House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I will recognize the member for Newmarket—Aurora, but I would caution all members that if they are raising a point of order, it needs to be an appropriate point of order dealing with process and not a matter of debate.

Is the hon. member's point of order such?

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to remind the member that there was no number floated by the Prime Minister.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

That is a point of debate or possibly a point of fact, but it is not a point of order.

The hon. member for St. John's East quickly on the same point of order.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

It is not a point of order, Mr. Speaker, but on questions and comments.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time for questions and comments has expired. We will ever be wondering what that question was.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in the House, as I always am, to represent the people of Timmins—James Bay on an issue that I think is fundamentally at the heart of what we are about as parliamentarians.

The fact is that we are here to debate a motion that had to be brought forward because of the Prime Minister's cavalier attitude toward the working people of this country, the senior citizens in this country.

We have almost grown used to the attitude of the Prime Minister, who shows regular contempt for the House of Commons, shutting down debate, ordering secret meetings, but I think people across Canada were somewhat shocked that the Prime Minister would talk to the millionaires in Davos and tell them that our senior citizens are living high off the hog and that we had to get this thing in order.

This is a government that had a $13 billion surplus and ran it into the ground before the deficit even started. Under the Prime Minister, government spending on ministerial offices has gone through the roof. The Conservatives have made the poor old Liberals look like they were wearing sackcloth and ashes and were so careful after the way the Conservatives spend. That is some piece to get away with, and that was done under the Prime Minister. Blowing money is not a problem with the Conservatives when it comes to blowing it on boats, fighter jets and prisons.

The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development yesterday told us she was worried about a foreign invasion. The Fenians have not come across the border out of Buffalo since 1863 or 1864. A few times the Boston Bruins have come over and caused some fights in Toronto, but there is no need for us to take that off the backs of senior citizens.

The Prime Minister decided to open this debate. I see my colleagues in the Conservative Party are feeling a little ruffled, and damn well they should be, because for the last week my phone has been ringing. Not just senior citizens have been phoning me, but people who are working, younger people, and people who know that what they are seeing from the government is an absolute sham and an absolute scam. They know there is no such thing for most working people as a private pension any more. Most of the people I know are working on contracts, going from contract to contract.

We hear the Conservatives wax on about the underutilized capacity of RRSPs as though if people were just a little sharper, a little smarter, they actually might save for their future, as opposed to the reality, which is that when people are raising a family, going from job to job while trying to put something away, when they fall in between contracts, that is their savings gone. It might be three months, four months, five months or a year. That is their savings gone. People need some form of security.

We have a few setups that were put in place and the most effective was the CPP. Some of the ideologues on the Conservative backbench have a real problem because it was a public system that was set up, but it works. It is low cost. It gives people something. It is effective. The problem is that the CPP has not kept up.

As the New Democrats have been saying, this is a system that works. Allow people to save more and then people will not have to rely on the guaranteed income supplement or the old age security if they have something to fall back on.

We see many people who tried to save RRSPs, and some of them have done very well. If a person is doing very well financially, RRSPs might be okay. However, I know many people in my riding who have lost 30% or 40% of the value of their savings since the 2008 crash. They are trying to find out from us what is happening with old age security.

It is not just that the Prime Minister decided to create a crisis for all the working people who are now in their thirties and forties wondering about what is coming, but it is the lack of vision for what is actually happening on the ground with senior citizens.

In Timmins—James Bay there are large regions of rural populations of senior citizens who are in old farmhouses whose kids have gone down south. They come into my office. They cannot afford to heat their places any more. They do not have enough money. I cannot tell them to move into town because there is no such thing as seniors' housing or long-term care. It is not available. Costs are being put on these families just to heat their houses, so whatever savings they have are eaten up.

This idea is right out of Charles Dickens: “They can work longer. Are there no workhouses? We can make them work until they are 67.”

There are people who can retire. They might not have everything they need to retire but at age 65 or 66 they can continue working doing some work. I know some senior citizens who like to work and it is good because they have incredible experience. However, there is a difference between choosing to work and being forced to work. When we are forced to work because we cannot make ends meet and we are 66 years old, then there is a whole other set of related issues that start to come in. We see larger health care costs. We see all kinds of stress on the family unit. Sometimes family members who have moved away need to move back to deal with their aging parents.

This is not a debate that one starts in Davos by launching a trial balloon or by saying something off the top of one's head. That is not what a responsible Prime Minister does. The Prime Minister had the whole election to talk about what the Conservatives' strategy was for pensions and we heard zip.

The Conservatives have come back and have created this unnecessary crisis. They are feeling very defensive today, we can sense it, because they do not want people paying attention to this. Just like yesterday, when they shut down the debate on the pooled registered pension plan, they do not really want this getting out because when they get back home, sit down with people and tell them that it is their future that is on the line, they will get a whole different response. I think this is something the government knows very well and is feeling a little touchy about.

I would say that if the Conservatives want to go on a tour, we can go on a tour together and visit some of these communities. Let us put their plans on the table and hear what people think, especially those who are 45 years old and who are getting by on a little bit RRSP here and a little RRSP there but who are unable to actually have savings. Let us hear what they have to say when they are told that they will be the sacrificial generation, that they will take it on so that the Prime Minister can tell his buddies in Davos, “You know that $6 billion we blew on Caterpillar in London, that was a good investment. But those seniors, we're getting them in line. Don't you worry”.

When I was a kid, my grandmother always told me that Tory times were hard times, and that is a fact. We have a government that comes from a miserly stock. The Conservatives are as miserly now as they were in my grandmother's day. When Canadians hear that the Conservatives decided to go to Davos and blame our senior citizens for the financial mess they are creating, I think they will have a fight on their hands. I think this is a fight that Canadians know that those guys will lose.

For those folks back home who are maybe a bit younger and have not been involved in pensions, this is about a very small amount of money. We are talking about $491 a month, which is the average monthly guaranteed income supplement. For the OAS, we are talking about $500 a month. My God, those ministers blow more on a lunch than what they are giving to a senior citizen, at $500 a month. Our famous minister from Durham spent $1,300 a day on taxi rides. She hired these limos and drove around Toronto at $1,300 a day. Boy, oh, boy. If she did that five times around the city of Toronto, that would be the OAS for a senior citizen for a year. However, the Prime Minister never said that he would make the member for Durham responsible. No. He decided that it would need to be a senior citizen who had to pay.

This is about priorities and the government has established that its priorities are for its friends, for its buddies and for its ministers who drive around in limousines and that the people who get $500 a month on OAS are just going to have to suck it up. That is not good enough.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, when people talk about the old age security system and the incomes of people, I just want to put on the record and ask the member to comment on the fact that a study done recently on the Atlantic provinces showed that in Newfoundland and Labrador 65% of the seniors relied on old age security or the GIS as their sole source of income.

Now the Conservatives are claiming that they will not hurt them. However, even if they do not hurt them, they will hurt their families, their children and their grandchildren, the young people in this country who may need to rely on this. So, they are invoking fear in the minds of people.

We were wondering whether the Conservatives were going to come clean but they kind of let the cat out of the bag today. They were given six or seven opportunities to tell us whether they would raise the age to 66 or 67 and they said that they would not touch existing seniors. So, the answer is clear and obvious that they will in fact raise the age for OAS to 66, 67 or 68, we do not even know. That is the unknown. However, we do have an answer. They are going to do it. We just do not know who they will do it to, which does invoke fear in the minds of the people in this country.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is another part of the demographic that we see across our country because we have different labour patterns. Northern Ontario and northeastern Ontario have boom-bust economies. I have seen that in many of my communities.

I remember when the Sherman mine, the Adams mine, all of the Agnico mines and the iron ore mines went down. A working population of men, who, on average, were about 48 or 49 years old, suddenly found there was no work for them. The mines offered them retraining. However, in a single mining town they did not have enough for their pensions. By the time the next boom came around, these men were a little too old to get hired. These men, who would normally have paid into pensions, ended up with their wives on old age security and GIS.

That is what happens because there is no such thing as absolute security in income. We see gaps where suddenly savings that are made one year are lost. When people lose their savings they start to look to age 65 as something to reach out to and hold on to because when they hit 65 they will be okay. The government is now saying that it will put that bar just a bit further.

If someone is a friend of the government or the type who can afford a $1,300 limo ride, like my good friend the minister from Durham, then he or she will be okay and will get through. However, for everybody else it is “too bad, Jack”.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It being 5:15 p.m. it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply. The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion--Old Age Security
Business of Supply
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

During the ringing of the bells: