Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to this again. There are some new amendments before the House and I want to say a few words on behalf of the New Democratic Party caucus with respect to these amendments to Bill C-2.
I would like to begin by thanking the member for Saint John and her caucus in the Conservative Party for supporting some our amendments. I have worked off and on with the member for Saint John over the years and I find her to be a very co-operative person on many issues. She does not totally agree with our philosophy, but she sure agrees with a lot of it. I just want to acknowledge that today and thank her for her support on these amendments.
Before I deal specifically with Motions Nos. 11 and 13, 15 through 19 and No. 22, I want to say a word about No. 21 on which I understand the government has undertaken to follow the advice of the NDP. The NDP suggested that the auditor general be the auditor of record for the Canada pension plan benefits. I understand by reading the orders of the day that the government has put forward an amendment suggesting that the auditor general be the auditor of record for the Canada pension plan. That is something all parties would agree to support.
With respect to Motion No. 11, the NDP has a bit of a problem with accumulating a large surplus without reinvesting in our communities, our local businesses and our provinces with respect to infrastructure and creating jobs. Our motion provides some recognition of the fact that the Government of Canada and the people who support the funding of the government, the taxpayers, unanimously agree that government is a going concern.
What we mean is that when we are in business there are certain long term obligations, whether it is capital costs or capital accumulation. There are long term costs when it comes specifically to pension benefits for some business people. This motion we are putting forward acknowledges that the government has a going concern status, which means that it is going to be around for a long time and has a source of revenue that fluctuates on a regular basis, but is consistent. If it is a stable concern it can fund a pay as you go pension plan more easily than a corporation or a business that is having financial problems.
The notion of an unfunded liability is not really pertinent to the Canada pension plan as we know it.
With respect to Motion No. 13, we are very concerned about what the government is doing with respect to deindexing the yearly earnings. When the minimum is deindexed, there is a burden on those at the lower income scale. Our basic amendment freezes the year's basic exemption, the YBE, at $3,500 beginning in 1998.
We are proposing to let it float, let it be indexed for inflation. My colleague from Qu'Appelle indicated earlier that in 1966 when the plan was initially created as the result of a lot of hard work from the CCF and the New Democratic members across the country, the minimum yearly basic exemption was about $400. At that time the maximum was about $4,000 on earnings. It was a ratio of about 10 to 1.
Now we see the basic yearly earning being $3,500 on the basis of contributions made on a top salary of $34,000, so about a 10:1 ration has been sustained. We feel that if this is not sustained on a long term basis, it will hurt those people who need the support most. We are very concerned about this. We are asking in this amendment to make sure that the yearly basic exemption is indexed with inflation.
On Motion No. 15, I know the Bloc had some concerns about this. We believe very strongly that employees are getting away from paying the Canada pension plan share because many employees are hired on a part time basis. They are paid up to about $3,500 but they do not qualify to pay pension contributions and then they are not called back. These are mostly part time workers, women and others, who would suffer. We are asking that this minimum $3,500 be adjusted particularly in the face of work in this country which is ever-changing.
With respect to Motion No. 16, my colleague from Qu'Appelle basically indicated very clearly what we after here. We want better benefits for our seniors. Our change proposes that the benefit formula in the calculation is altered. The net effect is to provide increased benefits as opposed to reducing benefits, which the government wants to do. It seems to me that as we get older and inflation kicks in and the cost of living increases, we want to provide our seniors, our pioneers, with some sense of security so they will not have to rely on welfare and other things to get by on in their retirement years.
With respect to Motion No. 17, we propose to delete clause 69 because 69 is really attacking those who can least defend themselves. It reduces benefits for the disabled. It really attacks those who need more support as they get older. For example, we have a worker who works for 40 years, turns 55 or 56, gets injured, does not have a disability plan and cannot work. He or she does not contribute in those last eight or 10 years, which are crucial for CPP benefits to maintain a higher pension when he or she gets older. Therefore they diminish their pension for the years they need it the most. These are people who are injured. They are not people who are abusing the system or taking advantage of it.
With respect to Motion No. 18, we want to uncap the ceiling. We are proposing that the $35,800 be increased. For example, the National Council of Welfare is quite disappointed that the size of earnings are not considered an increase. Under current arrangements, CPP contributions apply to a relatively narrow band of earnings. Of the larger earnings base, contribution rates do not have to rise so quickly. The trade off would soften the impact on workers with lower than average wages. Those who are earning more money can afford to pay a little bit more and subsidize the plan.
In 1996 the rules of contributory earnings begins at the year's basic exemption of $3,500 and goes up to the year's maximum pensionable earnings of $35,004, a rough approximation of the average industrial wage. In the United States the upper limit is not $35,004. The upper limit for social security in the United States is about $62,700 U.S. which is about $88,000 to $90,000 Canadian. We are pegging ours at a measly $35,000. We believe it would be in the interests of Canadians to explore the impact of expanding the upper limit of contributory earnings to the Canada pension plan.
Motion No. 19 amends Bill C-2 by deleting clause 76 which in essence, if clause 76 remains, is another attack on women. It is unnecessary and it fails to provide a good overview with respect to how the CPP works and how it impacts on future benefits for Canadians. Why the changes? Reduction in combined benefits, reducing the ceiling for disability and survivor benefits. We do not want to reduce them. We want to increase them. We are suggesting our new combined benefit calculations should be increased for survivor, retirement and disability benefits.
I will end my comments by summarizing that we believe these changes are beneficial to those people who need it most, those people who are disabled, those people who have a lower income. We believe if we adopt these changes we will have a more viable Canada Pension Plan for not just the next four or five years but for as long as our country exists.