House of Commons Hansard #98 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

On division.

International Bridges and Tunnels Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

moved that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today in my new role for the first time to talk to Bill C-36, a bill that proposes amendments to two of our foundational social programs, the Canada pension plan and old age security.

At the very outset, I want to begin by thanking the opposition parties for their support for the legislation. I think it enjoys broad support because it really does strengthen both the Canada pension plan, through improvements to allow people to get their disability pension, and old age security, through improvements so people will automatically receive guaranteed income supplement as their income rises and falls. I will say more to that in just a moment.

This is part of a larger agenda the government has to affirm our support for the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. These are extraordinarily important parts of Canada's social safety net. Even more to the point, they really do in a way show our government's commitment to seniors and our determination to ensure we do everything we possibly can to stand up for Canadian seniors who have done so much to build our country.

It is no exaggeration to say that because of the efforts of those who have gone before us we stand today in this great chamber. This country is built on a tradition of supporting human rights and democracy and ensuring we do everything we can so all Canadians get a fair shake, that they get an opportunity. For those people who, for whatever reason, can no longer participate in the labour force, they will still enjoy some support from the government and will have a decent standard of living.

I think fair-minded members on all sides of the House understand the importance of those kinds of social programs, and that is certainly true of the new government and the Prime Minister as well. In fact, the Prime Minister has gone to some lengths to underline his support for seniors by appointing a new secretary of state for seniors, Senator Marjorie LeBreton. I am thrilled to be working with her as she works with seniors, listens to their concerns and finds ways to support the programs that serve them.

Before we get into the actual amendments, it is important to point out just how important these programs are. The Canada pension plan today serves three million Canadians. It is one of the cornerstones of our social programming for seniors. The old age security goes to four million Canadians. The guaranteed income supplement goes to 1.5 million low income seniors, who are mostly women.

The Canada pension plan and old age security pays out $50 billion a year. GIS pays out $6.2 billion a year. We understand, as Canada's new government, how important those programs are. We want to build on those programs, make them better and make them stronger so we have them today and in the future. In fact, as I speak of the future, I need to point out that we are facing some big challenges as we go forward today. Roughly 12% of Canadians are seniors. In 25 years those numbers will double. It is very important that we have strong and sustainable social programs going forward.

The point of the amendments today are twofold. We want to modernize and streamline how benefits are delivered, and that really brings me to the first amendment.

The amendment has to do with changing the rules surrounding old age security so when seniors apply for it, they will only ever have to apply once in their life and at the same time will automatically receive the guaranteed income supplement if their income warrants it.

These amendments will change the rules so in the future we will take tax information from peoples' tax forms and use that to help us determine who should get guaranteed income supplement.

Today it works this way. If seniors are a recipient of the guaranteed income supplement and all of a sudden their income rises, making them ineligible for guaranteed income supplement in the following year, they will then have to reapply the year after to qualify if their income falls again.

These changes, supported by my friends in the opposition, will end that, and that is important. Seniors have more important things to do than spend a lot of time filling out paperwork to reapply. In some cases the sad fact is that people do not reapply and do not receive benefits for which they are eligible. These changes will largely end that. It will mean that seniors will automatically requalify should their income fall below that threshold according to their tax information. This is extraordinarily important. This really modernizes an important piece of legislation.

The government acknowledges as well that not everyone fills out a tax form every year. We will continue to do the outreach we are vigorously doing today to ensure that seniors are aware of these programs and that they understand how they work so if they do qualify and have not filled out a tax form, they can still get the guaranteed income supplement.

The other amendment that is very important has to do with the disability portion of Canada pension plan. As we know, the Canada pension plan, through the disability portion, provides thousands and thousands of disabled Canadians with an income supplement, which is critical for them to manage and maintain a lifestyle. The changes that we are proposing in the legislation will make it easier for disabled Canadians to qualify for Canada pension plan disability. As the rule stands today, we have to be contributors for four of the last six years we pay into CPP before our disability makes us unemployable and takes us out of the labour force.

We propose to change that from four years to three years. We project this will bring another 3,700 people into eligibility for Canada pension plan disability by the year of 2010, plus another 1,000 of their children, according to the data we have at present. This will ensure that more people, who cannot qualify because they have been knocked out of the workforce early by their conditions, will now be able to receive this important disability pension. This is a very important step. It demonstrates that Canada's new government is committed to helping people with disabilities.

Not long ago I was in Vancouver where I sought a meeting with Rick Hansen, who is a well known advocate on behalf of disabled Canadians. He was first made famous as the “Man in Motion” when he travelled the world in his wheelchair to draw attention to the devastating impact of spinal injuries. He has since established a foundation and has become a tremendous spokesman and an inspiration for people around the world on issues of disability. He is doing a tremendous job of drawing attention to these issues. He gave me great insight into the challenges that people in the disabled community face, and we will use those to help us guide our government as we move forward.

As someone who represents the community of Medicine Hat, which has twice as many seniors as the national average, I understand the challenges that seniors face. I think all members understand that and appreciate the contributions that the seniors who have gone before us have made. Many of today's seniors are people who have gone through the Great Depression, the second world war, Korea and the social unrest of the 1960s. They have seen and done a lot of things. They have raised families. In many cases they have gone without so their families could have a higher standard of living and a chance to have an education. We really do owe them a great debt of gratitude.

Bill C-36 underlines the importance that the government places on recognizing the contributions of seniors. That along with some of the other steps we have taken to raise the age credit, to allow pension income splitting, to cut the GST are all indications of how important we see the role of seniors in society today. We want to recognize them with this important legislation.

I thank members on all sides for their support of the legislation. I commend the legislation to the House and trust that it will pass quickly so we can deliver these important changes to seniors and to the disabled as soon as possible.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, we share in my colleague's, the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, recognition of the contribution of the seniors who have, as he has pointed out, played a significant part in the history and the development of Canadian society. They did this at a time when we had many challenges, not only on a global scale, but internationally.

Could he let us know a bit more about how those seniors who worked very hard as individuals, as families, as parents, contributing not only to the next generation but to our country? We have to ensure that tradition is passed on to this generation and the next generation.

Maybe the minister could give us a little more information, fill in a little more about how, as baby boomers move on to become seniors, that will benefit all Canadians?

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I state the obvious when I say the contribution of seniors is extraordinarily important, but maybe it is so obvious that sometimes we take it for granted.

We live in the best country in the world. That did not happen by accident. Many countries in the world have a wealth of natural resources, just like this country does. Many countries have enjoyed relative periods of peace, but not every country enjoys the standard of living that this country enjoys. Not every country enjoys a commitment to human rights, democracy and ensuring that we look after our neighbours, like this country does. That reflects the values of the people who went before us. We stand on the shoulders of giants. Any time we make a contribution today to making things better in this world it is because we build on the foundation laid down by the generation that has gone before us.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Raynald Blais Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would not like this question and comment period to be solely for friends of the government and government members. That is why it is important that members of the opposition be able to put other questions to the minister concerned.

For the moment, I would like to draw the minister’s attention to a subject that is very important for the people of Quebec and for seniors throughout Canada. I refer to the guaranteed income supplement. Unfortunately, a great deal of money has been, I would dare to say, withheld and in the end these people have not seen a single penny of this money. But they were entitled to it. Now, I believe that they deserve some social justice. These people who are hard up, who need this money, deserve to recover that money that quite simply passed under their noses.

I would like the new minister responsible for this matter to tell us what he intends to do about the error that was made concerning seniors and the guaranteed income supplement.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, obviously some of the things that have occurred in the past are part of what motivates the legislation. The legislation is really designed to do everything we can to ensure that people who qualify and are entitled to guaranteed income supplement automatically get it.

This will not fix every possible situation where people are entitled to it and do not get it. However, we are taking the most important step we can to reach as many seniors as possible so we do not leave anyone behind who does qualify according to income, but yet, because they are not aware of it, do not apply. This is an important change that starts to address some of my friend's concerns.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, one of the advantages of being here for a while is that we get to hear people when they were in different positions in the House of Commons.

I remember when the Reform Party's environment critic said that global warming was a myth. I remember its agriculture critic saying that marketing boards were not a good system for the markets and that we needed to get rid of marketing boards. Those two things have now changed.

I also remember hearing that particular minister, when he was the finance critic for the Reform Party, talking about the Canada pension plan and how it needed to be radically changed or eliminated and maybe let the people use the money they invest in the Canada pension plan in a private RRSP.

Now I hear the minister, on his road to Damascus, saying that the Canada pension plan is a very important vehicle for seniors. I congratulate him for that because he is absolutely correct.

Last year Statistics Canada made an error in calculating the certain percentage of CPP compared to OAS. Many people have been asking whether the government will correct that error and allow the certain percentage of CPP-OAS contributions to increase more than the 0.5% they have received, in fact the 1.5% to the 2% that they have been asking for, which is the correct Statistics Canada figure.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the government commitment was to increase these amounts according to the published inflation numbers from Statistics Canada, which is what we have done.

However this government has moved in other ways to ensure that seniors are allowed to keep more of their income. One of the most important changes and one that sometimes people do not consider to be part of social programming is the cut to the GST. Approximately 30% of Canadians who do not pay income tax benefit by the cut in the GST, and that certainly applies to seniors. It goes some distance to helping them cope with the everyday difficulties of making ends meet. That is only one of a number of initiatives that this new government has undertaken, but we are doing what we can to ensure that seniors enjoy a better standard of living.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin today by saying how thrilled I am to have been asked by our leader to assume the position of critic for seniors, Canadians with disabilities and the social economy. Seniors and Canadians with disabilities are some of the most engaged citizens we have in this country. I look forward to working with them and to ensuring the solutions they have been working on for a long time will be presented to the government. In my experience as chair of the subcommittee on persons with disabilities, I hope this can be a non-partisan issue in which we do the most we can for our most vulnerable Canadians.

As is shown by the combination of the bill presented today, the issues around full citizenship, the ability to contribute and the issue around income security are things shared both by seniors and persons with disabilities. It will be extraordinarily important for us to understand the complexity of this and the need for the government, the provinces and the territories to work together. I think all of us who have worked in this area know that one of the real problems has been the gridlock involved in the fact that income security and human rights can be seen as a federal issue, but the supports and services are very much provincial and territorial. It becomes a real problem if we cannot work across government departments and across jurisdictions to do what the people who need us most know needs to be done.

The Canada pension plan is the basis of Canada's retirement income system. As the minister has said, there were many irritants and difficulties in the administration of that. We are grateful to the minister for bringing in these changes that will make the application of these benefits much simpler. As we know, it provides the retirement pension, disability benefits, benefits for survivors, children's benefits and a death benefit. As the minister alluded to, in 2005-06, four million people received benefits totalling $25 billion.

We know that the Liberal Party is the party of income security. Lester Pearson and Paul Martin Senior brought in the CPP program in the first place. It was the policies of Prime Minister Chrétien and the former finance minister, the member for LaSalle—Émard, that stabilized the pension funds and guaranteed a secure public pension system for the next 75 years.

It is also important that we mention the issue of guaranteed income supplement, old age security and the retirement benefits under the Canada and Quebec pension plans which provide our senior citizens with monthly taxable benefits. For seniors without other income, the amounts received from these programs are, unfortunately, very modest.

The guaranteed income supplement was first introduced by the Liberal government under Lester Pearson in 1967 to help improve living standards for lower income seniors. The GIS is a monthly benefit paid to residents of Canada who receive full or partial OAS pensions and who have little or no other income.

I am pleased to see the proposal to waive the requirement for a renewal application for the GIS once an initial application has been made. Many seniors forget to reapply for their GIS or are late in their reapplication which results in a decrease in income for the following year. Administrative process should not be an obstacle to deserved benefits and I am glad to see that the government has recognized that.

I am proud to state that the Liberal government increased the guaranteed income supplement for seniors by $36 per month for single seniors and $58 per month for couples. This was a $2.7 billion investment that directly benefited 1.6 billion Canadian seniors. Unfortunately, as all parties in this House have recognized, there are many difficulties in ensuring that all seniors who qualify for GIS apply for it and receive it.

Many seniors fail to apply for GIS because they have no taxable income or they have health problems, mental or physical limitations, or literacy and language barriers. In fact, estimates by policy analyst, Richard Shillington, in 2001, with the help of Susan Pigott at St. Christopher House in Toronto, suggested that 320,000 eligible Canadians were not receiving the GIS and associated spousal and widow's allowances.

Under the last Liberal government there was a fantastic partnership between Human Resource Development Canada and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency which helped provincial organizations and grassroots volunteers to educate seniors about the GIS. There is no point having a program that seniors do not know they can access. It is the responsibility of governments to ensure everyone entitled to a program gets what they are entitled to, which means serious efforts must be made for outreach and education.

I hope the government will undertake a similar initiative to ensure that seniors are knowledgeable about the supports available to them. Failing to reach low income elderly people with funds that can make the difference between comfort and privation is a serious concern.

In 1997, the Canada pension plan was restructured to respond to the growing needs of an aging population, to ensure its viability and to stabilize contribution rates. Experts said that, as a result of those changes, the CPP would be viable for at least another 75 years.

As a family doctor, I can testify as to how important the changes are in this bill in terms of the flexibility in the Canada pension plan disability. It is a huge deal to someone who has become slightly disabled and whose attachment to the workforce has become less regular. The difference between qualifying with three out of the past six years as opposed to the previous four out of the past six years is huge to so many Canadians.

The Liberal record on income security is clear. Although I am supportive of Bill C-36, we must hold the government to account on this issue.

If the Canadian retirement income system is to work, it is essential that everyone contribute as much as he or she can for as long as he or she wants to or can.

Afterwards, when it is time to rely on the community, everyone will be confident that he or she will be considered and treated with respect and dignity; and each person will have a real sense of belonging.

That means that we have to avoid bureaucratic nightmares. Canadians must be able to receive what they are entitled to without a lot of administrative red tape.

We on this side are supportive of all of the proposed amendments: the simplification of access to and delivery of benefits of the OAS, the ongoing renewal, the agreements to co-administer similar provincial benefits to simplify the reporting of income for couples and seniors and the OAS-consistent benefit entitlements, the OAS clarity of legislation and the proposed amendments to the Canada pension plan, both the full funding and the CPP tri-annual review, the long term contributors Canada pension plan disability, and the CPP business transformation amendment, the administrative amendment as well as the proposed common OAS-CPP amendments.

The provision for electronic services is hugely important now and the charging of interest, I think, is an important provision, as well as the penalty provisions and the information sharing.

In 1918, Dr. Charles Hastings, the physician responsible for public health for the city of Toronto, said at the American Public Health Association that:

Every nation that permits people to remain under the fetters of preventable disease and permits social conditions to exist that make it impossible for them to be properly fed, clothed and housed so as to maintain a high degree of resistance and physical fitness; and, who endorses a wage that does not afford sufficient revenue for the home, a revenue that will make possible the development of a sound mind and body, is trampling on a primary principle of democracy.

That being said, we know that both seniors and persons with disabilities are still fighting the major challenge of poverty. Income security programs must ensure that income is secure. It is extraordinarily important that when we are evaluating these income security programs we are always asking the question: does this Canadian feel that his or her income is secure and that he or she will be able to continue with his or her housing?

I think it is really important that we continue to listen to fabulous organizations like the National Advisory Council on Aging and the Council of Canadians with Disabilities. These partnerships have been very important in setting the priorities from the bottom up and in listening to the Canadians who will be most affected by the policies. I believe the bill today shows that the government is listening, or at least is doing what we as a government have heard before.

With seniors the fastest growing age group in the country and the increase in their numbers in the last 10 years being enough to populate mid-sized Canadian cities, we have to understand that we also must look carefully at the disaggregated data in terms of where poverty exists. And the poverty exists for women.

The Daily, Women in Canada 2005 published July 10, 2006, reported as follows:

Older women tend to have lower incomes than men because they participate less in the paid labour force, and, if they were employed, their wages were less on average. In 2004, about one in five senior women had never worked outside the home. Further, because women live longer they are at greater risk of running out of savings over their lifetimes.

According to a new study, senior women suffer much more financially from widowhood than do senior men. Over a 10-year period, senior widows saw their income decrease in the five years after the death of their husbands, while widowers` income increased in the five years after the loss of their wife.

It is going to be extraordinarily important as we go forward to make sure that we continue to bring together these uncoordinated income based programs, according to the National Advisory Committee on Aging and its report, “Aging in poverty in Canada”. It is this multitude of uncoordinated federal, provincial and territorial income based programs that is a nightmare for our seniors.

At one time, my twinned riding was Calgary Centre. There, we can look at the Kerby Centre and how it began by having a kiosk that seniors could come to in order to find out what level of government handled each program. If we look at that centre, we can begin to see that if we create programs from the bottom up and listen to seniors, we can start to bring these things together, as I hope this bill begins to do today.

In the worst case scenario, sometimes the cumulative effect of additional income may well be a net loss of an income. Seniors with low incomes are trapped due to the disincentives mentioned. They are discouraged from earning additional income to make their lives more enjoyable, or indeed, they may no longer qualify for subsidized housing or for the additional benefit. I think it is extraordinarily important that we as governments and as Parliament understand that the devil is in the details and that the net losses or the incomes from our programs have very real people attached to them in terms of their stories and whether they are actually better off or worse off. It is extraordinarily important that we listen again to these people who know best and hear their priorities for action.

The National Council on Aging has said that we must increase the GIS so that the combined GIS and OAS benefits are equal to or greater than the low income cut-off. We must correct the GIS shortcomings and decrease the number of late applicants and not unduly penalize them.

We must, as we have said, improve the coordination of income based programs and ensure automatic or compulsory sharing of pension rights under the Canada pension plan, employee pension funds and retirement savings plans following divorce or legal separation.

Again, our partnership with the Council of Canadians with Disabilities brings to our attention the fact that, with the aging of the population, people with disabilities make up a growing proportion of the Canadian population. One-third of aboriginal Canadians are living with a disability. Canadians with disabilities are more than twice as likely to live in poverty than other Canadians and they face exclusion from quality education, employment and participation in their communities.

The first step in combating poverty and exclusion is to ensure that people have access to disability related supports and services. This is something that we as parliamentarians and the federal government need to do in partnership with our provincial and territorial partners. This is just too complex for us to allow people to fall through the cracks and for us not to work together to understand that it is only in consultation with persons with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities that we are going to get this right.

CPP disability deals only with Canadians who had a previous attachment to the workforce. We learned in our subcommittee that to go forward we need to ask, first, if a person can work and, second, whether that person would be able to work with appropriate training or education. If the answer to both these questions is no, then the federal government needs to work together with the provinces and territories and find a secure income for these people. CPP disability was only ever designed as an adjunct and it is still only those who had a previous attachment to the workforce who qualify.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities and the Canadian Association for Community Living are calling on the federal government to show committed leadership and principle to overcome poverty and the exclusion of Canadians with disabilities.

Again, it is so important. I have some concerns that both the Minister of National Revenue and the Minister of Finance do not understand how important that technical advisory committee was on things like disability tax credits. To have disbanded the advisory committee that we fought so hard to put in place means that we will get it wrong when it comes to coordinating the net benefit to Canadians with disabilities.

The technical advisory committee on tax measures for persons with disabilities has said:

Going Forward...Priority should be given to expenditure programs rather than tax measures to target new funding where the need is greatest.

The technical advisory committee on tax measures for persons with disabilities, which was eliminated by the minister, conducted consultations with provincial and territorial administrations and the community of persons with disabilities.

It is really important to listen to them in terms of how they would evaluate their success. I believe they are asking us to look forward. They are asking us to reduce by half the annual income gap between Canadians with and without disabilities, to reduce by half the poverty rate of adults with disabilities, to reduce by half the labour market participation gap between Canadians with and without disabilities, and to reduce by half the non-reimbursed costs faced by persons with disabilities.

As we go forward, I encourage the minister to look at the extremely important and extraordinarily good report of the Subcommittee on the Status of Persons with Disabilities from the 37th Parliament and see what we learned in our report entitled “Listening to Canadians”. There were eight recommendations. I hope the minister will look at those recommendations and will bring together the kind of flexibility that it is going to take to actually incorporate into our society persons with cyclical diseases like mental illness, HIV-AIDS and MS.

There is a lot more to do, because we have to work together on the quality of life of all Canadians, on their dignity and respect. How we treat our most vulnerable is indeed the measure of a society. Together with the expertise of the seniors and the persons with disabilities of this country, I hope we will go forward. This bill is just one tiny step.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her speech and also for supporting this very important bill. As I listened to the member go through the different points on why she was supporting Bill C-36, I could not help but think that she certainly does understand how important this bill is.

Bill C-36 really takes us forward in serving our seniors in the future with some of the changes that are being made. Albeit some are technical, they will certainly make a difference.

Most of all, we are talking about some of the seniors who, unfortunately, we find difficult to reach with regard to the guaranteed income supplement. The member spoke to that. I would like to know if she has any suggestions on how we can reach the people who do not know about the guaranteed income supplement. We know that because this is income tested, we can use Revenue Canada, but I am wondering if she can make some suggestions as to how we reach the percentage of persons who are not able to get the guaranteed income supplement because they do not know it is available.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think there is now evidence to show that if we do everything we can to get every Canadian to file an income tax return, we could then find out who is entitled. That is because of this agreed upon partnership between the tax system and HRSD. I think that becomes a really important partnership, but I also think that in terms of the community we have come to understand that social isolation is as detrimental to Canadians' health as smoking,

We must do whatever we can to get seniors participating in places like St. Christopher House or the Kerby Centre in Calgary, the places that have the supports and services. If we can get seniors connected in the community, not only is it good for their health, but it is good for their income in terms of how they then come to find out about these things they are properly entitled to.

I think that it is probably that two-way approach we need. One way would be to encourage all Canadians to file an income tax return, because they may be surprised and get something back. As well, we must really, throughout the country, try to do everything we can to give this sense of belonging that we know is extraordinarily important for peoples' health, particularly their mental health and well-being.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's speech and he startled me somewhat.

I do not know if the same thing happened in the rest of Canada, but I do know that, in Quebec in particular, when the situation arose because the government did not wish to identify the individuals and the research regarding the guaranteed income supplement--which deprived many seniors of income to which they were entitled--we did everything to contact them. I wonder if my colleague agrees with me in this regard.

I also wonder what solutions will be adopted to ensure that seniors who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement will receive it. Although I am very concerned about the guaranteed income supplement, I am much more concerned about aboriginal Canadians who worked and, as we know, who often live on a regular basis in so-called isolated communities.

In the bill before this Parliament, will mechanisms be implemented? Can my colleague list the means that will be implemented to contact these aboriginal individuals who are entitled not only to the guaranteed income supplement that they do not receive but also to an old age pension for which they have not applied.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a good question. I too am worried about the quality of life of aboriginal Canadians. Through a true partnership with them and also because of their leadership, we will find a solution to this problem.

Furthermore, housing and income security are very important to all Canadians. We can only discuss income after having covered the cost of safe housing. I believe that this applies to aboriginal peoples and to all Canadians.

Canada Pension Plan
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask a question concerning aboriginal people. In “Pensions In Canada: Policy Reform Because Women Matter” produced by Women Elders in Action in Vancouver in December 2004, it talks about the fact that first nations women who have lived a traditional rural life were especially vulnerable to economic hardship. The average annual income of an aboriginal woman is $13,300 compared to $19,350 for a non-aboriginal woman. As well, discrimination, childhood poverty and lower educational achievement exacerbate their already poor economic status into old age.

I know that in part this bill deals with housekeeping, but again, first nations, Métis and Inuit women are largely absent from the discussion in terms of how they would access Canada pension, old age security and any kind of livable income. I wonder if the member could speak specifically to that.