Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I must humbly admit that I'm surprised to find myself here again, for the third time since this crisis began, talking about the precarious situation facing seniors. We are meeting again today in circumstances that are as exceptional and dramatic as ever. At the risk of repeating myself, I only hope that we actually get something done this time and that the government will finally address seniors' concerns.
I feel I have a duty to fight for those who helped build Quebec, and even Canada, as we know them today. People aged 65 and over were born between the 1930s and 1950s, times of great upheaval and great change everywhere. These individuals definitely contributed to the Quiet Revolution and its repercussions. They have witnessed the birth and evolution of the welfare state.
Now they are seeing the flip side. They have contributed their entire lives to this society of solidarity, but at the end of the day, there is not enough money for them. These are our parents, our grandparents and even our great-grandparents. The rapid, furious pace of our so-called modern life has gradually pulled us further away from them. Many of them are really and truly alone.
I'm still young, and when I look at the current situation, I don't want to grow old in a world like this, where institutionalized ingratitude allows a certain degree of dehumanization. I'm not talking about professional and family caregivers. On the contrary, they are also victims. I'd like to see seniors get some of their dignity back. They obviously need us; they need us to bring in immediate, direct measures.
The current crisis is causing serious economic hardships for seniors. Some people seem to think that the economic shutdown does not affect seniors since they're no longer in the workforce, but that isn't true. First of all, a good many of them, mostly older women, do still work, which just goes to show, I think, how urgent these measures are. If they receive pension income and yet still feel the need to work, clearly, their income support is not enough.
On top of that, their investment income, in other words, the savings they accumulated for their retirement precisely so they wouldn't have to work or receive the guaranteed income supplement, has been decimated. Most seniors live on a fixed income, their pension, but the cost of living is going up for everyone, whether it be the cost of rent, groceries, medication and services.
In 1975, old age security covered 20% of the average industrial wage. Today it covers 13%. This means that old age security is often not enough to keep people from living in poverty. Increasing seniors' incomes will not only give them a decent standard of living, which they have long deserved, but will also help them deal with the current crisis. The Bloc Québécois has considered this a priority since long before the current crisis and has been asking for improvements to the guaranteed income supplement.
During the election campaign, the Liberals seemed to be aware of the problem and promised to increase old age security by 10%. If they had actually done so, this measure would have definitely made a huge difference in the current crisis. In committee last Friday, the president of the FADOQ network, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, urged the government to keep that promise. However, that commitment was limited to people aged 75 and over, which makes no sense. We must not discriminate based on age and create two classes of seniors. Seniors also have needs. They don't all live in long-term care centres or posh seniors' homes. Ageism will not encourage the proper treatment of seniors.
The first obvious conclusion is this: Seniors are also greatly affected by this crisis, not only economically speaking, but also in terms of their daily life, considering the lockdown and isolation. They're no longer getting help from their family members or home care, for instance.
Another aspect I want to talk about is the fact that the economic crisis stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic will unfortunately put many businesses in a precarious situation. Workers and, more importantly, pensioners with those companies will once again be the hardest-hit. They risk losing their pension funds or a large part of those funds.
That is why the Bloc Québécois has been proposing measures to protect investment income when stock markets plunge since long before this crisis began. Again in committee last Friday, the president of the FADOQ network, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, also expressed support for the measure the Bloc Québécois has proposed in House, namely that pensioners be considered preferred creditors in the event of bankruptcy, by amending the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act and the Companies Creditors Arrangement Act.
This brings me to the second conclusion: Even retirees with a pension plan are not immune from the potential financial consequences of COVID-19.
We have to face the situation with a clear head and acknowledge our problems, but this is not the time for partisanship. In any case, that is not what we usually do. I therefore reiterate our willingness to work with the government so we can find solutions now. At the very least, a decent income could have helped seniors deal with the crisis on their own, plan more effectively for their confinement, stay connected with family and friends, for example through the Internet, and purchase essential goods online. This economic security and the reassurance that they weren't completely alone would have done much to reduce this stress, which they don't need at this stage of their lives.
We appreciate that the government welcomes and listens to our proposals. As parliamentarians, we want to contribute as much as we can. We have an extraordinary role to play and an exceptional forum, and we have a duty to use them wisely.
The third conclusion is that the current situation is only exacerbating a problem that has been plaguing us for a long time. It's sad that it took a health crisis for the government to act and for all of us to become collectively aware of the situation of seniors and the people around them.
In the face of these three conclusions, doing nothing is not an option. In fact, doing nothing was not really an option before the crisis and neither are further delays. Given that various segments of the public received assistance relatively quickly, every day that no assistance reaches those who are the main victims of this health crisis makes the government more unworthy of its mandate.
Rather than taking our criticism as a guide to act often too late, wouldn't it be better for the government to get us directly involved? Maybe then we would be able to act in a timely manner. If the government is short of time or creativity, it can take advantage of our strength as a group and ask other parties to help.
There are solutions. Increasing retirement income is an option that has been advocated many times by our party and is supported by such organizations as the FADOQ. Moreover, this increase was a promise made by the Liberal Party during its election campaign. All we have to do now is to implement it.
Because seniors are not just an economic weight but a grey source of strength, and because they have the right to age with dignity, let's act now.