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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

Business of SupplyRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of SupplyRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

DarfurPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure of tabling two petitions. The first is from over 1,000 Canadians, including many in my constituency.

The petitioners are asking the Government of Canada to put an end to the humanitarian catastrophe in Darfur. Voters point out that, since 2003, more than 400,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million have been displaced. They are asking the Government of Canada to work with the international community and put an end to these atrocities.

This is particularly true now. As we move to the countdown for the establishment of the independent state of southern Sudan, atrocities have broken out again in Darfur.

Foreign AffairsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from the grandmothers for Gilad Shalit, who have been concerned as we approach the fifth anniversary of his illegal abduction and imprisonment since June 2006 where he has been held in complete isolation and denied access to any rights afforded him under international law. No visitations by individuals, doctors, the International Red Cross Society or by anyone in his family have been permitted by his Hamas captors.

Accordingly, the petitioners call upon the Government of Canada to insist that the Red Cross, the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies uphold the applicable standards of international humanitarian law, which would include, at a minimum, proof of life, a visit to the captured soldier and communication between him and his family as a bare minimum, while using its good offices bilaterally and internationally to secure his release and return.

The EnvironmentPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my former colleague, Luc Malo, I am presenting today a petition signed by 350 grade six students from 15 classes in six Sainte-Julie schools, who want their generation and the ones to follow to be assured of living in an environment where the air, water and soil will be certified as safe.

I would like to congratulate Antoine Vézina, a grade six student at Du Moulin school. Thanks to his initiative, these young petitioners are asking the government to take the necessary measures to ensure that companies and factories drastically reduce their toxic emissions into the air, water and soil.

I will take this opportunity to thank Diane Bernier, spiritual life and community involvement leader at the Patriotes school board, who helped the children with this initiative.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canadian Wheat BoardRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today seeking your leave to move the adjournment of the House to debate the issue outlined in the application presented to you this morning, about which I will now speak. It is a matter that demands urgent attention by the minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board.

The minister has consistently called for the dissolution of the Canadian Wheat Board. We have learned through his answers in question period that the minister will, in the next session of Parliament, attempt to do so without holding a plebiscite of the wheat board membership, which is a sound democratic right bestowed on western wheat and barley farmers through section 47.1 of the Canadian Wheat Board Act.

The wheat board is a fundamentally important institution to many tens of thousands of western farmers and their families, whose livelihoods are protected by its crucial work. They deserve to have the act followed and to have their opinions respected in a democratic vote with a clear question, whatever the outcome.

This request for an emergency debate needs to be granted because Canadians, through their representatives, have a right to know why the minister plans to violate section 47.1 of the act, and to know how he will restructure the wheat board if in fact he does not obey section 47.1 and to know how his restructuring will be implemented.

Standing Order 52 explains that the House can adjourn to hear an emergency debate if the Speaker, in his discretion, concludes that the issue of the debate is: (a) within the scope of the government's administrative responsibilities and within the scope of ministerial action; (b) will not be brought before the House in reasonable time by other means; and (c) relates to a matter of genuine emergency requiring immediate and urgent consideration.

It is clear that the conditions set out in (a) above are met, because section 47.1 of the act makes it clear that the wheat board falls not only within the administrative responsibilities of the government but also that any action dealing with the wheat board's mandate will be determined by the minister and it is, therefore, within his scope.

This matter is a genuine emergency requiring immediate consideration as set out in (c) above for the very reason that causes this issue to comply with (b) above.

The minister has telegraphed his intentions to change the mandate of the wheat board, but he has not told Canadians how he is planning to do so and he has therefore comprised the ability of the wheat board to function effectively and has created confusion, uncertainty and alarm among western Canadian grain producers.

It is imperative that this debate be held today, because there is no reasonable expectation that this issue will be brought before the House in a reasonable time or prior to the House's summer recess.

There is also no expectation that the required vote set out in section 47.1(b) of the act will occur within a reasonable time before the minister's legislation is brought forward in the fall, if at all.

The debate I propose will focus on clearly determining if the minister is willing to abide by section 47.1 of the act. If he will not abide by it, we will seek to determine for western farmers how he plans to restructure the wheat board and how the restructuring will be implemented.

I respectfully submit, therefore, that the issues are within the scope of the government's administrative responsibilities, will not be brought before the House in a reasonable time by other means, and relate to a matter of genuine urgency requiring immediate attention.

It is with this in mind that I appeal to you to hold an emergency debate to determine if the minister will skirt section 47.1 of the act, and to determine how the board will change under the minister's undisclosed legislation.

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I thank the hon. member for bringing this matter to the attention of the House. No doubt it is of concern to him and some of his colleagues. I find, however, that it does not meet the tests for an emergency debate and, therefore, I would decline the request at this time.

The hon. member for Winnipeg North is rising on a point of order?

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Yes, Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I wonder if it would possible to ask for unanimous consent of the House to allow a debate of this nature to occur, given the very impact on western Canada. Could we canvas the House to see if there would be support for that?

Speaker's RulingRequest for Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

I am not sure what kind of unanimous consent the member is seeking. Is to have some kind of debate later today?

I do not get the sense there is consensus on that, so we will move on to orders of the day.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

When question period started, the hon. member for Peace River had seven minutes left to conclude his remarks.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have had the opportunity to speak many times in the House since I was re-elected, but now while you were in the chair. Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your election as Speaker in the House. Already we are finding that we made the right choice, that in fact you are doing an excellent job as Speaker, and we look forward to your responsibilities being carried out over the next four years and will be well served.

Before question period, I was in the middle of my speech on the government's response to the issue of seniors' poverty in this country. I was undertaking to reveal some facts. In this debate different stories have been brought to the floor, but it is important for us as legislators to always look back to the facts. It is important that we review those facts, and one of them is that we live in a country that has one of the lowest rates of seniors' poverty in the world.

Currently, 5.8% of seniors live under the poverty line. We obviously do not want any seniors under the poverty line, but we have to recognize that this is one of the lowest rates in the world, and one of the lowest rates in Canadian history as well.

If we look back over the last number of years to 2003, the rate was higher at 6.8%. If we look even further back to 1999, the rate of senior poverty was nearly 8%. At 5.8% we know that we are making some significant improvements. Many of the initiatives that our government has brought forward in the last budget, as well as many of the things we have promised, will only improve that reality.

It is also important to reflect upon the fact that the GIS increase our government is proposing in the budget is the single largest increase Canadian seniors will have seen in the last 25 years. My opposition colleagues today have often suggested that if only they were in power, they would do things differently. However, under the Liberal government, even when it brought forward an NDP budget, this provision was not included and was not on its radar screen at all. It was 25 years ago that we last saw an increase of this magnitude. I think it is important for us to reflect on those facts.

Just before question period, I also remarked on the fact that our government had undertaken a whole host of different initiatives to bring tax relief to Canadian senior citizens. As a matter of fact, with the provisions that our government has brought forward since 2006, over 85,000 senior citizens are completely off the tax rolls. This means that 85,000 seniors who were paying federal income tax in 2005 and 2006 no longer pay it to the federal government at all. This obviously is a significant change and why the rate of poverty among senior citizens continues to drop.

Our government has done a whole host of other things that do not necessarily have to do with tax relief. In addition to the things we have done on the tax side, there is a whole host of other things we have done to continue focusing on senior citizens. Any time we make a change in any other department, we have initiatives that always take into consideration how they will impact senior citizens.

That is why our government and the Prime Minister appointed a minister of state for seniors. I want to acknowledge that we have an exceptional Minister of State for Seniors today, but this post has been held by two other extremely competent and remarkable female cabinet ministers since it was created. I want to thank the members who held this position previously because, due to their work, seniors' issues continue to be brought to the forefront at the cabinet table.

We have also created the National Seniors Council to advise the government on all things related to the well-being of senior citizens.

In addition, we have raised the income earned exemption under the guaranteed income supplement from $500 to $3,500. This is benefiting over 1.6 million seniors across this country.

We have also introduced an automatic renewal of the guaranteed income supplement, so that eligible seniors who file a tax return no longer need to reapply for this benefit year after year. This is one of our government's initiatives to ensure that senior citizens do not fall through the cracks and will not lose the GIS benefit if they do not produce the paperwork on time. Our government has worked across the board to reduce red tape for Canadian citizens generally, but we are also focusing that effort to protect the interests of senior citizens.

We have also implemented changes to the Canada pension plan so that seniors have the freedom to choose to keep working and contributing to their pension fund. This is important because, as we all know, the demographics of Canada are shifting. We know that the baby boomers are aging and that we face a demographic challenge in our country. However, we also recognize the absolutely remarkable and important contribution that senior citizens can make in their workplace even after they reach the age of 65, through mentorship programs and a whole host of other things. As a matter of fact, I know of senior citizens who made their biggest and most important contributions to the workplace after they were into their 60s and 70s. Even in this House, we have members who are making a contribution long after they are 65. So we know the importance of and believe in the freedom of senior citizens to continue to contribute in the workforce after they reach the age of 65, and to be able to contribute to their pension funds after that.

We are also very concerned about the well-being of senior citizens and that is why we have invested over $13 million in a campaign to raise awareness about and to combat elder abuse. We are also bringing forward a whole host of criminal justice reforms that are applauded by senior citizens, because they know the importance of safety and security and living in their own homes into their retirements.

Mr. Speaker, you are going to cut me off, but I do appreciate the opportunity to speak on this important issue.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the course of my hon. colleague's deliberations, the member for Peace River asked why Canadians and perhaps people on this side of the House were opposed to the Conservative budgetary and other policies.

Well, I have a partial list. How about $60 billion in tax cuts to profitable corporations? How about cuts to organizations like KAIROS because they criticized the government for its environmental policy? How about the abuse of our veterans, with clawbacks of their pensions? How about $857 million for summits, fake lakes, gazebos, photo ops and partisan ads? How about their providing in the budget less than half of what was needed to lift all seniors out of poverty? What about the cuts to organizations that worked for women's equality? How about a government that used the Senate to stop NDP bills like the one for generic drugs for those living with HIV-AIDS and sufferers of TB and malaria in Africa, not to mention how it used the summit to undermine our environmental bill?

Why on earth would the government invest $35 billion in jets and not in seniors when it obviously has the resources? Will the member support this motion to lift seniors out of poverty?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do thank the hon. member for bringing forward the motion, but in the question she does not get to the crux of the matter.

What are we going to do for seniors to ensure they can stay in their homes longer, that they can make choices that actually improve their own well-being? Our government is focused on that with a feasible, cost-effective plan to ensure that seniors will have more money in their pocket so they can remain in their homes and continue to live well into their senior years. This plan includes a whole host of different measures.

The hon. member was part of a party that did not even read this budget or the last number of budgets. Her party actually told the Canadian people that it was proud it had not read the budgets. The hon. member has voted against successive budgets brought forward by the Conservative government with the many measures that I have described today that have reduced seniors' poverty in this country, including a $300 million investment in seniors through the GIS increase, the largest in 25 years. So even when the NDP was talking with the Liberals about a so-called NDP budget, it included no reflections on this as a priority. Clearly, that is why--

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Winnipeg North.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member talks about issues such as independent living.

I agree that we need to look at independent living and allow seniors the ability to afford to continue to live in an independent way. One of the ways in which that can be done is through the provision of the necessary funds so they can pay for the pharmaceutical costs, which are going up, and some of the home care services that are becoming higher in need as people age.

Yet, at the same time, the public sees these huge increases in tax benefits to corporations and government expenditures that are questionable such as the purchase of the jets.

People wonder why the government is not recognizing the value of the seniors and ensuring that seniors who want to live independently are able to access those drugs. It is becoming more difficult because the cost of drugs is going up.

For the fiscal years of 2012-13, does the member see another increase to the GIS? Is this just a one-time hit?

Many, including myself and the Liberal Party, would argue that what we are giving in terms of an increase today is not enough. Does the member anticipate more increases to the GIS in 2012-13?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the remarks made by my colleague from Winnipeg North.

On the health care front, our government has made it very clear that we will continue to contribute to the health transfers and we will see increases, as we have over the last number of years. There are no cutbacks. During the 1990s the Liberal government slashed those transfers, but our government is committed to not doing that. We are going to continue to invest in health care across the country.

We have had a whole host of budgets, but let us focus on this last budget, the one that was brought forward before the election. The Liberal members, with the New Democratic members and the Bloc Québécois, voted down a budget that would see the largest increase to the GIS in over 25 years. They voted against that to cause an unnecessary and costly election. Talk about misplaced priorities.

Canadians, and especially senior citizens, recognize that this was a misplaced priority. That is why my hon. colleague across the way is now part of the third party in the House rather than the official opposition.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Conservative Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my fellow caucus member for some of his answers.

There was some comment made by an NDP member about the fictitious clawback. The change in the retirement regime for Canadian Forces members has been in place since the mid-1960s. Those members do not tell people the fact that members of the Canadian Forces at that time signed off on it.

We are dealing with seniors and what the government has done with regard to seniors. Would the member like to comment about the 80,000-plus seniors who have been taken off the federal income tax rolls since we have been in government?

I am glad the member mentioned the guaranteed income supplement enhancement and the fact that it has been almost a quarter of a century since we have dealt with that.

Could the member make some additional comments with regard to seniors and how important they are to our government?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will follow up with regard to veterans issues.

Our government recognized there were some necessary investments that needed to be made to ensure veterans were provided with the best care. That is why we saw one of the largest infusions of cash into the veterans affairs envelope, in excess of $2 billion, to ensure we addressed all of the outstanding concerns with regard to the care of our veterans.

I am very proud to be part of a government that has taken real action on these issues. Unfortunately the opposition members have continued to vote against such measures. They have been solid in their rhetoric, but have never come forward with support when it comes to voting on these things and making these investments.

I want to get back to the 85,000 senior citizens who have been taken off the tax rolls completely. Six years ago they were paying federal income tax. Today they do not because of the many changes that we have made with regard to providing more tax relief to seniors so they can continue to earn an income. A single person can make over $19,000 and a couple can make over $38,000 without paying any income tax at all.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, what the hon. member just does not seem to get is that this is about dignity. The motion targets the most vulnerable seniors, many of them senior women. The additional money in the budget will not bring these people out of poverty. The government's measures will not lift even half of the seniors out of poverty.

Currently more 200,000 seniors are living in poverty, some of them in abject poverty. With our motion, we can make a significant and positive impact on the everyday lives of people without spending all that much money. Why is the member against this?

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Conservative Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am very supportive of the idea of lifting every senior out of poverty. That is why I am proud to be part of a government that has actually done that.

The hon. member talks about the motion having some capacity to do anything in terms of lifting people out of poverty, but there is no plan attached. Our government has the plan. The plan has been to lift all seniors out of poverty. That is why Canada currently has one of the lowest rates of senior poverty in the world. This is a remarkable feat, especially as we have just come through one of the greatest recessions and the most fiscally difficult times.

Where other governments have slashed benefits for senior citizens, this government is solidly standing with seniors across the country.

Opposition Motion--Seniors' PovertyBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour.

I begin by thanking the member for London—Fanshawe for introducing this very important motion for us to discuss in the House today. Contrary to what other members have said, New Democrats do have a plan for poverty reduction. That was Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada introduced in June 2010. It laid out a detailed strategy for poverty elimination in the country, and I was pleased to reintroduce that bill today.

I again want to acknowledge the very good work that Tony Martin, the former member for Sault Ste. Marie, did.

As well, New Democrats have also had other plans around helping people living in poverty. One was the former Bill C-304, An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians introduced by the member for Vancouver East.

Contrary to what we have heard in the House, New Democrats do have plans around poverty reduction.

I want to remind the House, because we have had a bit of a break, about what we are speaking about today. The New Democrat opposition day motion states:

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.

There has been much talk so far today about the 2011 budget. Contrary to what members of the government have said, I can assure members that many New Democrats have read that budget as have many members of the public.

I will quote a couple of things from a news release from Campaign 2000 dated June 6, 2011. This reflects in part why New Democrats do not want to support that budget.

Gerda Kaegi of the Canadian Pensioners Concerned said, “The one measure to address poverty among seniors' is paltry”. The release goes on to say:

The $50 monthly increase to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors is only available to those on the very least income. This proposed change is about one-third of what is needed to bring single seniors – who are mostly women - out of poverty.

Further on in the news release it says:

This budget does little to bolster the tattered safety net that has left Canadians in economic insecurity. Aboriginal people, sole support mothers, recent immigrants, racialized groups, and people with disabilities face greater risks. At the same time, inequality between the rich and the poor in Canada has grown more than in any other OECD country (except Germany).

That comment was by Dennis Howlett of Make Poverty History.

I only have 10 minutes, so unfortunately I cannot go through all the reasons why New Democrats would not support the budget.

I want to turn briefly to a report “Federal Poverty Reduction Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada ”from November 2010. This was an extensive piece of work that looked at the state of poverty reduction plans in the country and made numerous recommendations. I want to quote a couple of statistics out of this, and we are talking about seniors today.

It says:

The GIS is an ideal means of reducing poverty among seniors because it targets those with a low income, particularly seniors living alone. In 2007, seniors living alone represented 28% of all seniors, but 60% of GIS recipients and 82% of seniors living below the LICOs. A senior living alone with no income other than the maximum OAS and GIS benefits would receive combined benefits of about $14,033 (January 2010 rates), which is below the LICOs for 2008 (the latest available) for a person living alone in an urban centre with a population of 30,000 or more.

The people who are receiving GIS and OAS are the poorest of the poor of the seniors and often between OAS and GIS that is pretty much all they have for an income.

This article goes on.

The member for London—Fanshawe ably outlined all of the reasons why the House should unanimously support the New Democrat motion, but I want to raise another issue that has not been raised.

Again, in this report it says that other witnesses spoke about the lack of awareness of the GIS. I want to turn briefly to the National Advisory Council on Aging, “Aging in Poverty in Canada: Seniors on the Margins”. It pointed out a couple of serious problems.

First, we have a program that is inadequate, but what we actually know is that many seniors are not accessing this already inadequate program. It says in this report that as no reliable statistics existed on under-subscription or late renewals, the National Council on Aging had research carried out in the summer of 2004 to assess the situation.

This research yielded a clear picture of under-subscription to the OAS and the Canada pension plan, revealing that large numbers of elderly seniors have not applied for these programs.

For a variety of reasons, seniors simply do not apply for these programs. New Democrats have argued that they should just be incorporated into a system like the income tax system, so that seniors at the age of 65 would not have to apply. They would automatically be considered.

Under OAS, the NACA report says about 50,000 have not applied and under GIS about 300,000 have not applied. Under CPP retirement pension about 55,000 have not applied. There is no estimate available for those who have not applied for disability benefits or survivor benefits. Many New Democrats have done CPP, disability and survivor benefit workshops in their ridings because many Canadians are simply not aware that they are entitled to those benefits.

This article goes on to say:

The sums in question are considerable. For example, the 50,000 seniors who are eligible for OAS but do not apply sustain a total income loss of $250 million a year.

That is $250 million that is not going back into our communities. When seniors apply for these benefits, they spend the money on food, on shelter, and minimal living expenses, which is all money that comes back into our communities.

The article goes on to say:

It is more often women, particularly elderly women, who fail to apply for the GIS – a group that is most at risk of living in poverty. It is worth noting that seniors who are entitled to the GIS but who do not apply are deprived not only of their GIS income, but also of all the other benefits provided through provincial and territorial programs that use the GIS as an eligibility criterion.

Not only is it affecting their GIS, but it is affecting some of their other provincial benefits. That is why it is so important that we look at a system that makes it far easier for seniors to access these benefits.

I know we are talking about the GIS, but I want to talk briefly about CPP because there is another huge injustice built into this program.

Lateness in applying for CPP benefits causes serious prejudice. Currently, a person who is late applying for his or her pension under the CPP is only entitled to 11 months of retroactive benefits. The case of a woman named Isabel, age 90, is cited. She discovers that she has been entitled to the CPP survivor benefit for the past 15 years but did not know it. Her husband Jim died at the age of 83 without ever drawing a pension. Her late application means she is entitled to retroactive benefits for a mere 11 months, even though her husband contributed to the plan while he was working and the money was his due and hers. That is a very sad statement. This is another case of late renewal.

In July year after year GIS and allowance recipients must renew their application for benefits by filling out an income tax declaration or a renewal form. Every year close to 100,000 seniors fail to renew their application on time. At present, they are sent a reminder with an enclosed renewal application form. If they fail to respond, they are temporarily excluded from the program and do not receive their benefits for July or the following month until the application for renewal is completed.

The report goes on to talk about 105,000 seniors who did not receive their GIS cheque and more than 9,000 who did not receive their allowance benefits because they had not completed their renewal on time. For many seniors this is an issue of low literacy, little or no knowledge of the programs, language barriers, and sometimes there are mental health issues. We need to make it as easy as possible for seniors.

I will just make a little note on this. A person receiving GIS benefits can lose up to $561 each month. So it is a significant amount of money for people who are living in poverty.

It is unfortunate that my time is up because I wanted to talk about hunger count and the food banks, and the fact that we are seeing an increasing number of seniors using food banks. The 2010 report indicated that the number of seniors helped by food banks grew this year from 5.5% of adults in 2008-09 to 7.2% in 2010. In some provinces, like Ontario, it was 12% and in Manitoba it was 15%. We are seeing some serious problems in our country. Seniors are being forced into using food banks just to keep food on their tables.

I would urge all members of the House to support the motion put forward by the member for London—Fanshawe. This is a small step in the right direction to help lift seniors out of poverty.