Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-47. It is certainly interesting to watch the debate as it has unfolded and listen to the Liberals talk about the corporate tax cuts and how they would stop them, when they were the party that started them when they were in government. It is just amazing.
The NDP has been consistent for the last number of years, calling for an end to these tax breaks, and suddenly the Liberals have jumped on board in a big way. I guess it is interesting when they take our speaking notes.
My particular focus today is going to be on pensions and seniors. I am kind of saddened because there has not been enough talk about the seniors' situation in the House during the debate.
You will know, Mr. Speaker, that I spent the last two years touring Canada talking and listening to Canada's seniors. I have been saying throughout the 38 community meetings that I have attended from coast to coast that it is time to change the conversation.
We have EI premiums and we have our pensions, which are deferred wages. Neither are payroll taxes. They are purchases that we make as Canadians to protect our future. That expression, payroll taxes, was started in Canada by the former Liberal government, and we have to take that language back and bring about that change, take it back away from corporate Canada, away from the right wingers who view this as their own particular territory.
Pensions are clearly the assets and money that belongs to workers. EI premiums are very clearly intended to purchase insurance against hard times. As I said, they are not payroll taxes, no matter who says they are. They are premiums for the provision of protection for workers and their families.
Two years ago when I met a number of delegations of seniors, they were talking to us and trying to get our attention, saying that there was a crisis developing on pensions in Canada. Neither the Liberals nor the Conservatives were seized with pensions at that time.
I reported to the House that the NDP held round tables two years ago, followed by months of intensive research, and on June 9 of that year we proposed an opposition day motion on pension reform. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that the NDP opposition day motion on pension reform was passed unanimously by the House.
That particular motion set out a road map for retirement security for seniors, a road map that to date the government has failed to implement. It was during the debate that our leader, the member for Toronto—Danforth, called for an immediate increase to the guaranteed income supplement to help 300,000 seniors who live below the poverty line. I will say that a majority of those seniors who live below the poverty line are women.
We also laid out a strategy for the doubling of CPP, and we said there must be a national pension insurance plan. Later in that year, October 22, 2009, the member for Toronto-—Danforth, our leader, and I released a New Democrat seniors retirement security plan.
I want to say again that the first line in the House that was spoken by the leader of our party was to address the situation with seniors who live in poverty. We must eliminate seniors poverty now, and it can be done.
This is a national disgrace, but how did it happen? How during 13 years of a Liberal government with five surplus budgets and five years of the current Conservative government did they allow this to happen on their watch?
It happened because the Prime Minister and the federal Liberals before him put the interests of Bay Street ahead of the interests of the workers and the pensioners of this country. I am here to say that our New Democratic caucus under the leadership of the member for Toronto—Danforth will no longer stand for this.
Today when I look at Bill C-47, I do not see the things seniors need. I remind the government that the NDP plan proposed an immediate increase to the GIS to close that seniors' poverty gap, and we can even put a price tag on it. Statistics Canada says fixing the poverty gap for seniors would cost less than $700 million.
This $700 million would ensure dignity and respect for the seniors who built this country. However it is not here in Bill C-47.
To pay for this particular boost for seniors, all it would take is the cancelling of one of the yearly tax breaks to the corporations of this country, the tax breaks that have been going to the banks and big oil and big gas.
Next, in consultation with the provinces, we can begin the process of strengthening the Canada pension plan. We know, and I have reported in the House before, that 63% of working Canadians today have no pension and no savings. How could they save when they are barely getting by? Consider that 93% of all working Canadians are part of the Canada and Quebec pension plans. There is no other option that will provide the advantages at so little cost.
Specifically, we are proposing a phasing in, in consultation with the provinces, of the doubling of CPP. I reported to the House just last week that pension expert Professor Kesselman and Jack Mintz, who worked for the government during the studies they have been doing, both agreed with the NDP plan for the increase in CPP. Our plan, as it is proposed, would increase the benefit from $908 a month to $1,817 to help secure a livable retirement for Canadians.
I also believe it is time for a national system of workplace pensions insurance. I am sure it is not news that underfunded pensions are an epidemic and collapsing pension plans are demanding a range of solutions. Today we are still fighting to move workers' underfunded pension assets to the front of the creditors line during CCAA and BIA.
Members will likely recall that I introduced Bill C-476 to protect pensions assets during CCAA and BIA in the House and another bill, Bill C-487, which would have done the same for LTD. Today I would suggest that one of the main problems facing Canadians is preserving private pension assets.
We are all aware in the House of the situation of Nortel workers. The Nortel workers became the poster children for the suffering workers who face companies using CCAA or BIA to avoid their responsibility to their workers and retirees. The frustrating thing for the NDP caucus remains the fact that the bill could have been before the House before the Nortel pensions were reduced to 64%, had the Liberals and Conservatives supported my original call for unanimous consent to address that motion. We could have helped those workers, instead of watching them lose over 30% of their pensions.
Beyond CCAA and BIA, the NDP recognized that workers also need insurance guaranteeing a minimum pension income when their workplace plans fail. As part of the NDP's seniors' retirement security plan, we proposed a self-financing mandatory insurance system funded by the plan's sponsors, and I stress the word “self-financing” as there would not be a cost to the government.
This is not as groundbreaking as it sounds. In fact, this is standard in the United States, Britain and elsewhere in the world. There are countries in which the governments actually back the pension plans. Where has Bill C-47 contemplated such important measures? The answer is it does not.
The NDP has proposed a national plan ensuring pension payouts are secured up to $2,500 a month. We insure our cars, we insure our homes and, in fact, we insure ourselves. Is it not common sense that we should insure our futures, our pension plans?
We are pleased that in June, as the last session of the House was ending before the summer break, the Minister of Finance agreed with the NDP plan for enhancing CPP. In fact, recently the Ontario minister of finance also agreed with New Democrats in our call to increase CPP.
I want to talk a bit about the government's actual spending priorities that we have heard repeatedly. They include $9 billion in corporate tax cuts so far with the one this year; $16 billion for stealth fighter jets; $9 billion for prisons, and I have suggestions of some people we might put in them; and $130 million last year in advertising. Yes, everyone heard that, $130 million spent on advertising. What did seniors get? They got $1.55 a month. People can imagine their disappointment.