This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #72 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, it always amazes me how the NDP opposition wants to stick its head in the sand about the demographics and the fact that we are attempting to look forward as prudently as we, as a government, can to say that we need to be sure this system is viable and can be indexed, not only currently, but also for the future generations that will be eligible and will need this system. We are shoring up the system by taking these actions.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the arguments of my friend from Brant, but demographics is a false argument. I am surprised at the Conservative members who try to use it because OAS comes out of general revenue.

In yesterday's Globe and Mail a story by Bill Curry started off by saying:

Expert advice commissioned by the federal government contradicts [the Prime Minister's] warnings that Canada can’t afford the looming bill for Old Age Security payments.

The study was done by Edward Whitehouse, who is well-known at the World Bank and OECD, and his conclusion was this:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes, and there is no pressing financial or fiscal need to increase pension ages in the foreseeable future.

The fact is it is not because of demographics that OAS could be in trouble. It is because of the ridiculous spending by the current government in terms of lowering the revenue base by corporate tax cuts, jets, jails, a bloated cabinet and the list goes on immensely.

Will the member not admit that the real reason the OAS could be in trouble is because of the spending by the government out of general revenue, not demographics?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member has been here a lot longer than I have. However, as part of the answer to his question, in question period today the temporary leader of the Liberal Party acknowledged that the demographics were the issue in his question for the Prime Minister. However, the member has decided they are not because of an article in the paper. Everybody has known this for the longest time.

The other part of the answer I would like to give has to do with the fact that the Liberal Party would increase taxes no matter what, to raise the tax level to whatever is required at whatever point in time, regardless of the economic consequences and what that would mean to the loss of jobs or the economy at the time. Therefore, it does not surprise me that this is the ideology of the Liberal Party.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I feel that the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard has moved a fantastic motion.

I do not understand why the Conservatives would cause such anxiety for Canadian seniors when, on January 1, they gave a $3 billion gift to big business, banks and oil companies.

They are telling our seniors that there are too many of them and that they will have to work longer. They are directly attacking the poorest seniors in our society. That is unacceptable.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the fearmongering going on across the aisle. That is what is happening on both the NDP and the Liberal benches as far as creating fear in seniors. We have said, unequivocally, that for seniors who are eligible for the OAS right now not a nickel will change. Also, for those who are close to being eligible for OAS nothing will change. However, we must deal with the reality—

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Order, please. We will have to move on.

Resuming debate, the Hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney ConservativeMinister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, first, I congratulate my colleague from Brant for his commitment, as this Conservative government has, to our seniors. I also thank him for his ongoing support of our veterans and their families.

I am pleased to rise today in this House to reaffirm the Conservative government's commitment to our seniors and retirees. Since the election on May 2, members from Quebec have had an opportunity to rise in this House to preserve the old age security program, index it and enhance it with the guaranteed income supplement. The Conservative members from Quebec and the ministers rose in this House to support these measures, maintain old age security and improve it.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the NDP and Liberal members, who not only remained seated, but also opposed any increase in income for our seniors. The guaranteed income supplement is $600 per single senior and $840 per couple. These are measures that the Conservative members from Quebec supported because we want to be able to provide the best for our seniors, especially the most vulnerable among them. It must be said that as Quebec members, we are here to support our seniors. We are going to continue to do so on this side of the House with our Conservative government.

There are changes on the horizon. Things evolve, just as they do in every sphere of life. These changes will affect everyone, the young and not so young, governments, businesses, organizations and associations. It is therefore our duty as elected representatives to anticipate these changes and act now in a responsible manner to ensure a bright future, and not put our heads in the sand as the opposition is doing and engage in fear mongering.

Canadians are having fewer children—that is a fact—but they are living longer and in better health than previous generations. This is a good thing. It is a fact and the data support it. Over the next five years, for the first time in our country's history, there will be more over 65-year-olds than under 14-year-olds, according to Statistics Canada. Over the longer term, it is estimated that by 2030, one out of every four Canadians will be over 65, compared to one out of seven today. A quarter of the population will therefore be 65 or over in 20 years, and I will be among them.

Aging populations are a global phenomenon. They can be observed in the big western democracies; Canada is by no means alone. If we compare ourselves to other countries, Canada’s population is among those that are aging the fastest.

Last year, the first baby boomer celebrated his 65th anniversary. While baby boomers head towards retirement and the fertility rate remains relatively low, the consequences of an aging population are, and will be, increasingly felt. The stakes are clear: there will be fewer and fewer young people, and there will be more and more seniors who will want to take advantage of services. As a result, there will be fewer young people to take over from their parents and grandparents, especially in the labour market. With fewer people in the labour force, the percentage of the total population that is working and able to finance public services and programs will drop. That is a fact, and it is important to be well prepared in order to address it.

Once again, it is worth quoting the figures. Today, in Canada, there are four workers for every person over 65. In 2030, it will no longer be four workers, but two. From that point on, the question will be how to provide a much larger cohort of retired Canadians with financial security without placing an excessive burden on a dwindling number of workers. In other words, how will the welfare of today's generations be assured without compromising that of future generations?

Many countries around the world are asking themselves exactly the same question. Some have already taken steps to mitigate and manage the repercussions of demographic changes on present and future generations as fairly as possible.

We know that the portion of revenue we invest in programs funded by the state to provide Canadians with financial security when they retire will be growing.

I am not talking about the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan, which are funded by employers and employees. The Canada pension plan is on solid footing, according to Canada’s chief actuary, but this did not happen all on its own. Major changes were made to the Canada pension plan in the late 1990s to ensure that it would remain sound as the population ages and to ensure that it would be sustainable in the long term.

However, there have never been reforms to old age security, and it is paid for entirely out of taxes. What did previous governments do?

This is an important nuance. The Canada pension plan, which is well funded, was reformed. Old age security, which is funded by taxpayers, has never been reformed. It is therefore funded 100% out of income taxes, and all Canadians receive it at age 65. That means that the taxpayers of today are paying for the retirees of today, and the taxpayers of tomorrow, who will be less numerous, will be paying for the retirees of tomorrow, who will be more numerous.

It must also be pointed out that when old age security was created in the 1950s, life expectancy was 66 years for a man and 71 years for a woman. Half of Canadians received it at age 70.

Today, Canadians receive it at age 65; men are living 10 years longer, on average, and women are living 12 years longer, on average, than in the 1950s. This is good news. Fortunately, life expectancy is still increasing, and people’s quality of life, in particular their health, has continued to improve in recent decades. However, the old age security program has not adapted to these new facts of life.

As well, and again according to the chief actuary, who provides us with reliable, sound data, it is anticipated that old age security program spending will increase from $36 billion in 2010 to $108 billion in 2030, the year when the number of baby boomers who have reached the age of 65 will peak.

That said, we have been clear and we will be clear again tomorrow regarding pension programs like old age security: yes, seniors will continue receiving their benefits.

We are going to preserve old age security and index it. We, the Conservatives, have increased it, with the guaranteed income supplement. Nearly 1.9 million Canadians benefit from the increase in the guaranteed income supplement, thanks to our government. The same is true for those who are about to retire: they will not be affected.

People who are receiving old age security benefits will not lose a cent. In the long term, future generations expect that we will ensure the viability of the system so that they too can benefit from the plan, which is reasonable, and so that the most vulnerable Canadians are able to benefit from it.

It is time to make informed choices, because we still have several decades ahead of us. Inertia and the status quo, as the opposition parties are proposing, will take us to a harsh reality that taxpayers will have to face. That is irresponsible. That is why we have to address this issue with fairness and justice, with intergenerational equity, to ensure that our social system and social safety net are sustainable.

Canadians will not allow themselves to be duped by the opposition. They know our government is acting responsibly for the retirees of today and for retirees of future generations.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Nantel NDP Longueuil—Pierre-Boucher, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague opposite on what was, frankly, a very courageous speech. Indeed, I imagine it must have been very difficult to make such remarks, since his Prime Minister announced without warning, from Davos, that the Conservatives were going to plough ahead with this.

What does my colleague think about the Prime Minister's great qualities as a reassuring communicator?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for his question. Setting aside the rhetoric, there are facts. The fact is that since the last election on May 2, I have risen in this House, as a member from Quebec, to improve the quality of life of our most vulnerable retirees. I rose to support an increase in the guaranteed income supplement of $50 per month, which means $600 more per year in the pockets of our most disadvantaged retirees, those who need it the most. I would have liked the Liberal and NDP members from Quebec to support us, but that did not happen.

Fortunately, thanks to the willingness of our Conservative government, we are able today to improve the quality of life of our retirees. At the same time, we can ensure that future generations will also enjoy a stable income thanks to an old age security program that takes into account the demographic reality with which we are faced.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I always like to listen to the Minister of Veterans Affairs. His headquarters is in P.E.I. and he is there a fair bit. I congratulate him for coming down to work out of that office sometimes.

He would know that Prince Edward Island would be seriously affected by these proposed changes to increase the age. There are roughly 42,000 baby boomers in Prince Edward Island. It is a retirement haven. People are coming back to retire. Therefore, this is a very serious issue.

I was surprised that the Minister of Veterans Affairs talked about a quarter of the population reaching the age of 65 in 20 years, again trying to create the false argument that it is strictly a taxpayer-funded base. As he admitted, it is funded out of general revenue, out of the general tax base. What is important is the total taxation system. Lowering corporate taxes will certainly hurt the ability to pay in the future.

Is the government trying to manufacture a crisis to cover up its fiscal management in this country and, in the process, trying to gouge seniors' pensions?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Malpeque for referring to the important role played by the Veterans Affairs headquarters in Charlottetown, which is the flagship of the services provided to our veterans and their families.

That said, the same is true for retirees. They expect that we, as a government, will act responsibly, by ensuring that today's retirees receive all the benefits of old age security, benefits that we improved through income splitting and other measures that we put in place and for which, unfortunately, we did not have the support of the opposition.

I can assure the member for Malpeque that we are going to continue to ensure that our retirees keep getting the old age security to which they are entitled and that we will make sure that future generations also have access to a reliable and safe system.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Conservative Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to listen to my colleague from Malpeque. I know he was in business and I understand he knows business but I think he has had a lapse in terms of taxes.

Simply put, we will have twice as many people coming on in 20 years, it will cost us three times as much and we will have half as many people paying.

In the minister's mind, with any type of inversion that we have with these numbers, does that not mean that we are heading for a collision course in terms of sustainability of a program that we need for my kids, my grandchildren and for all of those in the future across Canada, whether it is in Lambton--Kent-Middlesex or anywhere else?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Lévis—Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Lambton—Kent—Middlesex for her excellent question. I would like her to know that I am proud to be part of a government that is focusing on the economy as a way of ensuring that our retirees enjoy a comfortable retirement, both now and in the future. We are focusing on creating wealth in this country as a way of creating jobs. It is our workers, from all walks of life—factories, businesses and farming—who create wealth. It is our role to redistribute this wealth to our seniors, among others.

That is why, this fall, we are going to focus on the economy, which is also why we need the major green energy projects that will help us to create wealth and maintain our social safety net for our seniors.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to note that I intend to share my time with the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Today, I have the unfortunate duty of rising in this House to denounce the government’s actions in an area that is of great concern to the NDP: the rise in poverty among our seniors. When I was elected, I was glad I would be working together with all members of this House, regardless of their political affiliation, with the goal of imagining a Canada where every individual would have the guarantee of a minimum quality of life, and where people can live with respect and dignity.

Our seniors, the people who built this country, who fought tooth and nail to provide us with a secure future and create a social safety net, where individuals care about one another, are disillusioned today. My constituents are unhappy with the proposals made by the government last week. I am outraged at the unspeakable lack of respect and courtesy the government has shown for the public. I think the decision to tell us about things that are to be done in our country in a speech given in a foreign country, to strangers, with no prior consultation with the Canadian public, is despicable. It shows a lack of courage.

Our seniors, people who have lived through economic hard times and through disastrous conflicts, chose to help one another, to work together and to take responsibility for one another. They chose to invest in people so that together, they could meet the challenges ahead of them. That decision meant that more people had access to education, better health and better living conditions. The old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs were developed to ensure that no senior would be in need, regardless of how vulnerable their finances and their health might be.

These programs were not developed for just one generation; they were to become a cornerstone of Canadian values. Growing numbers of seniors are now living below the poverty line, and their families cannot bear the economic burden of looking after their parents because they are having trouble making ends meet themselves. Rather that ensuring that we care for one another and bringing people together, the government is dividing us. I think this is very sad, when we look at the dreams our seniors had for us and how much they invested in those dreams. The government is not consulting and is driving blind, without guideposts and without an accurate knowledge of the opinions of the other citizens of this country who deserve to be heard. I see no indication of any such respect in what the government is doing.

The figures are blatantly clear: disadvantaged seniors who are currently receiving old age security and the guaranteed income supplement have less than $15,000 a year to live on. The poverty line in urban communities is $18,000. I think we can make the connection. At present, disadvantaged seniors are living in unacceptable conditions, and that situation is not going to improve, because the cost of living is going up every month. I regularly hear the horror stories that my senior constituents witness or experience. Every month, they have to make impossible choices between paying the rent, buying food, paying for their prescription drugs and investing in a means of transportation.

There are simple solutions to relieve this burden, such as investing in social housing and public transit infrastructure. In Quebec, there is already a shortfall of 50,000 affordable housing units, and the situation is not getting any better.

Cuts to old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are also a concerted attack against gender equality. The median income of senior women is only two-thirds that of senior men. Given that Canadian women do not always benefit from pay equity, this discrepancy will continue to exist for a number of years. These women are our mothers and grandmothers. They made sacrifices to give us a better future.

I find this government's lack of respect for them revolting and intolerable. I am asking the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance directly what measures they have planned to combat these inequalities and why they think that cutting services will help senior women living in poverty. The role of each government is to make choices that reflect its vision for our country. The current government is offering us a disastrous vision.

The government decided to invest billions of dollars in jets.

With the omnibus bill, huge costs will be downloaded onto the provinces—costs that will endanger their financial health—for an unproven program. The government gave large corporations billions of dollars in tax breaks without any guarantee of job creation. It is giving billions of dollars in subsidies to oil companies, which are part of the richest industry in Canada.

Our seniors are a good investment. They deserve subsidies as large as the ones given to big business. Seniors are active members of our community who have already given so much and who still have a lot to give if we help ensure that they have acceptable living conditions.

The NDP has a more positive vision of our future. In fact, we want to double the pension plan in order to guarantee that no senior has to live in poverty. That is why we tabled a motion on this subject in June. I find the fact that the Conservatives are now backtracking to be hypocritical, given that they originally supported this motion. It is a complete betrayal.

Organizations in my riding are very upset about this step backward. Gilles Tremblay, president of the Blainville 50+ centre, said:

Seniors are having to downsize their living quarters to make ends meet. People cannot live comfortably or for long like that. We have contributed to our communities, and we can continue to contribute our experience. We have to be given the means to do that.

Josée Collard, who is in charge of La Popote à Roland in Blainville, which has been helping seniors in need for over 35 years, said:

As the leader of a group of Blainville seniors whose average age is 77, I see how hard it is for people in their golden years to find the resources that meet their needs. They have trouble getting to appointments with their family doctors, they need accessible, specialized transportation to get to their health care appointments, they need personalized after-care following hospitalization or surgery. They often have to spend so much energy and money on these things that they get discouraged and gradually become more isolated.

In closing, I would like to remind the House that we, too, will be seniors one day.

Let us show today's seniors the respect that we hope our children will show us.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member who just spoke, not necessarily for her speech per se, but for the commitment she demonstrates to all the baby boomer generation, because it is the generation that she represents that will carry the costs of the OAS and pension schemes for people in the next 20 to 30 years. She will still be working to pay, as a person who represents a much smaller demographic, for the people who are on pensions at the time. If she looks around this House, she will see that the number of people who are in the baby boomer generation outnumber the people who are of a younger generation.

Every government has the responsibility look at the long run. Any student of economics would know that policies that are put in place need to impact the long-run vision for the country.

Why is it that when this government has put in place so many things that are looking to the long run to help our seniors, for example, pension income splitting that allows more seniors to access OAS because each of them has a lower income level, an increase to the GIS and lowering the age for people to take money in order to have more of their own money before they start paying income tax, the member votes against those things?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to have voted against the Conservative budget because it included big gifts for the Conservatives' friends, billions of dollars for people who do not need money, such as oil companies and big business. I would rather have seen that money go to programs like the Canada pension plan.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the vast majority of the member's comments.

Governments do need to make decisions. We know that an extremely large amount of capital will be expended on the renovations to the West Block here on the Hill in the next number of years. Another significant amount of capital will be invested within this chamber to accommodate an additional 30 MPs, which will have ongoing costs going forward to Canadians. Could that money go to seniors?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his question. I know one way to save money: get rid of the Senate.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the hon. member on her speech, which was not only on point, but also moving. It showed a great deal of solidarity and compassion.

I would like to take this opportunity to set the record straight with regard to what the Minister of Veterans Affairs said earlier. He spouted rhetoric and bragged about how they improved the guaranteed income supplement for seniors and how they are taking care of seniors. We should remind him that in order to get the extra $50 a month, a person needs to earn less than $4,000 a year. It exists in theory, but in practice, no one gets it. This measure does not help anyone. That is the first thing I wanted to say.

Secondly, according to reports by this government's own institutions, there is no crisis and we are equipped to cope with the demographic shift. On the contrary, those reports indicate that after 2060, the cost to our overall economy will start to go down again roughly to current levels. Can the hon. member tell me why the Conservatives are crying wolf and causing everyone to worry?

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to the thank the hon. member for the question. They are crying wolf because they prefer to spend money on other things. To govern is to make choices. The government can choose to spend money on jets or to spend money on our seniors.

I will speak on behalf of my generation. As the member opposite said, we have to protect this system. I want my children, my peers and myself to benefit from this system so that we too can retire with dignity in 50 years.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville for sharing her time with me and for an excellent speech. There were good points, it was well argued and it was an important message from our new generation of NDP MPs.

It is useful, as we enter into a debate on the old age security regime in this country, to pause and reflect on some of the steps that got us to the position we are in. I am very proud, as an NDP member of Parliament, to take up the cause of defending the integrity of our old age security system, as has been our function and role throughout much of the last century.

I represent the riding of Winnipeg Centre, which is home to two of the greatest champions of social justice, I might say, that this country has ever known. In 1921, the Government of Canada wanted to send J.S. Woodsworth to prison for his role as the leader of the 1919 general strike but the good people of Winnipeg Centre sent him to Parliament in Ottawa instead and he stayed there until his untimely death in 1942.

I raise that subject because, only three years after J.S. Woodsworth arrived in Parliament, the prime minister of the day, William Lyon Mackenzie King, was in trouble. He was going to lose his government and needed the coalition support of what J.S. Woodsworth called the ginger group at the time, the Independent Labour Party. Woodsworth negotiated with Mackenzie King a deal, a condition, a compact, a coalition so to speak. The very art of politics is forming compacts, coalitions and agreements. Woodsworth went to Mackenzie King and said, “If you agree to introduce an old age security regime, I will support your government”. That was the birth of the Canadian old age security system. We have that letter on file at NDP headquarters. It took Mackenzie King a long time to live up to his promise but he indeed did introduce old age security.

When J.S. Woodsworth passed away, he was replaced by the man who is known as the father of the Canadian pension plan, Stanley Knowles. Stanley Knowles represented my riding from 1942 until his stroke in 1984 made it impossible for him to continue. He served continuously, except for the Diefenbaker sweep of 1957. During that time, he was not only the undisputed champion of the Canadian pension plan but he fought and fought to introduce it and the old age security system. There are famous speeches on record that people published in their entirety and circulated across the country as this movement gained momentum. He did not stop fighting until he managed to have the old age security pension indexed to inflation as a secondary objective. This took his entire career but it was his proudest achievement and perhaps one of the most proud achievements of the NDP.

It always seems to fall to us to defend the integrity of the pension system, which has been under continuous assault by successive Conservative governments that do not fundamentally believe in this type of universality of old age security systems.

We can trace what is going on today with the terrible notion that the Prime Minister of Canada would announce fundamental social policy changes in a speech in a foreign country. We can trace it back, or I do at least, to the musings of the unofficial prime minister of Canada at the time, Thomas d'Aquino, the chief executive officer of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives. Mr. d'Aquino had a checklist of things he thought Canada needed to do that consisted of 10 or 15 items. One by one he was checking them all off and one of them was, which he announced quite publicly, that Canada had to get out from under the crippling legacy costs.

Nobody really paid too much attention because the term “legacy costs” did not ring any bells. What he meant was pensions. Sure enough, the right wing think tanks started to fall in line and also blame pensions for all of our economic woes. There was no mention of the fact that corporate tax cuts had taken over $100 billion worth of fiscal capacity in the two last governments, the Martin regime and this one.

Even when General Motors and the big auto companies ran into trouble, nobody said that maybe people were not buying their cars because they were making models nobody wanted. Immediately they said that the reason they could not function was because their legacy costs were too great, that they had to get out from under their pensions.

With this notion of never let a good crisis go to waste, they started to segue from the real root cause of their industrial woes and blamed it on this notion that we deserved to retire in some dignity and that we could take seniors out of poverty.

We have three pillars to our old age security system. One is personal savings, whatever one can save and invest during one's working life. Second, hopefully one has a pension through one's workplace, although that is becoming a rarity because of this full frontal assault by the right on the very notion that workplace pensions are possible. Third, is a robust universal government-sponsored pension plan.

The government would have us believe that there is something luxurious and comfortable about the pension system as we know it, the OAS and GIS. In actual fact, when compared with other countries, the replacement of earnings in retirement does not come anywhere close to a lot of western developed nations. It is really quite a modest system.

We have seen this assault on pensions and on the notion of pensions gaining validators and momentum, or currency. In fact, some experts in the field challenge whether it is an emergency at all. Yes, there is a demographic blip, but we would have had the fiscal capacity to provide were it not for the choices made by successive Liberal and Conservative governments to hollow out that fiscal capacity. However, we seem to be able to find money to spend in corporate tax cuts. Let us not kid ourselves. When $6 billion in corporate tax cuts is granted, that is spending money. We argue that is wasteful spending of money, and we believe that has been validated.

The logic was that if we gave those tax cuts to corporations, they would spend that money in the economy, create more jobs and a virtuous cycle would begin. In actual fact, they have been hoarding that money away. Our worst fears are realized. They are stacking it up and stockpiling it like Scrooge McDuck in the comic books, rolling around in their piles of dough but they are not reinvesting. There is no empirical evidence to prove it.

Not a single study in the world has ever proven that a tax cut equals more jobs. The only predictable and verifiable outcome of a tax cut given to companies is that they will have more money and greater profits. That is what was done. It was a transfer of wealth.

In the richest and most powerful civilization in the history of the world, the government cannot tell me that we cannot afford to lift every senior citizen out of poverty.

Our former leader, Jack Layton, costed this out and we ran on that as a platform. Instead of the $6 billion for corporate tax cuts, we could spend $1 billion of that and all 250,000 seniors, who are currently below the poverty line, would at least get to the poverty line. They would not be wealthy, rich or even comfortable. They would still be poor, but out of the depths of abject poverty. That is the cost and it is achievable, yet we go in the opposite direction.

Again, in the spirit of never let a good crisis go to waste, the Conservatives are cutting, hacking and slashing upon ideological lines just as we predicted they would. They are coming up with these dummy saving accounts to offset it. Bill C-25, the bill we were forced to vote on yesterday, is nothing but a 401(k). The only ones who will get rich on that are the stock brokers who will charge a commission every time that money is moved around. It is a 401(k), the Americanization of our pension regime.

We are here to defend the integrity of the old age security in the spirit of Woodsworth and Stanley Knowles. The NDP is proud to present this motion today to flush out the enemies of the public pension system, to denounce them and hold them to account so they will not get away with this. There will be a blue rinse revolution in this land if they proceed in this way.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, the member across the way talked about the history of his riding, and his riding does have a proud history with a great parliamentarian like Stanley Knowles.

Looking back, Stanley Knowles was a member of Parliament who sat here for a generation. He suffered from multiple sclerosis. Later on he was the chancellor of Brandon University. He was viewed across the country as a man of honour and integrity.

I wonder what Stanley Knowles would think today of his successor and the type of language he used to describe a member of the other place, Senator Boisvenu, and the damage his family has suffered. I do not think Stanley Knowles would have appreciated the type of language or that type of criticism.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I know in the past you have admonished members about relevance. I wonder what the relevance of those comments were. We are talking about old age security.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Nanaimo--Cowichan is correct. From time to time the Chair does remind members that what they say ought to be relevant to the subject at hand and the speech given. In this case, I will leave it to the hon. member for Winnipeg Centre to respond as he wishes to this matter.

The hon. member for Winnipeg Centre.

Opposition Motion--Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the connection my family has to Stanley Knowles. My grandfather was a dean of theology who taught Stanley Knowles at what was then called Manitoba College, where he received his divinity degree. My grandfather married Stanley Knowles and his wife Vida Cruikshank. Stanley was a pallbearer at my grandfather's funeral. He was a regular and frequent visitor at the dinner table of my grandfather's home.

Stanley Knowles, and his long-standing belief that the Senate should be abolished, would understand completely when someone denounces the irresponsible, reckless, destructive, outrageous comments of a Tory hack who has no business being over there to begin with and has no business commenting on criminal justice issues when he is supposed to be a public servant. It is irresponsible to counsel people to commit suicide on the week before National Suicide Prevention Week.

I used a great deal of restraint in my reaction to his comments.