Bill C-326 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits)
This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.
Scott Simms Liberal
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Defeated, as of May 30, 2012
(This bill did not become law.)
This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.
This enactment amends the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to provide that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under those Acts shall, on the request of the beneficiary, be paid on a biweekly basis.
- May 30, 2012 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
May 18th, 2012 / 1:15 p.m.
Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC
Madam Speaker, Bill C-326 is as simple a request as can be. It simply seeks to turn monthly payments into biweekly payments. This would enable people to plan their spending and would also minimize the crowds at the pharmacy at the beginning and end of the month.
This is so simple that it should not even need to be debated. This very simple request is very easy to grant. Still, we have to debate this issue because the government is opposed to the idea. Those opposed to this idea are refusing to debate the importance of accommodating people who are entitled to services.
We have to wonder why the government is turning down such a simple request. Personally, I think the answer is to be found in the government's record. This government was in power when Nortel and Bowater went under, but it refused to amend the legislation to give pension funds preferred creditor status. That would have been easy to do too.
Tens of thousands of workers have seen their pension funds disappear. They were entitled to that money and they worked hard to earn it, but the government decided that the workers' pension funds would not be given preferred creditor status.
The government refuses to allow people who lost money in their pension funds to claim it as a capital loss on their income tax returns. That would not have been hard, either. When anyone who owns shares in Alcan, Suncor or any other company loses money on the stock market, they can deduct this capital loss from their income.
However, workers who have spent their entire lives investing in a pension fund that collapses as a result of poor performance by the stock market or, more specifically, poor performance by the managers of the companies for which they work, do not have the right to this tax deduction. This also shows what must be done and what has not been done.
The government had the choice but it decided not to renew the $200 million that was supposed to be used to build social housing for seniors. A number of units could have been built with that amount, even though it was insufficient for the entire country. Two hundred million dollars was better than nothing, of course, but the government reduced that amount. In fact, that $200 million is no longer available.
Unfortunately, the government did not stop there. What does it want to do in the future? It wants to increase the age of eligibility for old age security benefits and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. This move will save the government $10 billion. The government could cover this $10 billion because Canadians have always paid their taxes and been responsible. Yet, once again, the government is cutting $10 million. Cuts are being made to Service Canada staff, which will cause more delays in processing claims. It is never-ending. People are efficient and consistent in filing their claims. They were not asking for much: a payment every two weeks rather than once a month. It is not hard to make a transfer or to press a button twice a month so that the money is transferred directly into people's bank accounts. Yet, the government is refusing to do something so small and simple.
When the government is asked to guarantee safe and affordable housing for seniors, they do not answer the call.
When the government is asked to guarantee eligibility for prescription drugs, once again, it there is on one home to take the call. This drug coverage already exists in Quebec and we would like to extend it to all of Canada in order to ensure that drugs are accessible at a low cost. There would be economies of scale. When it comes to real financial security for seniors, the Conservatives are playing hide and seek.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
May 18th, 2012 / 1:25 p.m.
Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE
Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to rise and support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).
It has been put forward by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and I support my colleague.
Basically, in summary the bill enacts and amends the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to
...provide that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under those Acts shall, on the request of the beneficiary, be paid on a biweekly basis.
In order to do that, it amends the Canada Pension Plan such that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under this act shall be paid on a biweekly basis if the beneficiary submits a written request to the minister that the benefits be paid on a biweekly basis.
It basically states the same thing in the amendment to the Old Age Security Act.
Simply put, as my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, this bill is unique, it is not complicated, and it basically allows pensioners and seniors the freedom and flexibility to budget on their own.
To back up concerns on costs, my colleague did a fair bit of research. He ran the bill by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who said that the costs of administration of this bill are “not fiscally significant”. However, with even such a simple change such as this and with costs not fiscally significant, the government did not do its own cost analysis but came out quite strongly against this bill.
I will quote what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour had to say:
Mr. Speaker, I will start by underscoring our government's commitment to improving the well-being of seniors and our continued efforts to address their needs now and into the future.
After making that statement, she went on to say:
However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount of seniors benefits.
Then comes the kicker. She said:
As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.
The fact of the matter is that the government did not do an analysis to come up with that figure of tens of millions of dollars. It is opposing this bill before it even gets to committee to be discussed properly. Let us find out what those costs are.
Can the bill be amended in such a way that it would only be utilized by those who want the payment to be made biweekly? There are many who would, but in some cases it is not that they want to but that they need to.
Many seniors are living in poverty in this country. Some of them are getting old age security, some get the supplement, and some get the CPP. When we talked to them, they told us that when they get their cheque, they know they have to try to budget that cheque for the next 30 days.
These are mostly people who are between the ages of 65 and 80. Many of those who are over that age are in retirement homes, and the monthly payment works fine. However, those who are living in their own homes, which is where we want them to stay, have to take out money for their rent, electricity, telephone and maybe Internet for a computer, if they have one. They try to take enough money to purchase their drugs for the month. Then they allocate the rest for groceries. Some are very low in terms of what they can get for groceries.
Then something happens two weeks in, and they have no emergency money to buy medicine for a cold or a flu or whatever because they have run low on funds by that time.
Going to a biweekly basis for those who need it and are willing to apply for it would make a huge difference in terms of insecurity and worry in their lives for several days or weeks.
I know people on the government side do not like the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, because he tells the truth. He lays it out before them. He has laid out the cost of many of the issues that the government has not been willing to inform us on; as a result, the government is not too enamoured of any analysis done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, although his analyses have been proven to be quite accurate time after time.
That said, the government, without having done a cost analysis, opposes a bill that could make a significant difference in some seniors' lives at practically no cost, and it will not even allow it to go to committee to be discussed. That is pretty sad.
If we talk to seniors, maybe they would accept that this be done only for those who use direct deposit. I understand mailing cheques costs money. There is no question. There is the postage, the service fee at the bank, and so on. However, if it was done by direct deposit, the cost would be very minimal. It would make a huge difference in people's lives, but the government seems to be rejecting this proposal out of hand.
As I mentioned, the parliamentary secretary said:
As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.
We just heard in the House today, in answer to a question on the gun registration issue, that the government is not going to require those registrations. It is going to have another amnesty. That money probably would have paid more than the administration costs for doing something for seniors, but the government operates on the basis of ideology, not on the basis of care and concern for the people of this country.
To put it quite simply, it is unbelievably sad that a government would be so uncaring as to not even allow a proper hearing on a simple proposal in a private member's bill to help seniors who may not just want but need biweekly payments.
Can the government just not accept to help, even just a little, seniors who request some help?
If the parliamentary secretary was speaking on behalf of the PMO, as she was, then I say to the other members in the party at least that it is time to stand up. It is a private member's bill. It is time to stand up and allow this issue to be discussed without being a puppet on a string for the PMO. It is time for those members to represent the constituents and the seniors in their ridings and allow the bill to be debated at committee.
We know the government has done a lot of damage to new seniors coming into the system. By changing the age requirement from 65 years of age to 67, it has basically stolen $30,000 from the new seniors coming on. Conservative members can at least help out by allowing the bill to go to committee to be analyzed properly, to be debated, and hopefully, at the end of the day, to help those seniors who want this to be done in their interest.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
May 18th, 2012 / 1:35 p.m.
Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON
Madam Speaker, our position regarding Bill C-326, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, is unchanged since the debate at first reading. We cannot support paying old age security and Canada pension plan benefits on a biweekly basis.
Please allow me to start by assuring everyone that the Government of Canada is committed to the well-being of seniors and continues to seek ways to address their needs now and into the future. I might add that I find it shameful that members of the opposition parties are using seniors as a political ploy, a tool, for a matter of such importance. I know that many seniors across Canada, and certainly in my great riding of Richmond Hill, appreciate the fact that they get their cheques once a month. They are used to it. I have not had, and we have not heard, an overwhelming number of seniors across the country saying that the payment terms should be changed.
I am certain that the notion of paying Canada pension plan and old age security benefits to seniors on a biweekly rather than a monthly basis was proposed with the best of intentions. However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount for seniors' benefits. The less we spend on administration means more money in the pockets of seniors.
The government recently undertook a significant cost-cutting exercise to reduce duplication, overlap and redundant processes across government to ensure the greatest value for taxpayers' dollars. We recently implemented a one-for-one rule to reduce government red tape. Not only will this transformative measure reduce the bureaucratic administration of government, it will also reduce the cost to businesses and create jobs and growth.
Clearly, we are passionate about reducing the size of government and reducing redundancy within government. As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative cost of government by tens of millions of dollars in a time of fiscal restraint, nor is it something that Canadians want to see from coast to coast to coast, nor is it something in particular that our seniors are asking for or want to see from coast to coast to coast across our great nation.
As the first two pillars of Canada's retirement income system, the OAS and CPP are designed to provide a modest base upon which to build additional income for retirement. This year, our public pension system is projected to provide Canadians with close to $76 billion in benefits.
However, in regard to the public pension system, we cannot support Bill C-326, because it does not make sense from a financial administration perspective. In fact, making the change would result in additional costs and would increase the taxpayer dollars devoted to running the OAS and CPP. This type of increase is exactly what we are trying to avoid.
Let me underscore that our government has many good reasons for opposing a change in the frequency of payments to CPP and OAS.
To start with, monthly payments ensure an efficient administration of the OAS and CPP programs. The practice represents an efficient use of taxpayer dollars and serves the needs of seniors, and after all, that is what we are here to do. Monthly payments have the advantage of ensuring every senior receives what he or she is entitled to by allowing the department time to respond to any changes to the individual's eligibility status, such as marital status or income. By giving the department the time to respond to these changes, monthly payments help to avoid the subsequent complications associated with recuperating overpayments.
As the number of seniors increases with the coming demographic shift, we are focused on the effective, timely and efficient delivery of services for our seniors.
Our goal is to streamline processes, not complicate them. That is precisely why budget 2012 introduced the proactive enrolment of OAS benefits, to make it easier for many seniors to get their benefits.
Let me remind all members of the House that the first of Canada's baby-boomer generation have started to enter their senior years. Within less than two decades close to one in four Canadians will be over 65 years of age.
Governments have limited resources and Canadians expect programs to be delivered as efficiently as possible. Service delivery includes processing new applications, responding to inquiries, changing addresses, updating banking information, issuing millions of cheques and deposits, and more.
The practice of paying benefits at the end of each month was adopted to provide the best service possible and is consistent with the delivery of other income support payments both in Canada and in other countries.
To ensure the efficient delivery of not only CPP and OAS but all benefits payments, Service Canada works in partnership with Public Works and Government Services Canada, Canada Post and the banks to coordinate the financial transfer of benefit payments.
From a practical standpoint, the current payment schedule gives all the agencies involved enough time to note changes in a client's profile, determine the amount of benefit payable and coordinate the transfer of payments. Each of these organizations has developed work plans based on a payment date that is on the third last banking day of each month. A biweekly payment schedule would make it more difficult to process and issue the benefits in a timely manner.
During the last fiscal year, 90% of old age security payments were made through direct monthly deposit with the remainder being paid by cheque. The numbers were similar for CPP, with 87% of recipients receiving their benefits through direct deposit.
In a time of spending restraint, it would be difficult to justify the cost involved in changing the payment schedule for CPP and OAS. Were it to be universally adopted, a biweekly payment schedule would more than double the number of transactions for CPP and OAS benefits, resulting in increased administrative costs and difficulties processing and issuing benefits in a timely manner.
Public Works and Government Services Canada estimates that the proposed bill would increase the total cost of payment administration and processing by about $18 million per year. This includes such direct costs as postage, banking fees, printing services and cheque reconciliation for both direct deposit and cheque payments.
The system's costs for information technology alone would be significant. Service Canada estimates the transaction cost could be as high as $30 million. It would also require amending both the OAS and CPP acts. This would mean additional and unnecessary costs.
Seniors have worked hard all their lives and they count on their pensions to be delivered consistently and in a reliable manner. It is incumbent upon us as a government to ensure that they get their payments on time reliably every single month.
We have reviewed the changes proposed in Bill C-326, and we believe they cannot be justified given our fiscal realities, nor can we justify the risk the changes pose to the efficiency of service delivery. We want to be as efficient as possible.
For these reasons our government cannot support the bill in a time of fiscal restraint. I urge all hon. members in this House to join me in opposing it.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
May 18th, 2012 / 1:45 p.m.
Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits), which provides that, on the request of the beneficiary, benefits be paid on a biweekly basis. For me, this is a simple question of being able to live in harmony with the rest of Canadian society, regardless of one's age.
This bill will allow seniors to better manage their budget and will help them make their benefits last throughout the entire month. It is a good idea, especially considering that more and more seniors are facing money problems. We need to give them as many options as possible to keep them from becoming victims of poverty.
We have good reason to worry about the increasing precariousness of seniors in Canada. As we know, they are being forced to turn to charity organizations and food banks more and more in order to meet their most basic needs. I find it appalling that people who have worked hard their entire lives to build our country must now turn to clothing donations, or even worse, to food banks to meet their basic needs in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Social workers are continually condemning this situation, which they see every day on the ground.
The government does not seem to be taking this seriously. It should be leading the fight against seniors' poverty and making it possible for seniors to live in dignity. It is the least we could do for them after they have spent their lives in service to this country. Needless to say, the future of the pension system, as envisioned by the government, is very worrisome.
Some seniors would benefit from having bimonthly payments because they have difficulty managing their meagre financial resources.The end of the month would be more bearable and much less sad for many of them.
However, they only receive very limited benefits. That is why other measures are needed. The benefits provided by the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan absolutely must be doubled. There is no question that increasing the guaranteed income supplement to an adequate level is another pertinent measure. It is fundamental to ending seniors' poverty. Why such hesitation when it is time to make such an important social choice?
The government's response is based on pure and simple ideology. We have seen this a number of times since 2006. The government prefers to scare the public with its usual fearmongering. We are told that the matter is urgent, that continuing in this way will lead us straight into financial disaster, and that old age security will no longer be financially sustainable.
This statement is really misleading because the only issue that is truly urgent is ending seniors' poverty for good. The experts agree that our public pension system is well funded, but the government does not want to listen and is blinded once again by ideology. We know that old age security represents 2.4% of GDP and that it will reach 3.1% of GDP in 2030. In light of these figures, it will not be impossible to manage the baby boomers' retirement. We need only look to the standards set by the OECD to realize that the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan benefits are relatively modest.
To glance at the figures, we see how bad the situation is. Nonetheless, it is mostly on the ground that we see this reality, or at least part of this reality. If anyone is affected by isolation, it is seniors. If anyone is affected by poverty, it is seniors. If anyone is being neglected by this government, it is seniors.
In many cases, seniors have no social or family ties. Accordingly, old age security is a pressing matter. There will only be more and more of these dramatic situations. The conditions are ripe for a continuing upward trend in poverty rates among seniors in the years to come. How this government does not see the social disaster we are headed toward at high speed simply escapes me.
Let us be clear: by making such changes to old age security, the government is directly attacking the less fortunate, the most vulnerable in society. Low-income earners with no pension fund will be the biggest losers when the retirement eligibility age increases from 65 to 67.
There are 12 million Canadians who do not have a pension plan through their work. We know that the government did not ask itself the right questions when it was developing this policy. The most important question would have been this: what is the best way to provide a decent retirement for everyone and not just for those who have the means to contribute to pooled registered pension plans or RRSPs, as the government envisions? It has been shown that less than a third of the people who can contribute to an RRSP actually do.
In that context, increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 will do nothing but keep many people in poverty for an additional two years. Those people cannot wait for their pension and the guaranteed income supplement, which will allow them to make ends meet every month.
It is important to recall that this is a minimum level of support and that it is a paltry sum compared to programs in other industrialized countries. Knowing that 1.7 million Canadians receive the guaranteed income supplement, the government should be asking itself what it can do to ensure a decent retirement for everyone.
The government does not seem to realize that two-thirds of Canadians do not have a private pension and are counting on assistance from the state to be able to meet their needs after age 65. We also know that those who really need it have problems saving money.
Accordingly, instead of delaying access to our public system by two years, why is the government not coming up with real solutions, on one hand, to put an end to the increasing precariousness facing seniors and, on the other hand, to address the problem that Canadians have when it comes to saving? These problems will not be solved by betting on volatile financial markets through voluntary defined contribution plans managed by the private sector. We already know where that would lead us, and that is not what most Canadians want.
On the contrary, Canadian workers need to have access to risk-free options with guarantees regarding the associated costs. It would be pathetic to make the same mistakes as other countries in this regard. We just have to look at Australia.
This government is making gross injustice the norm. Its goal is to prevent the cost of OAS from rising. Interestingly, it did not apply the same principle as strictly with respect to the F-35s or many other decisions.
Nevertheless, this is a good illustration of the government's priorities. It could not care less about guaranteeing retirement income security for all Canadians. Vulnerable seniors, such as single women, immigrants and people with disabilities, will have to bear this heavy financial burden themselves and make do with the meagre income they receive from the government.
The government has chosen to undermine the country's pension system despite the fact that it has proven its effectiveness over time. The only way to make the system more effective is to improve its fundamentals. Instead of merely subsisting, seniors in need would receive, at the very least, an adequate income. This measure is both necessary and financially viable.
Through its proposed measures and its lack of action during the past six years to ensure that Canadians have a retirement income, the government is jeopardizing the social contract we have given ourselves. Poverty among seniors is not without consequences. Dependency increases as health declines. The risk of malnutrition also goes up. It also has an impact on housing. The choice to age in place, at home, for as long as possible simply evaporates.
Is that what we want for our seniors: more and more uncertainty? What our seniors need are larger, public, guaranteed retirement incomes. They deserve more than the series of half-measures the government is serving up. Seniors deserve to have access to sufficient retirement income to maintain their standard of living and to grow old with dignity.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
May 18th, 2012 / 1:55 p.m.
Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS
Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who put this bill forward, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor. I know he did this in good faith.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to start by expressing our appreciation for seniors who have worked hard to build a better country for future generations of Canadians. We commend each and every one of our seniors for all they have given and continue to give, and we recognize that they deserve a secure and dignified retirement that reflects on the contributions they have made.
I want to assure everyone that the Conservative Government of Canada recognizes financial security as a factor that has an obvious impact on the quality of life for seniors. In this regard, the government is taking a number of decisive actions to improve the lives of seniors on many fronts, including providing Canadians with almost $76 billion this year through Canada's public pension system.
We also introduced a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to help Canada's most vulnerable seniors. This is the largest increase to the GIS for the lowest income seniors in a quarter century. This will improve the financial security and well-being of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. These measures demonstrate that the Government of Canada is taking concrete action to help our seniors.
Of course part of helping seniors is the assurance that benefits will be paid in an efficient and timely manner. These are traits that would be hindered, not helped by this bill.
There are a number of critical problems with the bill. The first is the matter of cost. This is a significant issue in light of the current fiscal reality facing this global economy. The current system of monthly payments has been and will continue to be the most efficient way to administer the old age security and the Canada pension plan programs.
While we can never be sure exactly how many seniors would take advantage of a bi-weekly payment schedule were it universally adopted, a bi-weekly payment schedule would more than double the number of transactions for CPP and OAS benefits. This would significantly increase the administrative costs of processing and issuing benefits in a seamless and timely manner.
Public Works and Government Services Canada estimates that this proposed bill would increase the total cost of payment of administration and processing by about $18 million a year. That is $18 million that could actually go to seniors. This figure includes direct costs such as postage, banking fees, printing services and cheque reconciliation for both direct deposit payments and paper cheques.
When examining the proposed legislation, we must also consider the fact that the seniors population is also growing in Canada, and growing significantly. We need a more efficient and simple delivery method of benefits, not a more complicated one.
Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to complete Canada's economic recovery and return to balanced budgets. That is exactly what we are doing. We recently began to implement a significant deficit reduction strategy to ensure government programs are as efficient as possible.
Service delivery includes processing new applications, responding to inquiries, changing addresses, updating banking information, issuing millions of cheques and deposits, and cancelling benefits upon the death of a recipient. Payment processing already involves several different departments, all acting in conjunction to process these payments.
The processing cost of a single cheque or direct deposit may not seem like much when it is looked at in isolation, but when the government is issuing millions of cheques and deposits each month, this becomes a whole different matter.
As members of the House are likely aware, the first of Canada's baby boomer generation turned 65 in 2011. Within less than two decades, close to 1 in 4 Canadians will be over 64. Changing the payment schedule during this demographic shift would only increase expenses and create complications for the delivery of OAS and CPP benefits.
Canadians expect the programs to be delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible. The current system of monthly benefit payments for the CPP and OAS programs is the best use of taxpayers' dollars.
The real advantage of the monthly payment schedule is that it ensures the accuracy of payments by allowing the department time to respond to any changes in the individual's eligibility status, such as marital status or an increase or decrease in income. This important step is to make sure all seniors get exactly what they are entitled to when they are entitled to get it.
We must remember that the monthly payment schedule also serves the needs of seniors across this country. The practice of paying all benefits at the end of the month was adopted to provide the best service possible for our seniors. It is a commonly accepted standard for government benefits. This includes other federal benefits, such as those provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, as well as the universal child care benefit and the Canadian child tax benefit.
I would also add that most provincial and territorial benefits are also paid on a monthly basis. It is important to provide consistency across government so Canadians know exactly when they will be receiving their cheques and exactly what they will be owed.
If the government supported this bill, it would cause a ripple effect of increased program costs for both the provincial and federal governments.
Internationally, most of the OECD countries also provide monthly benefits for their seniors programs.
Ultimately, the change would be expensive and would further add to the complexity of a system that currently works well. It would also duplicate arrangements that could be made on an individual basis with financial institutions without the need for legislation.
In this kind of situation, our government strives to find a balance. We think we should maintain the monthly payment schedule as the most efficient system we can provide our seniors.
In this time of fiscal restraint, our Conservative government is committed to delivering the highest quality service in a way that is efficient, effective and focused on the needs of Canadians.
In conclusion, our government cannot support Bill C-326. It would be an irresponsible use of taxpayers' dollars. I encourage all members of this House to vote against it.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
April 3rd, 2012 / 6:10 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
moved that Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being given this time on what is certainly a special occasion, given the fact that I introduced this bill several years ago for the first time.
I discovered some time ago that the essence of this bill is really about allowing pensioners and seniors the freedom and flexibility to budget. This bill would certainly allow them to do that. Honestly, the number one issue in my riding, from looking at the number of calls that come into my offices, is about income security for seniors, certainly for those who are receiving the CPP and old age security, as well as GIS, the guaranteed income supplement.
In essence, this bill does not create a large burden on the taxpayer by putting up more money; it is a question of administration. It is a question of budgeting for the individual who chooses, is not forced, to be paid twice a month instead of just once.
Where does this come from? What is the origin? Who particularly wants this and why? At first blush, many people who are not receiving this might say to themselves, “I do not really see the difference. If we are dealing with the same amount of money on a monthly basis, why would people be worried about getting paid twice of month instead of once?”
During the deliberations, in several meetings across this country, including one in Newfoundland and Labrador, about four years ago it was brought to my attention that it would be a good benefit for seniors to be paid twice a month or at the very least have the option for that. That option allows seniors to budget better, especially those who are impoverished or are living below the poverty line. I will explain that soon.
This first came about in a meeting at a convention I went to staged by the Newfoundland and Labrador Pensioners and Senior Citizens 50+ Federation. Its president, Robert Rogers, brought this to my attention, about how so many seniors would love to have this type of flexibility to be paid twice. To me it seemed as if it had been mentioned before but was not really a big issue, until they took a vote at the convention. Well over 80% of the people said they would like to have that option.
One of the things I have noticed, too, is that many of the people who said they would like to have the option were between the ages of 65 and 80. In that age group of 65 to 80, a lot of seniors in my riding still live in their home or live in an apartment dwelling, where they pay for their medications and food. Being paid twice a month helps those seniors to budget that much better.
For seniors over the age of 80, a lot prefer to be paid once a month because they are in assisted living. They are in a place where all their bills are paid up front, and therefore they would like to retain that option.
That is what the bill does. It essentially allows an individual to check a box to say “Yes, I prefer to be paid twice a month”. Once again, that is the Canada pension plan, old age security and, if eligible, the guaranteed income supplement. The benefit of this is that it would allow seniors who were used to receiving their income biweekly during their working life to continue with a familiar schedule.
My office has had several discussions with a gentleman by the name of Leo Bonnell who works out of Newfoundland. He is a former banker, and he is a big believer in this type of policy that allows seniors to have the flexibility to be paid twice a month. He is on the Newfoundland and Labrador Provincial Advisory Council on Aging and Seniors, and he is an active member of the Newfoundland and Labrador Pensioners and Senior Citizens Federation. As I mentioned, he has been advocating for this option for quite some time.
He believes that this type of system would be much more convenient for seniors as they would have a more regular cash flow. The cash flow element is of the essence here. That is what Mr. Bonnell talked about.
In Newfoundland and Labrador we often see a mad dash for the supermarkets on what many people call cheque day. There is one day of the month when most of the cheques are mailed, and on that particular day the grocery stores and the pharmacies are overcrowded. I see MPs in the House nodding their heads in agreement. They know what I am talking about. They hear about it, and they see it time and time again.
The people who own these stores will tell us much the same. The story is that the stores are overcrowded and some people are desperate, especially when it comes to medications.
For example, seniors budget their cheque for bills, medications and groceries. So they go out on the day they are paid, like most seniors do on that particular day, and they buy all the necessary provisions based on their own budget.
The problem is that unexpected things happen. Two weeks later they can come down with a chest infection and need another type of medication. They are only paid once a month, but emergencies occur. Let us say they bought the normal amount of medication and now they have a chest infection so they have to go back and get more, based on the doctor's orders, and they have to wait. Many seniors are waiting up to four weeks because they do not have the extra amount of money, because they buy all of their goods, including not just medications but also groceries. They also look after provisions such as fuel, home heating, their rent and all of that. If something unforeseen happens, being paid twice a month certainly would help. It does not alleviate the indebtedness they have to take on, but instead of waiting three weeks to get that essential medication, they may only have to wait three or four days because they know that at the middle of the month another cheque is coming.
We have also received some great feedback from seniors groups across this country. From the most populous provinces, Ontario, Quebec, and also British Columbia we see a lot of support for the bill. One of our local seniors groups, in the riding of my hon. colleague from Random—Burin—St. George's around the community of Clarenville, hosted a seniors information session whereby various presentations were given to some 60 seniors from Clarenville.
Mr. Speaker, I am asking you for a little—
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
April 3rd, 2012 / 6:30 p.m.
Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour
Mr. Speaker, I will start by underscoring our government's commitment to improving the well-being of seniors and our continued efforts to address their needs now and into the future. For this reason, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill C-326, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).
I am certain the notion of paying Canada pension plan and old age security benefits to seniors on a biweekly rather than a monthly basis was proposed with the best of intentions. However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount of seniors benefits.
The government recently undertook a significant exercise, the deficit reduction action plan, to reduce duplication, overlap and redundant processes across government to ensure the greatest value for taxpayer dollars. We recently implemented a one-for-one rule to reduce government red tape. Not only will this transformative measure reduce the bureaucratic administration of government, but it will reduce the cost of businesses and create jobs and growth.
Clearly, members can tell that we are passionate about reducing the size of government and reducing redundancy within government. As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.
The old age security program and Canada pension plan are the first two pillars of Canada's retirement system. As such, they provide significant income security to Canadians in their senior years. Indeed, our public pension system is projected to provide Canadians with close to $72 billion this year alone. When month-to-month circumstances do not change, as is the case with retirement benefits, the practice of paying all benefits at the end of the month is the most efficient. This practice is also consistent with other income support methods both in Canada and internationally.
For the sake of contrast, I would point out that the employment insurance system is different. The EI system is meant to support individuals in a time of transition and, as such, is highly reactive to changing circumstances of those individuals. As a result, EI is paid in two week increments.
This is quite different from retirement programs that are largely set out once an individual applies initially and rarely have the benefit rates re-evaluated.
Changing the frequency of benefit payments may seem like a simple administrative task, Mr. Speaker, but it is fraught with consequences. The current system works well, allowing for efficient administration, as well as an efficient use of tax dollars. A bi-monthly payment schedule would put this efficiency at risk.
Consider the number of players involved in the delivery of all benefit payments. Service Canada works in partnership with Public Works and Government Services Canada and Canada Post and the banks coordinate the financial transfer of benefit payments. Each organization has its own work plan around the payment dates that take place on the third last banking day of each month. This is not to say nothing of the provincial and territorial governments that provide top-ups, tax credits and other benefits that are tied to monthly calculations for these payments.
Apart from the system costs of amending two acts of Parliament, changing the frequency of benefit payments would demand additional resources of all the players involved. Frankly, it would be difficult to justify the significant costs.
However, there are deeper issues at stake here. The changes proposed by the bill fly in the face of profound socio-economic changes effecting the country.
Like many countries, Canada is in the midst of a major demographic shift. Our population is aging. On the one hand, Canadians are living longer and on the other, we are having fewer children. These significant changes are making the total costs of OAS benefits increasingly difficult to sustain and afford for tomorrow's workers and taxpayers.
The chief actuary forecasts that the number of OAS recipients will nearly double from 2010 to 2030, from 4.8 million to 9.3 million individuals. Today, there are four Canadians working for every retired person. In 2030 the ratio will be two to one. In essence, about the same number of workers as today will be supporting twice as many seniors by 2030.
In this light, it is our view that the benefits to seniors of an increased flexibility in budgeting are outweighed by the extra cost shouldered by the taxpayers. Simply put, the changes proposed in Bill C-326 are not good value for money, not in light of our need to ensure the very sustainability of OAS for future generations. This is why our government plans to increase the age of OAS eligibility from 65 to 67, to ensure the sustainability of the OAS program.
Our government has the best interests of seniors at heart, both the seniors who receive public pensions today and those who will count on them in years ahead.
However, should any doubt remain, I would like to remind the House of the government's actions on behalf of current generations of seniors.
Since 2006, this government has provided $2.3 billion in annual tax relief to seniors and pensioners. We have introduced pension income splitting and doubled the pension income credit. We have also invested significantly in affordable housing. These changes were introduced in spite of the opposition's attempt to vote them down.
What is more, we have targeted the needs of low-income seniors through a variety of measures related to the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS.
First, seniors no longer have to apply to GIS every year. Automatic renewals exist, linked to their income tax return each year.
Second, in addition to raising the GIS twice above indexation, we introduced a top-up benefit to help the most vulnerable seniors. This represents a $1.5 billion investment over five years, the largest increase of the GIS for our most vulnerable seniors in a quarter century.
Third, our government is committed to Canada's economic action plan 2012 to proactively enrol seniors in OAS and to ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled. This measure further enhances the financial security and well-being of more than 680,000 seniors across the country. As of last July, single seniors entitled to the GIS will receive an additional $600 of annual benefits and couples will receive $840.
Finally, through budget 2008, we introduced the GIS exemptions earning, from $500 to $3,500. This enables working GIS recipients to keep up to another $1,500 of their benefits each year.
Our government is committed to improving the quality of life of seniors, and continues to seek ways to address their needs now and in the future.
To that end, we take our role as custodian of the OAS and CPP very seriously. Any changes to these programs, no matter how minor, are examined carefully to assess their potential impact, not just on seniors but on all Canadians.
We have reviewed the changes proposed in Bill C-326 and believe they cannot be justified in our current fiscal reality. Nor can we justify the risk of changes posed to the efficiency of service delivery that would be imposed at this government level, on the provinces and the other service providers.
For these reasons, our government cannot support the bill in this time of fiscal restraint, and I urge the hon. members in the House to join me in opposing it.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
April 3rd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this place to speak to Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).
The bill seeks to amend these acts to allow for CPP and OAS benefits to be paid biweekly. It is worthy noting that this change would apply only at the request of persons receiving the benefits. In other words, it would be a matter of choice for the seniors and retirees.
Members will no doubt know this is actually the third time the bill has been brought before the House, the first time being in 2008.
Although the bill's intent is laudable, the NDP has not seen a call for such action from Canadians for such a change. Having said that, because it is voluntary, the NDP will support it.
Regarding changes to CPP, OAS and GIS, I and my fellow New Democrats have been campaigning since 2009 for much stronger action than what is contained in Bill C-326. Members will know, from reports to the House, following my appointment as pensions critic for the NDP in 2009, that I hosted two round tables of pension experts that February. These experts concluded at the time that the CPP was fine, fully funded for 75 years. As of late, the government has actually agreed with that statement. Their additional conclusion was that OAS likewise was sustainable for the long term. These panellists reached these conclusions even after considering the impact of retiring baby boomers and what that impact would be on OAS.
Following the advice that was given us from these round tables, my staff and I turned our attention to the broader question of retirement security for all Canadians.
In June of 2009, my opposition day motion on pensions raised in the House of Commons for the first time the urgent need for an increase to GIS to raise some 300,000 seniors out of poverty.
The motion also highlighted the NDP plan for a phased-in increase of the core assets of the CPP until it reached the capacity to double its benefits that it provided to Canadians.
The motion also included a proposal for a national pension insurance fund paid for by plan holders to protect workers when companies went out of business.
Finally included in the motion was a proposal to change the ability for workers to use the legislation governing CCAA protection and actual bankruptcy proceedings under the provisions of the BIA whenever a company went into bankruptcy. This would have given workers and retirees status as creditors in order to access the company's final assets.
I am pleased to remind the House that our opposition day motion at that time was passed unanimously, with all parties in agreement, including the Conservatives.
The fact that the Conservatives so heartily supported our road map for changing Canada's retirement security program gave us hope that we would see these changes in short order. Sadly, that has not been the case. In spite of taking such an enlightened decision to support the NDP motion and in effect endorsing our plan, the Conservative government has not delivered on that promise.
During last May's election campaign, Jack Layton, our leader at the time, was clear that the NDP would follow through on our promise to raise the GIS significantly. In fact, it was the very first proposal in our platform, as was increasing the CPP. New Democrats had done a cost analysis of our plan and were prepared to move forward delivering for Canadians.
While New Democrats were being very clear on our plan, and were clear during the election campaign with respect to seniors, pensioners and those people who were planning their retirements, what did the Conservatives and the Prime Minister have to say on the retirement security of seniors during that election campaign? Did the Prime Minister or his party once raise the fact that they were planning an increase to the eligibility of OAS and GIS from 65 to 67? Of course they did not. They knew their own base of voters would oppose this unneeded attack on the poorest of the poor.
What will our next steps be? Although Bill C-326 offers a very modest change for Canadian citizens and seniors, we will not stand in the way of this particular bill. We also want to emphatically reiterate to Canadians that the NDP, after forming the next majority government in 2015, will rescind any motion or law that has changed the eligibility for OAS or GIS from age 65 to 67.
In the meantime, all New Democrats in this House will continue to press the Conservative government to honour its 2009 vote on our opposition day motion. We will call on the Conservatives and all members of this House to work with the NDP, in consultation with the provinces and territories, to bring forward the measures that are necessary to establish a phased-in doubling of Canada pension plan benefits.
We are looking forward as well to working constructively with the government, using my Bill C-331, An Act to amend the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (pension plans), as a template for changing the CCAA and the BIA to protect retirees' pensions during CCAA or bankruptcy proceedings. I do believe that this would bring a significant change to employers' understanding regarding pension assets. They do not realize at this point in time that these are deferred wages and that they should belong solely to the workers. That change in view or ideology, however we want to propose it, is a hurdle that we have to get over as Canadians in dealing with the assets of companies that happen to have the misfortune of going under.
To the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, I want to say that the New Democrats will be supporting Bill C-326 as it moves forward through the House. We are also looking forward to all of the advances that we can make together to better the lives of Canadian seniors and retirees.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
April 3rd, 2012 / 6:45 p.m.
Judy Sgro York West, ON
Mr. Speaker, along with my colleagues in the NDP, I am very pleased as the critic for seniors to be able to stand here in support of Bill C-326 brought forward by my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor. There I would note that we do indeed have long names for some of the wonderful, beautiful parts of our country.
I find it ironic that we are dealing with Bill C-326 now, after seeing the budget few days ago and knowing that the government is going to change the age of retirement for future seniors and baby boomers in Canada. I think it is a real step backwards from where we want to be as a country.
Given that the government has announced its plan to slash seniors' benefits, I am especially keen to discuss this measure, as it would actually help low income seniors rather than hurt them. It is a simple thing to do and not a complicated issue. It is not going to cost a lot of money. All it is going to do is to help some of the people out there who truly need help.
Let me be clear on Bill C-326. It is not suggesting that we pay seniors half as much, but rather that we pay seniors in shorter intervals. I think we all know the difficulties when a cheque cannot be stretched until the end of the month. My colleague outlined many good examples, including one of his constituents.
It is very sad to think that seniors in this country today, in this rich country of ours called Canada, have to try to manage to get through the month in order to be able to buy medication. It is absolutely outrageous that anyone is living like that, especially seniors.
I understand that many of my colleagues on the other side of the House like the idea of finding ways to reduce what we provide to baby boomers and seniors, but the document that attacks seniors is the Conservative budget. In contrast, Bill C-326 actually helps seniors by adding some flexibility to how they set up their household finances. It is not complicated; it sounds pretty normal.
The OAS is currently delivered by a monthly cheque of approximately $540.12 to those who get the maximum OAS benefit, which most people actually do not get. Then if they qualify, which many of the seniors we are talking about do, they would get the maximum GIS of $732, albeit which many people do not get. The total would be $1,272 a month. We are talking about giving it to them on a bi-weekly basis, the way lots of us pay lots of our bills.
To stretch that $1,272 over a whole month would be tough, I would suggest, for any one of us, never mind talking about a senior citizen who quite possibly has health issues to deal with, and who knows what else. Most financial planners tell us that people struggle to set up and maintain an effective monthly household budget. With less than $293 per week, this task gets even harder for those over the age of 65.
Paying seniors twice per month would help seniors to budget and plan more effectively and to have a little more comfort in their homes. More money would help, and we all understand that.
We have talked about all of the other countries that are changing their pension systems, but many of them have very rich pensions. Seniors living in Norway get 66% of their income replaced. In Canada, we give people 25%, and now we want to make them wait an extra two years to even get that. Some think we have an over-generous system of looking after our seniors, but we clearly do not.
Canadian seniors and baby boomers have worked and contributed to this nation for generations, so we should do whatever we can to ensure that they get to live with some dignity in retirement. This is why I have written a white paper on pension reform and a pension income bill of rights, and it is why I oppose this 2012 budget.
In contrast to Bill C-326, budget 2012 is an outright betrayal of seniors and baby boomers. It is a betrayal for many reasons, one of them being that this Prime Minister campaigned on a promise to protect seniors' pensions. With his most recent budget, the Prime Minister has jammed his hands deep into the pockets of tomorrow's seniors and baby boomers. Even more, budget 2012 is a betrayal because it is a step closer to throwing seniors to the wolves.
The minister said it is about choices. On that we are in agreement: governing is all about choices. We make our choices, the government makes its choices but it is the government. Clearly its choices are jets and jails in contrast to helping seniors. The government chose to limit the choices seniors and baby boomers have and Bill C-326 is about increasing choices for seniors. Of course, the government will oppose any effort to help low income seniors, because it has already charted its course and that, obviously, does not include a serious role for government and helping the most vulnerable in society.
Unfortunately, this is typical Conservative dishonesty, saying one thing at election time and 11 months later making major changes to this country when it comes to retirement planning. Even worse, it is doing it at a time when it has been discovered that the Prime Minister himself is preparing to cash in on a very special deal that only the PM gets, which is a taxpayer-funded annual retirement bonus worth nine times the OAS. That is $100,000 per year over and above his investments and the MP pension plan. I do not think that any prime minister should be getting this, never mind one who has tabled an austerity budget that is chopping seniors' benefits and making them wait an extra two years.
I know my pleas tonight are going to fall on deaf ears when it comes to the front bench, but is there no one on the back bench who really cares about seniors? If so, he or she should stand and support this bill. It is a good bill that will be helpful. It will make life a little easier and is not going to cost the government any money, if that is what those members are worried about. Bill C-326 is one way of mitigating the damage being done by the budget. Conservatives are asking seniors to do more with less, so we should at least give them the tools they need to manage.
Bill C-326 is a step toward helping seniors manage their households more effectively. That is all it is. It is very important for those on the other end getting the cheques. It is not a $100,000 stipend like the Prime Minister is going to get, but it will be a helping hand for many seniors. In an era when the government is determined to slash what is available for the lowest income seniors, Bill C-326 deserves a look by all of us in the House.
I want to congratulate the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor for his ongoing work for seniors. He is constantly raising seniors issues with me, and constantly talks about how his constituents are struggling and how much they are looking to him for leadership to make a difference. I am pleased to lend my support to Bill C-326 and would say to all members in the House that if we are doing nothing good for seniors this whole year, let us at least do this. Let us make it a little easier for them. I hope we will all vote to pass this bill.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
April 3rd, 2012 / 6:55 p.m.
Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK
Mr. Speaker, our government cannot support Bill C-326. It is not in the best interests of Canadians nor in the best interests of seniors or taxpayers.
I know the bill itself proposes that, rather than having the payments monthly, they would be made biweekly. The member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor would say it is a small thing, in terms of the change. However, it is a big thing, in terms of the costs that would be involved and what would be passed on to taxpayers. The member for York West, who was for a short time minister of human resources, would know that these matters administratively cost a lot of money. There is a lot of bureaucracy involved. These proposed changes would needlessly increase expenses and add to the bureaucratic administration of the government at a time when we are looking at ways to reduce spending and ensure more efficient operation of government.
Let me assure members in the House that as a government, we are committed to ensuring Canadians receive the benefits to which they are eligible. There is no question about that. That is why we brought in automatic renewal of the OAS and GIS for seniors who file a tax return.
We also announced in our economic action plan 2012 that we would be proactively enrolling Canadians for their old age security benefits to ensure that every senior receives their full entitlement. We are acting to ensure that government services are streamlined, efficient and take less effort for Canadians to receive the services they deserve.
The current system of monthly payments is the most efficient way to administer old age security and Canada pension plan programs. While we can never be sure exactly how many seniors would take advantage of a biweekly payment schedule, it would not be unrealistic to expect we would almost double the number of transactions for CPP and OAS benefits. Service Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada estimate that the total cost would increase by $40 million to $50 million per year. It is a small change maybe, but potentially quite costly. We certainly have to take that into account when we are considering streamlining government and reducing expenses.
In this time of fiscal restraint, our government is committed to delivering the highest quality service in a way that is efficient, effective and focused on the needs of Canadians. As we recently highlighted in Canada's economic action plan 2012, the government has recently completed significant reviews aimed at reducing government bureaucracy.
The most immediate exercise was the government's deficit reduction action plan. This exercise examined government spending to reduce overlap redundancy in administrative costs and ensure value for taxpayer dollars. This review demonstrated our resolve as a government to put taxpayers first, while making strategic choices to ensure efficient government spending well into the future.
The second exercise was the red tape panel that led to a one-to-one rule. The principle is quite simple. Every time the government creates a regulation, the department has to eliminate a regulation. This would make interaction with government much more efficient, while also simplifying the administration of government.
I do not understand why the member opposite would like to add to the bureaucratic processes of government. We recognize that today's seniors have played, and continue to play, a vital role in Canadian society. There is no doubt about that. By working hard throughout their lives and paying taxes, they have contributed to Canada's strong fiscal foundation. They continue to contribute by offering their wisdom, their talent and their time in their communities. They are role models for all of us.
Our government is committed to improving the well-being of Canadian seniors. We are certainly open to exploring ways to better assist these respected and valued members of our communities now and into the future. We have made provision for the retirement benefits to be more convenient for seniors.
However, we must question whether the measures proposed in Bill C-326 would address the real problem.
Does the monthly payment system really need fixing? Would a biweekly system really give value for money? If not, it would be irresponsible for us to impose yet another layer of process and drive up unnecessary spending at a time when taxpayers expect us to be prudent in handling their hard-earned money.
Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to complete Canada's economic recovery and return to balanced budgets. This is exactly what we are doing.
Payment processing already involves several departments acting in conjunction. There is more involved than most would think. The processing cost of a single cheque or direct deposit may not seem like much when looked at in isolation, but when the government is issuing millions of cheques and deposits each month, it becomes a whole different matter.
The changes could actually have unintended consequences for seniors that are not desirable. The proposed changes would also increase the burden on the system, just as we are facing increased financial pressures from a growing population of seniors. As members of the House are well aware, the first of Canada's baby boomer generation started to turn 65 in 2011. Within less than two decades, almost one in four Canadians will be over 65. Looking at these numbers alone, the coming challenges are evident. It is important to understand that distributing benefits to seniors requires a lot of organization and coordination.
To ensure the efficient delivery of all benefit payments, Service Canada works in partnership with Public Works and Government Services Canada, Canada Post and the banking sector to coordinate the financial transfers of benefits payments. Each organization has developed work plans around a payment date that is the third last banking day of each month.
This practice of paying all benefits at the end of the month was adopted to provide the best service possible in a cost-effective way. Monthly payments are the commonly accepted standard for government benefits. I want to point out that most federal benefits are paid out on a monthly basis: benefits paid by Veterans Affairs Canada, the universal child care benefit and the child tax benefit, among others. Monthly payments are also typical in programs for seniors in the majority of countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Payments made monthly are also the norm for most seniors benefits in Canada at the provincial and territorial level. Let me expand on this last point quickly. There are several provincial and territorial programs that base their benefit level on an individual's OAS and GIS payments. If we changed things at the federal level, it would mean that the systems at the provincial level would also need to be changed to reflect this fact. In the highly automated environment governments operate in today, something that may seem like a small change can have a considerable ripple effect.
In a time of spending restraints it would be difficult to justify the costs involved in changing the system, based on an argument of convenience in changing it from monthly to biweekly.
We fully understand the importance of a secure and dignified retirement for hard-working Canadians. OAS and CPP are the first two pillars of Canada's retirement income system and play a significant role in providing income security to Canadians in their senior years. There can be no question of our commitment to ensure that Canadians receive the benefits for which they are eligible and entitled. However, the change proposed in Bill C-326 would further complicate the system without addressing any pressing need.
The additional cost involved would only draw funding away to underwrite the administrative process. These funds could be better spent on measures that would truly help seniors and other Canadians.
For these reasons our government is in favour of keeping the legislated monthly payment schedule of CPP and OAS. My colleagues and I cannot support Bill C-326. It would be an irresponsible use of taxpayers' dollars.
I would urge members opposite to reconsider their position, to look at the ramifications of what they are suggesting, to look at the millions of cheques and deposits that have to be made, the numbers of departments that would be involved and the bureaucracy that it would take to get there. I urge them to reconsider whether they want to spend those kinds of dollars, those kinds of efforts and that kind of energy to achieve merely the advanced payment from monthly to biweekly when the system we have now is working. It is timely, it has developed, it is something people have come to expect and something that has been a common practice in other areas as well. Other services use that model. It has been something Canadians have accepted over the years and it is something that the opposition should look at. That money could be better spent doing other things for seniors or other members of the Canadian public.
I would ask them to reconsider their position and not proceed with this unnecessary amendment at this time.
Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business
April 3rd, 2012 / 7:05 p.m.
Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague who spoke before me, and I am extremely disappointed. He is talking about a little detail that may be important in future: an administrative expense.
By pushing back the age of retirement, the government decided this week to cut the funds allocated to the guaranteed income supplement, old age security and the Canada pension plan by $10.8 billion. Ten billion, eight hundred million dollars. It did not ask itself a lot of questions about the administrative problems this might cause for the people who would not be receiving that money.
Last year, the government refused to help the Nortel and AbitibiBowater employees and the employees of several other companies who lost their pension funds. That is another little administrative problem. It is called being able to make ends meet at the end of the month. Unfortunately, those people cannot do that, because this government decided again that this little administrative problem was too important for them.
Bill C-326 is merely a small gesture, a little administrative reform, one that is technical, if not cosmetic. It is simply a matter of arranging for benefits to be paid every two weeks. We are not asking for a miracle. We simply want Canada pension plan payments to be made twice a month. This is simply to give recipients some financial flexibility in their day-to-day budgeting.
This request has been made by numerous retirees. It is a matter of replying to a very simple request. People do not want to find themselves constantly in busy pharmacies all at the same time and tripping over one another at the bank. They want there to be a little rotation. There is nothing difficult or extraordinarily costly about this.
I would have liked these people who are quick to make budget cuts to think at least once, just once, about the people who need a favour.
It is not so extraordinary to ask for this gesture after everything the government has taken away from them. After everything it has taken away, the least it could have done would have been to agree to this little reform. It adds nothing to the cheques. Poor people will still be just as poor, but they could manage their grocery and drug purchases better. This is not an extraordinary request, but the government has refused it.
Canada Pension Plan
October 5th, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).
Mr. Speaker, as is quite evident, I could not sleep much last night so I spent a lot of time doing my bills.
This is a very popular bill. I introduced it in the last session and I received a lot of positive feedback. The bill would allow people who receive the CPP or OAS monthly benefit to have an option, and I would stress it is an option to be paid biweekly, twice a month, if they choose to do so.
It is inspired largely by a provincial group of 50-plus clubs and pensioners in Newfoundland and Labrador. Year over year, they were passing this resolution within their organization where they wanted the option to be paid twice a month instead of just once.
It would be a good budgeting measure, especially for the younger seniors. This way, because it is an option, older seniors who live in homes can maintain their payment of once a month, which is also better budgeting for that particular institution that looks after them.
I am begging the government to seriously consider this as a good positive measure for seniors and their ability to budget.
I thank my colleague from Avalon, who is a great member. There is not much else I can say about him other than the fact that he simply inspired me. The fact that I stayed up all night to do this is also his fault.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)