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House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.

Topics

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

John Weston Conservative West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, as you know, and as our Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs have said on many occasions, Iran presents the greatest threat to global peace and security today.

Members of this government regularly acknowledge the significant contributions to Canada by people of Persian or Iranian background, but Iran's current leaders regularly turn a blind eye to their human rights obligations and hide their nuclear activities by blocking international attempts to verify the country's claims.

Could the Minister of National Defence please update the House on the actions taken by our government today?

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Central Nova Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay ConservativeMinister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his work on this file.

Canada is increasingly concerned by the actions taken by the Iranian authorities and will increase sanctions immediately.

Canada is extending existing sanctions against five entities and three individuals in Iran.

Canada has taken aggressive action and has been among the toughest with sanctions against Iran in the world. In fact, Canada has sanctions that cover the known leadership, the Iranian revolutionary guard. It blocked virtually all financial transactions with Iran, including those with the central bank.

Canada will continue to work with the growing list of like-minded countries to limit Iran's ability for further undercut global peace—

Foreign AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore.

Veteran AffairsOral Questions

3 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, the rising debt and deficit of our country were not caused by veterans and their families. They were caused by the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party of Canada. Yet the government is planning a transfer of the Ste. Anne's Hospital in Montreal to Quebec and 1,300 jobs will be gone, plus another 500 jobs. That is 1,800 jobs out of a department of 4,100. That is a 40% reduction of personnel from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

While Britain and the United States have both said that they are not going to reduce the deficit on the backs of their heroes, the Conservative government is doing just that. Why are the minister and the government cutting the deficit on the backs of the heroes of our country?

Veteran AffairsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the real question is why the opposition always opposes the investments we have made in veterans over the last six years.

Let us be very clear. Not only are we maintaining the benefits to our veterans, but we are also maintaining the resources for our veterans so they get the best service that they deserve.

One thing I can reassure the member that we will do is we will keep on delivering best services for our veterans. We are going to cut wait times and cut red tape.

PensionsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bloc Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, to justify their sudden desire to reform the pension system, the Conservatives are claiming that action must be taken before costs skyrocket because of the aging population. Yet a number of economic analysts have indicated that program costs will remain under control.

Rather than crying wolf about the sustainability of the pension plan and trying to save money at the expense of the most disadvantaged seniors, why does the Prime Minister not listen to the Fédération de l'âge d'or du Québec, which is rightfully concerned about the devastating consequences of these measures and is calling them irresponsible and pointless?

PensionsOral Questions

3:05 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley ConservativeMinister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, as I have already said today, we want to ensure that everyone entitled to receive old age security benefits will receive them today and in the future. I want to assure my colleagues that the people currently receiving old age security benefits will not lose one cent. We will ensure that the system is sustainable.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Vancouver Centre has six and a half minutes left to conclude her remarks.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Liberal Vancouver Centre, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying earlier, if the government were really interested in securing retirement income and pensions for its citizens, it would do what the Liberal government did when we looked at the Canada pension plan and secured it for 75 years. We did not send it off to some private sector to look after, but decided it was really important. Because that Canada pension plan is secure now, I would want to know why the government would not look at expanding the Canada pension plan to meet the needs of seniors for their retirement. It could look, for instance, at people who are in the non-paid work force and expand it to them, so that instead of their having to depend on OAS only, they would get a CPP pension down the road. This is the kind of creative thinking that the Conservative government does not seem to care about.

It is easy to dump on seniors. It is easy to cut whatever they are hoping for in the next few years, and there are going to be a lot of people in this House who are going to suffer the consequences of this. If the government were really interested in looking at changes that would benefit seniors and, at the same time, in looking for sustainability in the system, what it would do is to look at the evidence. The CPP is a good example and expanding it might be a good way to go. Let us look at the evidence of Australia, which has, for a decade, this same kind of pooled pension with private sector and insurance and financial institutions running it. After 10 years the Australians discovered that the financial institutions were the only ones that benefited from it.

So did the government listen to the evidence? Does it look at evidence when it is talking about the way to help Canadians? Does it listen to experts? We have the economist Don Drummond saying that if we are going to increase the retirement age by two years, it is going to have a severe domino effect on the workplace across all economic sectors and that it should take about 20 years to phase in. However, the Conservative government does not listen to the experts or to evidence. It is manufacturing a crisis when the OECD and the World Bank has said that there is none.

Here is what the government might be able to do to help Canadians save for retirement. Instead of making the already-rich financial and insurance sectors richer, it might want to look at a non-profit way of doing this. We have been told by the OECD that here in Canada we are one of the lowest contributors to a public pension plan. So here is a way that the government could contribute to the public pension plan if it does not like the CPP idea and if it wanted to look at a non-profit way of doing this. It could do it and it would help a lot of people who are trying to put aside money for retirement.

The argument is that people will be asked to voluntarily save in a private sector plan when they are the same people who do not have RRSPs because they do not have the money to put into them. So where would those savings come from? This is a non-starter. It is a no-brainer. It does not make any logical sense at all.

All I have to think is that it is part of the game. The government says it wants to double the rate at which it pays off its deficit, so it is doing it on the backs of the people who it thinks are the least likely to give it a hard time. The government is doing it on the backs of people like veterans, as we have heard earlier, because we know that the veterans who are suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder are not getting any help from the government. We know that the veterans are having a huge problem with being given a lump sum pension, not knowing how long they will live and how long it will last them, which is putting stress on the people who fought for us. We also look at the fact that the government is cutting health care funding without considering whether that is the appropriate thing to do. Is that an investment in productivity or are jails an investment in productivity, unless, of course, building jails is the government's way of looking at a housing and mental health strategy.

However, the problem here is that good fiscal management, if they are talking about deficit reduction, should be looked at from an evidence base and should not be done on the backs of the most vulnerable. One should look at where one cuts and where one invests. An investment means putting money into programs that will reap, down the road, good jobs and economic prosperity to be shared by everyone. This does not do that. We have seen the government make bad choices with its fiscal management of this country, and so this is something we want to talk about.

When the government says there is a crisis, I would point out that OAS costs 2.4% of GDP today. When the number of baby boomers reaches its maximum in 2031, OAS will cost 3.2% of GDP, and that cost will then begin to drop. So tell me where this crisis is? When is it going to occur? It does not seem that it will occur for a long time.

Therefore, as the government looks at ways to become fiscally sensible and prudent, it should look at evidence and try very hard not to cut the things that will in fact assist people and their quality of life. If pensioners do not have strong retirement incomes, they will need more health care. This does not make sense.

It is about logic. It is about making good financial decisions. However, the government shows that it is incapable of doing any of those things.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:10 p.m.

London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak about our government's plan to address the gaps in our nation's retirement income system.

Our Conservative government is squarely focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs and economic growth. As opposed to the opposition's empty rhetoric and high tax plans that would result in massive job losses in my city and across our country, our government has been taking real action to create and sustain jobs and strengthen London's economy.

In budget 2011, our government provided a new hiring credit for small businesses, as well as a one-time $1,000 credit against their increased EI premiums paid in 2011 over those paid in 2010, an investment that will directly benefit Londoners.

What did the members opposite do? They turned their backs on small businesses and their employees and voted no to this and other investments that directly benefit my constituents.

Last week, I was pleased to be joined in my riding by the hon. member for Beauce who, of course, is the Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism). We visited innovative small businesses in London, such as Voices.com, Big Viking Games and EK3. We also sat down with small business owners and London's mayor to discuss issues that are important to small businesses in our city.

We heard them loud and clear. Eight days ago, our Conservative government announced an investment of $5 million in training programs for the manufacturing sector in southwestern Ontario. This investment will directly benefit Londoners. The next day, I was pleased to announce over $1.2 million in research grants for Western University to help drive job creation in our city. As a side note, I would like to offer congratulations to Western University on its new branding. Again, that is an investment that will directly benefit Londoners.

There is more. The following day, along my colleague, the member for London West, I was pleased to announce over $497,000 in funding for job skills training programs at Youth Opportunities Unlimited in my riding, an investment that will directly benefit London's youth.

That is over $6 million of federal investments in London in just one week.

Our Conservative government has continued to build a strong foundation for retired Canadians. Since 2006, our Conservative government has twice increased the age credit amount, by $1,000 in both 2006 and 2009; doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000; introduced pension income splitting; and increased the age limit for maturing pensions and registered retirement savings plans to 71, from 69 years of age.

Low income seniors in my riding of London North Centre are directly benefiting from budget 2011, which contained a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit for the most vulnerable seniors. Seniors with little or no income other than old age security and the GIS will receive additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples.

Today, we are discussing an initiative that would build a strong foundation for tomorrow's retired Canadians who do not have access to a workplace pension plan. Currently, many Canadians can only access a workplace pension plan if their employers offer one. Many employers do not want the legal or administrative burden of offering a pension plan. As a result, over 60% of Canadians do not have a workplace pension.

Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act, would afford these Canadians the opportunity to make use of a new low-cost pension plan. PRPPs would be an innovative new pension plan, designed to address the lack of low-cost, large-scale retirement savings options for many Canadians.

Canada's aging population and the global financial crisis highlighted the issue of retirement income security. In this context, a joint federal-provincial working group was established in May 2009 to undertake an in-depth examination of retirement income adequacy in Canada. The working group concluded that, overall, the Canadian retirement income system was performing well and providing Canadians with an adequate standard of living upon retirement. However, some Canadian households, especially modest and middle income households, are at risk of not saving enough for retirement.

Ministers tasked senior officials to work collaboratively to analyze the wide range of ideas put forward to effectively address the issues identified in the research report.

Some Canadians may be failing to take advantage of the savings opportunities offered to them through individual structures, like RRSPs. For example, on average, each Canadian has over $18,000 in unused RRSP room.

The design features of the PRPP would remove a lot of traditional barriers that might have kept some employers in the past from offering pensions to their employees. The design of these plans would also be straightforward to allow for simple enrolment and management. A third party PRPP administrator would take on most of the responsibilities that employers bear in existing pension plans, including the administrative and legal duties associated with administering a plan.

By pooling savings, PRPPs would offer Canadians greater purchasing power. Basically, Canadians would be able to buy in bulk. Achieving lower prices than would otherwise be available means they would get greater returns on their savings and more money would be left in their pockets when they retire.

PRPPs are also intended to be largely harmonized from province to province, which will also lower administrative costs. PRPPs would facilitate low costs through their scale and design. These plans would result in large pooled funds that would enable plan members to benefit from the lower investment management costs associated with such funds.

Earlier today I saw the NDP member for London—Fanshawe stand in the House and speak against yet another federal government investment that would directly benefit Londoners. Instead of supporting her own constituents, the member opposite spoke in favour of a massive and reckless NDP pension taxation plan that would only hurt our city's businesses and result in massive job losses across the board. Perhaps if she spoke to London small business owners, as opposed to offering empty rhetoric, she would realize the direct benefits this bill would provide their city.

I am pleased to say that, unlike the NDP member for London—Fanshaw, I consulted with small businesses in my riding and across the city to obtain their feedback on this important bill. Just what did they have to say?

James McInnnes, CEO of Cyborg Trading Systems, a remarkable small business located in my riding of London North Centre, said: “By pooling resources with other small businesses across Canada, this initiative will help Canadian small businesses support their employees with securing a solid retirement plan.”

Paul Johnson, CEO of Quantum5X Systems, another innovative London small business, added: “The PRPP will offer another way to attract and reward employees. With time and critical mass, the PRPP funds under management should be significant and management expense ratios should be relatively low. These should become attractive options for retirement planning for many people who don't currently have access to a pension plan.”

Peter White, President of the London Economic Development Corporation, said: “The LEDC sees the advent of the PRPP as being an excellent step to ensure that businesses and employees without the benefit of a pension plan could utilize an excellent resource such as the PRPP. With the majority of businesses and employees in London not having a defined pension program, the PRPP would be a great tool to provide a cost effective plan for employees to ensure they are able to provide additional income for their retirement. The ability to use the PRPP plan would provide a well managed, secure program that would encourage employees to save more for their retirement. This PRPP is a great tool for companies.”

Bill C-25 is an investment in small businesses and their employees, an investment in tomorrow's seniors, an investment in job creation, and an investment in economic growth. Most importantly, Bill C-25 is yet another federal investment that would directly benefit Londoners.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the past 25 years, the OECD data have clearly demonstrated that costs in the field of health care are far lower when the public sector is responsible for service delivery. The same logic applies to the pension benefits our employees receive. Moreover, Canada's public pension systems are well funded, safe and reliable, according to all the experts.

Can my colleague explain how gambling with Canadians’ money in much higher risk schemes than the ones the government offers will reassure Canadian workers and guarantee them a pension?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are helping millions of Canadians save for retirement more easily by introducing the pooled registered pension plan. This new, low cost and accessible option would help more Canadians meet their retirement goals. This is especially important for those working for small businesses and the self-employed.

PRPPs would improve the range of retirement savings options for Canadians by providing a new accessible, straightforward and administratively low cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees. It would allow 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 type of pension plan. It would enable more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension. It would allow accumulated benefits to move with the person from job to job. This new pension plan would help all future seniors.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will give the minister a specific example and maybe she could explain how the government is helping those constituents who I and all MPs represent.

Those individuals who have worked for 20-plus years already throughout the manufacturing industry, retail industry and other industries and who are now entering into the 55-plus era of their lives and looking forward to retirement, now hear the government saying that they will not be able to retire and receive benefits at age 65, that they will have to wait an additional two years.

How exactly would those constituents benefit pension-wise from what the government is doing in regard to the CPP or in regard to this particular bill? I am looking specifically at the age category of 55-plus.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the PRPP is designed for employees and employers of small businesses. Employers do not want the legal or administrative burden of offering a pension plan. We are helping small businesses with a red tape reduction plan and this would be easy to administer.

I have a couple of quotes from other people who also think it is a great plan.

In November, Ontario Liberal finance minister, Dwight Duncan, said that the McGuinty government supports, in principle, the federal Conservatives' PRPP proposal.

Stewart Kennedy, president of the Ontario Medical Association, said:

Ontario’s doctors and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) commend the federal government for introducing legislation that will enable self-employed individuals to establish a pension plan.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce 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.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Conservative Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women and the member for London North Centre, on an excellent speech.

It is very evident from her comments the caring, compassion and hard work that she has been doing for her riding. Could she explain, in the short time we have left, why the PRPP is a good thing for the employer and the employee?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe Conservative London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, pooling pension savings will offer Canadians greater purchasing power because Canadians can buy in bulk. A third party PRPP administrator would take on most of the responsibility that employers currently take on with their pension plans. This would allow for simple enrolment and management. It would be helping small business owners and employees.

I, myself, was a small business owner and I know that we were always looking for a plan like this. This is a great plan and I hope everyone supports it.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

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.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's remarks were impassioned and thoughtful.

I do not know if the member was here earlier, but the Conservative member for Burlington suggested that this matter go to second reading and that possible changes and recommendations to improve the legislation might be thought of and talked about there.

With that in mind, would the member support the leader of the Liberal Party's suggestion? Yesterday the member for Toronto Centre suggested that the Canada pension plan be allowed to compete with private investors, who would be investing most of this money under the pooled plan, and that the Canada pension plan be allowed to compete for those same funds in order to keep the costs down, which as we know from the Australian experience would be excessively high?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, I did hear what the member said yesterday, but I do not know why the Canada pension plan should compete with anything else.

The Canada pension plan is a plan on its own. It is a plan where we know the fixed amounts. It should not compete with the program that the government wants to give to financial institutions and private companies that will look after it. We will see what happens to the pension plans of the workers across the country. Companies have no interest in the workers. Companies will take them away when they have a chance to do so. If employers want to take the pension off the collective agreements, taking it away from the workers, and if the workers do not agree with it, they will just close the doors. This is what happened in Quebec City not too long ago. This is also happening in Ontario. Caterpillar wants to do the same thing. It wants to cut wages and pension plans, with no care for the working people.

That is why I believe the Canada pension plan is the way to go. It is the one that belongs to the public. It belongs to all Canadians, the men and women of our country. That is the way we should go about it to guarantee a real pension plan for our men and women who have worked so hard all their lives.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a pleasure to listen to my colleague speak. He is so spirited and really believes in what he says. That much is evident. I would like him to elaborate on alternatives to the Conservatives’ plan and talk about initiatives that would really help Canada's seniors.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, there are certainly alternatives that would not adversely affect seniors or push back the qualifying age for old age security to 67. That is not an alternative. It is time-honoured and must not be touched. It is guaranteed.

Moreover, the government should pass legislation to ensure that people working for businesses receive a pension. The time has come to stop stealing workers' pension money and then turning a blind eye to it.

If you ask the government what is happening with private companies, it says that it is a matter for employees and their employers to resolve. That is what we have heard in the last few days from the government. When workers are mistreated, the government turns a blind eye, but things are different when employers are affected. The government supported Air Canada and Canada Post to the bitter end in an effort to crucify workers. Members will excuse me for my choice of words. The government had no qualms about doing this. But when it comes time to protect the welfare of workers, the Conservative government is nowhere to be seen. Legislation is required to protect workers' pensions. That is what is needed and that is what the government should do.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Acadie—Bathurst has long been a voice for workers in the House, whether it was employment insurance and now pensions.

Could the member comment on the fact that we have many seniors who are falling further and further behind and are looking more at living in poverty stricken conditions? Could the member comment on how he sees women in particular being able to take advantage of the so-called pension plan that the government is proposing?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Yvon Godin NDP Acadie—Bathurst, NB

Mr. Speaker, if we do not know what the end result will be, how can anyone take advantage of it. That is what I am worried about.

Here is a new plan where companies do not have to invest in it. Employees will invest. It is in the hands of the financial institutions with no guarantee at all of what they will get.

People work hard. They have a view of what they will do when they retire and then all of a sudden they are there. Now when the workers get to their retirement, they could find out there is no pension.

This bill will not protect a pension plan for the working men and women of our country. That is why I say it is wrong. That is why we have to go with a program like the Canada pension plan, then the workers will know what money they will get when they retire.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Conservative Leeds—Grenville, ON

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.