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House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was claims.

Topics

Specific Claims Resolutions ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Specific Claims Resolutions ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Amendments read the second time and concurred in)

The House resumed from October 31, consideration of the motion that Bill C-54, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act and the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Regulations, 1999, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-54.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Finance.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being 5:58 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

November 4th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

moved that Bill C-428, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan (adjusted pension for persons with other income above the level at which the second percentage of income tax applies), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-428 deals with one of the most pressing problems that will affect us in the future. We have an aging population and this demographic threatens to rupture our social programs in the future unless we deal with these challenges today. In particular, it will have a profound impact on our health care system and on our pension system.

Bill C-428 is the first of two bills that I put together dealing with the issue of pensions, specifically, how we ensure that our public pension schemes will be there for us and successive generations. If we do not deal with this we will have a sea of seniors, particularly low and middle income seniors, believing their pensions will be there for them in the future but, unfortunately, will not be there for them.

I want to provide the House with a few specifics. In 1973, 7% of our population was over the age of 65. Today it is 13%. By the year 2030, a staggering 25% of our population will be over the age of 65. In other words, two to three people working at that time will be supporting a retiree. Let us think for a moment what that will do to our pension plans.

We know our aging population will increase because people are living longer. Today it is estimated that a man will live to an average age in the upper seventies and a woman to the average age in the low eighties. It is anticipated that in the year 2030 a person's average lifespan will be 90 years of age. This means that people will receive money from their public pension plans for 25 years.

On top of that, our birthrate is falling. With our aging population there will be a huge demographic bubble. We have a truncated population that is working with a smaller and younger population coming up beneath it. As I said before, this demographic bubble will cripple and punish our pension plans unless we deal with this problem today. The Europeans and the Americans have begun to deal with this problem but we have not. If we fail to deal with it, it will be at our peril.

Bill C-428 has several purposes. First, it would open the debate on the issue of saving our pension plans and our social programs given this demographic pressure, and second, it offers solutions to saving our CPP.

Specifically, Bill C-428 does the following. If people want to retire at the age of 65 they can. If they want to continue to work past the age of 65, they can continue to work and receive their income and still receive a graded percentage of their CPP. For example, people who are age 65 will receive 40% of their CPP premiums. People who are age 66 will receive 50%. This amount will increase to a full 100% at the age of 70. This acts as an incentive to keep people in the workforce. It also reduces the demand on our CPP, and that is important.

The government has been forced to successively increase the amount of contributions we make so that today's contribution of 9.9% is a 175% increase from what it was when the CPP was originally put forth in 1966.

The purpose of the bill is to encourage people to stay in the workforce. As I said previous, in the future fewer people will be in the workforce. How do we encourage them to stay? Back when the retirement age was set at 65, the average lifespan was less than 60. Now it is higher. People at the age of 65 or 70 years of age are physiologically and biologically much younger than people at that age some years ago.

Furthermore, many of the jobs that are available today are in the service sector and that sector does not require the great physical challenges that occurred in times past in the manufacturing and resource sector.

People want to work. A lot of people are having difficulty making enough money to put some aside for their retirement. Why not give them the opportunity to work? Why not encourage them to stay in the workforce and give them the ability to provide for themselves?

The full concept of a mandatory retirement age of 65 in my view is obsolete. We should retire the mandatory age of retirement. It is long overdue. It is an anachronism from times past.

By keeping people in the workforce we are also keeping the brain trust. Many people between the ages of 65 and 70 are our most productive workers. They are often the brain trust in organizations. It would be a shame to lose that by farming people out to retirement when we could greatly use their skills, capabilities and experience.

The other aspect of the bill, which will be dealt with at a subsequent time, is the notion we have of the old age security system. It should be focused on the lower to middle income seniors in an effort to save it. As I said before, that money comes from general revenues. As time passes, the demands we will be putting on those general revenues will increase.

We should also ensure that the voluntary component of savings are actually strengthened. For a long time the government has stood by its anachronistic policies that have prevented people from providing for themselves upon retirement.

There are a few solutions. We should abolish the foreign content in RRSPs. There are so many ways for people to bypass the situation that it makes no sense for the government to oblige everybody else to adhere to this anachronistic system. We should double the amount of money people are allowed to put away in their RRSPs. We should allow people to pull out $15,000 tax free from their RRSPs after the age of 60.

There is going to be greater and greater difficulty to provide for a variety of programs, including health care. Why not enable people to provide for themselves which would allow them to pay for those things that they would like to have and which perhaps may be life saving? As a physician, I see that many things that we would like to provide for our patients are not covered. People will be forced to pay for those things themselves. Where will they get the money from?

It would be innovative of the government to allow people over the age of 60 to remove $15,000 from their RRSPs. It would be a godsend to them. It would provide for the things they need, such as food on the table or medication when they get sick. Perhaps it would help provide for their parents who would be in their nineties.

The World Bank said that there are three pillars to a sustainable, reasonable, fair and strong pension system. The first is a tax financed, means tested, minimum pension system. We have that in the OAS/GIS system. The second is an employee based mandatory pension plan. That is the CPP system. The third is private pension plans.

There are five goals for whatever we do. The first is adequacy, so that people who are retired will have enough money in their pockets to provide for themselves. The second is fairness, so that people can retire at a reasonable age and that they will have enough money to provide for themselves. The third is sustainability. Fourth is transparency. Fifth is that the system is efficient, in other words, that we get the greatest percentage and rate of return from the system that we have today.

There is a big change coming and the House is probably going to prorogue. Everybody knows this. This bill may not go anywhere, but I hope that the government listens to the essence of the bill and the intent with which it was introduced in the House. If we do not take seriously the impact of our aging population on our social programs, we will be left with tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of seniors who cannot put roofs over their heads, food on their tables, or pay for their medication when they get sick. What kind of a society will we have if there are so many people who worked so hard for so long for our country and we are not there to help them?

The HRDC website clearly states that our publicly funded pension plans are there as a supplement to our private pension plans.

It is sad to say that until recently with the declining real incomes that Canadians have had, it is the low and middle income seniors who are the most hurt by the government's current regressive tax policies and its regressive policies with respect to pension plans. It cannot continue to take the easy route out simply by trying to increase contributions on the backs of taxpayers, on the backs of employees and think that this is a panacea which in the future will enable seniors to provide for themselves. The facts simply bear out that it is a fallacy.

I looking into the future and see an aging population and a shrinking workforce. That is going to have an impact which is not being acknowledged at this point in time.

The government could easily deal with the concept of mandatory retirement tomorrow. Mandatory retirement is ageism. It is discriminatory. It would be easy for the government to bring in a bill to abolish the mandatory retirement age of 65. Those who would choose to retire at 65 could do so. They would receive the benefits they would normally have, but for heaven's sake, we should give people the opportunity to provide for themselves.

The government should look at the work being done by Dr. David Baxter at Simon Fraser University and the book Boom, Bust & Echo of which Dr. Michael Foot is a co-author. That book and the work that is being done by Dr. Baxter at Simon Fraser provide the specifics and the solutions for the pension problems we will have in the future. They also address the impact on our health care system.

Everybody in the House knows from their personal family experience what will happen in the future. The demands on our health care system and the ability of the public purse to pay for all we ask will create an increasing chasm. More and more people will fall through the cracks to the bottom. More and more people will be unable to get the health care they require. It may be bad today, but it will only get worse in the future.

We in the House across party lines have ideas. Whether or not we have the right ideas is irrelevant, but all of us have ideas that are well meaning and constructive, and which we need to put into the mix. Out of the strong debate that will come from that will be good solutions which the government can act on in order to save our pensions and our health care system.

Everyone here knows of people who cannot get health care today when they need it. We know the pain and suffering they endure. People who are in severe pain are waiting 18 months and longer for hip replacements. There are children who have cancer and cannot get the medication they require because the government is not willing to pay for it. It is not that we do not have medications to treat people, it is that those medications are exceedingly expensive and the public purse is not deep enough to pay for the medications that those people require. That problem is going to get bigger. Rationing will become more extensive and more people, particularly the poor and those in the middle class will be the ones who suffer.

This bill is not about the rich. The rich can take care of themselves. This bill is about the poor and the middle class who will have significantly increasing difficulties in meeting their basic needs in the future. We also know the impact our aging population will have on issues such as housing. A number of people will not have housing. There is the impact of dementias on our health care system. All of these are issues which the government is failing to deal with. The solutions to those problems are out there.

All of us in the House are more than willing to work with the government to deal with these problems that affect all of our constituents. Through you, Madam Speaker, I implore the ministers involved to work to with us. We can pull together the best minds in our country and abroad. In that way we will come up with the best solutions to ensure that our aging population will have their basic needs met. We will not be faced with a sea of seniors suffering incalculable problems that we would prefer not to see.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Shefford Québec

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources Development

Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my point of view on this bill, which would reduce Canada pension plan benefits paid to recipients between the ages of 60 and 69 whose taxable income is above a certain level.

I am very proud to have a chance to defend this plan that truly manages to offer income support to its contributors and their families, when they retire, become disabled or lose a loved one. I emphasize the term contributor, in other words people who have paid contributions to the plan during their working years.

I must admit that I am surprised at the harshness of this bill. Admittedly, I am not sure what prompted my colleague to present it, especially considering that the level at which benefits would be reduced is very low. For the 2002 taxation year, the reduction would have been applicable to an income as low as $31,677, which is just over $2,600 a month in taxable income.

We are not talking about CEOs of companies, or presidents of multinationals, or people who made a fortune on the stock market. We are talking about Canadians who worked hard, raised their children, and managed to put a little money aside and who have a little extra money to supplement their Canada pension plan benefits. That is precisely what we are asking Canadians to do. We are talking about average workers who, thanks to Canada pension plan benefits, are able to make ends meet.

The problem is not just the category of people targeted by the bill, but also the extent of the reduction of benefits for certain people. It is a question of a 60% reduction of their pension cheque. This bill comes from a member whose party brags about promoting lower taxes.

We also notice several administrative problems that would complicate the implementation of such a measure, for example: using different reduction rates based on age, or using an estimation of the client's income to calculate the reduction of benefits.

Given the fact that income can vary considerably from one year to the next, this last point would make the Canada pension plan impossible to administer.

It would be difficult to calculate a reliable estimate for many Canadians, which means that many people would receive cheques long after the year end, in order to compensate for the excessive reductions that would inevitably occur. However, some clients would have to reimburse overpayments because the estimate of their income was not high enough. It is a not a very happy picture.

And what should we do about clients who live outside Canada and pay taxes in that other place of residence? How could we assess or reduce their benefits?

Moreover, what about the federal-provincial repercussions of this bill? We cannot overlook the fact that the provincial governments coordinate the plan jointly with the federal government. The CPP Act says that two thirds of the provinces and two thirds of the population must accept a change of this kind for it to become law.

And another point: has the sponsor of the bill envisaged that the courts might decide that treating clients differently depending on their age is a form of discrimination, and contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms?

Finally, this bill contravenes the principle of the guarantee on which the CPP is based, that is, that the amount of benefits a person receives depends on the amount of contributions and the length of time that person has contributed.

Passing this bill would undermine the foundations of the Canada pension plan and its agreement with its contributors.

But let us set aside those crucial details for a moment and ask ourselves why the hon. member believes it is necessary to make such drastic changes.

Is it because he believes that the financial health of the CPP is threatened and that we should begin to reduce benefits immediately? If so, he is mistaken, because many actuarial reports have shown that the plan is in good health and that current financial provisions are appropriate to present and future needs.

Or is it because he hopes these measures will encourage people to return to the labour market?

Again, he would be mistaken, since some people receive benefits, but not by choice. No one chooses to become disabled to a point where one can no longer work. No one wants to lose a loved one simply to receive survivor benefits.

For people who choose to retire before age 65, it is obviously unfair to suddenly change the rules and dramatically reduce their CPP benefits on short notice, especially when we know that some have decided to retire at a specific age according to a financial plan that they were encouraged to develop many years earlier.

This bill includes many drawbacks and no clear advantages. That is why I will vote against it and I urge other members to do the same. However, I am well aware that no program is set in stone, and that is also true for the Canada pension plan.

That is why CPP legislation needs to be reviewed by federal and provincial governments every three years. Instead of stripping CPP or reducing benefits in a panic, as this bill would have us do, we should instead continue to administer this plan in a conscientious manner by consulting the people concerned as needed and by maintaining our periodic reviews, because that is the only way to do things properly.

Together, we will ensure that the Canada pension plan is able to provide future generations with the same level of benefits that we enjoy today.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Madam Speaker, like my hon. colleague, I am very pleased to speak on this bill, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan (adjusted pension for persons with other income above the level at which the second percentage of income tax applies).

I listened very carefully to the presentation by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, because I was trying to figure out what his bill was all about. I had read it, I read it again earlier and I read the letter he sent us. Unfortunately, it reads:

“This bill contains the following provisions”.

It is too bad he did not take the precaution of sending his letter through the official channels of the House to have it translated. We could have received a French version, instead of just the English.

In his letter, he identifies five points covered by his bill. I have read the bill over and over, sent it to the research services, and even to a lawyer, and oddly enough, nowhere in this bill have we found what he said it contained.

Understandably, it will be very, and even hugely difficult for us to vote for this bill. There will be a free vote on the bill, but I would recommend to the members from my party that we vote against it. This is a bill that is fundamentally discriminatory, a bill that wold have people believe that, past the age of 65, we are still in our prime and can work ourselves to death.

Our life expectancy may be 80 years, but we should see what kind of life people have between the ages of 65 and 80. If workers can afford to take an early retirement at age 55, I do not see why they should be told that, if they stay on until the age of 65, they will receive a small portion of their pension as an incentive.

I find it quite awful that this bill is, in the end, negative. It is intended to be positive and our colleague's remarks contain positive aspects. It is true that the population is aging and that there will be fewer young people to support retirees. The statistics cannot be denied. This will be a problem.

Another problem is our very low birth rate. We cannot deny this either. However, as long as people aged 65 and up are being encouraged to remain employed, our economy can also provide employment for young people. This seems extremely important.

Our colleague also mentioned that it was important to increase or double the annual RRSP contribution limits. I do not object per say, except that I see no need to double the limit. It is currently about 15%. Allowing people to invest 15% of their income tax-free seems sufficient. There is no need to double it. That is one reason we oppose this bill.

Furthermore, the hon. member would also like to increase the limit on foreign investments. He wants to double the RRSP contribution limit and increase the limit on foreign investments. This is a surprising measure. I have known the hon. member since 1993. I had pegged him as more left of centre and not on the extreme right. Doubling the amount of money we can save and, additionally, invest abroad, is almost encouraging tax havens.

As you know, the Bloc Quebecois is averse to the idea of tax havens. To us it seems rather incompatible with the position the hon. member may be taking.

Bill C-428 would make it possible for people with taxable incomes above $60,000, the infamous second tax threshold, to work after the age of 65 and to receive a graduated portion of their pension. With this bill, the hon. member is seeking to attenuate the effects of demography. I am not convinced that this bill would achieve his objectives.

We shall vote against this bill—in any case I hope my colleagues will act on the recommendation I will be making in caucus—basically because it is discriminatory. I am somewhat uncomfortable voting against it but I would be even more so were I to vote in favour of it. This pension plan, with or without this new bill, does not affect Quebec, since we have our own pension plan. Therefore, this bill does not apply in Quebec. If there had been any advantages, I would have tried to find them, identify them and speak about them.

I shall listen to the debates that follow and during the time allotted for the hon. member to reply at the end of his speech—if we have the opportunity to resume this debate—I will ask the hon. member to explain what advantage there is in improving the precarious economic situation or improving the situation for people who want to retire or continue working. Nevertheless, the bill is not excessively clear.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Madam Speaker, I wish to say a few words on Bill C-428.

I commend the member for bringing forth the bill. As he mentioned a few moments ago, Canada is a greying nation. It is about time that people in positions of public responsibility took note of that very salient fact. We are living longer. Many people have the capacity to work beyond age 65.

To some extent, of course, we in the chamber are guilty of turning a blind eye toward a double standard. While 65 is the normal retirement age, in both the public and private sector, it does not apply here. People here can work beyond 65 and certainly, in the Senate people can work beyond 65.

As Canadians, we value freedom. Many would ask, should people not be free to work beyond the age of 65 if they choose to do so? If they so choose, why can they not also avail of the benefits of an adjusted Canada pension plan?

Some would ask, is it not better for the economy to have these people still productive past the age of 65? The people we are talking about here are people who choose to work, not people who are being forced to work or people who are required to work. If working makes them happy or for some reason is an economic necessity, then I would ask, why can they not carry on with a reduced Canada pension of course?

At the same time, these senior workers would reduce the financial pressure on the Canada pension plan. One of the aims and objectives of the bill is to reduce the pressure on the Canada pension plan by taking a reduced payout while these senior people continue to work. That makes perfectly good sense to me.

Bill C-428 would provide for a sliding scale of adjusted pensions over ages ranging from 60 to 69 years of age. For example, a working person taking Canada pension plan benefits between the ages of 60 and 65 would receive 40% of the CPP benefits. A 66 year old worker would receive 50% of CPP benefits and a 69 year old would receive 80% and so on.

I think this is a very good bill. The bill would also apply where the senior worker's taxable income exceeded the second tax bracket in our income tax system. Simply put, the system would apply to the majority of senior Canadians. It would afford them with a choice to continue working with a reduced Canada pension benefit as an incentive for remaining in the workforce.

Those who choose to retire at 65, of course, would receive 100% of their CPP entitlement. That makes sense to me.

I said earlier that we are a greying nation. This fact was brought home to me quite forcefully during the recent provincial election in Newfoundland and Labrador because of the last decade of out migration by young families. The greying of our province was probably more noticeable than in any other Canadian jurisdiction.

During the Newfoundland and Labrador election, I can tell members that seniors' issues played a prominent role. All the political parties had policy positions on issues that affected seniors and well they should. Today, seniors are more educated, more informed and they have a tendency to speak out on matters that affect them, and well they should. Indeed, they have no hesitation in making their views known at election time. They have become an increasingly important sector of the electorate and we in this Chamber would do well to pay them the respect that they deserve.

In this regard, there are a number of other matters that the House would do well to consider. We should eliminate, for instance, income tax altogether for low income seniors. Many would say that they have paid their dues. It was their blood, sweat and tears that got us where we are today. It would be a good idea to eliminate income taxes altogether for low income seniors.

Our nation's health care system needs to be adjusted as well, with added emphasis on home care for seniors so that they will be able to live longer in their own homes. We should assist seniors by giving them more flexibility with regard to their RRSPs. To help save for retirement, we should increase the RRSP contribution limit to 20% of income, for instance. If an individual were to cash in an RRSP tomorrow, the value of the amount cashed in would be added to the taxable income and would be taxable at the regular rate. Because they are registered retirement savings plans, why not give retired people a break? Why not let retired people cash in their RRSPs tax free up to a stipulated yearly limit?

I wish to commend the member for bringing Bill C-428 to the floor of the House, not only for its content, but because it deals realistically with the fact that we have an aging population. People are getting older. Whether or not we want to face up to it, a growing number of Canadians are facing up to it every day. Their needs, concerns and aspirations must become our common cause here in the House of Commons.

Much has been said in the House about the importance of renewed federal financial support for our health and education systems and properly so. The modern nation we call Canada is composed of people who are healthier, wealthier and more educated than their forebears, mainly because their forebears had the insight to put such publicly funded systems in place. However, because we are better informed and healthier, we are living longer. The success of the health and education system has created a new problem that our grandparents did not even know about.

Bill C-428 deserves serious consideration by the House. It treats our seniors with the respect that they deserve. The bill would apply where the senior worker's taxable income would exceed the second tax bracket in our income tax system. Simply put, it would apply to the majority of senior Canadians. It would afford them with a choice to continue working with a reduced Canada pension benefit as an incentive for remaining in the workforce, and to those who choose to retire at age 65 would of course receive 100% of their CPP entitlements.

We support the bill because it would provide more flexibility to seniors who want to work. It would help combat certain growing skill shortages in the economy. It would lessen the financial pressure on the Canada pension plan system and dare I say it? It would make some people happy.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse NDP Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-428. I believe it is a bill that opens the door to talk about an important issue for Canadians. Pensions are something we invest in at a very young age when entering the workforce.

The Canada pension plan has a lifelong contribution. Individuals start to become aware of the fact that they have to retire at some point in time and plan for that. The CPP is a useful tool and important social program. It is not only sustaining the ability for people to have an income and security, but it teaches people along the way to save for their future, and to ensure that they develop the habits that are necessary to put money aside in the actual retirement setting.

Bill C-428 looks at the whole issue of pensions. I commend the member for bringing it forward; however, I disagree with the nature of the bill and what it would eventually do. Nevertheless, I think it is important to recognize that we should start talking about the issue.

Specific to the bill itself, we are concerned that it would eventually undermine our universal pension plan. We have had a strong tradition of creating some social programs that have some sense of vibrancy and security for individuals from coast to coast to coast.

We know that there has been a discussion about the sustainability of the Canada pension plan. There is a great debate about this but regardless of that, we know, and it was acknowledged, that we can sustain this program should we choose to do so, and we can do it in an affordable way that makes sense.

One of the things with which we do have a problem is that the CPP benefits under the system would become income tested. We believe it should be paid to workers in a way that would be fair. This complicates that element.

It would effectively also raise the retirement age and eliminate the mandatory age of retirement which we have yet to really discuss as a nation. I feel that it is something that we could discuss some more. The bill introduces that notion, but there are some good points that have been added.

People are choosing to work longer in life for a variety of reasons. Some people are also choosing to retire earlier if they can afford to do so. That is a personal decision and we should allow that freedom. That is what we should work toward. It should not be a crutch, which this system could become, for individuals to supplement their income because there is not a good solid pension system that the country can afford.

I can give a good example. A number of people have witnessed their income depreciate through cost of living and they have had to take on additional responsibilities and jobs. If they want to do so, and they can do so, that is a very positive thing, but other people are forced into that during the latter years of their lives. That creates some significant problems for them and their families. That is something that the country must address.

One of the pension issues that we should start talking more about in the future or at least discussing it, is what is happening with young people. We are going to see further problems if we do not address it. We are seeing people entering the workforce later in life and having fewer pensionable earning years. At the same time, they are transferring their pension as they move along through private sector jobs ensuring that they are going to have the maximum benefits that they can put in. But their pensionable years are going to be condensed because they will have fewer earning years and that is going to create some problems. That is why we need to start discussing the issue.

We are also very concerned about one aspect of the bill that deals with foreign investment. It is one of the things with which we have great difficulty. We believe that raising the level of foreign investment to 50% would be a wrong way to go about building Canada and building the confidence in our current pensionable investments that we do have.

We have a situation right now where the Canada pension plan itself has 30% of its investment overseas. It has no forms of control, no green screen, no ethic screen, none of those things. We do not know where that money is being invested. We do not have any control over it and that is the wrong way to do business.

As we invest our tax paying dollars and our personal income, we should ensure, for example, that we are not investing in tobacco companies which we know the Canada pension plan does.

For those reasons, we oppose the bill. I want to commend the member for at least bringing this forward. Pension issues should be discussed, but at a more opportune time.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Liberal Témiscamingue, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity of giving the government's point of view on Bill C-428.

I must admit in all honesty that this motion by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca is hard to understand. It asks us to support a huge reduction in retirement pensions. Some people would lose as much as 60% of their benefits.

I am afraid that this proposal would undermine the financial support system from which we benefit today, a system that has proven itself. One need only take a quick look at its history to be convinced of that.

The Canada pension plan was implemented in 1966 with a view to providing a modest income for Canadian workers in the event of disability or on retirement. It also provides payments to surviving spouses, or common law spouses, and to the dependent children of a deceased or disabled contributor.

The Canada pension plan is designed to replace approximately one-quarter of an individual's income up to a set ceiling. The amount paid out depends on how long the person paid into the plan, and how much he or she contributed.

During the last fiscal year, 2002-03, over 4.4 million Canadians received approximately $21.6 billion in CPP benefits. Of that amount, $15.1 billion went to 2.9 million retirees. Over 900,000 surviving spouses and some 87,000 children of deceased contributors received a total of $3.3 billion. Finally, another $3 billion was paid out in disability benefits to approximately 283,000 disabled contributors and 90,000 of their children.

Canada has put in place a support system that makes us the envy of all other countries. We have made giant strides over the past three decades in reducing the number of low-income seniors. The Canada pension plan has played a vital role in that progress.

Do we really want to do anything to reduce the positive effects of the CPP now and in the future? Actuarial experts have determined that the CPP is doing very well. It remains viable with its current contribution rates and will continue to do so for the next 50 years.

By reducing the benefits, we would be changing the basis of the Canada pension plan. The government would be breaching an important contract with all Canadian workers. It is a contract that stipulates that people who contribute to the Canada pension plan during their working years are entitled to receive benefits.

Such a change would completely undermine Canadians' trust in and their support for this plan. Do we want to run such a risk? I also have other concerns about the opposition member's bill.

Does Bill C-428 discriminate? It seems to. It targets a specific group, namely people between the age of 60 and 69. It also implies a reduction added to another reduction. It proposes reducing by up to 60% a pension that has already been diminished for people who file an application for benefits before age 65 and who are fully entitled to do so.

This bill would be a real disaster in terms of financial planning for many Canadians. It would disrupt their retirement planning. The CPP benefits they rely on to ensure their income later would be withdrawn.

This bill would end up punishing people who are saving for their retirement. It would be like saying, “Set aside some money so that we can take it all away”.

What advantage would there be to saving for retirement? This would discourage even those who might have considered working in retirement.

In addition, Bill C-428 would have an impact on other retirement plan providers. Many retirement plans are integrated plans in which benefits are reduced by the amount of benefits paid under the Canada pension plan.

This reduction in benefits would create a gap that private pension plans could not fill. This would result in a substantially lower retirement income for many Canadians. Bill C-428 would affect the integrity of the Canada pension plan, to the detriment of many Canadians at risk, recipients of disability benefits, women, and senior women living alone in particular. Nearly 90% of recipients of survivor benefits are women.

Bill C-428 would also have a major impact on the husband, wife or common law spouse of individuals whose pension was reduced. If they died, the benefits paid to the survivor would be lower. This is clearly a bad initiative.

It is true that certain Canadians have greater financial means at their disposal during their retirement. However, they worked their entire lives, they saved money and they contributed to the Canada pension plan, and now that they are retired, we are going to take a significant portion of their CPP pension from them on the pretext that they have a modest but comfortable income.

CPP pension benefits are taxable, like any other kind of income. What about Canadians living outside Canada who pay taxes in their country of residence? Are they exempt from Bill C-428?

Also, the Government of Canada coordinates the CPP, in conjunction with its provincial partners. They must give their approval. Why would the provinces support a measure that could undermine a self-funding, sustainable national pension plan?

This will never happen. We will ensure that it does not. I listed a number of concerns and problems with Bill C-428, and I cannot find a single reason to justify its implementation, not one. Our government is prepared to make moderate changes to the Canada pension plan, when it needs to do so and when the majority of our partners and stakeholders support the proposed changes.

This proposal has no support whatsoever. The Canada pension plan has been responding adequately to the needs of Canadians for over 40 years. It will continue to do so in the coming years, and Canadians can count on us to see to that.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the bill introduced by my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.

I have always been interested in pensions, actually long before I was a member of Parliament. Part of that was due to the fact that I was involved in staff relations, union activities and staff associations, and at various times different negotiations took place with respect to the future pension benefits of the people whom I represented.

The other reason I was interested in it, and members may get a chuckle out of this, was for purely mathematical reasons. To watch an annuity grow over time is truly quite an interesting mathematical phenomenon.

I remember when I was teaching at the college level at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, there were various times when we got into taking numbers to powers, called exponential functions. We did that when they first invested electronic calculators. I did it in my computer programming courses. I also did it when I taught sections on logarithmic and exponential functions.

I used to have quite a bit of fun with my students. I would write down an expression on the board and have them evaluate it. Then of course we would first have a debate about what the right answer was, because when we had 30 students, usually there would be about 20 different answers to the questions, so we had to first reconcile what the answer was.

One of the examples I used to give them was a function for which I wish I had a visual aid here so I could show it to members. It was quite a complicated function from the mathematics of finance showing the growth of an annuity to which money was deposited regularly.

I would have the students evaluate this and then I would ask them if they knew what they had computed. I would go through this and ask them what they thought 365 was. They would answer that it was the number of days in a year. I would tell them they were right. Then I would ask what they thought 65 minus 20 was. They would need a little prompting on that, but I would tell them that we expected them to graduate and get a job when they were 20, and they would retire at age 65, so that would make an interval of some 45 years during which they presumably could contribute to their pension.

Five dollars was the amount at that time of a package of cigarettes. Then I had the 0.1 in there which represented 10%, which was a possible return on some RRSPs in those years. These students were always amazed because when they evaluated the function, it came out to, and I just did it again here so I would have the accurate number, $1,312,001.33. That was the total accumulated value of one pack of cigarettes per day over a working lifetime, from age 20 to age 65.

I challenged my students by saying to them that instead of smoking, why not put it that into an RRSP. If they did that, they would have $1.3 million in their retirement fund when they retired. I used that as an example.

That is one example of how one can provide for one's future by making regular payments into an annuity, beginning when one is very young. I am sure members have heard people who sell retirement plans and investments talk about the magic of compound interest, and that indeed is one of the examples of it. That is one of the reasons why I have been interested in this over the years.

There are two fundamental questions which need to be answered. When we deal with retirement plans, the first question is, to what extent can those retirement plans be diverted into other necessary plans? For example, we have right now a component in Canada pension which has to do with disability.

Let me emphasize that I have absolutely no problem with having a public social system to assist those who are disabled and who need financial assistance in order to pay for their day to day needs. However, we should honestly ask the question whether that should be administered through a plan like the Canada pension plan, which originally was designed to provide for retirement income.

As I said, I want to emphasize the fact that I am not opposed to helping those people who are disabled. I do not want that point to be misinterpreted. I am not opposed to helping those people who are disabled, but I am not at all sure that we should put it into the mix of a retirement plan. That should be a separate plan and administered separately for the benefit of those who have true needs. It could be a needs assessed plan.

The other fundamental question that I think one should ask with respect to retirement plans is this one: Should income for a person's retirement be derived from payments that are made by the present generation? In other words, if I were to retire--and I know there are some Liberals in here who wish I would--should my retirement income be paid for by the young people of this generation? When the pages in here get a job should they have to pay taxes in order to pay me a retirement income? Or should I have contributed to that retirement income myself?

In other words, who should pay for my retirement income? Should I pay for it in those years leading up to my retirement or should the present working generation have to pay for those who are in retirement? This is one place where the Canada pension plan, I believe, was wrongly based foundationally right at the beginning.

Canada Pension PlanPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, Monday was the first day of hunting season in my constituency of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. The subject of the Liberal gun registry continues to be a hot topic of discussion in rural Canada. I am therefore pleased to rise from my seat not only on behalf of the hunters and sportsmen of my riding but for hunters and sportsmen across Canada.

At every opportunity my constituents encourage me to continue to hold accountable a government that insists on spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a dubious policy that is of questionable value to the people of Canada.

The hunt, as the government probably intended, gets smaller and smaller every year, since hunters are giving up in disgust over the red tape, regulations and costs that are the results of the government's pursuit of law-abiding firearms owners.

The firearms registry is a complete and utter government failure, so it was with surprise that I noted three remarks by the Solicitor General about the firearms registry in response to my question of June 2.

The Solicitor General stated first that the intent of the Liberal gun registry “is not to penalize hunters and legitimate gun owners”. The minister then stated that the registry system was working “more efficiently”. Third, the Solicitor General remarked that the intent of the gun registry was that it was supposed to “make our streets safer”.

Before I continue, I believe it is important to state my party's position on the Liberal Party's gun registry so that there can be no confusion as to where the Canadian Alliance stands on this issue of the gun registry. The Canadian Alliance firearms policy states the following:

We believe there should be severe mandatory penalties for the criminal use of any weapon. We will replace the current firearms law, including its firearms registration provisions, with a practical firearms control system that is cost effective and respects the rights of Canadians to own and use firearms responsibly. We will especially emphasize a more stringent punishment of individuals who use a firearm or other weapon in the commission of a crime involving a threat of or actual violence.

During the summer of 2002, Dr. Ted Morton, professor of political science at the University of Calgary, prepared a paper entitled “How the Firearms Act (Bill C-68) Violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms”. Professor Morton documented the following charter violations: the right to liberty; the right to security of the person; the right to procedural fairness; the right against unreasonable search and seizure; the right to privacy; the right to be presumed innocent; the right against arbitrary detention; the right to freedom of expression; the right to bear arms; the right to council upon arrest or detention; and the right to property and equality rights.

Dr. Morton's paper goes on to explain:

To the extent that the Firearms Act restricts any of the rights listed above, the burden of proof shifts to the government to prove that such restrictions are “reasonable”.

To do this, the Supreme Court has developed the “Oakes test”, which requires the government to demonstrate that the Act serves as an important public policy objective; is rationally connected to that objective; impairs the right in issue as little as possible; and does more good than harm (proportionality).

While the purpose of the Firearms Act--the reduction of illegal use of firearm violence--easily qualifies as an important public policy objective, the means used to achieve this objective utterly fail the... three rules of the Oakes test.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Alan Tonks LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke for the opportunity to rise in the House tonight and provide some up to date and accurate information on compliance with the Firearms Act.

Over the years, opponents of the firearms program have established a virtual cottage industry approach to fabricating and characterizing related to the firearms programs. Their latest creation concerns the number of firearms owners who have yet to register their firearms. This evening I would like to take a moment to reflect on that.

I would like to remind the House that the Firearms Act, which was passed by Parliament in 1995, established the licensing and registration deadlines. It also is this act, which was passed by Parliament, that requires firearms owners to obtain a licence before they can register their firearms.

Today more than 85% of the estimated 2.3 million firearm owners have complied with the licensing requirement of the Firearms Act.

Licensed owners were required to register their guns before the January 1, 2003 deadline. This deadline was not extended. Rather, we put in place a six month grace period to facilitate the processing of late arriving registration applications. We also have included in the grace period those who submitted letters of intent to register. It was incumbent on all those who submitted these letters to send a registration application and obtain their certificates before the grace period ended on June 30.

On July 4, 2003, the federal Solicitor General announced that the firearms registration grace period was a success. As of November 1, more than 6.6 million firearms have been registered. That includes more than 300,000 firearms registered since July 1, 2003. The Canada Firearms Centre continues to receive and process firearms registration applications.

These firearms owners have done everything needed to comply with the law and have satisfied the requirements of the Firearms Act. I would encourage anyone who has not yet registered their firearms to do so right away.

It is important to note that properly completed registration applications are processed within 30 days. CAFC also continues to receive more than 2,000 licence applications each week. The firearms program provides an excellent tool for police officers across the country and they are using it on a daily basis.

Since December 1, 1998, the Canadian firearms registry online was queried 2.7 million times by police officers and other law enforcement officials.

As the government has often said, the intent of the Firearms Act is not to make criminals out of responsible, law-abiding Canadians. The main purpose is to protect Canadians from the criminal and accidental misuse of firearms.

As members have seen and as the record shows, the majority of Canadians have complied with the requirements of the Firearms Act. Moreover, that record shows the public interest is best served through a Canadian firearms program that is more efficient and client service oriented while enhancing the safety of our communities.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Canadian Alliance Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, how can the government pass 43 orders in council with more than 200 pages of Firearms Act regulations and not find any of them in violation of the charter?

All Canadians should be very concerned about this legislation. It is only firearms owners that are being seriously affected. When one person loses his or her rights, we all lose.

The gun registry penalizes law-abiding firearms owners. It cannot be proven that it makes our streets any safer and it is riddled with errors. It is time to put an end to this. It is time to scrap the gun registry.

Before the government leaves office I want to see a cost benefit analysis. I want to see the government produce the study that shows that it is worth the $1 billion, $2 billion, $3 billion which will be spent on the gun registry in the next few years.

It is time the government is held accountable for the legacy of wasteful spending.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, this is one of those issues where the rights of individuals are weighed against the rights and the higher interest of the total community.

It really is time for those who are opponents of gun control to come around to the realization, with the kind of registration and the millions that have been supported by the citizens of Canada, that citizens of Canada want to see a firearms legislation. They want to see it in place so that the higher interests of the community in terms of public safety, access to the law enforcement agencies and general heightening of awareness of the responsibility associated with firearms is the framework within which the public interest will be served.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, on May 28 I asked the Minister of Health a question in the House concerning the tobacco epidemic that costs 45,000 lives every year in Canada. I pointed out that the predecessor to the current Minister of Health had promised on December 1, 2001, a promise that is close to its second anniversary, to ban the labelling of cigarettes described as light or mild.

As well, I noted that a new treaty of the World Health Organization had just come into force in May. The Minister of Health signed that treaty in July, the framework convention on tobacco control, and that treaty requires countries to ban misleading descriptions.

I asked the minister how many more people or kids would start to smoke and how many more smokers would die before the minister finally does what she and the government promised to do almost two years ago, to ban dishonest labelling of cigarettes as light and mild.

Here we are in November 2003, almost two years since the minister's predecessor made that promise, and the government has shamefully taken no action whatsoever to implement the promise.

The European Union has moved ahead. On September 30 the European Union completely banned all labelling of light, low tar and similar descriptions on cigarettes sold in Europe. Cigarettes are now sold basically using colours.

The current minister has said that she will get around to this ban when the ducks are in a row. How many more ducks have to be in a row before this lame duck government finally does the right thing and moves ahead?

I would point out that in the draft regulation that was tabled in December, the government set out the rationale for banning light and mild descriptions. It pointed out that documents from the tobacco industry indicated that it believed that the marketing of brands labelled with these descriptions provided consumer reassurance, may have kept some smokers from quitting, may have delayed cessation in others and may have encouraged more girls and young women to take up smoking because of the implied suggestion of lower risks, milder taste or ease of smoking.

What was said in the proposed regulation was that the Department of Health had determined that removing these descriptions from tobacco product packaging would be a means of health protection and in the best interests of public health.

Shame on the government for not following through on an action that would save lives and that would prevent the dishonesty and deception that suggests that somehow light and mild cigarettes are any less likely to cause the range of serious health problems that tobacco causes.

Why is the government not moving ahead? The parliamentary secretary is here with his text prepared from the Department of Health. I plead with him to throw away that text and stand in the House of Commons and tell Canadians that his government will finally honour the promise that was made to protect the health of Canadians and ban these dishonest labels of light and mild on cigarettes in Canada, as the European Union did, effective in September of this year.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for this opportunity to explain what the department has done about smoking.

As you know, controlling and curbing smoking does not lend itself to simple, short term solutions. As a general comment, despite all we do, it is never enough. We are used to that.

There may be those who think we should be doing more, more quickly, though they should also recognize that over the past few years we have made some very dramatic gains. Hence, let me draw your attention to Canada's track record so far in this area.

We have put into place a number of activities to achieve longer term objectives. Among these activities are a series of initiatives on the regulatory front, developed within a comprehensive approach.

Back in 1997, the government enacted the Tobacco Act. This legislation regulates the manufacture, sale, labelling and promotion of tobacco products in Canada.

A series of regulations have since been adopted that mandated measures such as the pictorial health warnings now displayed on tobacco packaging.

All these measures help set the background for several rounds of effective mass media interventions that we continue to broadcast.

You may remember seeing Barb Tarbox, the anti-smoking advocate who recently died of lung cancer, and Heather Crowe, another advocate with lung cancer caused by years of inhaling second-hand smoke while working as a waitress. These women bring very powerful messages because they are real people telling real stories. Their messages have been as harsh as the reality of chronic diseases and smoking-related deaths.

However, smokers have also had to contend with confusing and often misleading informations about the cigarettes they purchase. I am talking here about the cigarette packages that feature “light” or “mild” claims.

Our research shows that a majority of Canadian smokers choose cigarettes that are labelled “light” or “mild”. According to the Canadian Tobacco Use Monitoring Survey, cigarettes labelled as “light”, “mild” or the like were preferred by approximately two-thirds of all smokers in Canada.

These cigarettes have the potential to be just as debilitating and lethal as regular cigarettes, yet this is not the message smokers receive when they see these claims.

So, what steps have we taken since December 2001, when a notice of intent was published, indicating that our government was considering developing regulations prohibiting the display of these descriptors on tobacco packaging?

Additional research has been conducted to gain a better understanding of attitudes and the behaviour of smokers who smoke cigarettes that are labelled “light” or “mild”. But because of the complexity of the issue, we are continuing to examine the light and mild issue to determine how best to assist Canadian smokers and to tailor any intervention to the Canadian context. Any future regulatory action will be based on solid information and sound reasoning, and will be undertaken at a time most appropriate to make a substantial difference.

Let me conclude my remarks by saying that smokers have the right to know the truth about what they smoke. They do not deserve to be confused by labels claiming “light” and “mild”, when the product can cause as much harm as other kinds of cigarettes.

That is why we are continuing to tackle this issue. This government is committed to taking action, the right action.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Madam Speaker, that was a totally shameful reply.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health has admitted that Health Canada's research shows beyond a doubt that two-thirds of smokers who smoke light and mild cigarettes think that it will be better for their health, that they are less harmful, when that is decidedly not the case. Thus it is misleading.

But what is the government doing to eliminate this labelling? Nothing. The parliamentary secretary explained to the House that it is a complex issue, and that more research is needed.

How many people must die before this government acts? That is my question for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Madam Speaker, it is obvious that my hon. friend did not really listen to the answer he was given. I listed all the measures our government has taken to fight tobacco use.

We are all aware that it is a very important issue and that we must continue our efforts, using a variety of methods to make people aware that whatever the form of the cigarettes, whatever quantity of tobacco they contain, they are bad for our health. That is the real message, in the end.

My hon. colleague knows that very well. However, for reasons I am not aware of, he tends to disapprove of our actions, even though they are good for the health of Canadians.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak this evening to elaborate on a subject that is very important to me, which is the situation in the iron and steel industry in Quebec and in Canada. I will also express my disappointment in the ambiguous answer I received from the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions on October 3.

Above all, I would like to stress the importance of the iron and steel industry to Quebec and Canada. There are 17 steel works in Canada, including five in Quebec, two of which are in the riding that I represent in this House. These steel works employ more than 35,000 people, including some 10,000 in Quebec alone.

The steel industry in the town of Contrecoeur, in the riding of Verchères—Les-Patriotes, provides at least 3,000 people with steady employment. This significant industry to Verchères—Les-Patriotes, Quebec and Canada periodically experiences difficulties. It has been under a great deal of pressure since the United States imposed penalties on countries, excluding Canada, that had been proven to dump steel on their market. Quebec and Canadian markets have more been susceptible to dumping ever since.

In March of 2002, the Minister for International Trade was quoted as follows:

If we see any major changes in steel imports into Canada, we will take very prompt action.

We know that such changes did occur, however, and the government did absolutely nothing. What is more, we know that several ships carrying some 80,000 tonnes of reinforcing steel are about to set sail, or may be en route already, for ports in Quebec, the Great Lakes or the east coast.

To give hon. members some idea of what this represents, 80,000 tonnes is the equivalent of the annual output of Stelco McMaster in my riding. The importation of that much cheap steel would have a heavy impact on Canadian and Quebec steel mills, leading to reduced production, temporary or permanent closures, and all the job losses this would entail.

What does the government intend to do about this most disturbing situation? Nothing, if we are to believe the answer of the Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions. I did, however, suggest that the Minister of Finance implement the decision brought down on August 19, 2002 by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, which would have no repercussions for Canada, since the United States was excluded.

We know that the government is reluctant to implement the tribunal's decisions on steel since several of them involve the United States and it would be difficult to reciprocate by excluding it from the application of the tribunal's decisions without having legal action taken against Canada by other countries under the provisions of the World Trade Organization.

The Secretary of State for International Financial Institutions tried to cloud the issue by answering, and I quote:

—the government is seized with this issue. The government is very much aware of the problems of the international steel market caused by overcapacity and cheap imports. The overcapacity is a global problem that we are attacking on several fronts—

He went on to talk about negotiations within the OECD regarding this overcapacity problem.

We know what brilliant solution this government has to offer with respect to the Canadian contribution to regularizing steel production worldwide: to let market forces operate and let the steel mills in Canada and Quebec that are not competitive enough die. That is at least what officials from the finance, industry and international trade departments candidly told members of the parliamentary steel caucus on April 22, 2002.

It is time to take action and to take bold steps to help the steel industry in Canada and Quebec.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:20 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the government is very much aware of the problems of the global steel market caused by global overcapacity.

Indeed, in March 2002, the Government of Canada directed the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to conduct an inquiry into the importation of nine steel products in Canada, including reinforcing bars for concrete, and to make recommendations to address the situation if warranted.

In August 2002, the tribunal came back with its report and recommendations for action on five of the steel products. For four of the five products, the tribunal recommended action against imports from the United States and other countries. For the fifth product, reinforcing bars for concrete, it recommended a surtax against non-U.S. imports only.

The issues raised by the tribunal report were very complex and involved many stakeholders with competing interests. Over the several months following the CITT report, the government consulted extensively with stakeholders, including steel producers and steel users.

On October 6, 2003, the government announced its decision not to impose the surtax on imports that were recommended by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

The treatment of imports from the United States and the importance of a smoothly operating integrated North American steel market for both producers and consumers of steel were important considerations in making this decision.

Canada's obligations under international agreements were another important consideration. That said, the government is not sitting idly by.

In fact, the imports of reinforcing bars that the hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes was referring to in his question are already covered under measures taken by the government in the application of Canadian trade remedy law. Imports of reinforcing bars from Turkey and nine other countries are subject to antidumping measures, which are administered by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency.

These measures ensure that imports of reinforcing bars from Turkey and those nine other countries do not enter the Canadian market at dumped prices that would hurt Canadian steel producers and workers.

In this regard, the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency is currently reviewing the measures to ensure that they reflect the current market situation.

Canada Pension PlanAdjournment Proceedings

7:25 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, the federal government is pleased with itself, thinking that certain countries known for their propensity to dump steel have been temporarily put on alert by its waffling about whether or not to implement the decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

Nevertheless, the potentially positive effects of this strategy, if indeed it has had any positive effects, have definitely gone sour since the federal government unexpectedly announced that it would not be implementing the decisions of the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.

Since these offending countries now know that no measures will be taken against them by the federal government, they will certainly have concluded that our doors are wide open to them, and they can flood our markets with their cheap steel.

What an irresponsible decision. The federal government has to understand that it is its duty to act, in order to avoid having businesses being forced to reduce production or close down, thereby causing considerable unemployment.

I call upon the government to at least implement the CITT decisions that do not affect the United States. Now is the time for action, before it is too late.