An Act to amend the Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985

This bill was last introduced in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2019.


Bill Morneau  Liberal


Second reading (House), as of Oct. 19, 2016
(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 Pension Benefits Standards Act, 1985 to provide a framework for the establishment, administration and supervision of target benefit plans. It also amends the Act to permit pension plan administrators to purchase immediate or deferred life annuities for former members or survivors so as to satisfy an obligation to provide pension benefits if the obligation arises from a defined benefit provision.


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.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 4:50 p.m.
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David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, did we just hear the member for Kingston and the Islands ask if we really think we represent Joe Public? He stood and asked if we actually think we represent Joe Public in the House. I can tell him that this caucus is made up of farmers. It is made up of teachers. It is made up of construction workers who may own construction companies. It is made up of business people from across this country. We are Joe Public in the House. The reason we are here today is that the Liberals do not believe that they are. They do not believe they represent the public in this country. That is why they keep getting themselves into the trouble they are in.

I have been here probably too long now, but I remember one of them saying, “I am entitled to my entitlements.” We all remember that. Fortunately, in the end, it cost that government its position, and it had to move over here. The Liberals moved back into government and brought that same attitude with them right from the beginning. I want to talk about that this afternoon.

We are not here just because of an issue concerning the Ethics Commissioner. We are here because of the attitude shown by the government that disrespects Canadians right across this country, particularly the attitude of the finance minister and the Prime Minister of this country.

I will be sharing my time today with the member for Peace River—Westlock.

We just heard the NDP member talk about the finance minister, in 2013, giving a speech explaining changes to pension plans and benefits he wanted to see that would benefit his company, Morneau Shepell. Let us fast forward to his being elected and appointed finance minister, when he introduces Bill C-27. Anyone who looks at the bill knows it would accomplish pretty much everything he wanted in 2013.

We know he is going to leave here. Where is going to go? It actually does not make much difference if his interests are in a blind trust right now or not, because he is taking care of them from here. That is the problem. That is the heartbeat of a Liberal right there. We are here today not just because of that one issue around ethics but because of an attitude the current government has had from day one.

There is a total disinterest by the Liberals in being here today, and we know why that is. However, I have to ask if it is because they have a sense of entitlement that they do not even need to be here to answer the questions Canadians are asking. We have seen that for the last month on the tax changes. Liberals want nothing to do with Canadians. They want nothing to do with talking to them. They want nothing to do with town halls. They want nothing to do with extending the consultation period.

They ask if we represent Joe Public. We actually meet Joe Public. They have been hiding in their offices for the last two months, afraid of the Canadian public.

Is it arrogance that keeps them from being here today? Is it carelessness? From the beginning, we have seen that they just have not been able to get the job done. They are running massive deficits. They have not been able to keep virtually any promise they have made. Is it because of corruption that they do not want to be here today to defend themselves? The opaqueness we are seeing is not meant to inform Canadians; it is actually meant to push them away and protect the Liberal government.

I heard this afternoon that they are begging for more time and that we treat the finance minister with great respect because somehow it is poisoning the well if we dare question the direction the Liberal government is going.

Let us talk about what is expected of ministers. Members are elected and are appointed to cabinet or to the position of parliamentary secretary, and it is expected that they will not be able to control their assets. They are expected to either sell them off or put them in a blind trust at a distance so they cannot have any influence over them. All of us who were in that situation had to give up control of our assets.

What is it that the finance minister has done? Nobody really knows. The further we go, the more convoluted this gets and the more unsure we are about what he has actually done with his assets. We heard today that he could be making up to $150,000 a month. My Liberal colleague across the way talked about how we are privileged to be here. The finance minister is making the equivalent of an MP's salary every month just in dividends from his company, according to the information.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 4:45 p.m.
See context


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

If we are going to have a finance minister bringing legislation that has to do with pensions, then Bill C-27 will have to be withdrawn, because it is so obviously tarnished with the self-interest of him and his company and his offshore villa that it has no credibility. For anyone on the government side now to stand with that finance minister and say that they are going to continue to push this attack on defined pension benefits, when this man laid out the plan for his shareholders in 2013 and has followed through, it falls to the government to say that it will reject him and his bill.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

I would like to thank the Speaker. I do not have a private corporation I can refer to myself as. I am just Joe Average.

Madam Speaker, the Liberals told me it was different. He forgot to mention it was a private corporation. There was silly me, thinking that all the people I know own houses with their families, not through private offshore corporations, but this man does.

Now, on October 17, he is saying that he is willing to look at the issue of a blind trust for the money he is making from Morneau Shepell. I do not think that cuts it, because we are looking at a man who said in 2013 that legislation was needed to attack defined pension benefits, which many workers and many seniors across this country depend on. Then he came into this House, and he was given the position as finance minister, and the first major piece of legislation he brought in was Bill C-27, which was the direct form of legislation his company required to undermine pension benefits for Canadian workers. All through that time, he was able to participate in directing his company, because it was not in a blind trust. Even if it were in a blind trust, how would anyone think that a man whose name is the company, Morneau Shepell, which makes its money getting rid of defined pension benefits, and brags about it, would bring in the legislation?

I am sorry, but putting it in a blind trust on October 17 and asking for advice from the Ethics Commissioner does not cut it. This is about a fundamental, shocking breach.

I have seen a lot of breaches in Parliament over the years, and I have seen a lot of dubious and bogus behaviour, but to have the Liberal government come in and tell us that this is somehow high-minded integrity and just a bit of absent-mindedness does not cut it.

When I talk to Canadians across this country, they talk to me about their disappearing pensions. I want to talk about Lisa Okill, 100 years old, the first woman to run a Sears store, who is losing her pension benefits right now. We will never see anyone from Morneau Shepell or anyone in that government stand up to fight for that senior citizen.

It falls to us as parliamentarians to say that this kind of misuse of public office to look after the pals and friends of the Liberal Party is not acceptable. We have to hold this House to a higher standard, because Canadians have absolutely no reason to believe in a Prime Minister who had his $1,500 cash for access meetings with Chinese billionaires, and when he was caught out and asked why he was doing it, answered that they were worried about the middle class, that they were meeting about the middle class. I guess we little people are supposed to say, “Wow, that is amazing. These Chinese billionaires paid $1,500 to get the ear of the Prime Minister to talk about the middle class.” Yes, I bet. How about, probably not?

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 4:35 p.m.
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Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Madam Speaker, I am greatly honoured to rise to speak on behalf of the people of Timmins—James Bay.

One of my Liberal colleagues said that we had to continue to show deference on this issue to the finance minister to reassure Canadians that they should have trust in the House. However, the question we are discussing today is a fundamental question about a breach of trust with Canadians. When I talk with Canadians across the country, quite frankly, they do not believe that Ottawa is interested in or will protect their basic interests, and we need look no further than the present finance minister.

We look at the situation today of the Sears workers who have been laid off thanks to the mismanagement by a hedge fund of what was once a stellar company. We see people whose basic pension benefits are at risk, and the most we hear from the Liberals is, “Well, that's really too bad, but it's before the courts.” It's the same thing we heard when Nortel went down, and the Abitibi workers lost their jobs, and the people across my riding who had their pension stolen by corporate executives like Peggy Witte. Members know that that kind of theft is not only legal in Canada, but also gets one bonuses for doing it. We will never see the government stand up and defend people whose pensions are being stolen from them, because they are fundamentally the party of the 1%.

I am not saying this in an exaggerated fashion, because we have only to look at our present finance minister who is the privatized pension king of this country. The issue today, hot off the presses after all of the major national attention, is that he has finally written the Ethics Commissioner about the fact that the shares he receives from Morneau Shepell give him $150,000 in pocket change a month, and an extra $40 million since he has come into government.

Now the Liberals would tell us that this kind of money is virtuous, because a man who makes that much money and offers himself for public service is someone we should admire, as he can only be doing it for the benefit of all of us little people. I would like to believe that, but if we look at the issue in terms of where Morneau Shepell has been and where the present finance minister has been, a blind trust will not cut it.

I will refer members to a speech by the minister in 2013. He summarized it by saying, “Elderly poverty is not a problem.” I guess one has to own a villa in the south of France to think that elderly poverty is not a problem in Canada. However, in that speech he also made a number of statements about the push to get rid of defined pension benefit plans. He said “A significant number of our clients have parent companies or sister companies in the...United Kingdom.” He went on to say that the movement away from defined pension benefits has been easier there than in Canada and that “We need legislation enabling Target Benefit Plans and Shared Risk Plans in all Canadian jurisdictions.” He told his shareholders that we needed to move on legislation. In that same speech, he said that “As defined benefit plan consultants and administrators, we’ve been in the front row.”

What was one of the first pieces of legislation the minister brought forward in his own name? It was legislation that would especially benefit Morneau Shepell, Bill C-27, which is an attack on defined pension benefits in this country. He said it was necessary to give his company the advantage.

When discussions on changes in defined pension benefits began with the previous government, Morneau Shepell wanted its investors to know that the idea came from it. The proposed DBP framework the government outlined in its consultation paper is clearly modelled after the shared risk pension plans introduced in 2012 in New Brunswick. Morneau Shepell's experts were heavily involved in the design of that, which is what they do for a living. This is why he makes $150,000 a month and his benefits have gone up by $40 million. If one introduces legislation that will benefit his company, obviously the shares will go up.

How is this an ethical problem? Well, of course, when one is a Liberal, one does not think there is a problem with ethics, because he is a nice guy.

We have been told that we have been picking on him because he forgot to announce that he had his private French villa through a private corporation. The Liberals over there have been saying that any one of us could have made that same mistake. Perhaps. It is not a fair question to ask in this House, because the amount of money people earn here is much higher than the folks back home. Can we have a show of hands? How many people here own a villa in the south of France? I do not see any, and the minister is gone on the Prime Minister's hide, so he is not here. I do not even know if he would have put up his hand.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.
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John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I think my hon. friend is quite right in calling into question the effect this is going to have on Morneau Shepell with respect to defined benefits. We do not have to look too far back to Bill C-27, which was an amendment to the Pension Benefits Standards Act, which in fact was sponsored by the Minister of Finance and could potentially affect Morneau Shepell. As long as he continues to hold onto those shares, as long as he continues to get, as David Akin reported today, $146,000 a month in dividends based on the 2.5 million shares he has, I think we are quite right to call into question every single decision the finance minister makes for the benefit of not just Morneau Shepell but the potential benefit of an increase in those dividends and what he can gain from this.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Daniel Blaikie NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, part of the crux of the issue and the reason the finance minister was singled out is that Canadians were led to believe that he was acting in accordance with the recommendations of the Ethics Commissioner. What we found out in testimony at committee today was that, in fact, that was not the case. The Ethics Commissioner said clearly at committee today that she did not advise the finance minister not to put his assets in a blind trust.

We know also that in two instances, Bill C-27 and the small business tax proposals, there are legitimate concerns about the fact that those proposals could directly have an impact on the business of the finance minister, which we now know is not in a blind trust. He has knowledge of what is going on in his own business.

That is why this is about the finance minister. That is different from any other member of the House. There are not stories like that about any other member of the House. They are not in a position to benefit their own businesses in the way we are concerned the finance minister may be.

I wonder why the member for Winnipeg North is more concerned about defending the finance minister's precarious position than he is about making sure that the business of government is being conducted fairly and in a way that meets a very high ethical standard. There are clearly legitimate questions about whether the finance minister is meeting that standard.

EthicsOral Questions

October 17th, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques Québec


Guy Caron NDPParliamentary Leader

Mr. Speaker, the troubling thing about this whole story is that the minister did not have the sense to see that his situation was problematic. Nobody can deny that, if Bill C-27 becomes law, Morneau Shepell will benefit from a significant boost to both its business and its revenue.

As a major shareholder in the company, the Minister of Finance stands to gain personally from the passage of this bill.

I know my definition of “conflict of interest”. I would like the minister to share his definition.

EthicsOral Questions

October 17th, 2017 / 2:20 p.m.
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Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

That is a funny answer, Mr. Speaker, because this morning the commissioner said that she never told the finance minister not to place his assets in a blind trust.

Yesterday, my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley wrote to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, asking her to launch an investigation into the personal assets of the Minister of Finance and into Bill C-27, which he is sponsoring.

We now know that the minister did not place his fortune into a blind trust as a number of people, including the hon. member for Spadina—Fort York, believed. He believed it because it made so much sense.

My question is simple. Why did he not do so?

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.
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Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank my colleague from Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his tireless efforts and the excellent work that he does on the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics, often on short notice. He advocates for the issues that he cares about both inside and outside the House.

Once again, we have before us some major ethical issues involving this government. Over the past two years, we have talked about a number of scandals in the House and even outside the House with the media. The Liberals have shown that their government is anything but transparent. During the 2015 election campaign, the Liberals announced that the wind of change was blowing, that things would be different, and that their government would be transparent. However, the reason we are debating this Conservative motion today is that something unethical has occurred and we are trying to shed some light on it.

We are discussing an issue that I wish we did not have to discuss, because that is not why I decided to stand for election in my wonderful constituency of Jonquière in 2014. We were elected to represent and to serve the interests of Canadians, not those in a particular privileged class. If it turns out that the Minister of Finance's family business stands to profit from the measures proposed in the document entitled Tax Planning Using Private Corporations, we must therefore conclude that we have before us a major problem of ethics and transparency.

How is it that this government, just like the previous government, is not capable of being transparent and ethical in its dealings with all Canadians? We often hear talk of a cynicism towards politicians and politics in general. In my election campaign, in 2015, I did not urge people to vote for me; rather, I simply urged them to vote, to have their say. In a number of countries, people are risking their lives when they go to vote, so it is regrettable that, here in a democracy, we have to urge people to go vote. As we see in Quebec at the moment, as municipal elections are being held, there are advertisements urging people to vote.

Why then are there members of the House of Commons who do nothing but increase public cynicism and the sense of dishonesty and a lack of transparency?

I want to go back to the reason I entered politics, because it really was not for my own personal enrichment. I enjoy saying that I am a former mail carrier. I delivered mail all week for 15 years. I was very happy doing what I was doing, because I was providing people with a service. When I decided to stand for office, it was so that I could keep providing a service. As members of Parliament, that is something we often forget. We talk a lot about figures and about changes, but we forget all the little miracles that each member of this House can do every day.

At times, desperate people come to see us, as was the case this summer. For more than two months, a man had been having trouble obtaining his employment insurance benefits. It was the first time this had happened to him, and he did not know where else to turn. He came to our office in Jonquière. We welcomed him and provided him with some services and explanations. We even looked for additional help for him through the wonderful community organizations in Jonquière. That is our ultimate goal as MPs. That is what all of us in the House should be doing. We are not here to accumulate wealth, but to serve all Canadians.

Since I was speaking about my election and my commitments, I want to add that I had a meeting at the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner as soon as I arrived in Ottawa. I was given a document to fill out, which contained explanations. I do not come from a wealthy family. My family's riches consist of my parent's love and all the family values they taught me. That is what I am going to pass on to my children, and I believe that they are our greatest riches.

I am also pleased to say that I have owned my own wonderful little home for 12 years now. It is my pride and joy. At first, I thought it was a bit strange when the commissioner asked me to list my few assets on paper.

However, it did not take me long to realize that I was in the big leagues now. The members of the House of Commons come from all different backgrounds. Some are wealthy, while others are less fortunate. Some own multiple properties or companies. That was when I realized the importance of declaring our assets and being ethically transparent. Even though I did not own much property, I understood that disclosing what I did own was important, for me, for all our constituents, and for all Canadians. It is not difficult for members to fill out forms and be transparent from the outset if they have nothing to hide.

That brings me to the current government. As we have seen, this is not the first time this government has sought to benefit companies like the Minister of Finance's family business, Morneau Shepell. As my colleague said earlier, Bill C-27 could benefit these companies and benefit the Minister of Finance directly.

Certain experts have also pointed out that the Minister of Finance's tax reform could have economic benefits for Morneau Shepell, as I said, because it will force doctors and other small business owners to purchase private pension plans. The tax reform and all the suspected conflicts of interest involving the finance minister since he was elected are another good example of the fact that the Liberal government is working more for its own interests and those of its friends. It is working only for itself.

The Liberals keep repeating that the middle class is important, but I have to wonder whether they even know what exactly the middle class is. Is middle class determined by one's bank account or one's fortune? I see the real middle class every day, and I consider the people around me to be part of it. I help a lot of people around me. We talk about it and we live it every day. As MPs, it is important that we stay connected to our reality. We do not get that impression from the current government. No one should ever remain an MP if they are going to put their own interests first.

I will wrap up because I am running out of time. I had a lot more to say. We talked about tax reform and we talked about helping our SMEs. We see that the government has done nothing to tackle tax havens head-on. A lot has been said lately about investments in the Bahamas. Why is the Liberal government reluctant to tackle tax havens head-on? It is going after the little fish, but not the big fish. Is it too complicated, too difficult? It is easier to go after ordinary workers, those who belong to the middle class.

When I ran for office it was to represent my constituents of the riding of Jonquière, to give them a voice and to help my community grow. It never occurred to me to run to further my own interests or as a way to get rich. I believe that should be the case for everyone here in the House. I firmly believe that it is possible to do politics in an ethical and transparent manner. I find it extremely unfortunate that the Minister of Finance broke his word when he said that he was going to put his interests in a blind trust when in the end he did nothing of the sort. Worse yet, he introduced a bill to make himself richer. This kind of conduct is disappointing.

Again, I cannot believe that we are being forced to waste our time on settling ethics issues in the House, when we were elected to serve the public and not to serve the interests of the privileged few.

Opposition Motion—Minister of Finance's documents submitted to the Conflict of Interest and Ethics CommissionerBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

October 17th, 2017 / 11:05 a.m.
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Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Jonquière, which I think is an excellent idea.

It is with some interest, and I suppose with some regret almost, that I read the opposition day motion that came from the Conservatives today. The regret is only in the sense that we have to spend a day of Parliament asking for something that should be open and obvious to everybody, and that we have to go before Parliament, have a vote in Parliament, to ask one of the highest office holders in the land to be open and transparent with Canadians about a perceived and, I would argue, real potential conflict of interest within his portfolio.

I would be surprised if, by the end of the day, the minister does not just walk into Parliament and place the documents in front of all Canadians. Clearly, that would solve a whole series of problems that we have with the current situation, which is highly unusual. I am not sure I have ever seen an opposition day motion like this. I am not sure I have ever seen a finance minister in this particular mess, which is a mess entirely of his own making and circumstance.

I go back to the Prime Minister's own proclamation, his dedication to Canadians, which said:

...transparent government is good government. If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians.

It seems self-evident to me that, if the government is saying to trust it, then the government must also trust Canadians. What we would ask the Finance Minister to trust Canadians with is that, if he is acting ethically, if he is acting in a way that does not personally benefit and enrich him and his family, then he should be able to tell us.

Now, we have a couple of concerns with the way the Finance Minister has conducted himself, but I want to walk through this.

If we go back almost a full two years to October 28, 2015, to an interview with The Globe and Mail talking about the Finance Minister coming in, the article reads that under the conflict act the Finance Minister “would be expected to either sell off his assets or place them in a blind trust”.

The Finance Minister, prior to public life, in private life, ran a company called Morneau Shepell very successfully. He owned some $43 million in shares, give or take, we think, but we do not know. He has been asked 14 or 15 times now if he is still in possession of those shares, if he still owns assets, and if he is involved in the company. However, each and every time, he has refused to answer.

Yesterday, at a press conference with the Prime Minister, there was this very uncomfortable moment when the press were asking the Finance Minister a direct question that only the Finance Minister could answer. As he moved forward to the microphone to answer, to be accountable to Canadians, as the Prime Minister demanded in his orders to cabinet, the Prime Minister said that he would be answering the questions. The Finance Minister had to take a step back and could be heard to say, “He's the boss”. The question that then relates to this is whether the Finance Minister has the confidence of the Prime Minister.

He has certainly lost a great deal of confidence with Canadians, particularly in the small business sector, and particularly with Canadians who watch and realize that the Finance Minister owns a private villa in France, had sheltered it under a private company to avoid paying taxes if he were then to pass it on to his children, while promoting legislation that would have prevented the same ability for farmers to pass their farm on to their kids. The contradiction of this is incredible. The Finance Minister actually used the tax code in such a way as to shelter his private villa in Provence from taxes, while promoting policies that would not allow a farmer to sell his or her farm to his or her kids.

We would think of that as out of touch, clearly, but then we start to step into the ethics of the question. We raised the concern earlier today. Late last night, I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner asking her to launch a second investigation into the Finance Minister's dealings. This is highly regrettable, because the Finance Minister, as of two years ago in an interview, said:

I suspect all my assets will go into a blind trust.

I've already communicated with the Ethics Commissioner in that regard.

I, like most Canadians, believed him. Why? Well, it was because of course this is what he would have to do. The conflicts of interest, particularly for a finance minister, are obvious. If a finance minister owns assets, millions of dollars of shares in a company that deals with financial matters, the minister simply could not maintain his or her interests and would either have to sell the shares or put them in a blind trust where he or she could no longer affect them, as every finance minister I have ever heard of has done in the past.

What makes this finance minister special? Special would be one word for it. This is unprecedented. I have not seen a finance minister put himself in not only such a perception but actual conflict of interest with his duties.

Let us take one example. It is not just the budget, not just regulating banks, not just trying to guide the economy and the effect that could have on his private holdings, but a specific example is a bill the finance minister promoted in Parliament. He sponsored it. It is Bill C-27, which changes the way pensions work in Canada, leading to the option of targeted benefit plans, which is what they are called. It is a transition from one to another. New Brunswick put this through. Who was the lead consultant when New Brunswick went through changing its pension plan to one of these targeted benefit plans? It was Morneau Shepell. That is interesting. The finance minister, while he was head of Morneau Shepell, promoted targeted benefit plans, these specific types of insurance schemes. Because his company worked on that and made profit from it, he made money from it.

He then became finance minister, did not sell his shares in the company, kept his interests there, then promoted a piece of legislation that would help out that very same company that he is still involved with, from which he still benefits. It is jaw-dropping. If this is not the very definition of conflict of interest, I do not know what is. In future years, when Canadians studying politics look through the handbook of political terms, they will see “conflict of interest” and will see a picture of our finance minister there. I have never seen anything like this. There is no blind trust, no selling off the shares, but placing himself directly in the way of a conflict of interest accusation, so we have written to the finance minister.

Let me quote again. This was in a declaration made from the Prime Minister's Office two years ago:

Our plan for an open and accountable government will allow us to modernize how the Canadian government works, so that it better reflects the values and expectations of Canadians. At its heart is a simple idea: open government is good government. For Canadians to trust our government we must trust Canadians, and we will only be successful in implementing our agenda to the extent that we earn and keep this trust.

Here is the good part. It is from the Prime Minister's Office, from his own lips.

To be worthy of Canadians’ trust, we must always act with integrity. This is not merely a matter of adopting the right rules, or of ensuring technical compliance with those rules. As Ministers, you and your staff must uphold the highest standards of honesty and impartiality, and both the performance of your official duties and the arrangement of your private affairs should bear the closest public scrutiny.

The last bit seems relevant to today, does it not? Has the finance minister sold his shares in Morneau Shepell? We have asked 14 times. He has refused to answer. Does he still have those shares? We do not know. Did he promote a bill that would in fact elevate the value of those shares? Yes, he did.

There is no particular joy taken in watching the credibility of government, the trust and faith that Canadians need to hold in their government, take another hit. Lord knows we have had enough of them, from the Senate scandals to personal scandals. I have not in my 14 years, as brief a time as that has been here in Parliament, seen anything close to this, where the appearance and obvious example of a conflict of interest has existed.

There is only one way to attempt to alleviate the cloud that sits over the finance minister right now, and that is if he comes forward with full disclosure, if he follows the documents he signed, the promises he made to Canadians when he came into cabinet, if he follows his own words, “I suspect all my assets will go into a blind trust” and that he had already communicated with the Ethics Commissioner in that regard, and if he follows the words of the Prime Minister: “If we want Canadians to trust their government, we need a government that trusts Canadians”.

I do not know how the finance minister will get himself out of this mess. It will be incredibly difficult. I do not know how he does his job right now. Distractions at work prevent us sometimes from being good at what we need to do. Canadians need him to be good at what he does. Canadians need him to be focused on the task at hand. Canadians need him to be honest and consistent and have the highest ethical standards and integrity. I am not sure those things are true today.

October 16th, 2017 / 8:50 a.m.
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Kevin Stacey As an Individual

Good morning, honourable members and members of the general public.

My name is Kevin Stacey. I'm with the National Association of Federal Retirees. I'm the president of the local branch of the Avalon-Burin branch here. We have about 2,200 members. In Newfoundland we have about 3,500 members, and across Canada we are 180,000 members and growing.

I'd like to make a few key points to you today. First, secure retirements, strong health care, and a national seniors strategy are the best ways to help seniors and their families. On retirement security, I urge this government to scrap Bill C-27. This bill would introduce a new type of pension plan, Canada benefit pensions, while taking away retirement security and killing off good old defined benefit plans that people have worked for and that bring back benefits to both the local and national economies.

For budget 2018, I believe the federal government should lead a national seniors strategy that builds on the home care and seniors housing investments that have been made so far. The strategy needs to include a national palliative and end-of-life care strategy and better pharmacare for seniors. It must continue to tackle infrastructure investment, with age-friendly communities and universal design standards in mind to ensure that seniors' residential needs are met. The government should appoint a minister responsible for seniors to make sure that public policy decisions are always viewed through a seniors lens. These actions would lead to better productivity and a stronger economy, not just for seniors but also for their families and for Canadian communities.

Thank you very much.

October 6th, 2017 / 12:25 p.m.
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Kenneth Goodall As an Individual

Thank you, Mr. Easter. I'm here on behalf of the National Association of Federal Retirees.

Secure retirements, strong health care, and a national seniors strategy are the best ways to help seniors and their families.

On retirement security, I urge the government to scrap Bill C-27. This bill would introduce a new type of pension plan, known as target benefit pensions, while taking away retirement security, and killing off good, defined benefit plans that people have worked for, paid for, and that bring benefits back to local and national economies.

For budget 2018, I believe the federal government should lead a national seniors strategy that includes a national plan for palliative and end-of-life care, better pharmacare for seniors, and a plan for continuing to tackle infrastructure investments for age-friendly communities and universal design standards.

The government should appoint a minister responsible for seniors to make sure public policy decisions are always viewed through a seniors lens.

Thank you.

October 5th, 2017 / 3:50 p.m.
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Jean-Guy Soulière President, National Association of Federal Retirees

Thank you very much, and thank you for the opportunity to address this committee. We're very grateful to be participating in your study on advancing inclusion and quality of life for Canadian seniors. Of course, what should result from all of this is the establishment and creation of a national seniors strategy.

In seven minutes, of course, we can't go into detail on a whole lot of things, so I'm going to be general in our presentation. If you have specific questions, I'd be pleased to answer, with the assistance of Sayward.

As some of you may know, I was also the first chair of the National Seniors Council, a position I held from 2007 to 2013. From a personal point of view, that was the most interesting part of my life. It was a time when I had the opportunity to meet with seniors organizations and many stakeholders to discuss many issues related to an aging society.

I'd like to recognize the Hon. Alice Wong, who was my last boss when she was the minister responsible for seniors. It was a pleasure working with her. I shared a lot of issues with her, and she was very supportive when I was chair of the National Seniors Council. The problem is that many of the issues the council raised some 10 years ago are still unresolved, and we are still discussing them today.

My organization represents 180,000 federal retirees, including 60,000 Canadian Forces veterans. I cannot think of a more important issue that concerns Canadian retirees and their loved ones than creating a national seniors strategy that would coordinate programs with policies. I am sure that Canadians over 65, who make up 16.9% of the country's population, will agree with me.

In 2015, the news that there were more seniors than children in Canada made headlines. What surprised me was that so many Canadians were surprised by the findings. I can understand why the baby boomers took society and a great many parents by surprise back in the 1940s, but in truth, we all knew that this great generation would one day grow old.

Canadians and all three levels of government have a lot of catching up to do. Lest we think of a national seniors strategy as a short-term need, we should be mindful that average Canadian life expectancy has increased by 30 years over the past 100 years, thanks to the medical advances that continue today.

For this reason, we were glad to see the three major themes of the committee's study: access to affordable accessible housing, income security for vulnerable seniors, and community programs that promote social inclusion and recognize the importance of social determinants of health. Indeed, these were all issues that were being discussed by the seniors council some 10 years ago.

All of these things are related. Any physician will tell you that a miserable life will make you sick. Unhealthy people cost the health care system a lot. They cannot contribute to society or the economy if they are sick.

Public policy must ensure that retirement savings measures created for and available to Canadians are effective, efficient, and realistic. Earned retirement pensions must be protected, and government programs must meet the needs of the most vulnerable seniors. This is why we are very concerned about Bill C-27, as the CUPE representative said, which would introduce a target benefit plan or shared risk plan that would shift the risk from employers and plan sponsors to employees and retirees. In tough times, target benefit pensions can be reduced, providing less retirement security for their members, something that works contrary to the goals of the national seniors strategy.

In order to respond to the housing needs of seniors, a national seniors strategy needs to include home care, palliative care, and end-of-life care, as well as investments in infrastructure.

However, to achieve this, the provincial and federal governments need to be on the same page. Is this possible?

A new political approach will mean investing in infrastructure to improve access to housing; with affordable, accessible housing and measures designed to help seniors remain in their homes, infrastructure funding would be linked to the establishment of age-friendly communities.

We need to innovate by developing effective home care strategies, like the veterans independence program. Home care is not limited to just health care, but also includes access to non-medical support services, like housekeeping, meal preparation, transportation to appointments and social activities, as well as snow removal.

We believe a national strategy is an opportunity to ensure that Canadians continue to be healthy and productive well into retirement, contributing to the local and national economies.

Finally, the appointment of a minister responsible for seniors is a most important must to our organization, as I'm sure it is for all Canadians. The former government had a minister responsible for seniors, as I mentioned. We have a minister responsible for youth—we all know who that is—and we have a minister responsible for families, but we do not have a specific minister responsible for one of the most important parts of our society. We need this.

Let me conclude with a thought I expressed in our magazine Sage when we produced our last issue. I said that to have older Canadians is a challenge but also an opportunity. It is an opportunity to do something now that will benefit all Canadians, because all of you who are younger Canadians expect to grow old, and whatever is done for seniors today will benefit you in the future.

Let me conclude with some wise words from another person, Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto and author of the Ontario government's seniors strategy. He says that aging is not a disease, but rather a triumph. I would add that we should get ready for a new definition of retirement. Let's get it right, and you have the opportunity of doing that.

Thank you.

October 5th, 2017 / 3:45 p.m.
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Mark Janson Senior Pensions Officer, National Office, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Thank you, Chair, and thank you to the committee for having me today.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees is the largest trade union in the country. We represent 650,000 workers across the country, mostly in the public sector. Pensions and retirement security are issues we take very seriously. I'm a pension specialist with CUPE, so I'll be focusing on the income question before you today.

We see the same things everyone sees. We see that most Canadian workers don't have a pension at work and that the few who do are seeing the quality of those pensions under pressure from employers. We see that individualized savings systems such as the RSP and the TFSA predominantly benefit workers at the higher-income, higher-wealth end of the spectrum, and that as Richard Shillington told you yesterday, Canadians who don't have a pension at work—most Canadians—have wholly insufficient retirement savings.

This is why one in three seniors in Canada receives the guaranteed income supplement that keeps most, but not all, Canadian seniors out of poverty. We've actually seen Canadian senior poverty levels ticking up slowly, steadily, since the mid-1990s. The major attacks we've seen on pension plans have been relatively recent, in the last couple of decades. It takes a long time for that to work itself through the system and to be seen on the ground in future seniors, but the indications we're getting from research by academics and statisticians is that significant portions of the boomer generation have not saved enough for retirement. They are looking at a big drop in living standards when they retire, and the problem is projected to get worse for future generations.

This is why CUPE and the labour movement in Canada were so supportive of the government's successful expansion of the Canada Pension Plan in the deal that you reached last year. We recognize that this was not an easy thing to do, so we applaud you for doing it. We know it could have gone much further. We were essentially pushing for a doubling of CPP benefits; we got an increase of about one-third in CPP benefits. Much more could have been done there, but we applaud the work that was done. We should continue this critical campaign to improve the Canada Pension Plan and improve public pension plans in Canada.

A major shortcoming of the CPP expansion deal in the legislation that implemented that deal, Bill C-26, was the lack of child rearing and disability dropout provisions. Basically, a CPP benefit is a function of your lifetime earnings over your career, so if you have a period of zero or low earnings while you're working, that's going to pull your CPP benefits down someday. Governments realize this, and they realize there are some inequities in what we call the dropout provisions in the CPP. There's been a long-standing dropout for disabilities, meaning that if you were disabled and away from the workforce, those years were dropped from your CPP calculation and you were not penalized because you were unable to work. The same provision existed for decades for child rearing if you were at home raising a small child.

These provisions had long been part of the CPP, so we were quite frankly shocked to see that they weren't included in the CPP expansion legislation. They're going to continue to exist in the CPP we've always known, but they're not going to exist in the new benefits that are going to sit on top.

We don't think there's a rationale for this situation. We flagged it for government when Bill C-26 was tabled, but the government passed the legislation unamended and essentially punted this issue to the triennial review of CPP, 2016 to 2018. We urge the government to work with the provinces to fix this issue before these changes start to take effect.

The child-rearing dropout predominantly impacts female seniors. It's mostly women who take up that provision, and disabled seniors, obviously, people who have had a disability in their working career. These are among the most vulnerable future seniors in Canada, and they don't need more challenges in retirement. This is an easy fix. It's not a costly item, and we urge you to fix it.

I was going to make a point about how the old age security program increases over time, but I know Richard Shillington made it very eloquently on Tuesday. It's indexed to prices, not to wages. The chief actuary predicts that wages are going to go up faster than prices. He thinks prices are going to go up by 2% a year and wages are going to up by about 3%, so the old age security system will essentially be falling behind the standard of living by a per cent in every year that this situation is not remedied.

Other OECD countries peg their social security system to wages as well. There are different ways of doing this. This is a long-term problem for old age security. It's been around for a long time. If it's not fixed, we're going to see that program continue to shrink, compared to living standards as a whole.

I'd like to turn briefly to Bill C-27. This is federal legislation tabled by Minister Morneau about a year ago. It's still only at first reading. This is a bill we are strongly opposed to and that the labour movement is strongly opposed to. It would give federally regulated employers—banks, telecoms, airlines, crown corporations—a legal avenue to basically walk back on pension promises they've made to workers and retirees. They currently can't do that under pension law. This bill would give them the legal ability to do that.

I'm sure you've all heard the public outcry about Sears retirees not getting what they were promised. This is not something Canadians support. It's not something the labour movement supports. We're shocked that the Liberal government has tabled this bill. We call for it to be withdrawn.

Finally, I have just a few quick remarks. We can't have decent and secure retirements if we don't have decent and secure working lives. This government and all Canadian governments should be doing everything they can to improve the work prospects of working Canadians, particularly young Canadians, who are faced with increasingly precarious employment, low-wage employment, and part-time work when they want to be working full time. There are all kinds of things the government can be doing on minimum wages, employment standards, and universal social programs that could make working life better for Canadians, and that, in turn, could make retiring a whole lot easier.

Thank you.

June 13th, 2017 / 10:30 a.m.
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Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Thank you so very much, to your whole team, for your work.

I want to ask a question of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons. I'm grateful for your big impact advocacy. You've really changed a lot of policies in the country by virtue of your focus on policy change.

On your website, you note that almost a million people in Ontario alone rely on defined benefit pension plans for retirement income. We're concerned that the government's Bill C-27 is trying to replace defined benefits with the less-secure target benefits plan. A witness from the United Steelworkers at an earlier meeting for this study told the committee that the elimination of defined benefits could put senior women in danger of living in poverty.

Can you describe why it's important for senior women to have access to secure pension plans?