An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments)

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

Sponsor

Carole Freeman  Bloc

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Introduced, as of April 22, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

This enactment provides for an increase in the amount of supplement to be paid monthly to a pensioner and for the payment of a pension and supplement to a person who ceases to have a spouse or common-law partner by reason of the spouse’s or common-law partner’s death. It removes the requirement to make an application for a supplement and allows the retroactive payment of supplements.

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

November 16th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate it if you would delay the time for questions so that I can finish my speech. My colleague from Hochelaga agrees with me.

I am pleased to speak to this important bill. It is important because it shows the true face of this government and it lets us see the government for what it is.

This bill, which was introduced on June 1, 2010, would eliminate old age security benefits for prisoners. From the outset, the Bloc was clear that it would support this new measure in principle, contrary to what our Conservative colleagues are trying to insinuate. We support this bill in principle.

We also said from the outset that we wanted the bill to go to committee, and it was studied by the committee I have the honour to sit on, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. We made a unanimous recommendation in this House that would correct this flaw that allows prisoners, who are fed and housed at public expense, to receive old age security benefits, which are not earned through employment or otherwise.

The government made this an urgent issue, even though we did not see it as urgent. We saw the need but not the urgency, because no one was threatened or hurt by this situation. It was a matter of recovering the money these people had received unfairly. We discovered along the way that the Conservatives were just paying lip service to the idea of urgency, because they tried and are still trying to drag out the debate so that they can make purely demagogic arguments implying that the opposition parties disagree with the principle of this bill. Clearly, we are talking about something that went unnoticed for years and only came to light because of Mr. Wilson's situation.

A more urgent issue would be the situation of seniors who are not incarcerated, but who live in the community and have to make do with an income that is not enough to let them live in dignity.

I will talk about two specific measures. The first is the guaranteed income supplement, including income security. One seniors advocacy group, FADOQ, has brought this issue forward on a number of occasions, and started a petition that I tabled in this House a week or two ago. My Bloc Québécois colleagues have also filed petitions from each of their ridings.

We find ourselves in this House with petitions presented by Bloc colleagues. These petitions, started and sponsored by seniors groups, are calling urgently for an increase in seniors' income, which consists of basic income security, known as the old age pension, and the guaranteed income supplement for those who receive old age security but still do not have enough income to pay for housing, food, clothing and medication.

In Quebec alone, 78,000 seniors find themselves in this situation; in Canada, the number is threefold.

Therefore, this is of concern to us. A well-known Quebecker said that a society is judged on how it treats its children and its seniors. Given that we can identify 78,000 Quebeckers and more than 200,000 Canadians living not just below the poverty line, but below the level of income considered necessary to live with dignity, something is not working properly in our society.

This is an indication that the laws are poorly designed or not being enforced.

In the case of the guaranteed income supplement, the legislation is being misapplied, perhaps even deliberately misapplied. Eight years ago in 2002, it was discovered that 83,000 eligible people in Quebec alone were not receiving the guaranteed income supplement. And yet, they were entitled to it.

Year after year, we have asked the government why these people are not receiving the guaranteed income supplement even though the government receives their income tax returns and has knowledge of their income. Almost none of these people are aware of their entitlement. They are isolated in the community and lack the necessary knowledge and education. And yet, the government knows who these people are.

Bloc Québécois members including Marcel Gagnon, the former member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain, campaigned to make people aware of their GIS eligibility. Tens of thousands of people discovered that they were entitled to the GIS as a result of this campaign. And yet, these people were living in poverty—which I will not describe as abject, because they are proud people—but in poverty that was barely tolerable. The upshot was that over 40,000 people found out about their entitlement and filed applications.

At this very moment, there are still 42,000 people in Quebec and three times that many in the rest of Canada who have fallen through the cracks. There is the very familiar case of the woman from Toronto who had been living in absolute poverty and found out only two years ago that she had qualified for the guaranteed income supplement for the past 10 years or more. News of our campaign spread to Toronto, where she found out about her entitlement and was also discovered. Her story made headlines. That is just one case. There have been tens of thousands of similar cases.

There is a lot of urgency around this first measure. Not only does this situation require urgent attention so that these people get the guaranteed income supplement, but also, benefits must immediately be paid retroactively since over $3 billion has been misappropriated. That money belongs to seniors. This wrong must be righted immediately.

To correct this injustice, in April, my colleague, the member for Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, introduced Bill C-516, which includes the following measures. We in the Bloc Québécois truly hope that all members of the House will support this bill and, when the time comes, vote for it. The bill would increase the guaranteed income supplement by $110 per month. It proposes a six-month extension to the pension and surviving spouse or common-law partner benefit. This six-month extension would ensure that a survivor is able to bridge the gap after the death of his or her spouse. Also included is automatic enrolment for those over the age of 65 who are eligible for the GIS—which I mentioned earlier, and it is ridiculous that this has not yet been done—retroactive guaranteed income supplement payments to seniors, and a surviving spouse benefit increase to match GIS levels.

These are the measures that must be taken immediately with respect to my first example.

My second example has to do with the people who have not reached the age of eligibility for the income security pension, that is, the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement, and who lose their jobs while still under the age of 65. Beginning in 1989, we had a program for older worker adjustment, the POWA, for workers aged 55 and up who lost their jobs and were not able to find new employment, particularly in one-industry regions. These people were left with nothing once their employment insurance benefits and benefit period ran out, and they ended up on welfare.

From 1989 to 1997, we had a program called POWA, the program for older worker adjustment, which enabled these people, for whom there were no jobs available, to receive income from employment insurance to allow them to live decently.

In 1997, the Liberal government cut that program completely, and it has not existed since then, which means that factories have been shut down in many regions in Quebec and elsewhere. Other members can speak for what has gone on in other provinces.

There is Whirlpool, for example, which shut down in Montmagny in 2004. Nearly 30% of the 245 employees were over 55. The primary employer in the region closed its doors and there were no jobs for the employees who were over 55. The younger ones could always find work elsewhere, but it was a difficult time. What happened to these people? They ended up on welfare. These people had worked and paid into employment insurance their entire lives, and the government did not even support them with a measure that was paid for out of their own pockets.

What happened during that time? The employment insurance fund was generating surpluses every year. In 1997, the same year the government cut the POWA, a surplus of over $7 billion had accumulated in that fund. Yet over 50% of the employees who had paid into the EI fund were not eligible to receive EI benefits. As a matter of fact, surpluses accumulated year after year, thereby allowing both parties that formed successive governments to misappropriate over $57 billion from the EI fund over a period of 13 or 14 years. During that time, older workers were losing their jobs and not receiving any benefits, even though they had paid into the EI fund their entire lives.

As we know, some measures were taken during what has been called the economic crisis. These include the stimulus plans for municipal infrastructure, special measures for the automotive industry, and so on. Then again, even if there is no national economic crisis, people who lose their jobs go through their own economic crisis and so do their families.

On behalf of my party, I introduced Bill C-308 to correct the situation, but the Liberals sided with the Conservatives to defeat that bill.

To be fair, some Liberal members voted in favour of the bill, but they arranged, as they so often do, to have enough members absent—including the Liberal Party leader, first and foremost—to ensure it did not pass. We had just won an opposition vote on a Liberal motion, and the Liberal Party leader practically ran down the aisle to leave so he would not have to vote. It was a little pathetic.

So, yes, there are victims who need to be taken care of, victims of crime, of course, and victims of the economic situation. I illustrated this with two very specific cases.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to know when I will be able to finish my speech.

Older WorkersPrivate Members' Business

October 4th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Mr. Speaker, the motion that my colleague from Edmonton East has proposed targets workers over the age of 55 and aims to ensure that government policies and programs encourage older workers to remain in the workforce.

This motion is very interesting. It is primarily focused on the targeted initiative for older workers, a program that my Conservative colleagues find attractive because it trains older workers who have lost their jobs and returns them to the workforce as quickly as possible.

Of course, this initiative is useful, but the government is forgetting that age is exactly what makes it difficult for older workers to find a job, especially because they often have less education or simply because there are not many jobs available in their region.

Once again, the Conservatives' lack of compassion is obvious; they are ignoring the socio-economic challenges facing older workers, especially following the 2008 economic crisis and specifically in regions hit by factory closures or closures stemming from the forestry industry crisis.

As the Bloc Québécois critic for seniors' issues, I would like to remind the members that seniors were one of the main interest groups left out of the last Conservative budget. In fact, they were ignored on two fronts.

First, there was nothing in that budget to improve the guaranteed income supplement, which provides assistance for our poorest seniors. In fact, on April 22, I was forced to introduce a new bill, Bill C-516, which we will hopefully be debating very soon in the House.

Second, what does the budget the Conservatives brought down on March 4, 2010, have for older workers? Nothing. Yet for years the Bloc Québécois has been calling on the federal government to bring in a new income support program for workers 55 and over who cannot be retrained and who are victims of massive layoffs.

This program was well known as POWA until 1997, but it was abolished by our Liberal friends, which was not a great idea, I must say. Why do we want a POWA? Because there will always be older workers who cannot retrain, and an income support program is essential for these workers. It is a matter of social justice.

During its 2006 throne speech, this same government committed to creating such a program by adopting a Bloc amendment proposing an income support program for older workers. Since then, it has not taken any concrete action. Nothing has happened.

In October 2006, the Minister of Human Resources announced that the government would pursue the targeted initiative for older workers, known as TIOW, which does not provide for any funds for an income support program for older workers. TIOW projects are designed to improve the employability of participants from 55 to 64 years of age, and may assist them through activities such as prior learning assessment, skills upgrading, and experience in new fields of work.

In the 2007 budget, the Conservative government did not provide any money for the income support program for older workers.

The same goes for the 2008 budget. In that budget, the Conservative government announced that the TIOW would carry through until 2012, and that it would invest $90 million in the project.

The annual budget of the TIOW is now $50 million a year until 2012, with additional funding of $60 million for the 2009 budget.

Once again, this still does not help our older workers who cannot be retrained. To substantiate my comments, I will add that in 2005, the Employment Insurance Commission acknowledged that all training programs for people aged 55 to 65 were inadequate. Yet the Conservative party has done absolutely nothing in that area. It proposed retraining those workers, even though we all know that what is most important to those people who have lost their jobs is to provide them with the income they need to bridge the gap between the end of their employment and the beginning of their old age pension.

Furthermore, an expert panel was established in 2007 to examine this whole issue. The panel completed its report in 2008. It proposed a few interesting solutions, which the government chose not to implement.

For instance, it recommended that severance pay not be regarded as earnings for EI purposes. The Bloc considers this recommendation important and believes that this measure should be available to all workers, not just older workers.

The experts also recommended a complete overhaul of the EI system. Do I need to remind the House that the Bloc has been calling for such reforms for years? In fact, there was a vote in the House on October 28, 2009, on motion M-285 moved by my colleague, the hon. member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour. The motion proposed the following:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should as quickly as possible implement a genuine income support program for older workers who lost their job in order to ease their transition from active employment to pension benefits.

The result of the vote: 143 in favour and 137 against. Only the Conservatives voted against this motion. I have given up trying to figure out their reasoning.

Every Conservative party response is based on the same overly simplistic logic: training people and putting them back in the job market will help get the Canadian economy back on track.

What happens if the training provided by a targeted initiative for older workers, or TIOW, project does not lead to a job? Then many older workers will have to go back to square one and divest themselves of their assets and investments in order to survive. Without an income, some will even have to sell their homes in order to access social assistance.

Is that what we want to happen to those who worked for many years to build our society? Certainly not. If they are unable to find another job at the end of their benefit period, older workers will be forced to apply for social assistance, or what is now known as employment assistance. To qualify for employment assistance and receive help, they must first deplete all their assets. This means that if they have more than the equivalent of one month's benefits in their bank account, they will have to wait until they have used up all their savings before receiving assistance.

For example, if someone owns an $80,000 home or a $5,000 car, the government will not help them until it has deducted $20 of monthly benefits for every $1,000 in assets exceeding the allowable amount. Not only will older workers have to deplete their assets, but they will have to do so at a loss. Being a homeowner will seem like a bad thing.

Nevertheless, we will be supporting this bill. The TIOW can be beneficial but it must be supplemented by other income support measures for those who cannot benefit from it and who are not able to find a job after this training. The motion presented today may be excellent, but it is incomplete. It must be combined with an income support program for older workers who have lost their jobs.

Guaranteed Income SupplementPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

June 4th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, today I am pleased to present a petition signed by people in Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie who feel that Bill C-516, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments), which was introduced in the House of Commons on April 22, 2010, would correct the many problems associated with the guaranteed income supplement by increasing the amount of the supplement by $110 a month.

This is an important issue for seniors in my riding, and I am happy to present this petition.

Old Age Security ActRoutine Proceedings

April 22nd, 2010 / 10 a.m.
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Bloc

Carole Freeman Bloc Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-516, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (application for supplement, retroactive payments and other amendments).

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to introduce this bill, which would increase the guaranteed income supplement paid to our poorest seniors and ensure that pension benefits are paid to individuals whose spouse or common-law partner has died.

The Bloc Québécois believes that the living conditions and dignity of seniors are not only major issues for society but are also matters of social justice.

Since income is the most important determining factor in a senior's well-being, we, as a society, must ensure that our seniors have a decent income that enables them to participate fully as citizens.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)