Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join this second reading debate on Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans.
As the hon. members of the House know, pension plan coverage is an important issue to those Canadians who have not had access to pensions because they are employed by small and medium-size businesses or because they are self-employed. We want to help those Canadians. Therefore, we will be working with the provincial and territorial governments to meet the budget 2011 commitment to introduce a new kind of pension plan called the pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP as it has become known. This commitment is among the many commitments that this government has made to help improve Canada's retirement system.
In 2006 our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000. We have introduced pension income splitting and also increased the age limit for maturing pensions and registered retirement savings plans to 71 from 69 years of age.
We are happy to see that our government has also provided $2.3 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to seniors and pensioners through measures such as pension income splitting, increases in the age credit amount and a doubling of the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit.
I have heard from many seniors in my riding of Leeds—Grenville who appreciate what we have done to relieve the tax burden. Often when I am out at events around the riding, and I do attend many of them, this is what I hear. In my riding the average age is a little higher than it is in other parts of Canada. This is something that is very important to my constituents.
In addition, in budget 2008 we introduced the tax-free savings account, the TFSA, something that is particularly beneficial to seniors, as it is to everyone, as it helps them meet their ongoing savings needs on a tax-efficient basis after they are no longer able to contribute an RRSP.
Our record also includes important improvements to several specific retirement income supports. In budget 2008 we increased flexibility for seniors and older workers with federally-regulated pension assets that were held in life income funds. In our latest budget we also increased the guaranteed income supplement that is available to seniors.
The introduction of the pooled registered pension plan is only the most recent action that has been taken by our government to strengthen Canada's retirement income system.
Going forward, a key component of ensuring financial security for Canadians will be this PRPP.
Today's PRPP legislation will play a critical role in improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians by providing a low cost retirement savings opportunity for employees with or without a participating employer, as well as those who are self-employed.
PRPPs will make well-regulated, low cost, private sector pension plans available to millions of Canadians who up to now have not had access to such plans. Many employees of small and medium-size businesses and self-employed workers will now have access to a large-scale pension plan for the very first time. This will be a key improvement to Canada's retirement income system.
PRPPs will also complement and support the Government of Canada's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, leveraging business investments, securing our economic recovery and encouraging sustainable private sector driven growth.
Some of the retirement income system proposals that we have looked at in our consultations would have significantly raised costs for employers and employees. They would have been unacceptable at a time of a very tentative economic recovery.
Canada's finance ministers opted to prioritize the PRPP framework over other options because it was considered the most effective and targeted way to address the prime areas for improvement identified in our working group's research, particularly the modest and middle-income individuals who did not have access to employer-sponsored pension plans.
PRPPs address this gap in the retirement system by: providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low cost retirement option for employers to offer to their employees; 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 option; enabling more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension plan; allowing for the portability of benefits that would facilitate an easy transfer between plans; and ensuring that funds that are invested are in the best interests of the plan members.
These are all important areas where our retirement income system can and should be improved. That is why federal, provincial and territorial governments are working to implement PRPPs as soon as possible.
If it were up to the NDP, it would double CPP contributions, meaning increased payroll taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, the types of businesses that are very prevalent in my riding of Leeds—Grenville.
Might I also remind the NDP the changes to the CPP require the agreement of at least two-thirds of the provinces with at least two-thirds of the population. Federal, provincial and territorial ministers of finance have discussed a CPP expansion, but at this time there has been no agreement. However, they did agree to pursue the PRPP framework. That is because the PRPP strikes the right balance.
Our government understands that during a fragile economic recovery, it is not the right time to increase CPP contributions and tax small and medium-sized businesses any more than they already are.
When it comes to the economy and helping Canadians save for their retirement, they can count on this government to stand up for Canadians.
I and my colleagues on this side of the House could stand here and talk about how great this plan is, but there are other voices to be heard on this issue. I want to take a few minutes to review what others have been saying about the PRPP.
Gregory Thomas, federal and Ontario director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation said the following:
This new pension legislation is good for Canadians planning for retirement and for taxpayers. Canadians will be able to save more for retirement with this new pension plan. People saving for retirement will enjoy lower costs and more flexibility throughout their working lives.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce released this information. It said:
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce believes PRPPs - with simple and straightforward rules and processes - will give many businesses the flexibility and tools they need to help their employees save for retirement. PRPPs will also provide individuals and the self-employed with additional retirement savings options.
Dan Kelly, vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, stated:
A new voluntary, low-cost and administratively simple retirement savings mechanism will allow more employers, employees, and the self-employed to participate in a pension plan. CFIB is particularly pleased that firms will be given a choice as to whether to register for or contribute to a PRPP.
Many others across Canada have made similar comments. PRPPs will help Canadians save for their retirement. Through numerous cross-country consultations, our government has talked to many Canadians and heard first hand how difficult it can be to prepare for a financially secure retirement. That is why we have devoted considerable effort on the retirement security issue.
We believe PRPPs are a step in the right direction. I urge all members to support the government in this major step forward in securing Canadians' retirement income needs.