Mr. Speaker, in preparation for today's debate, I went through some material that came across my desk and I ran across a newsletter called Seniors’ Voice, which is published by Senior Power of Regina Inc.
I am trying to link why we are seeing increased poverty among seniors and among others. I am trying to link this up with the film I saw recently about poverty in general called Poor No More.
I will quote from Seniors' Voice to help us understand what is happening and how we can address priorities, in part, through the bill. This document talks about the power of corporations in our society today. It states:
Corporations have become so powerful that they now control the dominant global economic system as well as the governments of most countries. They own the mass media outlets. The would-be prominent champions of social and economic justice have been marginalized and ridiculed. Even the academics who dare to sound the alarm about global warming or the unfair distribution of wealth risk being discredited by the PR lacks of the corporations that benefit from pollution and poverty.
This overpowering influence of multinational corporations has stifled dissent and made travesty of allegedly democratic governance. It has entrenched an economic system that feeds, parasitically, on the planet's dwindling natural resources.
This may sound extreme and not all of us would agree verbatim with what is happening.
The reason we have more people in poverty, specifically seniors, is because of the way we regulate our revenues.
I mentioned the film Poor No More, which is narrated by Mary Walsh. The film talks about the influence of corporations on our government and other governments in the world and the policies that have been made as a result of this influence. It talks about the rising inequality, the corporate agenda that has taken hold of governments in the country.
An analysis of the film was done by journalist Murray Dobbin, who looked at the various corporate tax cuts that had taken place over the last few years under the previous government and the current government. He crunches the numbers and says that had we not made these cuts, we could have top quality health care. We could pay for half of the tuition of university students. We could ensure that every senior lives in dignity and out of poverty. We could have top quality care for seniors and a first-class child care program. We would still have around $20 billion left over for other needs.
We need these kinds of bills and discussions because governments have made choices and often their choices have not been in the best interests of the people of the country, but have been in the best interests of those such as the Council of Chief Executives, now chaired by John Manley.
This bill creates individual rights related to pension income, such as the right to accumulate sufficient pension income for retirement, the right to determine how and when pension income should be accumulated, the right to the full, accurate and timely disclosure of the risks involved in the plan, and so on.
Bill C-574 creates rights, but does not amend the relevant legislation to enshrine these rights. It seeks greater transparency in pension fund management, but most of the funds come under provincial jurisdiction.
The NDP is also in favour of greater transparency in government pension fund management. In fact, the pension critic, the hon. member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, has already introduced a private member's bill, Bill C-361, An Act to amend the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act (reduced risk), which presents in detail how to enhance this transparency.
In addition, with regard to Bill C-574, apparently, according to my colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, none of the national organizations that represent seniors are publicly acknowledging this bill because they think it does not go far enough. However, in light of our past commitments, it would be difficult for us to not give our support to this bill. I have always said that nothing is perfect. You always have to start somewhere and we will start by supporting this bill and sending it to committee.
In general, the NDP believes that Canadians should be able to retire comfortably and securely. Like every party, we have a plan for pension reform. It is a four-point plan. I will try to talk about our vision a little later.
The member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek stated the following on a cross-country tour:
I know from my travels throughout the country listening to seniors that there is a need for an immediate and consistent increase to programs like the GIS and the elimination of benefit clawbacks. After facing a two year freeze of old age security, seniors are telling me that the extra buck fifty this government is giving just isn't enough.
The bill my colleague is talking about his private member's bill, Bill C-564. The bill would mandate that programs such as the guaranteed income supplement are indexed to the cost of living. It would bring senior support programs in line with most government support programs, which are already linked to the consumer price index. The seniors CPI act would also create a new measure that would take into account purchases that are specific to seniors.
I will go into a little more detail on what we envision to help seniors in this country.
As I mentioned, we propose eliminating seniors poverty by increasing the income tested guaranteed income supplement, GIS, by $700 million a year. What is interesting is that this is less than half the corporate tax cuts that were due January 2010.
We also propose working with the provinces to phase in a doubling of the CPP and the Quebec pension plan benefits from about $11,000 a year to almost $22,000. This would give Canadians a chance to save in the least expensive, most secure, inflation-proof retirement savings vehicle.
What would the cost be for something like this? According to our calculations, an additional 2.5% of wages matched by employers, which is less than what one would pay for private savings plans, money one would often never see again.
Once again, we can look at this with the backdrop of the film I was talking about. I would recommend that members try to get hold of the film, Poor No More . It does not cost very much to download it from poornomore.ca.
We see that choices have been made in other areas. All governments make choices. For example, rather than choosing to double the CPP, the choice is to give corporate tax breaks. Rather than choosing to increase the GIS, the choice is to purchase stealth fighter jets, and we have had a discussion on that.
Certainly we will support sending this bill to committee, but there are more issues we have to look at in-depth when we look at poverty and seniors.