House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was apology.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, May 28, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

The hon. chief government whip.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

May 18th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Madam Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from April 3, 2012, consideration of the motion that Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin had seven minutes left from his previous speaking time. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-326 is as simple a request as can be. It simply seeks to turn monthly payments into biweekly payments. This would enable people to plan their spending and would also minimize the crowds at the pharmacy at the beginning and end of the month.

This is so simple that it should not even need to be debated. This very simple request is very easy to grant. Still, we have to debate this issue because the government is opposed to the idea. Those opposed to this idea are refusing to debate the importance of accommodating people who are entitled to services.

We have to wonder why the government is turning down such a simple request. Personally, I think the answer is to be found in the government's record. This government was in power when Nortel and Bowater went under, but it refused to amend the legislation to give pension funds preferred creditor status. That would have been easy to do too.

Tens of thousands of workers have seen their pension funds disappear. They were entitled to that money and they worked hard to earn it, but the government decided that the workers' pension funds would not be given preferred creditor status.

The government refuses to allow people who lost money in their pension funds to claim it as a capital loss on their income tax returns. That would not have been hard, either. When anyone who owns shares in Alcan, Suncor or any other company loses money on the stock market, they can deduct this capital loss from their income.

However, workers who have spent their entire lives investing in a pension fund that collapses as a result of poor performance by the stock market or, more specifically, poor performance by the managers of the companies for which they work, do not have the right to this tax deduction. This also shows what must be done and what has not been done.

The government had the choice but it decided not to renew the $200 million that was supposed to be used to build social housing for seniors. A number of units could have been built with that amount, even though it was insufficient for the entire country. Two hundred million dollars was better than nothing, of course, but the government reduced that amount. In fact, that $200 million is no longer available.

Unfortunately, the government did not stop there. What does it want to do in the future? It wants to increase the age of eligibility for old age security benefits and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. This move will save the government $10 billion. The government could cover this $10 billion because Canadians have always paid their taxes and been responsible. Yet, once again, the government is cutting $10 million. Cuts are being made to Service Canada staff, which will cause more delays in processing claims. It is never-ending. People are efficient and consistent in filing their claims. They were not asking for much: a payment every two weeks rather than once a month. It is not hard to make a transfer or to press a button twice a month so that the money is transferred directly into people's bank accounts. Yet, the government is refusing to do something so small and simple.

When the government is asked to guarantee safe and affordable housing for seniors, they do not answer the call.

When the government is asked to guarantee eligibility for prescription drugs, once again, it there is on one home to take the call. This drug coverage already exists in Quebec and we would like to extend it to all of Canada in order to ensure that drugs are accessible at a low cost. There would be economies of scale. When it comes to real financial security for seniors, the Conservatives are playing hide and seek.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the member bringing a bill like this forward. I understand it is a very simple bill talking about bi-monthly payments. He is straying in so many different areas; I am trying to get the gist of his argument. I would appreciate learning why this would be a benefit, particularly this. Also, he has not talked about the financial obligation of the government, how it is going to pay for the extra and how much it would cost. I would like to know all of this.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, basically, you are responding to the problem with your point of order.

You are doing nothing to help seniors, absolutely nothing. You are never there. The Conservatives do not want to respond to these requests. To them, seniors cost a lot of money and costs must be cut. So when anyone asks for any tiny service, no matter how insignificant, they always say no.

Well, in a few years, they will be told no by Canadian voters.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to rise and support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).

It has been put forward by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and I support my colleague.

Basically, in summary the bill enacts and amends the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to

...provide that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under those Acts shall, on the request of the beneficiary, be paid on a biweekly basis.

In order to do that, it amends the Canada Pension Plan such that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under this act shall be paid on a biweekly basis if the beneficiary submits a written request to the minister that the benefits be paid on a biweekly basis.

It basically states the same thing in the amendment to the Old Age Security Act.

Simply put, as my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, this bill is unique, it is not complicated, and it basically allows pensioners and seniors the freedom and flexibility to budget on their own.

To back up concerns on costs, my colleague did a fair bit of research. He ran the bill by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who said that the costs of administration of this bill are “not fiscally significant”. However, with even such a simple change such as this and with costs not fiscally significant, the government did not do its own cost analysis but came out quite strongly against this bill.

I will quote what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour had to say:

Mr. Speaker, I will start by underscoring our government's commitment to improving the well-being of seniors and our continued efforts to address their needs now and into the future.

After making that statement, she went on to say:

However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount of seniors benefits.

Then comes the kicker. She said:

As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.

The fact of the matter is that the government did not do an analysis to come up with that figure of tens of millions of dollars. It is opposing this bill before it even gets to committee to be discussed properly. Let us find out what those costs are.

Can the bill be amended in such a way that it would only be utilized by those who want the payment to be made biweekly? There are many who would, but in some cases it is not that they want to but that they need to.

Many seniors are living in poverty in this country. Some of them are getting old age security, some get the supplement, and some get the CPP. When we talked to them, they told us that when they get their cheque, they know they have to try to budget that cheque for the next 30 days.

These are mostly people who are between the ages of 65 and 80. Many of those who are over that age are in retirement homes, and the monthly payment works fine. However, those who are living in their own homes, which is where we want them to stay, have to take out money for their rent, electricity, telephone and maybe Internet for a computer, if they have one. They try to take enough money to purchase their drugs for the month. Then they allocate the rest for groceries. Some are very low in terms of what they can get for groceries.

Then something happens two weeks in, and they have no emergency money to buy medicine for a cold or a flu or whatever because they have run low on funds by that time.

Going to a biweekly basis for those who need it and are willing to apply for it would make a huge difference in terms of insecurity and worry in their lives for several days or weeks.

I know people on the government side do not like the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, because he tells the truth. He lays it out before them. He has laid out the cost of many of the issues that the government has not been willing to inform us on; as a result, the government is not too enamoured of any analysis done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, although his analyses have been proven to be quite accurate time after time.

That said, the government, without having done a cost analysis, opposes a bill that could make a significant difference in some seniors' lives at practically no cost, and it will not even allow it to go to committee to be discussed. That is pretty sad.

If we talk to seniors, maybe they would accept that this be done only for those who use direct deposit. I understand mailing cheques costs money. There is no question. There is the postage, the service fee at the bank, and so on. However, if it was done by direct deposit, the cost would be very minimal. It would make a huge difference in people's lives, but the government seems to be rejecting this proposal out of hand.

As I mentioned, the parliamentary secretary said:

As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.

We just heard in the House today, in answer to a question on the gun registration issue, that the government is not going to require those registrations. It is going to have another amnesty. That money probably would have paid more than the administration costs for doing something for seniors, but the government operates on the basis of ideology, not on the basis of care and concern for the people of this country.

To put it quite simply, it is unbelievably sad that a government would be so uncaring as to not even allow a proper hearing on a simple proposal in a private member's bill to help seniors who may not just want but need biweekly payments.

Can the government just not accept to help, even just a little, seniors who request some help?

If the parliamentary secretary was speaking on behalf of the PMO, as she was, then I say to the other members in the party at least that it is time to stand up. It is a private member's bill. It is time to stand up and allow this issue to be discussed without being a puppet on a string for the PMO. It is time for those members to represent the constituents and the seniors in their ridings and allow the bill to be debated at committee.

We know the government has done a lot of damage to new seniors coming into the system. By changing the age requirement from 65 years of age to 67, it has basically stolen $30,000 from the new seniors coming on. Conservative members can at least help out by allowing the bill to go to committee to be analyzed properly, to be debated, and hopefully, at the end of the day, to help those seniors who want this to be done in their interest.