An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in October 2007.


Diane Finley  Conservative


This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Canada Pension Plan to implement the existing full funding provision for new benefits and benefit enhancements. It also provides for their calculation, the requirements for public reporting of those costs and the integration of those costs into the process for setting the contribution rate.

It changes the contributory requirement for disability benefits under the Canada Pension Plan for contributors with 25 or more years of contributions to the Canada Pension Plan, to require contributions in only three of the last six years in the contributory period. Other contributors will continue to have to meet the existing requirement of contributions in four of the last six years in their contributory period.

It also makes changes to the Canada Pension Plan of an administrative nature to modernize service delivery. It authorizes the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting the payment of interest on amounts owing to Her Majesty under Part II of the Act. It also addresses anomalies in the Act, amends the penalty provisions and clarifies certain language used in the Act.

In addition, this enactment amends the Old Age Security Act to authorize the Governor in Council to make regulations respecting the payment of interest on amounts owing to Her Majesty under the Act. The enactment also eliminates the ability of estates or successions to apply for income-tested benefits and ensures that sponsored immigrants are treated the same for the purpose of determining entitlements to income-tested benefits. It also corrects anomalies in the Act, amends the penalty provisions, modernizes and simplifies the application and delivery of the Old Age Security program and clarifies certain language used in the Act.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Second ReadingOld Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2007 / 11:40 a.m.
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Dave Batters Conservative Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, in case I do not have a chance to speak later on today, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the Saskatchewan Roughrider organization and loyal Rider fans everywhere on being successful yesterday in winning the 95th Grey Cup. My wife and my family took to the streets. The Batters family certainly celebrated late into the evening and the Lesiuk family did the same. They joined throngs of people on Albert Street in Regina in celebrating a great win yesterday.

I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-362 and address the proposals put forward in this bill to amend the Old Age Security Act. I appreciate the hon. member's intentions in proposing a reduction in the residence requirement from 10 years down to three to receive OAS. However, there are several reasons why this is not a sound course of action.

First, let us look at the issues of fairness and equality. Length of residence in Canada has been this program's central eligibility requirement since its inception in 1952. The purpose of the 10 year requirement then, as now, is meant to be a measure of partial income security in recognition of a person's attachment and contribution to Canadian society, our economy and our communities.

It is a perfectly reasonable expectation that people live in this country for a minimum period of time before being granted the right to a lifelong public benefit, since this public benefit is paid entirely from general tax revenue and does not require any direct contribution from its recipients.

The Old Age Security Act has withstood the test of time, even over the course of several Liberal governments. Why do the members opposite pretend to care so much about this issue now? In fact, the sponsor of the bill has even admitted that the previous Liberal government fought seniors groups in court until they ran out of money because the Liberal government believed so strongly in the current program.

The current Old Age Security Act does not discriminate between citizens and non-citizens as the sponsor would have us believe. It is based solely on length of residence and not, as some critics have suggested, on citizenship. In fact, the residence requirement makes no distinction between immigrants who have just arrived in Canada and other Canadians who are returning to Canada after being away. In both cases, applicants must meet the same 10 year requirement.

In my mind, the present system of requiring 10 years of residence is the most fair and equitable criterion for receiving OAS. I am certainly not alone in this belief. Twice, the previous Liberal government defended this issue of fairness in court. Twice, the previous Liberal government's view was upheld when the courts found that the current requirements do not discriminate against applicants on the grounds of national or ethnic origin and do not conflict with the charter.

The old age security system is fair and sound. It provides more than four million seniors in Canada with a retirement income. Its benefits are universally allotted. Yet, it is only one program in Canada's social safety net. There are built-in safeguards for those who do not qualify for OAS through many federal and provincial assistance programs.

Within the public pension system itself, many low income seniors also receive the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, designated to help Canada's poorest seniors. Here, too, citizenship is not a requirement, only a minimum 10 years' residency and an income below a specific threshold.

Under the current system, every senior has the potential to receive OAS and GIS. This is true even if they arrive in Canada at the age of 60 and never work. By the age of 70, they can begin receiving benefits.

Right now, we have a sustainable and robust pension system. Obviously it is in the interest of all Canadians to ensure that our pension system remains healthy. We know that the requirement for pensions will only grow as our senior population continues to expand. In fact, 25 years from now, nearly one-quarter of Canada's population will be 65 years of age or older. It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the polices that we enact today protect our pension plans in the future.

The Liberals believed these same things a few years ago, but now they appear to have changed their minds. Relaxing the OAS eligibility requirements from 10 to 3 years would have significant fiscal implications for Canada. It is estimated that the consequent costs would be more than $700 million annually in combined OAS and GIS benefits, with approximately $600 million of this amount due to an increase in GIS payments. We cannot in good conscience place this financial strain on our pension system.

As well as our domestic concerns, we must almost consider the effect Bill C-362 would have on the international agreements we now have in place and for those we will be negotiating in the coming years. Fifty countries have established agreements with Canada based on the current 10 year residency requirement. Lowering this requirement by seven years could create a disincentive for other countries considering reciprocal agreements with Canada.

Clearly, there are sound reasons for maintaining the current OAS system. It is fair and equitable. It recognizes the contributions seniors have made to our country. OAS pension benefits are based on residence rather than citizenship or national origin. Also, the OAS program is financially sound. Under the current system, OAS is sustainable. It is our duty as our constituents' representatives to ensure that OAS is there for them when they need it.

I can assure this House and all Canadians that this Conservative government intends to take every measure possible to protect our seniors today and in the future.

We have demonstrated our intentions through such measures as those contained in Bill C-36, which simplify and streamline the OAS and GIS application process.

We have also introduced a number of initiatives, such as the National Seniors Council, aimed at improving the lives of seniors. We have introduced a range of measures to reduce the tax burden on seniors.

We will continue to act to protect seniors and Canada's old age security system. I urge my hon. colleagues to vote against the proposals contained in this bill, just as the Liberals did when they were in power.

Second ReadingOld Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.
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Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure today to participate in the debate on Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement). I want to be clear that I will be supporting the bill.

It has often been said that in politics, all politics are local. While much of what we do in the House is of national importance, most of us elected to this chamber take our responsibilities seriously to give voice to the concerns expressed to us in our ridings.

That is the yardstick against which I measure my parliamentary work. I simply ask myself if I am saying in Parliament what those who sent me here as their representative would like to say themselves if they had this privileged opportunity. Therefore, every time I participate in the deliberations of the House, I reflect on what is happening back at home.

In a discussion on old age security, like the one that is before us today, I begin by noting that in Hamilton the percentage of seniors living in poverty is 24%. That is one in four seniors. It increases to 36% for women over the age of 75. Shocking as those statistics are, the risk of living in poverty is even greater for recent immigrants.

What does that tell us? In broadest terms, it says clearly that seniors do not have the income security that they need to retire with the dignity and respect they deserve.

At the very lowest end of the income scale are those seniors who live on nothing more than the OAS and GIS and, shamefully, those income supports do not suffice to lift them above the poverty line. That is a disgrace in a country that posted a budget surplus of $40 billion in the last year alone.

Instead of giving more tax cuts to the oil and gas industry, the Conservative government should have spent that money on lifting seniors out of poverty, the very seniors who built the country whose coffers are now overflowing.

Under those financial circumstances, I cannot wait to hear the government's excuse for not supporting the bill that is before us today, a bill that addresses the needs of seniors who are not even receiving the basic income support of the OAS. It is those seniors who are at the centre of the legislation that is before the House today.

When one of the NDP forefathers, Stanley Knowles, began the fight for public pensions in this very chamber, he was motivated by a sense of social justice. He was motivated by a genuine concern for the needs and welfare of Canadian citizens.

When the Old Age Security Act was finally adopted in Parliament in 1951, it reflected that motivation in the very way it was set up. It was established as a universal benefit funded out of general tax revenue. Indeed, it is the OAS's universality that gives expression to its social justice roots. When that universality is compromised, it is incumbent upon us to right that wrong. That is what the motion tabled in the House by my colleague from Surrey North is proposing and that is essentially what Bill C-362 purports to do.

When the Liberal government brought forward the Old Age Security Act, it excluded persons from receiving the benefit if they had not lived in Canada for 10 years. Although the OAS was intended to be the cornerstone of Canada's retirement income system, it forced a large number of Canadian citizens to go entirely without benefits for many years.

Contrary to its roots of ensuring universality, the residency requirement actually ended up creating two different classes of Canadian citizens: those who qualify at age 65 and those who do not because they have not lived in Canada for the requisite 10 years.

I fundamentally believe that citizenship must entail the same rights and responsibilities for all Canadians and any act that does otherwise offends that sense of social justice.

The Liberals, of course, had many opportunities to fix that problem while they were in government between 1951 and the present day. It saddens me that they failed to seize those opportunities, especially since they are now so eager to scold the Conservatives for their inaction. I am certain that the double standard will not escape the many Canadians who are watching these deliberations on television.

It makes me wonder why the Liberals did not vote with me in committee to support a Bloc motion on Bill C-36 that would have solved this problem once and for all. In fact, it would have gone even further. It would have lifted the restriction on new citizens' access to the OAS on the basis of the sponsor's obligations under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Between the votes of the Bloc, the Liberals and the NDP, we would have been able to out-vote the government and fix Bill C-36 right then and there. However, the Liberals chose not to vote with us and, as a result, while Bill C-36 has long since passed into law, tens of thousands of Canadians are still not receiving the OAS.

That is a curious position for a party whose leader was recently in Hamilton and said that poverty was his priority. I would suggest that actions speak louder than words.

Organizations that work very closely with immigrant populations have been watching our work here closely. The Seniors Network BC, the Seniors Summit, Women Elders in Action, the Alternative Planning Group, Immigrant Seniors Advocacy Network representing the African Canadian Social Development Council, the Chinese Canadian National Council, the Hispanic Development Council and the Council of Agencies Servicing South Asians have all been advocating for changes to the residency requirement for a very long time. They no longer want to see immigrant seniors condemned to a life poverty. They want to move beyond the patchwork quilt of policies that was the legacy of the Liberal government.

As members of the House will know, some seniors who are newcomers can qualify for old age security even if they have not met the 10-year residency requirement. That is because the Government of Canada has signed reciprocal social security agreements with about 50 countries that make the benefits portable between Canada and that other country. They normally exist because both countries provide social security plans with similar benefits.

The reason for not having secured a reciprocal agreement is because the other country is unwilling or unable to provide comparable social security. This would include some of the most impoverished nations in the world and our government is, therefore, targeting the very people who may need the OAS the most.

If we want to be serious about ensuring that seniors can retire with the dignity and respect they deserve, then we must take every opportunity to walk the talk. That is why I will be supporting Bill C-362. I hope that then collectively we will turn our minds to look once again at the larger picture. We must remember that in Canada today we still have two million seniors living in poverty.

The Liberals and Conservatives supported my seniors charter, which I had the privilege of tabling in the House on behalf of the NDP caucus last year. One of the expressed rights in that charter is the right to income security for all seniors. Just as workers deserve a living wage, so seniors must be lifted out of poverty.

We need to take a holistic approach to this issue, which is why I tabled a motion in the House to undertake a comprehensive review of senior's income security. I would remind members of what that motion says. For those members who are eager to look it up, it is Motion No. 136. It reads:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should guarantee to all seniors a stable and secure income by: (a) linking the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Program to standard of living levels; (b) looking forward ten years to determine the adequacy of income support programs; (c) performing reviews of all income support planning for seniors; and (d) reporting all the above annually to Parliament.

We know that a major demographic shift is just around the corner. In fact, Statistics Canada suggests that between 2006 and 2026 the number of seniors is projected to increase from 4.3 million to 8 million. Their share of the population is expected to increase from 13.2% to 21.1%. A shift of that magnitude requires planning, and both the seniors of today and the seniors of tomorrow are looking to us to take leadership.

As my motion suggests, we need to begin that planning now. If we want to continue to espouse the sense of social justice that Stanley Knowles brought to this House when he worked to ensure that no senior should live in poverty, then we need to recommit ourselves to his vision starting today.

Yes, Bill C-362 is one piece of that puzzle, and I am proud to support it with my vote, but there is so much more yet left to be done. I want to encourage all members of the House to put partisanship aside and work together to ensure that promising a senior the right to retirement with dignity and respect is more than just empty rhetoric.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

November 26th, 2007 / 11 a.m.
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Garry Breitkreuz Conservative Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-362 today.

Canada's public pension system is generally regarded as one of the best in the world and is recognized internationally for the quality and generosity of the financial assistance available to Canadian seniors. This is something that the government takes great pride in. Canadians believe in sharing the benefits of our economic prosperity with our fellow citizens and this government shares that belief. The government recognizes the important role seniors have played and continue to play in strengthening our communities and the hard work they have done to make our country the greatest in the world.

This is why this government has, first of all, delivered more than $1 billion in tax relief to Canadian seniors and pensioners. Second, it is why we passed Bill C-36, so that seniors apply only once and do not have to reapply year after year to receive the GIS. This change is helping more than 1.5 million low income Canadian seniors every year. Third, it is why we have put in place a $1,000 increase in the age credit amount, which will provide significant tax relief to low income and modest income seniors.

This government's record speaks for itself. It is one that I would put up against the Liberal record any day.

As members of this House, we have a responsibility to maintain the quality and integrity of our country's public pension program. It is up to us to make sure the laws that govern our social programs are the right ones. That means making sure the legislation we pass in this House is prudent and that it will maintain the integrity and long term sustainability of our social programs.

The opposition has been reticent to consider the long term ramifications of many of their private members' bills during this Parliament. The opposition has not been forthcoming on the true costs of this bill and what these proposals would mean for the long term viability of the OAS program.

We have estimates that put the cost of this bill at more than $700 million per year, a cost that will rise dramatically with the changing demographics facing the Canadian population in the next 20 years.

It is the goal of this government to preserve this program for future generations, including the children and grandchildren of new Canadians.

As we have seen, bills being brought forward by members of the opposition are lacking in due diligence. Many provincial social assistance programs are tied to the OAS, yet the opposition has not spoken with any provincial governments.

This government believes in consulting with the provinces, not imposing things upon them, especially when the proposed changes will cost hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars per year.

Clearly the bill was proposed in the spirit of trying to win votes rather than sincerely helping the seniors of Canada. It is also surprising to hear my colleagues from across the aisle stand up today and pretend to be the protectors of seniors and new Canadians when their record speaks otherwise.

The hon. member for Brampton West said during debate at a previous stage of the bill that “to demand a residency requirement any longer than three years is unreasonable”.

It was not unreasonable when she and her party had consecutive majority governments to deal with this issue and did nothing. It was not unreasonable when her government fought and won two separate cases in court on this issue. It was not unreasonable when the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed that fact.

It appears it was unreasonable only when we were elected to government and the hon. members across the way no longer had to concern themselves with the consequences of their proposed changes. The members across the way continue to say today that the current OAS program discriminates against immigrants, but when the Liberal Party was in power it fought against this in two high profile cases which proposed the very changes outlined in the bill.

I am referring to Pawar v. Canada in the Federal Court of Canada in 1999 and Shergill v. Canada in the Federal Court of Appeal in 2003. In both cases, the Liberals believed that the residence requirement to qualify for OAS did not discriminate against the applicants on the basis of national or ethnic origin. The Liberals felt that the current OAS program was fair then, and it continues to be fair today.

This hasty turnaround now that the Liberals are in opposition should cause a severe case of party-wide whiplash. We have even more instances of Liberal hypocrisy on this issue. When the issue was raised in the House during the last Parliament, it was the Liberals who voted against Bloc amendments that would rectify this so-called historical injustice that my colleague bemoans today.

That is the Liberal record. As much as the hon. member for Brampton West would like to run away from it, she simply cannot move that fast.

The opposition has been creating a lot of white noise on this issue by pretending that theirs is the party that stands up for the interests of new Canadians. As we have seen time and again, their record contradicts the Liberals' rhetoric.

For 13 years the Liberals froze settlement funding and saw the success rates of new Canadians drop to alarming levels. It was our government that within months of being elected increased settlement funds to new Canadians by $307 million. These funds will help immigrants, both old and young, adjust to a new home, learn a new language and get the help they need.

It is this government that moved on the issue of foreign credentials recognition, an issue the Liberals managed to hide under a barrel for 13 years.

The Liberals have opposed these advances for new Canadians at every turn, but they cannot have it both ways. They cannot sit on their hands for 13 years and then claim to be the ones standing up for immigrant communities. They cannot oppose the changes to the bill when in government and then support them in opposition, but this is just what they have done.

It is hypocrisy in the raw and new Canadians can see through this ruse.

In order to be eligible to receive any OAS benefits, applicants must meet the specific residency requirements, a minimum of 10 years of residence. It has nothing to do with citizenship or immigration status. All that is needed is residency. It is really quite simple. The Liberal Party recognized that when it was in government, but it appears to have forgotten this now.

However, none of this is to say that the government should not be open to making changes to seniors' benefits. In fact, the government is open to change and has already acted to get results for seniors and new Canadians alike.

The government supports change when change is needed, but Bill C-362 simply does not fly. I believe the existing OAS legislation represents a fair balance between providing a taxpayer-financed pension to our seniors and recognizing their past contribution as residents of Canadian society.

It would appear that my Liberal colleagues believe it, too, which is why they did not address this during their 13 years in power. I challenge them to stop using new Canadians as pawns in their political chess game and vote against this bill.

Guaranteed Income SupplementOral Questions

November 22nd, 2007 / 2:30 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta


Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the government is fulfilling its campaign commitments on this matter. We promised to strengthen the guaranteed income supplement, old age security and the Canada pension plan, which is exactly what we are doing.

In fact, the government moved, in Bill C-36, to strengthen Canada pension plan disability benefits and in that same bill made it possible for people who have filed for the GIS to never have to reapply again because it will automatically occur when they file income tax.

We are getting the job done for Canadian seniors around this country.

Sitting ResumedGovernment Orders

November 1st, 2007 / 12:40 p.m.
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Blackstrap Saskatchewan


Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Simcoe North.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak to this important motion. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for its 21st report. We appreciate the diligence that the committee has shown in exploring the issues concerning the economic security of women.

Our government shares the committee's recognition that there is a need to ensure economic security for women and we have taken a number of measures to achieve this goal.

Speaking as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, and as a woman, our government's objective to enable Canadians throughout their lives to have the opportunities needed to participate in all aspects of Canadian society is fundamental in recognizing the many roles of women in Canadian society. Solid analysis on a wide range of issues, including gender, is key to fulfilling that mandate.

Before looking at the specific measures our government has taken to ensure the economic security of all Canadians, I will first take a quick look at the important advancements that women have made to improve their own security, particularly in education and in the labour market.

Over the past few decades, the participation of women at university has increased dramatically. A Statistics Canada study found that among 19-year-old youth in 2003, 38.8% of girls attended university compared with only 25.7% of boys.

As well, I am delighted to inform the House that the increase in Canadian women's participation rates in the labour force is one of the most significant social trends in recent decades. In fact, our nation has one of the highest women's labour force participation rates among the OECD countries and the highest among the G-7 countries. Our unemployment rate of 5.9% is the lowest it has been in 33 years. Half a million jobs have been created in the past two years alone.

Achieving positive results for all Canadians is our government's role. To this end, the economic update introduced by the government on October 30 lowered taxes, both income tax and GST. Taken together, these measures will contribute to greater economic security for millions of Canadian women.

In addition, because skilled workers are necessary to boosting productivity, budget 2007 made a landmark investment in post-secondary education, aimed at creating the quality workforce of tomorrow.

As I mentioned earlier, women are attending university in record numbers and our investments will help those numbers continue to rise. By 2008-09, we will be transferring $3.2 billion to the provinces and territories, an increase of $800 million, or 40%. Budget 2007 also provided an additional $500 million a year for labour market training, starting 2008-09.

Working with provinces and territories, this new investment will help all Canadians get the skills and training they need to prepare them for the future.

Our government supports low income Canadians through a range of programs, transfers to the provinces and territories and tax measures that work together to support self-sufficiency. To help in this effort, budget 2007 introduced the working income tax benefit, which will help Canadians over the welfare wall and reward work for low income Canadian men and women. This is in addition to the Canada employment credit of up $1,000 to help working Canadians.

The federal government also has built measures to support parents during the first year of a child's life through employment insurance, which is a national program providing Canadians with a full year of maternity and parental benefits.

Furthermore, after 13 years of empty promises and inaction by the previous Liberal government, our government is providing Canadian parents with choice in child care. We have taken action to support families with the cost of raising their children through a number of concrete measures. These include the universal child care benefit, which provides $100 per month for each child under the age of six, a new $2,000 child tax credit for each child under the age of 18 and the Canada child tax benefit. This provides $9.5 billion this year alone to families with children.

We also recognize that many families need child care spaces and this is why we are transferring an additional $250 million per year to provinces and territories to help them create and enhance child care spaces. This is on top of $850 million they already receive for children's programs and services, for a total of $1.1 billion this year alone.

We are implementing a tax credit for businesses that create child care spaces for their employees and the surrounding community. With this support, provinces have already committed to the creation of tens of thousands of child care spaces.

The standing committee's report rightly focuses on the most vulnerable women in society. Our government also concentrates its efforts in supporting these Canadians.

Housing is fundamental. To this end, we designated close to $270 million for a new homelessness partnering strategy and $256 million in support of CMHC's renovation programs over the next two years. This will help improve the living conditions of some 38,000 households, including single women, seniors, persons with disabilities, aboriginal people and others in need across Canada. We have invested $1.4 billion to create three provincial-territorial trusts that will help Canadians to find safe, affordable housing.

We have invested $300 million for a first nations marketing housing fund that will facilitate up to 25,000 housing units on reserve over 10 years.

We recognize, too, that aboriginal women and men need access to skills training jobs that enable them to participate more fully in the workforce and the economy.

Our aboriginal human resources development strategy is a $1.6 billion community based initiative designed to help aboriginal people prepare for, find and keep jobs. The aboriginal skills and employment partnership, ASEP, is an $85 million labour market initiative designed to provide training and long term skilled jobs for aboriginal people in major economic development sectors across Canada. We recently announced an additional $105 million investment to extend ASEP until 2012.

We all need financial security. This is particularly so for seniors, especially women who constitute a large share of the seniors population. Through its stewardship of Canada's public pension system, old age security and the Canada pension plan, HRSD provides income security for Canadians in their retirement years. Canadians know that the government has done more in 20 months than the previous Liberal government did in 150 months to address the needs of seniors.

For example, through Bill C-36, which we introduced and has been passed, we made it easier for Canadians to apply for and receive the benefits for which they are entitled, such as the guaranteed income supplement. We have also created the Secretary of State for Seniors and the National Seniors Council to ensure that our policies, programs and services continue to meet the needs of seniors.

The Government of Canada works with other levels of government and all concerned and informed stakeholders to develop a national approach that responds to the needs of seniors today and in the future.

We all know there is more work to be done. We know there is still a gap in earnings between men and women. However, the gap has diminished in recent decades and our government will continue to work to close that gap.

I am proud to be a part of a government that is strongly committed to providing effective and meaningful support to all Canadians, men and women. Once again I would like to thank the standing committee for its report. The observations and recommendations it contains will be of valuable assistance as we move forward.

SeniorsOral Questions

October 31st, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta


Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I would argue that we have done more in 21 months in government than the previous government did in 13 years.

The fact is we put in place a number of different supports so that seniors are allowed to keep more of the income that they earn. We have put in place a minister for seniors. We have announced a seniors national council.

We are helping seniors directly by ensuring that they get the benefits that they are entitled to by reaching out to them through initiatives like Bill C-36, and a number of different initiatives that make sure that they are aware of their CPP and OAS entitlements.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2007 / 6 p.m.
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Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is my second opportunity to talk about Bill C-362, which was introduced by my Liberal colleague, and which aims to amend that part of the Old Age Security Act dealing with residency requirements for older immigrants.

Bill C-362 would reduce from 10 years to three years the residency requirement for entitlement to a partial monthly old age security pension.

The bill is a very simple one, so I do not understand why the Conservative Party is against it. How could they possibly oppose it? The current 10-year requirement is unfair to recent immigrants who are seniors, because they have limited access to old age security benefits. The only amendment this bill calls for is to change all instances of “ten years” in the act to “three years”. The definition of “specially qualified individual”, which indicates the number of years of residency required for an individual to be entitled to benefits, would be amended to read “three years”. When the Conservative Party says that the government has been very generous toward seniors, I have to wonder what it is talking about.

It is clear to the Bloc Québécois that Bill C-362 would give recent immigrants who are seniors easier access to the old age security program. Quality of life for seniors often depends on the care they receive. Quality of life also depends on their income, and recent immigrants are entitled to their dignity too. The Conservative Party does not seem to recognize that.

It is clear that Bill C-362 introduces amendments to the Old Age Security Act that do not encroach on Quebec's jurisdiction. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports the principle underlying this bill.

I would now like to remind the members about what the Bloc Québécois has done for seniors over the past years. In May I began travelling around Quebec, and I realized that seniors are vulnerable, poor and getting poorer. Over the past few years, we, the Bloc Québécois, have found that seniors, who are among the poorest members of our society, have always borne the brunt of the federal government's cuts to transfer payments. Quality of life for seniors has been hit hard.

That is why the Bloc Québécois has long been highly critical of the inconsistencies in the federal guaranteed income supplement program, which provides additional revenue for older people on limited incomes. If we wanted to do them justice, we would have to increase the guaranteed income supplement today by $106 a month just to reach the low income threshold.

Bill C-36, which was given royal assent last May 7, partly solved some of the problems with program accessibility, although without resolving the full retroactivity issue. The Bloc Québécois wanted to see full retroactivity, but that was not included in Bill C-36. It provided only 11 months of retroactivity.

Bill C-36 made other changes to the Old Age Security Act, including ongoing renewal of the guaranteed income supplement, the clarity of the act, simplified income reporting for seniors and couples; and the consistency of benefit entitlements.

There was also a proposal to make common amendments to the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act. These provisions dealt with electronic services, the charging of interest, and information sharing. There was still one controversial issue surrounding accessibility, and the Bloc Québécois opposed the expansion of the limits on new Canadian citizens who had immigrated.

In the Bloc’s view—and apparently now in the view of the Liberal Party as well—there cannot be different classes of Canadian citizens, regardless of how they arrived. All Canadian citizens should be entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. Some sections of the legislation were problematic because they created different classes of citizens—for example, a person who has a sponsorship agreement still in effect under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These sections excluded new Canadian citizens who were still being sponsored.

The Bloc Québécois wanted the committee to amend the bill so as not to let the obligations incumbent upon sponsors under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act limit the eligibility of new citizens for old age security.

In the Bloc’s view, when a person becomes a Canadian citizen, his sponsorship agreement should automatically be terminated.

The sponsor’s obligations generally take effect as soon as the person being sponsored obtains permanent resident status and conclude at the end of the sponsorship period. This can be very long in some cases—as many as 10 years—and the problem needed fixing. Under the bill, the agreement could not be terminated, even through the obtaining of Canadian citizenship. It could not be terminated by separation, divorce, or moving to another province. It remained in effect even if the sponsor’s financial situation took a turn for the worse.

I should point out that the Liberal Party voted against this Bloc proposal last February. Today we are dealing with a matter similar to the debate on Bill C-36, which received royal assent last May. Bill C-362 does not deal with new sponsored arrivals but with other categories of new arrivals who are not sponsored.

The proposed amendments are minor. It is impossible to be against them, but we need to go much further.

Because of globalization and the fact that we live in a global environment, the Bloc Québécois thinks that Canada must be flexible about citizenship and the services offered to newcomers. Given the increase in exchanges between countries, there should be mechanisms in place to allow for greater human mobility, in addition to the measures already in place to help the disadvantaged, including seniors, of course.

The Bloc Québécois' position is as follows. We are aware that BIll C-362 will make it easier for recent immigrants who are seniors to access old age security benefits. As I said earlier, since seniors' quality of life often depends on the care they can receive, this quality of life is dictated by their income. Newcomers also have a right to dignity.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. Nonetheless, I want to point out that there is still a lot of work to do. It is deplorable that in all these years the Liberal and Conservative governments have abandoned, muzzled and ignored seniors, the most vulnerable people in our society. The Liberals were the first to close their eyes to this category of disadvantaged people, choosing instead to allow capital to be sheltered in tax havens, to lower the debt and cut funding from Quebec and the provinces. Then the Conservatives chose to cut taxes instead of providing immediate support to the workers who helped build today's society.

Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois is here to ensure that our seniors have a voice in the government. Thanks to our many appearances in the House, in committee and in the media, the Bloc Québécois has managed to keep the attention on a group of people who have been dropped from the government's priorities. Seniors who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but without full retroactivity because of various governmental errors, are a good example.

The Bloc Québécois will continue to fight the federal government in order to bring justice to those who enabled Quebeckers and Canadians to become the people they are today.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context


Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not totally clear on this, but I believe the member indicated that this was brought before the immigration committee. It is not an immigration matter. It is a human resources issue. Otherwise, I am not aware of Bill C-36.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

October 23rd, 2007 / 5:45 p.m.
See context


Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member introduced this bill some time ago and I remember that, following his speech, I asked her a question to which she never replied. I wonder if I might have an answer today, now that several months have gone by.

We were speaking of two social classes of seniors—the first class and the second class. The member said she was against making this distinction. Personally, I agree wholeheartedly. However, when Bill C-36 was sent to committee to be studied, the Bloc Québécois proposed an amendment because, despite the tabling of Bill C-362, there was an element of unfairness with respect to new sponsored citizens. When it was being studied in committee, the Bloc Québécois asked that the bill be amended so as not to restrict new citizens' access to old age security on the basis of the sponsor's obligations under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. The Liberals voted against that amendment.

I do not know if the member can tell me why the Liberals voted against this amendment because today she is introducing a bill that is oddly reminiscent of what was proposed by the Bloc with regard to Bill C-36.

Bill C-357--Employment Insurance Act and Bill C-362--Old Age Security ActPoints of OrderRoutine Proceedings

October 18th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan


Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order with regard to two private members' bills, Bill C-357 and Bill C-362. Without commenting on their merits, I submit that these two bills require royal recommendations.

First, I want to explain why Bill C-357, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (Employment Insurance Account and premium rate setting), requires a royal recommendation.

As the Chair ruled on May 9, 2005:

--bills which involve new or additional spending for a distinct purpose must be recommended by the Crown. The royal recommendation is also required where a bill alters the appropriation of public revenue “under the circumstances, in the manner and for the purposes set out” in the bill. What this means is that a royal recommendation is required not only in the case where more money is being appropriated, but also in the case where the authorization to spend for a specific purpose is being significantly altered.

I would note that Bill C-357 is nearly identical to Bill C-280 in the 38th Parliament which the Speaker ruled required a royal recommendation.

On June 13, 2005, the Speaker stated:

--Bill C-280 infringes on the financial initiative of the Crown for three reasons: first, clause 2 effects an appropriation of public funds by its transfer of these funds from the consolidated revenue fund to an independent employment insurance account established outside the consolidated revenue fund.

Second, clause 2 significantly alters the duties of the EI Commission to enable new or different spending of public funds by the commission for a new purpose namely, the investment of public funds.

Third, as indicated in my ruling of February 8, clause 5 increases the number of commissioners from four to seventeen.

All three of these conditions apply to Bill C-357.

Clause 2 would create an employment insurance account that is outside the consolidated revenue fund. The bill would transfer money out of the consolidated revenue fund to the employment insurance account and that money would no longer be available for any appropriations Parliament may make. This would be an appropriation of funds and, therefore, requires a royal recommendation.

However, worthy some aspects of the bill may be, and some aspects of it are, this does not alter the need for the royal recommendation.

Clause 2 would also change the duties of the Employment Insurance Commission, including new requirements for the commission to deposit assets with a financial institution and to invest assets to achieve a maximum rate of return.

These are new and distinct purposes which have not been authorized and are additional reasons why clause 2 requires a royal recommendation.

Clause 5 of Bill C-357 would increase the number of commissioners on the Employment Insurance Commission from its current four to seventeen.

On February 8, 2005, the Speaker ruled that the appointment of 13 new commissioners to the Employment Insurance Commission in Bill C-280 required a royal recommendation. This is consistent with other rulings where the Speaker found that adding remunerated members to commissions requires a royal recommendation. Given these precedents, I submit that clause 5 requires a royal recommendation.

To sum up, Bill C-357 would require an appropriation, it would alter the purpose of funds covered by the act, and it would require new spending for an expanded commission; therefore, it must accompanied by a royal recommendation.

The second bill I want to draw to your attention is Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act.

This bill would increase old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits by lowering the threshold for eligibility from the current 10 years to 3. This change would result in significant new expenditures.

Under the Old Age Security Act, applicants must have at least 10 years of residence in Canada after age 18 in order to qualify for benefits.

I would further note that partial benefits are paid to applicants who have less than 10 years of residence if the applicant has credits from a country with which Canada has a pension agreement. Residence has been an eligibility criteria since this program's inception in 1952. Reducing the residence requirement from 10 years to 3 years would have significant costs.

Since eligibility for old age security pensions also qualifies for low income recipients to receive the guaranteed income supplement, the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development estimates that the total cost of reducing the qualifying period would be over $700 million annually.

Precedents clearly establish that bills which create new expenditures for benefits by modifying eligibility criteria or changing the terms of a program require a royal recommendation.

On December 8, 2004, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-278, which extended employment insurance benefits, that:

Inasmuch as section 54 of the Constitution, 1867, and Standing Order 79 prohibit the adoption of any bill appropriating public revenues without a royal recommendation, the same must apply to bills authorizing increased spending of public revenues. Bills mandating new or additional public spending must be seen as the equivalent of bills effecting an appropriation.

On November 6, 2006, the Speaker ruled with regard to Bill C-269, which extended employment insurance benefits, that:

Funds may only be appropriated by Parliament for purposes covered by a royal recommendation...New purposes must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On November 9, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-284, the bill that enlarged the scope of the student grants program beyond that originally authorized by Parliament, that:

Any extension of the terms of an existing program must be accompanied by a new royal recommendation.

On November 10, 2006, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-278, dealing with employment insurance benefits, that:

--by amending the Employment Insurance Act to extend sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 50 weeks, the bill would require the expenditure of additional funds in a manner and for a purpose not currently authorized.

On March 23, 2007, the Speaker ruled in the case of Bill C-265, dealing with employment insurance benefits, that it was abundantly clear:

--those provisions of the bill which relate to increasing employment insurance benefits and easing the qualifications required to obtain them would require a royal recommendation.

I would also note that when Parliament adopted amendments to benefit criteria in the Old Age Security Act in Bill C-36 earlier this year, this legislation was accompanied by a royal recommendation.

In conclusion, Bill C-362 would increase expenditures for old age security and guaranteed income supplements in ways not already authorized and, therefore, should be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

May 17th, 2007 / 3:10 p.m.
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Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

I would not do that.

Tomorrow is an allotted day.

Next week is constituent consultation week, when the House will be adjourned to allow members to return to their ridings and meet with constituents to share with them the activities of Parliament since the last constituency break.

For the interest of members, I will quickly review our plan for the context of our overall legislative agenda.

As he requested, this is currently strengthening the economy week, where a number of financial bills moved forward. The budget bill was sent to committee and, hopefully, it will be reported back tomorrow, or soon, so we can deal with it at third reading when the House returns after the break.

Bill C-40, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act, was read a third time and sent to the Senate. Bill C-53, an act to implement the convention on the settlement of investment disputes, Bill C-33, the sales tax bill and Bill C-47, the Olympics symbol bill were all sent to committee and we all would like to see those back in the House for report stage and third reading.

In an earlier week, Bill C-36, the bill that makes changes to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act, was made into law after receiving royal assent.

Strengthening accountability through democratic reform week was a success with the consideration of Bill C-43, Senate consultation. We had three new democratic reform bills introduced that week: Bill C-55, to expand voting opportunities; Bill C-56, an act to amend the Constitution Act, democratic representation; and Bill C-54, a bill that would bring accountability with respect to loans. We hope to continue debate on that particular bill later today.

Bill C-16, fixed dates for elections, was given royal assent and is now law, which I think is the cause of the commotion now in all the committees where Liberals are using procedural tactics. Now they feel they can do it with a free hand.

Two other democratic reform bills are in the Senate, Bill C-31, voter integrity, and Bill S-4, Senate tenure. I really would like to have the term limits bill from the Senate for an upcoming democratic reform week if the opposition House leader can persuade his colleagues in the Senate to finally deal with that bill after 352 days. We may get 352 seconds in a filibuster, but they have had 352 days so far. They have been stalling for a year.

During the consultation week, I will be interested in hearing what our constituents think of the plight of Bill S-4 and the irony of those unaccountable senators delaying it.

We dedicated a good deal of our time focusing on making our streets and communities safer by cracking down on crime. Now that we have had the help of the NDP, we restored the meaningful aspects that the Liberals gutted in committee to Bill C-10, the bill to introduce mandatory penalties for violent and gun crimes. We are continuing to debate that bill today at third reading.

Bill C-48, the bill dealing with the United Nations convention on corruption, was adopted at all stages.

Bill C-26, the bill to amend the Criminal Code with respect to interest rates, was given royal assent.

Bill C-22, the age of protection, was given final reading and sent to the Senate, although it did spend close to, if not in excess of, 200 days in committee where the Liberals were obstructing and delaying its passage.

We made progress on Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders legislation. We would like to see that back in the House.

Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment) and a host of other justice bills are working their way through the system.

Members can advise their constituents that when we return, we will be reviving two themes, back by popular demand. Beginning May 28, we will begin again with strengthening accountability through democratic reform with: Bill C-54, political loans; Bill C-55, additional opportunities for voting; and Bill C-56, democratic representation.

Up next is a second go-round on strengthening the economy week with Bill C-52, the budget implementation bill, which will be called as soon as it is reported back from committee.

In the near future, we will have the improvement of aboriginal people quality of life week with Bill C-44. This bill will grant first nations residing on Indian reserves access to the Canadian charter of human rights. They have been denied this right for 30 years. Unfortunately, Bill C-44 is being delayed by the opposition. This is another bill being delayed by the opposition in committee.

After Bill C-44, I intend to debate Bill C-51. The agreement establishes the use and ownership of land and resources and will foster economic development. This bill illustrates Canada's commitment to the North and to settling land claims.

I wish all members a productive constituent consultation week and look forward to more progress on the government's legislative agenda when the House returns on May 28.

May 15th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta


Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I should start by introducing my colleagues at the table. Of course Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Labour, is with me; his deputy minister, Munir Sheikh, is here, as is my deputy minister, Janice Charette. Next to Janice is Hélène Gosselin, associate deputy minister responsible for Service Canada; next to Hélène is Karen Kinsley, who is the president of CMHC; and next to Karen is Sherry Harrison, who is the comptroller for the department.

Mr. Chair, I am pleased to appear before this committee to talk about the 2007-2998 main estimates and the report on plans and priorities of my department.

I am accompanied by my esteemed colleague, the Minister of Labour, the Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, who will talk about the activities and plans of the Labour Program within Human Resources and Social Development Canada.

Of the $84 billion in planned expenditures for my department, nearly 93% will be in direct benefits. They range from child care, student support, and skills development to employment insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, and old age security.

The HRSDC main estimates exclude employment insurance—$16 billion—and the Canada Pension Plan—$28 billion—for benefits and administrative costs funded from those two accounts.

The 2007-2008 main estimates total $40.5 billion, a net increase of $5.1 billion over the 2006-2007 main estimates of $35.4 billion. The increase is primarily due to new funding for the universal child care benefits, the lump-sum payments recognizing the impact of Indian residential schools, and increases for statutory programs, which include old age security, guaranteed income supplements, and allowance payments.

Mr. Chair, I have recently had the opportunity to cross the country and see firsthand how our department touches the lives of Canadians and helps them fulfill their potential. Service Canada is central to my department and to the broader government, touching the lives of millions of Canadians. Service Canada is about improving service to Canadians. I'm proud to say that Service Canada provides access to more than 50 Government of Canada programs and services over the Internet, in person, or by telephone.

I'm also proud of our expansion into rural and remote areas. Over last year, our government added 170 points of service. Residents of Fort Resolution on the shores of Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories, for example, recently got help accessing programs and services, thanks to several Service Canada employees who made a 320-kilometre round trip from the local service centre in Hay River, rather than waiting for the residents to come to them.

Residents of the communities of Grise Fiord and Resolute and Nunavut also recently had a chance to find out about our programs through two trade fairs organized by Service Canada employees and the Baffin Chamber of Commerce. Some Canadians are now receiving their first direct contact with the federal government. Citizen service agents are providing scheduled outreach visits to several communities along the James Bay coast in northern Ontario that are only accessible by plane. Plans are also under way to begin offering services in Cree.

Many more Canadians are getting the services and benefits they need. Providing Canadians with excellent services is no longer just a goal, but a concrete reality.

Let me now outline for you some of our government's actions to support Canadians in their family life, at work, and in their communities. Mr. Chair, today is International Day of Families. Every day Canadian families face challenges balancing work and family responsibilities and making decisions on how to raise their children. That's why our government has now presented two budgets aimed at providing choice for Canadians. These measures are making a difference, Mr. Chair.

In fact, this year we will be providing nearly $5.6 billion—three times the previous government—in direct spending, tax measures, and transfers to support early learning and child care. Universal child care benefit provides $2.4 billion a year directly to families, and now with Budget 2007, we have committed $250 million per year to create new child care spaces through the Canada social transfer. This comes on top of the $850 million we already provide to the provinces and territories in support of early learning and child care programs. Budget 2007 announced further support for families with children, including a 25% non-refundable tax credit to support businesses in creating new child care spaces in the workplace.

I recently had the opportunity to attend the opening of an innovative employer-sponsored child care centre at the University of Waterloo in Ontario. The centre sets up contracts with employers to supply full- and part-time care for children up to 13 years old, as well as temporary child care when the need arises. I can see Canadians working together to create effect choices in child care. I'm very encouraged when parents tell me that they have more choices for their families as a result of our programs and policies.

We have continued to follow through on our commitment to families by recently proposing in the budget a child tax credit for up to $310 per child under the age of 18. More than three million Canadian families would see their tax burden reduced. We have also proposed a new measure, similar to the registered education savings plan, that will benefit families who have children with severe disabilities. I'm sure that every one of us knows someone who faces the daunting financial challenge of caring for a child with a disability. The registered disability savings plan is designed to help ease that financial burden.

We have also done a great deal on behalf of seniors.

At the beginning of this year, the Prime Minister appointed the Honourable Marjory LeBreton as Secretary of State for seniors. In March, we announced the creation of a National Seniors Council to advise the government on issues of national importance. Budget 2007 had an increase in the age credit amount and pension income splitting. The recent passage of Bill C-36 will make it easier for seniors to apply for and receive their benefits.

This government also believes that investing in post-secondary education today will help bridge the skills gap, so future generations can access learning and employment opportunities of the future. That's why Budget 2007 proposed to increase the lifetime contributions and the annual contribution limits of registered education savings plans, as well as increase the Canada education savings grant. In addition, Budget 2007 proposed the biggest investment in post-secondary education since the inception of the Canada social transfer, an increase of more than 40% in transfers to provinces and territories in this area.

We are also delivering policies and programs that help bridge the gap in the labour market between employers who need workers and Canadians who need jobs. The budget establishes a new architecture for labour market policy, the centerpiece of which is a $500 million a year contribution in new funding for the provinces to help get training for those who are not eligible to receive EI. Our goal is to create the skilled, adaptable workforce Canada needs. In the final analysis, this translates into opportunities for individual workers to create Canada's knowledge advantage.

We live in a very special time in the history of the Canadian economy and its labour force. The challenge used to be people seeking jobs. Now we have jobs seeking people, especially when it comes to skilled workers.

Last January, for example, our government launched the apprenticeship incentive grant. Up to 100,000 apprentices will be eligible for grants to help cover the cost of tuition, travel, and tools. I was recently in Edmonton, Mr. Chairman, where I had the opportunity to present the first $1,000 cheque under the apprenticeship incentive grant at a steel fabricating plant, Wayward Steel. The smile on that young rig technician's face told me, Mr. Chairman, that we were absolutely on the right track with this new grant.

Our government is also producing programs that encourage employment for under-represented groups such as recent immigrants, persons with disabilities, and aboriginal Canadians.

Immigrants now account for a much larger proportion of Canada's population growth. We need the skills of these newcomers.

In the past year I announced enhancements to the temporary foreign worker program, including regional lists of occupations under pressure, and working groups in Alberta and B.C. that are designed to alleviate worker shortages.

In Calgary, last March, I announced funding for a program that will develop an online tool to help immigrants before coming to Canada upgrade their essential skills to meet the requirements of the Canadian workforce. We've also targeted other groups to help ensure that they can bring their skills to the workplace to help us bridge the gap.

When I was recently in Digby, Nova Scotia, I met a woman whose disability had made her feel that she was unemployable. With the help of the skills link program, she found a position with a retail chain. She was pretty thrilled about making a contribution to her community and the positive impact that the job would have on her life. Mr. Chairman, she told a very touching story at that time, and I couldn't help but feel a personal sense of pride in the skills link program that was helping her.

Mr. Chairman, there are many more stories like this one.

For example, when I visited a youth project in north Regina, I met a young aboriginal man who had experienced some pretty tough times. Participating in a youth program had motivated him to work towards creating his own business of renovating houses and flipping property.

We've also reached out to support aboriginal people. I'm very pleased that our recent budget proposed to double the investment under the aboriginal skills and employment partnership program. We propose to add another $105 million to this program, and I'm sure we'll see more success stories like these in years to come.

Last year the government invested some $175.5 million to support over 1,140 homelessness-related projects. We also committed $269.6 million over the next two years on a new homelessness partnering strategy. This strategy will work to find more effective and sustainable solutions to prevent and reduce homelessness, and improve the quality of life for Canada's most vulnerable citizens.

We also recently announced a two-year extension of CMHC's renovation programs, worth $256 million, to help bring housing for low-income households up to basic health and safety standards.

CMHC is spending $1 billion per year to create affordable housing through bilateral affordable housing agreements with the provinces and territories. It also spends about $1.8 billion to support some 633,000 existing social housing units across Canada.

The 2006 federal budget also provided $1.4 billion for affordable housing, northern housing, and housing for aboriginal people living off reserve. Along with my colleague, Minister Prentice, I recently announced the creation of a $300 million first nations market housing fund. This fund follows through on the 2007 budget commitment to develop a housing market in first nations across this country. It also represents a fundamental shift in how Canada's new government supports housing on reserve. Up to 25,000 new housing units over 10 years could be provided through this fund.

Mr. Chairman, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the contributions made by the individual employees of my department.

Through their hard work and dedication, we are making an impact on the lives of Canadians.

Mr. Chair, this committee will note that in the report on plans and priorities, we have made a commitment to Canadians, to our own employees, and to taxpayers. We will use their money wisely to achieve results and value for money.

When I travel the country and see a human face on the results that we achieve, I know we are on the right track. We are reaching people; we are helping them fulfill their potential.

I would be pleased to welcome the committee's questions.

Thank you.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2007 / 2:05 p.m.
See context


Olivia Chow NDP Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, a citizen is a citizen. A citizen who is a senior has been living in Canada, pays income taxes, GST and property taxes, Therefore, why do some seniors qualify for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement and others do not?

Six months before their 65th birthdays, seniors living in Canada have something to which they can forward. They can apply for old age security and on their birthdays they receive a cheque. No matter what their income levels, they receive a monthly pension cheque.

Some seniors come from countries that have social security agreements with Canada. They could be in Canada for a year, or three years or five years, and they may or may not be citizens. Even after just being in Canada for one year, they receive the old age security. That is fine. We totally agree with this. If that senior is in need of extra support, that senior can combine the Canada pension plan and receive the guaranteed income supplement if the level of income is below a certain poverty line.

Seniors who come to Canada from countries that have no social security agreements with Canada, even though they could be working, contributing to the society and paying their taxes, do not qualify for old age security even though they have been in Canada for five or eight years and are Canadian citizens. That is not fair.

Ordinary Canadians expect the Canadian pension system to be fair. They expect some social justice and equity. They feel that all citizens should receive old age security, no matter what country they come from or how long they have been in Canada.

The bill in front of us would change the residency requirement from 10 years to 3 years, and the NDP supports that proposal. We understand there is a historical problem that dates back to 1977. The NDP has spoken out about this injustice for many years. After all, the founder of the whole concept of old age security and pension was Tommy Douglas, the former leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. We have always envisioned that old age security and pension would cover all seniors living in Canada. We know that quite a few seniors live in poverty.

We understand that approximately 17% of seniors live in poverty. This is almost one in five seniors. Of these folks, 71% are women and 29% are men. Twice as many women lived with low incomes, and these women are seniors. Many of them have contributed, but are unable to receive old age security.

We have noticed there has been massive support from the community. We want to thank the member of Parliament for Surrey North. She has moved a motion in Parliament to remove this unjustified 10 year residency requirement. The motion is also in front of Parliament right now.

There are also other groups such as the Alternative Planning Group and Immigrant Seniors Advocacy Network forum, which represents African Canadian Social Development Council, Chinese Canadian National Council, Hispanic Development Council and the Council of Agencies Serving South Asians. They are pushing the Canadian government to be more flexible and accommodating in treating immigrant seniors as equal members of the Canadian family by eliminating the 10 year residency requirement.

We also received a Vancouver city council resolution, approved on March 15, 2005. It says:

THAT Vancouver City Council request the Federal Government to ensure pension equality for all Canadian senior citizens, regardless of their country of origin and whether or not that country has a social services contract with Canada...

We also received from the Women Elders in Action group whose pension conference recommended that every individual, who was a permanent resident of Canada, at age 65 be entitled to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement and that these pensions needed to at least meet the low income threshold cut-off levels to reduce the potential abuse of elders.

A seniors summit at the Vancouver Declaration also stated that we needed to change the rule so immigrants would be eligible for pensions. We have seen petitions with 10,000 signatures in support of eliminating the 10 year residency requirement.

We know there is massive support out in the community. We know it does not require a large amount of money to level the field so there is equity. That is why I do not quite understand why the Liberal members of Parliament a few months ago did not support the amendment at the committee on human resources when we were debating Bill C-36 on pensions.

I recall the Bloc had a motion which was supported by the NDP. Given this is a minority government in a minority Parliament, with the support of the Liberals that amendment would have been passed at committee. Because Bill C-36 is a government bill, it would have come back to the House of Commons. We would have had this old problem fixed. Never mind the 13 years of the former Liberal government never dealing with this problem.

Right now what we have in front of us is a private members' bill. We are supporting it. However, we thought the opportunity with Bill C-36 was a missed opportunity.

Let us collectively vote in favour of this private member's bill and change the residency with regard to old age security so seniors do not have to live in poverty. They would qualify for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. Let us get the private member's bill to the human resources committee and have it come back to the House for support so we can right this historical wrong.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2007 / 1:55 p.m.
See context


Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier when I was asking the hon. Liberal member a question, I was surprised by this bill presented by the Liberals, but, at the same time, I am pleased it was presented and I do not understand why the Conservative Party is refusing to support this bill. This is a matter of justice for seniors. When it comes to matters involving seniors I think we ought to be particularly attentive because they often experience injustice in our society.

Nonetheless, the bill does not change matters much. The bill simply reduces from ten years to three years the residency requirement for entitlement to a partial monthly old age security pension. That is not much.

The current ten-year residency requirement places undue hardship on recent immigrants who are seniors in that they are unable to adequately access old age security benefits. The bill on old age security would simply change a few sections of the act. The proposed changes would amend the sections that refer to ten years and replace ten years with three years. That is not asking much, so I wonder how anyone could be against it.

The definition of “specially qualified individual”, which indicates the number of years of residency required to be entitled to benefits, would be changed and ten years replaced with three years.

It seems obvious to the Bloc Québécois that Bill C-362 would facilitate access to the old age security program for new immigrants who are seniors. The quality of life for seniors often depends on the care they can receive. This quality of life also depends on their income. New arrivals are also entitled to dignity. The Conservative Party does not seem to realize that.

As well, it is clear that Bill C-362 introduces certain measures to amend the Old Age Security Act that do not affect Quebec's jurisdiction. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports this bill in principle.

Allow me to put this into context. In the past few years, the Bloc Québécois has noticed that seniors are among those in our society most affected by the federal government's cuts to transfer payments. The quality of life of seniors often depends on the care they can receive and this quality of life also depends on their income.

That is why the Bloc Québécois has always harshly criticized the irregularities in the guaranteed income supplement program, which guarantees low-income seniors additional income.

Bill C-36, which received royal assent on May 7, 2007, hopefully resolved some of the accessibility problems in the system, but it did not resolve the issue of giving beneficiaries the full retroactive amount. This what the Bloc Québécois was calling for, but it was not included in the bill.

Bill C-362 would extend the accessibility of the old age security program to recent immigrants who are seniors, by decreasing the Canadian residency requirement from 10 years to three years.

I would also like to briefly remind the House how Bill C-36 amended the Old Age Security Act. Bill C-36 received royal assent on May 7, 2007. It amended the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act. The amendments include ongoing renewal and clarity of legislation, simplifying the reporting of income for couples and seniors, and consistent benefit entitlements.

There was also a proposal for common amendments to both the Canada pension plan and old age security. These provisions had to do with electronic services, the collection of interest charges and the sharing of information. However, a contentious issue concerning accessibility remained for Canadians and the Bloc Québécois opposed increasing the restrictions on new citizens who have immigrated to Canada.

The Bloc Québécois believes there cannot be different classes of Canadian citizens—which the hon. Liberal member recognized earlier—no matter what their background. The Bloc Québécois believes that being a Canadian citizen should be enough to access the guaranteed income supplement. Some clauses of the legislation posed a problem by creating different classes of Canadian citizens, for instance, a person in respect of whom an undertaking by a sponsor is in effect as provided under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act—the sponsor system. Those clauses excluded new Canadian citizens who were still being sponsored.

The Bloc Québécois asked the committee to amend the bill so as not to restrict new citizens' access to old age security benefits because of the sponsor's obligations under the Immigration Act. The Bloc Québécois believes that once a person becomes a Canadian citizen, the sponsor's obligation should automatically end.

The sponsor's obligations generally begin as soon as the sponsored person obtains permanent resident status, and they end at the end of the sponsorship period. In some cases, that can be a long time—as long as 10 years. That has to change. According to the act, the obligation cannot end prematurely, even if the sponsored individual becomes a Canadian citizen. Moreover, neither separation, nor divorce, nor moving to another province ends the obligation. The obligation stands even if the sponsor's financial situation becomes difficult.

As I mentioned earlier, it is important to note that the Liberal Party voted against the Bloc Québécois' proposal last February. Now we are discussing an issue very similar to the ones debated in the context of Bill C-36, which just received royal assent. Bill C-362 does not address sponsorship of newcomers, but it does address other categories of newcomers who are not sponsored.

The changes Bill C-362 proposes are minimal. The main change is to reduce the residency requirement for entitlement to a monthly partial old age security pension from 10 to three years. The number 10 is simply replaced by the number 3. The bill amends other sections of the act simply to bring them in line with the definition of a “specially qualified individual” so that the act can apply.

Who is affected by this bill? There are various categories of newcomers and potential immigrants to Canada. Unfortunately, as I just mentioned, sponsored immigrants, permanent residents and new citizens who are still being sponsored are not affected by the amendments made by this bill. They would have access to old age security after three years for spouses or 10 years for other individuals, as is currently the case after sponsorship.

Newcomers who are affected by the bill include skilled workers, businesspeople—the three categories are investors, entrepreneurs and self-employed workers—asylum seekers and refugees. I believe that Canada accepts 25,000 refugees each year.

Because of globalization and the fact that we live in a global environment, the Bloc Québécois thinks that Canada must be flexible about citizenship and the services offered to newcomers. Given the increase in exchanges between countries, there should be mechanisms in place to allow for greater human mobility, as well as measures already in place to help the disadvantaged.

The position of the Bloc Québécois is the following. We are aware that Bill C-362 will facilitate access to the old age security program for recent immigrants who are seniors. Since the quality of life of seniors often depends on the care they can receive—as I said earlier—this quality of life is dictated by their income. Newcomers also have a right to dignity. Moreover, we believe that Bill C-362 introduces certain measures amending the Old Age Security Act that do not infringe on Quebec's areas of jurisdiction.

In conclusion, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. However, I would like to point out that a great deal of work remains to be done. It is deplorable that, for all these years, the Liberal and Conservative governments neglected, muzzled and ignored seniors, the most vulnerable individuals of our society. First, the Liberals ignored this group of disadvantaged individuals and preferred to allow the flight of capital to tax havens, the reduction of debt and cuts to Quebec and the provinces. Next, the Conservatives favoured tax reductions rather than providing immediate support to the workers who helped build today's society.

Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois was there to ensure that our most vulnerable seniors would have a voice in government. Thanks to many interventions in the House, committees and the media, the Bloc Québécois was able to keep in the forefront a group of individuals who were not a government priority. Seniors are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but without full retroactivity because of various notable government mistakes. We will continue to fight against the federal government in order to—

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

May 11th, 2007 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Blackstrap Saskatchewan


Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (residency requirement). I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their contributions on this important issue.

The bill proposes to lower the residency requirement from the current 10 years to three years. For several reasons this proposal is unacceptable for the government and I will outline the reasons.

I want to start my discussion of old age security by stating that Canada's public pension system is widely recognized as one of the best systems in the world and is often duplicated by countries wishing to set up public pension programs of their own.

The old age security, OAS, portion of our pension plan is an integral component of the system. It is of the utmost importance that we show prudence and forethought when proposing sweeping changes the likes of which this bill proposes.

The Government of Canada has a fully functioning public pension system. One part of it pays benefits to Canadians who have paid into the program like the Canada pension plan. Other parts, like the OAS, are not contributory and therefore they are offered to all seniors in this country, as long as they have a minimum 10 years of residency in the country. This does not seem unreasonable.

In fact it is the responsibility of the government and of all Canadians to ensure that the people who built this country are taken care of in their old age. It is for this reason that the length of residence in Canada has been the program's central eligibility criterion since its inception in 1952.

The OAS is not income based or contributory, or based on one's nationality or country of birth; it is simply residency based. This requirement is intended to establish a person's attachment and his or her contribution to Canadian society, the economy and his or her community over his or her lifetime. It is reasonable to expect that a person live in Canada for a minimum period of time before being granted the right to a lifelong public benefit.

Many other countries have functioning public pension systems as well, and the Government of Canada has endeavoured to sign agreements with these other countries. We have done this so that new Canadians from other countries with similar public pension systems have the ability to use time spent in their country of origin and the contributions they have made in their communities to help meet the minimum residency requirement for Canada's old age security program.

The proposals put forward in this bill would require years of renegotiation with some 50 countries, the same as they took years to sign in the first place. Did the member for Brampton West consider this in the drafting of her bill, or was this just an afterthought? Unfortunately the opposition members have continued their trend of proposing changes to programs without fully understanding what the ramifications of these changes would be.

What is most shocking is that this bill has been proposed by a Liberal, a former parliamentary secretary. She should know that not only would the bill cost billions of dollars and put the long term viability of the old age security program in peril, but that it would take years of negotiation with more than 50 foreign governments with whom we have signed agreements.

There are only two options here: the member did not know this, which means she did not do her research and the bill does not deserve to pass on that alone; or she knew and did not care, which means she has put forward this bill for political purposes to score cheap political points.

I note with interest the comments made by the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale when she suggested in the House that the proposals contained in Bill C-362 were required to offer support to new Canadians.

I just want to reiterate the comments made earlier by the hon. member for Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington whom I believe made a very valuable point. It is Canada's new government that put forward the largest increase in settlement funding for new Canadians in the past decade. It was not the Liberals. It was the Prime Minister and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration who created the foreign credentials referral office. The Liberals did not do it. In all of their 13 years of majority rule, the Liberals did not do it despite their talk.

I also notice that this particular bill was not proposed when the Liberals were in power. Canadians, and especially new Canadians, know who is getting the job done for immigrant communities, and it is the Prime Minister, not the previous Liberal government.

Canada's new government has looked to support seniors with several initiatives aimed at helping older Canadians, specifically older Canadians who are surviving on small incomes. These were implemented in a responsible manner after careful study of all relevant facts.

These changes include the commitment of $19.5 million for the new horizons for seniors program. We are providing tax relief by allowing pension income splitting for pensioners, providing tax relief by increasing the age credit by $1,000, and increasing the guaranteed income supplement maximum benefit. This initiative alone benefits more than 50,000 seniors. Budget 2007 raised the age for maturing RRSPs and pension plans to 71 from 69.

Bill C-36 is an act which makes several reforms to improve access to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. It expands the compassionate care benefit, making more Canadians eligible to take care of loved ones in their hour of need.

The record of the Conservative government speaks for itself. We have acted to protect the pension program for seniors. We have a lengthy list of accomplishments on this file and we will not abandon our prudence for political gain. Furthermore, we have a record that is unparalleled when it comes to support for new Canadians.

The Liberal record tells another story. The Liberals have proposed a bill here today that would not only put the long term viability of the old age security program into peril but would also require years of renegotiation with more than 50 foreign governments.

The opposition has not done its homework and that is simply unacceptable. The government must and will act responsibly when it comes to protecting the seniors pension programs and the responsible thing to do is oppose the bill.