House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was jordan.

Topics

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Private Members' Business

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has stated, if you will be reserving your opinion on this bill, we would like to be able to make formal presentation on this point of order at some point in time in the future.

I do take some exception to the government House leader's comments in addressing the bill itself. We need to recognize that Bill C-38, even though the government titles it as a budget bill, is, in the eyes of many, a great threat to Canadian democracy and the functions of this House.

We can talk about the Trojan Horse or using the back door of the budget in order to pass significant measures. The argument that has been presented by the leader of the Green Party is quite accurate when we talk about the bill being an imperfect bill and, therefore, should not be proceeded with. We are going to be very much dependent upon the fairness of the Speaker recognizing this institution for what is worth. We all value the opportunity to ensure that what is happening here is being done in a fair fashion.

I know there is a great deal of concern in terms of how the bill would have a profound impact, whether it is on the fisheries or the environment. Somewhere in the neighbourhood of 60-plus pieces of legislation would be profoundly, in some cases, impacted and the Speaker does need to take note. As I have said, we will be providing some future comment before the Speaker makes a final ruling on the bill.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Private Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would lend my support to the point of order by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands. The member is one of our most thoughtful members. This is an amazing piece of research. It is very thoughtful analysis. It merits much reading and consideration. I look forward to poring over it. It is quite the profound piece of jurisprudence in the traditions of Canada and of Parliament.

The Speaker of the House of Commons has a long tradition in Canada of holding the processes of the House of Commons to a high standard, The Speaker has a long history of overseeing and acting on the integrity of the House and its members. The Speaker has a long history and big obligation in maintaining the democratic traditions of Parliament and the House of Commons.

I hope the Speaker will give this very important point of order the consideration that it very seriously and obviously needs.

Bill C-38
Points of Order
Private Members' Business

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The Chair will consider the point of order that was raised by the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands and the subsequent points raised by other members of this House and will return at a time that is appropriate with a ruling.

The House resumed from May 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Niagara West—Glanbrook.

I must confess that my plan to lose two inches off my waistline by summer is not going well. Part of the blame rests with a lovely little restaurant in my riding called La Porto A Casa, which has the best tiramisu in Canada. I am prepared to certify that on the floor of this House of Commons. It has, as a business, been a model of a Canadian success story.

Only about four years ago, it opened the restaurant and, within several months, it had to double in size of square footage to accommodate the enormous demand. It now employs 16 people in our community. It has never asked for a government grant or handout but it pays salaries and wages, and provides the citizens of Barrhaven with a wonderful meeting place and a good, solid, authentic Italian dinner or lunch.

The only thing not on the menu, though, is a workplace pension plan. The reason for that is that out of the 16 employees that one would have in a business that size, it does not make financial sense to hire somebody, or a group of people, to administer a pension plan. In fact, there are businesses just like La Porto A Casa, and business owners, just like Ozzie and Caroline, right across this country. They might be small mechanic's shops, landscaping companies, small restaurants or small accounting firms. By themselves, they do not have the economies of scale to provide a workplace pension plan and, as a result, 60% of Canadian employees do not have one.

However, what if people like Ozzie and Caroline from La Porto A Casa, Sonny from Sonny's Manotick Garage and thousands of other small businesses that employ millions of people combined could pool their efforts and provide such a pension program for their employees?

Let us imagine if banks, insurance companies and existing pension plans, like the Ontario teachers' pension fund, could offer such a pooled service to employees of small businesses just like the ones I just finished describing. Such would provide an opportunity for the 60% of Canadians who currently lack a workplace pension fund to buy into one.

That is exactly what the bill before the House proposes to do. They would be called the “pooled registered pension plans”. They would be administratively simple and cost-effective, and they would provide mobility to the workers who travel between small employers on a fairly frequent basis. That would allow these businesses to come together and pool the costs and the risks associated with a pension fund for employees.

This is an excellent opportunity to allow working people to have greater participation in our economy and to set aside money that would be invested for their future. By the way, that money, when invested, is not simply hidden under somebody's bed. In fact, it is invested in other Canadian companies that then use it to hire people, buy machines and grow wealth and prosperity for other workers, creating a virtuous cycle.

The opposition has said that it opposes this idea. It does not believe that small businesses like La Porto A Casa and Sonny's gas station in Manotick should be allowed to pool their resources in order to create a pension fund opportunity for their employees. The reason the opposition does not like the idea is because it says that these funds would be invested in the stock market. That is partly true but they could also be invested in real estate, bonds or treasury bills.

However, it is true that almost every successful pension fund in the world does invest in the stock market because stock markets grow and it is good when pension funds grow with them. In fact, all of the pension funds that the left of centre opposition claims to support are invested in the stock market. Let us take, for example, the Quebec pension plan, which is the province's equivalent of what we in English Canada call the CPP. It is widely invested in private sector businesses.

One business in which the Quebec pension plan is invested is Canadian Natural Resources Ltd. It is an oil sands company taking 100,000 barrels out of the Alberta oil sands every day. That would make it a perfect target for the NDP. The only problem is that the same oil sands company pays enough dividends into the Quebec pension fund to cover the retirement cheques of 1,100 workers every year. The opposition would raise taxes on that company, impose a carbon tax and raise taxes on profits. The only problem with that is that the same company can only pay benefits to the Quebec pension fund out of its after-tax profits, which means that if taxes go up, the dividends to pension funds go down.

Half of the Canada pension plan is invested in companies just like the one I mentioned already. It is invested in the stock market. Even public pension funds that are administered by government are invested in the private sector stock market. Let us take the defined benefit pension plans of, say, the Canada Post employees. The top five holdings in the Canada Post pension plan are Toronto-Dominion Bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Suncor and Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., all banks and oil companies. The twin villains in every left wing storyline are the ones paying dividends into the pension funds of mail delivery workers and other employees of Canada Post who will rely on the profitability of those same businesses for their retirement.

The opposition does not believe that pension funds should be invested in the private sector. In fact, it does not think there should be a private sector at all. It believes in growing government and having government take over every sector of the economy. I will explain what I mean by that. Its leader has said that there is something called Dutch disease; that is to say that there are too many Canadians working in the energy sector and not working elsewhere. However, according to the S&P/TSX composite index of the Canadian Stock Exchange, the energy sector is actually not the biggest. The financial sector is. The problem is that the NDP does not like the financial sector either. One-third of the entire valuation of the TSX includes banks and other financial services sectors. The NDP does not like that one-third. Then we have the energy sector, which makes up one-quarter. The NDP does not like that either. Now, well over half of the value of the publicly-traded economy is in the crosshairs of a prospective NDP government.

The NDP is an opposition party that believes that government should control everything. There is a laboratory for that approach. It is called Greece. In Greece, the government debt is 160% the size of the entire economy. Its debt has now been downgraded to junk status. In Portugal, it is the same thing. Nine other Euro currency countries have also been downgraded. In Washington, where over the last several decades this kind of approach of big public spending has been tried, the government debt is now bigger than the entire U.S. economy and American taxpayers spend more on interest to the People's Republic of China than the People's Republic of China spends on its military.

On this side, we choose the Canadian way, a free market plan to create jobs and enable small businesses to provide opportunities for retirement security to their employees.

Therefore, in the interest of jobs, growth and long-term prosperity, I ask members to support the bill.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for having shared what I would call a completely unrealistic interpretation of reality. It was very entertaining, but alas, totally out of touch with reality. Allow me to explain.

The important thing to understand is that this government bill will force millions of Canadians to invest their savings against their will and take on the full risk of that investment in a series of private funds, without necessarily getting any guarantees about the quality of fund management.

In fact, that is already a problem. I would just like to point out to my colleague that, unfortunately, since the beginning of 2012, all stock exchanges have fallen by an average of 10%.

What does my colleague have to offer new retirees and those retiring in a year or two, other than an extremely high stress level that could end up forcing people to retire later than planned or to go back to work?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I must begin by correcting the error in the question. No one will be forced to join. It is a voluntary program. People will decide whether or not this plan works for them.

Furthermore, the member is attacking stock market investments, but all pension funds are invested in the stock market, even public pension funds.

I already mentioned that half of the Canada pension plan is invested in the stock market. There is no successful pension fund in the world that does not invest in the stock market and therefore there is not a single one of them that can survive and succeed unless businesses have strong after-tax profit. These are mathematical realities that one cannot help but see, even with ideological blinders on.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I do not know about that last statement. The member's own pension plan, which he just qualified for, is pretty generous and avoids the markets. Perhaps my colleague would like to comment on that.

When he says that all opposition members are against this sort of concept, the member is overstretching it a bit. On this side of the House, we have said many times that we like the idea of pooled pensions. If we understand the concept of it, we get that. However, if we take it to its logical conclusion, we would go to a supplementary CPP system, which would then be the best investment machinery around for this type of thing.

I believe in what my colleague is saying, about the mobility of it, about the pooling and how if people pooled with others for their pension plan, that would make a greater investment. However, the specific program that the member talks of, which I am not totally against, has not worked in jurisdictions like Australia, which had problems with efficiency from 1997, as it was described.

Would the member not take the concept that he speaks of, the majority of which I agree with, into one of the greatest investment vehicles we have, which would be a supplementary CPP?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member stands and says that he is against the pension plan for members of Parliament, but I presume he is going to accept his unless he is going to announce the contrary today. Then he says that he is in favour of the concept of a pooled registered plan, but will vote against it. The one thing I have to respect about the Liberal Party is its ability to see all sides of every issue because those members are on all sides of every issue.

On this side of the House, we take a clear stand. We are in favour of empowering small businesses in Canada to provide their employees with a pooled pension plan that would help them prepare for their retirement on a voluntary basis. That is where we stand.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

June 4th, 2012 / 12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to explain to the House and the people of Canada how our government's new low-cost and accessible pooled registered pension plan will help millions of Canadians save for retirement. More specific, I would like to touch on how pooled pensions will benefit small businesses, which are the backbone of the economy, not only in my riding of Niagara West—Glanbrook but across this great land.

As a former small business owner, I know first hand how difficult it is to save for retirement. There is simply so much else to focus on. Small business owners wear many hats and often the most menial tasks take priority over thinking of retirement or how to save for it. Therefore, by pooling pension plans together, small business owners can pass on the burden of planning for retirement to a qualified and reliable body, freeing them up to focus on improving other aspects of their business, such as improving customer service or, more important, ensuring their survival in the world of free enterprise.

As a small business owner, I was very committed to providing financial assistance to my employees. For my part-timers, I offered thousands of dollars in scholarships. However, for my full-time and my key employees, who had already graduated or were no longer interested in attending university, I had to find other incentives. Unfortunately, pooled pension plans were not available back then, which would have provided me and fellow small business owners the opportunity to provide our employees with a pension package comparable to any large corporation.

I looked for ways to try and incentivize my staff to try and keep them around, because small business is very competitive. The only thing I could come up with was registered retirement savings plans, which were not a bad thing. The challenge was that they were very complicated to set up. As members can imagine, with a small business owner, with only five or six employees, trying to meet with financial investors and setting them up with staff is not always the easiest thing to do. Therefore, as a business owner, I really would have appreciated having something like this to take away some of the burden on me by being able to lock these funds in for employees who would use them at a later point in time.

What I did was set up some registered retirement savings plans wherein I matched some of the dollars that my key employees put in. The challenge was that they were not locked in for pensions. The money could be taken out at any time. The second issue was it was difficult to manage. Members can imagine having 10, 20, 30 or 40 employees all trying to figure out, with a financial adviser, what was happening and trying to make their own decisions when, quite frankly, a pension plan or some kind of professional management would have been helpful. Therefore, from experience, I understand how important a plan like this would be.

Until Bill C-25 is passed, small business owners will continue to worry about the possibility of their employees being attracted to a larger corporation that offers a more attractive pension plan. This is worrisome to small business owners whose employees form the core of their small business, much more so than the case of large corporations. Small businesses of 5, 6 to 10 people cannot afford the costs of employee turnover. When they lose key employees, it hurts in a big way. In this regard, pooled pensions will benefit small business owners by increasing employee dependability, thereby decreasing the time, burden and costs associated with hiring.

Equally beneficial to small business, pooled pensions will allow millions of Canadians access to a workplace pension for the first time in their lives.

Pooled pensions will improve the range of retirement savings options to Canadians by allowing individuals who are not currently participating in a pension plan, such as the self-employed, to make use of this new type of pension plan. Pooled pensions will enable more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension plan. Further, pooled pensions will allow for people's accumulated benefits to move with them from job to job, all the while ensuring that their funds are invested in the best interests of plan members.

With our baby-boomer generation nearing the age of retirement, coupled with the ongoing global financial crisis, our government has deemed this time appropriate for the development of pooled pensions. The issue of retirement income security is very important to our government. It is for this reason that the joint federal-provincial working group was established in May 2009 to undertake an in-depth examination of retirement income adequacy in Canada.

The working group found that overall the Canadian retirement income system was performing well and providing Canadians with an adequate standard of living upon retirement. However, some Canadian households, especially modest and middle-income households, were living with the risk of not saving enough for retirement.

After over a year of exhaustive research, led by our finance ministers, our government agreed to pursue a framework for pooled registered pension plans.

Pooled pensions are designed to address the lack of low-cost, large-scale retirement savings options available to many Canadians. Many Canadians continue to struggle taking advantage of the savings opportunities offered to them through individual structures like RRSPs. For example, the average Canadian has over $18,000 in unused RRSP room.

In addition, many Canadians can only access a workplace pension plan if their employer offers one. Many employers, especially small and medium-sized businesses, do not want the legal administrative burden of offering a pension plan. As a result, over 60% of Canadians do not have a workplace pension. There is not only the legal issues. The fact remains that it is almost impossible for small businesses to join a pension.

The design features of pooled pensions remove a lot of the traditional barriers that might have kept some employers from offering pension plans to their employees.

The design of these plans would be straightforward to allow for simple enrolment and management. A third-party pooled pension administrator will take on most of the responsibilities that employers bear in the existing pension plans, including the administrative and legal duties associated with administering a pension plan.

Pooled pensions will offer Canadians greater purchasing power, allowing them the opportunity to benefit from greater economies of scale. Achieving lower prices means that Canadians will benefit from greater returns on their savings and put more money in their pockets when they retire. Pooled pensions are intended to be largely harmonized from province to province, which also lowers administrative costs.

Pooled pensions will result in large pooled funds that will enable plan members to benefit from lower investment management cost associated with such funds. The design of these plans will be straightforward and are intended to be largely harmonized across jurisdictions, which would facilitate lower administrative costs.

Pooled pensions will assist Canadians in meeting their retirement savings objectives by providing access to the new low cost pension option. Through the pooled nature of pooled pension investments and the auto enrolment of employees, it is expected that members will be able to benefit from greater economies of scale and lower costs compared to small, singular employee group RRSPs. Since pooled pensions will be subject to pension standard rules, unlike group RRSPs, the management will be held to a higher standard.

Our government decided not to expand the Canadian pension plan because changes to the CPP would require the agreement of least two-thirds of the provinces with at least two-thirds of the population. Federal, provincial and territorial ministers have discussed a CPP expansion, but there has been no agreement. Our government understands that the fragile economic recovery is not the right time to increase CPP contributions, which would be required if CPP were expanded.

That being said, moving forward on pooled pensions does not preclude future changes to CPP.

Our government continues to improve Canada's retirement income system. Budget 2011 announced a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for our valuable seniors. Seniors with low or no income other than the old age security and the GIS would receive additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples.

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, introduced pension income splitting and increased the age limit for the maturing pensions in registered retirement savings plans to 71 from 69 years of age.

Overall, our government has provided about $2.3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to seniors and pensioners through measures such as pension income splitting, increases in the age credit amount and the doubling of the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit.

In addition, budget 2008 introduced a tax-free savings account, which is of particular benefit to seniors because it helps them to meet their ongoing savings needs with a tax efficient way after they are no longer able to contribute to an RRSP.

We have also made several other important improvements to specific retirement income supports. Budget 2008 increased the amount that could be earned before the GIS would be reduced to $3,500, so GIS recipients would be able to keep more of their hard-earned money without any reduction in GIS benefits. Budget 2008 also increased flexibility for seniors and older workers with federally-regulated pension assets that were held in life income funds.

We all win if we make it easier to plan for our future. Pooled pensions would remove the barriers that make it impossible for my business and other small businesses like it to offer the ability to be part of the pension plan for their employees. This is a significant and timeless solution. I am proud of our government for taking steps to provide this opportunity for Canadians.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, in my riding, hundreds of Stadacona plant workers have, for the most part, lost $100,000 or more of their pensions as a result of the losses sustained by their private pension fund. This means that their retirement pensions could be cut in half. It is a real tragedy.

I am amazed by the government's failure to consider the risks arising from the proliferation of registered pension plans, given that a large number of them are already experiencing difficulties. The other thing that is absolutely absurd is the refusal to increase contributions to the Canada pension plan on the pretext that it would be too onerous for our workers, businesses and communities. And yet, we will have to find the money to contribute to the registered pension plans.

I will draw a parallel with the mainly private health insurance system in the United States. Private insurance companies now have such high premiums, because of the supposed competition, that even large businesses are finding it impossible to provide health coverage for their workers.

How can my colleague guarantee that Canadian pension funds will not go down the same slippery slope?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure where the question was. There was some talk there about health care, large corporations, pensions and mismanagement.

As we look at the bill, Canadians, who normally would not have a chance to contribute to a pension plan because of the size of the companies for which they work, would now have the opportunity to do so. As I said, small businesses are the largest employers around our country. For small businesses that hire six, seven, eight or ten people, it is cost prohibitive to set up any kind of pension plan. This legislation aims to pool pensions so that individuals can not only contribute to a pension plan, where otherwise they could not, but they can also take it with them. It is also locked in so that they would not have access to it until retirement age.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, for viewers who might be watching and listening to this important issue, we recognize that this is a tool, albeit a rather small tool that might assist a good number of Canadians. However, what we were really hoping to see come from the government was the larger picture. How will we be able to make some of the changes to the CPP, OAS and our guaranteed income supplement? There is an obligation for the federal government to negotiate with the provinces to try to enhance those pension programs, which are the fundamental programs that most, if not all, Canadians are very dependent on.

With regard to this specific legislation, could the member indicate to what degree Ottawa has actually received confirmation from which provinces that are prepared to act on this? Are we talking 50% of the provinces on side or 100% of the provinces on side? Could the member indicate how many provinces are on side with the legislation today?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think what the member is talking about here is apples and oranges. There are a couple of different things going on here. We understand that the CPP is still something that is happening. It will continue to go on and there may be further negotiations. However, this would add another suite of products that would give options to small business owners.

When it comes to pension, that is federal and provincial legislation and it is dealt with in a way that we talk about what is required for people to put in. What we are talking about here is setting up something that will add to the suite of services the government has already delivered on. We have introduced pension splitting and tax free savings accounts. This is meant to complement a number of initiatives that we have already looked at in giving employers and employees options to save for their retirement as they move forward.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

Earlier, some members mentioned the fact that people may be watching us on television. I hope they have something else to do, because today's debate in the House is really going nowhere.

This is yet another bill with a rather confusing title. This bill, I believe, deals with pooled registered pension plans. But it really deals with savings, not pension plans. That makes me think that the people who work for the government legislators and think up the titles must also work for the paint companies like Sico, where long, evocative names are given to very simple things. If one day they brought us a bill proposing to cut down all the trees, they would call it “Prioritizing new species of vegetation.”

This bill does contain good intentions for small employers and small businesses. In itself, that could be praiseworthy, but the reality is different. I was listening to the member opposite talk about his favourite business, saying that it has the best tartufo or tiramisu or cheesecake around; he talked about the muffler repair shop near his house, and all these small businesses. It was wonderful: what a great story. But I have a tendency to think he was talking about some other local businesses, for example, the local branch of the Royal Bank of Canada, which made a profit of $5.7 billion in the last quarter, the Toronto Dominion Bank, which made a profit of $4.5 billion, or Scotiabank, where the profit was $4.3 billion. I could list a few of those.

We could believe that our colleagues across the aisle are acting in good faith. We could believe that they are listening to the little guys. Unfortunately, experience proves that they have a natural tendency to listen to the big guys, the big corporations, and neglect the little guys quite often. “Unfortunately”—that is a long word that reminds me of a five-letter word: Aveos. We cannot say that the government looks out for the little guy when we see how it behaved in that labour dispute.

When I say little guy, I mean the vast majority of the population. I am talking about people whose jobs do not provide them with very good protection plans.

Usually in society we come up with plans and programs to promote the common good, programs such as the Canada pension plan or the Quebec pension plan. What strikes me is that when it comes to the common good for the little guy, the government just throws something together. Again, it prioritized a solution by throwing something together with its buddies: it says it will do one thing, a good thing, but then it turns around and does another. I keep saying this has to stop.

People are judged on their intentions. The intention of the Conservative government, generally speaking, is always to favour the big corporations. It wants Canada to be a good place to do business, big business. As we speak, it is the little guy who is paying for it and that is sad.

In the past six years, the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing to boost retirement security for Canadians. In every one of their interventions—unfortunately, they often intervene in labour disputes—the thing that ends up on the chopping block is retirement security, the security of the working class. Bill C-25 is just another half measure and that is what they are developing.

Canadians deserve better than that. We will not settle for this. It is not necessarily a problem, but it is not enough. Throwing out a few crumbs in order to move on to something else is not good enough for us.

I think it is also very important to bear in mind that, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, most Canadian workers do not have RRSPs. Why? Because they cannot afford them. Last year, only 31% of eligible Canadians contributed to an RRSP, and unused contribution room exceeds $500 billion. When I was preparing my last tax return, the amount that I could have contributed to an RRSP was huge. I do not think I could contribute that much, even if I wanted to. This example simply illustrates how serious the contribution problem is, even though we have a public program that works very well and guarantees some financial security for everyone. However, this government does not seem to care about everyone equally.

Someone mentioned the fact that the Australians tested the same thing 10 years ago. In the end, that initiative did not work. It did not meet expectations. What does the government want, apart from asking its friends on Bay Street if they feel like investing a few billion dollars in this, just for the fun of it? It is unfortunate, but the Conservatives seem to just do whatever they like. They do not consult anyone. They have no interest in consultation. They go ahead with their own ideas. One might think that they have great ideas, but no, they do not have any strokes of genius. They have not heard the voice of God. They simply came along with their biased opinion that their friends are going to like this.

That is what is happening. They are working for the upper class. This is unfair, because this government was elected by the public, by ordinary people. We are not talking about giving even more crazy tax breaks to the big oil companies or banks; we are talking about protecting ordinary people.

A five-letter word is flashing in my mind: Aveos. I hope that one day, the Conservatives will lie awake at night thinking of that word: Aveos. The people at that company lost everything, but the Conservatives do not care at all. That is unacceptable. How can they even introduce a bill that talks about protecting retirees, when these people were run over by a tractor and were told that it was no big deal, that the bosses were right. That is shameful; but that is a whole other story.

In passing, I would like to mention what a number of journalists think, because we are not the only ones who believe that a public plan would certainly be a better option. For example, the Conference Board of Canada has a disturbing statistic: 1.6 million seniors live in poverty and 12 million Canadians do not have a pension plan. According to the OECD, the Canada Pension Plan and the Régie des rentes du Québec are relatively inadequate and other countries have guarantees and much more generous public pension plans.

In the United States—they like it when we talk about the United States—maximum social security benefits are about $30,000 a year. Here, they are about $12,000 a year. Is that not a nice parallel? Do they not care? It is too bad, but they have erred so much in the past that I simply do not trust them. It is unfortunate, but that is also what the vast majority of Canadians think.

I must stop there, but I encourage my colleagues opposite to preach by example, to show some interest in the common good, an interest in consultation. Then, we would be happy to work with them.