House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.

Topics

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I know the member is a former cabinet minister under the Liberal government and most of us have heard about the demographic issue coming forward for some period of time. For some of us, it has been over 30 years and certainly as baby boomers we saw this issue coming forward and what was going to take place.

What steps did the member, as a former cabinet minister, take to deal with these issues when he was in government? What substantive things did his government do at that time concerning these issues?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, that is a terrific question because it was the government of Mr. Chrétien, and Paul Martin as finance minister, that made the fundamental changes to the Canada pension plan, which prepared the CPP for decades of prudential strength looking forward to the future. It was also the government, with Paul Martin as finance minister, that eliminated a $43 billion deficit, balanced the books and ensured that $100 billion was paid down on the national debt. Of course, we know we have now lost all that because of the Conservatives' ideological profligacy in the last few years.

As a minister specifically, I was part of the expenditure review committee of cabinet which was led by the hon. member for Markham—Unionville. During that time we saved billions of dollars. We did not do it based on ideology; we did it based on evidence. We looked at every department and every agency and we worked with departments and agencies. My department of public works saved over $3 billion, working with public servants, and $1 billion every year since by reforming procurement, by privatizing in some cases and by out sourcing in other cases, but also by getting better value for tax dollars. I am certain the hon. member would support all of those initiatives.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the remarks by the member for Kings—Hants.

There seems to be some confusion around the announcement of the Prime Minister in Davos. It is not unusual for the Prime Minister to show contempt for this place by making fairly major policy announcements outside the country. However, there seems to be a lot of discussion on the OAS and the fact that it seems to be the government's objective to increase the time people can qualify, to move it ahead two years to age 67.

I ask the member for Kings—Hants this. Is it true that OAS and GIS are linked, that if we raise one, we will be raising them both? Is this not really just an attack on the most vulnerable in Canadian society?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, we understand that to be the case, that if we change the qualification age for OAS, we do the same for GIS. Of course, GIS is there for those seniors who are significantly below the poverty line.

However, beyond that, just the OAS numbers alone, over half the seniors receiving OAS in Canada make less than $25,000. Just think of that. These seniors are one of Canada's most vulnerable populations. It was bad and cruel enough that the Conservatives made the caregiver tax credit non-refundable, denying that benefit to low-income seniors, but it is heartless to attack seniors further.

I found it interesting that at Davos last week, at the World Economic Forum, there were world leaders almost without exception saying that income inequality and the gap between rich and poor was an issue that needed to be addressed in countries around the world. The only leader who did not talk about income inequality was the Canadian Prime Minister. Not only did he not speak to income inequality and the challenge it represents to societies, but he actually floated an idea that would make it worse in Canada.

This is another example of how we have a bit of a challenge with the occupiers in the NDP and the Tea Partiers in the Conservatives. We need a good, moderate, centrist, practical Liberal government focused on the future of Canadians and helping all Canadians achieve a dignified retirement.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to participate in today's debate about the importance of passing Bill C-25 in good time.

I would like to use my time to take a closer look at this new retirement savings option for Canadian workers within the broader context of growing income inequality and, more importantly, what our government has done to fix that.

This troubling trend is affecting countries around the world, and Canada is no exception.

The global economy is more integrated than ever in terms of trade, the job market and even monetary systems, so it should come as no surprise that Canada is feeling the effects of this phenomenon that originated elsewhere. Other countries with advanced economies and social safety nets have experienced similar repercussions. For example, the growing gap between rich and poor in Germany is virtually identical to that in Canada in the most recent decade studied by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the OECD.

That being said, we must keep in mind that the effects of increased immigration and heightened global interaction and integration have been, for the most part, extremely positive.

In absolute terms, fewer families are living in poverty, and their median after-tax incomes are higher, according to a Vancouver Sun report in October, and this despite the increasing income inequality that has been observed.

These observations are seconded by Statistics Canada research showing that, from the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s, after-tax incomes and transfers increased in all income brackets and that, in fact, low-income families are not nearly as common in Canada as they once were. Of course, this does not mean that we should not consider income inequality.

The Minister of Finance recently spoke about his concerns in this regard. As reported in the Toronto Star, the minister said that income distribution is important and that the issue is that while a very small number of people have very high incomes, others do not have the same opportunities. This is not in keeping with the equal opportunity economy that our government is endeavouring to build, an economy that provides everyone with the opportunity to succeed no matter what their background.

We must not forget that this trend began well before the current government of Canada was brought to power by Canadians.

Therefore, it is one of many challenges that will be handled better by our government than by the opposition parties, as Canadians clearly realize. That is why they gave our government a majority. Canadians can rest assured that we have implemented a number of effective measures to address this challenge, including the pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP.

Some of the comments made by opposition members in this debate would have us believe that the solution to the problem of income disparity is for Canadian governments to simply take money from some people and give it to others, thus magically solving the problem.

The reality is that this approach would impoverish everyone. Our government knows that this is not how a country creates and distributes wealth in the real world.

Scuttling the entire ship will not encourage retirement savings, increase the standard of living or bridge the income gap. The real way to achieve these objectives is to take advantage of the power of our job creators, so that they can invest in higher wages, training, equipment and technology that allows them to do more, be more competitive globally and share their success with the country, which will benefit all Canadians.

With the next phase of Canada's economic action plan—a low-tax plan for jobs and growth—we are taking significant actions to create these conditions. These actions include reducing the tax burden for Canadians, thereby providing support to families and individuals, and encouraging businesses to make the types of productivity-enhancing investments that result in sustained economic growth.

As a result of broad-based federal and provincial business tax changes, Canada now has an overall tax rate on new business investment that is substantially lower than any other G7 country and is below the average of the member countries of the OECD. This tax advantage is aggressively positioning Canada for long-term success.

Forbes magazine recently ranked Canada number one in its annual look at the best countries for business. Globally, more and more people are putting their money to work on this understanding and investing in Canada as the place to be in the future. With the strong mandate we received from Canadians in the last election and with the next phase of Canada's economic action plan becoming a reality, these investments are going to pay off not just for investors, but for all Canadians. When Canada's entrepreneurs and job creators succeed, all Canadians succeed.

With the implementation of the PRPP framework, Canadians saving for retirement will be in the best possible position to invest in this dynamic approach to creating wealth and to support and benefit from it. As we have heard, PRPPs represent an innovative, low-cost, privately administered and accessible pension vehicle to help Canadians meet their retirement savings objectives. These plans are especially important to small and medium-sized businesses because they will allow such business owners and their employees to access a comprehensive, low cost, privately administered pension plan for the very first time.

Professional administrators will be subject to a fiduciary standard of care to ensure that funds are invested in the best interests of plan members. By pooling pension savings, Canadians will have greater purchasing power. The lower costs resulting from pooled purchasing will allow members to devote more of their income to retirement savings. These plans will be straightforward in order to simplify membership and management.

PRPPs will have to be harmonized across the provinces, which will further reduce administrative costs. These design features will eliminate many of the barriers that used to prevent some employers from offering retirement plans to their employees. Our government believes that this will encourage many small businesses to offer PRPPs. This is quite significant when we consider—and this is rather astonishing—that just over 60% of Canadians do not have a retirement plan provided by their employer. What is more, some Canadians might not be capitalizing on the all the saving possibilities currently available to them through individual products such as RRSPs and they might not be saving for retirement on a regular basis.

In cases where employers offer PRPPs, we encourage automatic enrollment for employees. Automatic enrollment will encourage regular savings in PRPPs. Employees who do not opt out will be automatically enrolled.

On another note, in December 2011, Parliament passed the Keeping Canada’s Economy and Jobs Growing Act, which implemented other important aspects of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan to help our economy flourish.

One of the most important measures in the act reflects the idea that jobs are the best income support program.

To protect jobs and support growth, the act grants small businesses a hiring tax credit of up to $1,000 to offset the increase in their employment insurance premiums in 2011 relative to their 2010 premiums. Some 525,000 businesses, and even more Canadian workers, will be able to benefit from this temporary measure.

I want to emphasize that this credit is in addition to our recent initiatives to limit employment insurance premium increases and to protect jobs.

Because we believe that employment is the best social security program, we introduced the working income tax benefit in 2007 and enhanced in it 2009 to encourage low-income Canadians to find and keep jobs.

As my government colleagues have pointed out, the WITB has provided over $1.1 billion per year to working low-income Canadians. Together with other tax cuts introduced by the government, the WITB has had an extremely positive impact in terms of encouraging people to find work and on the financial situation of many low-income Canadians.

Our government recognizes that it is important not only to create and protect good jobs to shrink the income gap, but also to enable people with jobs to keep more of their hard-earned money.

This is especially important for low-income Canadians who spend a greater proportion of their income to meet their families' basic needs: food, housing and clothing.

That is why our government reduced the tax burden for individuals, families and businesses by an estimated $220 billion in 2008-09 and for the following five years.

Individuals and families in all tax brackets are benefiting from tax cuts, with those in lower income brackets benefiting from proportionally bigger tax cuts.

For the 2011 tax year, one-third of the individual income tax cuts introduced by our government has benefited Canadians whose income was lower than $41,544, even though they pay only about 13% tax.

Cutting the GST from 7% to 5% gave all Canadians a break, including those who do not earn enough to pay income tax.

The GST credit, which was not reduced even though the GST was cut by 2%, returns more than $1.1 billion per year to low- and modest-income Canadians.

In addition, all taxpayers benefit from personal income tax reductions, such as the reduction from 16% to 15% for the lowest tax bracket, and the increase in the basic personal amount that Canadians can earn, which is not subject to federal income tax.

The Canada employment credit is another important measure that truly helps workers make ends meet. A credit of up to $1,065 is available for the 2011 taxation year to help cover work-related expenses, such as buying a personal computer, uniforms and supplies.

Measures implemented by our government since coming to power ensure that low-income Canadians now pay considerably less tax and receive greater benefits. A single parent with only one child who earns $37,000 will pay $1,125 less in personal income tax in 2011. In addition, as a result of changes made to the national child benefit supplement in budget 2009, this parent will also receive additional benefits of up to $241.

As a result of initiatives taken by our government since 2006, more than one million low-income Canadians no longer have to pay taxes.

But that is not all. Our government knows that employment is the best social safety net, and we have implemented measures to create jobs and to allow the incumbents to keep more of their hard-earned income.

Nevertheless, we realize that, for various reasons, some people are unable to take advantage of these measures. We therefore took action in order to remedy this situation.

The Canada social transfer and the Canada health transfer allow the Government of Canada to provide significant financial assistance to the provinces and territories in order to help them provide important programs and services to low-income Canadians.

These transfers support health care services, post-secondary education, social assistance and social services, as well as programs for our children.

In 2011-12, the provinces and territories will receive $11.5 billion in cash under the Canada social transfer and $27 billion under the Canada health transfer. These amounts will increase by 3% and 6% respectively over the next few years.

In budget 2009, the government invested $2.1 billion in the construction and renovation of social housing across Canada, including housing units for low-income seniors, people with disabilities and first nations people living on reserve.

In the latest budget, the government also announced a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for Canada's most vulnerable seniors.

Since July 2011, seniors with little or no income other than the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement have been able to receive additional benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and up to $840 for couples per year. This measure will improve the financial security and well-being of more than 680,000 Canadian seniors.

Together, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement constitute Canada's largest federal social program, through which over $36 billion in benefits are paid to about 5 million Canadian seniors.

Low-income seniors who receive the guaranteed income supplement and who have a job will now be able to keep more of their earnings.

In budget 2008, the government increased to $3,500 the amount that can be earned before the guaranteed income supplement is reduced, so that GIS recipients will be able to keep more of their hard-earned money.

Thanks to our government's efforts to create jobs, to allow workers to keep more of their earnings and to help those who need it most, Canada has one of the lowest poverty rates among seniors out of the 33 OECD member countries. Our rate is lower than that of Australia at 27%, the United States at 24% and the United Kingdom at 10%.

Once fully implemented, PRPPs will play an important role in closing the income gap by promoting saving, while supporting a global investment process that will create wealth and move our economy forward.

Fortunately, when Bill C-25 passes, the provinces will have a model that is easy to apply to their respective frameworks, so that the system can be put to work for Canadians.

For all of these reasons, I encourage my colleagues to support the timely passing of Bill C-25 and our government's efforts to create a stronger, more prosperous and inclusive country for all Canadians.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government sure spent a lot of time tooting its own horn in that speech, but I am not sure why it is so proud of itself. I believe I heard a couple of points about Bill C-25 that I would like to address quickly.

They say this program would not cost much. The first thing I would like to know is how they can be so sure that this kind of program will minimize costs. After 10 years in effect, the management fees of a similar program in Australia were about the same as other stock investment programs, such as mutual funds. To my knowledge, there is not a single scientific study or argument that clearly proves this will be the case.

Let us not forget that Canada pension plan management fees are less than 0.5%. Retirement plans that invest mainly in the stock market tend to have management fees in excess of 2%. Management fees for pooled registered pension plans will probably be pretty close to that.

The second thing I want to say is that we already have a lot of optional programs: TFSAs, RRSPs, group RRSPs. This is an optional program like the one proposed by the Liberals.

I would like to know how this program can meet the needs of the 70% of Canadians not currently contributing to an RRSP despite its attendant tax advantages.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his questions and I want to welcome him back to the House of Commons. I am quite pleased at his interest in our proposal for this pension plan.

When we talk about low cost it is important to remember one thing: when businesses can co-operate on pooling their purchasing power to reduce costs, it helps them to offer such a pension to all those who want to take advantage of the low cost. This purchasing power will help us tremendously in every province and territory, thanks to the program we are proposing today.

As far as the administrative costs the hon. member referred to are concerned, when provincial and territorial representatives spoke with our Minister of Finance, they strongly believed that the administrative costs would be quite low as a result of co-operation between the provinces and territories and the administrators. Purchasing power is a reason for that, as well.

I would like to reiterate that, through automatic enrollment, the people who will collect this pension will certainly be receiving benefits and advantages.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the parliamentary secretary's remarks on the bill, but she failed to talk about the Prime Minister's latest bombshell, which is the government's plan to increase the age that seniors can draw OAS and GIS.

She knows that Bill C-25 only addresses a small part of the problem when it comes to pension concerns. She admitted that for Bill C-25 to work, it needs to be harmonized by the provinces. We know how that is working. Provinces are angered at the downloading of crime costs onto the provinces and the unilateral action of the government in terms of health care costs, so how does the government expect to get co-operation on this?

My question relates to what the parliamentary secretary signed onto in the lastest finance committee report, which is that the federal government would not raise taxes or cut transfers to persons, including those for seniors and children. Will she admit that the Prime Minister's current proposal goes against that commitment she signed onto in the report? Will she admit that the Prime Minister's current proposal on increasing the number of years before people can draw those funds will cost families $25,900 per year?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to welcome my colleague from Malpeque back to the House. I am surprised he was able to hear anything I had to say because he continued to heckle the whole time I was trying to talk. I am surprised he was able to take anything from this.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

That's not true.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Here we go again, Mr. Speaker. If those members would give me a moment to finish what I am saying, it would be a much easier way to answer the member's questions.

First and foremost, the comments made by the member with regard to our Prime Minister are false. Frankly, I am quite shocked that he continues to perpetuate this kind of thing. Our Prime Minister has said very clearly that he intends to protect the income security of seniors. He intends to look at a long-term prosperity issue that is creeping up. He intends to make sure that we sustain these programs that are so vitally important to our seniors for generations to come. That is outside the scope of the PRPP.

The PRPP is what we are talking about today. It is a necessity to help the people who do not have pension plans through their employers to do something to save for their future. This is why the provinces are on board.

That member is insulting the provinces by suggesting they cannot harmonize things, that they cannot get along, that they cannot have discussions that are prudent and which lead to better things for our country. I am surprised that he would do that. It is important that we all work together. I would suggest he start doing so here in the House.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to be back in the House after our hiatus over the new year.

It is always a great pleasure to hear my colleague from Saint Boniface, Manitoba so clearly articulate our government's plan for jobs and growth.

The contrast between this side of the House and the other side could not be more stark. The parliamentary secretary spoke at length about the need to create wealth and all we hear from the other side is to spend, spend, spend. Creating wealth is vital to our country.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance tell us what she heard during the consultations regarding pooled registered pension plans?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Manitoba caucus on Parliament Hill, my colleague is a wealth of information and a joy to work with. I want to thank him for his dedication to this wonderful place and to his constituents. I want to take a moment to read a couple of quotes from stakeholders.

This is what Dan Kelly, the vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, had to say:

A new voluntary, low-cost and administratively simple retirement savings mechanism will allow more employers, employees, and the self-employed to participate in a pension plan. CFIB is particularly pleased that firms will be given a choice as to whether to register for or contribute to a PRPP.

This quote is from Yves-Thomas Dorval from the Conseil du patronat du Québec:

The flexibility of the PRPPs will allow federally regulated businesses (especially small and medium-sized businesses) that do not already have a pension plan to offer one to their employees in order to ensure their financial security at retirement.

I repeat that this is exactly what our Prime Minister has been focusing on, to provide income security to folks for their retirement. We are looking at all aspects. The PRPP would be a tremendous advantage to those 60% of employees who presently do not have an employee pension. We are going to continue to fight for these folks along with the provinces and territories which are unanimous in their support for this.

I just do not understand why we cannot get support from members of the opposition parties. They know clearly that this is the will of the provinces, the will of the territories, the will of the people of Canada, and yet they intend to stand in their way and put up barriers. I just do not understand why they continue to act in this manner.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Vancouver East.

I am pleased to announce that in 2012, LaSalle is celebrating its centennial. This 100th anniversary is an opportunity to acknowledge the effort, determination and entrepreneurial spirit of our predecessors, both those who are retired and those who have passed on, who built this city in the southwestern part of the Island of Montreal. This is my opportunity to acknowledge the seniors who chose to live there, work there and raise children there, those who contributed to the success of the businesses and neighbourhoods of LaSalle and who gave their names to streets and neighbourhoods. We could not celebrate the 100th anniversary of LaSalle this year without honouring its elders. The debt we owe to the seniors and retirees of LaSalle is also owed to those of Ville-Émard, the rest of southwestern Montreal and all of Canada.

It is in acknowledging the debt we owe to previous generations that I feel morally obliged to defend the accomplishments of our elders. The right to a comfortable and secure retirement is the cornerstone of the contract that ties younger generations to previous generations. It is that contract that I want to defend today by opposing Bill C-25 on pooled registered pension plans and by speaking out against the government's abandonment of our seniors who have contributed so much to our society.

Pooled registered pension plans will create retirement savings plans for self-employed workers and people working for companies that do not offer their employees a retirement savings plan. This bill has the support of the private sector because it will save businesses money. I recognize that businesspeople, companies and self-employed workers face financial dilemmas, but this plan will do very little to address the crisis hanging over Canada's retirement system. Similar plans in place in Australia for the past 10 years have produced disappointing results. The Canada pension plan is based on stable investments, while the stock market has plummeted 10%. A group of pension experts has asked the Minister of Finance and his provincial counterparts to enhance the Canada pension plan, as recommended by the NDP.

Clearly, the government's current solution is not the right one. The crisis, however, is real. People are living longer and longer, and that is a good thing, but it means that the savings we build up during our working lives have to last much longer. In 2007, only one Canadian in three could count on the stability of a supplemental pension plan. Only two Canadians in five have RRSPs. According to the former chief statistician, Michael Wolfson, half of all middle-class baby boomers will see their quality of life decline in retirement.

Retirees depend on the old age security programs to complement their personal savings. The government says that the costs associated with OAS will be astronomical by 2030. The crisis is real, and we need a solution now. The point I want to make today is that the current crisis has nothing to do with federal revenue, as the Prime Minister suggested recently in Davos.

Canada is near the bottom of the list of OECD countries in terms of the percentage of GDP it spends on public pensions.

As Tommy Douglas said so eloquently, for a country as rich as ours, that there are seniors living in poverty is an absolute disgrace.

The true roots of this crisis can be found in the growing inequality within Canadian society over the past few decades. This crisis was caused by the stagnation of wages among Canada's middle class, while the salaries of the wealthiest Canadians continued to rise during the same period.

Now middle class families are being asked to save even more, but with salaries that have not increased for decades and have definitely not kept pace with the cost of living.

Canadian families would all like to put some money aside for their retirement, but how can they with a debt rate of nearly 160%? Families are going into debt for the same reason that they cannot save: because they simply have less money.

The retirement crisis is also a moral crisis, because the Conservatives' ideology rejects the contract that ties young generations to older generations. That is the real crisis—a moral crisis.

There are 70,000 seniors living in my riding and thousands more are approaching the age of retirement. According to Statistics Canada, more than 14% of senior women on their own are living in poverty according to the standard measure.

The sensible NDP proposal to increase the guaranteed income supplement is enough to eliminate poverty among seniors. The people of LaSalle—Émard demand to know, will the Prime Minister augment the age of retirement and ask Canadians in difficulty to wait still longer to get the income supplement they were promised a lifetime ago?

Friday morning one of my constituents wrote to my office. She agreed that I could read her letter. She told me that changing the minimum age from 65 to 67 would be unwise, because it would actually cost Canadians more since the change to the old age security would actually affect the poor rather than the rich. She said that the poor would not be able to take care of themselves properly, would cost more to the health system, would eat into their meagre investments, would get into welfare, and so on. She went on to say, “In the real world, not politics, have you tried to find a job at age 65, age 60, age 55, age 50? Are you aware of the reality of many people's situation as they get older? Take my case. At the age of 58 I have been struggling more than two years trying to find permanent employment, drifting from one job to another, training to improve my chances, and now I am stricken with cancer. If it was not for my 65-year-old husband to help out financially and emotionally, where would I be?”

That is what a constituent wrote to me. How is that for a dose of reality? I thank this fellow citizen for having the courage to speak out and for allowing me to share her concerns with Canadians.

The debate on retirement reform conceals another much more profound debate: the one between Conservative ideology and a New Democratic vision of a society in which young people honour their debt to their parents.

In Davos, the Prime Minister shared his vision of Canada for future generations. Canadians will have to tighten their belts further and continue making sacrifices. That is the Conservative vision of a competitive yet anorexic Canada, the vision of a population that is impoverished by stagnating salaries and debt, the vision of a society in which everyone is left behind, in which seniors and sick people are regarded as a burden, the vision of a country that believes that wealth is created by making other people poor and by cutting essential services. This is the Conservative Party vision: a middle class that must constantly adjust to the market economy, that must say goodbye to any hopes and dreams that the Conservatives consider unrealistic or too costly.

In contrast, the NDP is proposing a Canada in which younger generations acknowledge everything that the older generations have done for them—the sacrifices that have been made for them and the education and love that they have been given. The NDP believes in a Canada in which everyone has equal opportunities, in which we reach out to help those who have fallen, a society that shares the wealth. That is the Canada that was built by previous generations. That is the Canada that we in the NDP want to pass on to our children. Together, let us build such a future.

Lunar New Year
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Dechert Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my best wishes to all Canadians who have recently celebrated the Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean Lunar New Year Tet and Spring Festival in Canada and around the world.

As many Canadians of Asian heritage gather with family and friends to mark the beginning of the new year I would like to take this opportunity to reflect on their accomplishments and all they wish to achieve in the new year in our great country. I encourage all Canadians to participate in the many new year's festivities that will be celebrated across Canada.

I am pleased to see that our government is continuing to foster positive relationships between Canada and China, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Republic of Korea by expanding trade and cultural ties. Our government's new year's commitment is to continue working hard on the economy and to create the jobs and economic opportunities that will help ensure that the year of the dragon will indeed be a year of prosperity and well-being for all.

Happy new year.

Xie Nien Kwai Le.

Chuc mung nam moi.

Gong Hey Fat Choy.

Sabok Mani Baduseyo.