Retirement Income Bill of Rights

An Act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

This bill was previously introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session.

Sponsor

Judy Sgro  Liberal

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

Status

Defeated, as of Jan. 29, 2014
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

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

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.

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.

Votes

Jan. 29, 2014 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.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

François Lapointe NDP Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to rise in the House to speak to a private member's bill, Bill C-513, which was introduced by the hon. member for York West, one of our Liberal Party colleagues.

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.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand in support of Bill C-513. This is a bill that was put forward by my friend and colleague from York West.

I certainly hold in high regard the work that the member has done on this particular issue. I know that over the last number of years she has travelled the country and met with numerous stakeholders, many Canadians who have voiced their concerns around the entire pension issue. This bill is an outgrowth from that experience.

The member listened to experts in the field and to a broad range of voices from many sectors, and I am sure she would be able to share that when she has an opportunity to speak herself. I am sure that was her motivation; trying to help Canadians in their later years is certainly what brought this bill to the floor.

To understand the focus of the bill, it is important that we appreciate the changing demographic in this country. Certainly our aging population, where Canadians are living longer and some are retiring sooner, puts a shift in the paradigm as to how many people in this country are contributing and how many are benefiting from investments in pensions.

As a matter of fact, the ratio has changed considerably over the years. If we look back to 1980, the ratio of retirees to workers was at 36% in 1980, and today that ratio is 53%. That is fairly substantive, and it is a shift, so we have to look differently at how we prepare for retirement. That demographic shift alone places many Canadians' retirement at risk.

A recent survey indicates that 30% of Canadians feel they would not be able to retire at the age of 65. We see that more and more now, whether it is from necessity, or that they want to continue to work past the age of 65, which is not uncommon in this day and age. However, among those Canadians who would like to retire at the age of 65, at least 30% of them feel they would not be able to do so. Also, that study identifies that only 14% of seniors believe they are going to be able to retire with any degree of comfort. They have anxiety leading up to the point when they do retire.

What we are seeing is the development of a two-tier retirement in Canada. We have those who get along quite well and are comfortable. They have had a pension plan that they have been able to pay into, or they have earned quite well, and saved and invested well for their retirement. Then we see the people at the other end of the spectrum, who have not had the benefit of a company pension plan and have not made the money they felt was necessary to invest and save. They have spent most of their time trying to get by and raise their family. We are seeing that gap widen between those in retirement who have and those who do not have.

Some additional statistics that came out of that study are that 75% of Canadians working in the private sector do not have a pension plan other than CPP, OAS, or a guaranteed income supplement. Seventy-five per cent of Canadians is certainly a number we should all be concerned about.

Many Canadians expect to depend mostly on those government benefits in retirement. However, together these government plans can pay only up to a maximum of about $27,000. The average is considerably less.

Those who work for the government or a large company will have some type of plan to rely on. I know of some unfortunate cases, which we can find right across this country, of companies that have come up against hard times. One of the first casualties of tough economic times is an investment in the company's pension plan. We know that they do not have to be fully funded. There are laws on the level of funding for company pension plans.

Stora Enso, in my riding of Cape Breton—Canso, is a company that has been a great corporate citizen and has had a great history in the riding. It did newsprint and high-end glossy paper for many years. However, we know where newsprint and the paper industry have gone in this country and globally. When Stora Enso fell upon hard times, it sold to NewPage Corporation. One of the things NewPage did not invest in was topping up the defined benefits pension plan. When the company went into receivership, many people who left the mill years ago all of sudden themselves making 40% less from their pensions than they did before the downturn and the bankruptcy.

People have a particular lifestyle. They think that they will have a guaranteed income going forward into retirement. To have almost half of that pulled away certainly comes as a shock to many. That is what the retirees and pensioners of Stora Enso and NewPage have experienced.

The provinces recognize this, and they have been pushing the federal government to expand the CPP. However, the government has been dragging its heels. We have heard the minister responsible stand in the House and speak against that. However, it is coming in loud and clear from the provinces that changes have to be made. The government's new PRPP retirement plans are voluntary tools. Employers do not have to offer them, and employees do not have to use them.

We know that Canadians are not saving enough for retirement. There are reasons for that. In the last five years, we have seen an increase of 78% in the number of Canadians who are working for minimum wage. People working for minimum wage are doing the best they can to pay the bills. People are doing the best they can to keep the wolves away from the door if they are trying to run a household on minimum wage. Therefore, they are not able to make those types of investments in savings. What they are investing in is food and heat and lights for their homes. That has to be of concern.

CIBC recently did a study that showed that a 35-year-old today saves half of what a 35-year-old saved a generation ago. I think we all know about those experiences.

To sum up, the bill does two things. It gives Canadians the right to contribute to a decent retirement plan and to be provided with up-to-date, unbiased information about their savings plans. That is worthwhile and noble. If we were able to embrace that through this legislation, those principles would serve us well. That is why I would be happy to stand and support my colleague from York West when the opportunity arises to vote on this piece of legislation.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to debate this private member's bill this afternoon.

First, our government is dedicated to supporting Canada's senior citizens. Many have spent their lives working hard, while demonstrating great resolve and determination to make this country great. As the older generation passes the torch along to a new and younger generation of Canadians, we want to ensure that seniors are always respected and receive the appreciation they deserve.

We have also taken concrete action to benefit our seniors. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight just a few of the steps we have taken in that vein.

Our government has established October 1 as National Seniors Day to pay tribute to the seniors who have helped build our country and continue to help make it great.

Since 2006, we have funded over 11,000 new horizons for seniors programs and projects, in hundreds of communities across Canada. The new horizons for seniors program is a federal grants and contributions program that supports projects led or inspired by seniors who want to make a difference. Projects must be led or inspired by seniors and address one or more of the following five program objectives: promoting volunteerism among seniors and other generations; engaging seniors in the community through the mentoring of others; expanding awareness of elder abuse, including financial abuse; and providing capital assistance for new and existing community projects and/or programs for seniors.

One other objective of the new horizons for seniors program is to combat social isolation. Although it is not the case for every senior, there are too many who are not aware of or cannot partake in their community's activities due to social isolation. Research clearly shows that isolation continues to be a serious concern, particularly for older Canadians. We take it very seriously.

Recently, the Minister of State for Seniors conducted calls for proposals for projects that focus on one of three priorities: identifying seniors at risk of isolation and determining the existing programs and services that could support them; expanding community-based services for seniors who are experiencing or are at risk of social isolation; and supporting social participation through intergenerational learning.

By doing this, our government is making it easier for seniors, individuals, and organizations to form partnerships with the not-for-profit sector, the private sector, and governments, to localize and leverage the resources in their community. We are pleased to help create partnerships that would form a circle of support around all seniors in our communities.

Another object of the new horizons for seniors program is protection. I am proud to note that our government passed the Protecting Canada's Seniors Act. This act will help ensure consistently tough penalities for criminals who have committed elder abuse. We want to ensure that seniors feel safe and secure in their homes and in their communities. We believe this legislation will help.

We are not only committed to protecting the safety and the security of seniors, but also to protecting the security of their pensions and Canada's retirement income system. Obviously, the level of retirement income in Canada is directly related to the state of the Canadian economy.

I am proud to note that just last week, Statistics Canada announced that the Canadian economy grew by 2.7% in the third quarter. This is the ninth consecutive quarter of economic growth in Canada. This is yet further evidence that despite a fragile global economic environment, our government's economic action plan is working. We are also on track to balance the budget in 2015, all the while keeping taxes low.

Our plan is working. That does not mean we have not faced difficulties. We have faced the adversity of the worst recession in a generation. We have faced the difficulty of an opposition party that wants to raise taxes and punish job creators.

Recently, we faced a new threat. It is not the same as the economic threats that lie beyond our shores; rather, this is one that is right here at home. It is the threat of one of the world's most inexperienced leaders, the member for Papineau. Time and time again, the Liberal leader shows poor judgment. This is the type of judgment that would damage our economy. It would damage the confidence of foreign businesses looking to invest in Canada. It would create dangerous instability that would prevent businesses from expanding.

It almost sounds comical, but sadly it is true. Even though he is the federal Liberal leader, he has not put forward one single economic policy. While many Canadians are honourably giving their hard-earned dollars to support charities, the elected member for Papineau was taking those same charity dollars and pocketing the speaking fees. While we create greater prosperity that gives the nation hope, he emphasizes dictatorships and free-flowing dope.

Pensioners and seniors know better. They know the Canadian economy has benefited from the unprecedented leadership of the Prime Minister for eight consecutive years.

In fact, the Prime Minister has recently signed an historic trade agreement with Europe that will contribute to greater prosperity in Canada for generations to come. Canada has also profited from our prudent and responsible fiscal plan. This has been led by the Minister of Finance. They do not call him the world's greatest finance minister for nothing.

Across the globe, Canada has a reputation as a nation with steady leadership and a strong economy. Despite the economic threats that continue to exist outside our borders and beyond our shores, Canada has enjoyed strong economic performance during both the recession and the recovery.

I would like to highlight a few other examples of how our plan for creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity is benefiting Canadians.

Since 2009, Canada has created over one million net new jobs. Almost 90% of those are full-time and more than 80% are in the private sector. This is the strongest job creation record in the entire G7.

This is good news, but we cannot be complacent. We must continue to take responsible, prudent steps to build our economy. Economic action plan 2013 is continuing to support our economy. It includes helping small businesses by extending the small business hiring credit, helping manufacturers with tax relief when they make new investments in machinery and equipment, and supporting persons with disabilities with new training investments to help them secure employment.

Economic action plan 2013 also keeps taxes low. We are keeping taxes low for all Canadians including seniors. Since 2006, we have cut taxes for seniors and pensioners, and have taken many steps to ensure they keep more of their hard-earned dollars in their wallets. For example, we have introduced pension income splitting, doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income tax credit, increased the maximum GIS earnings exemption to $3,500, and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs to 71 from 69 years of age.

Overall, our actions have resulted in delivering over $2.7 billion in annual targeted tax relief to seniors. Seniors have asked for this and they have also asked that we keep Canada's retirement income system strong. We have done exactly that.

Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the globe. It is a model that succeeds in lowering poverty for seniors and in providing high levels of retirement income. This model is based on a three pillar approach.

The first pillar is made up of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits, which provide a minimum income guarantee for seniors. The second pillar is the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan. These plans provide a defined benefit in retirement based on an individual's career earnings. The third pillar includes tax-assisted private savings opportunities. This includes registered pension plans and registered retirement savings plans.

The three pillars are strong, but we have taken action to make the system stronger. We passed the Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act that will provide employers, employees and the self-employed with a low-cost pension option. This will enable more workers to benefit from the lower costs that result in large, pooled pension plans.

PRPPs are a viable option that provinces can enact very quickly. It would assist the 60% of Canadians who do not have access to workplace pensions. Unfortunately, the bill we have here today, Bill C-513, would only apply to less than 10% of the pension plans in Canada.

We do not support the private member's bill. Rather than focus on ineffective proposals, I encourage the Liberal Party to support our job-creating measures. After all, the best way to ensure a healthy retirement plan for tomorrow is to have a job today.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that the NDP will be supporting the bill so that the Standing Committee on Finance can discuss the Canada pension plan. This is important and serious.

I want to immediately correct the falsehoods that have been put forward by government members.

The Conservatives began by saying that they have delivered $2 billion in tax relief for seniors. Take Nortel, for example. The file was handled with such incompetence that Nortel workers lost more then $2 billion from their pension fund. That says a lot about how poorly the pension plan was managed. That is serious.

The people of Nortel worked their whole lives and lost more than 40% or 50% of their pension funds. It happened just like that. What did the government do? Nothing. That is serious. That type of situation needs to be addressed.

Here is another major falsehood. The Conservatives indicated that this was not the time to discuss the issue of pension plans. They do not know what they are talking about. The provincial proposal and the legislation concerning the Canada pension plan show that it will take three years from the moment the government decides to improve the pension plan for the change to happen. Increases to the Canada pension plan will happen over a seven-year period. It will take a total of 10 years from start to finish. Does that mean that the government is saying that the economic slump is going to last another 10 years? Is that the government's idea of economic growth? A 10-year slump?

Perhaps the government members need to understand that there is a difference between a pension fund and a tax. They are not the same thing. If they do not know what they are talking about, it would be better for them to study up on the issues instead of reading from notes prepared by the Prime Minister's Office. If the Conservatives were to do that, they would look more successful.

It is shameful that we are faced with such an astounding situation. The people who are losing their pension funds will not have the necessary income to meet their needs when they retire. However, the Conservatives refuse to talk about it.

With regard to the bill, I would have hoped that the Liberals would be better than the Conservatives, but that is not the case. The Liberals do not know what they are talking about either. It is appalling.

We have before us a bill that seeks to protect people who want to invest in a pension plan. That sounds good. It is good to know that the Liberals want to protect investors who put money into a pension fund.

However, when we look at the bill more closely, we see that it reflects a total lack of knowledge in this area. It does not make any sense. The Liberals want flexibility, but pension plans must produce a rate of return. Such plans must give a minor, quantifiable and identifiable return so that people who draw their pensions have at least 70% of their income. Math does not give the Liberals the wiggle room that they are used to. Two plus two equals four. That is always the case. The Liberals would like two plus two to equal three sometimes because then they can slip the extra into their pockets.

I would now like to explain why the bill is not viable. Subsection 248(1) of the Income Tax Act deals with registered pension plans. To be recognized as a registered pension plan, a pension plan must include a mandatory contribution from the employer. The Conservatives are changing the registered pension plan without taking into account that key element of the act.

The employer has to make a contribution. I did not find anything in their bill that amended the Income Tax Act. Obviously, they did not see this coming, they did not catch it and they did not even understand it.

Even if I went out of my way to explain it to them, I am not sure whether they would bother making the effort to understand. This is unfortunately what most deeply affects the Canada Pension Plan issue. We keep talking about it, but nothing gets done.

The bill refers to “other” savings vehicles without defining them. However, under section 147.1 of the Income Tax Act, a deferred profit sharing plan is determined by legislation, not a definition that says “other savings vehicles”, as stipulated in clause 2 of the Liberal bill. Therefore, there is a total lack of understanding of the relationship between pension plans and the Income Tax Act. That is not really being discussed, either.

Subclause 4(1) of the bill states that the right to accumulate sufficient pension income is subject to any reasonable restrictions. What exactly is a “reasonable restriction”? This means that all legislation addressing pensions is now subject to judicial control to define what is a reasonable restriction.

We want pension plans to put money in the pockets of retirees, not legal firms. Once again, they did not get that and did not see it coming. They do not want pension plans to violate an individual's right to accumulate a pension on the basis of their religion, language or place of birth. That is nice, but the Charter of Rights and Freedoms already guarantees that.

However, what takes the cake is when they say that there should not be an age restriction, even though the pension plan is, first and foremost, an age-based restriction. For example, people often hear that they cannot retire before 30 or 35 years of service without a financial penalty. That is an age restriction.

The Liberals are saying that there should not be one. That says a lot. I do not know who wrote that or what they were smoking, but perhaps they were smoking a bit too much.

An annotation to section 146.2 of the Income Tax Act indicates that people who have RRSPs must roll their RRSPs into RRIFs at age 69. This is clearly an obligation and a penalty based on age. This text is so weak that we could talk about it for hours. However, there are a good number of really important questions here.

Are old age security, income security and the guaranteed income supplement enough to protect our seniors? That question needs to be addressed. Are people getting enough money?

Second, defined benefit pension plans are not protected by the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act. Retirees are not considered preferred creditors. This was a major reason why the people at Nortel lost so much money. Can something be done? Can we create a group insurance plan with regard to registered pension plans? We must discuss this. CPP and QPP premiums are about 25%. Perhaps that needs to be increased to 50%, as suggested by the provinces.

In closing, this is about RRSPs. We need to limit the management fees and the rates of return.

This is why the NDP wants to be able to discuss this bill—basically so that the Standing Committee on Finance can have a closer look at these critical issues.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 1:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Andrews Liberal Avalon, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise here today to speak to the bill.

To refresh us on what the bill would do, I would like to quote a few words from the member from Toronto who proposed it.

In broad strokes, the bill would create substantive, justifiable rights relating to retirement income, give every person a chance to accumulate retirement income, promote good plan administration, and set out in law that pension reform goals to which we aspire legislatively.

This bill, in a few short steps, would improve people's financial retirement.

For a lot of people, retirement takes years of planning. Those who start working in their mid-20s to mid-30s are not always thinking about retirement. Thirty years or 25 years is a long way away. A lot of factors can go into what may happen to one's retirement savings over that 30 years. We only need to look back at the last 10 years to see what happened when the markets collapsed and people's retirement savings vanished overnight, making them have to work longer. One never knows what might happen to one's retirement savings. It has taken at least the last five to six years to get back to where their savings were almost 15 years ago.

Wherever I have travelled in my riding over the last little while, the number one issue I have heard from seniors has been how they are struggling in their day-to-day operations trying to survive on the little bit of pension income they have. The cost of living is going up. The cost of a quart of milk has gone up over the last little while. This impacts many seniors. There are a lot of seniors out there who are going to the malls to get warm, which is a shame. When one gets to that age in life, one should be able to retire in dignity and with respect.

I hear it everywhere I go. A lot of seniors are finding it very hard. A lot of them will admit that they did not think of retirement planning for the last 30 years. We have to make sure that these things are there so that people have the retirement savings they need.

People refer to some of the programs we have in place now, such as the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS, the Canada pension plan, and old age security. As the member for Cape Breton—Canso mentioned, when we look at the sum of those plans, it is only in the range of $27,000 a year. With the cost of everything going up, and as people are getting older and living longer, their needs become greater. When they get to a stage where they need care and help, it is costly.

My mother is 82 years old. It is not easy living alone in a home one has lived in one's entire life. When property tax goes up by a small increment, it can really cash-strap a lot of our seniors. When they get into a home or alternate living, it is not cheap. It costs of a lot of money. A lot of people at that age are spending every nickel on it. They have no money left over to share with their grandchildren, family, and friends.

We need people to be thinking about this. We need to make sure that people are guaranteed an honourable retirement. All this bill is doing is proposing a bill of rights for retirees and seniors to make sure that they have the funds to live out retirement with dignity.

Getting back to the GIS and the CPP, one of the things I hear most, and what really gets me going, is that the government will say that it has given a little increase in the CPP. It gives this increase to the CPP; people receive it in January. They have their increase in their CPP, and it is not a whole lot, but it is a little. It is not enough to cover the cost of a carton of milk. However, by the time June comes around and they get reassessed, they are clawed back on their GIS. Therefore, they are no further ahead, at all, on any increase in the CPP. It is clawed back through their GIS.

Seniors, retirees and people in the House cannot understand why the government would claw back their GIS. It gives it on one hand and takes it away on the other. I hear it every June, without fail, from people who call our offices and complain that their GIS, their income supplement, has been decreased because they were lucky enough to get a little more on their CPP in January. It is very frustrating.

Much like where we have a number of bills of rights and charters for our veterans, we need to have this bill of rights for our seniors and for retirement.

It is a pleasure to support the bill. I know the member has been an advocate for seniors and pension plans for a number of years now. She has seen what has happened when people's retirement incomes have slipped away through no fault of their own, or through businesses that collapse and pension funds are in jeopardy. I know there were some references made to Nortel.

Bill C-513will help try to preserve that and make sure it gives seniors every tool they need to remain happy in their senior years.

I would like to close by quoting this one the member put together. Basically, it says that is she had to summarize the bill in 50 words or less, she would say it is about “choice, fairness and flexibility”. She goes on:

It is not about tearing down pensions; it is about elevating everyone to the same level. Every Canadian should have the right to a financially secure retirement and I believe this proposal sets the stage for that to become a reality.

That is what the bill is about, and it is a pleasure to support it.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 2 p.m.
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Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this private member's bill. I want to thank my colleague, the member for Chatham-Kent—Essex, for his comments. I will be repeating some of the very important points that he pointed out in his speech.

Like many other Canadians, I feel very strongly about being able to have a safe, secure retirement. That is one of the reasons I am particularly pleased about our government's strong economic record. As we know, a secure retirement is directly connected to a stable economy. After all, there is no retirement if there is no job. That is one of the many reasons that our government has made creating jobs, growth and long-term prosperity our top priority.

Despite obstruction attempts from the opposition across the way, we have been steadfast in our economic commitment, and Canada is benefiting. One week ago today, Statistics Canada announced that the Canadian economy grew by 2.7% in the third quarter. This is the ninth consecutive quarter of economic growth in Canada. This is especially noteworthy when we consider the delicate global economic environment in which that was achieved. While many other economies around the world are faltering, one simply cannot argue with the success of nine consecutive quarters of economic growth.

However, this is not the first economic accomplishment under our government's stewardship. Canada has created over a million net new jobs since the depths of the recession in 2009. More importantly, nearly 90% of these new jobs are full-time and over 80% are in the private sector. This is the strongest job creation record in the G7. The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development both project that Canada will have some of the strongest growth in the G7 in the years ahead. These organizations are expressing steadfast confidence in our government because they know we are steadfast in our commitment to the economic action plan.

Economic action plan 2013 is continuing to support job creation and helping our economy grow. It includes helping small business by extending the small business hiring credit; helping manufacturers with tax relief when they make new investments in machinery and equipment; and supporting persons with disabilities, aboriginal people, youth and newcomers, with new training investments to help them secure employment.

We are proud about creating a pro-growth environment while keeping taxes low. Canada continues to have the lowest overall tax rate on new—

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 2:05 p.m.
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NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, apologies to my friend across the way for interrupting his speech. It was my intention to have it otherwise, but the pressing clock requires me to rise now.

I am rising on a point of order resulting from a very disturbing event that took place this very afternoon. I will be asking for unanimous consent to table a document at the end of remarks to the House.

At 12:53 p.m. today, Conservative Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais circulated a letter to all members of Parliament, senators and their staff. The letter was addressed to the MP for Terrebonne—Blainville. The letter was offensive to the point that I rise today in the House.

Senator Dagenais was rejected by voters in the 2011 election, and then appointed by the Prime Minister to the Senate, which is unelected, unaccountable and under investigation. From atop his pedestal of legitimacy, this man used his Senate office, title and taxpayers' money to make vicious and personal attacks against the duly elected member for Terrebonne—Blainville.

The letter in question attacks the very legitimacy of a sitting member of Parliament. The attack is paternalistic, childish, condescending and frankly misogynistic.

This man is a federal legislator, but not because he was elected by voters. He holds this position simply because he was a Conservative Party of Canada crony.

The timing of this attack could not be worse. Today, of all days, the tone deafness of Senator Dagenais's actions are absolutely stupefying.

We often lament the lack of participation of young Canadians, and in particular young women, in the democratic process. We are all aware of the effort to bring those voices into our Parliament. We will be looking more closely at this matter over the weekend and I expect that you, Mr. Speaker, will be hearing about this again from us when the House resumes on Monday.

I will now ask for the unanimous consent of the House and my colleagues to table the letter that was issued by their Conservative senator just this very afternoon in the attack on the member from Terrebonne—Blainville.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

December 6th, 2013 / 2:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank everyone who spoke for and against my seniors' bill of rights, and in particular, my two colleagues who spoke so very well.

Both my colleagues who spoke understand the challenges of being a senior today. Because of their closeness with them, they understand when seniors say that they have to eat macaroni and cheese for several days in the last week of the month because they do not have adequate pension funds.

The work I did in my previous critic role is hence the reason I tried to establish a basic bill of rights for seniors in Canada.

I am sure there are many on this side of the House and possibly some on the government side who understand what a bill of rights sets out to do, which is to establish parameters. It does not say to put money into it anywhere, because that is not a private member's bill anyway, but it is to set down the quality of life we want our seniors to have.

In the few minutes I have, I will try to reiterate a few points. Too often it is financial illiteracy that gets people into problems. They do not understand the awful lot of red tape that is involved when one invests in a bank. It sounds like a good investment so an individual might put their money there. An awful lot of people do not take the time to understand how complicated some of that is.

Often there is a conflict of interest with the person promoting a particular investment because they get a higher management fee on it. Many people do not know these things. They do not know enough to ask those questions. They are busy trying to make the money to put away.

Every once in a while we hear about a group of people who lost their life savings in investments. Over and above issues such as Nortel and companies that go bankrupt, which is another issue altogether, people have the perception that if they put money away, it will be perfectly safe. People need to get up to date on what they need to know, the questions they need to ask and they need to become much more aware of what happens to their pension money if they are able to put any away.

Often it is inadequate opportunity and economic instability. An individual has a job, which they lose, then they draw out their savings, not thinking about what will happen 20 years later because it is today that they need that money. That instability strips away the hard-earned savings of our seniors, and that is what we are trying to stop.

Bill C-513 is the first bill of its kind ever proposed to better protect our seniors and their nest eggs. I was hopeful that all of my colleagues in the House would support that. However, I have heard the message from the government side and it does not surprise me as the Conservatives move forward to promote the things they think are best, in their viewpoint, to help those who have.

When we look at the aging demographics and the population, there will be an awful lot of people who will have to rely on the province for more than the current GIS and OAS.

The intent of part of the bill of rights is to put in parameters that would ensure that people get spoken to in plain English when they talk about retirement, so that they start to learn about financial literacy early on, understand the issues better and will not find themselves at the time of retirement with inadequate funds, if any at all, because they have used them for various reasons.

The bill is about building people up, not tearing people down. It is about helping Canadians better prepare for tomorrow. That is a responsibility we all have in the House.

We been talking about enhanced CPP. We have been talking about the Liberals' supplementary CPP. We need to get this issue on the agenda to talk about just how we would create the vehicles, the instruments, to help Canadians understand the reason they have to prepare for their retirements, and also provide the vehicles necessary for them to do that.

I thank all hon. members for their participation and for the opportunity to present the bill.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

moved that Bill C-513, an act to promote and strengthen the Canadian retirement income system, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to discuss an issue that I think is critically important to Canadians and one that I have been involved in for some time, especially as the critic for seniors, pensions and the status of women, which I had previously held. I had an opportunity to talk to countless Canadians.

People who are seniors today talked to me about their struggles and how difficult it was to make ends meet. I talked to people who were in their fifties who said they don't have any ability to save money. It's not that they don't have it, but they don't have anywhere to put it. They don't work for a company that has a pension plan, so they put some into RRSPs but in many cases that's not a pension plan either. Unless they choose to work for the government or some of our major employers that provide a pension plan to which they as well as the employer can contribute, many Canadians are simply out of luck and do not have that opportunity.

Another part of this whole equation and discussion is the issue of the impact on many small companies that have a responsibility and would like to have a pension plan for their employees, but it is far too expensive. They are small companies that are trying to ensure they are able to employ people. We clearly do not want to have an impact on their businesses and deter them from being successful.

I heard that from all different equations. I heard it from the middle-aged.

I did not hear anything from the young folks who are in their thirties because they really think that the government is going to take care of them. When I would say to them, “When you think the government's going to take of you, that means you may be living on $1,500, $1,600, maybe $2,000, if you are really lucky”, they were quite taken aback. They thought that the government had a pension for them. We have old age security and our Canada pension plan. They thought it would be enough. It is not enough.

I think part of our role as government, as parliamentarians, is to ensure that people understand that we cannot sit back and wait for government to take care of us. We have to be establishing a plan. We have to be contributing. It is very difficult for those in a low-income bracket.

However, we have a guaranteed income supplement that was brought in by a Liberal government, as was the old age security, as was the Canada pension plan. However, this is not about partisan politics tonight. This is about trying to move forward to recognize the challenges that are facing Canadians and to help them start to plan.

Financial literacy is a big issue that we will hear more about as I go on with this speech. Canadians are being affected all the time because they have not spent enough time learning what pensions are and why it is important to contribute, as well as finding the opportunities to contribute. That is a major concern.

When I introduced the bill in our last Parliament, it had the support of all political parties in the House. I want to thank the member for Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, in particular, and the member for Macleod, both of whom set aside partisan differences and supported the bill because it was the right thing to do.

While the bill was lost when the election was called, I am hopeful that the MPs in this Parliament will use the same sense of this not being about partisan politics or knocking anyone. It is about trying to think of a future and what we can do to make a difference in the lives of many people.

For clarity, Bill C-513 is exactly the same as Bill C-574. Not one word has changed.

However, I would like to be clear. I am not asking members' support for the sake of an ego or anything else. I am asking for your support so people such as Ray and Dawn-Marie Brown can get the help they need.

For those who did not happen to read Saturday's Financial Post, I would urge them to take a look at the Barbara Shecter story. It is just one small example of some of the challenges that are facing Canadians today. The story tells of how Ray and Dawn-Marie Brown tried to put money away for retirement, but because of financial illiteracy and financial counsel that was not truly in their best interests, which has to stop, they now have the major problem of dealing with a huge debt they took on thinking it was going to help them in their retirement.

Canadians are urged to put their money away for retirement if they have some, but investing is not as intuitive as the industry rhetoric might indicate and good advice is hard to find. The Browns thought they had good advice. It came from a reputable firm. However, $200,000 later, for them it was clearly not good advice.

Worse yet, anyone who is studying the issue of pension reform knows that individuals in a defined benefit pension arrangement accumulate five to seven times more retirement income than those who are not. Put another way, those who have the opportunity to save effectively for retirement have much more gold in their golden years. We as parliamentarians have been very fortunate to be part of a defined benefit plan. However, fewer and fewer people in this country have that opportunity. This should not be about bringing people down to the bottom level. Rather, it should be about how we can increase and provide opportunities for more Canadians to have access to a good pension plan. That is exactly why Bill C-513 is so important.

Traditionally, defined benefit plans are available only to public sector workers and a small minority of private sector workers. That means only those working for large companies or the government have access to this type of retirement plan. Everyone else is forced to go it alone in the markets and face the challenge, as Ray and Dawn-Marie did when they were trying to find a proper investment counsellor to help them invest for their coming 20 or 30 years. That is wrong and Bill C-513 is intended to be the first step toward correcting that inequity.

In a country like Canada, it is unacceptable that senior citizens would be subjected to poverty and squalor during their retirement years. It falls upon all of us as parliamentarians to do what we can to provide opportunities for people to save their money for their retirement years. If Canadians are to take a more active role in retirement planning, then governments must also be prepared to step up and do their share. Private and public retirement saving options must be explored and integrated more effectively with one another. We know that systems, such as the guaranteed income supplement, the Canadian pension plan and the Old Age Security Act are important, but they are only elements of a much larger strategy. That is again where Bill C-513 comes into play.

The legislation is the first of its kind proposed to ensure that our future seniors have better nest eggs and the retirement income security that they need. In broad strokes, the bill would create substantive, justiciable rights relating to retirement income, give every person a chance to accumulate retirement income, promote good plan administration, and set out in law the pension reform goals to which we aspire legislatively. This is about establishing goals. This is about a first step. This is not saying that we will increase pensions or increase anything. This is about setting the goals to which Canadians and governments need to aspire to make sure that the vehicles needed for people to be able to save some money are there.

The government has introduced the PPRP plan. We have suggested the supplementary Canada pension plan, and there are other suggestions out there. However, there needs to be a vehicle for Canadians to be able to invest and save in a well-administered and safe plan. Whatever that plan would be is not in the bill. These are the first steps of a bill of rights that would start to establish the goals that I think government should have.

I want to take a moment to underscore that final point because it may be one of the most important. Bill C-513 would set out in law only the goals to which we should aspire legislatively as they relate to retirement income. It would legally compel both the current federal government and future governments to take real action to promote, enhance and preserve retirement income security, coverage and adequacy.

For years, successive governments have set out their plans to help enhance pensions in Canada, but they have done so without any sort of long-term map. Bill C-513 can be that road map.

This bill of rights is for pension income. It recognizes that a strong retirement income system is essential to the well-being of Canadians and to the overall health of our economy. It recognizes that the Canadian retirement income system is built on a combination of personal, public and private options. It affirms that we have the right to a retirement income system that promotes adequacy, transparency, affordability and equity. It also enshrines these principles in law, while respecting Parliament's constitutional limitations.

To me, and to the hundreds of pensioners with whom I have consulted, pension reform is as fundamental as motherhood. Canadian seniors, particularly the 300,000 who now live below the poverty line, are tired of struggling to make ends meet. They do not want their families and kids to have to do the same thing. Seniors should not be forced to decide between medicine and food or shelter and heat. Unfortunately, we do have certain seniors who for various reasons are in that situation. I do not think any of us want to see that continue. After all, today's seniors are yesterday's labour force, yesterday's caregivers and yesterday's builders of the economy.

If we are going to talk about consumers today, we need to remember to look beyond their current spending abilities. They carried this country through wars, depression and countless other times of difficulty, and they did it while working to raise a family and while building the social programs that we so value today. They deserve better than to be relegated to a life of poverty. It is within our power to give them and their children what they deserve.

Compassion, consideration and respect are terms that go hand in glove with retirement income security, coverage and adequacy. Today, we will conclude the second reading debate on Bill C-513 and we will then be asked to make a decision. Are we prepared to stand with our seniors or are we determined to let them stand alone?

Bill C-513 is not part of any single partisan agenda, and I would be more than pleased to share the credit of passing Bill C-513 with all members in the House. The provisions of Bill C-513 already have the endorsement of several groups, such as the Canadian Medical Association and the Canadian Federation of Pensioners. These groups do not support this effort because they are Liberal. They support it because they, too, believe that the security of the pension promise is paramount.

I have spoken to many members of the House on this subject and I have come to believe that this notion is one that really unites all of us. We have differences on how to arrive at the destination, but the end goal should be the same. Bill C-513 would offer us the freedom to pursue our own legislative paths, so long as the outcome is one that enhances pension security for all.

As I said, I have travelled across the country and I have spoken to many on this subject. Sadly, most are not adequately saving for retirement. This truth clearly requires foresight and leadership on the part of all of us and the government.

Clearly, we have learned that there is a need for a long-term road map for pension reform so that in the next 20 years, when people retire, they have an adequate income. Otherwise, the task falls back to the provincial, municipal and federal governments to provide that aid. This would allow people to survive, but it would not give people a decent level of living. It would still mean that they are living at just the minimum.

If we could encourage the changes necessary and do everything we can to encourage people to put money away, we would all be better off and our seniors would find more gold in their golden years. However, it will take time to make those changes and it will need people, such as all of us in the House, supporting things such as Bill C-513 to ensure that we are moving forward, thinking about retirement for many Canadians and helping them to achieve their goals.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess my first question to the member would be as follows. She said that the bill would just set goals to which governments should aspire. I think those were her words.

How exactly would the bill legally compel any change of government behaviour? Where are the justiciable standards that would create a better nest egg for people in their golden years?

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we talk to people today about saving their money, they will tell us that there are PRPPs, RRSPs and a few things like that, but there are very few plans that are a road map to help people to achieve the goal that a defined benefit does for those of us in Parliament. There is even a DC plan for people who work in other companies that are not as quite as affluent as the government when it comes to investing in pensions.

We have to start establishing some benchmarks of what people need to have and we need to help them get there. If they are able to save a few dollars, where would they put it? In RRSPs? They end up taking that out. That is not a given plan.

I am not setting down what the plans have to be. We are suggesting in C-513 that there needs to be a plan as we move forward into the future. Otherwise, much of the responsibilities for seniors as they get older will fall back on provincial government as well as put pressure on our federal budgets.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the member for York West for her general approach in dealing with the seniors and the pensions issue. She has been a very strong advocate.

Her opposition to increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 and her commitment to bringing forward the important stability of programs, such as our guaranteed annual income, CPP and pension programs in general, should be commended. She should be commended for the advocacy role she has played in protecting the financial interests of our seniors.

I ask her if she would provide some further comment. When she talks about retirement goals, does she see all of those different forms of pension programs being incorporated into it in some fashion and to what degree?

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his continued great work in the House, representing Winnipeg North and working for all of us.

We talk about a bill of rights. We were to have an airline bill of rights. In fact, my colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador introduced an airline bill of rights. It did not cost a whole lot of money, but it was a bill of rights that would have established certain activity, procedures or rights to how passengers should be treated.

This bill outlines how we should treat seniors in Canada, which means we need to put down in legislative form that we will be keep retirement and financial literacy as an important part as we go through the process.

It is up to the federal government to show the leadership that says retirement income is important, the protection of that income is important, ensuring that Canadians are literate on the issue of financial literacy so they fully understand what they need to do to better protect themselves and move forward in the future.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is reminiscent of the grasshopper and the ant. Unfortunately, the Liberal Party is made up of a bunch of grasshoppers who want to make sure the ant's stockpiles are at their disposal.

I would like someone to explain how they can be talking about helping people avoid poverty without necessarily talking about how much money will be put in the pension fund, who will put it there and when it will happen.

Retirement Income Bill of RightsPrivate Members' Business

November 5th, 2013 / 5:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we talk about money and budgets all the time. The bill does not talk about how much money needs to be saved. It talks about providing the opportunity for people to become financially knowledgeable about pensions and about where they should invest.

The bill is about the government using this bill of rights in the future as a road map to say that it has a responsibility to ensure Canadians are financially literate. They understand that they have to save money for their future, whether it is a small amount or not.

At the moment people are just sail along, unless they work for a company that provides a pension, thinking they will live on OAS and the rest of it. If we want to help Canadians be better prepared for the future, then we need a road map, and that is what Bill C-513 would do. It calls on the government, whatever government is in play, and hopefully it will be ours the next time around, to devise a road map to help Canadians move forward.