Evidence of meeting #68 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was workers.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Arthur Sweetman  Professor, Ontario Research Chair in Health Human Resources, Department of Economics, McMaster University, As an Individual
  • Michael Wolfson  Professor, As an Individual
  • Vangelis Nikias  Project Manager, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities
  • Frank Zinatelli  Vice-President, General Counsel, Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.
  • Keith Ambachtsheer  Director, Rotman International Centre for Pension Management

9:35 a.m.

Project Manager, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Vangelis Nikias

Thank you for the opportunity.

One of the points we made, and I want to reiterate, is that people with disabilities—especially women with disabilities and aboriginal people with disabilities—because of lower labour market attachment rely on social assistance.

I applaud the philosophy of looking at these issues and aligning the changes to the OAS, but we have to also think about the impact on people who receive social assistance and who may have to receive social assistance, if we don't take adequate compensatory measures until the age of 67.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Yes, and the Government of Canada will be compensating the provinces for that. That's also in the bill.

Mr. Ambachtsheer, do you agree with proactive enrolment?

9:40 a.m.

Prof. Keith Ambachtsheer

Inertia is a fundamental human trait. Therefore, if people have to do something actively to make something happen, x% won't do it.

So if you flip that around.... I had mentioned auto-enrolment earlier in terms of PRPPs as being essential to making that program work.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Absolutely, and that's in the PRPP plan.

9:40 a.m.

Prof. Keith Ambachtsheer

No, it's not.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Well, for those who take it, they're automatically enrolled. They have to opt out.

9:40 a.m.

Prof. Keith Ambachtsheer

No, the employer has to enrol the employees into the plan. That means...you know, that's automatic enrolment that has force. If you leave it voluntary for employers as to whether they sign up for this or not, you're going to leave a large gap of workers out of the game.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Yes. I hear you.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

We'll go to Ms. Nash, please.

June 1st, 2012 / 9:40 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you very much.

I have so many questions, but I'll start with you, Mr. Nikias, and just pick up on your point about what happens to low-income people, especially people with disabilities, because of the OAS change.

I know that in my community, people who are on Ontario disability benefits are really living with a lot of hardship—many people with disabilities at the bottom end of the income scale.

I'm noting that Canada as a whole doesn't have the aging problem that many other OECD countries have. Obviously Canadians demographically are getting older, but not as rapidly as some other countries.

The concern I want to raise, just to pick up on something you said, is that between 2006 and 2009, about 128,000 more seniors became low-income. About 70% of those were women. For many of these women, the combination of OAS and GIS is the key factor for them in preventing poverty. Obviously many of these people are people with disabilities.

I'd just like to ask you what you think waiting an extra two years for OAS and GIS could mean for these low-income Canadians, especially people with disabilities.

9:40 a.m.

Project Manager, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Vangelis Nikias

Continuing on for two more years at existing social assistance rates—except Alberta's, as I said, so I mean those in other provincial systems—means two years of poverty, which people avoid or get out of by receiving OAS and GIS at the age of 65. Raising the OAS age of eligibility to 67, which means continuing on social assistance, means two more years of poverty. That is not a good policy option for Canada.

I mentioned earlier our ratification of the UN convention. I said we have agreed that we are going to improve the living standards of persons with disabilities, including through retirement benefits. I hope I have answered your question.

I applaud the idea of compensating provinces for the continuation of social assistance, but that still leaves two years of poverty for people who will be on social assistance for two more years.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Thank you.

Canada, of course, spends a significantly smaller portion of its GDP on public pensions than do OECD countries on average, and as I said, Canada's population is younger than that of most other OECD countries.

I don't have time to ask you about it, but I also note that, given that another change in this budget implementation act will take away the requirement for proactive employment equity measures for federal contractors, there will no longer be a requirement of private contractors to the federal government to hire people with disabilities in proportion to their representation in the general population. That's another step backwards.

I do want to get time to ask Mr. Zinatelli about his support for the proposal around insuring long-term disability benefits. There were some very moving public statements by former Nortel employees who were cut off and who suffered great hardship through that catastrophe. I met someone in my riding just a couple of weeks ago, a very senior scientist for Nortel, who had lost 40% of his pension because of the Nortel bankruptcy. He still found it unbelievable that such a successful company could end up in that nosedive.

I just want to get your thoughts about pensions.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Be very brief.

9:45 a.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Is there any kind of insurance you've been thinking of around private pension plans?

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Be very brief, Mr. Zinatelli. We're over time.