Mr. Speaker, it is a great privilege to be here today to speak to Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act.
Before I start, I want to thank the Minister of State (Finance), the member for Macleod, for his work on this in close cooperation with the provincial ministers of finance. It is no easy task when we are told to look at the retirement packages that Canadians will have and what they will be able to spend in their retirement years. We want to ensure that we are able to provide that. We want to ensure that they have the tools to provide that, too.
I think the PRPP would do a good job. I think if all parties put away the rhetoric and the verbal diarrhea we have just heard and looked at Bill C-25, they would see that this is not a bad way to move forward. It is a reasonable and prudent way, considering today's environment. Bill C-25 would provide a pension plan that individuals could take on. It would provide a pension plan that small companies could offer to their employees.
Last weekend, I attended a Chamber of Commerce function in Nipawin. The guest speaker was Eric Anderson, a very good speaker who talked about the resource sector in Saskatchewan. He talked about all the opportunities and about the labour shortage. Saskatchewan will face a labour shortage as it sees expansion in potash, uranium, gold, and oil and gas, and the re-emergence of the forestry sector.
I have to thank Brad Wall and his Saskatchewan government for doing such a great job in allowing that growth to happen. Under the NDP government, that would never happen. We have seen people leaving this province under the NDP government. Under the Saskatchewan Party government, we have actually seen people come back. We are now trying to draw in people from all over Canada and around the world to work in the great province of Saskatchewan.
However, because we are so short of labour, the smaller companies are trying to figure out how they are going to be able to retain employees. How do they compete against the big, multinational companies? How do they compete against government organizations? How do they take a mechanic they have seen through to journeyman status and keep him or her in their organization?
When I worked for Flexi-Coil and Case New Holland, talking to our agriculture dealers, that was a common problem. How do they keep that mechanic in their dealerships, after having spent time and effort getting him or her trained to understand their equipment? That was a big problem.
The PRPP is one tool that would allow the employer to do that. I think it is a great tool. Small businesses do not have the ability to take on big pension plans. They do not have the resources. They do not have the fiduciary capacity. They do not have the administration. They cannot afford it. If they only have four or five employees, or one or two employees, they cannot hire a person to administer a pension plan. They have to be a certain size in order to get economies of scale. That is the beauty of this plan: it would allow a pension to be built. It would allow the pooling of resources to get economies of scale.
Another nice thing about this program is it would actually allow a third party to come in and administer the plan. The employer would not have the burden of hiring somebody to administer a pension plan. It would allow the third party to coordinate and work through this pension plan with that employee.
As an advantage over existing pension plans, if an employee decided to change jobs, the plan would follow the employee. If I, as a mechanic, decided that I wanted to take a job at a different dealership, I could take it with me. It is my money. It would follow me wherever I went. That is a great plan. It would allow the retention of employees. It would allow an employer to say, “I have a pension plan here that you can contribute to”. Yet it would allow the employee the freedom to change jobs and that pension plan would follow him or her. It is a great idea.
This plan is the federal portion of it. Of course, the cooperation of the provinces would be needed in order to see this plan move forward and be implemented throughout Canada. I am sure we would have that cooperation, considering the amount of work the member for Macleod, the Minister of State (Finance), has put into the plan.
He has consulted with the provincial ministers of finance over and over and over again. He has talked to business groups, employees and employers about options that they could look at to provide that stability for people during their retirement days. This would be a good result.
One of the arguments was that we should just raise CPP. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said that one thing about raising CPP is that it kills jobs. In parts of Canada, killing jobs would be very serious. In my area, we actually have a shortage of labour. We are sitting at about a 4% or 5% unemployment rate. We need everybody we can get. However, some areas are not that lucky. We do not want to kill jobs. We want to see jobs continue to grow. We still want to see jobs and people employed in different regions of the country.
I know the opposition members do not want to kill jobs, so I think they can understand. When we talk to third parties, professors and experts in the industry, we do not want to raise CPP. That is not the option in this day and age that is correct.
However, if we do not have that option what else do we have? Employers say that they cannot afford to provide a pension. They cannot afford the administrative costs. They say that they cannot afford to hire someone to administer a pension. Some businesses are not big enough and do not have enough economies of scale to pay for a pension plan.
This is why PRPPs came about. It is a good idea. It is a good cross balance. It would allow employees to have that benefit and would allow employers to offer that benefit if they chose. They could even contribute financially to it. Again, it would be up to the employer and the employee, their relationship and their benefit package. It would give them that flexibility to move forward. It would allow the employees to have a few more tools in their basket for what they can use for retirement. They could have an RRSP, a pension and a PRPP, if their company offers a PRPP. They would have a lot of options. I think it is just being prudent.
It also would encourage people to save for retirement, which is something all of us have been told we should be doing. We all know that the younger we start the better off we will be when we come to retirement age. We should always keep encouraging members of society, especially young members, to be saving more and more as we move forward.
When I look at the intent of the PRPP and how it would to work, and when I see how it would benefit the employees, this is a very positive step forward.
There has been a lot of confusion today, which is really too bad because this bill should have intelligent debate. It should be debated on the merits of it, not on a wild range of speculation and hip hurrah over other things. We need to talk about the PRPP and refocus on what this legislation is actually about.
We need to look at the situation as if we were in that employee's shoes. We are in our mid-40s and wondering what retirement benefits are available. We might have RRSPs, which we could maximize on or do the best on that. However, we know a lot of Canadians are not doing that. We have been paying into CPP so we know that will be there. We have GIS, which the government actually raised, so we know that will be there. We have OAS, old age security. We know that is in the works. We understand there are some challenges with OAS but again we will discuss that at a future date. However, that is not this bill. This bill is the PRPP, the pooled registered pension plan. That is what we are discussing here today.
I encourage other members to put away all the noise and focus on the PRPP. We need to ensure we get a proper piece of legislation that moves forward and actually works for employees and employers. If we were to agree to put politics aside and just focus on the employer and employee, we would actually look at this bill in a different light. When people turn 60 or 65, or when they decide to retire, what will they have in benefits? If the PRPP is in that basket, 15 or 20 years from now they will be thanking us for voting in favour of this legislation.
I think this is great legislation. I again thank the member for Macleod, the Minister of State for Finance. I also thank the parliamentary secretary for all her hard work on this file. I know she has worked very hard on the background to this. All the members of the finance committee on both sides of the line have also worked hard in different consultations, too.
I encourage members to focus on the pooled registered pension plan, on Bill C-25. We need to get this legislation through and, once we get it through, then we can get on to other business. Members can be reassured that their constituents will thank them for doing it.