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House of Commons Hansard #6 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Garth Turner Liberal Halton, ON

I do not think he was born then.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Liberal Brampton West, ON

The Liberal government brought it in. The intent of that bill was to alleviate poverty among seniors.

The member asked why the Liberals did not bring this in when they were in government. I do not know, maybe you were not born then either, but in 1993 when the Liberals came to power we were left a horrendous mess to deal with. These things have been on the list.

In 1951--

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. The time allotted for questions and comments has expired, but it is a good opportunity for me to remind hon. members that it is very difficult for the Chair to hear the responses when there is so much back and forth.

I would also remind the member for Brampton West to address comments through the Chair and not directly at other members.

Resuming debate. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

5:50 p.m.

Blackstrap Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to discuss Bill C-362 and the proposed amendments to the old age security program.

All Canadians can be proud of our country's retirement income system. Simply put, it is recognized as one of the best in the world and is emulated by countries looking to set an effective long term public pension system.

The old age security program, along with the Canada pension plan, provides all Canadians with a solid foundation upon which to build their retirement income. Together, Canada's public pensions deliver about $54 billion in benefits to Canadians each year.

Bill C-362 proposes reducing the minimum residence requirement for old age security benefits from ten to three years. However, I will respectfully disagree with the hon. member for Brampton West on the premise of this bill.

From a public policy perspective, the old age security program is fair and sound. It is the first tier of Canada's retirement income system, serving over four million Canadian seniors every year. The old age security pension is designed as a measure of income security for seniors. It recognizes their valuable contributions to Canadian society, our economy and their community over a lifetime.

Unlike pension plans in most countries, Canada offers, as part of its public pension system, a tier that is fully funded by general tax revenues instead of contributions. Most countries have pension schemes that require years of contributions to qualify for benefits. For example, Japan's seniors must contribute for 25 years to be eligible for a pension. From this standpoint, we can see that Canada's pension plan is exceptionally generous.

Here in Canada, there are none of the restrictions about citizenship or nationality often found in other countries. To gain the right to a lifelong public pension, we ask only that seniors make a reasonable contribution of 10 years to Canadian society.

A number of governments have examined the current old age security residence requirement since it was established in 1977 and they have kept it intact.

In fact, during the last parliament, the Liberal Party voted against the Bloc amendments that could institute these very changes. So, for the Liberals it only became an issue of fairness or respect for new Canadians when this government came to power and they no longer had to worry about the consequences of their actions.

I believe that the 10-year residence requirement is sound and it is reasonable. It makes no distinction between immigrants who have just arrived in Canada or Canadians who are returning to Canada after living abroad.

Under current rules, a person must live in Canada, after reaching the age of 18, for a total of 40 years to receive a full pension. A person must live in Canada for a minimum of 10 years to receive a partial pension.

Many seniors who qualify for old age security and who have low incomes also receive the guaranteed income supplement, GIS, designed to help Canada's poorest seniors.

Once again, a 10-year rule is a reasonable compromise. It strikes a good balance between the individual's contribution to Canadian society and his or her right to receive a lifelong public pension.

This policy is the result of a longstanding and dynamic conversation with Canadians. Since 1977, the residence requirement for old age security has served countless new Canadians. The program has been there for generations of immigrants who built a new life for themselves and their children in Canada, and this government will ensure it remains that way.

Many of these immigrants come from countries that have signed social security agreements with us, and on the world stage Canada is a leader among countries that have signed social security agreements.

To date, 50 agreements have been signed between Canada and foreign countries. Because of these reciprocal agreements, many newcomers to Canada are able to meet the 10-year residence requirement to receive the old age security pension by using years of residence or contribution in both countries. This means that these seniors may be able to receive benefits from both Canada and their country of origin.

In a nutshell, it means that people who have lived or worked abroad can meet the 10-year residence rule by adding these periods to their Canadian residence. These agreements recognize the contributions people have made in their previous country of residence and allow them to qualify for benefits to which they might not otherwise be entitled.

Canada is continuing to negotiate agreements with countries that share comparable pension systems so that we can improve the access of our growing immigrant communities to pension benefits.

The courts have also considered the residency issue that the bill raises. In two landmark cases they upheld the issue of fairness of our residence provisions for the old age security pension.

One of these legal challenges made it all the way to the Federal Court of Appeal. The 2003 ruling confirmed what most Canadians knew. The 10-year residence rule does not in any way discriminate against Canadians on the grounds of national or ethnic origin as my hon. colleague across the aisle would like us to believe.

I find it interesting that it was the former Liberal government that fought this case in court and yet today the Liberals are claiming the opposite. Today it has become an issue of discrimination and hypocrisy abounds.

It is no secret that seniors constitute the fastest growing segment of Canada's population. With baby boomers poised to retire in record numbers, our pension costs will skyrocket in years to come. In the next 25 years nearly one in four Canadians will be a senior. With our rapidly aging population, relaxing the residence rule for old age security could have significant fiscal implications to Canada and the public pension program.

In fact, it is estimated that reducing the 10-year rule for old age security to three years would cost Canadians over $700 million in combined old age security and GIS benefits in the first few years alone. In the long run these costs will surely rise exponentially.

This government has a responsibility to ensure that this program remains for the generation of Canadians to come, including the children and the grandchildren of new Canadians, and that is just what we plan on doing.

Unlike the previous government, which largely ignored seniors issues during the last 13 years in power, this government has taken swift and decisive action on the seniors file. For example, within months of being elected this government improved: seniors' well-being through increased federal representation, including significant investments in programing as well as putting in place real tax relief.

We have created a Secretary of State for Seniors. We have established a National Seniors Council to advise the government on issues of importance to older Canadians. We have committed an additional $10 million per year to the new horizons for seniors program to encourage seniors to continue their valuable contributions to their communities.

After years of being ignored by the Liberals, seniors, both new to this country and those who have been here their entire lives, can rest assured that Canada's new government is listening to them and delivering results.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6 p.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is my second opportunity to talk about Bill C-362, which was introduced by my Liberal colleague, and which aims to amend that part of the Old Age Security Act dealing with residency requirements for older immigrants.

Bill C-362 would reduce from 10 years to three years the residency requirement for entitlement to a partial monthly old age security pension.

The bill is a very simple one, so I do not understand why the Conservative Party is against it. How could they possibly oppose it? The current 10-year requirement is unfair to recent immigrants who are seniors, because they have limited access to old age security benefits. The only amendment this bill calls for is to change all instances of “ten years” in the act to “three years”. The definition of “specially qualified individual”, which indicates the number of years of residency required for an individual to be entitled to benefits, would be amended to read “three years”. When the Conservative Party says that the government has been very generous toward seniors, I have to wonder what it is talking about.

It is clear to the Bloc Québécois that Bill C-362 would give recent immigrants who are seniors easier access to the old age security program. Quality of life for seniors often depends on the care they receive. Quality of life also depends on their income, and recent immigrants are entitled to their dignity too. The Conservative Party does not seem to recognize that.

It is clear that Bill C-362 introduces amendments to the Old Age Security Act that do not encroach on Quebec's jurisdiction. That is why the Bloc Québécois supports the principle underlying this bill.

I would now like to remind the members about what the Bloc Québécois has done for seniors over the past years. In May I began travelling around Quebec, and I realized that seniors are vulnerable, poor and getting poorer. Over the past few years, we, the Bloc Québécois, have found that seniors, who are among the poorest members of our society, have always borne the brunt of the federal government's cuts to transfer payments. Quality of life for seniors has been hit hard.

That is why the Bloc Québécois has long been highly critical of the inconsistencies in the federal guaranteed income supplement program, which provides additional revenue for older people on limited incomes. If we wanted to do them justice, we would have to increase the guaranteed income supplement today by $106 a month just to reach the low income threshold.

Bill C-36, which was given royal assent last May 7, partly solved some of the problems with program accessibility, although without resolving the full retroactivity issue. The Bloc Québécois wanted to see full retroactivity, but that was not included in Bill C-36. It provided only 11 months of retroactivity.

Bill C-36 made other changes to the Old Age Security Act, including ongoing renewal of the guaranteed income supplement, the clarity of the act, simplified income reporting for seniors and couples; and the consistency of benefit entitlements.

There was also a proposal to make common amendments to the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act. These provisions dealt with electronic services, the charging of interest, and information sharing. There was still one controversial issue surrounding accessibility, and the Bloc Québécois opposed the expansion of the limits on new Canadian citizens who had immigrated.

In the Bloc’s view—and apparently now in the view of the Liberal Party as well—there cannot be different classes of Canadian citizens, regardless of how they arrived. All Canadian citizens should be entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. Some sections of the legislation were problematic because they created different classes of citizens—for example, a person who has a sponsorship agreement still in effect under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. These sections excluded new Canadian citizens who were still being sponsored.

The Bloc Québécois wanted the committee to amend the bill so as not to let the obligations incumbent upon sponsors under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act limit the eligibility of new citizens for old age security.

In the Bloc’s view, when a person becomes a Canadian citizen, his sponsorship agreement should automatically be terminated.

The sponsor’s obligations generally take effect as soon as the person being sponsored obtains permanent resident status and conclude at the end of the sponsorship period. This can be very long in some cases—as many as 10 years—and the problem needed fixing. Under the bill, the agreement could not be terminated, even through the obtaining of Canadian citizenship. It could not be terminated by separation, divorce, or moving to another province. It remained in effect even if the sponsor’s financial situation took a turn for the worse.

I should point out that the Liberal Party voted against this Bloc proposal last February. Today we are dealing with a matter similar to the debate on Bill C-36, which received royal assent last May. Bill C-362 does not deal with new sponsored arrivals but with other categories of new arrivals who are not sponsored.

The proposed amendments are minor. It is impossible to be against them, but we need to go much further.

Because of globalization and the fact that we live in a global environment, the Bloc Québécois thinks that Canada must be flexible about citizenship and the services offered to newcomers. Given the increase in exchanges between countries, there should be mechanisms in place to allow for greater human mobility, in addition to the measures already in place to help the disadvantaged, including seniors, of course.

The Bloc Québécois' position is as follows. We are aware that BIll C-362 will make it easier for recent immigrants who are seniors to access old age security benefits. As I said earlier, since seniors' quality of life often depends on the care they can receive, this quality of life is dictated by their income. Newcomers also have a right to dignity.

In closing, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. Nonetheless, I want to point out that there is still a lot of work to do. It is deplorable that in all these years the Liberal and Conservative governments have abandoned, muzzled and ignored seniors, the most vulnerable people in our society. The Liberals were the first to close their eyes to this category of disadvantaged people, choosing instead to allow capital to be sheltered in tax havens, to lower the debt and cut funding from Quebec and the provinces. Then the Conservatives chose to cut taxes instead of providing immediate support to the workers who helped build today's society.

Fortunately, the Bloc Québécois is here to ensure that our seniors have a voice in the government. Thanks to our many appearances in the House, in committee and in the media, the Bloc Québécois has managed to keep the attention on a group of people who have been dropped from the government's priorities. Seniors who are entitled to the guaranteed income supplement, but without full retroactivity because of various governmental errors, are a good example.

The Bloc Québécois will continue to fight the federal government in order to bring justice to those who enabled Quebeckers and Canadians to become the people they are today.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Penny Priddy NDP Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support Bill C-362.

I think the reasons for us to give this positive consideration are many but I will use the reasons that I see within my own community to talk about this.

When a person becomes a citizen in this country it means something. I go to citizenship swearing-ins on a regular basis and I see the great pride and excitement on the faces of people who are becoming citizens. Whether they are 12 or 60 years old, it means something in their hearts and souls when they become Canadian citizens. They are proud and they want to contribute to their communities for what they see as a privilege and an honour of becoming Canadian citizens.

The other thing that it means is that there is an equality of access to the services and supports that are available to all citizens in our country. That is what citizenship means or that is part of what comes with the privileges of being a citizen, but there are responsibilities as well. I want to talk about both of those things today.

One of the privileges that people hope for when they become citizens is that they can live very differently, or maybe in the same way as in their country of birth, but for many people they want to live a life filled with dignity, self-respect and pride. In order for that to happen, there needs to be a way for dignity and self-respect to take place.

The granting of OAS to citizens who have been here three years as opposed to the current ten years is a compromise from when this whole debate began but it is something that we should consider strongly.

The fact is that someone could come to this country and perhaps could become a citizen two years later. They could work in the workforce for a few years, usually not able to contribute to anything, and then become 65, a senior or an elder, and then could be told that they must wait another seven years. It may not matter that they are a citizen, that they were in the workforce or that they paid taxes while in the workforce. It would not matter that their sons and daughters were paying taxes. They would not be able to receive OAS for 10 years. I do not know how that reinforces dignity, respect or pride.

Someone earlier said that it was about dignity and self-respect when one is an elder. For the elders I talk to, pride is certainly equal if not more important because many of the seniors in their countries of origin had the place of respect and honour in their families. They then come to a country where they have no money, are usually totally dependent on someone else and there's no other way for them to have income so they can ride a bus, get to the park and do those things that seniors might want to do together. The resources may be available for some but for others they may not.

The denying of OAS to seniors based on a 10 year residency is unreasonable and goes against all those things that we believe should be accessible to a citizen, which is equality and access to supports.

The immigrants in the community in which I live take very seriously the responsibility part of citizenship. In no way do they take citizenship for granted. In point of fact, in my community of Surrey North and in the city of Surrey, immigrants do many things that other people would actually need to be paid to do.

I will give some examples to the House that may be illustrative. The seniors I know serve free food at lunchtime to anyone who wishes to come to their temple or their place of worship and receive it. The person does not have to be of that country of origin. They can be anyone who needs food at lunchtime and they serve that food. If they did not do that, people might go without.

Some of the elders in the community are very active in organizing blood donor clinics. We all know that with every holiday there is an urgent appeal on the radio or in the newspaper saying that blood is needed with the a holiday weekend coming up. I do not think many of us in this House would not know someone who has benefited from a blood transfusion. The elders are incredibly active in organizing those blood donor clinics, getting people to them, working in partnership with the Red Cross to ensure they happen, perhaps providing the venue, providing all the external support that might be needed and getting the word out throughout the entire community that this is happening. The turnout is tremendous.

The blood does not only go to immigrants. It goes to everyone. It saves everyone's life. It is not labelled, “Collected by immigrants, to be used by immigrants”. Everyone benefits from that.

Many elders in my community provide very needed translation services. These are translation services that otherwise would probably need to be paid for, for those people who are just learning their additional language. The phrase, “English as a second language” is a very North American phrase because for most people who come from other countries they already speak two or three languages and this might be their third, fourth or fifth language. The elders provide translation services for hospitals, social services agencies and sometimes for government agencies that otherwise would not be available. They are contributing. They feel that responsibility to contribute, not just the privilege of being a citizen but the responsibility of giving back.

Every time there is an event in my community, immigrants from all countries participate in very significant ways.

As well, the sons and daughters or other immigrants who have come to Surrey are perhaps the biggest economic driver in Surrey. There are probably more new businesses started by immigrants in Surrey. It is an enormous economic driver. It produces tax revenue that everyone benefits from. Why should the elders, who have taken out citizenship because they are proud of it and are contributing back, not be able to benefit from that?

I heard someone earlier say that people contribute to pensions. This is not a pension. If it were a case of people contributing to a pension we would not have so many women, Caucasian women included, living in poverty. They have no pension plan because they did not work outside the home for wages. I am sorry, that is a side issue that I could not resist.

In closing, these people take their privileges of citizenship seriously, but they also take the responsibility seriously. They are citizens and they should have access to the OAS in the three years, as recommended by this bill.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour to rise today in support of my colleague from Brampton West, and in support of thousands of wonderful seniors in our country.

If we would all work with the same passion and same commitment as the hon. member for Brampton West, we would never have to worry about our seniors being left behind. Her dedication to society's most vulnerable is inspiring and should serve as a model to all of us in the House, contrary to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development, who does not understand the basic principle of this bill. She kept on talking about the pensions. In fact, it is an old age security benefit.

Bill C-362, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, is a long overdue change to our social vision of our elderly. The present requirement is that seniors from certain countries live here for 10 years before they are eligible for even partial payments, which will help to keep them out of poverty.

Ten years is a long time. We require only three years for someone to become a full citizen of the country. Why then do we make some seniors suffer through another seven more years of hardship while they wait to be eligible for old age security? To make matters even worse, this long time does not even apply fairly for all Canadian seniors.

This does not fit with our fundamental Canadian values and belief in equality for all our citizens. It makes things harder for seniors who come from poorer countries, who do not have social security and who get no protection from poverty here as well. They have come to our country to get better lives and help build a better and stronger Canada.

It is sad that these seniors, the ones who are the most vulnerable to poverty, are the ones who suffer the most from the 10 year wait. This inequality between the seniors in our country is unjust and we must work together to level the playing field and protect not just some of our seniors from poverty, but all seniors.

I cannot help but feel frustrated when members from the Conservative Party say that only those who have been here 10 years deserve security, that only those who have been here 10 years have done anything worthwhile for our country. This is a gross misunderstanding of the valuable role our parents and grandparents play in today's Canadian society.

Earlier the member for Surrey North mentioned many reasons for both parents and grandparents to be productive. These seniors are productive members of our great society, and I cannot find a better example than my own parents. They have come to this country, are staying in my home and are helping my wife and I raise three beautiful children.

My family is not alone in this. When the government decided real child care was not a priority, many families had to scramble and rely upon extended relatives as caregivers. However, these caregivers, our grandfathers and grandmothers, have even less support than child care workers.

The Conservative government wants it both ways. It wants to take away real choice for our families on child care and then it wants families to bear the weight for old age security. The Prime Minister's agenda is clear: limit the options for the young and the old.

It is not enough to trash the future; they are also dishonouring our past.

Our seniors cannot be productive if they have to worry about how they will eat each day. There are thousands of seniors in our communities that the old age security would take out of poverty. It would allow them to concentrate on how to strengthen our families and communities.

I have had several meetings with seniors in my riding of Newton—North Delta, in Surrey and the Delta area, groups like the Kennedy House Seniors' Centre. They have told me first-hand about how hard it is for our elderly citizens to survive from day to day. This has also come up at monthly meetings and lunches that I have hosted for some of the seniors in my riding.

My community is telling me that we need to do more to help keep our parents and grandparents out of poverty. It is not right that the Conservative government finishes each year with huge surpluses and does nothing to help those seniors who suffer and need the most.

It is not the first time the Conservative government has failed our seniors. It began when the Conservative Prime Minister flip-flopped on income trusts and ruined the retirement savings of thousands of seniors across the country. It got worse when the Conservative government raised taxes for the lowest income bracket in its first budget. Despite a $13 billion surplus, the Conservative Prime Minister decided to pay for the GST cut and military spending by targeting the most vulnerable elderly in our society.

Now the minority Conservative government is failing us again by refusing to help the hundreds of thousands of seniors, many of whom have lived in the country for years, to get the old age security benefits they deserve.

This is not acceptable in a progressive society like Canada. I plead with the members opposite to see reason and join with my colleague from Brampton West in taking real steps to protect our seniors from the hardship of poverty. Members should not let their credibility be further ruined by once again choosing partisanship over principles.

It was the Liberal Party that established the old age security in 1952, the Canada pension plan in 1966 and the guaranteed income supplement in 1967. We brought the Canada pension plan back on a strong financial footing in 1998 for the next 50 years. In 2005 we pumped $2.7 billion into the guaranteed income supplement to help our low income elderly.

We have put our money where our mouth is and have stood up for Canada's most vulnerable.

If three years is enough time to contribute enough to our country to earn citizenship, then three years should be enough to earn the right not to fear living out our golden years in poverty. We cannot continue with a system that has some seniors receiving financial security to stay out of poverty within a year of entering our country and the others having to wait 10 years, based on the country from where they came.

I urge all members of the House of Commons to support the bill. The time has come to put aside our partisanship and work together on this issue so Canadian seniors will not ever live in poverty.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is there agreement to see the clock as 6:30 p.m.?

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:25 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance will be responding. I am very glad to hear that, because I know that if I ask a reasonable question I will get a reasonable answer.

My question is a follow-up from a previous question. At that time, I was trying to point out to everyone in the House that we are trying to understand the new Atlantic accord deal but it is difficult without a written agreement that we can check.

I pointed out and read from an article in the Halifax Daily News, saying that its interpretation of the agreement, based on the information available, was that the province will give up “all claim to all entitlements guaranteed in the Atlantic Accord”. I had planned to read from another article in the Chronicle-Herald, which basically said the opposite, but today there is a newer one that is even more the opposite.

I read these just to point out how confusing it is for those of us in Nova Scotia who are trying to understand this agreement and want to support it. We hope we can support it. We hope it is a good deal.

One newspaper, based on the information available, says that we lose everything in the Atlantic accord, while The Hill Times of October 22 states that “amendments will be introduced to reverse the amendments made to the Atlantic Accord in the 2007 budget”. That is everything we ever asked for. That is exactly what we want. That is exactly what we all have been asking for in Nova Scotia: that the amendments be reversed.

That is what The Hill Times article says, but the other article says its interpretation is that “the province...gives up all claim to all entitlements guaranteed in the Atlantic Accord”. We could not have two more opposite interpretations of the agreement. One says we lose everything, while another says we get everything back. I called both journalists. They are both well respected and they both said they wrote their articles based on the information they had available.

The problem is that there is no written agreement. I hope that soon we can have a written agreement, because we want to support this deal if it is a good deal. Again, though, one newspaper says we lose everything under the Atlantic accord and the other says we get everything.

I hope the most recent one in the The Hill Times is right. It says that “amendments will be introduced to reverse the amendments made to the Atlantic Accord in the 2007 budget”. That is all we have ever found fault with. The 2007 budget amended the Atlantic accord and changed the most important aspect of it, which is the way one calculates the payment of the Atlantic accord. The Atlantic accord said it will be based on the equalization formula that exists at the time the payment is calculated and the budget says that from now on the payment will be calculated based on the previous formula. It is a fundamental change.

If this newspaper article is right, then I will be really happy and I will go away. I hope it is right, but the other article says we lose everything under the deal. Does the parliamentary secretary know which of these media reports is right? He may not have seen The Hill Times article, but if he has, is it right? I hope it is. If there is no written agreement, is there a plan to bring one in soon, even before the legislation for the amendments comes in?

6:30 p.m.

Macleod Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House in response to the question by the member for Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley.

On October 10 the Prime Minister and Premier Danny MacDonald announced an agreement which resolves Nova Scotia's concerns related to recent changes to the equalization program by ensuring that the province will receive at least the full benefits it expected to receive from its accord at the time it was signed in 2005. Formal letters have been exchanged between the federal finance minister and the Nova Scotia finance minister outlining the details regarding our recent agreement on the accord.

The October 10 announcement builds on measures introduced in budget 2007 which set out a new equalization program that applies equally to all provinces, while respecting existing agreements with Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador.

We have consistently said there was room for flexibility in smoothing the transition to the new principles based equalization program. The federal government is providing Nova Scotia a cumulative best of guarantee to ease its transition to the new equalization system by guaranteeing that the province will do at least as well on a cumulative basis as it would have done under the formula in place at the time of the 2005 accord. With this guarantee, Nova Scotia no longer has to be concerned about the risk of opting into the new equalization formula too early and forgoing any potential benefits of the previous formula.

How much Nova Scotia may stand to gain from this agreement will clearly depend on a variety of factors, such as economic growth, tax revenues, population, and revenues from natural resources, including oil and gas.

We can, however, guarantee that under this agreement Nova Scotia will receive all the benefits it expected to receive at the time it signed the 2005 accord, and possibly more under the new equalization formula. In fact, for the 2007-08 year alone, the new formula is giving $95 million more in equalization and offshore offsets to Nova Scotia, which the province can use to invest in its priorities.

The equalization changes agreed to will require amendments to the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act. We hope to introduce these changes as soon as possible as part of the Budget Implementation Act.

In addition, the agreement with Nova Scotia seeks to resolve long outstanding issues with respect to crown share adjustment payments by launching an independent panel to find an approach that is agreeable to both governments.

I am pleased that our discussions have come to a successful conclusion. This underlines the capacity of our respective governments to work together. To quote Premier Rodney MacDonald:

These two announcements...at last fulfill the long-standing federal commitment to enable Nova Scotia to become principal beneficiary of our offshore revenues.

6:35 p.m.

Independent

Bill Casey Independent Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary raised a whole bunch of questions with his answer and I only have a minute. First of all, I think the member referred to the premier as Danny MacDonald and I think he should be referred to as Rodney MacDonald.

The parliamentary secretary mentioned that the new program is to apply equally to all provinces. Another journalist in the Chronicle Herald said that based on what he read, his interpretation was that the government would bring in legislation to change the equalization formula and give Nova Scotia a unique formula different than all the provinces. It says that it is different than all the programs available to all the other provinces.

That is the problem with not having a written agreement. There are three different newspaper articles by three professional journalists that take different positions than the parliamentary secretary has outlined.

The article in The Hill Times says that the intention is clearly to have these amendments included in the next budget implementation act. Budget implementation acts usually come in in March. Is that when we can expect this legislation?

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ted Menzies Conservative Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the hon. member, I do stand corrected if I referred to the premier by the wrong first name. It is indeed Premier Rodney MacDonald to whom I was referring.

I listened carefully to the member opposite. I am somewhat surprised that he failed to acknowledge the very successful efforts of the hon. Minister of National Defence and the hon. member for South Shore—St. Margaret's, who worked together with the Prime Minister and Premier Rodney MacDonald to advance this file to where it is today. I am pleased that we have come to a successful arrangement with Nova Scotia.

The economy is strong in Nova Scotia. In its most recent budget, the province projected a surplus of $118 million in 2007-08 due in part to increased funding from the federal government. According to the latest estimates from the Conference Board of Canada, Halifax's economy will experience strong growth in the service sector and a rebound in the manufacturing sector.

In addition, in August 2007, Nova Scotia's labour force participation rate of 64%--

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order. The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24.

(The House adjourned at 6:36 p.m.)