House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we had many discussions and actually asked many questions of the government on this side of the House in that whole debacle with Nortel, calling on the government to make the kind of changes to the Bankruptcy Act that would eliminate the contribution holiday. The government did take some action on that part of the file, requiring a larger amount of surplus before they could take a contribution holiday, but there is much more to be done when we come to this whole issue of protecting individuals' pensions.

We all believe that, when we put money into a pension fund, it is sacrosanct. Certainly, we Liberals believe it has to be protected 100%. We have to realize people are counting on that money to be there, and if a company goes bankrupt and leaves them as Nortel did, many have nowhere to go.

We have examined many different options. The Province of Ontario has a fund, as does the U.S., which backs up to $1,000 per month some of the pensions of companies that go bankrupt, but that is under huge pressure and it is not necessarily the best answer either.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member a question regarding how she feels seniors are being treated now after six years of successive increases in the personal exemption, which helps seniors; an increase in the age exemption, which helps seniors; the enrichment of GIS greater than it has been in the past 25 years, which directly helps seniors and low income seniors as well; the tax-free savings account, which will help future seniors and has been heralded by many economists and accountants as being the biggest step since the RRSP; and pension splitting for seniors as well.

These are successive innovations toward helping seniors have a better quality of life after they have retired. Now we are adding the pooled pension plan. This will be one more tool for them to have the best years of their life after they retire. Would the hon. member not agree with that?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has clearly made some moves. TFSAs were a recommendation in the red book under Paul Martin when he was the minister of finance. TFSAs were recommended as a good savings vehicle. I did not say there was anything wrong with that.

I referred earlier to income splitting. The government has done a lot of things to help people who have a lot of money. What happens to those people who are living on $11,000? There was a bit of an increase to the GIS but was it enough?

Why was the decision made to increase the age to 67? That clearly takes $15,000 a year out of the pockets of every Canadian. The government could have done lots of things rather than change the age to 67. It could have used the clawback amount. If someone is earning $60,000, does that person still need $540 a month in OAS, or would it be better to look at the whole system?

There is a bigger issue. The government should have consulted with Canadians on the future plans of our social security safety net to find out what we could all do to better improve the lives of Canadians rather than deny Canadians and make them wait an extra two years.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the debate and more particularly the recent exchange between the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and that member. I find it interesting that they are congratulating each other or wanting to take credit for the tax-free savings account, which to me misses the boat entirely for the vast majority of seniors.

If a person could only put $5,000 into a TFSA that makes 2% interest right now, that person would get $100 a year in interest. Because it is tax-free that individual would save $30. That would be $1 a month for seniors, which would buy them exactly nothing.

What we really need is a serious debate about doubling the CPP, about ensuring that we do not lose our defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans. Above all, we need to lift seniors out of poverty by increasing the GIS.

Could the member comment on which of those three things she would make the number one priority in the next Liberal red book, or pink book, or whatever iteration we will see next?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as soon as we have the book ready, I will ensure she gets the first copy.

The government is expected to talk about a variety of different issues and how it can better help Canadians. That is what Canadians expect us to do. They do not expect us to be partisan all of the time. We are supposed to do what is in the best interests of Canadians throughout the country. I do not want to see seniors continuing to live in poverty. We know that at least 300,000 seniors live in poverty.

Let me remind everyone that it was Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau who brought in everything from OAS to GIS to the spouses allowance. None of those programs were ever brought in by the Conservatives. All of them were brought in by Liberal governments because we saw how many people were living in poverty. The Conservative government is clearly going in the opposite direction.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate my colleague's passion and caring attitude when it comes to dealing with seniors in Canada. I appreciate her comments with respect to why the House should deal with the issue of pensions, whether it is the GIS, OAS or CPP. These are good solid programs that are the cornerstone of our pensions going forward.

With regard to the budget, the member knows that the government has increased the age of retirement from 65 to 67. She has spoken a great deal on this issue. Maybe she could provide comment on what responses she has received. Many of our colleagues in the House, particularly those on the opposition benches, have stood up on virtually a daily basis to bring forward petitions on this issue. Canadians are quite upset with this element of pensions. This bill is all about that.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat an issue. I was at a meeting in rural Ontario last night. Of the 50 to 60 people who were in that room, probably 40% of them were in their sixties or maybe in their seventies and the rest were much younger.

When I asked them whether they supported or rejected the idea of moving the age for old age security from 65 to 67, every person in that room was opposed to that issue. I think they all recognized that if the average age of retirement today was 62, we would be moving backward to increase it to age 67. At one time, we did have it at age 67. That is when a previous Liberal prime minister, recognizing there was a severe amount of poverty among seniors, moved the eligibility from 67 years of age to 65 years of age and started to introduce other programs in addition to the OAS.

The current government is going in the exact opposite direction, back to where we were years ago, with seniors having to suffer in poverty, alone.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Minister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the member does herself a great discredit and undermines her own arguments and credibility with some of the demagogic and over-the-top rhetoric she uses to characterize the motives of the government, saying that it does not care about low-income people, that it only wants to help those who are wealthy and so forth.

Would the member not agree with the objective, incontrovertible fact, that the Government of Canada is currently spending more on transfers to seniors than it ever has in the history of the Dominion? We are spending more on transfers on CPP, more in transfers on OAS, more in transfers for GIS, more per capita for seniors than ever in our history.

If it is her view that this is inadequate, then what does that say about the government of which she was a member? If this government is too parsimonious with respect to transfers to seniors, then what was her government doing when it was spending less on these programs?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have an aging population. Every year we have an increased amount of seniors collecting OAS and GIS. Next year there will be even more money spent on OAS, GIS and so on, because of that aging seniors population. All we have to do is look at the numbers five years ago and look at the numbers today. It is not a difficult thing.

To suggest that some of us are exaggerating things, we are actually taking lessons from those folks across the hall.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to some of the key measures in Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts.

I will splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.

First, I would like to thank the Minister of State for Finance, the member of Parliament from the great riding of Macleod, for bringing forth this great legislation.

Our government understands that working Canadians and seniors want an effective and sustainable retirement income system that will help them achieve their retirement goals. Canadians who have worked hard, saved diligently and are relying on their pension and savings to support them once they retire should have full confidence that the system will serve them well when they need it.

Canadians can rest assured that our government stands with hard-working Canadians who are counting on their pension plan for a stable retirement. As part of this commitment, we continue to take the steps necessary to ensure that Canada's pension framework remains strong. In doing so, we are building on all that has been accomplished so far.

Let me offer a few examples of what we have achieved.

In particular, since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000.

We have introduced pension income splitting. This single item was lobbied for very diligently for years by organizations like CARP and other organizations that represented seniors. It was well received when this came in.

We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and registered retirement savings plans to 71 from 69 years of age.

Despite these advancements, there is always more to be done. That is why in December 2009, our government held a meeting with the provincial and territorial finance ministers in Whitehorse to discuss the retirement income system and, in going forward, how this system could be further improved.

In June 2010, federal, provincial and territorial governments reviewed options to improve Canada's retirement income system after extensive consultations with Canadians. Many of the members of the opposition will be interested to know that among these proposals was a modest expansion to the CPP, the Canada pension plan.

However, many employers, especially small and medium-sized businesses, something my riding has hundreds of, raised serious concerns about increasing the mandatory deductions that would come with an expanded CPP. Simply put, during these times of economic uncertainty and with Canada's economic recovery still fragile, it would have been reckless to impose a job-killing tax on job-creators.

While there were strong objections to expanding the CPP, there was unanimous agreement to moving forward with pooled registered pension plans. This led to priority being given to the PRPP framework, the announcement of the initiative at the subsequent finance ministers' meeting in December 2010 and the legislation that is before us today.

PRPPs mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income agenda by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. They will make well-regulated, low-cost private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who have up to now not had access to such plans. In fact, many employees of small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers will also now have access to a private pension plan for the very first time. This is groundbreaking. This will be a key improvement to Canada's retirement income system.

PRPPs will also complement and support our government's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Quite simply, the PRPP framework is the most effective and targeted way to help these modest and middle-income individuals save for their retirement. These individuals consist of the 60% of Canadians who do not have access to employer-sponsored pension plans.

PRPPs address this gap in the retirement system by first providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low-cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees. It would allow individuals who currently may not participate in a pension plan, such as the self-employed and employees of companies that do not offer a pension plan, to make use of this new option. It would enable more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension plan. It would allow for the portability of benefits and facilitate an easy transfer between plans, and it would ensure that funds are invested in the best interests of plan members.

These are all important areas where the retirement income system can be improved. However, members need not take my word for it. Let us hear what others have to say.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association:

PRPPs will provide a new, accessible, large-scale and low-cost pension option to employers, employees and the self-employed. PRPPs will give all working Canadians the benefit of professionally-managed pension plans, and will be particularly beneficial to the self-employed and employees of small businesses.

I can speak to that as someone who was a self-employed farmer before I came to this House. My only pension at that time was my land, or whatever I could accumulate over the years. It was the same with my parents. There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the same boat, and they are going to get a chance to benefit from this great initiative.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says:

PRPPs can give many businesses, individuals and the self-employed additional retirement options, and many millions of Canadians who currently lack adequate retirement savings will benefit.

That is why our government, in coordination with the provincial and territorial governments, is working to implement PRPPs as soon as possible. These plans would help Canadians, including the self-employed, meet their retirement objectives by providing access to a new low-cost accessible pension option.

I am sure that all the provinces will take the advice of the CFIB, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the CBA when they jointly said that the longer governments take to establish a system of PRPPs, the less time those employees will have to use this vehicle to save for their retirement. Simply put, we need to act now.

Bringing the federal PRPP framework into force means Canadians can be confident about the long-term viability of their retirement system. We are listening, and we will continue to listen to their views on how we can strengthen the security of pension plan benefits and ensure that the framework is balanced and appropriate for the long term.

Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the world by such experts as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, as a model that succeeds in reducing poverty among Canadian seniors. With Bill C-25, we are making it better by working toward a permanent long-term solution to encourage greater pension coverage among Canadians.

I know that members on this side of the House will support Bill C-25 and vote to establish a pension plan that would help millions of Canadians save for their retirement. I encourage all the members of the opposition to support this very important bill and to vote to help the seniors of tomorrow provide for their retirement today.

I remind all members that a lot of legislation, whether government legislation or private members' bills, comes before this House. Not all of us in this place like every aspect of every bill, but the potential of Bill C-25 to help people plan their retirement is something that is certainly needed and has been wanted for a long time. I think that all members in this House should look at the quality parts of the bill. It is an improvement to what we have today, and I think it will be very well received out there among seniors.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments respecting the degree of opposition to the enhancement of the Canada pension plan. I have three questions for him in connection with his characterization of the apparent opposition to the enhancement of the CPP.

One, is the most vociferous opponent to the enhancement of the plan the Government of Canada? Two, is that a reversal of its earlier position? Three, who are the others?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to adding any new restrictions or taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, which are predominant in my riding and I think in most ridings across this country, these are entities that feed families and create jobs and economic activity in this country. This government is the only party in this House that supports them by not adding on those taxes.

The member across the way belongs to a party that has never seen a tax it did not like. This government is philosophically opposed to that idea. We have reduced over 140 taxes in our six years here, and we are not done yet.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, a number of spokespeople came to talk about the Canadian system and about the fact that there are already a number of private savings plans on the market right now. Yet, it is no secret that the government is in the process of creating a new private savings plan when such plans already exist and are underused. Most Canadians do not contribute to such plans.

Why create a new plan instead of investing in providing information to Canadians about the existing systems? Why not improve the existing systems instead of creating another one when we do not even know what effects it will have on Canada's private savings plan market?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague across the way is basically asking why we would act on something that hundreds of thousands of seniors across this country have been asking for.

This government cares about the seniors of this country, and that is why we are doing this. The territories and provinces realize the importance of it. We sat down with those provinces and territories to come up with a solution; this was a consensus, and here today we have that culminated in Bill C-25.

We listened to them, and I suggest that the member should listen to her seniors as well.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACT
Government Orders

May 29th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. He very articulately explained the benefits.

What I like best about the new pooled registered pension plan, and I would like the member to comment on it, is the flexibility it would have for workers and employers to participate. We know what is happening with the workforce. We know there is fluidity. We know that people are not staying at one job for 30 years any longer, but are moving around. This is one of those pension scheme systems that would allow employees to have a pension that would be portable to wherever they choose to work.

Would the member comment on that and share some anecdotes about how it would specifically help businesses and residents in Owen Sound?