I would like to read the bill summary so that everyone knows exactly what we are talking about. It states:
This enactment creates a Bill of Rights for a retirement income system that promotes the goals of adequacy, transparency, affordability, equity, flexibility, security and accessibility for all Canadians.
Everything that could be in there is, and who would not want those things? As a result of this description, we will support the bill at second reading, even though it does not contain any real advances with regard to the extremely important issue of future old age pensions.
This high-sounding statement talks about the right to retirement income. However, it does not seek to enhance the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan. That is a bit worrisome for such a broad statement that seems to cover the entire future of Canadian pensioners. The bill does not even address the issue of the Canada pension plan, which is the fundamental tool for planning for the future of retirees, particularly those with fewer means.
The bill also does not seek to reverse the changes to the old age security program so that Canadians can once again be eligible for benefits at age 65. The current government decided that, from now on, Canadians would not be eligible for these benefits until age 67.
Since we are talking about a private member's bill from a Liberal member, there is one thing that I think is extremely important to point out. The cuts to the Canada pension plan made by the former Liberal government will total the exorbitant amount of $15 billion a year in 2030. That is what the Liberals did a few years ago, and today, they are making a grand statement about the need to have accessible, transparent and affordable pensions.
Actuaries are being asked to find solutions to ensure that our pension funds are viable in the long term. Just imagine how decisions made by previous Liberal governments and the current Conservative government make their lives impossible.
Let us discuss the consequences of a pension plan that will not meet the challenges of current and future demographic change. Transfer payments make up more than 90% of the income of seniors living in poverty in Canada. The pension plan represents 90% of the small amount of money that prevents the poorest retired Canadians from living in abject poverty.
According to the National Council of Welfare, between 122,000 and 567,000 seniors lived in poverty in 2008. Need I remind members that, over the past 40 years, they built one of the richest economies on the planet? Now they find themselves in poverty.
There are currently 11 million Canadians without a workplace retirement plan, and many young families are struggling to pay for their children's education and their mortgage. Consequently, they do not have a pension plan.
Between 2005 and 2010, the rate of poverty among Canadians 65 and older increased by 2%. Of the 34 most advanced countries, only Turkey, Poland and Canada lost this much ground.
According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, these poor results are in part due to the current Canadian pension system, or at least the way it is managed. Public transfers represent less than 39% of the gross income of Canadian seniors, compared to an average of 59% for OECD countries.
In this situation, approximately 5.8 million Canadians could see a significant deterioration in their standard of living when they retire.
On average, this will affect women even more than men, as 70% of seniors are women.
Let us talk about the opposite scenario, in other words the impact of having a pension plan that addresses the challenge of current and future demographic changes.
The most important thing is that we have a moral obligation to ensure that an entire generation does not end up living out retirement below the poverty line. That is essential.
Nonetheless, there are economic aspects to consider, things as basic as maintaining a certain purchasing power.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer confirmed that bringing the retirement age back down to 65 would not threaten the pension plan. Increasing the retirement age to 67 is a striking example of the government taking money out of retirees' pockets.
In our economy, which has been developing for many years, the manufacturing sector accounted for only 12% of the jobs in Quebec in 2011. Ten years earlier, it accounted for 18% of the jobs. These well-paying jobs in the processing industries are often shipped to developing countries. Another type of economy and service is developing.
Where is the government collecting its taxes from? It is thanks in large part to consumer spending. Sales tax has slowly been replacing business income tax.
More and more, the economy is being driven by consumer spending. The lack of long-term vision, and the fact that millions of pensioners living in financial conditions whereby they will no longer—in 5, 10, 15 or 20 years—be able to afford to eat out once a week or go on short vacations, is a moral and ethical problem, but also an economic problem.
We have a real retirement security crisis on our hands that might trigger an economic slowdown in the medium and long terms and problems for the public treasury if nothing is done about it.
Consolidated savings through increased contributions to a public retirement fund seems like a surefire way to secure a number of important aspects.
A public retirement fund would ensure a better savings rate among Canadians, a better return, less dependence on voluntary contribution models such as RRSPs, which often are barely or not at all within reach of low-income families, and in the end, a decent income for our seniors and a healthy economy.
The current government does not seem to be thinking about these obligations. It has a short-term vision.
A number of my NDP colleagues ask questions about the pension plan, and the government always tells us that now is not the time. It will never be the time if the government keeps its short-term vision and does not think about what will happen in 10, 20 or 30 years if we do nothing. They can keep saying that tomorrow morning is not the right time and then nothing will get done.
The Minister of Finance did not fulfill his commitment to meet his Canadian counterparts in June. The provinces were expected to approve an increase to Canada pension plan benefits, but they cannot do that as long as the federal finance minister refuses to meet with them.
We cannot forget that Quebec is different when it comes to negotiations between the federal and provincial governments. In Quebec we have the QPP and not the CPP. I do not know how quickly these negotiations could move in order to improve the pension plan to avoid the crisis that is expected to strike retirees in 15 or 20 years.
The government should at least sit down so everyone can work on it together and see what we can start doing now that will result in fewer Canadians struggling with poverty in 20 years. That would be encouraging, but we are not even getting that from this government.
Actuaries like Bernard Dussault, who was the chief actuary of the CPP from 1992 to 1997, fully support a small increase to help provide for the future of Canadian retirees.
We have to remember that sooner or later we will all be seniors. Some people will be privileged, like many members in this House who were fortunate enough to be elected twice and will have access to an excellent pension. Do not think about those people. Think about the increasing number of families who struggle to pay their mortgage. These people deserve to be living with dignity 10, 15, 20 and 35 years from now.