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Evidence of meeting #68 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was workers.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Arthur Sweetman  Professor, Ontario Research Chair in Health Human Resources, Department of Economics, McMaster University, As an Individual
Michael Wolfson  Professor, As an Individual
Vangelis Nikias  Project Manager, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities
Frank Zinatelli  Vice-President, General Counsel, Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.
Keith Ambachtsheer  Director, Rotman International Centre for Pension Management

8:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

I call to order the 68th meeting of the Standing Committee on Finance. Our orders today, pursuant to the order of reference of Monday, May 14, 2012, are to continue our study of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012.

We want to thank our witnesses for coming in early this morning. We have four guests with us here in Ottawa, and one individual in Hamilton by video conference.

I want to thank you for joining us here today.

We have first of all, as an individual, Mr. Michael Wolfson; and from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, Mr. Vangelis Nikias. Welcome as well. From the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association, we have Mr. Frank Zinatelli; from the Rotman International Centre for Pension Management, Mr. Keith Ambachtsheer, who is back again before the committee; and as an individual from Hamilton, Mr. Arthur Sweetman.

Mr. Sweetman, can you hear me okay?

8:35 a.m.

Dr. Arthur Sweetman Professor, Ontario Research Chair in Health Human Resources, Department of Economics, McMaster University, As an Individual

I can hear you now.

8:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you, Mr. Sweetman, for joining us.

You each have up to five minutes for your opening remarks, and we will proceed in the order I outlined.

So we'll start with Mr. Wolfson, please, for an opening statement.

8:35 a.m.

Dr. Michael Wolfson Professor, As an Individual

First, thank you for the invitation to address the committee on the very important issues raised by the current budget bill.

Since the invitation only came yesterday afternoon, I have had only a brief time to prepare specific remarks. I apologize in advance if my remarks sound a bit grumpy, but I figure we might as well have, as they say, a full and frank discussion here. I will focus my remarks on changes to the old age security and guaranteed income supplement, the OAS and GIS, specifically the proposal to raise the age of entitlement from 65 to 67 starting after 2020, phasing in over a number years.

To use an impolitic phrase, perhaps, I find the proposal half-baked and ignorant. While these words may sound harsh, let me explain.

The proposal is half-baked in that it starts from a perfectly reasonable premise, that with steadily increasing life expectancy and the improving health status of Canada's population, it is appropriate that the age at which Canadians typically withdraw from the paid workforce should gradually increase.

The proposal is ignorant in that it ignores decades of excellent policy analysis on these issues and charges ahead with a piecemeal, ad hoc change, coupled with poor—and depending on which piece you read—even disruptive explanations of the rationale.

Let me briefly expand on these two characterizations.

The idea of raising the age of entitlement is not at all new. Indeed, at the beginning of my career in the federal public service, more than 30 years ago, I worked on the report on the retirement income task force published by the Department of Finance in 1979, if my memory serves me correctly. At that time we projected the aging of the population, which we have since experienced—and so we can ourselves a little pat on the back for the projections.

We noted that the U.S. had recently legislated a gradual increase in the age of entitlement, and we recommended more than 30 years ago that the government consider following suit. So I'm not at all opposed, in principle, to the idea; indeed, I was involved in the analysis that recommended it ages ago. But that report and many others have all focused on Canada's retirement income system, not on specific programs only.

The OAS and GIS interact with other programs, both explicitly in terms of the various formulae like the income tax, and implicitly in terms of informal relationships, for example, with workplace pension plans. So this OAS proposal is only half-baked because it fails to consider OAS and GIS as part of a system of interrelated programs, including the Canada and Quebec pension plans, income taxes, RRSPs, workplace pensions, etc..

I know from my experience in the public service that the policy branches in various ministries, including Finance and Human Resources, have the talent and capacity to recognize these key factors and to produce policy advice that is well thought out—or at least they used to have this capacity. I don't know now.

I cannot figure out where the failure is occurring with this government, though one fairly consistent theme is an inclination to disregard evidence, indeed to limit or destroy the public service's capacity to produce high-quality information. For example, I read in a recent issue of Policy Options, the magazine of the IRPP, a portion of the Prime Minister's speech at Davos. He said literally that the CPP was fully funded. Whoever wrote that speech clearly does not know the facts.

Just pick up the report on the CPP by Canada's Chief Actuary and you will see that the Canada pension plan is less than 20% fully funded. The apparent attempt to rationalize dealing with the OAS alone without bringing in the CPP looks seriously ill-informed. Both major programs involve intergenerational transfers.

Moreover, some of the words—and I can't point to them specifically—look to be fanning the flames of intergenerational conflict. But our objective, assuming a thoughtful, well-informed, and well-intentioned Parliament, should be to find a set of principles and then legislation that will make all the components of Canada's retirement income system both fair, and understood to be fair by all Canadians.

8:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

You have one minute, please.

8:35 a.m.

Professor, As an Individual

Dr. Michael Wolfson

This is doable in terms fairness. I refer you to the 1983 report of parliament's Special Committee on Pension Reform. Members of Parliament worked together, and despite substantial political and ideological differences, they were able to agree unanimously on an approach to intergenerational fairness.

Let me just close with one point.

The one inconsistency is that this is not an austerity measure, at least in terms of the current fiscal situation of the government, because it won't have an effect on the budget for at least a decade. It's about fiscal sustainability.

I find it interesting that last summer, when the Chief Actuary tabled a report saying that TFSAs would have a billion-plus dollar impact on the GIS, that didn't cause any concerns on the part of the government about long-term sustainability. Yet in January, the government suddenly decided there was a problem with fiscal sustainability.

You have to appreciate that I spent 35 years in the federal public service. I'm now a professor. When I started in the federal public service, I was proud of our role in providing impartial and extensive information for Canadians generally and for public policy discussion. I'm not sure I'd feel the same way today.

Thank you.

8:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

We'll now hear from the Council of Canadians with Disabilities, please.

8:40 a.m.

Vangelis Nikias Project Manager, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Thank you, and good morning.

The Council of Canadians with Disabilities, the representative voice of Canadians with disabilities, is pleased to have the opportunity to present to the finance committee and thanks the committee for this invitation.

Budget 2012 has created some new initiatives that CCD believes will help us build a more inclusive and accessible Canada, as well as some initiatives that raise serious questions and, possibly, new barriers for people with disabilities.

With regard to the positive measures, the creation of an employment panel to report to Ministers Flaherty and Finley, by December, on best practices within the private sector on the employment of persons with disabilities is welcome, and CCD is eager to be of assistance.

Equally important and positive were the revisions to the registered disability savings plan, RDSP, that removed a significant barrier for persons with intellectual disabilities and their families to opening an RDSP account. The RDSP continues to be a program of significant benefit to Canadians with disabilities and their families.

As well, CCD was pleased to see the allocation of 10 million new dollars to the opportunities fund, a program that helps Canadians with disabilities get jobs.

On old age security, OAS, reform, what is of concern to the CCD is the raising of the age of eligibility for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, from age 65 to age 67. There are a disproportionate number of Canadians with disabilities living in poverty. Between 45% and 60% of those living on social assistance—welfare—are persons with disabilities, and this number continues to increase. Many Canadians with disabilities have been and will continue to be excluded from the current labour market unless significant new initiatives are created to remove barriers to employment.

The old age security benefit, coupled with the guaranteed income supplement, is better than any social assistance program in Canada, with the exception of Alberta's AISH program, where a significant increase was announced in December. Suddenly, many Canadians with disabilities look forward to turning 65 because they will have a better income benefit and they will be raised out of poverty.

Increasing the age of entitlement for OAS will force persons with disabilities to live in poverty longer. OAS, while the foundation of Canada's retirement policy, does not exist in isolation. In fact, many other benefits are designed to work in tandem with OAS.

Therefore, the CCD recommends that your committee carefully weigh the following questions: Will the raising of the age of entitlement trigger a change in the age exemption in the Income Tax Act?

Will long-term disability plans and workers' compensation policies now extend benefits to age 67? Presently, LTD claims and workers' compensation claims end when people become eligible for OAS. Will this change increase premiums?

Will Canada pension plan benefits also change the age of eligibility? Will this apply to both the early retirement and full benefit?

We believe that the points raised by CCD are worthy of study. The new policy initiatives should enhance the status of Canadians with disabilities, not create greater disadvantages for them.

There is time to ensure that the OAS reforms cause no negative impact or extend the poverty of Canadians with disabilities. CCD urges the Government of Canada to consider and ameliorate the negative impact that the OAS changes will have on Canadians with disabilities.

As for employment insurance reform, EI, sadly, is of benefit to only some of our members, in that many persons with disabilities continue to be excluded from the labour market or work part-time and are unable to establish enough insurable weeks to be eligible for EI. The proposed EI reforms must recognize that persons with disabilities face additional barriers to employment. Some jobs are simply not suitable, depending on particular impairments and related barriers. For example, I am sure that none of you want me driving a car.

8:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

8:45 a.m.

Project Manager, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Council of Canadians with Disabilities

Vangelis Nikias

In other instances, people cannot relocate for employment because their support services are not portable, or accessible transportation systems do not exist. EI reform must include in its assessment an understanding of disability, the barriers to employment for persons with disabilities, and the need for appropriate accommodation.

CCD seeks a federal labour market strategy for persons with disabilities that will improve labour market participation and, in particular, address the issues of young people with disabilities, including aboriginal people with disabilities. They must be supported to move from school to work. This transition is critically important and new investments are required.

CCD reminds all members of Parliament that Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities over two years ago. Ratification means that Canada has undertaken to continuously improve the standards of living of persons with disabilities, including through retirement benefits, per article 28 of the UN convention. This commitment is especially relevant to the proposed OAS changes, which if implemented without adequate compensatory measures, will have the effect of further impoverishing Canadians with disabilities, not improving our standards of living.

We ask that you take these concerns into account in your considerations, and we thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

Mr. Zinatelli, please.

June 1st, 2012 / 8:45 a.m.

Frank Zinatelli Vice-President, General Counsel, Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am Frank Zinatelli, vice-president and general counsel of the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association Inc.

I would like to thank the committee very much for this opportunity to contribute to your review of part 4 of Bill C-38, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 29, 2012 and other measures. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I would like to make some very short introductory comments.

The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association represents life and health insurance companies, accounting for 99% of the life and health insurance in force across Canada. The Canadian life and health insurance industry provides products, which include individual and group life insurance; disability insurance; supplementary health insurance; individual and group annuities, including RRSPs, RRIFs, TFSAs, and pensions. The industry protects more than 26 million Canadians and over 45 million people internationally. The industry makes benefit payments of $64 billion a year to Canadians. It has almost $514 billion invested in Canada's economy, and it provides employment to nearly 135,000 Canadians. Finally, life and health insurers are regulated at the federal level under the Insurance Companies Act, and are also subject to the rules and regulations that are set out in provincial Insurance acts.

Mr. Chairman, we welcome this opportunity to appear before the committee as you seek to develop your report to Parliament. The industry is very supportive of some of the divisions contained in the bill. Let me comment briefly on two of these.

First, division 22 of part 4 would amend part III of the Canada Labour Code to require federally regulated private sector employers that provide benefits to their employees under long-term disability plans to insure those plans, subject to certain exceptions. This would require employers who have uninsured long-term disability plans to insure those plans so that in the case of bankruptcy, employees who are on long-term disability at the time of the bankruptcy will continue to receive those benefits as long as they are disabled.

The Canadian life and health insurance industry is very supportive of this legislative initiative. We believe it is critically important to ensure that employees on long-term disability are protected in the event of a plan sponsor's financial stress or insolvency. History has shown that when an employer becomes insolvent and its LTD plan is uninsured, disabled employees can sometimes lose benefits. We have had three examples of this happening in the last three decades.

Currently in Canada there is little regulation of uninsured LTD plans. There is no requirement that employers set aside adequate reserves to cover future liabilities arising from these plans. If reserves are set aside, there is no restriction on how those funds are invested. There is also no obligation to keep funds in trust to protect them from creditors. As a result, there are no protections in place to ensure that there are adequate funds available to support ongoing LTD claims in the event of an employer's bankruptcy.

Requiring that LTD plans be offered on an insured basis will provide the maximum protection for disabled employees, and will ensure that they are paid, regardless of their plan sponsor's financial situation. We believe this is the best route to address the protection of those on LTD. With insured plans, the risk and financial liabilities for providing the LTD benefits are transferred to the insurer. The insurer's responsibility with respect to disability benefits continues even when the plan sponsor experiences financial difficulties, or after the plan is terminated. Indeed, after a plan sponsor's bankruptcy, the insurer will continue benefits for disabilities that began while the group policy was in force.

In order to protect those on LTD, it is crucial that there be funds available to support all ongoing disability liabilities, even if the employer is bankrupt. We believe that the legislative initiative set out in division 22 of part 4 would be effective in achieving the public policy objective of fully protecting individuals on LTD.

As an industry we are making representations to provincial governments recommending that they make equivalent changes.

I will now turn briefly to one other matter. We note that division 2 of part 4 would amend the Trust and Loan Companies Act, the Bank Act, and the Cooperative Credit Associations Act to prohibit the issuance of life annuity-like products. The provisions of the current legislation indicating that only life insurance companies can provide life annuities are relatively clear, and I see this as a technical amendment that will be helpful in reinforcing the rules and the policy objectives already in place.

The industry greatly appreciates this opportunity to participate in the committee's review of part 4 of Bill C-38. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.

Thank you, Chairman.

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

We will hear from Mr. Ambachtsheer now, please.

8:50 a.m.

Professor Keith Ambachtsheer Director, Rotman International Centre for Pension Management

Thank you.

I was made aware yesterday afternoon that I had to be here this morning, so you'll be relieved to know that I don't have any prepared notes.

8:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

8:50 a.m.

Prof. Keith Ambachtsheer

However, I do have some Porter notes taken at 22,000 feet only one hour ago, and they go something like this.

8:50 a.m.

Professor Keith Ambachtsheer Director, Rotman International Centre for Pension Management

A French philosopher about 150 years ago said that demography was destiny. Every once in a while that turns into reality, as will be the case as we start this next 20- to 30-year period. The way to think about this is that we currently have four workers per retiree in Canada today. That ratio will go from 4:1 to 2:1 in the next 20 years. So you just have to imagine a world with that new ratio.

I put it to you that the fundamental thing we have to ask ourselves is how do we maintain our standard of living with that ratio, and the simple logic is we have to get people over 65 in the workforce. That's the simple logic. So to me that's the background and, by the way, we all live longer than we did a long time ago. Those are the underlying realities.

I have three issues that I'll touch on very briefly. The first one is the move in OAS from age 65 to 68, which is long overdue. Michael said it was on the radar screen in 1979 and the U.S. actually did this decades ago and it's hardly noticeable that it's happening. We are doing it more quickly, because we waited longer and it is what it is, so let's get on with it and let's get over the fact that we need to do this.

To me a subpoint would be that given the degree to which we're interested in fiscal sustainability—and this is one element of it—I wonder whether we really need to have that clawback range from about $65,000 to $110,000? The other way to pose the question is do seniors who have income over $100,000 really need to even get a piece of OAS? So one way to make it a cheaper program is to think about that question and figure out whether there isn't some interesting answer there.

The other thing Michael mentioned that I'll reinforce is that you can't look at these things on their own. We have an integrated retirement income system, and even though it's a complex system, if you don't keep track of all the pieces and whether they fit or whether they don't fit, you will lose focus and do things that are stupid. For example, the piece I will bring into it is that when you look at employment-based pensions, the issue is the private sector workforce and the fact that most private sector workers don't have an employment-based pension plan. That, to me, is a major issue.

We've looked at a number of ways of dealing with that, one of which was to expand the Canada pension plan. That got voted off the ship. So now we're left with PRPPs. It's sort of the best at this, the only hope for the next few years. Unfortunately, with the track that we're on, I think they're going to fail, which would be a sad thing given that we've worked at this for the last three or four years. My concerns are the following.

First, if you don't have auto enrolment, if you don't automatically enrol workers into these plans, they're not going to happen. We already have voluntary RRSPs. Why would we want to create another program that looks like that? So this is one element that needs to get dealt with. Quebec, to its credit, is dealing with it. Nobody else has gone this far.

The other thing is the question of this integrated system, in that these PRPPs have to fit into the larger scheme of things. I'll give you an example. Our current system provides 100% income replacement for low-income workers through GIS, OAS, and CPP. So getting them into a PRPP doesn't make any sense at all, because basically all those hard-earned savings will be taxed back by lower GIS payments later down the road. That's just one example of the design thing that we have to put into PRPPs to make them do the job. They have to target private sector, middle-income workers, which means, for example, that you shouldn't start deductions in PRPPs until you get past the first $30,000 of income. That's just one example.

That leads to the other thing. We need a really smart licensing body to make PRPPs work. We need, in effect, a CRTC of pensions. You need about a dozen providers at the most, because you need scale. You need oversight to make sure that these services are delivered at low cost, and you need a regulatory process that understands that.

Here I would say that OSFI actually has some very good people in it, but they're wondering what's going to come out in the regulations and what their job is going to be with respect to PRPPs. Frankly, they don't know right now. That's a sad state of affairs.

There's also the dumping of it back on the provinces that's going on. They're being told to figure it out. Again, that's a shame. We did the Canada pension plan reforms in the 1990s together, and it's still, by global standards, a world-class program.

That's the integration issue.

The third issue that came up in the budget is public sector pensions. I'll simply say that you now have comparable current income between private sector and public sector employment. The difference is that a public sector employee gets an increment of about 30% of pay in the form of deferred wages, and that's an issue. The budget says that it's going to deal with it, but doesn't really say how. I'd be interested to know what exactly the plan is.

We have this 18% deferral right now in terms of how much income you can save today and defer. It is 18% of pay. So why don't we put everybody on the 18%-of-pay program for starters, and if you want to be fair, we'll split the 18% to 9% and 9%. We have to end up with an employment system for public sector workers that basically is 9% and 9%, which equals 18%. By the way, the taxpayer in the future can't bear any more risk in these programs. They have to be self-insured.

Here's my proposition. The richest plan of all in the country is actually the members of Parliament's pension plan. That's all of you. So why don't you think about starting by closing down your plan and going to a PRPP for MPs with a contribution rate that's split 9% and 9% between the employees and the employers? Lead the way.

9 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation.

Now we'll go to Dr. Sweetman for his opening remarks, please.

9 a.m.

Professor, Ontario Research Chair in Health Human Resources, Department of Economics, McMaster University, As an Individual

Dr. Arthur Sweetman

Thank you very much for inviting me. I appreciate the time.

While I'd be happy to answer questions regarding division 24 of the bill on old age security, division 43 on the EI Act, or division 54 on immigration and refugee protection, I'm going to speak initially on the OAS and EI components.

I have to say that like many of the previous speakers, I'm favourably disposed to policies that encourage Canadians to remain active in the labour market later in life, because that will increase labour force participation and national output—although some care needs to be taken to protect those workers who are unable to work.

It's clear that life expectancy has increased and is increasing. Since 1966, when CPP was started, life expectancy has increased by about 10 years for men, and eight years for women.

Although so far we've been focusing on the phased-in increase in OAS eligibility, it seems entirely possible to me that the voluntary deferral provisions might be at least as valuable, offering an extremely sensible policy as an incentive for a very large increase in years of labour force participation.

The weakness with the current proposal, as has been mentioned by some of the previous witnesses, is that the current reform does not fit into a comprehensive package. We need to be worried about how these various pieces of the system fit together.

We might want to push a little bit further and have an automatic system, more like the Swedes do, as opposed to the piecemeal, occasional system that we seem to have. In Sweden, there's automatic indexing of the age of retirement according to gains in life expectancy. This seems very sensible, although we might want to have some sharing rule whereby gains in life expectancy are partly allocated to increased years of work and partly allocated to increased years of retirement.

As a second point on OAS, I'd like to put a further nail into the coffin of the modern falsehood often heard in popular discussions that somehow senior workers need to retire to make way for younger workers. Economists have frequently called this the lump of labour fallacy, and have done so for many decades. There is not a lump or a fixed number of jobs in Canada, and it's not the case that if someone takes a job, someone else will lose one. In fact, there are frequently complementarities whereby all age groups benefit from the labour market success of particular age groups.

Relatively recently, some very high-quality work has been done comparing across 12 developed countries, and it's been summarized by two American economists at Harvard and MIT, and one Canadian economist at UBC. It persuasively concludes that there's no evidence supporting this idea that seniors are taking jobs from young workers. In fact, the evidence suggests that the alternative is true: Youth employment increases and youth unemployment decreases as older citizens remain employed. As well, survey work by Statistics Canada suggests that older workers appreciate and value employment.

Turning to EI, although not discussed as much, the recent changes to EI by the minister that seem quite valuable are the improved collection and dissemination of labour market information regarding job vacancies. If implemented well, this seems like an extremely important and potentially very valuable change. I would hope that all job seekers would have access to this new information system, and not only employment insurance claimants.

Turning to the suitable work provisions that the current legislation is striking out and replacing with regulations, I see the increased flexibility of regulations as advantageous. Although it goes beyond the text of the budget, I think it's worth thinking about the ramifications of the regulations that might follow from the changes to the budget, as announced recently by the minister of HRSDC. Although clarity in the regulations is useful, my sense is that the proposal is sometimes a bit too stringent for truly long-tenured workers. This partly follows from a very generous definition of long tenure.

In terms of the impact of the regulations, it seems entirely likely that many of the initial reactions in the media and by politicians to the minister's proposals might be off the mark. In particular, the high unemployment rate regions of eastern Canada might well not be the most affected by the suitable work changes.

As background, it's useful to distinguish between the impacts of the proposed new regulations for suitable work on individuals and the aggregate impact on regions of the country. It's also important to realize that for these new suitable employment regulations to have any impact, there have to be job openings.

At the level of the individual, it seems reasonable to believe that frequent claimants in low unemployment rate regions, especially in Alberta, will probably be the most strongly affected by the policy changes. There are a lot of job openings in Alberta and the EI claimants who are frequent claimants will be required to take them. However, there are relatively few EI claimants in Alberta, so the aggregate impact on the region is not likely to be particularly strong.

It seems reasonable to believe that the aggregate impacts will be felt most strongly in EI regions that are in the middle of the unemployment rate or spectrum that frequent EI users populate; that is, that the impacts will be strongest in regions that combine an appreciable number of EI claimants who are potentially most strongly affected and also regions that have an appreciable number of job openings for those workers.

It's undoubtedly true that these reforms will cause some short-term pain for some workers; however, in the long run, if it works, it should reduce unemployment and cause firms and workers to tailor their unemployment patterns less to the parameters of the EI system. This will beneficially increase productivity.

It's also worth noting that individuals need not remain in the first job they find after terminating EI benefits. In fact, the research in labour economics suggests that an employed search is not necessarily less productive and can sometimes be more productive than job search when one is unemployed. The key issue is that job search need not end when EI benefits do.

Looking forward, if Canadian society can find a way to reduce the deleterious EI incentive that subsidizes full-time work for part of the year only, we can then perhaps turn our attention to improving the system for those who are poorly served at present, especially long-tenured job losers and permanent part-time workers in low-income households.

Thank you very much for the invitation to speak today.

9:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative James Rajotte

Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Sweetman.

We'll start members' questions with Mr. Marston, please.

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Given that I'm from Hamilton, Mr. Sweetman, I have to start with you.

There have been some very significant points made by presenters today, and I'm not going to engage you to any length other than to comment on your suggestion that we have to look at a comprehensive view of pension retirement security as a whole, rather than hiving off one part, or another PRPP or OAS. I just want to say that I agree with that comment.

I'm going to move on, though, to Mr. Ambachtsheer. I think I'm close in the pronunciation...?

9:05 a.m.

Prof. Keith Ambachtsheer

Well, if you're not Dutch, you're doing as well as you can.

9:05 a.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

9:05 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Well, my grandmother's name was Keirstead, so I have a problem there.

I appreciated your comments about the PRPP and the fact that it's not mandatory, because we've spoken about that many times in the House, cautioning that it devalues the whole goal of the PRPP when it's not mandatory—or at least the goal that's being talked about.

In the past I've been in conferences where you've spoken about the Canada pension plan and increasing that plan. I still think, sir, there's an opportunity for us to get something done on that. It may not be at the pace that we would like to see, but again, going back to Mr. Sweetman's commentary about how we have to look at this on a more holistic basis, would you agree with that, sir?

9:10 a.m.

Prof. Keith Ambachtsheer

Absolutely, and in fact, that's one of the things I said, but obviously I didn't say it well.

I think we're all agreed that the best systems, such as the Swedish system, which Mr. Sweetman mentioned..... It's a smaller country, with six million people versus 33 million. It's also not a federation, and another one of our challenges is working within a federation.

But having said all of that, if we don't get the pieces together, it's like trying to design a car where not everybody works together to make sure it has fuel efficiency, etc. It's not going to work very well.