House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the hon. member for his good advice to the House. I am sure that the government will take notice. However, given what else I have said in my speech, I do not intend to respond in a manner that would be considered partisan.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague from Ottawa—Orléans on his political career, which has certainly been quite extensive and always shows his generosity. I would particularly like to congratulate him on all the trees he has planted and encouraged his children to plant.

However, whenever there is talk of the National Research Council, I find that we always come back to the centralizing notions of the federal government, which wants to put research centres in Ontario. That is where they always go and never anywhere else.

I would have liked to hear something in the throne speech or from my colleague regarding the fact that, while the National Research Council is here in Ottawa—we are not against that—we must have other research centres outside Ottawa, particularly in Quebec, where there is a flagrant lack of such research centres compared to the number in Ontario.

I would like him to explain this situation to us.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague should be pleased to know that the National Research Council exists in all provinces of Canada. That is precisely what bothers me at times. For instance, there are certain marketing operations that would be better established here in Ottawa. They have been moved to other parts of Canada, with managers who have no experience in the business world.

I appreciate the hon. member's comments. I will continue to work on grouping the marketing operations together in one place, specifically in the east end of Ottawa, in order to create a technology transfer centre.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the hon. member for Ottawa—Orléans for speaking on behalf of his constituents. I would also like to congratulate him for being a great Liberal because he has been a long-time Liberal. I can tell members that he is also a Liberal now at heart, as well. He has also been kind to me as well many times.

I would ask this hon. member about something that this throne speech has not mentioned, and which another hon. member alluded to earlier, and that is the issue regarding seniors. What does this member feel that the Conservative government should do so that seniors can be taken out of poverty?

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to jump into a partisan trap that was set up by my very generous friend.

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have this opportunity to add my remarks in support of the Speech from the Throne.

Its theme, its vision and strong leadership sums up this government's commitment to continually aspire to further growth and a higher quality of life. We intend to build upon a proud legacy of peace and prosperity.

Canada is starting from a position of strength. Our economic fundamentals are the strongest they have been in a generation. We are experiencing the second largest period of economic expansion in Canadian history. Business investment is expanding for the fifth consecutive year. Core inflation has remained within our set range of 1% to 3%. Our unemployment rate is the lowest in 33 years, with more Canadians working today than ever before.

Canada is one of the few countries in the world with a sound public pension plan. Canada is also an emerging energy superpower. We have the second largest established petroleum reserves on the planet.

Federal, provincial and territorial governments are all in surplus, and we are on the best fiscal footing of any country in the G-7. In fact, we are the only member of the G-7 with both an ongoing budget surplus and a falling debt burden.

Canada's economy is ranked second among the group of seven nations. Canada is on solid financial footing, but we are mindful of the various challenges and opportunities that confront us.

Today I will highlight some of the key economic initiatives this government is pursuing, particularly those that affect business and Canada's competitiveness on the world stage, in particular, our long term economic plan, “Advantage Canada”, a plan designed to ensure that Canada has a modern infrastructure, an innovative and entrepreneurial business environment and a tax system that rewards hard work, all based on the foundation of sound fiscal management.

For example, our government is committed to reduce the federal paper burden on business by 20% by November of 2008. We are modernizing our competition and investment policies to ensure they work better and attract even more foreign investment to create jobs and opportunities for Canadians and let us compete against the best in the world.

Let me now turn to the issue of tax relief. The government believes that Canadian individuals, businesses and families still pay too much tax. Our tax system must reward hard work, encourage investment in job creation and help Canadian businesses compete on the world stage. We are providing tax relief in every way a government collects taxes: consumption taxes, business taxes, excise taxes and, yes, personal taxes, more than $41 billion in tax relief over three years.

We know tax competitiveness is critical to our economic success. That is why we are establishing a tax advantage for the benefit of Canadian entrepreneurs. Our government will bring forward a long term plan of broad base tax relief for individuals, businesses and families, including following through on our commitment to a further cut to the GST.

The throne speech also highlights our commitment to support a wide range of economic activity across the country. For example, our government will stand up for Canada's traditional industries, fishery, forestry, manufacturing and tourism. Our government is taking firm action to support workers as these industries adjust to global conditions, and we will continue to do so.

Fluctuations in the value of the Canadian dollar over the past few years, and other challenges, have made it difficult for traditional industries to cope. We have responded to these needs in a host of ways.

For example, the Government of Canada has provided $400 million over two years to strengthen the long term competitiveness of the forestry sector, to combat the pine beetle infestation and support worker adjustment to ensure that those who depend on forestry can look to a future with confidence.

We have also allowed manufacturing and processing businesses to write off their capital investments in machinery and equipment using a special temporary, two year, 50% straight-line, write-down rate.

I will also say a few words about renewing Canada's infrastructure. Through our building Canada initiative, we are making the largest single federal investment in public infrastructure. When combined with funding under previous initiatives, our government is committing about $37 billion over seven years for roads, bridges, water systems, public transit and international gateways, infrastructure that Canadians want and that our country needs.

Modern infrastructure supports economic growth and productivity, improves Canada's competitiveness and facilitates the movement of people and goods.

The building Canada plan addresses the issue of the comprehensive program to support our long term growth. We will invest in infrastructure that supports a stronger economy, a cleaner environment and more prosperous, safer communities.

Let me now move on to another key driver of Canada's economic engine. Our mining and resource sectors present extraordinary opportunities across Canada and our government will help seize these opportunities by providing a single window for major program approvals. Our government is investing $150 million in a new major projects management office to increase the capacity for the approval of mining and energy projects within those federal departments. This office will ensure that regulatory reviews are carried out with greater efficiency and transparency.

This streamlined approach will reduce red tape and improve the overall competitiveness of Canada's resource industries. The government's commitment to provide effective economic leadership will also address the federal government's responsibility for strengthening Canada's economic union.

Despite the globalization of markets, Canada still has a long way to go to establish free trade among our provinces. It is simply unacceptable that there are fewer internal barriers to trade and mobility in the economic union than there are in Canada. This hurts our competitive position but more important, it is just not the way a country should work. Our government will consider how to use the federal trade and commerce power to make our economic union work better for Canadians.

Canada's prosperity and quality of life depend on our success as a trading country. We have exported goods and services, accounting for more than 36% of the GDP in 2006. More than $1.9 billion in trade crosses the Canada-U.S. border each day. To ensure efficient transport of goods—

Resumption of Debate on Address in Reply
Speech from the Throne

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member will have three minutes left to finish his remarks.

It being 5:30 p.m. the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

October 23rd, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

moved that Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this is the second time we have had second reading, which is a great opportunity for me to respond to some of the misconceptions about the bill.

I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement).

Bill C-362 was introduced in the House by me on October 25, 2006, and its aim is as simple as it is important. It would amend the Old Age Security Act to reduce, from 10 years to 3 years, the residency requirement for entitlement to old age security.

I introduced the bill because it would eliminate a grave injustice in Canada's social security system, an injustice presently causing great harm to seniors across Canada and to the families and communities to which they belong.

All Canadians believe that the elimination of poverty, especially among those most vulnerable in our society, should be the top concern of the Government of Canada. I have no doubt for a second that all members of the House recognize in their hearts and minds that the bill deserves our full support.

It is my sincere hope we will set aside partisan concerns and work together to improve the well-being of a great many seniors, families and communities all across Canada.

In my remarks today I have three goals. First, I will correct a common misconception about old age security. Then I will identify and clarify the grave injustice that Bill C-362 would eliminate. Finally, I will explain why the bill warrants the support of every member of the House.

Since first tabling Bill C-362, I have received correspondence from a number of Canadians living throughout the country. Most Canadians who take the time to write do so in order to express their support for the bill. However, there are those who write to express their opposition.

After reviewing the correspondence, it has become clear to me that they share in common a misconception about the true nature and the intent of the old age security. Because members of the House may also share this misconception, I would very much like to identify and correct it here and now.

The misconception is this. Some Canadians think old age security was introduced by the Government of Canada as a kind of reward to seniors for their lifetime contribution to Canadian society, to the economy and to their communities. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Old Age Security Act was tabled in the House of Commons in 1951. A careful review of the debate at the time indicates that it was introduced principally as a matter of social justice and was motivated by a genuine concern for the needs and welfare of Canadian senior citizens, whatever their contribution may or may not have been to society.

Furthermore, since 1951, successive Canadian governments, on behalf of all Canadians, have made a number of important changes to old age security, including the introduction of the guaranteed income supplement, inflation protection and a definition of the word “spouse” that recognizes and includes common law partners.

According to Human Resources Development Canada's online history of Canada's public pension system, these changes were motivated by the desire of all Canadians to help those persons and groups most vulnerable to poverty, including women, low income workers and disabled persons. In other words, old age security is not a reward for service rendered. Rather it is motivated by a sense of justice and a recognition that no Canadian, especially seniors, should live in poverty.

The sense of social justice, which motivated old age security, is also reflected in the way the Government of Canada funds the scheme. Unlike the Canada and Quebec pension plans, which are funded by contributions from each person over his or her working life, old age security is presently funded from general tax revenues. This means old age security is funded from the taxes of every person living and working in Canada right now, not 10, not 15, not 20 years ago, regardless of their country of birth.

Furthermore, old age security income is itself subject to tax, so ultimately only those Canadian seniors most in need receive any old age security income. We fund old age security in this manner because Canadians believe we all have a duty to earmark some of our earnings each year to eliminate poverty among our seniors, whether we have lived here six weeks, six months, six years or 60 years.

Let me say it again so there is no misunderstanding. Old age security is not intended to reward seniors for services rendered; rather, it is intended to ensure Canadian seniors will not live in poverty.

Having now clarified and corrected an important misconception about old age security, I will now identify and clarify the great injustice Bill C-362 is intended to address and remedy.

Presently, the Old Age Security Act requires a person to reside in Canada for 10 years before he or she is entitled to receive old age security. Although the old age security program is intended to act as the cornerstone of Canada's retirement income system, this residency requirement excludes many seniors from its benefits. Indeed, because of a 10 year residency requirement, it is not uncommon for a Canadian senior citizen to go entirely without the benefits of old age security for many years.

In effect, the residency requirement creates two different classes of senior citizens: those who qualify for old age security at 65 and those who do not because they have not lived in Canada for 10 years.

As a result, the residency requirement also creates two different classes of families and communities within Canada. There are those families and communities whose seniors receive the benefits and peace of mind of old age security at age 65, and there are those families and communities that do not and as a result are required to take on a burden of responsibility that other families in Canada are not also expected to bear.

The net result is that the 10 year residency requirement for old age security treats a whole group of Canadians as second class citizens. This, as I am sure we can all agree, is unacceptable.

It should also be noted that the 10 year residency requirement also adds insult to injury by targeting, inadvertently, I think, some of the most economically vulnerable seniors in Canada. As some members of this House know, in some cases seniors can circumvent the 10 year requirement and qualify for old age security if they emigrate from countries that have signed reciprocal social security agreements with the Government of Canada.

These agreements allow for the coordination of the two countries' social security programs. They make the benefits portable between the two countries. They normally exist because both countries provide social security plans with similar benefits. As a result, in many cases the very reason no reciprocal agreement exists between Canada and a particular country is that the other country is unwilling or unable to provide comparable social security.

This means that those persons who may need old age security the most, because they emigrated from countries with little or no social security, must go without old age security here in Canada even after they have become Canadian citizens. I am sure we can agree that this as well is unacceptable.

To summarize the injustice this is intended to address, there is the fact that the 10 year residency requirement for old age security treats a great many Canadians as second class citizens and denies benefits to those seniors most in need of assistance. If we also recall that poverty is epidemic among our seniors, and especially among women and new Canadians, there is only one sensible and decent conclusion to be drawn: the 10 year residency requirement is unjust and unacceptable and must be changed. That is exactly what this bill aims to do. Canadian citizenship is certainly sufficient to entitle a person to old age security. It takes three years to apply for old age security.

I want to conclude my remarks today by explaining why this bill deserves the support of each and every member of the House.

First and foremost, Bill C-362 deserves the support of every member of the House as a simple matter of decency. However people may choose to make sense of the notion of decency, whether they prefer to talk of a principle of fairness, or equality of opportunity, or the equal dignity of all persons, the underlying sentiment remains the same: a person should not be made worse off than others arbitrarily.

Unquestionably, the 10 year residency requirement arbitrarily prevents a great many senior citizens from receiving old age security benefits. This creates undue and unjust hardship for them, their families and their communities. There is no good reason that justifies the imposition of this harm on so many Canadians. The only truly decent thing to do is reduce this residency requirement to three years, as my bill proposes.

Bill C-362 also deserves the support of every member of the House because of the immeasurable contribution made by seniors across Canada to our families, our communities and our country each and every day.

Seniors, thanks to their lifetime of experience, provide immeasurable support and guidance to us all. Not only do seniors help us to remember and understand our history, our values, and our identity, they very often help alleviate the very real pressures of raising a family in today's fast paced society. There is, for example, no better child care than that provided by a loving grandparent.

However, seniors will not be in any position to offer us guidance, wisdom and support if they themselves are trapped in abject poverty. So by securing the economic well-being of all seniors, ultimately we do a service to all Canadians.

Bill C-362 also deserves the support of every member of the House because in supporting this bill we formally recognize that all Canadian seniors deserve to live their entire lives with a sense of dignity and self-respect. No person, and certainly no member of the House, would ever want to face a choice between abject poverty and a life of absolute dependence on family and friends. By guaranteeing a certain basic level of support for all Canadian seniors, we guarantee a lifetime of dignity and self-respect for all Canadians.

Finally, Bill C-362 deserves the support of every member of the House because Canadians all across the country want us to address the very real injustice faced by so many seniors and their families and communities.

On the whole, Canadians are a decent people. Without exception, whenever possible we strive to do the right thing and to right wrongs whenever we encounter them. To even the most casual observer, the injustice of an arbitrary 10 year residency requirement is a wrong that needs to be corrected.

Finally, in closing, I want to remind members of the House that Canada has been, remains and always will be a country of immigrants. Even today, Canada has one of the highest per capita rates of immigration in the world, with roughly 17% of our population foreign born and another 30% descended from earlier generations of non-British or non-French immigrants. It should also not be forgotten that the British and the French were themselves immigrants at one time. Moreover, research indicates that within the next 20 years immigration will account for all our net population and labour force growth in Canada.

In my view and the view of a great many Canadians, every single one of our recent immigrants and future citizens deserves a social security net that encompasses a person's entire life. While it is certainly tempting to say that we need to provide this kind of social security as a necessary exercise in marketing, that is, we need to do it if Canada wants to attract and retain the best and brightest immigrants, I think there is a deeper and much more meaningful motivation. We owe it to all Canadians as a matter of decency, the kind of heartfelt decency that motivates and unites every person in this great and caring country of ours.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's proposal. I have a couple of questions for her.

Has this been costed out? What would this cost the treasury?

Also, she says this is such a wonderful idea, but the Liberals say the current law violates the charter. The law was ruled constitutional when the Liberals themselves fought to uphold it. I am interested in why there is this turnabout. It is simply a ploy to try to get immigrant votes on something they voted against before?

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think that comment by the member was really quite beneath him.

However, it did not get to the Supreme Court because this was a court challenge initiated by seniors' groups and, needless to say, they ran out of money. The lawyer who handled the case felt fairly certain that had it reached the Supreme Court it would in fact have been ruled unconstitutional.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member introduced this bill some time ago and I remember that, following his speech, I asked her a question to which she never replied. I wonder if I might have an answer today, now that several months have gone by.

We were speaking of two social classes of seniors—the first class and the second class. The member said she was against making this distinction. Personally, I agree wholeheartedly. However, when Bill C-36 was sent to committee to be studied, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment because, despite the tabling of Bill C-362, there was an element of unfairness with respect to new sponsored citizens. When it was being studied in committee, the Bloc Québécois asked that the bill be amended so as not to restrict new citizens' access to old age security on the basis of the sponsor's obligations under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Liberals voted against that amendment.

I do not know if the member can tell me why the Liberals voted against this amendment because today she is introducing a bill that is oddly reminiscent of what was proposed by the Bloc with regard to Bill C-36.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not totally clear on this, but I believe the member indicated that this was brought before the immigration committee. It is not an immigration matter. It is a human resources issue. Otherwise, I am not aware of Bill C-36.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am a little puzzled by this bill. We are talking about rules that were first put in place by a Liberal government. In the member's own admission, she said that the Liberal government basically fought the other side until it ran out of money before the case got to the Supreme Court.

I have a couple of questions. First, we have the most generous immigration system in the entire world and, from my understanding, we have international social security agreements with more countries than any other country in the world.

I want to follow up on my other hon. colleague's question. First, has she costed this out? That would be important to understand. I am sure she has, so I would like to know what the specific numbers are.

Second, the hon. member's party was in government for 13 long years. I am curious about why it did not do anything about this in those 13 years.

Old Age Security Act
Private Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. The Liberal government did bring in the Old Age Security Act, with the rules and regulations, in 1951, and I mean gee, just think, it was not perfect then--