C-301 on full retroactivity, in October 2005, my former colleague from Saint-Maurice—Champlain alluded to the work the committee had done on the GIS in 2001, when it was said that 270,000 people, including 68,000 Quebeckers, were not receiving the GIS. The government was being criticized for not paying them their due after they registered. On what grounds did the government appropriate that money?
I read with interest the speeches that were made at the time and still apply to the current bill. I could restate the same arguments the hon. Conservative member for Niagara West—Glanbrook did, but I will quote just a few passages. “Amending the Old Age Security Act to ensure that eligible pensioners receive their monthly guaranteed income supplement is, quite simply, an issue of fairness,” he said, and later, “We have a duty to help—not neglect—the seniors who helped build this country.”
I remind the House that all the Conservative members voted in favour of that bill, including the current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, as well as the Conservative member for Leeds—Grenville, who has spoken out against the current bill. It should be noted that all political parties voted unanimously in favour the bill at second reading.
I am calling on all hon. members to support the bill before us today. As it did in 2005, this matter concerns us all, regardless the political party we belong to. Any MP who pays attention to the public is well aware of the difficult situation many seniors find themselves in. The government, which provides help and support when the need arises on the international stage, must not neglect its own seniors.
No one can reasonably oppose the principle of this bill. I therefore invite all my colleagues to support it during the vote at second reading. The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities will then have the opportunity to further investigate the four themes of the bill and make any necessary refinements.