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House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.

Topics

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, what he is proposing is poverty. You say that there is something good, but since there is no consensus, we are going to take money that should be going to the Canada pension plan and give it to financial institutions. How does that guarantee a pension for Canadians retiring in the future? You should—

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order. You must address your remarks to the Speaker and not to the other members. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, as usual, the Liberal Party of Canada is saying one thing and doing another. That is not new. We cannot count on that party's support in the struggle to ensure that Canadians have a pension fund. All that political party wants is to look good and sound good, but there is nothing more to it. It is an old party that produces nothing. All it produces is a speech that calls for inaction.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for his speech and the passion with which he defends pensions. One of the NDP's proposals would protect pensions when a company files for bankruptcy. I would like to hear more about NDP proposals to reform or enhance pensions.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a problem that clearly indicates how important it is to intervene politically when it comes to retirement plans. Too many companies—as was unfortunately the case with Nortel—have gone bankrupt when they had an unfunded actuarial liability in their private pension plans. As a result, pensioners saw their pensions cut down—by as much as 45% in the case of Nortel. That is huge. Half of each pension cheque disappeared.

To deal with similar situations, the NDP is calling for two measures. First, it is asking that the full amount of the actuarial liability in the pension fund be given preferred creditor status and that that liability be paid first. If there is any money at all, it should go to pensioners. That is crucial. It is a question of loyalty. Second, if that is not enough, the NDP is asking that any capital losses incurred in the private pension plan be deducted from future revenues. This practice is already widely accepted. We may buy a share for $200 and sell it for $100, with a loss of $100. This loss can be set against our income. That is all we are asking for, and it would help many people avoid poverty.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague's excellent speech. What strikes me, negatively of course, about the government's arguments is that the program set out in Bill C-25, that is, pooled registered pension plans, comes in response to Canadians' lack of savings and the difficulty they have saving. Let me remind the House of some facts: 70% of Canadians do not invest in RRSPs despite the tax incentives; 60% of Canadians do not invest in TFSAs; and of the 40% of Canadians who do invest in TFSAs, 20% earn $100,000 or more.

So we already have voluntary systems that Canadians do not use. The government's response to this is to propose another voluntary system, rather than examine the reasons why Canadians do not have enough disposable income to save, either because people do not necessarily have the income or because they want to use their income for household expenses considering their low income. The system therefore seems to be inadequate.

I wonder what my colleague has to say about the government's response, which I think is a little off the mark, considering the current situation, that is, insufficient incomes.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for the question. At present, the problem with RRSPs and TFSAs, like this new group savings plan—and I mean “group savings plan” because that is what it is—is that they are not pension plans. A pension plan guarantees a certain income and protects people from poverty. This new plan is simply a way of saving. Unfortunately, like RRSPs and TFSAs, this group savings plan is also a tax loophole. Who can afford to invest a maximum of $22,000 in an RRSP when the average income in Canada is $37,000? It is a tax loophole for the wealthy. People in Canada complain because some people in the United States pay only 15% of their income, but it is a good thing that they are in the U.S., because they would pay only 5% in Canada.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to this important topic today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Oshawa.

Through numerous cross-country consultations, our government has talked to many Canadians and heard too many challenging personal stories not to realize that this is an issue that is too important to get wrong.

Our government has devoted considerable effort on the retirement security issue in order to get it right. We have been engaged in a very serious discussion with Canadians on pension and retirement income security issues over the past few years. Our record of support for seniors remains strong and has been since our very first budget.

Let us look at the facts.

In June 2006, we increased the age credit amount by $1,000 and then we increased it another $1,000 in 2009. This year alone, the age credit will provide up to $1,008 in federal tax relief for eligible seniors. That is significant.

Other significant tax relief measures provided since 2006 for seniors and pensioners include: doubling the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000 in 2006; the introduction of pension income splitting in 2007; and the increase in the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs from 69 to 71 in 2007.

I would also like to mention the tax free savings account, a general purpose savings vehicle that helps all Canadians, including seniors, to meet their ongoing savings needs on a tax preferred basis. Of note, TFSA investment income and withdrawals do not affect eligibility for federal income tested benefits or credits, such as old age security, the guaranteed income supplement or the goods and services tax credit.

Those are things that our government has done that provide substantial benefits to seniors across our country. This is tax relief that is benefiting seniors right now as we speak. Seniors and all Canadians can be confident that it will benefit them well into the future as our government implements the next phase of Canada's economic action plan and the return to balanced budgets.

The next phase of Canada's economic action plan announces new measures to improve the financial security of our most vulnerable seniors and ensure that seniors can benefit from and contribute to the quality of life in their community through active living and participation in social activities and access to a new low cost pension option.

The plan provides an additional $10 million over two years to enhance the new horizons for seniors program. This additional funding is enabling more seniors to participate in social activities, pursue an active life and contribute to their community. The program provides funding for projects to expand awareness of elder abuse or promote volunteering, monitoring and social participation of seniors, and this is important.

Going forward, a key component of ensuring financial security for all Canadians and for seniors will be the introduction of the pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP, as agreed at the December 2010 finance ministers' meeting in Alberta. The Government of Canada is working closely with its provincial and territorial counterparts to move forward with the legislative and regulatory changes necessary to create the PRPP. The bill before us today, the PRPP act, represents the federal portion of the PRPP framework and is a major step forward in implementing PRPPs.

Once the provinces put in place their PRPP legislation, the legislative and regulatory framework for PRPPs will be operational, thereby allowing PRPP administrators to develop and offer plans to Canadians and to their employers. These plans would help Canadians, including the self-employed, meet their retirement objectives by providing access to a new low cost, accessible pension option. Federal, provincial and territorial officials are working together to implement PRPPs as soon as possible.

The provinces and territories are essential partners in a strong retirement system. They play a major role in the regulation of private defined benefit pension plans. All of them are joint stewards of the Canada pension plan along with our federal government.

This is an important point to remember. We are not in this alone. It is a point that, sadly, seems to have eluded some on the opposition benches, judging by the hastily concocted proposals they have put forward today. For example, the opposition conveniently forgets that changes to the CPP require the approval of at least two-thirds of the Canadian provinces representing at least two-thirds of the country's population.

On this side of the House, we worked together alongside the provinces and territories, with an eye on the long term.

Seniors have worked hard to build a better country for future generations. Our record shows that our government is committed to the financial well-being of all Canadian seniors. Our seniors have made our country what it is today and with the introduction of the PRPP, Canadians can look forward to an even stronger retirement system.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the brief comments made by the member who just spoke. I would like her to elaborate on what she believes to be the added value of the system proposed by Bill C-25 as compared to existing retirement savings plans to which Canadians do not seem to want to contribute.

I do not see how this bill, with the proposed plan, will suddenly be popular with Canadians when registered retirement savings plans, which are very similar to what is being proposed in Bill C-25, are not.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very astute question and I would be very pleased to answer it.

This program is the first of its kind in Canada. It would benefit small businesses. It would benefit people who do not have retirement plans right now, and there are many Canadians who do not. Therefore, if people happen to own a business, or happen to work for a business, or have a home business, this would allow them to ensure their retirement plan in the future. As we know, a myriad of home businesses are run by women. A lot of women put forward their home businesses and they take care of their families,

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member has done a lot of work in protecting young people who come to our country against their will, in terms of human smuggling, and thank her for all the work she has done in that area.

We have talked a fair amount about this plan being important to seniors and others who are getting close. However, what I think is more important is that with the pooled plan, if a young person joins a firm that is part of a pooled plan, he or she has to opt out of it and the person automatically gets a pension plan. That is not the case with an RRSP. People have to choose to do it themselves. This way people think about why it is important for young people to think about their futures and the pension programs that they may have.

Would my colleague comment on that?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, what is so important about this plan is that it is good for everyone. It is good for the employers because there are businesses that cannot afford the pension plans presently. They need the pooled pension in order to offer that pension plan to their employees. Young people are looking to their future. They know in a few short years time will go by and they will need to support themselves so they can live independently.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we should be very much aware that this program would not apply for everyone. In order for it to apply for everyone, we need to have the different provinces onside.

What I like about the debate on Bill C-25 is that it really puts into perspective the difference between the Conservatives/Reformers compared to the Liberals. The Liberals believe in the CPP. We believe in the GIC. We believe in the OAS. The government, on the other hand, chooses not to support those programs, in favour of just talking about the PRPP as the answer to all the issues related to pensions, with which we disagree. It is not the answer to all the situations.

The member talked about the need to have three-quarters of the provinces onside in order to change the CPP, which would have demonstrated a need for strong leadership from the Prime Minister, which we did not see.

How many of the provinces today are in support of Bill C-25, if in fact it goes to committee and passes, and how many would actually bring in their own provincial legislation? Does the government have a number on that?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, what is so strong about looking at the fair, balanced approach to pension plans in Canada and ensuring that OAS and CPP continue to thrive, grow and meet the needs of seniors is the collaboration that our government has done throughout this whole process. The finance ministers have worked together. In fact, when the finance ministers were working together to assess the CPP program to ensure it was sustainable, which they concluded was sustainable for the next 75 years, that led to the PRPP initiative. All the finance ministers in all provinces together agreed that it was time to put the framework together.

Our federal government has taken the lead in this framework and presented this bill today. We will continue to work with all the provinces in this very collaborative project.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.

Oshawa Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I am standing in the House tonight to speak about an extremely important issue. It is an issue that affects not only the people in my home riding of Oshawa, but Canadians from coast to coast to coast. It is an issue that we dare not put off and cannot put off any longer.

Last May Canadians gave our Conservative government a strong mandate to continue its strong and stable policy of guiding Canada through this fragile economic recovery. Canada is leading the charge and is the envy of the world in terms of our economic and fiscal policy. One of the major reasons Canada is hailed as an economic leader is due to this government's forward thinking and long term approach to the economic challenges of the future. Nowhere is this more evident than the issue of retirement security for our seniors and for future generations of seniors. That is why I am speaking tonight.

I strongly disagree with the implications of the members across the way that this government is somehow failing seniors. To put it bluntly, they are plain wrong. The Conservative government has done more to put money back into the pockets of seniors than any other government in Canadian history. In 2006 we increased the age credit amount by $1,000 and we increased it another $1,000 in 2009. For the 2011 tax year, the age credit will provide up to $981 in tax relief for eligible seniors. Other significant tax relief provided since 2006 for seniors and pensioners includes doubling the maximum amount of income eligibility for pension income credit from $1,000 to $2,000, introducing pension income splitting and increasing the age limit for maturing pensions and RRSPs from 69 to 71.

While our government is extremely proud of these measures, we are still faced with an even more pressing challenge of ensuring retirement security for seniors and future generations of seniors. What we will not do is what the opposition plans to do, and that is put its head in the sand and ignore the issue until a crisis is thrust upon us. We will not play on the emotions and fears of seniors and pensioners for political gain, as the NDP did with Bill C-501. Furthermore, the NDP is so focused on expanding CPP as a means of strengthening retirement security that it is preventing it from making real positive changes and improvements today.

I do agree with the opposition that the CPP is important. Federal, provincial and territorial ministers of finance have discussed a CPP expansion. However, the changes that the NDP would want would not only threaten our economic recovery, it would also require the support of two-thirds of the provinces. There is no current consensus or agreement among the provinces at this time. Where does that leave us? Do we just wait until the provinces come to a consensus? Waiting is not an option.

I am proud to say that over the past two years our government's commitment to a stronger retirement income system has taken my colleague, the Minister of State for Finance, to communities across the country. He has been consulting with Canadians, meeting with his provincial and territorial counterparts, discussing key considerations with small and medium-sized businesses and receiving valuable input from some of the most respected experts in the retirement income field. In response to these extensive consultations, the minister has come up with a viable and sustainable plan to help people prepare for their future retirement.

I would like to thank the Minister of State for Finance for helping the government unveil its pooled registered pension plan, or what we are calling PRPPs. I am proud to say that the PRPPs would mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income agenda.

PRPPs are a low cost and accessible option that would help more Canadians meet their retirement goals. The introduction of PRPPs marks a particularly significant advancement in supporting the retirement needs of small businesses and their employees, who up until now have not had access to a large scale low cost pension option.

As a chiropractor who used to be a small business owner, I can attest to the benefits that PRPPs would provide the self-employed and their employees. PRPPs would improve the range of retirement savings options to Canadians by: first, providing a new accessible, straightforward and administratively low cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees; second, allowing individuals who currently may not participate in a pension plan, such as the self-employed and employees of companies that do not offer a pension plan, to make use of this new type of pension plan; third, enabling more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension plan; fourth, allowing for accumulated benefits to move with people from job to job; and fifth, ensuring that funds are invested in the best interest of plan members.

Some of the retirement income system proposals that were presented in our consultations would have significantly raised costs for employers and employees. Introducing them would have been unacceptable during a very tentative and fragile economic recovery. On the other hand, PRPPs would be efficiently managed, privately administered pension arrangements that would provide greater choice for employers and individuals, thereby promoting pension coverage and retirement savings.

The Government of Canada recently introduced legislation to put in place the federal requirements supporting the framework for PRPPs. In addition, the Minister of State for Finance met with the provinces to encourage and assist them in making the same necessary changes from their side. Unlike the NDP's ideas, PRPPs have the support of all of the provinces. Furthermore, PRPPs would also complement and support the Government of Canada's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, leveraging business investments and securing our economic recovery and sustainable private sector driven growth.

Again, unlike the NDP, support for this program is coming from the small business community as well. Dan Kelly, vice-president, Canadian Federation of Independent Business, stated in a press release:

We believe that, if properly implemented by provinces, PRPPs have the potential to expand the retirement savings options for thousands of Canadian small businesses and their employees.

Chris, a small business owner from my own riding of Oshawa, told me:

The Pooled Retirement Pension Plan is of critical import given the great upcoming increase of retired persons and their need for balanced retirement income. As a small business owner since 1995 I consider the pooled pension program a commendable, voluntary, and low-cost means to effectively address a major gap in retirement income disparity.

Not only are PRPPs receiving support from the provinces and the business community but they are receiving support from the academics as well. Robert Pozen, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, stated in the October 23, 2011 edition of the Financial Times:

Like many developed nations, Canada continues to refine its retirement system. As part of that effort, the provincial governments will soon authorise a new savings vehicle – Pooled Registered Pension Plans (PRPPs). With the right policy decisions, PRPPs will go a long way towards increasing retirement security for millions of Canadians.

In short, PRPPs have the potential to increase significantly retirement savings in Canada....

That is what it is all about. The institution of PRPPs is a tangible and excellent step for enhancing income and retirement security for seniors. The broad support from the provinces, small business owners and academics and this government's initiative are something that the opposition has yet to build.

Working together with the provinces and small businesses, I am confident we can get these important new retirement vehicles up and running for Canadians in a timely manner. I ask the hon. members of the opposition to join us in helping seniors instead of voting against everything that we bring forward for seniors and people on pensions. Our record of support for seniors and strengthening retirement security for seniors remains strong and has been so since day one. Any claims to the contrary by members of the opposition simply cannot stand up when we look at the facts.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order.

Our government continues to focus on the economy and the long-term economic security of Canadians and the pooled registered pension plan act that we are now debating does just that by making it easier for millions of Canadians who are self-employed or work for small businesses to save for retirement. As the Canadian Federation of Independent Business says, “This can't come soon enough from our perspective”.

I would like to advise that an agreement has not been reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the Crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage. As a courtesy to the House, it is my intention to propose that two further days of debate be allotted in addition to today.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is just typical. Here we are, on the first day back from being away from the House, and already the government House leader has to rush in. We have had one day of debate on this very important bill about the future of our pension system and the government has to rush in, close down debate and close down the democratic voice of this House. I think it is disgusting.

Members on this side of the House are here ready to debate the legislation on its merits. Hearing this kind of antic from the government House leader is becoming the pattern we have come to expect from the Conservative government.

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health a question. We have heard that this pooled pension plan is good for everybody. The fact is that many people will not even be able to afford to go into this plan. Why is it that the banks will end up making a whole ton of money on this plan? There is no limit on the administration fees or costs. Why did the Conservatives leave that out? They could have at least put in some limits on the fees that will be charged so that people will not get ripped off.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, if my colleague had listened to my speech and to the speeches of other government members, she would realize that one of the reasons we are bringing this in is exactly that reason, to lower the cost for Canadians. In comparison to RRSPs, by having a pooled pension plan, it would distribute the costs across a wider sector enabling lower administrative costs.

This is what it is all about. We on this side of the House want to do is act now to see what we can do to allow seniors to keep more money in their own pockets. Ever since 2006, on every initiative that we have brought forward to help seniors and pensioners, the NDP has stood in this House and voted against it.

What kind of ideas are the NDP coming up with? What is the leaderless NDP coming up with today? It is coming up with exactly zero ideas that could be implemented. It wants to look at changing the CPP, which, as we have heard over and over again, requires two-thirds of the provinces, and there is no consensus to do that.

What we are doing on this side of this House is we are acting today, we are acting for seniors and we are supporting seniors. Let us see the NDP get on board with that.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will really try to stay calm after listening to the most ridiculous thing I have heard in my life.

We have just started a debate on something that is really important. We on this side of the House are trying to work with the government. Pension issues are important. We have a pension crisis looming in this country. We have talking about pension reform and our supplementary CPP. The NDP has its own proposals.

We have been talking about moving an issue forward. However, for the government to turn around and put closure on debate because maybe we are talking too much about all the other pension frustrations is very frustrating. There is no democracy left in this country.

I will get back to the issue I am supposed to be talking about, because I do try to focus on what the question of the day is. We are talking about wanting to move forward. We have many articles and this is one that I am happy to table today dated May 30, 2011. it reads:

Australian Pension Study finds that high fees and costs of private sector pension plans seriously limit investment returns for pensioners.

It goes on. It was a very extensive study that was done. Australia did it 12 years ago and it is now cancelling it because it is finding it to be a huge failure. The pensioners are the losers. Financial institutions and insurance companies are the big winners because of the management fees.

The government knew this was a problem beforehand and it still went forward. Is it so desperate to bring something forward that it will go with something we know is flawed, rather than trying to listen to and maybe work with the other parties on coming forward with some really good changes?

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Mr. Speaker, what would be extremely flawed is to do absolutely nothing and bring forward nothing, which is exactly what the Liberal Party did for 13 years and which is why it is sitting at the very end of the House of Commons.

I commend the Minister of State for Finance for not only going out and talking to the communities but for listening to them. He has listened to academics, the business community and Canadians. He wants to work with the provinces. The NDP and the Liberals, in pure socialist fashion, would like to just jam something down the provinces' throat without allowing debate and without allowing them to put forward their ideas.

I challenge the opposition members to stand up here in House and support our government instead of voting against all the initiatives that we have put forward since 2006. I ask them to work with us because we are on the side of pensioners and seniors and they just cannot come up with any new ideas.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I always find it ironic listening to members opposite.

Despite all the heckling, and I am not speaking entirely from personal memory, but I can tell the Canadian people that the Conservative Party voted against the introduction of the old age pension in 1927. The Conservative Party was opposed to the original Canada pension plan.

The leader of the Conservative Party, in his then job as the president of the National Citizens Coalition, was opposed to the improvements in the Canada pension plan that led to its sustainability, for which he took credit at Davos in his speech last week. That required an act of contortion that one could not even find in a circus. Now members of the Conservative Party turn around and say that they are the ones who are going to protect the Canadian pension system.

We cannot trust those wolves to protect the Canadian pension system. It requires the determination of this House to really understand where we are going and how we need to go forward in order for us to get to where we need to get to.

The subject of the conversation today is with respect to the pooled pension plan, which I will come to in a moment, but first we need to understand the context in which we are working and living.

The Canadian pension system over time has evolved with the thought that fundamentally Canadians would be able to save at their workplace, that they would also receive a Canada pension plan and, if necessary, old age pension and a guaranteed income supplement as a way of sustaining them through old age. I might add that the guaranteed income supplement was also something that was brought in by the Liberal Party when it was in government.

We need to understand that the dramatic changes that have taken place in the Canadian economy, in the Canadian workforce and in the makeup of the Canadian workforce has meant that private company pension plans can no longer be relied upon to provide security for most workers. The Canada pension plan, as improved as it is, is still not a sufficient source of support for people as they get older. The old age pension is a very necessary part of retirement for people who are over the age of 65 and the guaranteed income supplement is essential for those low income Canadians who have no other source of income in their years of retirement.

Therefore, we need to understand the way in which the Prime Minister has attempted to frame this debate and the way in which the Conservatives, even in their speeches today, have attempted to frame this debate.

The Conservative Party specializes in attack politics and politics that try to put a spin on the issue. It says there is a crisis with regard to the sustainability of the system because in 2030 there will be more seniors and the cost of the system might increase by roughly 2% to 3%. Good grief, that is hardly a crisis.

Who is receiving this pension? Probably no one on that side or on this side will be affected by these changes. Even those who listened to the speech in Davos, in the Swiss Alps, will not be affected by the Prime Minister's decision. The Prime Minister himself will not be affected. People who earn less than $30,000 are the ones who will be affected, and that is what bothers me.

Is there a problem for the aging population? Indeed, there is, but the problem of the plan's sustainability concerns not only public finances, but also the finances of every family in the country.

What we find is a situation where more and more Canadians are borrowing in order to sustain themselves. We know that people who are older are even borrowing through their mortgages and so on in order to sustain themselves.

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to embarrass you personally, but I suspect you were one of the people on the platform talking to your fellow voters. I am sure if you were quoting from the Conservative Party election platform, you were saying that it would not touch transfers to health care, education and seniors. That is what the Conservative Party promised in the last election. That was the Prime Minister's promise.

Imagine our surprise when we saw the Prime Minister's grand plan on the front page of the Globe and Mail. Obviously, it was not a complete surprise to the Globe and Mail. These things do not appear with any spontaneity.

Quoting of the Globe and Mail, the grand plan of the Prime Minister is a plan that was never discussed with the people of Canada in the last election. It was not presented to the Canadian people in the last election. It was a grand plan that was worthy of his Alpine perch, but it was not worthy of a discussion on the factory floor and on the doorsteps and porches of the people of Canada. That is the problem we have.

If the Prime Minister thinks for a moment that he will be able to create this kind of evasive activity, avoiding the question of what is central to the issue of the people of our country, he is sadly mistaken.

The member for Oshawa who just spoke used the same words again, that the Conservative Party had received a mandate, blah, blah, blah. I can tell the members of the Conservative Party that the Liberal Party has received its own mandate. That mandate is very clear. That mandate is to hold the government to account. That mandate is to say to the people of Canada to call a spade a spade. When the Prime Minister of Canada does not disclose to the Canadian people what his real plan is, when he has to go to Switzerland to disclose what his real plan is, we will disclose that fact to the people of Canada very clearly.

The government's proposal with respect to the pooled pension issue is an attempt to deal with a serious issue that is facing the country. I say it is an attempt. We have to understand exactly what that serious issue is.

About 60% of Canadian workers, 11 million out of nearly 19 million, have no pension plan other than the Canada pension plan and the OAS. Also, 30% of workers have no RRSP savings and have no company pension.

In the meantime, we have to acknowledge that only 6 million people have contributed to current retirement savings plans.

There is definitely a problem, but the question is whether the government's response is adequate. That is the question. We are clearly saying it is not adequate because it does not meet the real needs of the public and it does not address the real problem.

We have to acknowledge that the majority of workers do not have a private plan and that the majority of people have not contributed to a registered retirement savings plan. That is the problem.

However, we have to look and see where we are with respect to what has been proposed. What has been proposed is the kind of lowest common denominator that the government says it was able to get consensus on with the provinces. It essentially means that we are now going to cover the next small tranche of people. We will see how big it is, we will see how major it is and we will see what the take-up rate is. A very small group of people is going to be covered by what is called the pooled pension plans, which would be run by the private sector.

What we also know is that the fees charged by the private sector in Canada to people who decide to save with the private sector are among the highest fees in the OECD. Why are they so high? Because there is not (a) effective regulation and (b) effective competition. That is why the Liberal Party, and my colleague from York West has been leading this fight very effectively, has proposed that we should grant to the Canada pension plan the opportunity to compete with the private plans for the voluntary approach that is being followed by the government. If we do not have the competition from the public sector to compete with the private sector for these savings, we will continue to see fees being charged that are completely out of line because of the structure of the Canadian financial industry.

This is a serious problem. I know the minister, with whom I have talked about this issue, says that he thinks the problem is solved and that it can be rectified. He does not think it is going to be a big deal. I can only say for the minister that I think our experiences speak long and loud to that. The experience in Australia speaks long and loud to that. We have to recognize that in what is being proposed by the government today there is still a serious problem and a serious inadequacy in dealing with the general challenge facing the people of Canada.

I was asked today by the CBC if I agreed with the Prime Minister that there was a crisis of sustainability in our system. I said, “I suppose if you ask the question, you could ask if there a crisis of sustainability with respect to public broadcasting”. If we listen to the way the Conservatives frame the argument, everything the government has ever done is under a crisis of sustainability, whether it is health care, pensions, education, just name it, and the answer is to get rid of it, shut it down, hand it over to the private sector and let some guy run it, but do not let the government take an interest.

We have to understand that there is a crisis of social justice in our country. There is a crisis of what is fair and right in our country. There is a growing gap between rich and poor in our country, as there is around the world. In fact, this was even the theme of the Davos conference. The theme was the contradiction between a system which produces prosperity and the fact that it does not produce prosperity for everyone and that prosperity is not being shared.

Yes, there is a crisis. The Prime Minister's answer to that crisis is to make the rich richer and make the poor poorer. Conservatives have no problem saying that they will split incomes for middle-class families. They have no problem granting a significant advantage to people by doing that income splitting, but they have a serious problem with respect to the social justice of the people who are making less than $30,000 or $40,000 a year. That is the problem they have and that is where we have to say, yes, everyone wants prosperity, but we want prosperity to be shared. We want the prosperity to be sustainable, but we want that sustainability not to be applied and supplied on a selective basis.

We do not want a woman on provincial welfare waiting for her pension and her application for the guaranteed income supplement to be told, “Sorry, you have to wait for another year”. That is going to cost her $10,000, $12,000, $15,000, $20,000 a year. That is the difference for the person, only that person in the Conservative world will be invisible. Conservatives will not worry about her because her problem is one of sustainability. There is a crisis of credibility here.

When the Prime Minister of Canada stands up during an election debate and says, “I promise you”, looking right into that camera, “I will not cut transfers to the provinces for health care. I will not cut transfers for education and I will not cut transfers for individuals”, meaning seniors, and when he says something else in Switzerland and something else in the law that is coming in March or April, we have a serious problem, and the Liberal Party will be fighting that all the way.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the third party was talking about a crisis in credibility. I would like to remind the House that coming from that seat, being that he was premier of the socialist New Democratic Party in Ontario, when we had days in his name and he did all kinds of things, he had no credibility as the premier of the province.

Now he is saying this government should ignore what the provinces have to say, what the premiers have to say about the pension fund, which they have with CPP and the plan they are involved with, should we ignore—

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I am sure the hon. member for Burlington wants to finish his question. The difficulty is there is a number of hon. members who I am sure would want to hear the question, and I am sure the hon. member for Toronto Centre would want to as well, but there is too much noise in the House. I would ask the hon. member for Burlington to finish his question and then we will go to the hon. member for Toronto Centre for his response.

Bill C-25--Notice of time allocation motionPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will not have to yell because they are quiet over there now.

The point is that during his speech the hon. member talked about credibility. We treat with respect the premiers of the provinces. They have the right to decide for their provinces what they want to do in terms of the pension plan, the CPP and this pooled plan of which they are in support.

Does he want us to ignore the rights and responsibilities of the premiers when he was once a New Democratic premier of Ontario? When he was premier, would he have tolerated the federal government ignoring his wishes?