Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to discuss Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts. Since this bill does not guarantee a pension, the term savings plan would be more appropriate.
Among other provisions, this bill will create a new type of savings plan enabling the funds from plan members’ accounts to be pooled in order to reduce the costs associated with the management of investments and of the plan itself. The program will be called the pooled registered pension plan, or PRPP. The benefits will be portable.
This bill is designed for self-employed individuals and employees of small and medium-sized businesses, which are often unable to manage a private sector pension plan.
The intentions behind this bill were probably good since, according to the statistics, up to 65% of workers do not even have a pension plan. The attraction of such a pension plan is therefore clear. It would be a good pension plan for those who do not have any plan at all, such as small business employees, the self employed, and others.
However, after further scrutiny, it becomes clear that this pension plan ultimately offers no guarantees, and that is the problem. Instead, it is an investment at the whim of the financial institutions. It is not like the Canada pension plan where Canadians’ money is invested and they know how much money has been invested to date, the age at which the pension can be drawn, and approximately how much money will be paid out. The plan in question is not like that at all.
Moreover, the bill states that employers can participate, but on a voluntary basis. What a fine pension plan. Employers must participate in the Canada pension plan. It is their responsibility. The reason employers must participate in the pension plan is to provide additional money to ensure that the system remains sustainable, which is the case with the Canada pension plan.
The NDP opposes this bill because it does not go far enough. It does not protect workers. The same problem arises when company pension funds are not protected. For instance, we know what happened in Nakawick when the company went bankrupt. The workers lost their pensions.
In Quebec, for example, there was a company that wanted 60% of the pension plan and 30% of the salaries of new workers and, because it did not get these things, it shut its doors and left. That is unacceptable. That is outrageous for a person who has worked all his life.
What did the Conservative government do? It turned around and introduced Bill C-25, which is significant. It is obviously important to examine the bill and determine whether it contains something worth considering. But what do the Conservatives do? They impose time allocation. They do not want to discuss this bill—in a democratic country like ours. We saw this after the election and until December. What has this government done? Once again it has imposed time allocation. This is the place we are able to discuss bills. It is standard procedure for everyone to have the right to talk about the bill and state his or her opinion. That is why we were elected. We have to be able to voice our opinions. Every member of the House must have the right to stand and express his or her opinion about a bill.
Before Christmas, during the previous session, what did the government do? It said that we had been talking about these bills since 2006, that it had heard enough, that it could put an end to the debate and that it was time to vote and move forward. For those who do not know, that is what a time allocation is.
The NDP disagreed with the Conservatives because there were new members who had the right to speak in the House of Commons. Even if we had agreed with them, it does not give them any excuse to now reduce the hours of debate in the House of Commons for the new bills. They introduced the bill on Monday. It is now Tuesday and there has already been a motion introduced in the House of Commons to halt debate.
This will be a wonderful four years. Canadians will have four wonderful years under the Conservative government.
This really is a lack of respect for democracy and the right to speak. I have said this several times in the House of Commons and I will keep repeating it as long as the government keeps acting in this way.
We send our soldiers to fight in other countries to give them democracy, a parliament, the right to speak. We do that to give the citizens of those other countries the right to know the direction their government is going in and the power to have someone speak for them.
But this Conservative government is taking that right away with time allocation motions, as it has just done, so debate ends, even though the subject is important.
This government is prepared to cut pensions for our seniors, for our women and men who have worked very hard. We are talking about the baby boomers, people who started working at the age of 14, people who started working at the age of 13, and people who went away into the woods and worked hard for our country. This government is telling them that they cost it too much and it is prepared to make 67 the age of retirement.
It is shameful, it is monstrous, even to think about that, for people who are reaching retirement. What will we do for people who had bad luck, who were sick or who had to receive social assistance, for example? This government is going to transfer the debt to the provinces. People thought that at age 65 they would finally have an income that would mean they did not have to be afraid to buy groceries to put food on the table, and they thought they would have a little money to live on for the years that were left to them, but the government wants to take that away for two more years, and it wants to transfer those costs to the provinces. They are the ones who will have to pay for it. I hope the provinces will stand up to this and tell the Conservative government it is not acceptable in our country.
Ten years after Australia tried the same pension system as is being proposed here, it was determined that that kind of pension system did not work. We have to have a better system than that.
The system the NDP wants to put in place will double the Canada pension fund. It is a guaranteed program under which people know in advance what they are going to receive.
Experts said it had to be revised because in the past people did not live long; they lived to the age of 67 or 68. Of course. They had no pension and they had to work right up to the last minute. That meant they worked themselves into the ground, they damaged their health, they wore themselves out. Perhaps the reason people’s health has improved is that they are able to retire and live in peace for the years they have left to live. Technology and the new drugs and pills that people take when they are 60 are not the only reason. People have been able to stop working. There are people who have worked hard all their lives. If the government wants to make budget cuts, let it make them somewhere else.
For example, when it comes to the F-35 jets, it seems they are going to cost about $29 billion. The federal government is spending on all kinds of things. Let it look somewhere else rather than going after our seniors, our women and men who have worked all their lives. Let it stop going after them. They do not deserve it. These people have worked hard. This is not a matter of just workers. There are even companies that also want a new generation to employ. They want to hire young people. How many people are there in Canada who have no jobs and who are capable of replacing the people who retire, who will make room for them in their place?
It is fine to make decisions like this and say it is the right thing to do, but who is going to pay for it? It will be the most vulnerable people, the people who have not had a chance to have a pension. Bill C-25 is not going to protect those people. They are not going to be protected by this.
Once again, and it cannot be said loud enough, the NDP’s plan is well designed and has been accepted by the Canadian Labour Congress, by all the unions in Canada. The Canada pension plan is what we should be looking at. That would help even the people who are not union members; it would help all these workers who have worked all their lives.
I hope the government will revise this bill, send it to committee where amendments will be proposed, and allow the time to examine it properly. I hope members will be able to examine it, call experts, and propose amendments. However, knowing this government, I do not think that is going to happen. For the four years they are going to be here in the House of Commons, they are going to ignore democracy in our country and in our institution, Parliament.