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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

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

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, let the record state that I was the premier of Ontario. The member failed to mention that while I was premier, the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series, not just once—

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

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Are you taking credit for the Blue Jays?

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

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

He is asking me if I am taking credit for the Blue Jays. He is giving me blame for everything else.

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

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

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

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I appreciate hon. members' enthusiasm this afternoon, but we do need order in the House.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Vancouver East.

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

6:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, with all the heckling, I am not sure if the leader of the Liberal Party actually wants to hear a question because there is so much noise going on. Maybe those members do or maybe they do not, I am not sure.

This issue around pensions is a crisis that has been developing for a number of years as we have seen more and more seniors fall below the poverty line. Certainly those of us who were around in the days when there was a Liberal majority government, a Liberal minority government and certainly with the new Conservative government, raised this issue, and continue to, of the need to increase the OAS and the GIS and to, in effect, bring about changes to the Canada pension plan. Therefore, I am glad to hear the Liberal leader speak about his opposition to the government's proposal.

Does he agree with me that the proposals we have to basically focus on the Canada pension plan as a sound system that is fully funded and that does reach Canadians across the country is the proper way to go in terms of sound public policy? We have a proposal to increase the Canada pension plan. Would he agree that this would be the proper way to go?

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

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to try to score too many points, but the last time we went through a difficult process of negotiations with the provinces and substantially increased the contributions of individuals, it was opposed by the New Democratic Party at the time. We have no problem with saying we need to continue to talk to the provinces about improvements in the Canada pension plan. There is a very legitimate argument that the provinces have not agreed to the changes in the CPP and that we cannot ignore what the provinces are saying and doing.

My difficulty is that we have to see this problem in a much broader context than that in which it is currently being discussed. That context is one in which there are so many seniors and so many workers today who are not covered by any plan, who are not covered by RRSPs and who are not sufficiently covered. If the government is going to go ahead with this pooled plan which has the support of the provinces, at the very least, we should not only increase the GIS and improve the situation for people who are on old age pensions, we should also allow the Canada pension plan to compete effectively with the pooled plans in order to keep the rates down on administration of the pooled plans.

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

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Liberal Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member deserves a serious question. We are not trying to score points or to be cheap like certain members opposite. The matter is clear. At present, there are many seniors and workers who are worried because they do not have a pension plan. They do not know what will happen in 20 or 25 years.

How does the member explain this crisis fabricated by the government? What kind of debate should we have to reassure people and not trigger pointless crises?

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

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a well-used strategy by neo-conservatives in Canada and other parts of the world. They create crises here and there so that the people will say that solutions must be found quickly. That is what has happened. We must have a serious debate. We cannot control every event until 2030 or 2050. We must discuss what we can and what we must do right now.

We have to deal with the problem: companies are no longer able to provide secure pensions for their employees. An employee no longer does the same job for an entire lifetime. People leave their jobs and change jobs often. We have to find other ways. If the provinces are not yet prepared to enhance the public pension funds, that is, the CPP and the QPP, we have to establish real competition for the plans being proposed by the Conservative Party.

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

6:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, unlike the leader of the Liberal Party, I was very pleased when I first heard of the Prime Minister's remarks in Davos. I saw headlines which read “Prime Minister's Retirement Plan” and I was excited because I thought it meant he was retiring. I am one of the many Canadians who have no pension at all. I have been self-employed all my life. I have put a little bit in RRSPs now and then when I can afford it. I know how hard it is to ask employees to voluntarily set aside money for retirement. The voluntary nature of this pooled plan and the fact that it will be managed by the private sector speak against its benefits.

Does the hon. member think we can expand CPP right now to deal with those people who do not have pensions?

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

6:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I hope we can. The CPP is a joint plan. It is run jointly by the federal government and the provinces. I agree with the hon. member that we have to recognize that the economy of the past, where people went into the workforce after high school or university and thought their jobs were for life and that they had secure pensions, has changed. Thirty years ago, who would have thought that Nortel would be gone, or that companies we relied on and thought would be there would not be there?

I see my colleague from Sudbury looking at me. When I first started working in Ontario in the 1970s there were 18,000 hourly employees at Inco. There were 15,000 at Hilton Works in Hamilton. Those days are gone. We have to recognize the need for change. The public sector needs to step up with a flexible plan. Until we get the provinces onside, the best we can do is to have some sort of competition for the proposed private plan. We have to recognize that we still have a long way to go to get to a better situation for our current workers and future retirees.

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

6:10 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have tremendous respect for the work of the member across the way.

The pooled registered pension plan has been agreed upon by all of the provinces and all of the territories. This legislation here in the House would allow the provinces and territories to continue to make that plan better.

Is the member going to allow his party to vote in favour, along with the provinces and territories, for this PRPP?

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

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Liberal Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member is one of the members opposite who has respect for what I have been doing over my political life. As I hear from some others, I am not sure that respect is broadly shared by the other side. I appreciate the comment.

We will be deciding as a caucus what our response will be to the legislation. We do not think this is the great, big, bold step as it has been described by her party. We certainly do not think it is going to provide a resolution to the current challenges facing this generation of workers and the next generation of senior citizens.

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

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

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.

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

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, several years ago, a private company that I used to work for allowed certain employees to withdraw their pension funds and invest them into the stock market or wherever they wanted to. That was a lot like what the Conservative government wants to do today with this PRPP, invest money in the stock market. It was a substantial amount, several hundred thousands of dollars.

The stock market goes up and down and in the employee's case the stock market went down and he lost all of his investment. Today, at the age of 63 or 64, this former employee with a big pension is now working, not because he wants to but because he has to.

My question is for the member for Prince Albert. Why do the Conservatives-Reformists enjoy watching seniors live in poverty?

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

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, that type of language does not working necessarily for moving this legislation forward.

It is actually very interesting that the member talks about this because in n the PRPP there can be third party providers and it can be a variety of different agencies. It could be a bank or a credit union. However, when people sit down with that provider, they will have the option of looking at the types of investments they want to put their PRPP in.

Depending on their age, people may be looking at different risk levels as they invest. For example, people who are a little younger may be willing to sustain a little loss and ride through the markets for the longer term. They may want to take on more risk. People who are getting closer to retirement may say that that is their nest egg and will not want to submit it to a lot of risk. They may put it in a portfolio that will actually have very little risk. That portfolio may not be stock market related, it might be government bonds or other things.

The market does what a market does. It goes up and it goes down. We all know that and we have all seen it. We tell our kids that. To try to predict the market is a very dangerous game.

I think people need to work with a good, proper third party person who is an expert in this field and who can help manage that risk so that they can actually get that value out of their money when they go to retire.

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

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the member talked about confusion, rhetoric and fluff. The member talked about the plan specifically to the official opposition, which was about raising EI premiums, and went on at length about being the job killer that it is, yet earlier this month premiums did just that, they went up.

I was wondering why the member let that happen under his watch if he truly feels that they are job killers?

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

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I guess the hon. member was not listening. I was actually talking about CPP and what would happen if we were to raise CPP, which is that it would actually kill jobs. That is why we did not want to see that.

Again, in looking at what was in my speech and what I said, I was very clear. In talking to groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Business about raising CPP, they actually said that it would reduce jobs. That is why we did not go that route.

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

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for clarifying exactly what this is about.

I would like to know, from someone from Saskatchewan, what the importance of portability is in this pension plan where people are able to move from one job to another. Is that important to the people of Saskatchewan?

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

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to have a question in regard to the bill. I must commend to member for sticking to the topic, which is Bill C-25, the PRPP.

In Saskatchewan, the importance is very huge. We do see employees change jobs, one to another, especially the younger they are. If people have a job when they are 25 and start a PRPP, they can keep moving that. That versatility is with them as they change jobs or maybe even change career paths. The PRPP is theirs until they retire. That is the beauty of this legislation.

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

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Prince Albert will have five minutes remaining for questions and comments when the House next resumes debate on this question.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is great to be back in the House after our Christmas recess and to be able to address and speak with my colleagues.

Just last week in Davos, the Prime Minister was singing the praises of Canada's system of banking regulation. Ironically, this comes at the same time as the government is all too happy to watch an important cornerstone of Canada's regulatory regime weaken due to the failure of the government to force banks to utilize the dispute resolution mechanism of the Ombudsman for Banking Services and Investments.

In October last year, TD followed RBC's lead in opting out of the OBSI dispute resolution mechanism and instead moved to using a private law firm hand-picked by the bank to resolve complaints that could not be fixed by the in-house resolution system.

The government spins this decision to let banks leave OBSI and deal with disputes through private firms as allowing choice in the marketplace. Choice for who? It is clear it is not investors, consumers or small businesses. These groups are stuck with the dispute resolution mechanism chosen for them by the banks. In fact, it is impossible to find members of those communities who support the government's position.

The Canadian Foundation for Advancement of Investor Rights sent an open letter to the Minister of Finance calling on the government to make the use of OBSI for dispute resolution mandatory saying that:

One single dispute resolution service provider is necessary in order to avoid fragmentation, inconsistencies, serious potential conflicts of interest, complainant (client) confusion and enable the detection of systemic or widespread issues.

The Consumers Council of Canada says that the withdrawal of TD and RBC from the banking side of OBSI:

--threatens the health of the system of dispute resolution and redress that has distinguished Canada during the current period of global economic disorder.

Instead of protecting their customers, the choice that the government is championing is for the banks, and when the banks are confronted with the choice between a comprehensive dispute resolution mechanism or a Bay Street law firm that is more interested in keeping the banks business than in protecting consumers and small businesses, who will it choose?

In October of last year, the same month as TD was allowed to walk away from OBSI, Canada signed a G20 accord on handling banking complaints which stated:

Recourse to an independent redress process should be available to address complaints that are not efficiently resolved via the financial services providers and authorized agents internal dispute resolution mechanisms.

How can the current process be independent if the banks get to choose who hears customers' complaints? Regulation should not be administered by Bay Street law firms on an issue that is as fundamental to the proper functioning of the economy as the banking sector. Consumers and small businesses will never be able to believe that their complaints will be properly addressed if the banks are stacking the odds in their own favour.

It is time for the government to match its words on banking regulation with action. The global economic recovery will rely on consumers and small businesses having confidence in the economy and the banking sector more generally. In order to ensure confidence in the banking sector, small businesses and consumers must have access to a single, independent dispute resolution service like OBSI.

6:30 p.m.

Saint Boniface Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I have mentioned previously in the House, our Conservative government has shown a clear commitment to protecting Canadian consumers, particularly when it comes to financial and banking sectors. We understand that Canadian families use financial products and services every day, be it using a credit card when they are shopping, cashing a cheque, making a deposit at a bank or paying off their mortgages.

We believe Canadians deserve a system that is safe, secure and fair. That is why since 2006 we have enacted numerous measures to support consumers of financial products, measures that, unfortunately, the NDP actually opposed and voted against.

The list includes measures like: protecting consumers with new credit card rules; bringing in a code of conduct for the credit and debit card industry to help small businesses respond to unfair practices; banning negative option billing for financial products; and shortening the cheque holding period. Furthermore, we have made mortgage insurance more transparent, understandable and affordable. We have also created a task force on financial literacy to help consumers make the right financial choices and we have done much more.

In budget 2011, the next phase of Canada's economic action plan, we built on that record with more consumer-friendly measures that I will cite: banning unsolicited credit card checks; moving to protect consumers of prepaid cards; and beginning to implement the task force on financial literacy's recommendations. Again, the NDP voted against every one of those measures. In fact, with respect to the issue of the NDP member for Sudbury and what he asks about today, he voted against a very important solution. Specifically, he voted against the Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act.

Currently the Bank Act requires all banks to have dedicated procedures and personnel in place to address consumer concerns and complaints. In addition, it also requires that banks belong to a third party dispute resolution body. However, there is a wide variation in terms of the procedures that are used, a concern shared by many consumers and our Conservative government.

To better protect Canadian consumers, the Sustaining Canada's Economic Recovery Act will force banks to belong to government approved, independent third party bodies, which the member of the NDP failed to recognize. It will also establish uniform regulatory standards for internal complaint procedures and give the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada the authority to monitor and enforce compliance. These are things perhaps the member of the NDP missed when he voted against such an important measure.

This will ensure that consumers receive consistent treatment and the highest level of protection. Despite the NDP opposition, we have passed that landmark legislation and are working to finalize regulations. Perhaps that explanation will allow the member to think more prudently when voting again on topics that might secure some protection for our Canadian consumers.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault NDP Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, with all that, I would also like to welcome my colleague back to our usual debates in the evening on this topic.

She talked about a long list of things that the Conservatives have done, but all of those things have been proven ineffective time and time again. However, the OBSI is an organization that has been around for a decade or so. It has already been in existence. The government needs to ensure that this organization, independent from the banks, has the necessary regulation in place so we do not see further banks walking away and so that we can protect our small businesses and consumers when they have a dispute with the big banks.

Right now the government is favouring the big banks by allowing them to choose Bay Street law firms over independent organizations that actually protect consumers and small businesses.