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House of Commons Hansard #11 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was a plethora of issues in the member's speech that one can take exception to.

For example, in talking about Canada's low rate of poverty for seniors, I thought the member was going to acknowledge the Liberal Party for bringing in the GIS in the first place, and instead his comments were that it was in spite of opposition parties that we are in that situation.

I do need to comment that instead of being here for low income Canadians, the government has regressive tax credits that exclude low income Canadians.

In a place like Vancouver, where rent, housing costs and property taxes are sky-high and going up, there are many seniors in my riding of Vancouver Quadra who can barely hang on to their homes or their apartments that they rent because of these costs. The question that I want to pose to the member is this. How can a GIS increase of less than $2 a day help lift these seniors out of poverty when other costs like food are climbing as well?

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, the first thing I would like to offer to the member for Vancouver Quadra is that the $300 million to the guaranteed income supplement, I would argue, is far better invested than the $300 million that she voted on to spend on election signs and campaigns ads.

The member is in the House trying to lecture us, when she is one who voted to spend $300 million on election signs.

With our efforts in our budgets, 85,000 seniors have been removed from the tax roll. We have had to drag the opposition, kicking and screaming, to take these seniors off the tax rolls. A single senior can earn just a little over $19,000, and a couple can earn a little over $38,000 without paying tax.

Now the opposition has to be dragged, kicking and screaming, to convince them it is a good idea. I do not know what they are offering, but it is not as good as what we are offering. Again, here we go, $300 million for an election, that is what they supported. We support $300 million for seniors.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Marc-André Morin NDP Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, when I arrived here, I realized that no one in this chamber is poor. We all have good salaries and nice cars, and we have reasonably comfortable lives.

I grew up in reality. In my riding, I see people who face reality every day and who know what it is like to survive in the current economic conditions. The most insulting thing for them is to be told by someone who makes $160,000 a year that, if you are poor, it is because you are not good at managing your budget. I think that is a bit insulting to the public.

I would like my colleagues on the other side of the House to be more sensitive to the daily reality facing the public. Earlier, when my colleague was speaking about the unbearable poverty experienced by some retirees, the members on the other side of the House were chatting and snickering. I think that is insulting to the public.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what the member opposite was listening to. He must have had the wrong channel.

I was describing a story about a young woman in Huron County who attended a program and learned about budgeting. I never said people were in poverty because they cannot manage their money. I am saying there is a program that the federal government supported through Status of Women to help women have another tool in their tool belt for their life. Is that not great? Is that not just the best thing we have ever heard?

Here is the bad news for this new member, your party voted against that initiative. With all due respect, it should be you who apologizes in this House for voting against this.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Before we resume debate, I want to remind all hon. members that when you are speaking, asking questions or responding, it is the Chair to whom you are speaking. There have been a few instances this morning when hon. members have not been sufficiently mindful of that.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Gatineau.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the comments from the hon. member for Laurentides—Labelle, who is completely right. I believe we should come here with the single goal of representing the people who elected us. The people who elected us are real, flesh-and-blood people. Increasingly, our population is aging. I cannot believe that someone here today would vote against a motion that states the following:

That, in the opinion of this House, ending seniors' poverty in Canada is fiscally feasible, and, therefore, the House calls on the government to take immediate steps to increase the Guaranteed Income Supplement sufficiently to achieve that goal.

We are talking about seniors, but I am also thinking about the children who were supposed to be lifted out of poverty by the year 2000. It is 2011 and that has not happened. I am thinking about the most vulnerable people, about seniors.The NDP campaigned on that. I will not let the members on the other side say that we voted against a measure that would have lifted seniors out of poverty; the government is offering mere peanuts. In all good conscience, we cannot accept peanuts. Supporting that type of measure would have been an insult to the seniors we represent. Members opposite are saying that I should go back to my Gatineau riding today and tell my constituents that I am proud to be offering a dollar and a bit to Gatineau seniors living below the poverty line. Shame on us all. That is what I am saying.

We have been elected to this House and we often hear about the Conservative government's strong mandate. That “strong mandate” was only 40%. Personally, I would never have passed law school with marks of 40%. However, because of our electoral system, the Conservatives now form the government. So be it. That being said, they must respect the fact that 60% of the population said “no” to their regressive policies, which do not work for the people we are supposed to be representing here.

My hon. colleague from Laurentides—Labelle is quite right. Everyone here today now receives a decent salary and does not have to worry about a pension, unless we are not re-elected, and we enjoy benefits that many people would love to have. I think that offering such a pitiful amount is positively shameful, when what we should do is stop playing petty politics at the expense of our most vulnerable Canadians. We need to get organized. Some people might wonder how much more money is needed. We need to determine how many seniors are living below the poverty line and give these people the means to afford somewhere to live.

I had a look at the NDP's seniors charter. In my riding, I won with 62% of the vote because my priorities are seniors, health and the things that affect our everyday lives. Any time I speak to my constituents, I will tell them that I am here to represent their interests.

There are people who simply cannot bathe more than twice a week. These are the seniors who have been placed in a seniors' centre, and since the state is taking care of them, people tend to forget about them. However, the state is taking care of them by giving them just one bath a week and so on. That is how our seniors are being treated. These people gave their all to our country. I find this appalling. When it comes to this kind of issue, it makes me really angry to see how people are playing petty politics.

It is true. It never fails. It was the same in 2004. I forgot to mention, Mr. Speaker, that I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River. I know I should I have mentioned it sooner. I had even noted it at the top.

I forgot to mention it because I was so struck by the comments by the member opposite. He had the nerve to tell the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre that he voted against a measure for seniors. That is an insult to his intelligence. I hope that those watching us on television are able to fully understand that the people on this side of the House are working on one thing only and that is to provide them with decent and humane measures. We will not let the members opposite say otherwise. And when the Conservatives lost the last time, it was not, by the way, because of their budget. It was over ethics, over breaching the trust of the House. We are going to put things back into perspective.

It seems that adopting measures in Canada's Parliament does not amount to a hill of beans, because in 2006, the NDP seniors charter was adopted, but was never given royal assent. What did the charter say? I think it is awful that the charter was not enacted. It called on the government to work with the provinces, saying, “That, in the opinion of the House, the government should rectify decades of underfunding of seniors programs by creating a Seniors Charter that recognizes older Canadians as creative, active and valued members of our society, and that this Charter shall enshrine the right of every senior living in Canada to the following...”.

It is hard to imagine that this has not been enacted yet.

This is what was guaranteed: income security, through protected pensions and indexed public income support that provides a reasonable state of economic welfare—I do not see why there is opposition to that; housing, through secure, accessible and affordable housing; wellness, through health promotion and preventative care; health care, through secure, public, accessible, universal health care including primary care, dental care, home care, palliative and geriatric care and pharmacare; self-development, through lifelong access to affordable recreation, education and training.

These are normal things that should be provided for every human being. I cannot understand how anyone can be against this. But what is even harder to fathom—and now I am speaking as the critic for the status of women—is the fact that most seniors living below the poverty line are women and they are being ignored day after day.

You have to walk through long-term care facilities and low-income housing to see the conditions in which these people live. I cannot fathom why, year after year, the Conservative government cuts funding for groups that, on a shoestring budget, work on getting people out of poverty, and prevents them from doing their work.

This evening, who will be voting against a motion that simply asks the government to take immediate action to increase the guaranteed income supplement enough to get these people out of poverty? I can hardly wait to see the results of the vote.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Conservative Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with intent to what the member said, and, in particular, about voting records. That member's party voted against the economic action plan, which has obviously saved the country from the downturn in the economy and many thousands of jobs. In fact, we have created more than a half million jobs since this started, with consecutive quarters of straight growth.

How can the member sit in a party that voted against Quebeckers, against improvements in roads and bridges and against multiplexes? In particular, it voted against the $1 billion for a green infrastructure fund for the country. It voted against $1 billion for clean energy. That is the part I do not understand.

In fact, in Quebec there are many contaminated sites and the economic action plan looked at investments there as well, and her party voted against that.

How does she justify that today, especially given that infrastructure is used by seniors throughout the country and that was the largest investment for infrastructure in the history of the country in real dollar terms? How does she justify sitting on that side now when her party voted against that?

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I always have difficulty listening to any Conservative member who puts the word "green" in his or her speech.

The Conservatives could have lifted many seniors out of poverty using only the money that was invested in signs for the government's action plan, which they made a point of posting here, there and everywhere over the past year. That would have been a good start.

The hon. member is asking me how I can sit on this side of the House. It is very easy, because over here, we think that people should take priority over bricks and mortar.

It is all well and good to have nice roads and I am in favour of nice roads and bridges, but they will not do us much good if people cannot even use them because they cannot afford to buy a vehicle or to use public transit. We have before us a question of priorities and budget management. The answer is not to spend more money; the NDP is not going to drive the country into bankruptcy. Rather, instead of giving the head of a large corporation $1 million in profits, why not give him $500,000 and give the rest to someone else?

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, will the member from the New Democratic Party, as well the party as a whole, join with me and the Liberal Party of Canada in protecting the rights of seniors and protecting the financial viability of seniors regarding changes that have occurred through the guaranteed income supplement program?

Changes occurred back on May 17, 2010, when seniors lost the capacity or right to what is known as optioning out income regarding removals or withdrawals from their registered retirement income funds for the purposes of calculating their overall income under the guaranteed income supplement program.

A decision was taken stemming from what was known as the Ward decision back in 2007 in which the Government of Canada sued a GIS recipient for improper benefits and the court struck down certain provisions that allowed seniors to option out certain elements of their income. The government has never responded by changing the law. The court advised the government to change the law to allow this to occur, but the court said that under the current wording of the Old Age Security Act, that provision was not acceptable.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's first comment was interesting.

He asked if we would join him. We had a lengthy discussion this past weekend on that. We were willing to discuss it, but that is pretty much it.

That being said, on the decision of the court and the fact that it takes a while to implement, I am not sure the NDP feels the government is in tune with the core of the decision.

However, what I would like to tell the members of the Liberal Party of Canada is that, while they will likely vote with us on this motion, it would have been so nice if they had dealt with the problem of child and seniors' poverty when they had a majority government and a lot of money in the bank.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand today to speak about this issue, particularly since seniors in my riding of Thunder Bay—Rainy River are suffering terribly. I am going to relate a couple of stories. I start to tear up when I even think about them, but I will talk about them in a minute.

This issue is not like finding a needle in a haystack. It is as easy as finding hay in a haystack and we can do it. What New Democrats said in their platform they have always stood for, which I will read. It states:

We will increase the annual Guaranteed Income Supplement to a sufficient level in the first budget to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty immediately.

We can do that. Retirement security has always been a priority of the New Democratic Party. It has always been a priority of parties which came before it. In 1927 was the very first pension legislation in this country, brought in by the Independent Labour Party, one of the NDP's forerunners. When New Democrats speak about this motion today, we speak from authority, from history and decades and decades of trying to ensure that seniors do not live in poverty.

What we are faced with now is about 250,000 seniors in this country living in poverty. The debate is not even so much about GIS or CPP as it is about respect and dignity. Those are two things we in the NDP want to talk about today because respect and dignity are what many of our seniors do not have.

I conducted a telephone town hall meeting before the election and there were 8,500 people on the line from my riding. Overwhelmingly, the two things people mentioned in that meeting as being most important were affordability and retirement security. I suspect that is felt right across this country in every riding, rural and urban.

In this budget the Conservatives talk about $1.64 a day for seniors. Everyone in the House will remember that the government, along with the governments of Ontario and British Columbia, conspired to charge seniors an average of $3 a day in HST. That is the average seniors pay in HST. They get $1.64 in this budget, which the government says is fabulous, and with the other hand it takes away $3, and probably much more, in HST.

The hon. member who spoke before me talked about apologizing. I think it is the government that should apologize. It is the government that should apologize for $1.64 a day and saying that is enough for seniors, for respect and for dignity. It is not.

The most vulnerable group among seniors is women. Women make up about 70% of poor seniors in this country. The poverty rate for women in this country in 2008 was double that of men. For seniors who live in poverty, almost 100% of their incomes come from the government. Therefore, $1.64 a day makes me sad.

If the government simply looked at it in economic terms and took away the human element of its decisions, lifting every senior out of poverty in this country is good for this country. It is good for the economy. Where do seniors spend their money? They spend their money in the local communities where they live and they just want an opportunity to buy a present for their grandchildren on their birthdays. That is all they want. They spend it right in their own communities. Therefore, $700 million to lift every senior out of poverty is $700 million that goes right back into local economies.

I want to speak very briefly about some of the seniors I have met in my riding. If people need health care in my riding, they have two choices: Those living in the west end of my riding can go to Winnipeg; if they live on the east side, they go to Thunder Bay. I am not sure how every province works, but Ontario has travel grants. However, people have to put the money out first.

To go from Atikokan to Thunder Bay return costs $300. We do not have trains. We have the occasional bus that goes by. It is either in a private car or a taxi. It is $160 for a one-way trip. People have to put that money out first.

I know seniors who do not go to the hospital when they are supposed to, who do not follow up on appointments because they cannot put the money out first. I know seniors who do not take their medications. They do not buy their medications because they cannot. Or, they split them. They take half every day, or use any other strategy they can to try to save money.

Let me give one example of the face of poverty in my riding. In Atikokan not too long ago, I was speaking with a senior, a man probably in his 80s. His wife had passed away. He had raised four children. They were all gone from the community. He came in to see me one day and he said he could not pay his electricity bill. I asked if he had tried some strategies to reduce the use of electricity. He told me that he uses one light bulb and every second day he unplugs the refrigerator.

The HST from the government was the turning point for that man, for his electricity. That is what seniors go through in this country. That is what seniors go through in my riding.

I know, although there may be members of Parliament here who do not agree or do not see this, it happens in every riding.

What are the other impacts in my riding? Speaking about longevity of seniors, we all go to funerals, or read in the paper about seniors dying. We think that they should not have passed away, that it was too early for them to go. For seniors who have to live below the poverty line, we are talking about malnutrition, depression and suicide.

The biggest indicator of seniors' longevity is the number of friends they have. I do not know if people here know that. How many friends a senior has determines how long that senior will live. However, I know seniors and I talk to seniors all the time who do not have many or any friends. That is because they live below the poverty line and they are embarrassed. What could they invite their friends over to their house for? What could they serve them? What could they talk about? So, gradually seniors lose their friends. It is not because their friends do not want to spend time with them, but because they are embarrassed to spend time with their friends. That is sad, because those seniors will have a whole host of health issues and die before their time.

What can we do? What are the choices? If we do not buy one F-35 jet, that would be enough to lift every senior out of poverty for two years. If we ended the corporate giveaways to big oil companies and banks, we would have more than enough money to lift every senior out of poverty in this country forever.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, as mentioned by my colleague earlier, we have just come through one of the largest global recessions since the Great Depression and the poverty rate for seniors has gone down from 7.9% over a decade or so ago to 5.8%. That is a credible change and it has a lot to do with the action our government has taken. I think 5.8% is too high.

In the last session our government brought legislation forward to increase the GIS, to increase funding for seniors. Each and every one of those members automatically stood and opposed every initiative that our government put forward to help seniors. I wonder if my colleague could respond to that.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that comment because it allows me an opportunity to say that in this country we cannot afford to have any senior living in poverty. We cannot afford to have anyone living in poverty in this country.

Government members talk about NDP members not supporting the Conservative agenda. Let me just talk about their collusion with Premier McGuinty in Ontario on the HST. If they want to know why we on this side of the House do not stand up to support them on that it is because they are costing not just every person in Ontario, but particularly seniors who live in poverty in Ontario. The Conservative government is making them poorer. Why would we stand on this side of the House and tell the government that we support what it is doing, that we support it putting seniors right across Canada back into more poverty?

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to highlight a couple of quick points followed by a question.

New Democrats seem to be focused on dealing with the income increase, yet at the same time there are many other aspects to getting seniors out of poverty. We need to take a holistic approach. Many different factors would go a long way toward bringing seniors out of poverty.

Toward the end of his remarks my colleague made reference to the cancellation of one jet aircraft. He indicated that would cover the cost of what New Democrats are suggesting.

I have no question in terms of priorities. We in the Liberal Party believe that the government's priorities, the corporate tax breaks, the millions that are being spent on a number of fighter aircraft, are all wrong. With the wealth that Canada has, why are we not treating our seniors better than we are and attempting to lift them out of poverty?

Do the NDP numbers tell them that the cancellation of one aircraft would more than cover the cost of bringing seniors out of poverty?

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, there actually are a number of questions in that question.

I agree with my hon. colleague that we have to take a multi-pronged approach to poverty in this country, seniors' poverty in particular. There is one thing that we can immediately do. We talk about doubling CPP over the next 7 to 10 years. We talk about a number of other strategies that would help seniors to ensure that they would have an opportunity to put a little money in their pockets so they can buy a present for their grandchild on his or her birthday. The GIS increase would provide immediate relief for seniors. I know members on the other side of the aisle agree with me.

The government said it would do something in the budget but they are always quarter measures, always tenth measures. They are not the measures that need to be taken. There is no real commitment from the government to ensure that seniors do not live in poverty in this country.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is an important issue as seniors are important to all of us. We all have important seniors in our lives. As a matter of fact I spent yesterday with some important seniors in my life, my grandparents, my dad's mom and dad, as well as my mom's mom. I had an opportunity to hear from them and hear their concerns with regard to what the government can do. My grandma just wants to let everybody here know that she needs her mail, If hon. members will do what they can to get that passed, I know my baba would be very appreciative that we brought that to the House today.

In terms of the debate today, we have an important discussion before us that we should be deliberating knowing a number of facts, which I will get into. The most important fact is to recognize that no two seniors are identical. We cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to seniors in the same way we cannot have a one-size-fits-all approach to child care or any other issue facing our government today.

Therefore, it is important for us to consider that there are many seniors who are in a whole host of different circumstances across this country. That is why it is important that we have a whole host of different measures that we bring forward to address concerns facing seniors today.

It is important to recognize that we have seniors who are still in the marketplace. They are still working and still contributing in paid employment. Just because they are in the workforce does not mean that they are affluent. I know many people who are in the workforce simply because they feel that they need to be.

We also know there are seniors who are facing health difficulties, challenges with regard to their health care, but there are also seniors who are very healthy. Today we have a seniors' population in this country that is growing older than any generation before and they are healthier than any other generation before.

I am pleased to stand in this House today to talk about the many ways that our government is addressing the concerns of seniors, including the $300 million top up to the guaranteed income supplement. This is an important initiative that is being brought forward.

In both budgets 2011, the budget brought forward before the election and the budget brought forward after the election, and during the election campaign our government came forward and said that it would contribute $300 million to top up the guaranteed income supplement. That is an important thing that we all need to recognize our government is committed to doing.

In my riding of Peace River, I met a many seniors who were very concerned and confused during the election campaign. On one side they had a government that brought forward a budget that had a number of measures that were very important to senior citizens. It was not just the $300 million that would be dedicated toward the GIS. There were a whole host of other things in the budget that were important to senior citizens as well. They were very confused as to how the opposition parties could justify calling an opportunistic and unnecessary election that would cost over $300 million to run in the face of the reality that we were under fiscal constraints. They knew personally that they could benefit from the measures that had been brought forward and had been stalled as a result of the opposition parties' torpedoing that budget and the budget measures that were included in that document.

Canadians are living longer and healthier lives. It is different from pretty much any other generation before. That means that our seniors are depending on their retirement income for longer periods of time.

As we work to help Canadians achieve their financial security, it is important that our government and all members in this House recognize that things are changing and seniors are living longer and, therefore, we must consider the reality of both.

The most important thing that I believe government can do, or does, is provide seniors with support through our public pension system. This system is highly effective. It is internationally regarded, and for good reason.

This year, Canadians will receive almost $70 billion in benefits through the Canadian pension plan, old age security and the GIS, or guaranteed income supplement. The GIS, which provides extra support to seniors with little or no income, has been a great success in reducing poverty among seniors.

It is important to recognize the facts, and today, during the debate, it is one that is being engaged in. We have anecdotes that are coming forward from all sides. It is important to look at the facts because if we drill down into these facts we will have some revelations that are important for all of us to consider.

It is important for Canadians and for all of us in the House to recognize that Canada has one of the lowest poverty rates among seniors in the developed world at 5.8%. Now 5.8% is still a number that is too high, because there is nobody in the House who would like to see a single senior living below the poverty line, but let us recognize that this is a significant improvement over years past. This rate is lower now than it has ever been under previous governments. It was 6.8% in 2003 and, if we look even further back, it was 7.9% in 1999.

It is important that when we recognize that Canada not only has one of the lowest rates of senior poverty in the world, we recognize a time and a place in which we are seeing this happen. We have just witnessed one of the worst economic meltdowns that we have seen in the last number of generations, the great recession, and it is in this environment that Canada is seeing one of the lowest rates of senior poverty to date.

I watch the news, as do members across the aisle, and we see that, in other countries, simply holding on to the benefits that had been allocated to seniors over past years is the gold standard. As we see governments having to strip away benefits that have been previously allocated to senior citizens, in Canada we are not only saving all of the things that have been provided to senior citizens over the last number of years, we are improving them because, not only do we have one of the lowest rates of senior poverty in history in this country today but in the world as well, we are working to improve and reduce that even further.

Our government's prudent and fiscally responsible economic approach is working. That is why Canadian seniors overwhelmingly supported our government's initiatives during the last election. The new guaranteed income supplement top up will target the poorest and the most vulnerable seniors, providing an additional annual benefit of up to $600 a year for single seniors or $840 a year for senior couples. This measure represents an investment of more than $300 million per year and will further improve the financial security and the well-being of more than 680,000 seniors across this great nation.

It will also represent the single biggest increase in the guaranteed income supplement in over 25 years, and it is affordable without raising taxes. It is an important distinction that I am bringing here. While the opposition parties have committed all kinds of plans of spending billions and billions of dollars on a whole host of different programs, they have also committed to raising taxes on Canadians and Canadian seniors as well.

Looking at what the difference is with regard to what the parties are proposing, I wonder why the opposition parties voted against budget 2011 and why they forced an unnecessary and opportunistic election on the Canadian people, sacrificing over $300 million in government spending that could have been allocated toward benefiting seniors.

I cannot complain about the results of the election but I must question the motivation of the opposition parties with regard to the forcing of the election. I have to wonder why Canadians from coast to coast elected a Conservative majority government.

After talking to people in my riding, and specifically seniors, it has become crystal clear to me that they believe in the plan this government has brought forward. They recognize that it is a prudent and fiscally responsible plan.

Our government has done a whole host of things since we were elected in 2006 and it is important to reflect on some of them. As we look at the reality of the statistics, we have seen the lowest rate of poverty levels among seniors today due to the measures our government has brought forward.

It is important to recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to the issues concerning seniors, which is why we brought forward a whole host of different measures. They include: an increase to the age credit by $1,000 twice, benefiting 2.2 million senior citizens; the pension income credit was doubled to $2,000; pension income splitting for senior couples was introduced; the age limit for registered retirement savings plans was increased from 69 years to 71 years of age; and, the minimum registered retirement income fund withdrawal was reduced by 25% providing over $200 million in tax relief to seniors.

Before those measures were introduced, those people were paying taxes. Today, as a result of these measures, 85,000 Canadian seniors no longer pay federal income tax. In 2011, a single senior earning around $19,000 and a senior couple earning at least $38,000 would not pay any federal income tax at all. I can say that this is greatly appreciated by seniors in my riding

When I talk to senior citizens, many of them want to continue to play an important role in the workforce. It is important that governments continue to encourage people who have reached the age of 65, or an age at which they are recognized as a senior citizen, to stay in the workforce and be allowed to do so. I think we as Canadians benefit from having senior citizens in the workforce contributing in so many unique and important ways.

Opposition Motion—Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I must interrupt the member at this point. When the House returns to this matter, the hon. member for Peace River will have seven minutes remaining.

National Research CouncilStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, the National Research Council has a proud history that goes back 95 years. Some of its key accomplishments are the pacemaker, computer animation technology and the Canadarm.

It has relied on great leaders like Jack Mackenzie, Larkin Kerwin and now, John McDougall. For over 30 years, I have stood up for the NRC and its cutting-edge science.

For the past five years, in this House and elsewhere, I have promoted the establishment of the technology transfer centre to better market the intellectual property of the NRC.

That is why I am proud that this government has granted the NRC stable funding that has increased by 17% over the last five years, to fund research, help businesses and stimulate the economy.

On top of that, I was pleased to announce two years ago temporary two-year stimulus funding to the NRC under Canada's economic action plan.

As Canada's primary research agency, the NRC continues to benefit from the strong financial support of the government.

Regional Economic DevelopmentStatements by Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Lise St-Denis NDP Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank the voters of my riding of Saint-Maurice—Champlain for placing their trust in me in the May 2 election.

I would like to point out to the hon. members that the residents of La Tuque, the birthplace of Félix Leclerc, are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of their city this year. A number of activities will be held during the summer to mark the occasion.

I would also like to highlight the efforts made by the city of Shawinigan to create new, original, dynamic industries in response to the many economic shocks that have hit the wood processing industry.

My constituents have shown courage and determination as they struggle to deal with the restructuring of the global economy. I would like to take this opportunity to let them know that they can count on my continued support in the search for viable economic solutions for the regions.

AfghanistanStatements by Members

June 20th, 2011 / 2 p.m.

Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, mission accomplished. Now that Operation Athena, Canada's participation in the International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, in Afghanistan is drawing to a close, it is with great pride that I recognize the more than 8,500 CFB Petawawa-based military personnel who served in Afghanistan. It has been a long haul from when troops were put on the ground back in 2002.

Our men and women in uniform are motivated by a love of comradeship and a desire to serve our country. We will never forget those soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for Canada.

Canadians recognize efforts to bring stability and the rule of law to Afghanistan. As a result, there has been a significant transformation in attitude in Canada as a result of our mission in Afghanistan.

A decade ago, many commentators had written off our military: no more. We have gone from being NATO's biggest freeloader to becoming a respected member of the Western Alliance.

A grateful nation says thanks.

Human Rights WalkwayStatements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, on July 1, Canada Day, the municipality of Côte Saint-Luc, in my riding of Mount Royal, will induct Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, honorary Canadian citizen, Nobel Peace Laureate and a great heroine of our time, into the municipality's Human Rights Walkway.

Aung San Suu Kyi will join the pantheon of human rights heroes in the walkway, which include: Raoul Wallenberg, Canada's first honorary citizen; former chief justices Antonio Lamer and Gilles Deschênes of the Supreme Court of Canada and the Superior Court of Quebec, respectively; international jurists René Cassin and John Humphrey; and aboriginal heroine Mary Two-Axe Early.

I would like to commend the mayor of Côte Saint-Luc, Anthony Housefather, as well as the members of the city council, who have made the promotion and protection of human rights a priority in their work.

Canadian HeritageStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate you on your election as Speaker. Above all, I would like to warmly thank the people in the riding of Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher who chose to express their social democratic values by giving me the mandate to represent them. It is a privilege and a responsibility that I will honour with dedication and pride.

I would also like to thank the volunteers, without whom, we all know, political life would be very difficult. Thank you to the three women in my life who supported me in this great endeavour: my daughters, Marilou and Rose, as well as their mother, Johanne. I would also like to thank a fourth woman, my mother, who is 80 and who has tirelessly supported the NDP for more than 20 years. She, too, put in time and hard work.

As the sport critic and deputy Canadian heritage critic, I will ensure, for one, that the Pointe-de-Longueuil development project benefits everyone in Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher by improving the bike path network and its access to the Longueuil metro. Above all, I will ensure that people in the riding again have natural access to the banks of the St. Lawrence.

City of BramptonStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Conservative Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the city of Brampton, also known as the Flower City, and its residents on holding its immensely successful sixth Flower City Parade. The parade is a great way to start off the summer. It allows all Bramptonians the opportunity to connect with our community and its heritage, as well as enjoy the day of entertainment and fun. The event drew thousands of Bramptonians to the downtown core to watch the float and entertainers.

This year's parade had a unique theme. It was “Brampton Welcomes Bollywood”. As the International Indian Film Academy award celebrations are set to begin in the GTA this week, Brampton also welcomed numerous Bollywood stars during the parade.

The event was a tremendous success. I want to acknowledge hundreds of volunteers for the hard work that went into planning and executing such a great event for all Bramptonians to enjoy.

Birthday WishesStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Alex Sim of Kamloops as he celebrates his 86th birthday today with 419 Squadron in Cold Lake, Alberta.

At the age of 16, Mr. Sim tried to join the RCAF during the Second World War, but was rejected because of his age. Undeterred, he joined the Canadian army and participated in the Normandy campaign and later served in the Korean War.

Although he went on to a successful career in the army, his passion has always been for flight. He served as president of the Pacific Group of the Air Force Association and as a member of the 886 (Overlander) Wing in Kamloops.

Over the years, he served as a liaison officer between 419 Squadron and 886 Wing. Last year, he was recognized for his years of service and given the honorary title of commanding officer of 419 Squadron.

Recognized by his feisty presence, commanding voice and impressive historical knowledge, please join me in wishing Mr. Sim a happy birthday and to thank him for his dedication to the armed forces and our country.

Repentigny Relay for LifeStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean-François Larose NDP Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my constituents, the people of Repentigny, for placing their trust in me on May 2.

My riding is a great place to live. Proof of this is the fact that, even though a multinational like Electrolux is closing, even though families and seniors are getting poorer, and even though our SMEs are overtaxed, the people in my riding still managed to join forces, open their hearts, donate their time and even empty their piggy banks for a good cause: the fight against cancer. The Repentigny Relay for Life, which was held last Friday, has become one of the largest in Canada. Together they raised the unprecedented amount of a little over $500,000 and organized an unforgettable evening.

I call on this government to reconsider its budget, to scrape together what it can and to give more to the people who are our everyday heroes.