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

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I am not mistaken, I believe David Dodge was appointed by the Conservatives.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

James Bezan

Liberal, Liberal.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Anyway, the independent Parliamentary Budget Officer, and I stress independent, says the complete opposite. He says that OAS is quite sustainable. All of our research says the same thing, that it is quite sustainable as it is today. The only other voice, the so-called economist, the Prime Minister, says that it is not sustainable.

It is so easy for the Prime Minister to cut pensions when he and his front bench are not affected. If he wants to get serious about cutting pensions and raising the age of eligibility, he should start by cutting the pensions of his front bench members and raising the age where they can collect pensions.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we should be very clear on this. It was the Conservative government that in essence created this fictitious crisis. There is no crisis facing our seniors in terms of numbers and so forth. This is all something which the Conservatives have made up.

The bottom line is Canadians as a whole believe in our old age supplements and pensions and want the government to leave it alone, to leave it at age 65. There is no justified need to increase it from 65 to 67.

Tens of thousands of Canadians from across the country have signed petitions, emailed or called. They are trying to send a very strong message to the government, and that message is very simple: what it has done is wrong. They are asking the government to reduce it back to the way it was. There is no reason to increase it from 65 to 67.

I take it that my colleague to the right of me agrees with that assertion.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do agree with that statement. This is a crisis that has been forced upon us by the Conservative government.

If we want to talk about crises, maybe we should talk about the F-35s. We should talk about building prisons that we do not need. We should talk about $16 orange juice. Those are crises. However, the OAS is not a crisis. It is manufactured by the Conservatives.

I can assure my colleague that when the NDP becomes government in 2015, we will lower the age back to 65.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with regret and a lot of bitterness that I rise today to denounce the Conservatives' plan to increase the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67 years of age, even though the plan is financially viable.

I said that I am rising with regret because, just like us, the majority of Canadians believe that the Conservatives should never have started this debate. On March 29, when the 2012 budget was tabled, the government sparked shockwaves among the elderly and Canadian workers; yes, shockwaves, nothing less.

The Conservatives are using a temporary rise in the cost of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs as an excuse to make cutbacks in this remarkably effective, affordable, and essential social program.

The Conservatives’ plan is to gradually increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67 from 2023. The measure will be fully implemented by January 2029. Thus, on March 29, as they watched this government deliver an irresponsible budget, Canadians aged 54 and under learned that, after having worked for several decades for the benefit of our country, they will have to wait two long years more before being able to think about a well deserved retirement.

The NDP has been standing up for these public pension plans for a long time. Early last century the CCF, the NDP's predecessor, put ongoing pressure on all governments of the day and got them to introduce the very first public old age pension plan in Canada in 1927. Since that time, we have fought tirelessly to make this plan more effective, and we played a key role in getting the guaranteed income supplement and the Canada pension plan adopted.

Currently, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are major sources of income for the elderly, especially women. Approximately 5 million seniors receive old age security benefits and 1.7 million seniors receive the guaranteed income supplement. For approximately 510,000 seniors, that is 12% of Canada’s elderly, the old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits account for over 75% of their total income. Imagine if you were suddenly deprived of 75% of your income; I do not know how you would get by.

Women account for 80% of the people who derive over 75% of their total income from the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs.

If they did not have access to old age security benefits and the guaranteed income supplement, approximately 100,000 newly-retired Canadian seniors would slip below the poverty line. The poverty rate for seniors would more than quadruple, increasing from 6% to 25%.

Is that really what the Conservatives want for our seniors? Is that how they reward the people who built our nation? I would really like to know. That is not what Canadians want and it is not what we are all about. The men and women of this country want their seniors to have decent living conditions.

That is not a priority for the Conservatives. They prefer to increase the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement by two years and erode the living conditions of our seniors.

Therefore, we must ask the following questions: how will 65-year-olds survive in 2029? Why are the Conservatives increasing the age of eligibility? According to their arguments, the increase will make the old age security program sustainable. However, that is false.

Old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are very viable. In fact, it is expected that the cost of these programs will diminish in the long term relative to the size of the economy.

Professor Thomas Klassen of York University is an expert in pension plans and retirement. He is one of the many experts who do not agree with the change in the eligibility age. He said, “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.”

Let us talk about the evidence. The government's most recent actuarial report indicates that old age security and the guaranteed income supplement represented 2.7% of GDP in 2011. By 2030 it will be 3.16%, but then it will fall to 2.3% of GDP in 2060, which is below the current percentage.

The gradual increase in the costs of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs until 2030 is due to the baby boomers retiring. We all know this; it is no surprise to anyone. All of the actuarial reports on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement have been saying it since 1988. I was three years old; that is a long time ago. Some of my colleagues here were not even born yet.

The Conservatives therefore cannot claim not to have been aware of these rising costs during the 2011 election campaign. That was one year ago.

The Conservatives, moreover, never addressed that subject during the election campaign. No Conservative candidate ever said anything about wanting to make seniors work two more years in order to survive. Yes, that is what I said: to survive.

The loss of income resulting from the Conservatives’ plan to raise the eligibility age will be a deciding factor in how Canadian seniors are to live. It will result in losses of about $30,000 a year for the poorest seniors over those two years, and about $13,000 over two years for Canadians who receive only old age security.

The Conservatives do not think this is a problem, because they think Canadians just have to work longer.

Some workers are physically unable to continue working after a certain age.

Twenty-five percent of retired people say they retired for health reasons. For Canadians with an annual income under $20,000, that proportion rises to 38%.

That means that about 25% of seniors retire involuntarily. Those Canadians are quite simply not able to work two more years.

What the government is telling us with this insane plan is that the poorest and most vulnerable Canadians will have to work longer than the others, in spite of their health problems or their physical condition.

A few days before the budget that sealed the fate of workers under the age of 54 was tabled, I held a public forum in my riding on the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs with my colleagues, the members for Pierrefonds—Dollard and Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who at that time were the critics for seniors and pensions. I met with more than 70 worried people, very worried people. They included young and not-so-young people, all of them upset about what the Conservatives intend to do. At that point, however, there was still hope.

In my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, there are a lot of jobs in agriculture and industry. Those jobs are physically very demanding. We cannot ask workers who are 65 years old, who have worked at physically demanding jobs all their lives, to keep working two years longer before they are eligible for a program they are entitled to and have contributed to all their lives.

One person especially touched me when he told me how sometimes it was not the will to work that was missing, it was the body that had limitations. That man and all the people who were there said they believed that other solutions could have been considered, so as not to keep creating a gulf between rich and poor, as the Conservatives are so fond of doing.

Those people, like the financial experts, are asking the Conservatives to rethink their position on raising the age of eligibility.

But the Conservatives do not listen to advice they do not like, and they do not listen to Canadians.

That is why the NDP will continue to stand up so that Canadians of all ages—and yes, I am saying all ages—can live with dignity.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first thank the member for her very impassioned speech. I will give her a second to wipe her crocodile tears.

Our government proposed in the budget to increase the GIS for Canada's most vulnerable seniors by 25%; her party that voted against that 25% increase, the single largest increase in Canadian history.

I would like to ask her to stand in her place right now and apologize to Canada's seniors for depriving them of a 25% increase last year, forcing them to wait a full year to receive it.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, that makes no sense, and I do not see why I should apologize.

Every time I ask a question in the House, they say that the NDP voted against it, blah, blah, blah.

Of course we will vote against measures that are stupid and discriminatory and that do not lift Canadians out of poverty. I will not apologize.

Opposition Motion—Pensions
Business of Supply
Government Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time for government orders has expired. When we return, there will be four minutes remaining in questions and comments.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Kenora.

Recognition of Service
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate a hard-working constituent for her decades of outstanding service as a nurse in Sioux Lookout.

Debbie Whalen, a native of Sioux Lookout, received her nursing degree at Lakehead University in 1973 and returned to her hometown to start her career. She worked in many areas of nursing, as well as serving in various executive positions for the Ontario Nurses' Association Local 81, including several terms as president.

In 2010 Debbie made the move to the new Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout, which offers the most extensive health services of any hospital in the town's history. On May 11, after 39 years as a nurse in Sioux Lookout, Debbie is retiring.

As a former nurse in Sioux Lookout zone, I know first-hand the scope of her responsibilities in serving one of the largest areas with remote populations in this country.

We are proud of Debbie's service and appreciate her. We hope she enjoys her well-earned retirement.

Debbie's nursing career is just another example of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stand today in the House to mark the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. This nuclear explosion impacted the lives of millions in Ukraine as well as in Belarus and the Russian Federation.

The devastating environmental consequences of radioactive contamination, the health impacts—particularly childhood thyroid cancer—and the socio-economic costs are all tragic results of a tragic and preventable accident.

Canada and the global community must be guided by the memory of the tragic Chernobyl disaster to take all necessary action to ensure such a catastrophe never occurs again.

As a director of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, I stand together with my constituents, my colleagues in the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group and my New Democrat colleagues in commemoration of this disaster, in remembrance of the victims and in solidarity to take all necessary action to prevent any such disaster from occurring in the future.

Intermountain Sport Fish Enhancement Group
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to present Canada's National Recreational Fisheries Award to the Intermountain Sport Fish Enhancement Group at their annual banquet in Dauphin, Manitoba.

Created in 1989 by DFO, these awards recognize Canadians for their achievements in protecting and enhancing recreational fisheries.

The Intermountain group has established a Camp Fish youth mentoring program, with a stocked trout pond for youth fishing and education. They have created fish passage projects that facilitate access by fish to vast new areas of spawning habitat, thus ensuring healthy fish populations.

The recreational fishery in my riding is truly world class because of the fisheries conservation work done by these dedicated volunteers.

Groups such as the Intermountain Sport Fish Enhancement Group are Canada's real environmentalists, because they roll up their sleeves, get down to work and make a better environment for us all.

Our government is proud to recognize the efforts of those who make such an important contribution to conservation and recreational fishing in Canada.

Daffodil Month
Statements By Members

April 26th, 2012 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, every April, the Canadian Cancer Society undertakes a campaign to fund its fight against cancer. People across the country are wearing daffodil pins.

This year, I am pleased to be working with other extraordinary ambassadors, including Natasha St-Pier, Marie Turgeon, AngeLo Cadet, Steven Guilbeault and my colleague from Bourassa on Quebec's Daffodil Month campaign. Together, we have raised thousands of dollars and counting.

Money raised during Daffodil Month really changes things. It helps the Canadian Cancer Society fund life-saving research, make reliable and up-to-date information about cancer available, provide community support services, implement prevention programs and lobby the government for laws and public policies that protect the health of Quebeckers.

I salute the work of the volunteers and organizers. Above all, I salute the courage and determination of the 93,000 Canadians diagnosed with cancer in 2011.

Yom Ha'atzmaut
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, 64 years ago Israel achieved its long-promised independence as millions of Jews, many of them Shoah survivors, returned to their aboriginal homeland to build a democracy in the desert.

In those six and a half decades, they have built one of the most technologically, democratically, culturally and educationally advanced nations on earth.

It is the only place in the Middle East where it is safe to be a woman, gay, Christian or Baha'i.

I have prayed at the Western Wall, celebrated Shabbat in Judea and Samaria, and witnessed the sun set over Jerusalem.

With these fond memories in mind, I proudly wish my Israeli friends happy Yom Ha'atzmaut.

Cancer
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Day.

Every three minutes cancer claims another Canadian, and April is the month to fight back. While treatment and therapies have never been better, we must all continue to do our part to prevent, empower and inform Canadians about this disease.

Every one of us knows someone who has been affected by cancer. My partner of 24 years was one such person and his memory is very much a part of the work I do. I know I am joined by my colleagues and all Canadians in remembering our friend and our great leader, Jack Layton.

For more than 50 years, Canadians have worn the bright daffodil to honour and show support to those living with cancer and to remember those who have died. This Friday, April 27, let us all commit to strive for a healthier world to reduce the risk of cancer.