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

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the House
Oral Questions

February 2nd, 2012 / 3:05 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is February 2. It is fitting that it is Groundhog Day, as I rise again to ask when the government will once again bring in measures to shut down debate in the House.

Just this past Monday we witnessed the deplorable spectacle of the Conservative government for the 13th time using the guillotine to shut down democratic debate in the House. It is like a nightmare: it happens again and again and again. That is right; this week, after less than one single day of debate on a brand new bill the government had just introduced, the government House leader moved tyranny of their majority on Canada's elected representatives by moving to shut down debate.

It has become routine for this government, which apparently knows no limits, to shut down debate. This is a blatant attack on House of Commons tradition and an attempt to gag Canada's elected representatives, and it is unacceptable. I am not just talking about opposition members. Conservative backbenchers, too, should insist that their political boss give them the right to speak on behalf of the citizens they represent.

On the schedule for this place going forward, I note that the government seems to be wrapping up what I would call attacking seniors and their retirement security week after passing second reading of Bill C-25, a bill that will clearly undermine the public pension regime on which all Canadians rely in order to retire with dignity.

Next week I wonder, will it be failing artists and users in favour of corporate rights holders week with Bill C-11, the wrong-headed copyright bill, or will the government perhaps be tabling the 2012 version of its undermining Canadians to further enrich banks and oil companies executive budget plan? Which one will it be? I ask the government House leader to let us know.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

3:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

First, let me wish you, and all honourable members, a happy new year. I am looking forward to working with all members of Parliament of all parties to address Canadians’ priorities to the benefit of all Canadians.

In response to the first question from my friend with regard to management of House business and ensuring things actually do make it to votes in the House, I understand that the opposition has adopted a posture where it intends to run up the score. We have had now 13 or 14 occasions where it has refused to come to any reasonable agreement on any length of debate, or on any limitation on the number of speakers. Every time we run up to the point where we are looking at over 50, 60, 75 or 80 speakers, it becomes apparent that its intention is simply to bring paralysis and gridlock to the House.

It is not surprising. The opposition looks to its friends in Europe and in the United States and that is what it sees. That is not our approach. Our approach is to ensure that we have an orderly, productive and hard-working House that actually delivers results, and we will continue to do that.

Of course, our government's top priority is, and remains, jobs and economic growth.

Of course, our government’s top priority remains jobs and economic growth. Tomorrow, we will start debating second reading of Bill S-5, the Financial System Review Act. This bill will maintain and improve the stability of Canada’s banking system, a system that has been named the world’s soundest banking system four years in a row by the World Economic Forum. This bill needs to be law by April, so it is important to have timely passage.

Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act, will provide a boost to the digital and creative sectors, which employ Canadians in high-quality jobs. This is another bill that the opposition has opposed and has tried to delay. There have already been 75 speeches debating this bill.

In context, this has been the subject of 75 speeches already in the House and a vote on a motion that it never go to second reading. It is clear what the strategy is. The identical bill in the previous House went to committee after just a few hours. Obviously, the opposition is implementing its strategy of simply running up the score and forcing the government to impose time allocation in order to get anything through the House. That being said, we want to see it go through the House.

I will be calling Bill C-11 for further second reading debate on Wednesday and next Friday. I look forward to concluding the debate and moving the bill to committee, where bills are traditionally studied in detail.

I would be pleased and delighted if they would come to an agreement to limit debate. I have invited them to do that many times. They have never come forward with any proposal on the number of speakers they would like. I invite them once again to present that to us and to do it here in the House.

I am also pleased to advise the House that next week we will start the final stages of scrapping the ineffective and wasteful long gun registry once and for all. I will be calling report stage debate on Bill C-19, Ending the Long-Gun Registry Act, on Monday and Tuesday.

Finally, I wish to designate Thursday, February 9, as the second allotted day.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, your predecessor, the hon. Peter Milliken, indicated to this House that statements by members could not be used to directly attack a fellow member of this House. You were the Deputy Speaker at the time.

Do you intend to enforce that rule? If so, I would ask you to verify today's statement by the hon. member for North Vancouver.

Statements by Members
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will certainly take a look at what was said in the statement by the member for North Vancouver. I did not hear something that would qualify as that, but I will look at the blues and get back to the House.

Business of the House
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons said that he wants the NDP to make a deal to limit the time to speak in the House. This is totally wrong. I was not elected to have the Conservative government tell me that I am not allowed to speak in the House. That is what I was elected for. When a bill comes to the House, all members have the right to speak and the Conservatives should not take that right away from us. If they want to do it on their side, they can, but not on this side. We were democratically elected by our constituents. We have that right and we will not have it taken away.

Business of the House
Points of Order
Oral Questions

3:10 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, very briefly, I thank the hon. member for having clearly articulated the position of the NDP. On every bill, New Democrats think every member of the House should speak. That would be over 300 speeches on every bill. We can calculate how much would get through the House with that posture.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

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

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

I am pleased to join in the debate on old age security and Canadian seniors.

Our government is committed to ensuring retirement security for all Canadians. Canada does not live in a glass house. Canada's demographic state is part of a worldwide phenomenon in the developed world where families are having fewer babies. We cannot afford to put our heads in the sand and hope the challenge of financial sustainability will go away. As a Globe and Mail editorialist said yesterday, “The challenge of ensuring that the retirement income system and other supports are on a secure footing for the next generation is one that no government can avoid.”

There is no doubt that Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than in past generations. The average Canadian can now expect to live to age 81. By 2025 our life expectancy will probably increase by another two years. The bottom line is this: Canadians will be relying on retirement income for longer periods of time. Therefore, helping Canadians prepare for and achieve financial security in their later years is an absolute priority for our government.

Let me outline to members of the House the basic three pillar structure of Canada's retirement income system. The first two pillars are the old age security program and the Canada pension plan. These public pension plans provide a modest base with which Canadians can build additional income for retirement. The third pillar consists of personal savings and RRSPs, as well as employer pension plans. Ideally the combination helps provide a standard of living similar to pre-retirement levels.

Canadians will receive close to $72 billion from Canada's public pension system this year.

The first pillar, the old age security program, OAS, provides a basic level of income to seniors. It recognizes the contributions they have made to Canadian society and the economy. It is also intended to alleviate poverty. The old age security program is funded from general tax revenues on a pay-as-you-go basis. There is no reserve fund. By 2030 the number of OAS beneficiaries will nearly double from 4.7 million in 2010 to 9.3 million in 2030. Program costs could rise from $36.5 billion in 2010 to $108 billion in 2030.

Right now there are four working age Canadians for every senior. By 2030 this will shrink to two. Can two working age Canadians support the pension requirements of one senior? This is the issue. Let us be serious. Can we expect to saddle future generations with that burden? Should we not build an adjustment period so people can benefit from their retirement benefits later in life?

To be eligible for the basic OAS pension, a senior must have lived in Canada for at least 10 years after the age of 18. A person who has lived 40 years in Canada since the age of 18 is eligible for a full pension.

Finally, the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, is an income-tested monthly benefit paid to OAS pensioners with little or no income. Along with the OAS pension benefit, the guaranteed income supplement ensures that seniors' overall income does not fall below a specified threshold.

Under budget 2011 our government introduced a new GIS top-up of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples. This measure is improving the financial security of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. The GIS top-up, like other OAS benefits, is indexed quarterly to reflect increases in the consumer price index. We have also enabled GIS recipients to earn up to $3,500 without it affecting their benefit amount. This allows seniors to work a bit if they wish to supplement their pension benefit.

The numbers speak for themselves. The rate of poverty among seniors has decreased from 21.4% in 1980 to a rate of 5.2% in 2009. Canada has one of the lowest rates of senior poverty among the countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It is lower than that of Denmark, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States. Poverty among seniors in Canada is lower than poverty among the general population.

The second pillar of the Canadian retirement income system is the Canada pension plan, which is a contribution-based earning-related social insurance program. It ensures a measure of protection to a contributor and his or her family against the loss of income due to retirement, disability or death.

There are three kinds of Canada pension benefits: first, retirement benefits, which include the retirement pension and the post-retirement benefit; second, disability benefits, which include benefits for contributors with disabilities and for their dependent children; and third, survivor benefits, which include the death benefit, the survivor pension and the children's benefit. The death benefit is a lump sum payment to the person's estate that may help with the cost of a funeral.

The Canada pension plan operates throughout Canada, although Quebec has its own similar program called the Quebec pension plan. The administrators of both plans work closely together to ensure all contributors are protected. Outside of Quebec, the majority of working people in Canada over the age of 18 pay into the Canada pension plan. The employee pays half the required contribution and the employer pays the other half. People who are self-employed pay both portions. No tax dollars are involved and the amount paid is based on a person's salary. In the case of the self-employed, it is based on net income. Contributions are important because they determine if workers and their families are eligible for benefits and in calculating the amount of that benefit.

Canada also has reciprocal pension agreements with certain other countries, so if a Canadian has worked in another country, they may receive pension or benefits from either country and Canadians who live outside of Canada can receive their CPP benefits while outside of Canada. All CPP benefits, except for the death benefit, are adjusted in January of each year and there is an increase in the cost of living as measured by the consumer price index.

The CPP is a secure plan. It is internationally regarded as a model for its sound structure, governance and long-term stability.

The 2009 report of the chief actuary projected that the CPP will be sustainable for the next 75 years. This calculation factors in the demographic changes that we are likely to experience in the foreseeable future such as an increase in life expectancy, the retirement of the baby boomers and so on.

We can be proud of what we are doing to ensure financial security for our senior citizens. However, what is necessary at this point is also to reinforce the sustainability of the first pillar of our pension retirement system, namely the old age security program. We owe future Canadians this element of security. That is why I call on all Canadians and all members of the House to support measures that would reinforce the financial sustainability of the old age security program.

Let us not leave the burden of financing to future generations of Canadians. Let us ensure that any changes are done with substantial notice and adjustment so current retirees or those close to retirement are not affected. Let us give Canadians time to adjust and plan for their retirement. More important, let us not bury our heads in the sand by supporting the motion today.

Finally, let us help shore up the first pillar of Canada's retirement system, the old age security system, so Canadians can build toward a secure future. This is why I cannot support the opposition's motion.

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

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the hon. member's speech. I want to thank him for reviewing every aspect of the public retirement plans, but I am shocked to hear him say how good the plan is and that a potential deterioration might be justified. I absolutely do not understand.

Nonetheless, more importantly, at no time does my colleague assure Canadians, seniors and our future retirees that the government is going to maintain full indexing of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement plans or that it will maintain the eligibility age at 65. Members talk about adjustments or trying to protect the system. If we change the system, it will cost our seniors.

Can the hon. member assure us that indexing and the eligibility age will not be touched?

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

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it always amazes me how the NDP opposition wants to stick its head in the sand about the demographics and the fact that we are attempting to look forward as prudently as we, as a government, can to say that we need to be sure this system is viable and can be indexed, not only currently, but also for the future generations that will be eligible and will need this system. We are shoring up the system by taking these actions.

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

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the arguments of my friend from Brant, but demographics is a false argument. I am surprised at the Conservative members who try to use it because OAS comes out of general revenue.

In yesterday's Globe and Mail a story by Bill Curry started off by saying:

Expert advice commissioned by the federal government contradicts [the Prime Minister's] warnings that Canada can’t afford the looming bill for Old Age Security payments.

The study was done by Edward Whitehouse, who is well-known at the World Bank and OECD, and his conclusion was this:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes, and there is no pressing financial or fiscal need to increase pension ages in the foreseeable future.

The fact is it is not because of demographics that OAS could be in trouble. It is because of the ridiculous spending by the current government in terms of lowering the revenue base by corporate tax cuts, jets, jails, a bloated cabinet and the list goes on immensely.

Will the member not admit that the real reason the OAS could be in trouble is because of the spending by the government out of general revenue, not demographics?

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

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member has been here a lot longer than I have. However, as part of the answer to his question, in question period today the temporary leader of the Liberal Party acknowledged that the demographics were the issue in his question for the Prime Minister. However, the member has decided they are not because of an article in the paper. Everybody has known this for the longest time.

The other part of the answer I would like to give has to do with the fact that the Liberal Party would increase taxes no matter what, to raise the tax level to whatever is required at whatever point in time, regardless of the economic consequences and what that would mean to the loss of jobs or the economy at the time. Therefore, it does not surprise me that this is the ideology of the Liberal Party.

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

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel that the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard has moved a fantastic motion.

I do not understand why the Conservatives would cause such anxiety for Canadian seniors when, on January 1, they gave a $3 billion gift to big business, banks and oil companies.

They are telling our seniors that there are too many of them and that they will have to work longer. They are directly attacking the poorest seniors in our society. That is unacceptable.

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

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the fearmongering going on across the aisle. That is what is happening on both the NDP and the Liberal benches as far as creating fear in seniors. We have said, unequivocally, that for seniors who are eligible for the OAS right now not a nickel will change. Also, for those who are close to being eligible for OAS nothing will change. However, we must deal with the reality—