House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was pension.

Topics

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from January 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in this chamber today to speak to Bill C-25, an act relating to pooled registered pension plans.

Innovative measures like pooled registered pension plans demonstrate our Conservative government's focus on the issues that matter most to Canadians: economic growth and financial security. This focus has continually achieved results. Under the leadership of our Conservative government, the Canadian economy has maintained the strongest job record in the G7. I'm very proud to say that over 600,000 net new jobs have been created since July 2009. We have also ensured a higher standard of living for Canadian seniors and our government has provided an additional $2.3 billion in annual targeted tax relief for seniors and pensioners, with measures like increases in the age credit amount and the introduction of pension income splitting.

While these are all very positive and necessary developments, there remains much to be done. Unlike the members opposite, who continue to promote job-killing tax hikes that threaten the growth of wealth and prosperity in Canada, our government has been working hard at crafting prudent, responsible and creative plans to move Canadians forward in these very fragile economic times.

I have just recently spent some time in Europe and seen first hand the difficulty that the EU is in and I am thankful that this government has ensured that we have stayed ahead of all the G7 nations. However, this requires continual improvement, vigilance, innovation and flexibility in how we manage our economy and the long-term financial prosperity and security of all Canadians well into their golden years. We must encourage all Canadians to save for their retirement and to plan for it early. To help the many Canadians who presently have no plan, the pooled registered pension plan is a vehicle that would help address that very need.

While some of the provinces raised serious concerns about expanding the CPP, there was unanimity among the provinces about pursuing the PRPP framework. Continued consultations with our provincial partners have revealed that a key area to help the Canadian economy move forward is the retirement income system. How else can we explain the fact that there are still Canadians who face a serious risk of not saving enough for retirement? This is especially true for the self-employed and Canadians working in companies that presently do not offer a pension plan. Pension reform is a key priority considering that over 60% of Canadians have no workplace pension.

Existing retirement income structures, while good vehicles, are not the key to addressing this problem. Instead, programs like RRSPs continue to be underutilized. On average, each Canadian has approximately $18,000 in unused RRSP room. Shortcomings and holes in our pension options pose a real threat as our population ages and more people reach retirement age. With this in mind, our government is proposing new low-cost and accessible pooled registered pension plans. Their introduction would widen the range of retirement savings options for Canadians and allow a greater percentage of our citizens to reach their retirement goals.

Employers would be drawn to the pooled registered plans because these would allow them the opportunity to forego the prohibitive burdens that traditional pension plans generally carry. Instead, a third-party administrator would take on most of the legal and administrative duties associated with the maintenance of the plan. Plan members would rest at ease, knowing that this third-party administration would come from regulated financial institutions that have already demonstrated a capacity to fill fiduciary roles and to act in the best interests of potential plan members.

Canadians joining PRPPs would also gain greater purchasing power, as they would essentially buy into a pool of investments. This would allow members to benefit from greater economies of scale and lower management costs, which would be an improvement over the existing smaller RRSPs. The fact that the regulatory framework of PRPPs would be harmonized between the provinces would also reduce the cost of these measures and remove administrative burdens. PRPPs would also be flexible enough to allow members to easily transfer between plans. This feature would undoubtedly also increase the attractiveness of the plan to small business owners who may find the locking-in provisions of other plans too much of a barrier.

The innovative design and new features of PRPPs have garnered universal praise. All of our provincial partners are enthusiastic about the positive effect of PRPPs on small and medium business. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Association of Canadian Pension Management and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation have all declared their support for PRPPs.

In my riding of Etobicoke Centre, PRPPs would be a very effective means to help many of my constituents start a pension where many do not have one today. I have a huge number of small and medium-sized businesses that this will apply to perfectly. I know that the people of Etobicoke Centre working in those businesses will benefit from this tremendously.

The introduction of the pooled registered pension plans does not preclude us from continuing on our work on other retirement savings vehicles. However, our government understands that in these economic trying times Canadians cannot afford further increases in CPP contributions. Because of this, the provinces have stalled their debate on reforms to CPP.

Already entrepreneurs are making plans to enrol their employees in new PRPPs.

The Ontario Medical Association recognizes the tremendous positive potential PRPPs will have on essential professions, like doctors, and praises the government for creating savings opportunities that have hereto been unavailable to them.

At this point, the introduction of a new alternative pension plan like PRPPs has been far better received than have other reforms.

Pooled registered pension plans have an enormous potential to improve the retirement security of all Canadians, particularly the 60% of Canadians who do not have the luxury of a workplace pension. This program has already drawn the interest of small business employers and relevant stakeholders, including all of our provincial partners.

In these fragile economic times, sound and innovative policy like that behind the pooled registered pension plans is essential for Canadian competitiveness and for the welfare of our citizens.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, this PRPP proposal reminds me of another debate.

Canadians called for years, and are still calling for, for a national childcare program and the Conservatives gave them $100. Now Canadians are asking for secure pensions and Conservatives are giving them a weak and voluntary program so they can roll the dice in the marketplace.

There are already private pension investment vehicles out there, so can somebody explain to me how yet another voluntary risky program is an improvement?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I reject entirely the premise of the hon. member's question.

This is not risky at all. As we said, 60% of Canadians do not have a pension plan of their own, especially those who are self-employed or work in small and medium-sized enterprises. This is an important ability for them to save for their future in the long term and well into their golden years.

This government is a very innovative government in that we provide many tools, vehicles and abilities for our Canadian seniors to benefit and live in dignity in their golden years.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would ask if the member would try to put himself in a mindset of an individual who has been working 25, 30 years, maybe in a manufacturing industry, or the restaurant or hospitality industries, and who is now in the age range of 55 to 57 years of age. He or she watching the news now sees the Prime Minister and the government talking about increasing CPP up from age 65 to 67.

I am sure the member can appreciate the nervousness those types of individuals would have, when the government of the day is talking about making those types of significant changes. It is all a part of pensions, whether it is this bill or government pensions, something for which we have long advocated.

Those individuals are looking for a very simple answer. We could not get it today during question period. My challenge to this member is this. Is he prepared to say that the Conservative government will not increase the CPP age from 65 to 67? Could he give that simple guarantee that this will not happen?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member spent too much on his laptop. I was talking about pooled registered pension plans.

I can put myself in the mindset of those individuals. Starting off as a young teen I bussed tables, I cleaned toilets, I was a waiter, I built cars and I delivered furniture. I had so many other jobs that put me through school, but they were very difficult jobs in their time. I understand what Canadians go through.

On the pooled registered pension plans, this is another opportunity for Canadians to save. It is never too late to start planning and saving for retirement, with good prudent tools that the government is providing all Canadians.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, given the fragile economic times that we currently face, what would an increase in CPP premiums do?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it would be a very difficult time because this is a fragile economy. It also takes two-thirds of the population in order to change that rule. Right now, in very difficult economic times, like those I observed in Europe recently, this would be a burden that we could not fairly place upon Canadians.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Ryan Cleary St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, the image that haunts me from the May 2011 federal election, from campaigning in my riding of St. John's South—Mount Pearl in the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador, is that of the seniors I met at their doors, in the middle of the afternoon, in their winter coats. They wore their winter coats inside their homes, decent homes in the suburbs of St. John's and Mount Pearl, because they could not afford to turn up the heat.

The number one issue in my riding is seniors, people living on fixed incomes, people trying to make ends meet.

According to the Conference Board of Canada, 1.6 million seniors across the country live in poverty, and it is slowly and steadily getting worse. The cost of everything is going up, the cost of food, the cost of oil, the cost of gas, except their incomes. Seniors are having a hard time. People are worried about their retirement years. Lately, people are practically panicking about the thought of retirement.

The Conservative government has thrown out the idea of raising the age of eligibility of old age security to 67 from 65. I have to stop myself there and offer an apology to the man in my riding who wrote to me to complain about the term “old age security”, which he finds, “disgusting”. To quote the man further, he said:

—it is very obvious that the term is not only outdated and lacking creativity as a program title, but it is insulting and downgrading to individuals reaching age 65, and are very active and independent members of society.

That is a very good point.

However, my speech is not about OAS, although it is what most Canadians are talking about from coast to coast to coast. I am on my feet in this esteemed chamber today to speak about pooled registered pension plans and to speak against them.

Pooled pension plans are not the solution for the retirement security of Canadians. Why? Because they amount to gambling even more of their retirement savings on failing stock markets.

Here is the $64,000 question. Will they have a decent retirement income from a pooled registered pension plan? The answer is, who knows. Roll the dice and see, but do not count on it. Do not take it to the bank, do not dare take it to the bank. Is that how we want to see their retirement, as a big fat question mark, as a gamble, as a crapshoot?

Bill C-25 is designed to appeal to the self-employed, as well as workers in small to medium-sized businesses, companies that often lack the means to administer a private sector pension plan. The plan created would be a defined contribution plan, and Canadians need to understand that. Employees will kick in a portion of their salaries into a retirement account where it could be invested in stocks, or bonds or mutual funds. Companies can contribute or they can decide not to. It is up to the individual company. Canadians have to understand there is no guarantee how much of their money will be left when they retire. Their pension will depend upon how well their money is invested. This is not a defined benefit plan. Again, it is a defined contribution plan.

Anyone who has watched their RRSPs nosedive in recent times knows how incredibly risky it is to tie savings to the stock market. Most people have taken losses in recent years, and that is most people who can afford to put money into RRSPs.

When people think about retirement, they want stability. They want to know that their retirement years will be comfortable years. Forget that with the pooled registered pension plan.

Here is what the New Democrat position comes down. The NDP will not support pooled registered pension plans. Although this is not a pension plan so much as a savings scheme. Canadians need to understand that as well.

The NDP will not support this savings scheme because the Conservatives are offering this up instead of taking real action to protect both existing pensions and enhance pension retirement security for those who lack a workplace pension plan.

An estimated 12 million Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan. That is more than one in three Canadians. Bill C-25, an act relating to pooled registered pension plans, or pooled registered savings schemes, would not give them one.

A New Democratic government would double the guaranteed Canada pension plan. The CPP is a universal program for all Canadians, whether self-employed, in small or large businesses, or in the public or private sector.

Why give workers a savings scheme to roll the dice on their retirement when we could simply expand the CPP? Participation in the CPP is mandatory, meaning its expansion would impact everyone. No one would be left behind. Is Canada not all about leaving nobody behind? That is the New Democrat line. That is what New Democrats are about.

However, the Conservative line is about money for prisons. The Conservative line is about money for fighter jets. Prisons and fighter jets have a higher priority than our seniors who are most vulnerable.

The Conservative's safe streets and communities act was debated here last fall. It would make it much safer for seniors to line up outside of soup kitchens. That is what our country is coming to. Our Canada is changing. The safety net that makes our country a great country, one of the best in the world, is under Conservative attack.

At the recent World Economic Forum in Switzerland, the Prime Minister said, “Our demographics also constitute a threat to the social programs and services that Canadians cherish”. Funny, I would say the Conservatives constitute a threat to the social programs and services that Canadians cherish. The Conservatives pose that threat.

The Conservatives have only been a majority government for nine months and already they have attacked or are in the process of dismantling core services across the country and across my province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Look no further than to the closure of the Maritime Rescue Sub-Centre in St. John's, a service that is vital to our mariners. It is a closure that the regional minister defended by sneaking away in a decoy car.

Look no further than to the defence minister using our search and rescue Cormorant helicopters as a taxi for his holiday on the Gander River.

Look no further than Service Canada and how it is being gutted. Just last week two EI claimants tried to kill themselves because their claims were delayed or rejected.

Look no further than the Canadian seal hunt and how the Conservative government has allowed market after market to ban products from an industry that is central to our heritage and our culture.

Look no further than to our precious seniors. The Conservatives would have it so that the retirement of so many Canadians is a crapshoot.

Again, the Conservatives constitute a threat to the social programs and services that Canadians cherish.

The Prime Minister also said in Switzerland that there would be major transformations coming to Canada's retirement pension system. The only transformative change that Canada needs in terms of retirement security is to lift every senior out of poverty and expand the Canada and Quebec pension plans. However, all the Conservative government proposes is yet another privately administered voluntary savings scheme like several others already on the market. It is the same old, same old. Canadians are not impressed.

I will conclude with this quote from a constituent in my riding, one of about a dozen who have written my office in recent days concerned about retirement and the Conservative agenda that transformed Canada into a warped shadow of itself, “Young people do not stand a chance in this world. Everything we have worked so hard for to make things better for them is slowly being taken away. What a sad message we are sending”.