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 7th, 2007 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Chair, I think it would be appropriate to adopt the same approach and to send in our amendments in advance, particularly since we have more time for Bill C-36, while at the same time abiding by the schedule here.

SeniorsOral Questions

February 6th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, this government has moved on many occasions to help seniors, starting with fulfilling our commitment to cut the GST. Fully 30% of Canadians do not pay income tax; a cut to the GST makes a big difference to them. We raised the age credit. We raised the pension credit. We allow pension income splitting. We have moved on a number of occasions. We are doing that again in Bill C-36 to help seniors, because we want to help seniors. That is a role of this government.

SeniorsOral Questions

February 6th, 2007 / 3 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has now admitted on three separate occasions that seniors have been shortchanged for the last five years because Statistics Canada miscalculated the consumer price index in 2001.

Bill C-36 would enhance the government's ability to recoup money from seniors when they have received too much from the government. Well, here we have a case where seniors got too little.

Will the minister commit today to paying seniors as quickly for his mistake as he wants them to pay for theirs? Will he ensure that seniors are reimbursed retroactively for the full five years, yes or no?

February 1st, 2007 / 3:30 p.m.
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Durham Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda ConservativeMinister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Thank you very much. Good afternoon, Madam Chair and committee members. Thank you for the opportunity to be here today.

I'd like to congratulate you, Madam Chair, on your new role as chair of this committee.

I have been following the committee proceedings and I want to commend you for your hard work. I know that you will be studying the economic security of women during this upcoming session, and I appreciate your work on this matter, as we have identified it as a challenge facing Canadian women, particularly senior women.

I would also like to thank Ms. Mourani and Ms. Smith for their work on the human trafficking motion before the House of Commons. I know the committee spent a great deal of time investigating human trafficking.

While human trafficking is an ongoing problem in Canada, statistics from past international events such as the Olympics have shown an influx of human trafficking in host countries. With the 2010 Olympics around the corner, it is crucial that we have a system in place to deal effectively with the problem. Your work in this area will have a direct impact upon the lives of the women as we move forward.

I would first like to recognize the hard work of the officials of Status of Women Canada on the renewal of the women's program. Since my last appearance before you, there has been a great deal of discussion around the renewed terms and conditions of the women's program and new criteria for funding.

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 challenges. Our government is looking at tangible ways 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 real 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. Instead of their 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.

As I have mentioned before, women's issues are issues that all of my cabinet colleagues are concerned with. The Minister of Human Resources and Social Development announced $4.48 million to help train and retrain women on social assistance in New Brunswick. This three-year pilot project, 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, Madam Chair, is a real change that will affect real people where they live.

In one short year, we have introduced the universal child care benefit to help women and their families in their homes; implemented hospital wait time guarantees for prenatal aboriginal women; expanded eligibility for compassionate caregivers, most of whom are women; introduced pension-splitting for senior citizens; and targeted tax cuts such as the GST, textbook credits, and credits for families with children involved in physical activity. Real changes, ideas, and policies are making a difference in the lives of Canadian families and women.

As I come before you today, we are in the midst of one of the most horrendous murder cases in Canadian history. The trial in Vancouver stands as a solemn reminder of the realities faced by the most vulnerable in society. This government is committed to action on justice issues. While this high-profile case garners the lion's share of national and international media attention, there are other stories just as heart-wrenching. There are stories in the paper every day about repeat offenders—men who have abused their wives, children, or girlfriends; men who are back on the street 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 when dealing with sexual predators and repeat offenders.

We need to end conditional sentencing and raise the age of protection.

If all members in the House and all members of this committee would like to make a difference to help women in their communities, I would urge all to encourage their caucus members to pass these bills quickly.

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. That is why I committed to the multi-year funding of $1 million a year until 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 insecurity of women can be traced back as a root cause of the problems faced by women on a daily basis. We need to ask how we can work together to alleviate these problems.

How can we work with the provinces to provide better services for women? I look forward to the committee's work on this issue. When a women faces domestic violence, what can we do to help her get out of this situation, find a job and a home, and be self-sustaining?

We need to let women know that there are other options enabling them the opportunity to change their lives. This committee is a wonderful vehicle to provide input to bring forward solutions.

As Minister for the Status of Women, I will continue to work towards achieving results for women across this country. I would like to suggest putting our partisan political differences aside and working with you. Together we should strive to ensure that we are making a real difference in the lives of women.

Thank you for the invitation to be before you and with you today. I look forward to our discussion.

Government PoliciesOral Questions

January 30th, 2007 / 2:40 p.m.
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Medicine Hat Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out that today in the House we are debating Bill C-36, a bill that will ensure Canadian seniors receive the guaranteed income supplement more easily than they have in the past, a bill that will ensure disabled Canadians will have a chance to receive disability benefits.

Through income splitting, pension splitting, raising the age credit and cutting the GST, we have done more in one year to help seniors than that government did in 13 years.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on this issue today. It stems from a government bill, namely Bill C-36, to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act.

We are pleased with this initiative, but only to some extent. As previous speakers have mentioned, this is an initiative to make access to the guaranteed income supplement simpler and more practical by streamlining the process. This is something we have been calling for for many years, but have been systematically turned down by both the previous government and, for the past year, this government.

Because it deals with the old age security program, this bill also affects the benefits paid to pensioners, and particularly the guaranteed income supplement.

A problem arose, which my colleagues have raised, where low income seniors had to meet two criteria: age—they had to be 65 years old—and the number of years of residence in the country. These were the two criteria for applying, provided, of course, they had limited income. In this respect, however, regulations were made, which restricted and, in many cases, prevented access to the supplement.

My hon. colleague pointed this out earlier. In 2001, there were 272,000 people in Canada who were denied access for objective reasons that I will get into later. In Quebec, 68,000 individuals were affected. Our colleague Marcel Gagnon, who was the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain at the time, fought tirelessly to have more of them receive the supplement, providing them with information about their rights and helping them, naturally, with the appropriate procedures.

The objective reasons I referred to were of the following nature. People were told they had to reapply each year. Many were not even aware that they were eligible for this supplement and, thus, did not apply for it the first year. Others did not know about the requirement to reapply annually.

Which of these people were the most vulnerable? It was those in poor physical health. Often it was also a matter of mental health. And there were actual physical limitations. Among those identified are people who have never worked or who have not filed income tax returns because they did not have any income or so little income that they did not think they needed to file a return. Aboriginals have been particularly affected, as have residents of remote communities, semi-literate people, those who do not read either of Canada’s official languages, persons with disabilities, people suffering from disease and homeless people.

We see that there is a range of people who are, I would say, disabled concerning their obligations to obtain one of their rights. A further complication was added to prevent them from obtaining this right. Over the years, especially since 2001, a major offensive has been led against the previous government for it to correct the situation and, for the past year, against the current government.

So how does that translate into money?

It was between 1993 and 2001 that people began to become aware of the situation—and it continues now, but less significantly. Seniors have been deprived of $3.1 billion. These people are among the most disadvantaged in our society.

What surprises me is that this does not seem to have touched the members of the previous government very much, because they took all those years to make an effort to correct the situation. In the present government we can observe some sensitivity to correcting the situation for people applying now, but no sensitivity for the people who have been deprived of this right. The situation is serious.

I do not want to be too hard on the present government, but when it was in opposition, some of its members were outraged by this situation, just like us. What happens when these people begin governing the country? How do people end up changing their attitude to such an extent? Why, when people are in power and can correct such a large injustice, do they not do so?

The two main political parties in Canada, who have until now taken turns in government, seem to have quite a particular propensity for attacking seniors.

We must also look at the problem as a whole. One of the recurring problems is the lack of will to support older workers who are forced out of the labour force because of massive layoffs.

There was the POWA, the Program for Older Worker Adjustment, but it was abolished in 1997. POWA helped workers aged 55 and over who lost their jobs and were unable to find new jobs for various reasons, the first of which being the unwillingness of employers to show generosity in hiring older workers first. That means that these people cannot find work because of their age. Some of them worked in the same trade for 20, 30 or 40 years and it is not easy for them to learn a new one. Furthermore, an average of 20% of the people laid off these days are 55 and older.

Since 1997, the year the Liberals abolished the POWA, we have been fighting to get an income support program for older workers.

The present situation contributes to the impoverishment of seniors who retired because they reached retirement age or because they were laid off. And here, I am referring to some massive layoffs.

Last week or the week before, the government announced the creation of an expert panel to study the situation. In fact, the government made that commitment last year, during the budget debate.

It was even part of last year's budget amendments. Ten or eleven months ago, the government made the commitment to proceed very quickly with this study and was supposed to report to the House when Parliament resumed after the summer recess.

Despite the fact that, whenever we asked questions about this during the last year, the current minister's predecessor told us every time that the study was underway, that progress was being made and that we would soon see results, we learned a week and a half ago that nothing had been done and that the government was setting up a committee now to do this study. Obviously the House of Commons was not told the truth, and that is a polite way of putting it. We were told something that was not the truth because it was false to say that the study was underway when it has not even started yet.

The second problem with that committee is that workers are not represented. It is made up of representatives of organizations that do not necessarily have that expertise. Surprisingly, the human resources and social development committee toured the country last fall to examine the issue of employability in Canada. One of the issues dealt with at that time was precisely the employability of seniors. How is it that we are being told today that this committee will do exactly the same work without even waiting for the results of the work currently done by our committee, which should be released before we adjourn in the spring?

It is rather amazing to see the extent to which the government will resort to delaying tactics not to honour its obligations to seniors who lose their jobs in massive layoffs. It systematically refuses to provide income support to those people, which tends to confirm what I was saying earlier about this government's tendency to target seniors.

Back to the guaranteed income supplement. It is time for the government to deliver. The parliamentary secretary said that we have to manage public funds carefully. Then she said that it will be very difficult to reimburse the money owed to these people because they are so hard to find. Her statements do not hold water.

The first demonstrates not only a lack of sensitivity but also a lack of empathy toward the poorest people in our society because everyone knows that whatever she says about keeping public funds under lock and key, we have a government that has generated budget surpluses for the past 12 years. On September 25, the Government of Canada announced a $13 billion surplus for the past fiscal year, yet it has responsibilities to seniors who often do not have enough income to pay for basic necessities, such as food, housing, clothing and a reasonable standard of living.

This morning, our colleague from Repentigny shared with us a very moving account of his previous job experience helping these people. He told us about the suffering and the isolation they are forced to endure. This isolation is caused in large part by their low income, which makes it impossible for them to contribute to society in any way.

The parliamentary secretary also said that it is hard to find these people. But if we know how many of them there are, we must know where they are. When it was a matter of finding a way to bring money into government coffers, they had plenty of ideas, plenty of ways to do it. For example, when it came time to bring in the GST and the QST and other provincial sales taxes, they found ways. In Quebec, a harmonized sales tax was implemented. Quebec passes on the Canadian government's share: 6%. Why have we not done something similar for seniors?

Many of these seniors are forced to ask the province of Quebec for help, either through the Quebec pension plan or social assistance. Why is there no agreement? Why have we not considered that the Canadian government could correctly identify these people by their income and that Quebec also had records that could be used to conduct the appropriate verifications to ensure that the guaranteed income supplement is given to those who qualify? Why has this not been done? The answer seems just as clear to me today as in the past. There is a lack of political will, which stems from the ideology of the two political parties, one after the other, an ideology based on supporting the wealthy people of our society and the people who contribute to society by providing jobs.

We know that a minister who temporarily became Prime Minister was able to take advantage of retroactivity for his business beyond the 11 months allowed for seniors. There was no skimping on the number of years and this was done for other businesses, too. When it comes to making exceptions for corporate taxes, there always seems to be a way. The answers we are given do not pass muster and are completely unacceptable in the current context, considering the injustice committed against our seniors.

In closing, I would like to point out that I limited myself to this aspect because my colleagues discussed possible amendments to allow our eligible seniors to access the guaranteed income supplement program. I deliberately discussed retroactivity in particular because I believe that if we do not include a provision in this bill to allow for retroactivity, we would simply be maintaining the same injustice, which is entirely unacceptable.

We, the Bloc Québécois, want no part of that. We encourage our colleagues of the other parties to come to their senses, to embrace justice, to embrace their sensitivity, and finally grant our seniors the right to receive their guaranteed income supplement benefits, which they should have been receiving since 1993. Thank you.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 11:10 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 would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to Bill C-36.

This is an important legislative proposal, the amendments to the Canada pension plan and the Old Age Security Act. I wish to speak to the impact of the proposed changes to the Canada pension plan for people living with disabilities in Canada.

Canada's new government understands the need to ensure that people living with disabilities are given the support that they need. People with disabilities are our friends, our families and our constituents.

We campaigned and were elected on our commitment to stand up for Canada. Canadians were offered the priorities of our Conservative government and found that we hold all the same values dear. We all want a government that makes careful use of public resources to ensure that they are there to help our families and friends who need it.

The new government is getting things done for our friends and for our families with disabilities. For instance, budget 2006 committed enhanced assistance for persons with disabilities. This was done by increasing the maximum annual child disability benefit to $2,300. We expanded the eligibility for the same benefit. We boosted the maximum refund for the medical expense supplement to $1,000, and HRSDC has put together labour market agreements and the opportunity fund for persons with disabilities.

Canadians want what we are all looking for. We want a government that understands that the federal government and provinces need to work together constructively. Canadians can take heart. The legislation comes as a result of a healthy and renewed relationship that our new government has forged with our provincial partners.

Most Canadians recognize the importance of the Canada pension plan to their income security. Along with old age security, the Canada pension plan provides Canadians with the foundation upon which to build their retirement income. Together, Canada's public pensions deliver about $54 billion in benefits to Canadians every year.

However, the Canada pension plan is much more than a retirement pension. Through its disability program, the Canada pension plan provides basic coverage to approximately 295,000 Canadians with severe and prolonged disabilities and to 90,000 of their children. Indeed, the Canada pension plan is considered the largest long term disability insurance program in Canada.

Every three years the ministers of finance review the Canada pension plan to ensure that it remains financially sound and to make any necessary adjustments. The triennial review also provides an opportunity to see that the Canada pension plan evolves to meet the changing needs of Canadians throughout their lives. It also exemplifies that the CPP's accountability and transparency is there for Canadians.

The most recent review, completed in June, confirmed that the Canada pension plan is on solid financial footing, but the review also showed that together we could all do a better job of recognizing contributors with long term attachment to the workforce by making their CPP disability benefits more accessible.

Federal and provincial finance ministers understood that it was time to address an issue that has been raised as a concern by people living with disabilities, their representatives and members of the House. The ministers listened to the people who came to them. They took on the issue. They showed leadership that had been lacking by pursuing this change.

There has always been a minimum qualifying period for CPP disability benefits since they were first issued in 1970. Over the years this qualifying period has been amended on several occasions. For example, from 1987 to 1997, applicants needed contributions in two of the three years or five of the last 10 years to qualify for disability benefits.

In 2003 Parliament heard from long term contributors who were ineligible for benefits because of the change requiring contributions in four of the last six years that was introduced in 1998.

What followed was a report prepared by the chief actuary regarding Canadians with a long history of workforce attachment and who were denied CPP disability benefits on the grounds that they had insufficient contributions. The study found many of these applicants had contributed for two or three years of the minimum qualifying period but had not done so for a fourth year. Without that fourth year of contributions they could not qualify for benefits under the existing rules despite in some cases more than 30 years of overall contributions.

Imagine a woman who has worked steadily for 25 years and has contributed faithfully to the Canada pension plan, including for three of the last six years. She feels that these substantial contributions will give her access to disability benefits when she needs them. Suddenly a major medical condition takes her out of the workforce and then she discovers that she does not qualify. She needed to contribute to the CPP for one more year before she could qualify. Imagine her sense of disappointment and frustration. Despite her lengthy contributions to the Canadian workforce her Canada pension plan disability benefit was not there for her when she needed it.

As I said at the outset, Canadians elected Conservatives to stand up for them. They elected us because they knew we understood them and their concerns. We were elected by Canadians because they knew we would get things done and we are getting things done. The government is acting to ensure that thousands of Canadians who are long term contributors to the CPP are not left alone to fall through the cracks. We stand with them and we are standing up for them.

I am pleased to say that Bill C-36 is a positive response to the desire for greater fairness expressed by the Minister of Finance. It is an obvious response to the needs of persons with disabilities whose concerns were too long ignored.

Under the proposed legislation, applicants with 25 or more years of contribution would become eligible for benefits if they contributed in three rather than four years. All other applicants would still have to make contributions in at least four of the last six years and of course all applicants must still meet the medical eligibility requirements.

What does this legislation mean for Canadians? It means an additional 2,000 long term contributors with severe and prolonged disabilities would be eligible to receive benefits by 2008. By 2010 the new beneficiaries could total about 3,700. Close to 1,000 children of these beneficiaries could also receive benefits.

Through this legislation the Government of Canada is sending an important message to long term contributors to the Canada pension plan who are forced to leave the workforce because of a severe and prolonged disability. It says that Canadians have told us that the current disability program does not meet their needs. It says that we have heard their concerns and we are acting on them.

This legislation is part of the government's commitment to greater accountability and to action that restores the public's trust in government. It says the government balances the social needs of Canadians within an accountable and transparent fiscal framework. The legislation change is fully affordable at the current CPP contribution rate and will not compromise the financial sustainability of the plan.

It pleases me that other members of the House are in fact agreeing to support this important bill that will help our Canada pension plan. It also tells me that everyone, along with our new government, understands that seniors have made contributions and continue to make huge contributions to our country. Seniors know that Conservatives and the House share the same values and concerns as they do, and that these are the values and concerns of all Canadians. We all understand that sometimes the world changes and that we need a government that will ensure that seniors are not left behind.

We recognize a commitment to the Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement as fundamental guarantees of income security in retirement years. We promise to ensure that seniors have the respect and integrity that they deserve. Our pension plan has been integral in dramatically reducing the level of poverty among seniors. Back in 1980 almost 21% of seniors lived on low incomes. Today, because of changes that were made, we have reduced that number to less than 6%.

To address presently changing needs of seniors, we are making significant investments across a full range of seniors programs, from health care to housing, from retirement savings programs to assistance for caregiving. We have shown support in budgeting for seniors: $64 billion a year on programs for seniors, including our public pension programs.

Our public pension programs are something Canadians can rightly take pride in. Our public pension system is recognized worldwide as one of the best. It plays a vital role in ensuring the economic well-being of thousands of Canadians.

Today seniors are generally healthier, better educated and economically better off than in previous generations. Today's seniors are looking for new ways to contribute to their country. Seniors work longer, volunteer more, and play an active role in the communities across Canada.

As the baby boomer generation marches toward retirement, we need to take steps to prepare for the growing number of seniors. I am one of those baby boomers and I am concerned that in the next 25 years nearly one in four Canadians will be a senior citizen. The aging of our population means that we cannot take our cherished public pension programs for granted.

We understand that the future of these programs is a matter that affects all Canadians. This is why our new government is strengthening our social foundations. Standing up for seniors mean ensuring these programs are there for seniors now and in the years to come. As well, Conservatives and all Canadians understand that the retirement income system, the Canada pension plan and old age security are key pillars of Canada. These pillars must be maintained and cared for if they are to be counted on to maintain and care for the needs of Canadians.

Something also important to Canadians are the changes proposed in the bill that will improve the way governments administer pension programs. Together these amendments strengthen fairness and accountability. In the past, concerns have been raised that eligible seniors may not be receiving the guaranteed income supplement because they were not aware of the program and did not apply. Much has been done already to remedy such situations. This legislation, however, goes one step further.

To explain, under the proposed changes seniors apply for GIS at the same time as they apply for old age security. No separate application form would be required. In addition, as long as seniors file a regular tax return they will automatically receive the GIS benefit in any year they are entitled to. They would never need to reapply. This cut in red tape makes sense. It is the kind of sensible thinking that our new government has put into creating “Advantage Canada”. In a nutshell, it means that all eligible seniors should receive the GIS as long as they file a Canadian tax return.

The same sensible thinking is what led our new government to propose amendments to the Canada pension plan that are found in the bill that I spoke about earlier, making it easier for long time contributors to qualify and working Canadians who are attached to the workforce. Canadian seniors, men and women whose hard work helped build this country, deserve to have a government that stands up for them and I am proud to be a part of this government. I am proud that we are taking steps to put in effect the existing full funding provision of the Canada pension plan.

The new provision adds transparency to the existing provision, which requires any changes to the plan's benefit be paid for in full so their costs are not passed on to the future.

This is what Canadians want to know, that CPP is on sound, financial footing now and for future generations. This change would help get that done.

Our new government will also be modernizing service delivery, to ensure electronic services for pensions are available for seniors across the country, a simple, practical thing in this modern age of technology. However, a change to the legislation was needed to enable seniors to apply for benefits online.

These amendments would also close loopholes and prevent misrepresentation, which ends up costing all taxpayers.

Enhancements to our retirement income system are one of the ways we are helping to improve the quality of life for Canadian seniors. As I said earlier, the government is doing even more. Let me give a few quick examples.

We are reaching out to seniors across the country, thanks to our new horizons for seniors program. Through this program, we are helping to harness energy, skills and leadership of seniors and projects that make a difference in their communities. Consider the grandfriends program in Prince Edward County, where seniors are giving back to their community by acting as storytellers to children.

Canada's new government promised new measures to provide tax breaks for older Canadians, and we got it done in budget 2006. Starting in 2007, seniors couples can split their pension income. We increased the age credit amount by $1,000 to $5,066, retroactive to January 1, 2006. We doubled the amount of eligible pension income that can be claimed under the pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000, starting this tax year.

Through these tax measures, we are putting back into the pockets of our seniors who have already contributed to so much in our country.

Our new government is standing up for those who have spent their lives raising families, saving for their retirement and building up our nation. We are standing up seniors because we are committed to protecting what is great about Canada.

With the proposed amendments in Bill C-36, we will are helping to ensure that all Canadians, young and old alike, can rely on the Canadian pension plan and old age security as key pillars of their retirement income.

This important matter crosses party lines. I am happy and pleased to say that everyone in the House wants what is best for seniors. That is why I am thankful that hon. colleagues in the opposition, along with us, have given their stamp of approval to this important legislation.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to add that I certainly support the bill.

I hope to see some improvements to certain recommendations, particularly the recommendation concerning retroactivity. I am aware that Bill C-36 is a first step, which will allow us to eventually go even further with respect to providing support for seniors.

I firmly believe that this is an interesting bill and that it constitutes a first step, since it corrects several injustices. However, we must not think that our work can stop as soon as the bill is adopted. The Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities must continue its in-depth study to determine whether there are other ways to improve the situation of our seniors.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 10:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, referring this bill to committee will allow us to review all these types of exception, be it people coming to Canada from abroad or seniors, whether Canadian-born or immigrant. I think that there is a degree of fairness, a degree of justice that is required. If these people have suffered injustices, these injustices must be remedied. If our seniors in this country are vulnerable, so are those coming from abroad. At committee, we will be able to see whether these people have suffered any injustice; we will have an opportunity to look at changes that could be made to Bill C-36.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate and thank the hon. member for Repentigny. He gave us his appreciation and analysis of the situation, and I want to stress the quality that he displayed in telling us about his experience and in sharing with us his rather exceptional course.

My colleague described the plight of those seniors who are affected by this injustice on the part of the Canadian government, an injustice that has prevented them from having access to the guaranteed income supplement. He showed very clearly how the government acted, so that these people would become ineligible for these benefits through their own actions.

Without getting into the sordid aspects of life, I wonder if my colleague could tell the House about the impact of such a measure on the most vulnerable seniors in our society. Indeed, the first criterion to qualify for this supplement is that the person must have a low income. In other words, we are targeting the most needy. With Bill C-36, an effort is being made to allow these people to now have access to this guaranteed income supplement. However, they were robbed of $3 billion, and I am not using excessive language here.

I wonder if the hon. member could elaborate on this point and remind us of the impact that these measures have had on the elderly.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 10:25 a.m.
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Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to join those of my colleagues who, since yesterday, have been speaking on Bill C-36.

I extend special thanks to the hon. member for Laval, who spoke yesterday. I listened carefully to her speech. Until just recently, she was the critic on this issue, which I have now taken over. I am pleased to rise today to address Bill C-36.

First, I will take a moment to thank the people in my riding of Repentigny, which I represent here in the House of Commons. I wish them a happy new year. The time is still right in January to extend our wishes.

I also beg the members' indulgence for my raspy voice. I have caught a bad cold, a man's cold that is apparently difficult to get rid of.

I pledge to my constituents of Repentigny that I will spare no time or effort in representing them well in this House and vehemently defending their rights. My colleagues from the Bloc Québécois and myself will continue to doggedly defend the interests of all Quebeckers.

It is my pleasure to stand in this House today to speak on an issue as important as seniors. Before getting into politics and joining the Bloc Québécois, in my former life, I had daily contact with people of all ages, and seniors in particular facing poverty.

Humbly and with the means available to me, I tried to help them. I started by listening to them. I comforted them, I am convinced of that. And I got a better feel for what kind of hardship they were experiencing.

I recall that a month before I went into politics, a woman came to see me in the parish where I was working as a priest. She was in tears. She wanted to move out of her niece's home, because her niece was mistreating her, but she could not afford to live anywhere else. She was on a waiting list for a home of her own. Obviously, I could not solve her problem, but I was able to help her just by listening. I tried to give words of comfort to people suffering from poverty, because the poor really do suffer. I wondered why there was so much poverty among the elderly and why governments had never recognized what a scourge poverty is and tried to eradicate it. The elderly built Quebec and Canada, and I wondered why we did not help them more.

I would like to quote part of a column Pierre Foglia wrote last week in La Presse about the death of Abbé Pierre:

Abbé Pierre was the last in a long line of good people who indignantly refused to accept poverty. ... Now that Abbé Pierre is gone, all we have left are good people.

I wondered why Foglia said that. I know that Foglia felt and still feels today that there are many good people in our society who are doing something about the growing inequalities. But Abbé Pierre was special: he responded with indignation. Foglia also wrote:

Without a sense of indignation, we become accustomed to doing good works instead of working for social justice.

It is not enough to do good works; we also need to have a sense of indignation about the bad things done in our society. I do not claim to be another Abbé Pierre, nor do I claim to be of the same calibre, but I think that that is more or less the main reason I got into politics. Poverty makes me as angry as it made him, especially when it affects the elderly. And if, together, we can improve the lot of our fellow citizens, then I will not have entered politics in vain.

During my recent election campaign, I had the opportunity to tour my riding for the first time. I visited various community organizations as well as seniors' residences. I had the privilege to sit down to dinner with seniors a number of times. And like any good candidate, I went door to door. I saw that many elderly people do not live in any kind of luxury.

I was shocked and even appalled to see such deserving people living on so little, knowing that the government was hiding the extra income to which they had every right. At that moment, I became convinced—and I remain convinced to this day—that my decision to enter politics was the right one and that we, my colleagues in this House and I, could find a way to help vulnerable seniors.

I took the time to talk to these people. I did my very best to inform them of the current and former governments' conscious omission and to tell them that they are eligible for the guaranteed income supplement. I promised to do everything in my power, with the support of my Bloc Québécois colleagues who have been fighting to defend and improve Quebec's rights for so long, to spur the government to action on this issue and ensure that every senior is informed and, above all, receives the guaranteed income supplement and any other income they are entitled to. This has become a personal commitment for me.

Let us not forget that for many years now, the Bloc Québécois has been devoting a lot of energy in this House to reminding the government of its responsibilities and duties toward our seniors, who are often the most vulnerable members of our society, the people who built the country we live in, the people whose quality of life often depends on the level of care they receive. That quality of life is often dictated by their income.

In 2001, the Bloc Québécois criticized the Liberal government's mismanagement of the guaranteed income supplement program. We implemented a major initiative that has enabled us to find 42,000 of these people so far. Often, these people were society's neediest and many of them were deprived of the money they should have been collecting for years through the federal guaranteed income supplement. Thanks to our efforts, about $190 million has been redistributed to some of the poorest seniors in our society. The Bloc Québécois is also asking the government to acknowledge its mistake and give full, not partial retroactive reimbursement to all of the seniors it swindled.

I would remind the House that in December 2001, under the Liberal government, the House adopted the report on the guaranteed income supplement by the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills Development, Social Development and Status of Persons with Disabilities. In its report, the committee painted an interesting picture of the situation and made a number of recommendations. I do not intend to repeat the committee's recommendations, but the fact remains that, although Human Resources Development Canada has been aware of the under-subscription of GIS since at least 1993, the problem persists today. I would remind the House that we are now in 2007. It is very sad to think that, for the past 14 years, Human Resources Development Canada, HRDC, could have and should have been helping tens of thousands of people among the least well-off in our society. Instead, it chose to turn a blind eye and deliberately ignore these people, who are so desperately in need. It deliberately chose to take no action.

Let us first take a closer look at the problem surrounding the guaranteed income supplement. The raison d'être of such a program was, first and foremost, to give low-income retirees an additional benefit on top of their old age security. In order to receive it, eligible individuals must apply for it every year when they are filing their income tax return. This is what constitutes the greatest injustice, because many seniors are unable to fill out the forms or even understand their contents.

This bill to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act finally corrects the irregularities that our seniors have been facing for more than 14 years. However, it still raises a number of issues that remain vague, even though we, the Bloc Québécois, continue to tackle them with vigilance. I have the opportunity to rise and speak here today, and I am privileged, along with my colleagues in this House, to analyze Bill C-36, introduced by the government, which, overall, leads us to believe that this government knows that our seniors have been cheated for far too long.

We understand that the primary objectives of Bill C-36 as a whole are to ensure the availability, accessibility and obtainability of the amounts owing to all potential beneficiaries. We are, however, bitterly disappointed to note that the Conservative government is not undertaking to give beneficiaries the full retroactive amount.

If a Canadian citizen owes money to the government, though, for whatever reason or to whatever department, we all know just how far the government will go to recover the amounts in question. Why should there not be the same commitment to these seniors who have been cheated for so long?

We in the Bloc Québécois believe that a responsible government would refund the total amounts that its predecessor or it itself had voluntarily or involuntarily failed to pay for so long. A responsible government, by means of this quite legitimate gesture, would acknowledge a problematic situation that it had created itself, and also thus acknowledge the outstanding contribution made by those very individuals, our seniors, through their hard work and dedication, to the development of Quebec and Canada.

Furthermore, this Conservative government, with this bill, wishes to create different classes of Canadian citizens. I will come back to this point later.

The government offers all Canadians—except in Quebec where we have our own plan, the Quebec Pension Plan—a federal-provincial pension plan, the Canada Pension Plan. In addition, the first pillar of Canada’s retirement income system is the old age security program and more specifically, the benefits based on income, that is, the guaranteed income supplement and allowance, which are generally paid to seniors aged 65 or more.

The guaranteed income supplement is a non-taxable monthly benefit, which is paid to low-income beneficiaries of the old age security pension. The benefits gradually decrease until they reach zero as the beneficiary’s net income reaches a certain level. Since this supplement is in addition to the old age security pension, we may ask: who is entitled to it? First, people must be 65 years of age or older and, second, must be Canadian citizens or legal residents of Canada at the time the pension is approved. Third, they must have resided in Canada for at least 10 years after the age of 18.

This bill will make it easier for the most disadvantaged seniors to receive the guaranteed income supplement by no longer requiring them to reapply annually. The application will be renewed automatically and the guaranteed income supplement for couples will be based on one and the same return.

This bill will allow seniors who suffer a sudden reduction in employment or pension income during a fiscal year to submit an application for an income supplement based on an estimate of their employment and pension income.

Yes, this bill will amend and fine-tune certain sections of the Old Age Security Act in order to deal with inconsistencies. Yes, it will introduce some measures amending the Canada Pension Plan, which does not at all affect Quebec and its constitutional areas of jurisdiction.

However, how can we, the Bloc Québécois, support expanding restrictions on new citizens who have immigrated to Canada? As I was saying before, for the Bloc Québécois, there cannot be different classes of Canadian citizens, no matter what their background.

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, why would the government only pay retroactivity limited to 11 months, as provided in the act governing the guaranteed income supplement and the allowance?

We are asking the committee to examine the obligation to pay the full retroactivity. This policy would allow for the entire eligibility period to be covered in full.

The Bloc Québécois will ask the Privacy Commissioner to testify with regard to the broadening of the third-party group to which the contributor's personal information may be forwarded. The Bloc Québécois will ensure that amendments to current regulations will not restrict access to the guaranteed income supplement.

The Bloc Québécois is also committed to continuing its longstanding fight with the federal government to have it put in place all the elements required to ensure that seniors who qualify for the guaranteed income supplement are able to receive it.

With regard to interest charged on overpayments, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that the bill is fair for all contributors. Finally, the Bloc Québécois will ensure that the statute of limitations in the case of recovery of overpayments by the government is proportional to the period for which individuals can make a claim for an amount due to them. While the government does not propose to offer full retroactivity for the guaranteed income supplement, it appears to abolish any time limit when it comes to the money that is owed to the government.

We should not stick our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that there is poverty in our midst. Let us also recognize that poverty is a part of the daily life of a great many people, as much in Quebec as in the rest of Canada. I personally rubbed shoulders with poverty not long ago while working as a priest. I was outraged and I am still outraged to see this scourge continuing to affect the lives of so many people, especially the most vulnerable people, those who are older.

If my colleagues have not seen this scourge, they have only to go out into the streets. They will see that there really are such people. They need only walk about their ridings; and if they are nervous about doing that, let them come to my riding. I will be happy to show them.

In closing, let us take some time to reflect and to think of our own parents, who worked all their lives; who raised families, sometimes large families. It is in large part because of them that our life today is what it is. Let us think of these seniors who did so much for us and for our country. Let us ask ourselves whether they do not deserve more respect from their government, whether they are not entitled to receive this minimum that the government wants to give back to them. Let us understand that we are not talking here of people who are well off, to whom we are offering a little extra. No, we are talking about people who struggled all their lives; who worked hard all their lives and who have had trouble making ends meet. Often, these people deprived themselves for the good of their family, for the good of their children. They deserve a minimum of respect from the government.

For the sake of dignity, out of respect, and in recognition of our senior citizens, I call on the government to carefully consider the recommendations made by the Bloc Québécois. These recommendations are no more than the justice and fairness to which our older citizens are entitled. We must never forget that justice is the first of all values; it comes before even love. We can not love someone if we do not treat him or her with justice. Thank you for having listened attentively.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Denise Savoie NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act. It gives me the opportunity to speak on behalf of the many seniors in Victoria whom I met last December and this January. I met seniors who advocate on behalf of other seniors, like those in the Greater Victoria Seniors organization or the seniors at the James Bay New Horizons Society. These seniors are worried about their pensions and their ability to cope with inflation.

Seniors make up 18% of greater Victoria's population. There are approximately 55,500 seniors and of that number approximately 5,600, largely women, are living in poverty. It is disgraceful that our seniors in Canada and in Victoria have to live month to month. That should not happen in Canada.

This bill is largely a housekeeping bill to modernize the administration of benefits, with several clauses on interest amounts owing to Her Majesty. It is a lost opportunity to make substantive changes in the lives of seniors. It was an excellent opportunity to fix some of the problems facing seniors. I would like to speak to a few of the issues that were raised with me.

Speaking about the bill's provisions on the interest on amounts owing to Her Majesty, there is nothing in this bill about the interest on amounts owing to pensioners from miscalculations on old age security, the guaranteed income supplement and CPP between July 2001 and March 2006, when it was fixed, as my colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain, pointed out to the minister. For that, it seems, we are going to have to wait and to continue to badger the Conservative government to get action for redress.

There are over four million seniors who rely on OAS, GIS and CPP for their incomes. While past changes and some increases in payments have helped alleviate some of the most dire poverty faced by many Canadian seniors, there are still too many falling between the cracks of our support systems in Canada. In fact, 165,000 seniors have no income other than OAS and GIS benefits.

I also want to raise the issue of the income disparity between men and women that my colleague has just referred to. The income disparity throughout their lifetimes is of course reflected in women's retirement income. Women's lesser wages and varying degrees of participation in the labour market affect their contributions and thus payments from CPP.

As an example, I would like to stress that data demonstrating gender differences in coverage show that the average monthly retirement pension paid to pensioners aged 65 to 69 was $533 for men and only $299 for women in that year. Nothing in this bill addresses this issue. There have been many reports providing some solutions to this problem, as has been pointed out by many speakers before me.

There is nothing in this bill, either, to address the under-subscription of OAS and GIS. It is necessary, still, to apply for these benefits. Many seniors who are either not able to apply or not well enough informed lose this important source of income. This is not insignificant. The sums in question are considerable. The 50,000 seniors who were eligible for OAS but did not apply in 2004, for example, sustained a total income loss of $250 million per year. It is often women who fail to apply for these benefits.

Last year, Parliament adopted the seniors charter. If we want to do more than pay lip service to the rights enshrined in the seniors charter, we must begin to explore all possible means of creating better income security and well-being for those who have worked hard all their lives.

Recognizing some of the problems faced by seniors in B.C. and their inability to advocate on their own behalf, 15 seniors' organizations formed the Seniors' Advocacy Steering Committee in British Columbia. Echoing the seniors charter, they passed a motion asking for the establishment of a seniors' advocacy group. We ask the Conservative government to support the motion and to begin by creating a seniors advocate, as already approved by Parliament. This simply complies with the will of Parliament.

There is a demonstrated need for public education and awareness initiatives on the rights of seniors, as we have already pointed out. There is a need for an ombudsman for seniors with respect to all government services and programs.

We know, for example, that there is a need to better coordinate provincial and federal programs. I would like to give a specific example from Victoria. Some of my constituents report that they are regularly advised by the provincial government to apply for federal CPP disability instead of the provincial disability program. However, people on CPP disability have been refused access to at least two programs that are available to those on provincial disability, for example, the homeowner grant that helps to pay a portion of property taxes and the monthly bus program.

This illustrates that an ombudsman or a seniors advocate could help to bridge those gaps. Seniors should not be denied these services just because they are on federal or provincial disability. It is cases like these, as I have said, that demonstrate the need for a seniors advocate.

We must put words to action. We recognize older Canadians as creative, active and valued members of society. We know what contributions they make in each of our communities to social cohesion, family support, mentorship and community volunteering. We have enshrined the right to income security for every senior living in Canada. I believe that it is time to pass to action through amendments at the committee level. I hope the committee will review some of the problems that have been raised, take them seriously and review, for example, the existing process for receipt of income support.

It is also time to act on a national home care program. I know from speaking to some seniors in my community that they want to live as independently as possible for as long as possible. The absence or the cost of home care, which is prohibitive for many people, force them into higher cost facilities or into hospital.

It is time for the government not just to pass simple administrative housekeeping bills, but to really give follow-up with serious action and to redress and correct the reality that many seniors in Canada are living in poverty and isolation. That should not happen. Their contribution calls for more fairness for all.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, before the House adjourned yesterday I said that New Democrats would support Bill C-36 going to committee but that we strongly felt that a number of issues in the bill needed to be addressed.

Many seniors in my riding are facing dire circumstances and, in terms of livability and affordability, this would have been an opportunity to look at some other measures within the bill. It was a chance to actually fix some of the problems that are occurring with CPP and OAS.

I also want to talk about housing. I have heard some heartbreaking stories from seniors in Lake Cowichan in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan who have told me that when it comes time for a couple to go into assisted living or long term care the couple is often separated. One member of the couple needs to move to Duncan where the person can get the care that he or she needs. We now have a senior travelling from Lake Cowichan to Duncan on a daily basis to look after his or her loved one. That is just one of the many issues facing our seniors and we need to look at where we are investing our energy.

A group of women in British Columbia called Women Elders in Action, WE*ACT, has put together a very good document about pensions in Canada, “Policy Reform Because Women Matter”. One of the things it talks about is that a quarter of a million seniors are living under the low income cut-off. Many may ask what low income cut-off means.

The low income cut-off is the most consistently used measure of poverty in Canada. Several years ago Statistics Canada found that average Canadian families were spending about 50% of their total income on food, shelter and clothing. It arbitrarily estimated that families spending 70% or more of their income, 20 percentage points more than the average on the basic necessities, would be in dire circumstances.

Let us think about the fact that 70% of our income would go to what most of us would consider the basic necessities. We have a significant number of women in Canada who are living under the low income cut-off. In Canada I would suggest that it is probably something that most of us would find unacceptable.

Canadian men and women work hard all their lives and when they reach the age of 60 or 65 they fully expect to retire with some dignity and to have access to a pension that ensures their quality of life, which means that they do not have to struggle to have their basic needs met, like food, security and shelter.

According to WE*ACT, from 1990 to 2000 about 65% of people receiving old age security and guaranteed income supplement were women compared to 35% of men who tend to rely more heavily on occupational pension plans and RRSPs for income.

I need to re-emphasize that figure of 65%. We have a significant number of women in this country who, once they reach the age of 65, are living in desperate poverty. Many of these women have spent much of their working life in low wage jobs or in non-standard employment which is a lovely word to describe the fact that women are often in part time, seasonal or contract employment. This means that they have never had the opportunity to contribute to a private pension plan and therefore are totally reliant on Canada pension, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement. As well, many of these women have had employment gaps and do not have the full years of entitlement.

Some drop-out provisions have been made but many of these women have also been looking after aging parents or have had the primary responsibility for child-rearing. The fact that they have been in non-standard employment, low wage employment or part time employment significantly affects the quality of their retirement years. In addition, women traditionally outlive their spouses so they often end up single and relying again on substantially reduced pension plans.

Why would this matter? I acknowledge the fact that many men who retire are also poor but a substantial amount of research talks about where women go so does the rest of the community. In the WE*ACT report, according to Esping-Andersen there is a strong case for a woman-friendly social contract because improving the welfare of women means improving the collective welfare of our society.

With this opportunity to look at CPP and OAS, it would seem critical that we actually look at the people who are living in these dire circumstances in our society.

This report from 2004 made about 23 recommendations and a number of these recommendations were never acted upon. The report included a recommendation for reforming the public pension system to ensure people had adequate living conditions. Some of the recommendations talked about private occupational pensions, some taxation considerations and the need for indexing, and then some overall recommendations around policy changes to support these other changes.

A number of things are really important, and I will not read the full details, but they talk about providing education on all aspects of pensions that is accessible and understandable to women of all ages. They talk about providing problem solving counsellors for people who have questions or concerns and a 1-800 number that is easily accessible and, I might add, staffed because we know Canadians are struggling to access the 1-800 numbers provided by the government services. People often have lengthy delays in accessing information. They also talk about providing seniors with a list of government programs for which they might qualify upon making application to receive the pension and ensuring they are informed of all future changes to pension policy in Canada, including analysis of the differential impact on men and women.

We also need to look at affordable child care, adequately paid maternity leave, parental leave and so on, but we also need to look at pay equity so that by the time women reach the age of receiving CPP and old age security they have been in jobs that recognize the value of women's work. It would be timely to revisit the important pay equity report that came out a couple of years ago but which has never been implemented.

Although New Democrats will be supporting this going to committee, we see that there needs to be some substantial changes to this legislation to ensure that fairness and affordability are there for all Canadians when they retire.

The House resumed from January 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-36, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Pension PlanGovernment Orders

January 29th, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Victoria.

Before I get into some specifics around Bill C-36, much has been talked about in terms of the Canada pension plan and how its investment in the stock market has been such a good thing. Yet when members raise issues around health care, how do they address the fact that the Canada pension plan has money invested in tobacco companies? We know there are links between various kinds of cancers and the impact they have on our health care system. On one hand, we are putting money into CPP. On the other hand, we are paying it in health care costs. One would wonder about the wisdom of that kind of situation.

With regard to Bill C-36, the New Democratic Party will support having this bill go to second reading, but we have some concerns about the things that were omitted from the legislation. We hear a lot from seniors in my riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan. My riding happens to be a destination of choice for people to retire. Although rising numbers of seniors are moving to the riding, we also have rising housing costs, reduced access to rental accommodation, increased concerns about health care in terms of access, long wait lists and lack of access to things like resident home support and to long term care beds.

Many issues are facing seniors. We also hear from them about things like transportation, for example, and that is certainly an environmental issue. It is also very much an issue for seniors. They want the ability to maintain their independence, yet in many of our communities there is lack of access to adequate public transportation, which really limits their ability to maintain that independence.

We also have heard from seniors about livability and affordability in their communities, and that leads me directly to income.

I see that my time is up for the day.