House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.

Topics

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for giving me the opportunity to speak to this issue.

The NDP plan is quite simple. It aims to double Canada pension plan benefits with minimal increases to the contributions. We are generally talking about an increase of 0.43% in employer contributions and 0.43% in employee contributions over seven years. A former chief actuary of the Canada pension plan said that from an actuarial point of view, it was a good solution and it could double the benefits with minimum impact on the private sector and employees.

I have heard the arguments that the Canadian Federation of Independent Business has made repeatedly. The arguments are quite interesting, but not very logical. We are talking about an increase for the employee of 9 cents an hour a year for seven years. That is not a lot. That amounts to a $3.47 increase a week for seven years. Even for a small business, that is not a lot.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business fails to mention the economic spinoffs of this measure. If Canada pension plan and Quebec pension plan benefits were doubled, the money would be reinvested in the economy. The little money the businesses would pay to improve the benefits would be reinvested in those same businesses. There could be economic growth that would strengthen the businesses, including small and medium-sized businesses. In that sense, it is the best solution for the economy and for retirees.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to speak to Bill C-25. I welcome everyone back in the new year and I welcome those who are watching at home. It is hard to believe that people do watch the debates at home but I have two grandmothers who actually watch so I want to say hello to my grandmothers and wish them a happy new year if they happen to be watching today.

I want to talk a bit about how we got here today and why Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plan, is important. I had the opportunity, as a Conservative member on the finance committee over the last five years in the previous Parliaments, to be part of finance and we did an extensive study on pensions. It took a number of months and, out of that study, came a number of issues, one of which was a pooled registered pension plan. Business, labour and individual business owners were coming to our committee and asking us to look at the possibility of being part of that group of those who were eligible for pensions. As has been previously mentioned, about 60% of people do not have access to pensions. They were looking for an opportunity to have access to a pension plan.

Out of that, we recognized the issue that pensions play, not just currently but in the future. The Prime Minister had the foresight to take the parliamentary secretary at the time and make him a Minister of State for Finance with a focus on pensions. We are the only government in Canada's history that has a focused ministry on that particular item. We care about our seniors, our future seniors and where this country is going in terms of the demographic. We need to be on top of the pension plans and retirement issues that are facing this country, which is why the Prime Minister has dedicated a ministry to that effect. So that is how we got here today.

Who asked for it? Members have heard over and over again from my colleagues on this side of the House about the small business organizations that have come to see us to talk about why they need access to a pension plan. One reason is that it is good for their employees. There is no doubt that having access to a pension plan and having some planning in terms of eventual retirement are important. However, as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue previously said, it is also important for retention and attraction of employees. It is very difficult for small and medium size businesses to compete with large businesses that have pension plans and other benefit programs to attract high-quality employees. One of the things small business representatives told us at committee was that they needed a pension plan that would help them, not only retain their great employees but to help them attract new employees to their industry or business. A pooled registered pension plan would allow that to happen.

I want to remind members of the House and those watching that we are at second reading. What we are trying to do today is move this from the House to committee. With the three days that we have allocated for second reading, we have 42 speakers in 42 time slots. The bill then goes to committee so we can discuss the individual issues. We can have witnesses come to talk to us about what components are working, what needs to be changed and what can be improved. That is what we are doing today.

However, let us look at the components. One is the low cost. I have heard my colleagues across the way ask how we can guarantee it would be low cost. I am a member of OMERS as I used to be a municipal employee. OMERS now has the ability to allow me to have my own independent investments through RRSP managed by it. Why does it tell me it is a good idea? First, it is a good investor. It has a good group of people managing it as a third party and they are smarter than me on the investment piece.

Second, because of the numbers OMERS has, there are lower costs than for me to invest individually in RRSPs. It is a pooled system that OMERS is offering to members for other investments that it will manage at a lower cost. This is exactly what the pooled registered pension plans would do. It is large pools of revenue that it is able to invest at a lower cost because it has a larger pool to deal from. it knows that is coming.

Another piece that is vitally important here and that people seem to be missing the point on is this. They are saying that it is just another RRSP. However, people voluntarily put money into an RRSP, whereas if a company has a pooled retirement pension plan, people are automatically enrolled in it. They would have to withdraw from that plan. It is just like the CPP, in which people are automatically enrolled. Someone has to make a personal investment decision as an individual employee to withdraw, otherwise that person is in the plan.

Frankly, I think it is a better way to go to have people automatically enrolled in the program. Then they at least have to look at their investment plan and make a decision on their own. For lots of people, my neighbours and I included, making investment plans and decisions can be difficult. It is often much more practical, efficient and appropriate to leave it to a third party to do. People will be enrolled in this plan and will be saving for their retirement. Someone would have to decide not to save for their retirement to get out of a pooled retirement pension plan. That is a fundamental difference with an RRSP, which we have heard lots about.

Portability is another important issue I want to talk about. In a pooled retirement pension plan, if someone leaves a company to go to another one, that person can continue to have those retirement benefits in the pooled plan.

Let us be honest, if they leave one company to go another and do not contribute to the plan as a new employee, the company will lose that employee's contribution. That is true, and that is a choice people will make when they change jobs. They will have to look at the benefits they are going to get, including the opportunity for retirement, all of which will be part of that pension plan decision and the reasons they might move. At least it is portable and people will not lose those benefits, as they can move from one company to another.

The final thing I want to talk about is that it would effectively be available to everyone. Right now large corporations have some sort of contribution plan. Some have a defined pension plan, which I know is becoming increasingly rare. However, larger firms seem to be able to have contribution plans, as they can afford the management costs and they have HR departments to look after those types of things.

The largest employer in my riding of Burlington employs 600 people. The vast majority of the thousands of people who work in my riding work in small- and medium-sized businesses or sole proprietorships. All three will now have the ability to join a pooled registered pension plan, an option not available now.

Finally, I want to say this. We have heard lots about the government not boosting the CPP. The parliamentary secretary who spoke before me talked about it. Let us deal with the facts: the facts are that we need the agreement of two-thirds of the provinces, with two-thirds of the population, to actually make a change. We cannot disrespect the provinces and premiers. If they do not want to move on the CPP issue, we do not have the right or legislative ability to override their decision.

However, we do have agreement to move forward with a pooled registered pension plan program. All the provinces, at different levels, will have to have their own legislation. We have been clear about that. We will have to have legislation here, and the provinces will have to have legislation. We have commitments for that to happen. That is why we are moving forward.

We can talk about CPP, as we have as a government with our counterparts at the provincial level, until we are blue in the face, and I do not mean Tory blue, but mean regular blue. However, it will not happen without the provinces' agreement. We will continue those discussions because CPP is an important pillar, an important tool, for the retirement of everyone who is working.

Nonetheless, we need to find other tools. This is one that we have agreement on, and this is one that the business community is interested in. I even had 50 people at my house on Friday night discussing pooled retirement pension plans. These people were asking if they would qualify.

This is something we need to do. We have 42 time slots for discussion. Let us get the bill to committee. If members have problems with this legislation, they can bring their issues forward there. Let us move forward and do something for Canadians, as our NDP friends claim they like to do but never do. We are doing it.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, having 50 people talking about pooled registered retirement savings plans seems strange for that party.

Has the member opposite been listening to the debate and the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport, who said several times that reducing tax cuts to already profitable corporations will hurt already profitable businesses by reducing their profits? Yet the Minister of Finance has told us that these tax cuts for already profitable corporations were to create jobs. The government cannot have it both ways. The money cannot be used to create jobs and to raise profits. Which one is it? Why are we harping on this?

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport here and in my office.

My colleague is absolutely right. We do not understand why the NDP does not understand that pensions, including the CPP, are funded by investments in the marketplace. In fact there is a board that looks after the public service retirement plan and invests in the marketplace.

If we hurt businesses trying to do well in the marketplace by adding to their tax burden, they will be less profitable, less able to contribute, and it will hurt pensioners.

I do not know why those members are afraid to understand that the marketplace will help create value in pensions, which will eventually be returned to those who collect those pensions.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing I do not understand about this plan. If a company has excess resources to offer its employees via a pension plan to which it would contribute, why would it not just call in a company like London Life and have it create a group plan?

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

That is what this does.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Macleod, AB

At 3%.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It can already be done, Mr. Speaker. Therefore, my second question is about the following.

If an individual has some money to invest for retirement, he or she can go to the bank and buy a mutual fund and the risk in that mutual fund will be spread out over thousands of people in the market. The individual can choose a very low risk mutual fund or a GIC.

I just do not understand why this proposal is so special.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the plan is special for one particular reason, which those members seem to miss. If a business belongs to a pooled registered plan, employees are required to opt out if they do not want to be part of the plan. I do not want to use the word “force“, but it requires them to participate. An employee has to opt out.

First, individuals who have not been thinking about their retirement may not go to a bank and invest in an RRSP. Second, the RRSP system is very expensive. Canada has one of the highest cost RRSP systems of any nation in the world. However, with a large pooled system, the costs can be lowered, which will add to the pension amounts people will be able to collect after they retire. That is why having a pooled system is better than individuals doing it on their own.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Before I recognize the hon. member for Vancouver Centre for resuming debate, I will let her know that I will need to interrupt her speech at about 2 o'clock for the commencement of members' statements.

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Vancouver Centre.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am really glad to stand in the House and speak about Bill C-25 and its pooled pension plan. I know everyone has had various emotional and other responses to it, but first and foremost, I have to be cynical. I suggest that the government is playing games with Canadians' financial security when they retire.

It is playing games because we know that its own consultant, who has been working with the OECD and the World Bank on pensions, has said very clearly that there is no crisis with the OAS at the moment, that in fact we do not need to raise the retirement age at the moment and that we are one of a few OECD countries with the lowest investment in public pensions. Accordingly, there is room for us to look at how we would invest in a public vehicle to help Canadians who cannot afford to retire.

A game is going on here. In the last election we know that the Prime Minister promised the government would not cut transfers to health, education and to individuals. However, it is obvious what a difference a few months and a majority government will make to promises made and promises broken. Slashing health transfers, attacking old age security and raising the retirement age to 67, I can only name as a few of those broken pre-election promises.

I listened yesterday to members on the other side talking about how we must respect the provinces, that we must listen to the provinces and not tell them what to do. I suggest that perhaps the government should heed its own advice to us when the provinces ask it to hold a premiers' conference on health and it does not listen to them. When the provinces tell the government it cannot unilaterally decide without consultation to cut transfers, the government is not listening to them. It is the same when the government forces the provinces to pay for the cost of its omnibus crime bill as well. One cannot speak out of both sides of one's mouth, but the government manages to do it quite well.

When government first announced it was looking at Canadians' retirement security in January 2009, it agreed it would look at expanding the public vehicle, the Canada pension plan, as the way to go, and that it would seek agreement from the provinces. That was not impossible. In the mid-1990s, when the Liberal government looked at the CPP and all provinces were getting very worried about retirement pensions, the Liberal government talked to the provinces. We built trust and listened and looked at securing the CPP for 75 years. The CPP was secured for 75 years, and that was done with the provinces. It is a very secure vehicle that we can now look at as we try to help Canadians to retire with some dignity and some comfort, instead of looking at a private pension scheme as the first tool in the toolbox.

Second Reading
Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

When we next resume debate on this matter, the member for Vancouver Centre will have six and a half minutes remaining for her speech and five minutes for questions and comments.

Universities and Colleges
Statements By Members

January 31st, 2012 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today in recognition of an important day for parliamentarians. Today many of us have been, and will be, visited by university and college presidents from across Canada. They are joined on Parliament Hill by the Association of Universities and Colleges Canada in celebration of university partnerships that drive Canada's innovation.

As a $30 billion enterprise in direct expenditures alone, universities are significant drivers of economic prosperity in communities across Canada. In 2010, 272,000 people were directly employed by universities, and thousands more worked both on and off campus to supply services to students, faculty and institutions.

As chair of the government's post-secondary education caucus, I ask members to join me in welcoming university and college presidents to Parliament Hill today and thanking them for the important work they do to better our communities and the lives of so many students.

Pensions
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats have been stating loud and clear that we need to lift more seniors out of poverty. In last spring's election we presented to Canadians specific proposals to do just that, but it is becoming apparent that the Conservatives hid their plan to attack pensions.

It is easy to understand why the Prime Minister had to go offshore to make his latest statement in the Conservatives' war on pensions. I can guarantee he would not have received a good reception for his message in places like Elliot Lake, Hearst, Manitouwadge, or anywhere in Canada.

Raising Canada's retirement age will unfairly punish those Canadians who want to retire at age 65 but need some help from OAS to make that possible. It amounts to punishing the vulnerable in our society and is anything but fair.

If the Prime Minister is looking to save money, he should cast his gaze at the billions in corporate tax giveaways that his government so carelessly hands out despite the evidence that shows they do nothing to create jobs in Canada.

New Democrats will continue to work with seniors and the organizations that represent them to fight these mean-spirited changes. We want to strengthen pensions, not weaken them.

Alzheimer's Awareness Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it was an honour this past weekend to cut the ribbon to officially start the annual Alzheimer Society of B.C. Walk for Memories in my riding of Kelowna--Lake Country. The walk raises funds, awareness and support for those 500,000-plus Canadians, 70,000 in B.C., suffering from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Almost 20% of our population in the Okanagan is 65 years of age or older, and the sad reality is that after the age of 65 the odds of developing Alzheimer's doubles every five years.

Many thanks to walk chair, Laura Cochrane, and her dedicated team of volunteers, the Old Time Fiddlers, the Lions Club, and the many sponsors who made this event a success. A very special thanks to Jennifer Hamilton, our support and education coordinator in Kelowna, who cares for the caregivers so that they may provide compassionate support to their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer's and dementia.

With everyone working together, there is hope for a cure. We should remember to live each day to its fullest and to cherish our memories.