House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, those of us who handle these files tend to talk inside baseball.

A defined benefit is very simple. Employees agree with the employer that money will be set aside jointly. At the end of the day, when employees are about five years before receiving a pension, they can calculate exactly what they would receive each month. If the market happened to take a downturn, the employer is responsible for making up the difference. Thus, one can count on whatever one is entitled to on a monthly basis.

The difference between defined benefit and defined contribution is quite simple. When employee reach that point in time when they are taking their pension, if there is a downturn in the economy that takes 30% or 40% away as we saw recently, then the employees lose that money and the employer does not have to top it up.

Employers will say that this is an unfunded liability. Guess what? If employers had been funding it in the good times, as they should have been, with no contribution holidays, the funds would be there. We would not have the problem that Air Canada or Canada Post or the other American companies are having. These companies are taking advantage of the situation across this country right now, putting Canadian workers out on the streets.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Kingston and the Islands, The Environment; the hon. member for Random—Burin—St. George's, Search and Rescue.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am privileged to speak to this motion given that over a quarter million seniors are living in poverty today. I also want to articulate the importance of today's youth to be engaged in the dialogue of upholding the standards for today's seniors and for the seniors of the near and distant future.

We are facing crisis today with the number of seniors who are living in poverty. This demands immediate attention. The government has a responsibility to act now to lift every senior out of poverty.

According to Statistics Canada, almost 300,000 more Ontarians sank into poverty since 2007. Further, Ontario's 17% growth in poverty since 2007 was the highest in the country. Right now, almost 1.7 million Ontarians are living in poverty. There has been an increase in poverty of almost 20% among working-aged adults and a staggering 42% among seniors in Ontario.

I hear the distress and anxiety from my constituents. They are not sure how they are going to pay for the increasing energy and food costs, and the additional taxes on their expenses as a result of the HST.

I remember speaking with an elderly couple who live in the Alton Towers in my riding. They invited me into their home, but they had no heat on. They had one portable space heater that they moved from room to room as they moved. They did not have any of their big lights on in their home. They only had small lamps on. They did not watch TV and had one radio that they used for entertainment. They were doing everything possible, everything they could think of to reduce their consumption in order to reduce their expenditures. I sat with them for about 20 minutes as they went through their bills. They showed me their hydro bills that were consistently getting more and more expensive, and less and less affordable for them with their regular day to day expenses living in the meagre way they were.

Nobody in Canada deserves to be living in these conditions, especially our seniors who have given so much of their lives for us. They have invested into the system for much of their lives only to have to live in such abhorrent conditions. No seniors deserve to be lining up at a food bank in order to feed themselves or to be forced to work well into their retirement years.

Another couple I spoke with on Berner Trail, not too far from where I live, had moved into their modest home as a young couple. They worked very hard and raised their family there. They played by the book and did everything right to be able to enjoy their so-called “golden years”. However, now at the ages of 67 and 65, they are looking for work. They are looking for any type of work they can get. The woman is working at the Food Basics by my house as a grocery clerk in order to help pay for their expenses.

A 2009 report on women's poverty from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives stated that low-income rates among senior women remained almost double that of senior men. We know from Statistics Canada that women in Canadian society live longer lives than men.

I am concerned, as everyone in Parliament should be, for all the single senior women in my constituency and in Canada who are going to be left with no choice but to be dependent on food banks and the kindness of local community members. It is very clear from the government's budget that lifting every senior out of poverty is not its priority.

The $300 million proposed by the government is nice. It sounds like a lot, but it falls short. It sends a clear message about the government's priorities. It would rather give billions of dollars of tax cuts to large corporations, oil companies, big banks or the well-connected wealthy insiders rather than lift every man and woman who built this country out of poverty.

It is not just the seniors in my constituency who are concerned about the lack of support to lift seniors out of poverty. Many of the working adults, the young families in my constituency, are also worried. They are concerned about how they are going to be able to afford to help their mother or father have a dignified quality of life as their current OAS or GIS payments do not go very far.

Since the financial support is not enough for their parent or parents to live on their own, these young families are bringing their elderly parents into their homes to care for them. The costs of nursing homes or retirement homes are way beyond the reach of the people who live in my constituency. They cannot afford it. They are very concerned about the additional financial stress as family caregivers when they are already just scraping by on their own.

The seniors I spoke with during the morning walking club at the Malvern Mall tell me of their experiences of living with their children. They tell me how they feel like a huge burden on their children and feel guilty about turning to their children for support on all matters. They do not want to be so dependent on their family members but do not really have a choice and spend as much time as possible at the mall so as not to be in the way of their children's lives. They do not want to feel like a burden.

We owe our seniors so much more than this. We owe our seniors so much more than for them to feel like burdens.

We in the NDP proposed a $700 million increase to the guaranteed income supplement, an investment that would allow our seniors to live a decent quality of life. It would have lifted every senior out of poverty. This support would take the worry off our families and allow our seniors a retirement with dignity and financial security.

However, as we know, the Conservative government has agreed to spend only $300 million, not even half. Other members in the House have said this is a half measure. It is actually less than a half measure. I guess it is okay for the Conservative government to lift three-sevenths or 40% of seniors out of poverty, or to lift every senior 40% out of poverty. But still 300,000 seniors are living below the poverty line. Once again, we owe our seniors much more than this.

A recent report by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy stated that the increase in senior poverty was largely due to the deteriorating position of single elderly women, whose poverty rate jumped from 14.5% in 2007 to 17.1% in 2008. That was over one year.

The federal old age security, the OAS, and the GIS assure a basic level of income for these seniors. The Conservative government displays a bipolar approach to the help that it provides to Canadian seniors. One of its policies has marginally helped low-income seniors, only 40% of them like I mentioned before, and the other helps the wealthy.

In their maiden budget in 2005 the Conservatives announced a modest improvement to the GIS for low-income seniors. I thought there might be a glimpse of hope, but very quickly they made a 180 degree turn in the treatment of our seniors by the changes to the tax system.

Some Conservative members across the way speak about their income splitting plans and how good they are. But studies show that pension income splitting does absolutely nothing to help single seniors or even the poorest elderly couples who pay no tax.

Racialized and lower-income youth today have difficulty accessing post-secondary education because of the barriers to education, financially and otherwise. We know that they need good post-secondary education to acquire any type of good job. If our youth today do not get good jobs, they will be unable to save for their future and more and more people will continue to retire in poverty.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my NDP colleague.

We know that the Conservatives want to give tax credits. They have already given a number of tax credits to big corporations, oil companies and banks.

I would like my colleague to talk about how the Conservatives' and the NDP's priorities differ. We know that the Conservatives are going to purchase F-35 jets that will cost billions of dollars. Would it be possible to do something else with that money and to change priorities to help seniors who are living in poverty?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question. It clearly will help me articulate the difference in the priorities of the NDP, which are to ensure that it is lifting every senior out of poverty, supporting families, investing in health care and education to help all Canadians rather than just oil companies, big banks, buying fighter jets and building prisons. The NDP's priority is to help every family move ahead rather than just well-connected insiders.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening very carefully to what my friends in the opposition parties have been saying all day today in the House. It is really perplexing to me, as I am sure it is to many members and Canadians right across the country, that our friends in the NDP and the Liberal Party feel that the lower tax plan, which has created over 580,000 jobs in the last couple of years, and the many measures in the budget for seniors are two different things and are totally exclusive. There was no mention whatsoever about the fact that this is the largest GIS increase in decades for seniors. They voted against that. There have been 85,000 taken off the tax rolls.

I am very curious as to why the NDP continues to vote against the measures in our economic action plan from which many Canadians and seniors across the country have benefited. Clearly, on May 2, Canadians gave us the mandate to proceed with the next phase of our economic action plan. In my riding of Richmond Hill the majority of seniors voted overwhelmingly to support the Conservative Party and the next phase of the economic action plan.

Why does the NDP continue to vote against the very thing that it is speaking about, and that is help for seniors all across Canada?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the member says the Conservatives this time around got a clear mandate when 4.5 million Canadians voted for an NDP government whereas only 4.9 million voted for the Conservatives. Four hundred thousand more Canadians do no make a clear mandate.

The engine behind my campaign in Scarborough—Rouge River was the youth and seniors in my community. They believe in the plan, platform, ideas and principles for which the NDP stands. They know we were the only party that showed a clear commitment to lifting seniors out of poverty. That is why 4.5 million Canadians voted to support the NDP this time around.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, as we debate the issue within the House, I first want to thank my colleagues for giving me this opportunity. I also thank the preceding speakers. One of the benefits of talking later in the day is the opportunity to collect bits of information from everybody and then try to articulate as best we can.

I have heard some of the debates. I have heard some very off-the-wall comments, certainly about seniors' poverty. I have also heard some comments that deal with topics other than seniors and poverty, as we sometimes get off track here and start talking about those typical lines we use. It seems like some people are still in campaign mode. Nonetheless, it makes the issue very important.

Everybody has that one essential story, or maybe two or three stories, that encapsulates what it is we try to do here, that we ensure that in a country as great as this, the most vulnerable in society do not slip through the cracks. We want to ensure that those people we identify as completely impoverished do not fall through the system, although we know people do. We see them everyday in our positions, whether we are in the bureaucracy or we are in elected office on any of the three levels. Therefore, we come to the House and bring these stories with us. I am glad to hear a lot of those stories coming out today. That is why I congratulate the preceding speakers.

The motion states:

That, in the opinion of the House, ending seniors' poverty in Canada is fiscally feasible, and, therefore, the House calls on the government to take immediate steps to increase the Guaranteed Income supplement sufficiently to achieve that goal.

To lift the vulnerable of our seniors out of poverty requires the payment that is strategically invested in the GIS, that guaranteed income supplement. It is a wonderful piece of machinery, the third pillar of seniors' pay that is so essential across the country. We have the old age security, the Canada pension plan and now the guaranteed income supplement.

Back in 2005, when I had been elected for only about a year at that point, I remember one of the initiatives we put in place was a strategy for a home heating energy rebate. A lot of people forget that. I have tried to push the government into reconsidering bringing that back. It was in January and it was a heating rebate that was given to recipients of the GIS. For many of the people in my area, and certainly across the country, it allowed people to get over the hump of Christmas and the holiday season, when heating bills are the highest, whether it be through hydro, wood, oil or natural gas.

This is the type of strategic measure that interests me the most because it is one of those initiatives that allows the people who are most vulnerable to stay within their means and in their own homes.

Earlier today, I was talking about a charity that was set up in Toronto and it is called “Share the Warmth”. It is a fantastic little charity that provides energy credits for the most vulnerable to avoid homelessness. One of the things it stated was that over the years, the median age of the recipient was getting much higher, say from the 1980s through the 1990s and into this decade.

The baby boomer surge that is running through the system is now making its presence felt here, even in this debate as we talk about the guaranteed income supplement. However, the issue is all the facets of government investing into bringing people out of poverty. The energy rebate is just one. The guaranteed income supplement that seems to be the king we are dealing with is the one measure that is most talked about. It is the one measure that got most of the attention during the campaign simply because it was the one that was most desirable.

Interestingly enough, sometimes when we debate, we get caught up into the minutiae of the language we use. I noticed earlier that, if I am not mistaken and a simple nod from the opposite will suffice, I believe those members are supporting this motion.

However, one of the things the motion says is “ending seniors' poverty is fiscally feasible and therefore, the House calls on the government to take immediate steps to increase the guaranteed income supplement”. The Conservatives are agreeing with it because they feel they have just gone through this measure.

However, the problem is that every study we have seen puts that dollar value to lift all seniors out of the poverty level at $700 million, at least. What we witnessed in the budget was less than half of that, which leads us to believe one of two things. First is denial. Second is there is more money coming. I like to think the second option is coming, but I really have my doubts.

I want to congratulate the mover of this motion. This is certainly a good time to have this debate, given the fact that we are now into, as I mentioned earlier, the area of our population growth that is burgeoning, around that age level between 60 and upwards towards 80.

I want to go back to couple of other issues. Two years ago I brought a private member's bill to the House. What I noticed was a lot of seniors were very worried, not just about the amount of money that was available, but their ability to budget.

I spoke to a group in Newfoundland and Labrador. It was the umbrella organization for all the seniors' groups. We had a very interesting meeting about the things that seniors needed, those certain measures, those small investments that would make a big difference in the lives of a seniors.

They talked about new horizons, educating them for computer training, allowing them to download pictures of the grandkids, allowing them to take the bus, discounts, whether it be tax credits or not, but discounts were a big one, and payment of utilities. For instance, if people lose a connection to the basic utilities, the reconnection fee is incredibly expensive. Therefore, seniors were looking for major discounts or even a wiping out of the reconnection fees for those who had reached a certain age. I thought that was a great idea, and it is something with which the government could get involved.

The other issue was that every senior, whether he or she was receiving CPP, old age security or guaranteed income supplement, gets paid once a month. Seniors told me that without an increase, they would like to have the option of bi-weekly payments.

We brought in a private member's bill. Now I have heard the government does not support that as of today. I hope, at some point down the road, it will support it. This is one of the greatest listening exercises that we can engage in, and that is with the most vulnerable in society and certainly for seniors who are most vulnerable.

In my riding of 193 communities, the median age is around 56. Therefore, to say that this issue means a lot to me in my position is probably the understatement of the day, certainly by me.

I think about the people in my riding and about all that I have gone through, all that I have seen, all that I have witnessed. People are in desperate need and do not know where to go. We have become the place, whether it is at the federal level or the provincial level, where the most desperate come to, yet we are locked into these departments and these payment programs. We cannot do anything because we would have to change the legislation.

A lot of the seniors in my area are turning to the churches as an act of desperation. To be quite honest, the churches are doing good work to ensure these people are connected to the avenues by which they are able to receive help. I have been here seven years and in the past four years the churches in my area, the Salvation Army, the catholic church and the Pentecostal assemblies, have been on the forefront of providing the most basic assistance.

What is wrong with that picture? The picture shows that we need to get out there more. We need to have a debate that is germane to the situation, something that is relevant, something that is tangible to the most vulnerable seniors.

If there is one thing I noticed in the past while, it is we just have not become tangible to seniors as a place for help, assistance and information. However, at least with motions like this, we can go a long way to alleviating that.

I hope that through programs like the GIS, CPP and OAS we will be able to do a lot more, but the very basic issue is that $700 million investment to bring that large bulk of people out of the poverty level. That is what has been agreed upon, but for some reason we get caught up in the argument of whether that is enough or this is enough, if this is the right number and that is not. I have heard many people say that the money is not available so therefore we have to be more prudent.

That was last year's excuse. This year all of a sudden it becomes a good thing to do. I heard many government members today say that we just had an election which therefore delayed the payment of the $300 million. If the $300 million meant so much to the government today or before the election, why did it not do this four years ago?

The Conservatives have been in power since 2006. There was a time when there was no recession. When they came into power in 2006 I remember quite well that we were flush with a surplus. We were able to forecast surpluses out for a good six or seven years. Then things turned south. Yet at the time just before the recession hit that $300 million was never mentioned.

At least all members of the House have pushed the point. I will not be specific to any particular party, but we feel the need for raising our most vulnerable out of the poverty level as I mentioned earlier.

Just poring over some of the facts when we talk about pension plans, two years ago the largest employer in my riding at the time was AbitibiBowater, a mill that existed for over 100 years. It had what was called the direct benefit plan. Quite frankly, with the closure of the mill last year, that plan is sustaining a large part of the community in which I live. That is right. That DB plan that people villainized is sustaining communities as we speak. Would a direct contribution plan do that much for the most vulnerable communities? There is not a chance.

The world is changing. Finances are changing. Companies are moving away from this. We cannot legislate them to go back. Nonetheless, as government, we have that responsibility to step in and give people choices.

In that particular situation, the solvency ratio was poor with AbitibiBowater. Two years ago it was at 71%. Trouble was ahead. Had it closed out, wound up that account, people would have ended up with 71% of their pension, which still was only a fraction of what they were earning when they were working full-time. It would have been devastating. It has rebounded somewhat, but what can we do to fix that?

We can make better laws. One of my colleagues in the NDP brought in Bill C-501, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act (termination and severance pay). The bill itself had some problems, but it had a great principle in mind, which was that the most vulnerable should line up to get attention first.

The companies pay a whole assortment of people when they finish, yet the most vulnerable always end up on the bottom part of that formula. We have to work to get that the other way around and we can do that with the right discussion, the right debate and the right legislation. It is time for all members in the House, from whatever party colour one wishes to put out there, it is a decent debate to be had. The most vulnerable would be the recipients of what it is we are paid to do, which is to discuss, debate and enact.

Some of the statistics we heard earlier today are that upwards of over 70% of the people do not have a pension outside of what is guaranteed through the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. It is a staggering figure.

One of the issues that I brought up earlier, which we brought up during the campaign and one that I think is a good idea was discussed ad nauseam in Great Britain about a decade ago. It is called a supplementary CPP.

It is the component of a voluntary payment to top up people's CPP to allow them to receive greater payments once they reach the age of 65, or 60, if they choose to do so.

However, the one element of that supplemental CPP that I thought was very important in the changing dynamics of this world, of this country and of our communities, is the fact that it was a portable mechanism for taking a pension that is not vested into one entity, not one company, but people could take it with them as they travelled throughout their working career. No matter what company people went with they could take this pension they have invested in and move it with them.

When I fly back and forth from Newfoundland to Ottawa, there are a tremendous amount of people I see each and every week, or biweekly, who go to the oil fields, primarily in Alberta, some in Saskatchewan. I worry. They make good salaries, but where they do invest for their future, for their retirement? It is all over the place, I am not really sure and I am very worried about it. If we do not worry about these things, we will find that our children and grandchildren will have to deal with that discrepancy much like we are dealing with now.

Will direct benefit plans exist at that point? I really have my doubts. As much as I do not want to say it, it looks like it just might happen that way, given the current trends toward direct contribution. I have no great qualms with RRSPs, RRIFs and these type of investments, but the issue is that it does not always provide that steady income that we think it is going to provide.

I would implore anyone to see a financial advisor. I have never been an insurance salesman and I am not the one to advocate for the industry, but I have talked to financial advisors and they provide good advice. However, not everybody does that. So, we have GIS and old age security. That is the backdrop, that is the very backbone by which people have to survive if they have nothing else to rely on.

Why can we not provide that bar, why can we not reach the bar that was set to bring everybody, virtually all these people, out of the poverty level? That is what the $700 million is about. It is not just a round number that is pulled out of the air, as was insinuated by some people in the House. It is a number that represents the greatest investment in impoverished seniors in this country probably in the last 50 years, because we have that responsibility. It does not matter if people line themselves up with a particular ideology. We have to admit that if people are poor, if they are vulnerable and if they are desperate, where is their ideology then? It means absolutely nothing. If that happens, if more people fall below that line, then we, as parliamentarians, squandered a fantastic opportunity to invest in the most vulnerable. As members will recall, the most vulnerable of seniors invested in us many years ago.

How many people in this House can actually say that they are here inspired by our seniors today? Everyone can. Who cannot? No matter whether they are uncles, aunts, mothers, fathers, grandparents, friends, next-door neighbours. Do we not owe them, at the very least, an investment in the basic income support of that $700 million, not $100 million, not $300 million, but $700 million? That is the story behind this $700 million investment. That is why I support this motion. That is why we need to have more debates on motions just like this.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague's speech was very focused and well thought out.

I noted that there are programs to help wipe out the reconnection fees that many individuals who are seniors and those who are impoverished have to face. Would it not be great if we actually had a system in place like the GIS or OAS that provided enough income for seniors so that they would not have to worry about making their monthly payments? They are missing payments right now because they do not get enough money.

Too many seniors are come into my office holding their hydro or heating bill in one hand, but say that they need money in the other hand to buy food. They have to make those choices. In our economy, in our country, that is uncalled for. I would like to hear the member's comments on that.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Sudbury and I share the same attitude and he brings up a valid point.

How does that happen to people who worked all their life, garnered wealth, raised children, afforded a home and a car or two? There are so many people in that middle income bracket who find themselves not able to afford the basic utilities. How does it happen that people who are secure at a point in their lives becomes vulnerable?

The difference between going from comfortable to vulnerable can be very thin. We see it every day. For people who get serious diseases, drug coverage can be crippling. It is astounding how much is being paid for just basic drugs these days.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy the interventions from the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor and I thank him for his contribution to the debate today.

The member asked a rhetorical question. He asked why we did not get these measures for seniors four years ago when we first became government.

I would like to remind him that the reason it did not happen earlier is because we were busy employing other measures. For example, there was a total of $2.3 billion in targeted tax measures that took about 85,000 seniors off the tax rolls, we doubled the pension income credit, reduced the minimum registered retirement income fund withdrawal by 25%, increased the age limit for registered retirement savings plans and so on. Those are measures of about $2.3 billion to help seniors. The measure that the member is talking about will help about 680,000 of our most vulnerable seniors. When he asked why we did not get this done four years ago, I think that is a plausible answer.

I would like to ask the member why, 13 years prior when the Liberal Party, his party, was in power it did not get it done? This increase in the GIS that we put forward in budget 2011 is actually the largest increase in 25 years. Perhaps the member could address why Liberals did not get it done?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I cannot deny the fact that the increases were there back then as well, but if he wants to brag about the fact this is the largest one in 25 years, I will concede the point.

Since the member brought up the targeted measures of over $2 billion, some of the measures he spoke of basically provide a small measure of comfort across the middle class level but do not dig down deep enough into what one would call the most impoverished within our society.

I will give him credit that this is the largest increase in 25 years, there is no doubt about it. Instead of condemning what has been done, I will raise the bar. Perhaps I was too hasty to say that the government should have done it before because it seems to be a political quip that we use too much. Therefore, I will credit his government for the $300 million increase and I will raise him another $400 million.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the status of women has been a priority for me for over 30 years, not only because I am a woman, but also because we are talking about at least half our population. In Quebec, for seniors living in low-income housing—I am talking about Quebec because that is where I live—as soon as they get the slightest little increase, 25% of that increase goes toward the increase in their rent. If a person gets an extra $600, then 25% of that amount goes toward his or her cost of housing. That does not leave much for groceries or personal items.

Again, women are the poorest because often, women who are in their 40s or 50s today will be taking care of their aged parents. They will leave their jobs and sometimes lose their jobs. They will end up poor when they retire because they will not have worked long enough to accumulate a respectable income to have a decent retirement. I want to see this motion adopted.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, this issue is very important for Newfoundland and Labrador and also for Quebec.

The member brings up a good point.The most vulnerable would be women in that age group.

I just dealt with a situation last week involving a woman who had to take care of her ailing parents. The only income support she had was through government means at a very low level.

Some people save RRSPs and when they withdraw from their RRSPs, their old age security and GIS are decreased. It seems like we have put ourselves in a situation where people in one lot improve themselves but people in the other lot do not.

The reason why I bring this up is because it seems that women are most vulnerable in this situation. They are predominantly the caregivers, at least for parents in the riding I am from. As a result of that, the most vulnerable get looked over very quickly. They are not as loud as others. In many cases, they are left on the hook to look after their parents in a very vulnerable situation.

The parents could have incredibly large drug expenses or incredibly large housing expenses. There is no housing available in communities that are isolated. They stay in the home that they have lived in for 50 years. It is not easy to heat these large homes. When the parents do not have the ability to heat these buildings, the responsibility falls on the children and the children in this particular situation cannot go to government agencies because they just do not qualify. The most important thing we should do goes back to the very motion we are debating today, and that is provide a level of income support to the people who actually own the home and the most vulnerable, those seniors.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' Poverty
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question so the record is clear to me and I did not misunderstand anything that the member said. He said $700 million would be sufficient to bring all seniors out of poverty. Is that his accurate statement? The reason I ask is because our costing is about $2 billion, so we see a discrepancy in costing of about $1.3 billion. I just want to clarify that for the record. I wonder if the member could speak to that. Is he sufficiently satisfied that $700 million would bring all seniors out of poverty?