Mr. Speaker, this is a very important bill, so I am surprised that nobody has asked the other members who have been talking about Bill C-36 any questions. It will give some of our seniors a better future while others, who are not included in this bill, will face a worse one.
You know how much I care for our seniors in both Quebec and Canada because my family, my father is from Saskatchewan. I therefore have a very close connection to people living in the rest of Canada outside of Quebec. In my opinion, all seniors who have contributed to making Canada and Quebec what they are today should be given due consideration and be enabled to experience the end of life with the dignity they deserve in return for all they have given us in the past.
For a long time now, we have been asking the government to improve access to the guaranteed income supplement. For a long time, we have been demanding that the government make it easier for seniors to top up their revenue with the supplement. Previously, people could not get the guaranteed income supplement unless they made a formal request every year. Many people just could not collect it.
The committee that studied this issue in 2001 found that more than 380,000 people in Canada were not exercising their right to ask for the guaranteed income supplement because they were illiterate, or unable to see well enough to read the forms, which were difficult to understand. They may not have had access to resources to help them understand their rights, or they were simply speakers of other languages who did not understand their rights with respect to the guaranteed income supplement to the old age security program.
Bill C-36 will correct some of the problems facing our seniors. However, it does not correct all of them. We would have liked to have had the government and the Liberal Party on our side, in order to be able to correct some serious inadequacies. Some amendments were even made to the bill, to the effect that, now, some Canadians and Quebeckers who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement no longer are.
Yet, these are people who are Canadian citizens, people who contributed to our society, people who came here believing they would find justice and fairness, in many cases, unlike their experiences in their country of origin.
Today, we realize that the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party did not want to admit that the amendments would restrict access to the guaranteed income supplement for Canadian citizens who are sponsored by someone else.
I find this quite deplorable, since we are talking about the most underprivileged people of all. Simply because an individual is sponsored by someone else does not always mean that that individual has better living conditions. Often, people are sponsored by individuals who, in good faith, wanted to bring them here to give them a better life. We are now seeing that, over the years, many jobs have been lost due to the ineffectiveness of the governments in place. They have failed to act in files such as the textile and manufacturing sectors. Furthermore, it has often been those Canadian citizens who are from somewhere else, who were born elsewhere, who have suffered those job losses.
Despite their best intentions, these people cannot always meet the needs of the relatives they brought here in order to give them a better life. I find the situation deplorable because these people contribute every day and pay taxes like everyone else. If they suddenly cannot meet their families' needs, it is not because they are not trying.
It is because our government was not smart enough and did not take the necessary steps to ensure that the manufacturing sector and the textile sector could provide decent jobs for these people over the long term.
This bill seeks to increase the number of third parties who can receive confidential information.
The government and the Liberal Party have refused to support the Bloc's amendment, which would not allow an increase in the number of third parties with access to confidential information. The law already provides for an authorized representative. Now, the bill refers to “any other individual authorized”.
I worked with seniors for many years. Many times, I saw children, siblings or neighbours of seniors cruelly abuse this right. They blackmailed the senior into signing documents that would give them access to information. Not only were they able to obtain relevant information, but they could also access bank documents and so on.
I do not understand why the government wants to expand access to seniors' confidential information to include any authorized individual.
Despite everything, this bill is sufficiently beneficial that we support it. However, we will have to be very vigilant and make sure that, in future, we have the opportunity to amend these clauses that seem slightly abusive to us.
Vulnerable seniors have no recourse available to them. They have no voice. We here, in Parliament, are their voice. We are the only ones who can help them get what they are entitled to. We should not abdicate that responsibility. It is a responsibility we must accept respectfully and vigorously.
If we do not, your mother, my mother and the parents and relatives of everyone here in this House will suffer and be deprived, because as a government, we did not do our best for them.
We have been fighting for a long time for seniors who have been mistreated and unable to receive the guaranteed income supplement. This bill is designed to further limit seniors' chances of obtaining retroactive guaranteed income supplement benefits.
Last year, on the eve of the election, the government voted by a majority for full retroactivity to be granted to older persons who were entitled to the guaranteed income supplement. Unfortunately, I no longer sense this desire for fairness, I no longer sense this desire for justice from the members of the government. This surprises me greatly because the position of the Liberal Party was very clear on this not so long ago. However, we no longer see this desire for fairness.
I hope that we can discuss this issue further and that the people who were swindled out of this money, some $3 billion, can receive this money. Some $13 billion has just been invested in weaponry and $3 billion and change in airplanes. Furthermore, it wants to invest a few billion dollars in procuring jeeps.
Do those who provided us with the life we have today not deserve to have some money spent on them? Do these people not deserve some of the money we have in such abundance? There are surpluses every year. Annually, the government ends up with staggering surpluses, which it applies to the debt.
Of course some of this money can go toward the debt, but it is essential that we recognize the importance of the older persons who came before us, who allowed us to be here today, who, because of their actions and their courage, are the reason we are here today.
I do not see that in many of my colleagues in the government or in the Liberal Party, and that disappoints me tremendously. I would hope that this changes over the coming year. I am just one person, but all my colleagues in the Bloc Québécois feel the same way I do, that we have to render justice to our seniors, to those who are isolated, alone and have no voice. We have to render justice to all those who came before us. We have to ensure they get justice. I can guarantee that most hon. members in the government and in the Liberal Party would sleep a lot better at night if we could render justice to these people.
When the committee conducted its study, it discovered a number of very disturbing things as far as older persons are concerned, a number of things that were more than disturbing because some seniors were living in total denial. Today, a very high number of older persons choose to die than simply survive or just get by.
More and more seniors are committing suicide, and this is unacceptable in a society like ours. It is unacceptable in a society as rich as the one we live in. It is awful to think that some seniors believe that suicide is better than living, that there is nothing left worth living for. I am ashamed to see that we do not care more than that, that we do not make an effort to give our seniors what they deserve. This bothers me and makes me very uneasy. We have comfortable lives, we cannot deny that. How many of our seniors can live comfortably?
In Laval, where I am from, there are 40,000 seniors, and 38% of those 65 and up are over the age of 75. This segment of society is the worst off, because these people do not usually receive the Quebec pension plan, do not receive any pension, do not receive anything. This category of people is increasing exponentially. In my riding of Laval alone, 12,000 people are over 75. There are more than 12,000 people between the ages of 75 and 90, even 100. One woman even recently celebrated her 104th birthday.
Quite often, these people may have retired 20 or 30 years ago. At the time, they thought they would live until the age of 70 or 75, because back then that was the life expectancy. So, they thought that if they lived until 70 or 75, they would be OK with what little money they had.
Now, they have reached the age of 90 or 95, and they have been without an income for 20 years. They thought they would die 20 years ago, but they are still around and they have very little income. Those with some capital can earn 1%, 2% or 3% in interest. That is not nearly enough for a decent living.
The cost of rent, food and drugs has increased. These people must visit the doctor more often and, since they no longer drive, they must do so by taking a taxi. This means that their related costs, their daily costs are very high, yet, a number of these people do not get the guaranteed income supplement and only get a pittance from the old age security program.
That is not how I want to grow old. That is not how I want my life to end. That is not how I want my mother to go.
I hope that everything we said about our elderly will be taken into consideration. I hope that people will think about this issue.
Yes, I do want Bill C-36 to be passed, because the part of the bill where it says that the guaranteed income supplement will automatically be renewed after the first claim is important. Many people did not know that they had to present a new claim every year. At least, they will get that. We have been asking for this for a long time, and I am pleased that, at last, it is included in the legislation.
The government could have gone further and be more generous. It has the means to do so. It chose not to. Still, the Bloc Québécois will continue to lead the fight, so that those who are entitled to it get full retroactivity. We will continue to lead the fight, so that the elderly are treated in a fair, responsible and respectful manner by this government.