House of Commons Hansard #9 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jobs.

Topics

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very concerned as well about the state of our seniors.

The budget implementation act will top up the guaranteed income supplement swiftly so that the seniors who are actually going to benefit from this new support will be able to get it by July 1. The budget implementation act is focused on these pressing issues because we are concerned that seniors will not otherwise get this money that should be available to them.

Yes, there is more to do, but I ask the member why on earth he is a member of a party that actually voted against a number of measures put forward by this Conservative government to help seniors, things like pension income splitting and reducing the GST, which actually help keep more money in the pockets of seniors. There were 120 tax measures to reduce taxes and help families keep $3,000 more in their pockets every year, and yet the NDP voted against every single measure.

I would encourage the member to take to heart what he has said here today in his question. I would ask him to please vote with us to help our seniors get out of poverty and move forward so they can live their lives with dignity.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Madam Speaker, the title of the bill refers to supporting vulnerable seniors, an issue that was raised in the 40th Parliament in December of 2010. It was the decision of the Government of Canada to eliminate the optioning provision for senior citizens who withdrew their registered retirement income funds. The government eliminated the optioning of that income, thereby preventing many seniors from receiving guaranteed income supplement benefits, or risk having their benefits dramatically reduced.

When the government's action in this regard was brought to the full attention of the House, the government rescinded its decision, or at least said that it had rescinded its decision. It noted that it was wrong to take away the benefits of the guaranteed income supplement from seniors who withdrew funds from their registered retirement income funds, and pledged that it would correct the problem.

The issue came on the back of a tax court decision called the Ward decision. The tax court ruled on when an individual was denied GIS benefits because he or she had withdrawn funds from their RRIF and the Government of Canada had withdrawn its support. Madam Ward had to take the matter to court. Regrettably, she lost. The tax court ruled that the current provisions of the Old Age Security Act as written offered the government proper recourse and authority to deny those benefits. The government said that it would change the act.

Does this budget implementation bill actually amend the Old Age Security Act to allow the withdrawal of funds from a registered retirement income fund and allow the optioning provision for the GIS and do so in accordance with the law? Yes or no?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to welcome back my colleague. It will be an interesting session for the next four and a half years.

As I said during my speech, this first budget implementation act has put together measures for some very pressing and emerging issues, measures that need to be passed before we leave, possibly on June 23 if not later. These measures are imperative because if we do not pass this bill, seniors will not get their GIS, the legions will not be able to get rebates for their poppies and wreaths. There are a number of measures that are absolutely imperative to pass before the summer break.

We are going to continue to move forward on a number of other measures in a budget implementation act in the fall. We are going to continue to push forward on our platform, and the member across the way is just going to have to wait until we get to that point.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Kennedy Stewart Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, I have been reading through the budget and paying careful attention, but I have some questions about the base statistics on which your work is done.

Most specifically, I am interested in what is commonly reported in the U.S. as the natural rate of unemployment. The U.S. Federal Reserve says that the current natural rate of unemployment in the U.S. is about 6%. Former finance ministers here have said it is about 8%.

What natural rate of unemployment are you basing the budget projections on, and can you tell me whether that natural rate is increasing or decreasing?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I would ask all hon. members to direct their questions through the Speaker.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague across the way for the question as it allows me another opportunity to reflect on what just happened in May. Twenty thousand new jobs were created here in Canada. That brings our total to 560,000-plus net new jobs since we took office.

The budget implementation act, which is what we are debating here today, is actually a small version of what is in the budget. The budget implementation act was designed to push the most pressing issues forward. Unemployment is a pressing issue. However, we have to get some of these measures through by June 23, or maybe a couple of days later.

Other things that we are going to be doing on unemployment will come out in the fall. The member is just going to have to wait until we get there.

However, know this: If we proceeded, as the NDP has suggested, with raising corporate taxes, that would kill jobs, that would leave more unemployed people in Canada, that would affect families and seniors' ability to pay their bills. That is something this government will not do.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Madam Speaker, I have a question for my colleague.

Unfortunately, in life, we do not always get what we want. In this budget, Quebec will receive $2.2 billion as compensation for its sales tax harmonization. There is also $50 a month for our seniors as a guaranteed income supplement top-up. The Bloc Québécois would rather that amount be $110, but $50 is a first step.

The government is renewing the eco-energy program and there are tax credits for family caregivers. I do not understand how members from Quebec can vote against $2.2 billion for Quebec. I am hoping that my colleague can explain that, because I do not understand.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. We worked together during the last Parliament, and I am looking forward to working with her in the future.

There are five members from Quebec on the government side of the House of Commons who are working very hard to implement measures that will improve things in Quebec. In the bill we are debating today, there are measures to ensure that Quebec will receive money through transfers. All members from Quebec must vote for this bill to ensure that it passes quickly. Otherwise, Quebec will suffer, since it will not receive the funds allocated for the transfers in this bill.

With respect to the other measures that have to do with Quebec, we have put forward an initiative to resolve the tax harmonization issue, and it will happen in the fall. We have five members from Quebec on this side who are working on implementing measures for forestry companies, manufacturers and so on. We will continue to move forward, but the members from Quebec on the other side are not the ones who will be putting these measures in place.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am asking for unanimous consent to split my time with the member for Welland.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

This being the opening round, the hon. member has asked for unanimous consent to share her time.

Does she have the unanimous consent of the House to do so?

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Madam Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-3, but since this is the first time I am rising to speak and give a speech here, I would like to send out special thanks to the constituents of Nanaimo--Cowichan who once again sent me back to the House. This is my fourth election and I am very appreciative of that support from my riding.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

And so are we.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

I want to thank the member for Hamilton Centre for that.

Bill C-3 is an important piece of legislation. New Democrats have indicated that they will support the bill at second reading and get it to committee and then we will determine whether we will continue to support it.

I want to spend my time today focusing on what is not in the bill.

An article from the Star in a report today by Stats Canada says that:

The recession stopped progress on poverty in its tracks, according to new data from Statistics Canada that indicates almost one in 10 Canadians is considered poor...the agency says the poverty rate edged up in 2009 to 9.6 per cent--the second straight year that poverty has grown after more than a decade of steady declines. About 3.2 million people now live in low income, including 634,000 children.

Today in question period we heard from the minister who agreed that poverty had edged up.

There are no significant measures in the budget to address poverty in this country, whether it is families living in poverty, whether it is children living in poverty or whether it is seniors living in poverty.

People would argue that there is an increase in the GIS, but that increase does not go nearly as far as what New Democrats had asked for prior to the election. We recognize that doubling the GIS for seniors would have some impact on the poverty they face.

New Democrats have done some significant work on suggesting what we can do to address poverty. I want to mention Bill C-545 from the previous sitting of the House, which was introduced by Tony Martin, the former member for Sault Ste. Marie. Anybody who knows Tony knows it has been his life's work to raise the consciousness in Canada around poverty and the impact that it has on our communities and our families. He worked with a number of organizations to introduce his bill called an act to eliminate poverty in Canada. We have a template here for the government. It does not have to go out and reinvent it.

I will not read the whole bill of course into the record, but I am going to talk about a couple of things.

What is poverty? As described in this act:

--poverty is the condition of a human being who does not have the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain economic self-reliance and to facilitate their integration into and participation in society--

It also says:

--the federal government, through constitutional and legislative amendments has direct involvement in the reduction of poverty and plays a central role in programs providing social protection and income security, including pensions, the Canada Social Transfer, the Old Age Security Program, child benefits and employment insurance benefits--

It also talks about the fact that there are many provincial governments and municipalities that either have poverty reduction strategies in place or are working toward implementing them.

The purpose of this act is to impose on the federal government the obligation to eliminate poverty and promote social inclusion by establishing and implementing a strategy for poverty elimination and consultation with the provincial, territorial, municipal and aboriginal governments and civil society organizations. It was specific.

Then it outlined what this poverty and promotional social inclusion strategy would include. I am not going to read them all but there are a couple of key points. It includes the measures necessary to prevent people from falling into poverty, reduce the incidence, depth and duration of poverty and improve the situation of all people currently living in poverty, including those living in deep poverty or poverty of long duration and those who have multiple needs.

It says it includes measures to provide income security and access to housing, includes measures to promote the involvement of Canadians in determining and implementing the solutions to poverty, determine an acceptable measurement of poverty for Canada and sets out targets to eliminate poverty in Canada in the short term of 1 to 3 years, the medium term of 4 to 7 years and in the long term of 8 years or more. There are many more points under this.

It is distressing when we hear members talking about the fact that the 634,000 children in Canada are living in poverty. I have to remind us all that when we are talking about children, we are talking about children and their families. It is not just children. They do not live in isolation. They live with mothers, or fathers, or brothers, or sisters. So it is important.

In 1989, we had Ed Broadbent's motion in this House to eliminate child and family poverty by the year 2000, and many of us of course have worked with campaign 2000 around the fact that we have missed that target consistently since 2000.

Once again, this budget implementation act and the budget that was introduced by the government was an opportunity to take some steps, some measurable steps, toward eliminating child and family poverty in this country and the government has failed to do that.

Just in case people think that there has not been substantial work done on this, I want to refer to the “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada”, produced by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. I only wish I had the time to read in all of the good works that are in this report. The report is the accumulation of numerous committee meetings, numerous testimonies by organizations that worked with people living in poverty, by people in poverty themselves, by aboriginal organizations. Many organizations came forward to talk about what the reality is for Canadians who simply do not have enough resources to pay their rent, to feed their children, to clothe their children, to even dream of being able to save money so that their children could have a university or a college education. Many of those stories were heartbreaking.

In my former role as aboriginal affairs critic, I am very familiar with the poverty that is facing first nations, Métis and Inuit in this country.

Sadly, I cannot read all of the recommendations in the report, but I will mention two. Recommendation 3.1.1 says:

...the federal government immediately commit to a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada that would see, during its first phase, the implementation of the recommendations in this report.

This action plan should incorporate a human rights framework and provide for consultations with the provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations, the public and private sector, and people living in poverty, as needed, to ensure an improvement in the lives of impoverished people.

I specifically want to cite Recommendation 6.2.5, which could have been included in the budget and in the Budget Implementation Act, which states:

The Committee recommends that the federal government increase the budget for social economy initiatives and that this increased funding be used to promote job creation among low-income individuals, especially those who face serious barriers finding and securing a job.

The work has been done. The studies have been done. In fact, the legislation has been written under the old Bill C-545 . It is troubling when we see a lack of response to the serious poverty issues in this country.

I want to turn to a report by the Citizens for Public Justice because this puts some numbers to it. I know sometimes numbers put people to sleep, but I think these are important numbers.

In this report, called “Bearing the Brunt: How the 2008-2009 Recession Created Poverty for Canadian Families”. It says, under the heading “Poverty and child poverty rate”: “After the last recession, it took 14 years for the poverty rate to return to its pre-recession level”.

We are not only dealing with the current poverty in this country, but we are looking toward many years of this playing out.

It also states: “Without a poverty elimination strategy, the poverty rate in Canada will continue to rise and fall with the economic cycle. It will take a concerted effort to eradicate poverty in Canada”.

I know many on the New Democrat side come from social justice backgrounds and we think it is important, that Canada has the resources and it should have the political will to develop a poverty reduction strategy.

Let me just touch on the heading “Unemployment and Employment Insurance” for a moment. Under the subheading “Unemployment”, it states: “Job losses during the recession disproportionately affected those most economically vulnerable, as 1 in 4 workers making $10 an hour or less lost their job”.

It went on to talk about the erosion of the social safety net, how:

The recession revealed the inadequacy of EI as a social safety net.

Despite a rise in EI coverage, almost half of the unemployed did not receive benefits.

Canadians who did receive EI benefits were living in poverty unless they had another household source of income.

As many as 500,000 Canadians have exhausted their EI benefits without finding new work.

Of course we hear the job creation numbers touted in this House. What people fail to talk about is many of those jobs created were part-time, seasonal contract jobs.

Although we will be supporting this to go to second reading, it is a sad comment that we did not take this opportunity to address the poverty issues and develop a national poverty reduction strategy in this country.

Supporting Vulnerable Seniors and Strengthening Canada's Economy Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask the member opposite if she plans to vote for this Budget Implementation Act?

I believe and I know that the seniors who live in Mississauga South have told me that they are anxious to receive the increase on the guaranteed income supplement. Without passing this budget, that will not happen by July 1.

I would like to ask the member opposite if her poverty strategies and her concern for poverty include the seniors in Mississauga South as well as the seniors all across Canada who want and need that increase to the guaranteed income supplement, which we will be providing if we pass this budget implementation bill?