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.

Sponsor

Diane Finley  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

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.

Elsewhere

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.

February 20th, 2007 / 3:40 p.m.
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Assistant Deputy Minister, Social Development Sectors Branch, Department of Human Resources and Social Development

Susan Scotti

I'm now on the slide called the “Canada Pension Plan”.

My apologies for the confusion.

The Canada Pension Plan is the second component of Canada's retirement income system, the third being the private pension plan, RRSPs. As I said earlier, the plan was created in 1966, and the federal and provincial governments are its joint stewards.

The different types of benefits under the Canada Pension Plan include a retirement pension, disability, survivor, and children's benefits. In 2005 about 4.6 million people received benefits from the Canada Pension Plan, of which retirement benefits totalled $16 billion, disability benefits about $3 billion, almost $4 billion was paid out in survivor benefits, and $500 million paid out in death benefits.

The next slide outlines a few more details on the Canada Pension Plan. Unlike the OAS, the Canada Pension Plan is funded from contributions that are made to the plan that are shared equally between the employer and the employee. Presently, the contributor rate is fixed at 9.9% of earnings from a minimum of $3,500 to a maximum of $42,100 in 2006. A self-employed worker pays the full amount of both these contributions on gross earnings.

The plan is funded by employer-employee contributions, as well as revenues from investments and earned interest, all of which is managed at arm's length by the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, which was created in 1998 as part of the wider package of CPP reforms that ensured that the plan continued to be on a sound financial footing for future generations. One point to note here is that if this legislation passes the House of Commons and the Senate, orders in council from the provinces will still be required to bring the new legislation into effect.

The next slide looks at the summary of the proposed amendments to the CPP. I will quickly walk you through some of those.

The first recommendation relates to the existing financing provisions of the Canada Pension Plan. Under current legislation, there is a requirement that for any new benefit or any change that enhances benefits, the enhancement must be paid as the benefit is earned by the contributor. If it is not, it must be amortized and paid for over a limited period of time in order to avoid having future generations of Canadians cover the costs for the existing generation of contributors. These provisions came about in the 1998 reforms.

However, the current legislation does not have sufficient detail to be able to describe how to calculate the full cost of benefit enhancements, or to establish how the costs of a brand-new benefit would be estimated in the future, if this were to happen. The purpose of the proposed amendment is to provide the government with regulation-making authority that would set out the detailed calculation of how the existing full funding provisions would be applied. It would set out the public reporting of these costs, and it would clarify the contribution rate setting when such costs are present.

While this may appear to be a relatively minor adjustment to the CPP legislation, it is one that is very important to the mathematician of the plan, the chief actuary, in order to facilitate the actuarial work and make it easier to explain to Canadians in a transparent manner any proposed changes to the plan and how they would be funded.

The next change relates to these disability benefits. In 1998 a series of measures were adopted to enhance the sustainability of the Canada Pension Plan. At that time, the rules around the qualifications for CPP disability were changed so that a person had to have four valid years of contributions to the CPP out of the last six years in order to qualify for benefits.

In the process of the triennial review, federal-provincial ministers recommended that the present eligibility requirements for long-term contributors to the CPP be modified so that anyone who has had 25 years of contributions to the plan would be able to qualify for a disability benefit with three years of contributions in the last six years, instead of the present four-out-of-six requirement.

The proposed change could potentially expand disability coverage to some 80,000 contributors and result, to use a rough estimate, in about 3,700 contributors and 840 of their children receiving disability benefits by 2010.

The next change is about the statement of contributions online. Because we had this opportunity to open up the legislation as a result of the CPP triennial review, we also put forward a number of administrative measures to modernize service delivery and streamline access to benefits under both the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

The first such example is to enable Canadians to view online their statement of contributions to the Canada Pension Plan. Currently the legislation specifies that a record of earnings can only be requested once a year. This does not exactly conform to what citizens want or to the fact that we now have advances in modern technology that make the statement of contributions available online to Canadians. In order to better conform with what citizens want, there's no longer a need to restrict access to the statement of contributions to once a year only. Canadians will now be able to view their own contributions as often as they wish and request their statement of contributions more than once a year, whether by paper or electronically.

The next slide is about credit splitting. This is a provision in the legislation allowing pensioned credits to be divided equally between two partners whose legal marriage or common law union has ended. This division is called credit splitting.

For persons divorced before 1987, the legislation provides divorced couples with the opportunity to waive existing time limits and to initiate a credit split, as long as both spouses agree to do so in writing. However, the provisions for common law partners are not the same as those for married spouses. If you take John and Sally, for example, whose common law relationship broke up in 2003, the existing CPP rules state they only have until 2007, or four years, to initiate a credit split. Because some have found this requirement frustrating and rigid in its application, we're proposing to change the provision to allow the existing time limit to be waived, as long as both partners agree to do so in writing, and thereby to treat married and common law partners in the same fashion.

I'm going next to the old age security amendments.

The proposed amendments are divided into four areas: simplifying access, achieving equitable benefit entitlements, implementing recommendations of the Governor General, and clarity of legislation in both official languages.

On the next slide, simplifying access to and delivery of benefits, the first significant change relates to accessing the guaranteed income supplement. I know that this committee has heard a lot about the frustration that citizens have around the access to the guaranteed income supplement. One of the issues is the fact that under the current legislation citizens now have to apply separately for the OAS and the GIS, and seniors are currently forced to reapply whenever their income changes and their income level has affected their eligibility. When a person's income goes above the allowed threshold, the person is no longer entitled to receive the benefit, and again would have to reapply in writing in a subsequent year when they became eligible.

To explain this better, I'll give you an example. Let's take Mary, who at age 65 received GIS benefits until the age of 68, at which time she received a windfall inheritance that changed her income level. Because her income rose, she was no longer entitled to a GIS benefit until the age of 80, for example, when her income went down again. Under the current rules, Mary would have had to reapply for the benefit in writing, and it's possible that she could have fallen through the cracks because Mary might not have known that she had to reapply for this benefit in writing.

Under the proposed amendment, Mary will be able to use a new common application form to apply for the OAS and the GIS at the same time. Not only that, Mary will also be able to let us know that she would like to receive the GIS benefit for the rest of her life as long as she remains eligible. Once an initial combined OAS-GIS application has been made, this will assure her continued eligibility for the rest of her life. So long as we can obtain income information and information about the marital status of an individual applicant from their income tax records, the benefit would be paid to pensioners in any year that they meet the income requirements. This amendment will largely prevent seniors from falling through the cracks. We want to simplify the administration of the benefit and reduce the paper burden so that seniors can receive all of the benefits to which they are entitled.

I'm moving on to the next slide now, which is simplification of access to and the delivery of benefits. This amendment is about enabling the federal government to enter to agreements for the administration of certain provincial low-income benefits. While current legislation allows the federal government to administer provincial benefits--that is, we pay low-income GIS benefits and provincial low-income benefits on behalf of the province of Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories--we do not now determine the entitlement to those benefits. Doing so would simplify the administration of low-income benefits for many provinces that already rely on the GIS eligibility to determine the eligibility for provincial benefits. The proposed amendment would permit the federal government to determine eligibility and to calculate the benefits for a senior with respect to both provincial and federal low-income benefits. The provision would rely on agreements that would be signed between the interested provinces and the federal government that would establish the terms and conditions for these arrangements.

The next slide is on simplifying the reporting of income for couples and seniors. This is something that we call options. It is a complicated provision at the moment, which we are trying to simplify. The legislation currently allows seniors who retire or who suffer a loss of earnings or a reduction in pension in a given year to provide an estimate of their current income in order to qualify for the low-income benefits. Applicants are required right now to estimate income from all sources, whether it's employment, interest from investments, or pension income. This process can be very cumbersome because it is difficult to accurately predict all of your income from all sources.

The proposed legislation would limit the estimated income to pension and employment income only, which is much easier to predict on an annual basis and predict accurately.

It will also extend the time limit for seniors to submit an estimate of their income, because the current deadlines can be very tight. This change, we think, will be very welcomed by low income seniors, because it will mean fewer adjustments, and it will simplify the administration by greatly reducing the complexity of this provision.

The next slide is “Application Withdrawal”. Currently, the Old Age Security Act does not allow for a person to withdraw his or her application for benefits once it has been submitted and payments have started. Seniors have asked us to look at this, because they would like to have some additional flexibility.

For example, sometimes seniors have miscalculated what they can expect to receive in OAS payments and they may want to defer the receipt of their pension to another year. Or they may have received additional income from dividends and may not want to increase their overall income at age 65 because they may still be working, or may want not to apply for the OAS benefit just yet, in order to keep their income relatively modest for income tax purposes.

While this appears to be a minor fix, it's relevant to seniors who want the ability to withdraw their application if they so choose.

The next slide is about “Achieving Equity in Benefit Entitlements” through two proposed changes. The first is about income-tested benefits and eligibility for income-tested benefits.

These income-tested benefits are provided to seniors to help them meet their daily living needs; however, the current legislation allows an estate to also make an application for GIS benefits on behalf of the deceased. This provision would be changed to only allow the living person to benefit from the supplement to which he or she is entitled.

The second relates to income-tested benefits for sponsored immigrants. As I explained earlier, the OAS benefits are not based on a person's citizenship but on a person's residence. Currently, there are provisions that allow the payment of an OAS pension to someone with less than ten years of residence if they lived or worked in a country with which we have a social security agreement.

In 1996, the legislation was amended to recognize the financial obligation of sponsors to look after a family member during the length of the sponsorship, for persons receiving benefits under social security agreements. However, the words “Canadian citizens” were left out of the drafting of the original legislation, which inadvertently created a difference in treatment between permanent residents and those who become Canadian citizens during the period of their sponsorship, allowing the latter to receive pro-rated GIS benefits during the sponsorship period.

The proposed legislation is designed to respect the integrity of the residence-based OAS program by treating all categories of persons the same, regardless of citizenship. Pro-rated GIS benefits are still available to non-sponsored immigrants from agreement countries, as well as sponsored immigrants whose sponsors have passed away, become bankrupt, or become incarcerated.

I just have a couple of more slides, and then I will end. The next is “Implementing the Recommendations of the Auditor General”.

There is a series of amendments to both the OAS and CPP; these are the common amendments to both legislation.

The first relates to observations of the Auditor General, who recently noted that the Old Age Security Act and by extension the Canada Pension Plan were not in compliance with the provisions of the Financial Administration Act, because unlike what the Financial Administration Act states, neither the OAS nor the CPP collects interest on overpayments.

The proposed legislation will formally recognize that the government does not wish to charge interest to seniors and will exempt the OAS program and the CPP from the provisions of the FAA that oblige the programs to charge interest.

The Auditor General also recognized that the existing penalty provisions in the OAS Act were never brought into force. Penalties were supposed to be assessed in cases of deliberate misrepresentation or fraud. The proposed provisions would ensure that both acts are in compliance, as recommended by the Auditor General.

There are some other proposed common amendments. They are identified on the next-to-last slide. These relate to broader access by Canadians to electronic services that would provide the ability to apply for benefits online, which current legislation does not allow for.

Another proposal would ensure that information can be shared with third parties other than those who have been specifically listed in legislation--for example, advocates and lawyers. The amendments would enable seniors to share information with family members in order to facilitate the application process and the administration of their benefits throughout their lifetime.

Finally, some of the provisions propose to update the French translation of certain sections that have been noted not to be coincident with the English versions in the past.

I've come to the end of a very long presentation. You have my apologies for the length of it.

In conclusion, I'd like to say that we think Bill C-36 will provide greater access to pension benefits, strengthen the administration of the program, hopefully simplify some of the red tape that's involved in it now, and implement many of the suggestions and recommendations for improvements that have come from Canadians and from your committee.

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

February 20th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Susan Scotti Assistant Deputy Minister, Social Development Sectors Branch, Department of Human Resources and Social Development

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm very pleased to be able to be with you today to provide an overview of the amendments to Bill C-36. We have prepared some presentation material, so I'm going to walk you through that material. It essentially does several things.

But before that, I'd like to introduce my colleagues who are with me here today.

Madame Marla Israel, director, international policy and agreements, Seniors and Pensions Policy Secretariat; Nancy Lawand, director general of the Canada Pension Plan Disability Directorate; and Réal Bouchard, senior adviser, Department of Finance.

There are three things I would like to do today with this opportunity to speak to Bill C-36. First is to tell you a little bit about the circumstances that led us to develop the proposed amendments that you are considering today. Second is to provide you with a brief overview of some of the basic eligibility criteria for the OAS and the CPP. I'm sure that many of you have received calls, sometimes good, sometimes not so good, about our programs. As there's some complexity attached to them, I thought, with your indulgence, it might be an opportunity to give you a little bit of background on them.

Third, I just want to walk you through the proposed amendments, first under the CPP and then under the OAS, and then I'll discuss the amendments that apply to both. Then, of course, I'll take your questions.

First, why are we changing the legislation?

In large part, many of the amendments proposed in Bill C-36 began with suggestions that we received from Canadian citizens, through their letters, through meetings that we've been having with seniors organizations, and through the interactions that they have with all of you as parliamentarians.

Amendments to the CPP and OAS don't happen frequently, given that both pieces of legislation are quite complex. We took the opportunity to bundle a number of amendments together. The first trigger for these amendments was the triennial review of the Canada Pension Plan, which was completed this past June. As many of you know, federal-provincial-territorial ministers of finance who are joint stewards of the plan recommended two significant changes, which I'll come back to in a moment.

In addition, we had some observations from the Auditor General regarding the compliance provisions in the Old Age Security Act with respect to the Financial Administration Act. These two events provided the impetus for changes to both pieces of legislation. While the changes that are being brought forward are largely of a technical nature, they do represent very important changes that will improve the administration of benefits and remove some of the anomalies that have caused frustration for our clients in the past. They will also improve access to the benefits for seniors and streamline the delivery of those benefits in order to strengthen the accountability and fairness within Canada's public pensions.

If you go to slide 8, I'll move to a description first of the old age security program. The old age security program goes back to 1952 and is the first of the three tiers of Canada's retirement income system. It provides a basic pension to the majority of Canadians who are age 65 and over and is funded from general tax revenues of the government. There are three related low-income benefits that are tied to the OAS, the guaranteed income supplement, the allowance, and the allowance for the survivor. The latter two benefits are available to persons between the ages of 60 and 64. In 2005 and 2006 benefits were provided to over four million Canadians who received close to $30 billion through these programs.

On slide 7 there's a little bit of information on the basic rules of eligibility of the program. In order to qualify for an old age security benefit, a person must be over 65 and have acquired at least 10 years of residence after the age of 18, if applying for the benefit from Canada. If applying for the benefit from outside the country, a person must have acquired 20 years of residence after the age of 18. The only exception to these rules is if a person has lived or worked abroad and has received benefits through our 50 social security agreements that are now in place and that allow the pooling together of periods in both Canada and other countries in order to meet the minimum eligibility requirements of the OAS and CPP. The supplement is a low-income supplement that is paid to those who are receiving GIS and whose annual income is below a minimum threshold, which is at $15,000 a year for a single individual excluding OAS and $20,000 a year for married or common law pensioners.

Income is reassessed every year through income tax information provided to us by the Canada Revenue Agency. A maximum OAS benefit is close to $500 a month and is paid to individuals who have acquired 40 years of residence.

February 20th, 2007 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Pursuant to the order of reference of Tuesday, January 30, 2007, Bill C-36, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, I want to call the meeting to order.

I want to welcome Ms. Scotti and her team. We're going to give you a few extra moments today to outline what you have for us, and then some rounds of questions will proceed afterwards.

Ms. Scotti, if you would like to just proceed, take all the time you need.

Opposition Motion--National Anti-poverty StrategyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 20th, 2007 / 10:50 a.m.
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Conservative

Lynne Yelich Conservative Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for inviting me to join her in her goals. That is what I have spoken about. I would say that I have answered all of her questions through actions, not just through talking and press conferences. As I said earlier, we walk the walk.

We are working on recognizing foreign credentials so that indeed the immigrants who come to this country can in fact practise in the profession they had succeeded in in the country from which they came. We are working on foreign credentials recognition, but we have to have the cooperation of the provinces and the professionals to make sure that the credentials are indeed recognized correctly. Foreign credentials recognition is well in place.

We introduced Bill C-36 for the seniors and I hope that the member will encourage everyone to fast track this bill so that this will not be another burden for the seniors who soon will be trying to access the guaranteed income supplement to top off their low incomes.

Those are just two immediate goals, but I could perhaps refer to our child care initiative which I think really helps--

SeniorsOral Questions

February 16th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I encourage the member to help us pass Bill C-36.

The wonderful thing about old age security is that there is a residency provision. We do not discriminate. People can be non-Canadians or Canadians. Old age security is offered universally to anybody who has residency in Canada. I encourage the member to please help us pass Bill C-36 as quickly as possible, so that some of her fears can be alleviated.

SeniorsOral Questions

February 16th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
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Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we are addressing that in Bill C-36. The position we are taking will work very well for the seniors the hon. member is speaking about. This particular provision will ensure that we do not compromise our immigration policy.

February 15th, 2007 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, if we keep a break, I don't see any problem in that, but I simply want to say that that answers the question Mr. Brown asked: what happens if we haven't finished at midnight? That's why I'm going to wait until he is with us, with your permission, of course.

We aren't the first committee that has set itself guide posts for a bill. This has happened for very important bills, again recently, from the moment one of the parties wishes, for its own reasons, to stretch out the debate.

The committees of Parliament operate on the same principle as the House, that is by majority order. However, when you study the history of the formation of the committees, you discover that the purpose of that was precisely that, at some point, a majority order would decide, determine the progress of business.

That could have happened to any party. Sometimes, for our own reasons, we may adopt a certain type of behaviour, but it is always the majority that determines the order. In the matter before us, Bill C-257, the debate has been underway for a number of months and even years.

The Conservative Party, like a number of witnesses, has reminded us that this is the tenth time we've introduced this bill. Virtually everyone has repeated their positions. We ourselves have debated them here. We are at the clause-by-clause consideration stage, and we have identified those clauses very specifically. We would be deluding ourselves if we said that our positions would change if we continued the debate for another 20 hours.

If there are minor distinctions to be drawn, no matter how minor, we can easily make them in two minutes, and that requires us to rely on each other's intelligence. It also requires us to summarize our remarks very clearly.

That is why this order, which we want to see adopted here by the committee, is consistent with the interests of the House of Commons and the parties involved.

We have obligations as parliamentarians. One of those obligations is to report on our proceedings. At the rate we're going, we won't be able to report on our proceedings and we'll even undermine those proceedings for the consideration of other bills.

I would remind you, since I've said it, that the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development has called on me personally to ask whether I was prepared to collaborate, cooperate, so that we could expedite our consideration of Bill C-36. We will do so; I told him, yes. However, if we are put in a situation such as the one we've been in since yesterday, we can guarantee nothing, and I don't understand the way the Conservatives want to work when they act in this manner. However, I won't criticize them for that because they have their prerogatives, but I nevertheless want the majority of this committee to determine how it intends to conduct its business so that it is constructive.

Opposition Motion—Government PoliciesBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 15th, 2007 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont.

I appreciate the opportunity to set the record straight. Unlike the motion by the member for Etobicoke—Lakeshore, I will be brief and I will stick to the point.

The omnibus motion before the House today is reminiscent of the Liberal Party of the past. It is an indication of what would come should the Liberals ever have the opportunity to form government again. It should remind us that all that party is is a party in disarray, a party that cannot pick priorities and a party that is obviously facing division within its own ranks. The motion touches on Kyoto, day care, agriculture, justice, linguistic duality, the Wheat Board and the Status of Women Canada. It is the latter that I will discuss this afternoon.

For months now, the opposition has been attempting to mislead Canadian women about what has been happening since we formed government. There has been a great deal of discussion around the renewed terms and conditions of the women's program and the new criteria for funding. We believe advocacy has a role to play. Canada's new government believes that now is the time to act and we want to focus taxpayers' dollars towards action. We have the studies; we know there are problems. Instead of wasting time discussing the issues, our government is looking at tangible ways in which we can make a difference now.

For example, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs is dealing with matrimonial property rights for aboriginal women. Our government increased funding to on reserve family violence shelters by $6 million. As well, the minister announced $450 million for improving water supply and housing on reserve, education outcomes and socio-economic conditions for aboriginal women, children and families, real money in the hands of organizations that are on the ground working to make a difference.

In terms of human trafficking, the former minister of citizenship and immigration developed a program to offer victims temporary visas. Human trafficking is on the rise and the majority of those trafficked are women. They are brought to this country and are forced into a life of prostitution. Instead of being treated as criminals, our government will issue temporary resident permits for up to 120 days and will provide the necessary health care required free of charge.

Women's issues are issues that all Conservative MPs and cabinet ministers are concerned about, not just one minister, all cabinet ministers. The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development announced $4.48 million to help retrain women on social assistance in New Brunswick. This three year pilot project called Partners Building Futures will help women on social assistance get the training necessary to find jobs.

As well, the minister has introduced legislation, Bill C-36, that will make it easier for Canadians to access the guaranteed income supplement. The guaranteed income supplement pays out $6.2 billion a year and goes to 1.5 million low income seniors who are mostly women. This is real change that will affect people right where they live in our communities across our nation.

In one short year we have introduced the universal child care benefit to help women and their families in their homes. We have implemented patient wait time guarantees for prenatal aboriginal women. We have expanded eligibility for compassionate caregivers, most of whom are women. We have introduced pension splitting for senior citizens. We have targeted tax cuts like the GST, the textbook credit and the credit for families with children involved in physical activity to ensure that families are supported. This is real change, ideas and policies that are making a difference in real Canadian women's lives.

This government is committed to action in terms of women and justice issues. There are stories in the paper every day about repeat offenders, men who have abused their wives, children or girlfriends, who are back on the streets putting lives in danger because law enforcement does not have the necessary tools. Domestic violence is an issue that this government takes seriously.

The Minister of Justice has brought forward tougher legislation. We need effective sentencing where dealing with sexual predators and repeat offenders is addressed. We need to end conditional sentencing and raise the age of protection. This is critical.

Canada's new government believes in supporting programs that have a direct impact on women. We believe in putting money into the hands of groups that will help women in their communities.

In October 2005 Canada was cited by the United Nations committee on human rights as failing to adequately address the high rate of violence against aboriginal women. These women and their children deserve safe communities. This is why Canada's new government has committed to the multi-year funding of $1 million a year until the year 2011 to the Native Women's Association of Canada. The Sisters in Spirit initiative addresses the high rates of racialized, sexualized violence against aboriginal women. This project will have a direct benefit on the lives of aboriginal women in their communities.

There is no simple answer. The economic security of women can be traced back as a root cause of the problems women face on a daily basis. We need to ask how we can work together to alleviate these problems, and how we can work with the provinces to better provide services for women. That is one issue which the status of women committee is addressing as we speak. The committee is taking a look at the economic security of women all across our nation.

When a woman faces domestic violence, what can we do to help her get herself out of that cycle of abuse? How can we help women to get out of these situations, to find jobs, build homes, be self-sustaining? We need to let women know that there are other options enabling them the opportunity to change their lives.

The idea that this government is trying to silence women or their advocacy groups is completely ludicrous. I would like to put our partisan political differences aside and work with all members of this House to ensure that we are making a difference in the lives of women all across Canada.

It is imperative that action replace words. It is imperative that problems are solved so women in their daily lives, in their homes and communities all across this nation can get the assurance and support that they need.

It is a pleasure to be here today working with our government in terms of putting words into action.

February 13th, 2007 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, you've just confirmed what I said. He announced one motion, but he debated the second one. I want to understand how we're going to be working from now on.

I suggest we take them in order and that we examine the first one first. It's written and we're going to wait for it. I imagine it will be in both languages. At that point, we'll be able to debate it.

Mr. Chair, may I suggest something? Could we look at our calendar regarding the witnesses to call for Bills C-36 and C-269? That way, we won't be wasting our time while we wait.

Government ProgramsOral Questions

February 13th, 2007 / 2:45 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the government has acted very quickly to address the needs of disadvantaged people. It was this government that announced $1.4 billion to go toward housing in Canada. In December $270 million to the homelessness partnering strategy was announced. In the House today, Bill C-36 in committee will deliver more benefits to disabled Canadians.

Guess what? The common denominator to all of those things is the fact that the Liberals voted against them. That is the hypocrisy of the Liberal Party.

Status of WomenCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 12th, 2007 / 4:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Bruce Stanton Conservative Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as hon. members will know, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women has been working very hard to address the concerns of women's organizations and women's groups from coast to coast.

The central issue raised in the third report of the committee focuses on the renewal of the women's program and the way in which we fund women's organizations. As a member of the Status of Women committee, I can tell the House that we have been working very diligently on the important issues that I am confident will have a direct impact on women's lives.

I realize that the recommendations brought forward in the third report focus attention on women's program specifically. However, I thought that today I would concentrate my remarks on what it is that Canada's new government is doing to help answer some of the questions that are inherent in that report.

I believe that an examination of the record will show that our new government has been taking action, as opposed to the former government's dithering and delaying when it came to women's issues.

The minister responsible for the Status of Women was very busy this past year. I am pleased to tell the House that she has held a number of round table consultations. The minister was seeking advice on key areas of action to advance women's issues and I know she was extremely pleased with how productive these sessions actually were.

The round tables provided the minister with excellent insight into the organizational structures regarding issues of equality as a societal norm. The round tables brought together women's groups, academics and other organizations for an exchange of ideas related to equality for women. Issues of economic independence of women and violence against women were a key focus of these discussions.

While Canada has made considerable progress in advancing gender equality, the minister recognizes that there is still much more work to be done to achieve the full participation of women in Canadian society. She is committed to ensuring that all initiatives within her mandate, such as the women's program, supports key government priorities, including accountability and the achievement of real results, concrete outcomes for women in their communities.

The recent renewal of the women's program provided an opportunity to address key aspects of fulfilling the women's agenda. It allowed us as a government to ensure that money would get directly into the hands of those who need it most.

As members of the committee will know, there has been a great deal of discussion around the renewed terms and conditions of the women's program and the new criteria for the funding. I strongly believe that advocacy does have a role to play but Canada's new government believes that now is the time to act and we want to focus taxpayer dollars toward action.

We already have the studies. We already know there are problems. Instead of spending more time discussing these issues, our government is looking at tangible ways we can make a difference right now in the community where it matters most.

For example, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development is dealing with the issue of matrimonial real property rights for aboriginal women. Our government increased funding to on reserve family violence shelters by $6 million.

As well, the minister announced $450 million for improving the water supply, housing on reserve, educational outcomes and socio-economic conditions for aboriginal women, children and families. This is real money in the hands of organizations that are on the ground working to make a real difference.

In terms of human trafficking, the member for Kildonan—St. Paul touched on this. The former minister of citizenship and immigration developed a program to give victims of human trafficking the chance for temporary visas. We know that human trafficking is on the rise and the majority of those trafficked are women. They are brought to this country and forced into a life of prostitution and despair. Instead of being treated as criminals, our government will issue temporary resident permits for up to 120 days and will provide the necessary health care that is required without any cost to them.

As the minister has mentioned before, women's issues are issues that all Conservative cabinet ministers are concerned with. I will give some examples.

The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development announced $4.8 million to help retrain women on social assistance in New Brunswick. This is a three year pilot project, Partners Building Futures, that will help women on social assistance get the training that is necessary to find jobs.

As well, the minister has announced legislation, Bill C-36, that makes it easier for Canadians to access the guaranteed income supplement. The guaranteed income supplement, or GIS as we call it, pays out $6.2 billion a year and goes to about 1.5 million low income seniors, most of whom are women. This is real change that will affect real people where they live.

In one short year our government has introduced the universal child care benefit to help women and their families in their homes. We have implemented patient wait time guarantees for prenatal aboriginal women. We have expanded eligibility for compassionate caregivers, most of whom are women. We have introduced pension splitting for senior citizens. We have targeted tax cuts like the GST, the textbook credit, and credit for families with children involved in physical activity. These are real changes, ideas and policies that are making a difference in the lives of Canadian women, but there is more.

We have and we continue to demonstrate our commitment to women's safety and health. Through the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, $2 billion is provided annually to construct and maintain safe, quality and affordable housing for 633,000 lower income households right across Canada. Our 2006 budget also provided a one time grant of up to $1.4 billion in new money as extra support for affordable housing.

This government has acted on its commitment to women and employment. We have initiated a new apprenticeship job creation tax credit that provides tax credits to employers who hire women apprentices entering the skilled trades and a new tools tax deduction which will help them get the tools they need to succeed in their careers.

This government has also committed to forming a new foreign credential recognition agency to ensure foreign trained immigrants meet Canadian standards while getting those who are trained and ready to work in their fields of expertise into the workforce more quickly. We heard time and again through the various testimony on our comprehensive report on human trafficking that in fact the issues around visible minorities and immigrant women were most important.

Canada's new government cares about welcoming newcomers and helping them integrate into our society. We value community efforts that are supported by partnerships with the provinces, municipalities and community organizations. I am proud that our government has provided for increased settlement funding.

Budget 2006 committed an additional $307 million to these programs over the next two years, funding that will benefit all newcomers, including and especially immigrant women. This is new money that will go to our partners in the immigration system to help newcomers become full members of the Canadian family. It means additional funding for programs for English or French as a second language and more funding for settlement services and employment programs for new Canadians.

I should point out that language training for newcomers to Canada includes support for the care and supervision of children to give parents the time and freedom to attend these classes, a benefit of particular importance to immigrant women. We are also improving women's education by offering many financial assistance programs that enable Canadian women to access learning opportunities and upgrade their skills through post-secondary education.

Let me remind all members of the House that unlike the previous Liberal government, this is a government of action. As promised, we lowered the GST from 7% to 6%. We delivered over $20 billion in tax relief for individuals. We delivered tax credits to help Canadian families, including a children's fitness credit for up to $500 for physical fitness programs; a tax credit on the cost of textbooks of about $80 per typical post-secondary student; a $2,000 tax credit for employers who hire apprentices; and the new Canada employment credit, a tax credit on employment income of up to $500.

We have acted on our commitment to safer streets through a major investment of nearly $200 million over two years for RCMP training and recruitment. We will continue to act on this commitment by getting tough on crime. We will do that by combating illegal drugs, by implementing tougher laws and by protecting our youth from sexual predators by raising the age of protection.

We have met with Canadians and stakeholders to seek their views on key areas of action to support women's participation in all facets of society. We are looking closely at ways to improve our policies, our processes and practices for funding programs in the areas of accountability, efficiency and effectiveness.

As a member of the committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues to find ways to bring about the full participation of women in the economic, social, political and cultural life of Canada.

Anti-terrorism ActOrders Of The Day

February 12th, 2007 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me say to the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley that in the subcommittee we are looking at all other aspects of Bill C-36. It is a very comprehensive review. That report will be finished in the not too distant future. Really, I hope the government looks at that report seriously.

With respect to Mr. Arar, my argument would be that these provisions have not been used. If the provisions of investigative hearings and preventive arrests had been abused since 2001 until today, I would be the first one to say we should sunset them. In my judgment, and I think in the general consensus, they have not been abused because they have not been used.

Therefore, my argument would be that because they parallel many of the provisions currently available in the Criminal Code, although they are not precisely what is needed under Bill C-36 and that is why they were written in, my argument would be that they have not been abused, they are still needed, and they therefore should be extended.

February 8th, 2007 / 5:10 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Conservative Dean Allison

Okay, thank you very much.

Just before I thank all of our witnesses for being here today, I do want to remind everyone that if there are any witnesses you would like to see when we talk about Bill C-36, Bill C-269, or Bill C-278, could you get those to the clerk by Tuesday at noon. Christine will be sending out a notice to that effect, but it is Thursday now and we'll be heading to Friday and Monday. And remember there are the amendments for Bill C-57 as well, but you do have until Wednesday at noon to get them in.

Once again, I'd like to thank all the witnesses for being here today, and thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules.

The meeting is adjourned.

Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesOral Questions

February 8th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if the member heard me. I said that we are acting. We have moved forward with Bill C-36. It will reduce the number of years that people have to be in the workforce in order to ensure they get CPP disability. This will help at least 3,700 people in the next few years.

We are moving forward on other initiatives. This government is acting on behalf of disabled Canadians everywhere.

Rights of Persons with DisabilitiesOral Questions

February 8th, 2007 / 2:55 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, the government is already acting on behalf of disabled Canadians. Bill C-36 is right now before the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. That piece of legislation will make it easier for people to qualify for CPP disability benefits.

I have also been in touch with many people in the disabled community to understand these issues better. We are going to move and take action to ensure that disabled Canadians have every chance to succeed in this country.