Mr. Speaker, it seems unfortunate this morning that we came here with great intent to speak to Bill C-36, with the primary purpose of improving the lives of pensioners, those Canadians who have been unfortunate to receive or be a victim of disabilities and yet the parliamentary secretary introduces into this debate discussion on political appointments.
He seems to think that the great purists are on his side of the House but I am sure if Canadians were to review the appointments that his party has made, even the reference to his recent person, there certainly are political affiliations with most of those appointments.
However, today we are talking about Bill C-36. We know that every day, workers contribute to a healthy public sector and to private sector success. What they expect in return from our governments and within society is that their efforts will be respected and rewarded, both now and in later life.
In 2021, Canadian seniors over the age of 65 will constitute approximately 18% of our population. That compares to the year 2000 when seniors were only about 12.5% of the population of Canada. We do have a serious problem with demographics and, hopefully, as our country grows, we will see more new Canadians, larger Canadian families and the fact that we can maintain the demographics that are needed for a good society.
Today the federal government is addressing key issues affecting older workers and tomorrow's seniors. The income security of future retirees must be protected by good, sound public pension plans. I am proud to say that to address the evolving needs of Canada's seniors, the Liberal government made significant investments to ensure this over the last number of years. In fact, in 1997 the government restructured the Canada pension plan to meet the increased demands of an aging population to ensure its future sustainability and to stabilize contribution rates. Experts were called in and they determined that changes were needed to make the Canada pension plan sustainable for at least the next 75 years.
Those reforms were carried out by our government at the time and they made Canada one of only three countries in the world that offered a public pension plan that was sound and would be available into the far future.
As a government, we put our wallet, our money, the finances of this country, into this plan. We invested more than $28.5 billion into old age supplements and guaranteed income supplements on a yearly basis. We pledged to increase the guaranteed income supplement for seniors by some $36 per month for single seniors and $58 per month for couples. This was a promised $2.7 billion investment that directly benefited some 1.6 million Canadian seniors.
As a government, we also committed more than $2 billion annually in direct tax credits, such as the old age credit and the pension income credit. As Liberals, we also created a new employment insurance benefit, the compassionate care program, which allows family members to take time off work to provide care for seriously ill loved ones without suffering sudden income or job losses.
Also, it is probably interesting to note that in terms of our EI legislation, the member for Sydney—Victoria has a private member's bill that would enable those who become sick or are off work for long periods of time because of sickness, to draw EI benefits for more than the 15 weeks allowed at present.
As well, under the new horizons program, we offered funding for community projects to reach out to valuable seniors and to keep seniors active in their communities.
As a Liberal government, our commitment to seniors could not be clearer. We felt that seniors were a very important part of our group and that they must be paid the proper respects for the efforts that they make and have made on behalf of all Canadians.
Income security is just that, security for seniors. I join today to make every effort to ensure that all eligible Canadians receive their benefits in a timely and efficient manner.
As a party and as a member of Parliament, I am very pleased to support Bill C-36 and its provisions for simplifying access and a better delivery of benefits to seniors. Working Canadians need government action to ensure that every citizen has the right to retire with dignity, comfort and enjoyment.
Today's seniors deserve the best care we can give to them with unqualified financial security. Our party has always worked in that regard. We strongly support Bill C-36. Hopefully, we can proceed with the legislation and have it made the law of our country.