Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act

An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

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 Old Age Security Act to preclude incarcerated persons from receiving benefits under this Act while maintaining entitlement to benefits for, and avoiding a reduction in the amounts payable to, their spouse or common-law partner under this 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.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Gérard Asselin Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I gather from my colleague's speech that the bill would apply to all inmates who have been sentenced to two years or more in federal jails.

I also gather that, pending an agreement with the provinces, this would apply to inmates of provincial jails sentenced to 90 days or less. Perhaps he meant 90 days or more.

I would like the member to clarify whether it is 90 days or less or 90 days or more in provincial facilities.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Luc Desnoyers Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague. It is 90 days or more in provincial jails. There would have to be an agreement with the provinces for this to be implemented. This would mean a lot of work. It would affect 600 inmates and the amount involved is nearly $8 million. The committee will conduct a thorough analysis of the impact of the bill on those involved.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:20 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak to Bill C-31. I want to start out with a very brief summary of what is included in the bill. I also want to acknowledge the fact that a number of other speakers have talked about the importance of turning full attention to the bill and studying it so that we are not looking at unintended consequences.

Many members of the House were here a couple of years back when the government of the day passed a bill on voter identification that resulted in thousands and thousands of rural voters being excluded from voting because of a flaw in the bill. It was a bill that was rushed through the House, despite the fact that the New Democrats protested loudly about the problems with the bill. The government subsequently needed to bring forward amendments to its own legislation, because the bill had unintended consequences. I raise that as an issue in the context of this particular bill so that we do not try to rush through a bill that has unintended consequences.

I also want to acknowledge the member for Windsor—Tecumseh who has, as usual, done stellar work on this, and also the member for Vancouver Kingsway and the member for Hamilton Centre. All of these members have contributed to the NDP process in considering this bill.

The bill suspends payments of old age security, OAS, and the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, to all persons 65 years of age and older while they are serving time in a federal correctional facility when they are sentenced to two years or more. It would suspend payment of the spousal and survival allowance to eligible individuals aged 60 to 64 if they were serving time in a federal facility. It would maintain OAS and GIS payments to spouses and partners of those who were incarcerated and would provide that they receive these payments at the higher single rate based on individual, not combined spousal, income. It would maintain spousal allowance benefits to the spouses of incarcerated individuals and allow provinces to opt in by entering into agreements with the federal government to suspend OAS and GIS and spousal allowance benefits on the above terms to all individuals incarcerated for a sentence that exceed 90 days in a provincial facility. Notwithstanding the above, benefit payments would still be paid during the first month of incarceration. Benefit payments would resume the month an individual was released on earned permission, parole, statutory release, or warrant expiry.

There are two aspects of the bill that are troubling. One is that it appears that this could be the wrong method for dealing with this situation. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh has suggested that in looking at this, what we really should do is look at the criminal jurisdiction. He suggested that an order could be put in place at the time of sentencing or thereafter that would deal with these payments. The concern that arises when it is dealt with under income security for seniors is the fact that it could undermine the universality of our old age security and guaranteed income supplement.

I talked about unintended consequences, which are a concern for New Democrats and for seniors across this country if we apply this logic to anybody who is in federal care, anybody who is receiving benefits and housing. Just look at veterans who might be in long-term care hospitals, even though we are closing vets hospitals as we speak. If a veteran were in a long-term care hospital and was being provided for under veterans' allowances, what would happen to universality? Would that also be an argument for the government to claw back OAS and GIS? The questions around universality are really critical.

I want to refer to some issues related to universality. This quote comes from the Historica-Dominion Institute, which did a number of studies on universality. It talks about the impact on our society of the change in universality. This is something the House and the committee, if this bill gets there, need to consider. The section entitled “Social Security in Canada - a Receding Tide” says that “[t]he direction of these cuts and their overall purpose in improving the Canadian economy was laid out by the Conservative government in Ottawa in 1984”.

That was the start of the clawback of universality.

From this perspective, the government moved to eliminate universality in family allowances and old-age security. In 1989 the government introduced a “clawback” to both universal programs that required upper-income families to repay all of their benefits. The same applied to the highest-income seniors.

It goes on to talk about the impact on child tax benefits and whatnot.

Later on in the article, it says:

The Liberals, on their return to power in 1993, completed the sweep against universality by announcing in 1996 that the Old Age Security program would be replaced by an income-tested Seniors Benefit in the year 2001.

There are some different models out there. What we saw is an impact on seniors and families in this country that we are still living with to this day.

In this article, the Historica-Dominion Institute argues that there could be a new direction for social security in Canada:

A contrasting model of social security, one that is more commonly found in western European countries, is an integrative-redistribution model that provides universalist services to broad categories of need. This model has egalitarian goals that aim to lift individuals and families out of poverty and away from social exclusion.

It concludes by saying:

Evidence of social exclusion in Canada abound - the homeless, Canadian children growing up in poverty, the clientele of food banks and the army of unemployed. The one shining example of a Canadian social security program which promotes inclusiveness and a sense of community is Canada's system of public, universal, prepaid health care.

Of course, we know that in recent years that has also been eroded as more people have been forced into a two-tier health care system by long waiting lists, lack of access to drugs, and so on. However, universality is one of the fundamental principles Canadians look to.

A number of people have raised concerns about the approach the government chose to take by having this managed through Human Resources Development Canada under CPP/OAS/GIS instead of through a criminal jurisdiction.

I also want to raise a point. It is interesting that the first bill the Conservative government has brought forward to deal with pensions is this one that would strip federal old age security from federal offenders. It will save approximately $2 million. Those savings could go up if the provinces decide to opt in.

It is a sad comment on the approach to income security for seniors in this country. I would suggest that it probably fits in with the so-called tough on crime agenda the Conservatives are putting forward. The reality is that we have thousands of seniors in this country who are living in poverty. I wonder why the government did not choose to bring forward a pension reform bill that deals with the poverty facing these seniors in this country instead of this bill. I agree that the fact that federal prisoners are receiving old age security certainly warrants some attention, but I would question the current government's priorities.

I want to also mention that there is an alternative way to approach this. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster put forward a motion, Motion No. 507, which was much more narrowly defined, that would deal with clawing back the old age security/guaranteed income supplement from only murderers with life sentences for multiple murders. The Conservatives are actually proposing a fairly broad sweep of prisoners over the age of 65 in this proposed clawback of OAS/GIS.

Going back to seniors, recently we discovered that old age security was increased over the summer by 0.6% for seniors who live outside of prison. It was the first increase in over two years, and it amounted to $1.55 per senior. These are seniors. These are the poorest of the poor. These are the seniors who are worried about whether they can pay their rent, whether they can feed themselves, and whether they can pay their drug costs.

With all the attention we have placed on other matters in this House recently, seniors are simply being left off the agenda. There have been a number of groups and organizations working together that are calling on the current government for serious pension reform.

Certainly New Democrats have been front and centre on this. I also want to acknowledge the member for Sault Ste. Marie, who has been leading the charge to deal with poverty among seniors and other Canadians. Certainly seniors factor largely into a lot of the work the member for Sault. Ste. Marie has been doing.

In June, our leader announced a number of initiatives to deal with some of the income security issues for seniors. One of them, of course, was helping the quarter of a million seniors who are living below the poverty line. We can do it tomorrow by injecting $700 million into the guaranteed income supplement, which is part of old age security. That is one-twentieth of what the Prime Minister's corporate tax cuts will cost us annually by 2012.

Second, let us build on that bulletproof Canada pension plan. Let us phase in a doubling of maximum benefits to $22,000 per year. That means increasing the CPP deductions that appear on one's paycheque, but these deductions are savings, not taxes.

Of course, there are other organizations, such as the Canadian Labour Congress, that have also been calling for reforms to our income security system for seniors. Their first calls in asking the federal and provincial governments to work together, are one, to phase in a doubling of payouts from the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan, and two, to immediately increase old age security and the guaranteed income supplement for all retirees.

They also go on to talk about the fact that what we really need to do is have a very broad strategy for dealing with all aspects of pensions in this country, whether it is for workers who have private sector pension plans that are under threat because their companies are going bankrupt, whether it is for workers who simply do not have another pension plan and are relying on the Canada pension plan, old age security, and the guaranteed income supplement to pay their bills, or whether it is to regulate some of the financial products and some of the risks for those people who actually have enough money left over to invest in RRSPs.

It is interesting that the very first approach to income security for seniors deals with federal prisoners. It does not look at those broad needs for our seniors.

There was an article in a paper called the Edmonton Senior in June, after this bill was announced, that said that ending prisoner pensions is not so simple. There were a number of interesting points, including some concerns about universality. The article in this seniors' magazine, which addresses issues that seniors are concerned about, also pointed out the fact that once again we are lacking an overall, comprehensive plan to prevent people from going to prison in the first place. Others, such as rabble.ca, have also raised the issue. For instance, there is the four-pillar approach to crime prevention that looks at all the things that can be done to keep people out of prison in the first place, whether that is a poverty reduction strategy, adequate alcohol and drug counselling, educational strategies, or adequate housing.

We acknowledge that people who commit crimes and are found guilty through our justice system need to have appropriate consequences.

I am the aboriginal affairs critic for the NDP. We know that aboriginal peoples are hugely overrepresented in federal and provincial prisons. Once they are in prison, they need appropriate programs for rehabilitation.

The article from Edmonton Seniors says:

The concern is not around whether or not senior prisoners should receive pension money, but what the correctional system is doing to prepare offenders for their release.

It goes on to quote Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator of Canada, who says:

We know that homelessness, we know that poverty, and we know that lack of resources in a number of areas are contributors to coming into conflict with the law. When an offender is released, whether they are 25 or 65, they face the same barriers that non-offenders would face if they don't have resources. And of course you want to encourage these folks to live peacefully and lawfully in the community. Simply put, there is some requirement to provide them with legitimate access to some financial means. That's the basis of income security programs in Canada to begin with.

He goes on to do an analysis of what prisoners have to pay for when they are in the federal system and so on.

This piecemeal approach to the criminal justice system again is quite troubling. To reiterate, we need prevention, we need a criminal justice system, we need police resources and so on that can actually deal with offenders and incarcerate them where appropriate, make sure that when they are inside that what we are doing is looking at rehabilitation and the tools and resources, so that when they come out of the system they can be reintegrated into communities in a peaceful and law-abiding way.

The piecemeal approach that we have seen from the Conservative government simply is not addressing all of those issues. I turn to Insite, the safe drug injection site in Vancouver, which we know is helping to keep people safe and alive, and hopefully out of the prison system by providing with supports at the safe injection site. Yet, we see the Conservative government constantly trying to find ways to close it down.

Instead of taking a look at the issues around drug and alcohol addiction in a more holistic kind of way, it is--

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jason Kenney Conservative Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have been listening with great attention to the member's speech. I have heard her speak about virtually every subject except the actual content of the bill that is before the House.

The Standing Orders require that speeches be relevant to the matter before the House. I would ask the member to respect that convention.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

If the member was listening I started my speech with clearly outlining the elements of the bill, raising some concerns around the issue of universality, putting into the context the overall approach that the Conservative government is taking to crime and punishment in this country.

It is an interesting comment from the minister that he cannot acknowledge the relevance of the aspects that put people into prison to begin with, that deal with rehabilitation issues, including access to funds while they are in prison and access to funds once they come out of prison,

This is all part and parcel of this piece of legislation. It is unfortunate that the Conservative minister simply does not see that the piecemeal approach that the government is taking to crime and punishment in this country is causing significant problems for aboriginal Canadians and for many other Canadians.

I would argue that what I have been saying is absolutely relevant to Bill C-31.

I will conclude by indicating, as other members of the House have indicated, that we feel the bill requires further study, that some of the unintended consequences around the potential impact on universality of old age security and guaranteed income supplement must be considered, that there needs to be a thorough review about whether there is any possibility that this legislation is unconstitutional and could violate the universality of our old age security system.

We also encourage the government, in any study, to take a much broader approach both to the criminal justice system and to looking at income security for seniors in this country.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I pointed out Motion No. 507 that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has put forward already calling for the clawback of old age security-GIS for multiple murderers.

We were out there with that motion in the early days once this whole situation developed with the serial killer in British Columbia. New Democrats are supporting getting the bill to committee at second reading, so that we can deal with some of the potential unintended consequences which I outlined in my speech.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for her presentation on Bill C-31. I certainly found her remarks to be very relevant to the provisions in the bill. She outlined them very well.

Certainly, in regard to this government's approach to just crime in general, we have seen it for the last five years now looking at changes to the Criminal Code in a very piecemeal fashion based on whatever is happening in the news media at any particular time. In fact, the government should be doing a total revision and revamping of the Criminal Code of Canada which has not really been dealt with in a major way for 100 years. That is what the government should be doing in cooperation with the opposition.

With regard to the pension system, the member clearly pointed out that, once again, the government should be looking at a comprehensive approach to the pension system. It should be looking at doubling the CPP system. If we were to put $700 million toward the GIS for I believe one-quarter million seniors, mainly women, we would be bringing them out of poverty in this country.

That is the approach the government should be taking and that is what the member is pointing out. The government should be looking at a universal approach here dealing with the problem in the country rather than simply jumping from issues that happen to be popular at a certain time that it thinks helps its poll numbers.

I have news for the Conservatives. They have been doing this for five years and it has not helped their poll numbers at all. I suggest they pull back and come up with a comprehensive strategy in both the pension area and in the crime area.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right, we have seen that piecemeal approach. We have talked in this House before about wedge politics, and using rhetoric and simplistic kinds of approaches. It is not the way to build a comprehensive strategic plan both to deal with pensions or to deal with the criminal justice system.

At the outset of my remarks, I indicated that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh had talked about the fact that this is actually the wrong approach to deal with the clawback of OAS-GIS. What he has proposed, and I am sure there will be further discussions on this, is that this rightfully belongs under the criminal law jurisdiction where the courts could order at the time of sentencing a clawback of these benefits. That proposal would not have the danger of undermining the universality of OAS-GIS.

I am optimistic that when the member for Windsor—Tecumseh gets an opportunity to suggest some of these other approaches to dealing with this problem, that the government will be receptive.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:40 p.m.
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NDP

Tony Martin NDP Sault Ste. Marie, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an important piece of public policy that we are dealing with here today. It will have some serious impacts, some of which I do not think anybody would disagree with, for example, the removal of any further benefit to serial murderers who are serving life sentences.

I guess the fear that many of us have in this is that when one throws a net out such as this, one catches people who should not be caught, or who will be impacted in a very serious way in terms of their ability to be rehabilitated, to get their lives back on track, get into the world at some point, and to look after themselves not to mention their families.

I ask the member in looking at this bill, is this OAS-GIS as opposed to Canada pension? OAS-GIS, in my understanding of it in the work that I have done out of my office, typically goes to seniors who do not have much income and need a top up usually to get them through the poverty line, so that they can live a life with some dignity and quality attached to it.

This will impact some people who, as has been said, end up in the prison system to begin with because they live in poverty, oftentimes the outcome of that, and the fact that many poor people end up in jail because they cannot afford a good lawyer in the system that we have.

I would ask the member to delineate for me if this is OAS-GIS versus CPP? Also, to expand a bit more on what she considers to be the problem with universality and whether she thinks this might end up at the Supreme Court and being challenged as unconstitutional.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, this bill deals with OAS-GIS and not CPP.

When the minister rose, he asked whether we in the NDP were in favour of taking money back from serial killers. Of course, we support that aspect of the bill. What he did not say was that this actually suspends payments to all persons aged 65 years and older, not just serial killers.

We need to take a look at some of those broader impacts on people who are over age 65 and also the universality aspect of it. The question that has to be considered is: by undermining the universality of old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, are other people, who may also be federally supported, in danger of having their OAS-GIS clawed back? I talked about veterans in vet hospitals.

It is our responsibility and due diligence to ensure that when we have a piece of legislation before us we look at the consequences of that legislation. At the outset of my speech I talked about the voter ID bill that was before the House and disenfranchised thousands of voters. That was an unintended consequence and we want to make sure that other people in a federally-supported system are not caught up in a widely cast net.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her remarks and for drawing the House's attention to these unintended consequences. There are two that I hope she has time to comment upon.

First, a number of inmates will be caught up in this far more than just the Clifford Olsons of the world. As a result, for their families and spouses, who may be under 60, there will be no OAS and GIS. The results in terms of their poverty and innocence with regard to all of this is of concern.

Second, restitution payments to victims of crimes may not be possible—

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on restitution for victims of crime. I had a meeting this morning with somebody who had been in touch with one of the families of the murdered and missing women and the rigmarole that this family had to go through in order to get access to money for victims of crime was unbelievable.

One of the things we could also consider is ensuring that victims of crime are adequately supported in dealing with some of the terrible tragedies as a result of these violent crimes. That is certainly missing. I know provincial governments have some responsibility, but the federal government does as well.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a delight for me to add my comments at second reading to Bill C-31, eliminating entitlements for prisoners. I will confine my remarks to the things that are actually in the bill, not the wild speculation of the previous speaker.

I commend the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development for sponsoring this important legislation and also for her excellent speech just over one hour ago.

The eliminating entitlements for prisoners act, Bill C-31, is a very important bill. It is important for taxpayers and for victims of crime and it is important for the principles of fairness.

As the minister has noted, our Conservative government is strongly committed to ensuring fairness for hard-working taxpayers. Ordinary, every day tax paying Canadians deserve fairness from their government, and this government intends to deliver fairness to those taxpayers.

The government provides many services and it also provides help, but that help comes from the tax dollars that the government collects. It comes out of the pockets of every hard-working tax paying Canadian, the Tim Hortons crowd if I may.

Income security is one of those things the government provides and it is important. It is important the government provide that help fairly to Canadians since, as I have said, that money belongs to Canadians. It does not belong to the government. It is taxpayer money.

When we are talking about fairness, and in this case we are talking about treating hard-working and law-abiding Canadians and their tax dollars fairly. We are also talking about doing what we can to ensure that victims of crime and their families are not faced with more pain. These victims should not have to watch the painful sight of their money and their community's money going into the pockets of the very criminals who hurt them and their families.

The Prime Minister has said it, the minister has said it and many of my colleagues, including me have said it. We will continue to put victims and taxpayers first, ahead of criminals.

Our government believes that Canadians who work hard, contribute to the system and play by the rules deserve government benefits such as old age security. This is what our government believes and I think it is what Canadians expect. I certainly know from hearing from many of my constituents by letter, by email, by phone call, that this is what my they expect.

It is obviously wrong and obviously unfair that prisoners who have broken our laws, who have broken our society's trust receive the same taxpayer-funded benefits as law-abiding Canadians. I am perplexed as to how it could be otherwise. I believe this, the government believes it and my constituents believe it. I am happy to say that the Prime Minister believes this, as do all Canadians.

Bill C-31, which I welcome, would ensure that criminals, those who have broken trust and broken our laws and made victims of their fellow Canadians, would no longer receive taxpayer-funded benefits while serving time in jail.

Right now, without this change to our laws, child murderers such as Clifford Olson are receiving these government benefits, notwithstanding that he brutally murdered 11 children.

As the minister told the House, in a few short years Paul Bernardo similarly will be entitled to these benefits. Some day in the not too distant future so will Mr. Robert Pickton. This cannot happen and that is why it is incumbent upon the House to act expeditiously.

These criminals, these murderers, to take just a small example, brutally and heartlessly took the lives of people living in their communities. Many of those lives were young, and they shattered and forever diminished the lives of those families who had members torn from them.

For criminals such as these to easily, blithely receive the same “assistance” from our government is simply wrong.

The assistance that the government provides is intended to help older Canadians with their costs of living after many decades of work and much contribution to their families, their communities and their country.

Prisoners on the other hand, criminals who have broken our laws so seriously that they are incarcerated in federal institutions and provincial prisons for long periods of time, do not need extra cost of living assistance. Why? Because they already have their costs of living paid for by the taxpayers of our country, the same taxpayers from whom these criminals have taken so much.

This is offensive and outrageous to our government, to our Prime Minister and to our Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. This is also offensive to Canadians all across the country, and that is why I believe there is wide support for the bill, at least at second reading. We have heard from members on both sides of the House and it appears the bill will be near unanimously favoured when it comes to a vote. It is offensive to all Canadians.

As soon as this shockingly unfair and unjust situation was discovered, the Prime Minister asked the minister to take action as quickly as possible to put a stop to incarcerated criminals receiving old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits. The abbreviations they are more commonly known by are OAS and GIS.

It is our government's intention, our commitment and our goal to fix this. Our government has shown that when we make a promise to Canadians, we take action. We follow through on our commitments to Canadians. That is why the minister acted with the haste that she did.

We are going to remedy this inequity and we are moving quickly to do so. Why? Because that is what Canadians want and that is what they demand. That is exactly what my constituents want, and it is happening here today. Today is part of that process, a process that I hope will continue to move swiftly.

I am going to touch on the main details of the bill. I think the attention is good and the details are relatively straightforward.

A prisoner's needs, such as food and shelter and their standard of living, such as it is, are already met and paid for by public funds, and that is by the hard-working Canadian taxpayers. That has a cost and we pay it. We pay it voluntarily and we pay it gladly.

What I and my constituents are not okay with is the provision of benefits that are meant for law-abiding hard-working seniors to instead go to prisoners. Canadian taxpayers should not be paying for double for income support through OAS and GIS benefits to these same prisoners. It is grossly unfair to force law-abiding Canadian taxpayers to pay for the criminals twice, first, by paying for the room and board and second, by paying for the supplemental benefits, the OAS and the GIS.

Once passed, the bill will terminate OAS and GIS benefits for federal prisoners. The federal government will then work with the provinces and the territories to stop these benefits for prisoners who are serving 90 days or more in a provincial or territorial institution.

I hope all provinces and territories respond as favourably to the minister and to this legislation as the British Columbia government has. I understand British Columbia is already on board and once this legislation is passed, it will similarly apply to provincial prisoners in the B.C. detention system.

I also hope all my colleagues in the House will respond positively and quickly. Our constituents, who are our bosses, our fellow taxpaying Canadians, expect us to use their hard-earned tax dollars fairly, responsibly and prudently. They have told us that, loudly and clearly.

I am sure all members of the House have received feedback with respect to the bill after it was announced last spring. Speaking on behalf of the considerable correspondence that I received, it was universally positive.

In fact, what encourages me most is the overwhelming response from Canadians. They have truly told us, loudly and clearly, what they believe is right and fair. We have heard publicly from the families of the victims of Clifford Olson. We have heard from the national victims support groups. Those people whose lives have been so damaged by the actions of these criminals are pleased and supportive of our government's action. They support the bill.

We have also heard from rank and file police officers from across the country, people who often see the damage first-hand that is brought on by these criminals.

We have heard from regular, everyday taxpayers across our country, as I referred to earlier the Tim Hortons crowd.

The minister received a petition in support of the bill. It was signed by nearly 50,000 Canadians. That is just the tip of the iceberg. Many more thousands of people have told us, have told the minister and our colleagues that the bill is necessary. The response that we have seen and heard has truly been remarkable.

When circumstances like this unjust entitlement are discovered and when Canadians speak out so clearly and so loudly, we must listen to them and heed to their calls, advice and demands.

It is not a credit to us that this unfair and wrong practice came into being and continued, with little if any notice. It is not a credit to any of us that those who did not know it, did little, if anything, to change it.

We cannot change the past, but we can certainly fix the present and improve things for the future. That is what we are doing today with the continued second reading of Bill C-31.

The bill is also in line with many of our Conservative government's other related actions with respect to the victims of crime and their families. We have a strong record of action and this legislation only builds upon that record.

The bill is in keeping with our Conservative government's commitment to put victims and law-abiding Canadians first, and certainly to put them ahead of criminals. It puts an end to the hard-working taxpayers paying twice for prisoners and to having victims of crime see their victimizers receive unjust public help.

Finally, the bill is about the responsible use of taxpaying public funds and the fair treatment to all Canadian taxpayers. It is the fair and right things to do and it is what Canadians want us to do. We need to listen to Canadians. We need to pass the bill.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's speech has been very helpful. I have not had an opportunity to read the bill, but I did listen to the prior speech and I heard most of the minister's speech.

There is one question of which the member, who is a lawyer by profession, may be aware. If we have a circumstance where we have two identical persons, one of who, for lack of years of residency, does not qualify, for instance, for old age security and the other one does, and they both commit the same crime and are both sentenced to the same term in prison of something over two years, one would get the additional penalty of not getting the old age security. I am putting it into the context of this and I am asking it for information purposes. Is this not a situation where the penalties prescribed under the law would be different for two persons who committed exactly the same crime and all the same details? I ask this for information purposes.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners ActGovernment Orders

September 23rd, 2010 / 5 p.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

It is a good question, Mr. Speaker, and I am not sure that I do. If two individuals commit the same crime but one would otherwise be entitled to OAS and the other one would not, does that create a differential in penalties if the bill is passed? The result would be the same. The one individual who was otherwise entitled to OAS and became a federal prisoner would thus be disentitled. Under that circumstance, neither would get it so they would be treated fairly and equally.

However, that really misses the point of the legislation. The legislation is to disentitle serious criminals, those who are incarcerated for more than two years in a federal institution or more than 90 days in a provincial institution from being paid twice, being paid once by having their room and board paid for by the taxpayers of Canada as they are sentenced to spend time in an institution and then to subsequently receive OAS and GIS on their 65th birthday.