House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was age.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, we do not need to do anything. We can afford it today. It has always been built in and has always been part of the plan. The government did not suddenly wake up on May 3 and find out that we have some major disaster facing us. This has been part of the overall planning of the governments from Lester Pearson to Pierre Trudeau, a commitment to do this. The Liberals have always been fiscally and socially responsible. It was the Liberals who introduced these programs. When the Liberals were elected in 1993, we inherited a $43 billion deficit because of the overspending of the Conservative government. We know what is necessary. This can be funded and can continue to be funded.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse
Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, my question for the opposition member is quite simple.

Is her position not totally irresponsible? Are the Liberal Party and the opposition not burying their heads in the sand and misleading the Canadian public? Why? It is very simple. We know that in 2030, the old age security program in its current form will cost $108 billion and that all of that money will come from taxpayers.

Should we not do the responsible thing, follow the example of every other major western country and change the age of retirement from 65 to 67? Is that not sustainable development? Does my colleague not agree that we should move forward and take responsible measures to ensure the sustainability of our old age security system?

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is ridiculous to hear the kinds of comments and stories that the government members try to pass on to Canadians. The program is sustainable and we know that. The Conservatives make up these smoke screens. This program is clearly sustainable.

It comes back to choices. If we had to make a choice today between jets and fancy jails or the seniors of this country, who will we support? We will support the seniors who built this country and who pay our wages every day that we are. We should not be attacking seniors. It is about choices. The Conservatives' choices are jets, jails and all kinds of fancy extravagances that they spend on, and they will turn around and take it out on our seniors. Canadians will not let that happen because they will never re-elect that government.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

One minute remains. The hon. member for Saint-Laurent—Cartierville for a very quick question.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Stéphane Dion Saint-Laurent—Cartierville, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her excellent speech and the Minister of Veterans Affairs who, unlike his other colleagues, seems to want to engage in a debate with us.

The answer to his question is very simple. There is no doubt that the cost of the program will increase, but the Canadian economy will also increase and, at the end of the day, it will cost, at most, only one percentage point more to the Canadian economy and then the cost will decline after that.

That is why the OECD, the chief actuary and the Parliamentary Budget Officer are saying that the government is wrong and that the program can very well be funded for the foreseeable future.

I hope that I have answered his question and that he will now change his mind.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is really hard for those of us who know and care about this issue. We talk to our constituents all the time and we know the struggles and the fight for an increase in the OAS and GIS because of the fact that people are living on $15,000 a year. We need to be moving forward and having a discussion and debate on real pension reform for future Canadians so they have opportunities to save and invest their money. Investing in things like the supplementary Canada pension plan would make it very easy for people, even homemakers and the self-employed, to be able to put a few dollars aside so that when they get to be 65 years old, which is the age that we on this side believe is the right age for retirement, people will have an opportunity to start second careers and to have the money to do that.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the opposition day motion, which reads:

That this House reject the government's plan to raise the age of eligibility for Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement from 65 to 67 years even though the current system is financially sustainable.

I am not sure there is another issue that I can think of, recently anyway, that has galvanized the people of Canada so much in terms of opposition to what the government has proposed. It is totally unreasonable, unacceptable and unconscionable that a government would consider this. Seniors, some of whom have worked for years in very physically and mentally challenging environments, will now have to wait an additional two years to access a program that has been there for them for years. It is not right, not fair and is something that I hope Canadians will continue to speak out on and will continue to make representation about because, even though it will not impact those who are of age now to qualify for OAS, it will impact their children and their grandchildren.

We tend to lose sight of the fact that the longer we have people in the workforce, the less jobs there are available for those who are younger and looking to get into the working environment. Most of our young people today are unemployed or underemployed. What message are we sending them? The government is telling them that they will need to make a go of it themselves, that they will need to find a way to make it happen. If people are being forced to work until age 67, there will be fewer opportunities for young people and there will continue to be fewer opportunities as long as the Conservative government is in power because of the choices it makes that influences the people of Canada.

I will speak to how we arrived at this debate on this motion by highlighting some important dates in history. This shows the mindset of the Conservatives. In 1927, the Conservatives voted against the introduction of the old age pension. Fortunately, in 1951, a Liberal government passed the Old Age Security Act. In 1965, a Liberal government established the Canada pension plan. Later, in 1967, that same Liberal government, led by prime minister Lester B. Pearson, introduced a guaranteed income supplement and lowered the eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 70 to 65.

That was a government with a conscience. That was a government that recognized that things become difficult as one ages and that things tend to happen from a medical perspective as one ages. That was a government that recognized how important it was to take care of its citizens.

In 2001, the current Conservative Prime Minister and then member of the right wing National Citizens Coalition declared his disdain for national pension plans and wrote an open letter to the premier of Alberta demanding that Alberta withdraw from the Canada pension plan altogether. That puts it in perspective. That explains exactly where the government, led by the Prime Minister, is coming from.

More recently, in the 2011 election, the Conservatives assured Canadians that if elected they would not cut pensions. In black and white, on page 23 of the Conservative 2011 election platform, it says:

We will not cut transfer payments to individuals or to the provinces for essential things like health care, education and pensions.

Well, we know quite the opposite has happened. Unfortunately for Canadians, this commitment was nothing short of fiction.

In 2012 the Prime Minister showed Canadians his true colours when he hid during the election, which was only a year ago, and broke his promise not to cut the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement.

Unfortunately for Canadians this is not the first time the Prime Minister has made a promise to do one thing, only to do the opposite. Whether it be his broken promise in the 2006 election on the Atlantic accord, which impacted the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, or his bogus commitment in 2008 election not to run a deficit, or his phony guarantee in the 2011 election to balance the books by 2014, the Prime Minister and his Conservative government have made it clear, through their legacy of broken promises, that they cannot be trusted to keep their word.

In budget 2012, after the Prime Minister committed to all Canadians in the last election, “We're not going to cut the rate of increase in transfers for healthcare, education and pensions. That is job number one”, the Conservatives are breaking another promise and decreasing the old age security and the guaranteed income supplement by raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 even though the current arrangement is more than sustainable.

The Conservatives tried to manufacture a structural crisis surrounding the financing of the old age security that just does not exist. While it is true that the retirement of baby boomers will result in increased costs for the old age security program, Canada's economy is expected to grow significantly over the next 20 years. That economic growth means that by 2030 the old age security program will only comprise 0.7% more of Canada's economy than it does today. This is not unaffordable by any measure.

The Conservatives are trying to manipulate the facts by not including the entire picture. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Kevin Page, 2030 is when old age security expenses will peak and following this peak, old age security expenditures will continue to decline until they return to current levels.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer has looked at this. He has come to this conclusion. He has researched the issue and it is totally contrary to what the government has said. Old age security is sustainable. Reckless Conservative spending is not.

On January 13, 2012, Jack Mintz, research director of the Government of Canada's working group on retirement income adequacies, stated:

The overall view that was taken about our pension system in total, when you look at Old Age Security, and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, as well as Canada Pension Plan, was that it is relatively financially sustainable...

This is more research that points to the fact that the government is off-base and has no idea what it is talking about. A government that professes to be a competent manager and cannot get something as simple as this right, begs the question why, and the why is choice. It is the way the government thinks. It does not have a social conscience and this is a prime example of that.

The reality in Canada is 40% of old age security recipients earn less than $20,000 a year in retirement. This proposed delay will cost our lowest income seniors over $30,000 in benefits. This cut to the old age security will have a devastating effect on the retirement security of our most vulnerable future seniors.

Since the Prime Minister announced his plan to cut the old age security when he was in Davos, I have heard opposition from every corner of my riding of Random—Burin—St. George's, and not just in my riding, but throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and from the rest of the country.

This unscrupulous action by the Conservative government, and there have been many more, has garnered so much opposition and resulted in so much negative feedback. It is the wrong decision and it is a decision that must be reversed or we will have a future generation of seniors who will be unable to pay for the most essential things like heat, light, food and medicine. This has to be overturned.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Francine Raynault Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her speech. I would now like to know what she thinks about the following statement: it would seem that this government's priority is to spend billions of dollars on corporate tax cuts, while eliminating support for seniors, women in particular.

Does she have any suggestions to prevent women from continuing to be poor their whole lives?

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the question from my hon. colleague. We know that women, particularly women who are seniors, have a really difficult time.

The one thing we know is that when people lose a spouse, they lose half of their income but still have a home to run and many of the same expenses. It is so unfortunate that the ideology behind the government is that wealthy corporations deserve breaks and not those who are the most vulnerable.

My recommendation would be to err on the side of those who need help most and recognize that while there is nothing with making a profit, and I have always said that, companies need to recognize that the people who made it possible for them to make a profit need help as well.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Madam Speaker, the member opposite wants to talk about unscrupulous actions.

I would like to point out the irresponsible action of the opposition members, one after the other, who continue to fear-monger among seniors as though somehow anyone who is retired today will be impacted. The members know full well that these measures will not be implemented until 2023. They are modest changes that will not be fully implemented until 2029. People are living longer. No one currently retired will be affected in any way by the changes that are being proposed.

I want an economist for the member. Patricia Croft says, “The fact of the matter is Canadians are getting older, the demands on the system are getting greater, and the costs are going up”. She goes on to say, “Just about every other G-20 country has raised the retirement age. Why should we be different?”

Finally, a well-known Canadian, the former governor of the Bank of Canada, David Dodge, says, “I just hope that not everybody on the opposition side of the House is crazy. There’s lots of people there that understand full well that there’s a big problem here”.

What does the member have to say about the comments by the former governor of the Bank of Canada?

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Madam Speaker, first, I have to assume that my hon. colleague was not in the House when I spoke. I made it very clear that people who were now eligible for old age security would not be impacted, but their children and grandchildren would be.

I am sure if the member heard that, he would take back the comment he just made.

There are varying opinions. However, when we talk about old age security, Canadians who get on old age security need every cent they get. To be clear about this, yes, people are living longer, but not everyone is living longer. How we all wish we would live longer. People are still dying.

The point is things get tougher for seniors depending on their working environment. I know, from my riding, people who work in fish plants stand on cold, hard, concrete floors, for 8 hours a day. By the time they get to be 65, they look for that help that should come to them from the Government of Canada. They have been paying taxes all these years and now we are telling them they have to work an additional two years.

Let us talk about people in the fishery, people who work on the ocean. These people need help when they get to 65, not having to work a further 2 years.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I would remind all hon. members that it is not permitted to suggest whether a member is in the House or not in the course of debate.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Fin Donnelly New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I rise today to support the New Democrat Party opposition day motion sponsored by my colleague for London—Fanshawe. She has put a tremendous amount of work into this issue and I applaud her dedication to Canadians.

Through budget 2012, the eligibility age for OAS and GIS will be raised from 65 to 67 starting in April 2023, with full implementation by January 2029. This means that all Canadians under the age of 54 will be affected by this change.

I do not remember hearing about this change in the election, which was just a year ago. In fact, the Conservative election platform stated, “We will not cut transfer payments to individuals or to the provinces for essential things like health care, education and pensions”. After the election, the Prime Minister stood in the House and said, “This government has been very clear. We will not cut pensions”.

Not only did the Conservatives fail to campaign on this issue, they hid their agenda and misled Canadians. That is unacceptable.

Canada's New Democrats believe that the OAS and GIS is easily sustainable and actually projected to decrease in cost relative to the size of the economy in the long run.

According to York University pension and retirement expert, Professor Thomas Klassen:

I haven’t heard any academic argue that there’s a crisis with OAS, which is why I was surprised a few days ago when the Prime Minister seemed to say there was a crisis...there’s got to be a lot more evidence that there’s a problem, and I don’t see that evidence.

This is a manufactured crisis. This is not about the sustainability of the OAS and GIS; this is about an ideological agenda.

Edward Whitehouse, the leader of the OECD pension team, stated:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes....Long-term projections show that public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable. Population ageing will naturally increase public pension spending, but the rate of growth is lower and the starting point better than many OECD countries.

Canada's New Democrats want to strengthen Canada's pension plan, not weaken it. We believe that a better option would be to expand CPP. A modest increase in premiums can finance a doubling of the CPP, providing real sustainable retirement security for all Canadians.

I want to read a few emails that I received from Canadians who are very concerned about these changes.

The first one is from Fred and Evelyn. Fred says, “I am 68 years old next month, and Evelyn is 65. Your proposal to double pension benefits is exactly what I had in mind for some time”.

They are referring to the proposal of Canada's New Democrats. They go on to say:

Ourselves included, we worked hard in Canada, still paying taxes and bring up our children as good citizens. I...work 40 Hrs a week, at night, as a watchman at a major vehicle dealership, (at minimum wage), and Evelyn works part-time as a Hostess at a local Real Canadian Superstore.

We're not lazy, and we never were, and it would be nice sometime soon to be able to bid good bye to our employers, if our pensions were doubled in total!

This one is from Teresa, from Coquitlam, who says this about the government:

In addition, although the changes to the OAS do not affect me, I think you are wrong to extend the eligibility to 67 yr[s]. You will be penalizing older people in lower socioeconomic levels and vastly underrating the pain you are inflicting on working people who do not have the options that higher salaried Canadians enjoy. You do not have my support for these changes. I think many other Canadians feel the same way.

Claudette says, “This change will not only impact seniors, who will be forced to work years longer, but also our country's youth, who now see few decent employment opportunities. This will only worsen as people delay retirement because of financial hardship. Assurances by the government that raising the age for OAS would have no impact on current retirees are misleading. This change would impact everyone, and immediately.”

I also have a number of emails that were sent in when people who had looked at my website felt that they wanted to speak out and voice their concern.

John, in Port Coquitlam, says, “The Prime Minister should have raised this policy issue as part of his re-election platform. We all know what happened to our former premier”—this, of course, is in British Columbia—“for not being forthright with the electorate with the HST. We need our political leaders to be more honest, open and transparent.”

The next one is from Anne, in Coquitlam. She says, “While these proposed cuts will not affect my pension, as I have been retired for over 10 years, I have family and friends for whom these cuts will definitely have an impact. It may mean working longer, if health and job opportunity allow, or significantly reducing their ability to cover necessary costs, particularly medications and health care costs. As costs in all areas of living continually increase, this small pension can mean the difference between getting by or having to make very difficult choices affecting health and longevity.”

This one is from Sandra, in Coquitlam, who says, “This decision adversely affects women who have raised families. This is despicable and unnecessary and puts hardship on vulnerable people who were hard-working and law-abiding citizens. It seems mean and petty to me.”

Robin, in New Westminster, says, “For those of us reaching our senior years, please maintain funding for the OAS. My grandpa fought in World War I and my dad in World War II. I was born here and have lived here all my life. I have worked, paid my taxes and paid my dues. Many wonderful seniors who made this country what it is today desperately need the OAS funding. Many will find themselves in very difficult situations if the OAS is compromised.”

Nargis, in Coquitlam, says, “[The] Prime Minister...is not thinking about the seniors who have worked hard for this country and are looking forward to their retirement. I think it is very unfair if he goes through with it. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister will create more poverty amongst seniors. I do agree it is a direct attack on the most vulnerable people.”

Lennox, in Burnaby, writes, “Seniors who have worked all their lives and paid their taxes contributing to the economy of Canada should not be made to endure cuts to their pension in their old age. This is utterly unfair.”

Donna, in Coquitlam, says, “I understand the Conservatives are making plans to change the eligibility age for OAS. They do not appear to know the average Canadian too well at all. I am now 64 and will qualify for OAS in August. I understand that I will qualify, but what of the next generation to come? Pensions are being eroded or done away with completely, so what will the average Canadian live on? I was a single mother of three, and the concept of saving for a rainy day never entered into the plan. Shame on the Prime Minister and all his pals. Shame, shame.”

Mary, in Coquitlam, says, “People who do not have any source of income apart from OAS and GIS need to have additional financial assistance. The cost of living continues to rise without the funds to support the basic necessities for them.”

Finally, Eunice writes from Coquitlam, “The Canada pension plan is wholly funded by employers and employees with government management. Why does your government plan to stop CPP for those now 57 years and under, when it has been proven to be sustainable with good government management?”

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I must interrupt the hon. member at this point. Perhaps he can conclude during questions and comments.

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South
Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, the opposition will say that there will be a reduction in pensions, and that is patently false. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, our government has made the most significant enhancements to OAS and GIS in some 25 years, while the NDP has voted against that. Perhaps this member would like to stand in his place and tell us why he has consistently voted against increasing the guaranteed income supplement for our neediest seniors across the country.