Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Berthier—Maskinongé for his speech. We could feel his emotion, but also his indignation, which I share. I have always said that I got into politics because I have a capacity for indignation, which I want to be constructive, of course. That is why I really understand the situation when we talk about how seniors are doing.
I would like to thank my colleague from Shefford for making a very good speech and for being behind this motion.
While I was listening to the news over the past few days, I heard a journalist ask a senior at what point one no longer counts. Regardless of where that came from, I must say that the question really surprised me and made me angry about the very issue of seniors, because we are letting such a dangerous discourse spread unchecked out there in society.
I have to say that I heard that on the national broadcaster, where I once heard a very serious discussion on the possibility of taking away seniors' right to vote at some point. These may not be major ideas but those ideas are being floated nonetheless. That gravely worries me. I must say that a motion like the one being moved today, which “acknowledge[s] the collective debt that we owe” to seniors must be taken seriously. There are good reasons for it.
I think that societal discourse is sometimes dismissive of seniors, when in fact they are an integral part of our society. Earlier I heard comments about age. Members talked about “starting at age 75”, “from age 65 to 67”, “after 67 years of age”, and so on. We have to work with that sort of breakdown, to some degree, to make things easier, but at the same time we must never forget that seniors are an integral part of society.
I think we should follow the example of the first nations. I say this humbly, as the member of Parliament for Manicouagan, where the Inuit and the Naskapi peoples make up 15% of the population. As demographics change, these communities will become larger and larger. The way the first nations treat seniors is the polar opposite of what I have heard on Radio-Canada. First nations elders are served first at community meetings. They will have first choice of cuts of meat, such as caribou meat. That is a bigger deal than I make it sound.
These seniors are seen as assets in their communities and not as liabilities, as is the case here, as the government gives benefits to everyone except seniors during the pandemic. This shows that seniors are still being put in a separate class. In the first nations, seniors are seen as wise elders, memory keepers and knowledge keepers. I do not want to speak for the first nations, but elders are the most important members of their communities.
As a member of Parliament, a Quebecker and a human being, I am learning a great deal and I appreciate how the first nations see their seniors and their role in society. We should view seniors the same way.
Beyond these points and this lesson in humanity, which I wanted to talk about, I will say that my colleagues have made a number of suggestions that should be implemented for our seniors. I would like to mention them again.
There is a major issue that the Bloc Québécois has rallied behind for a long time, particularly during the last year and a half, and that is health transfers. It is the federal government's job to increase health transfers to help seniors.
During the pandemic, we have talked a lot about access to vaccines. I represent a huge riding with an area of 350,000 square kilometres. People often have to travel in the riding, and because of the distances seniors have a number of needs. We need more services and more local services. The request for more health transfers is especially pertinent to seniors. That is one of our demands. Naturally, we have been repeating this since this morning, and we hope that the government will make it happen. The government must agree to increase old age security by $110 a month and it cannot be just a one-time increase. As several members have said, this must be recurring direct assistance. This assistance must not be provided solely during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding shortfall was there well before the pandemic. That is what the Bloc Québécois is asking for, in addition to an increase in the guaranteed income supplement of $50 to $70, depending on whether the recipient is single or married. This assistance will help support seniors.
Due to the costs incurred by seniors during the pandemic and at the present time, their purchasing power is constantly getting lower. As I mentioned, there was already a shortfall before the pandemic, and it is now a huge gap. This must be addressed quickly.
The Bloc Québécois motion is a call for action, and I hope the government will answer the call. In the 2019 and 2020 throne speeches, the government said it would help seniors. It has been saying that for a year and a half. Earlier, I heard the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors talk about the new horizons for seniors program and several other measures that may be beneficial, but that do not provide seniors with any immediate assistance or give them the freedom to choose for themselves. There is a huge difference between the new horizons for seniors program, which is a useful program, and having money put directly in their pockets. It is important to understand that.
I hope that the parliamentary secretary and the minister heard what we had to say on this topic. I hope they will adopt the Bloc Québécois motion in order to demonstrate swift and meaningful support for our seniors. Seniors must not be left out.
I referred to a daily shortfall because the old age security pension is too low. The pandemic is making life even more difficult for seniors, so it is all the more urgent to act.
I would like to conclude by encouraging the House to vote for another bill, which I tabled last November. I am talking about Bill C-253, which we will very likely debate in the spring. It is also aimed at helping seniors and retirees. When companies restructure or go bankrupt, retirement funds are cut, leading to disaster, devastation and tragedy. Group insurance plans are also cancelled.
Seniors themselves keep saying that what they want is stability and predictability. By protecting the deferred wages that seniors have earned and deserve, the government would be protecting their rights.
I will conclude by adding that it is also important to protect seniors' dignity.