Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to stand and speak to Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act. When we speak to this piece of legislation it is important to recognize who will benefit from this, if they will benefit at all. Sometimes we lose sight of the person on the receiving end of the legislation we put together. I am talking about seniors in our country who from time to time find themselves in very desperate situations.
Any suggestion of doing something that will be less than helpful to a senior requires public debate and public discussion and that is what we do in the House of Commons. So when a member of the government suggests that members of the opposition are raising questions, putting doubts in people's minds, and saying the sky is falling when they speak to a piece of legislation, in reality that is what debate is all about. The only way to formulate sound policy and good legislation is to listen, learn and to recognize that no one individual and no one party has all the answers.
When we look at this piece of legislation, we are saying that while it is a tool, it is not the be-all and end-all. We are suggesting that we look at other options and that the government should work with us and recognize that other parties can make a contribution as well, that we have some sound advice that should be taken into account. I have real problems when we are dealing with issues that have an impact on seniors and somehow there is not the willingness to listen to what others have to say.
Take a senior, for instance, whose income is about $13,000 a year. I have seniors with that income in my riding, as do all of us. We know how difficult it is for them to make ends meet. They need to find ways to put some savings aside. It is very hard for them to do that. When they scrape to somehow have a little bit of savings that maybe they can invest, then they need to know that they are going to be the beneficiaries of that investment.
The problem with Bill C-25 is that by and large when we are talking about pooled investments it is the banks that will benefit from the high fees associated with these pooled investments. I say to members of the government, look at what happened in Australia. Why can we not learn from the mistakes that others make instead of going full steam ahead and making the same mistakes? That is exactly what we are doing here.
In fact, we found out that a similar pooled pension system in Australia, in its first 12 years, posted a disappointing $161 billion in net investment earnings largely because plan providers scooped up a generous $105 billion in fees. Now that is money that seniors could not avail themselves of, because it was used to manage the pooled investment plan. That is not what should be happening.
We should be looking at opportunities for seniors that will enable them to live a life of dignity, to be able to live in comfort to the extent possible, given their income anyway. OAS is not a lot of money. Here I will refer to a quote from a York University professor, a political scientist, who said:
The OAS isn't really a lot of money.... The OAS isn't going to cause the federal budget to crash
That was Thomas Klassen.
We need to recognize the importance of providing for our seniors. When I hear the Prime Minister speaking in Davos and suggesting that we need to look at raising the age from 65 to 67 for a senior to receive OAS, I wonder where the Prime Minister is coming from. He obviously is not speaking to the same constituents I deal with on a daily basis, people who are looking forward to being able to access, not a lot of money, but at least a secure income, which a lot of seniors do not have right now.
When the Prime Minister chooses to go to Switzerland and make those remarks and does not have the courtesy to announce in Canada what he is thinking, where the individuals who are going to be impacted live, then I have a real problem with anything he is proposing with respect to seniors. Is it any wonder that we question this particular piece of legislation?
Okay, it is a tool, and we need to make sure that our seniors have access to as many opportunities as possible, and that tool is just one of them. However, whatever we do, we should not close our minds to other possibilities. The government should work with other parties and recognize what the Liberal party is proposing, a voluntary plan where seniors can invest their savings, if any, on a voluntary basis and be able to realize the gains from that investment instead of having the banks and the other institutions who are going to be responsible for the pooled management plan taking exorbitant fees and benefiting from the meagre incomes of our seniors.
We should never lose sight of what it means to a senior to have to exist from day to day on a limited income. We are seeing food banks grow. We are seeing many more food banks becoming established, and we are seeing seniors availing themselves of those food banks. It should never happen.
We have so many Canadians who do not even have a private pension plan. They have nothing to fall back on but OAS. Any suggestion at all of raising the age from 65 to 67 does not even warrant consideration when we consider that there are people right now between the ages 60 and 65 who are really looking forward to receiving their old age pension. It is a security tool for them. It is one they desperately need. The possibility of that being taken away from them must leave them wondering how they are going to survive.
What the Prime Minister and the government have done is to manufacture a crisis where no crisis exists. That is exactly what Thomas Klassen has said. The OAS that we are talking about is not a lot of money. It is not going to break the bank. If the Conservatives want to save money, if they need to deal with the deficit they have created, then they should look in the Prime Minister's Office, where we have seen an incredible 30% increase in expenditures.
Why would we be increasing the number of MPs in the House of Commons? Why would we be building megaprisons when everything is pointing to the fact that crime is on the decline? Why can we not learn from the example in the U.S.? Again, we could learn from their mistakes. They built megaprisons and today they are saying it was the wrong thing to do, yet this government is going full steam ahead to do just that.
There are examples. We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We do not have to try something. If it has not worked elsewhere, let us learn from that.
If the pooled pension plan did not work in Australia, if the megaprison system did not work in the U.S., and Texas in particular, why would we bother to go down that path? It does not make sense. Let us get our priorities straight in this country.
The government needs to recognize that this is about people, but more important, it is about seniors.