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

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to commend my colleague on her speech and tell her that in my riding of Saint-Lambert I, too, have a large population of retired women who are slowly but surely slipping into poverty.

The hon. member also did a fine job underscoring the importance of maintaining the old age security program in order to protect women from poverty in all its forms.

I would like her to tell us why, in her opinion, the NDP is speaking out against the government's suggestion that seniors and the aging population are a threat.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, my colleague from Saint-Lambert has asked an excellent question.

It gives me the opportunity to talk briefly about a lovely elderly gentleman from my riding whose name is Jacques. He relies on his community involvement to keep him positive because he and his wife can hardly make ends meet. He tells me that we need to do something to help protect seniors who have worked so hard to build this country.

Instead of spending billions on corporate tax giveaways and cutting support to seniors, which will particularly affect senior women, we need to expand the CPP. We in the NDP have long urged this. A modest increase in premiums could finance the doubling of the CPP benefits for all Canadian workers. This would provide real, sustainable retirement security for Canadians.

I urge that we protect our retirees from being robbed of their pensions, such as the retirees of Papiers Fraser. The NDP is also working on that.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of the motion tabled by my colleague, the member for Pierrefonds—Dollard. Her motion has been brought before this place on the heels of the announcement by the Prime Minister, which was made outside of the country, in Davos, Switzerland, of his intention to change our pension system, including old age security.

New Democrats are calling on this place to reject calls by the Prime Minister to balance the Conservative deficit on the backs of Canada's seniors. The member for Pierrefonds—Dollard recommends instead that the government make reducing and the eventual elimination of seniors' poverty a cornerstone of its upcoming budget. I fully endorse her motion. I cannot conceive of any member speaking against her call.

One hundred and six million Canadian seniors are now living in poverty, and he majority are women. Eleven million have no workplace pension plan. Canadians are reported to have acquired a record household debt. Many lost much of their retirement savings in the recent economic crash.

Far too many Canadians remain underemployed or unemployed. Those underemployed in part-time jobs usually have no benefits. Many are unable to save because they simply have no surplus dollars at the end of the day to set aside. A mere one-third of Canadians are reported to be saving at levels to cover the basic cost of retirement. They are unable to even consider a tax free savings account, let alone investing in yet another risky saving system such as the proposed PRPP.

In 2009, the premiers called for a national summit on pensions. This has yet to occur. However, the Conservatives continue to deny, or have continued up until Davos, that Canadians face any pension crisis whatsoever. That was until the Prime Minister suddenly announced from afar that Canadians were apparently facing an imminent old age security plan crisis. In other words, as a nation, we can no longer continue to offer struggling seniors a meagre $540 a month. This, regardless of the fact that the government's own commissioned report found no crisis into the future in financing the OAS.

What is the option? Is it to download the problem to the provinces' welfare rolls, or perhaps to our cities and churches to finance additional shelters for homeless seniors, or how about more food banks for our struggling veterans?

It has been duly noted that any concerns raised with the government have received the same carefully scripted reply, “We are not cutting programs for existing seniors”. This offers little comfort to those who will be reaching retirement age in a few years or in a few decades. Has the government simply decided that some seniors just are not sustainable? Is that what fiscally responsible government means to the government?

The government finally, reluctantly, partially increased the GIS payments but it refused to raise GIS payments to the level New Democrats called for, to rates that would actually lift all seniors out of poverty. This would have cost an additional $700 million a year. Now, post election, the Conservatives are suggesting that OAS payments could be cut back or delayed.

It is not a question of finances. It is a question of priorities. Do we offer all of our seniors a life of dignity or do we buy one more F-35? Do we assist all of our elders and grandparents to enjoy a reasonable quality of care or do we give an additional unnecessary tax break to profitable banks and oil companies, both reporting, by the way, record profits?

New Democrats have based our budget priorities on what Canadians have expressed are their preferred routes to retirement and dignity: to increase the GIS to levels that will lift all seniors out of poverty and double the CPP over time through small increases in contributions. It would cover all workers. It would be indexed, have defined benefits, be secure, a proven portable pension plan and the majority of Canadians support it. CARP supports it.

We propose building into the CPP potential for workers or employers for voluntary additional contributions. We have called for and tabled in this House an amendment to federal bankruptcy laws to put pensioners and the disabled at the front of the line. We have called for greater investments in caregivers, home care and long-term care.

A recent poll reported that 80% of Canadians view increasing the CPP benefits as their first priority for retirement.

The current Prime Minister has a propensity to seek parallel policies with our major trading partner, the United States of America. What do Americans provide, under their social security? Thirty thousand dollars a year, I am told. In Canada, the maximum provided is close to half of the American benefits.

Across Canada, we benefit from the dedicated efforts of volunteer organizations, such as CARP, which advocate for a decent retirement for all Canadian seniors. In Alberta, two advocates for seniors stand out: Carol and John Wodak.

When I spoke yesterday with Carol, she shared this sentiment. A quality of life for our seniors requires that we consider more than just the amount of the pension. We must give equal attention to policy shifts that are making the lives of our seniors already living on the edge even more perilous. Where income security is delayed or reduced, it may mean denial of basics of life, most certainly of quality of life, in our so-called golden years.

The National Forum on Health advises that income is one of the primary determinants of health. There is a growing problem in affordable housing and care for seniors, as some jurisdictions, including Alberta, move from long-term care to what they call assisted living. Elder care is increasingly provided by for-profit corporations. No longer can seniors expect that their housing fees will cover all services once considered basic. Many now must pay extra for palliative care, home care, cardiac post-surgery rehabilitation, prescription drugs, dental care and eye care. The cost of a wheelchair is beyond the means of most on basic pensions.

Seniors need these social benefits to enjoy a basic quality of care.

Let us not only maintain these basic benefits. Let us make OAS automatic. We are finding in my riding many could have benefited earlier from these supports were they aware they had to apply. I received many calls from seniors concerned with delays in receiving these important benefits needed to pay their rent, their rising electricity bills and their prescription medicines.

In closing, it is important to address my concern with the implications of clawed back retirement benefits for aboriginal elders. Canada may rank among the top countries of the UN human development index, but our treatment of aboriginal populations has been ranked near 75th place.

The director of health for the Native Women's Association of Canada has testified that almost half of aboriginal women live in poverty and, consequently, experience high rates of chronic illness. This leaves a substantial portion of their communities with little capacity to save for retirement.

Concern has also been expressed to me by a number of first nations that seniors' housing and support services are simply non-existent in their communities. Elders are either poorly cared for or relegated to extended care in centres far from their communities. This leaves them without family support and often struggling to communicate in their traditional language.

I will close by echoing the comments of my colleague. How can we afford not to make retirement in dignity for all Canadian seniors our priority?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, the member and her party had two opportunities in the pre-election budget and in the most recent budget of this past June to endorse an increase of 25% in the guaranteed income supplement, the largest increase in history.

Would she now admit to her hypocrisy of not supporting that initiative? Does she regret that move right now? Would she just address that for us, please?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, if the member had been listening closely to my speech he would have known that I have already referenced this fact. I very clearly voted against the meagre increase in GIS. It was leaving half of Canadian seniors in poverty or merely lifting our seniors halfway out of poverty. It is incumbent upon the government in this coming budget to make the investment and make its priority ensuring all Canadian seniors can retire in dignity.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Madam Speaker, leading economists argue the government is wrong when it states Canada's pension fund is under financial threat. It is incumbent upon each and every one of us to hear the fears of Canadians close to retirement as well as those who will be retiring in the future. Ninety-one per cent of Canadians have retirement worries. Sixty per cent of Canadians plan to continue working in retirement in some form, most because they need the money.

Why would the government force seniors, especially those with little savings or no company pension, into a position where they must keep working well beyond normal retirement age just to pay rent and buy food?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her very cogent question and I think the cogent word is “force”.

As we know, many seniors at the age of 65 choose to continue working. They would like to contribute to the economy, to put the bread and butter for their table, and support their grandkids going through university. However, they should have the choice of how much longer they are going to work or how many days of the week they have to work.

The member is correct that we are already finding, certainly in the jurisdiction I come from, rapidly rising electricity rates even though deregulated electricity was supposed to offer cheap rates. The eco-energy retrofit program has been killed. That program would have saved seniors a lot of money and there was a lot of interest among the seniors with whom I spoke. The member is quite correct that we should not be forcing our seniors to work past the time when they are able to or choose to work.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2012 / noon

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, the speech was fact based. Yet on the other side the Conservatives are constantly fudging the numbers to suit their hidden agenda, on the backs of our seniors who have worked hard to build this country. Those seniors should be able to enjoy some of the benefits in their senior years, to be able to live in dignity.

Is this the beginning of the end of how the public pension system works in Canada?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, certainly on our side of the House we do not believe it should be the beginning of the end for seniors. We strongly believe that all seniors have a right to retire in dignity. They have built our country and our economy. They include our veterans, many of whom are struggling and using food banks, including in Calgary.

I am hoping it is not the end. We will look to the coming budget for signals of the direction the government is taking. I think the Conservatives are going to be hearing from a lot of seniors in their own ridings who are saying, “Get a grip, rethink your priorities”.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

Noon

Richmond B.C.

Conservative

Alice Wong ConservativeMinister of State (Seniors)

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Simcoe—Grey.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to respond to this misleading motion and talk about what our government is doing for Canada's seniors. In my role as minister, I have travelled across Canada meeting many seniors. I have listened to what they consider to be important. Let me be clear. No senior who is receiving benefits today will lose a penny because of the changes we will be proposing. Any changes will be announced with a long notice period and be brought in gradually.

It is unfortunate that members of the opposition are attempting to scare seniors to score cheap political points. This motion falsely attempts to connect deficit reduction with the necessary changes to the OAS. There will be no change to the OAS until well after the budget has been balanced.

I can assure Canada's seniors that the support our government has shown them will continue. We all know someone, a family member, friend or neighbour, who is a senior. We care about their financial future. We want to ensure that the social programs we have come to rely on are sustainable for the next generation.

As someone who was not born here, I can speak from personal experience. Canada is an example to the world when it comes to the care of seniors. We are committed to ensuring seniors have the highest possible quality of life for today and tomorrow. We must ensure the programs and services that give us this quality of life are sustainable for all citizens in the future. Striking this balance is not a choice. It is a necessity. Good choices now mean we will be able to maintain our quality of life today and in the future.

I will take a few minutes to talk about what Canada is doing to help seniors currently. Our government has consistently shown a commitment to helping the most vulnerable seniors across the country, not just with promises but with action.

This summer I was excited to see the new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit start helping Canada's most vulnerable seniors. This top-up is the biggest increase to the GIS in 25 years. It represents a $1.5 billion investment over the next five years. This top-up works out to $600 annually for a single senior and $840 for a couple. That is just the latest improvement we have made to the GIS.

We increased the GIS in 2006 and again in 2007, for a total increase of 7% above regular adjustments for inflation. In budget 2008, we increased the GIS earnings exemption from $500 to $3,500, meaning that GIS recipients keep more of their hard-earned money. We also reduced bureaucratic red tape by introducing automatic GIS renewal for seniors who file annual income taxes. Our work does not stop there. There are a number of areas where seniors want action and we are responding.

Seniors want leadership in their communities. In budget 2011, we provided $10 million over two years to increase funding for the new horizons for seniors program. This helps seniors use their leadership, energy and skills to benefit communities across Canada. Everywhere I travel seniors tell me how much they appreciate low taxes, thanks to our government. We have provided over $2.3 billion a year in additional tax relief to seniors through measures such as income splitting and increasing the age credit.

Affordable housing is an important measure to combat senior poverty. We invested $400 million over two years under Canada's economic action plan for the construction of housing units for low-income seniors.

Now more than ever, good health is a concern of seniors. We are supporting positive and active aging through the collaborative age-friendly communities initiative, physical activity tips for older adults and falls prevention initiatives.

Having a voice in decisions is also important to seniors. This is why we created the National Seniors Council in 2007 to provide advice to the federal government on the well-being and quality of life of our seniors.

We proudly established October 1 as National Seniors Day in Canada. On this day, we recognize the significant and on-going contributions seniors make to families, communities, workplaces and society.

I think we can all agree that seniors abuse cannot be tolerated. That is why in budget 2008 we invested $13 million over three years to help seniors and others recognize signs and symptoms of elder abuse and to provide information on available support.

Outcomes matter. The sum of the efforts I have highlighted so far today are resulting in a better Canada, a safer Canada, a Canada that respects seniors and makes them a full partner in the decisions we make as a country. Statistics show we are moving in the right direction.

The low income rate for seniors has declined dramatically from 21% in 1980 to 5% in 2009. The low income rate among seniors in Canada is now one of the lowest rates among member countries of the OECD. That is a record of which we can be proud.

To stay on the right track, we have to plan for the future. That starts with looking at facts, not just opinions, because facts give us a very good picture of what the future will look like, both in terms of opportunities and challenges.

Canada, like many other countries, is facing major demographic challenges because of an aging population. Our aging workforce will present a growing and serious economic challenge for Canada and other developed countries. In Canada the number of seniors will nearly double within two decades.

Among that growing number of seniors, the number of basic OAS pension beneficiaries is also expected to grow, from 4.7 million reported in 2010 to 9.3 million projected by 2030. Population aging involves both current and future generations.

In the future, there will be fewer workers to support higher costs of programs such as the old age security, which is funded from general tax revenues on a “pay-as-you-go basis”. OAS benefits are paid out of the tax revenues collected each year. As the ratio of workers to seniors changes, it will mean less workers have to pay for more benefits.

Currently there are approximately four workers for every retiree. By 2030, that number will have changed to two workers for every retiree. This is why it is critical that we must make changes to the OAS program. As the ratio changes, the cost to the taxpayer of these benefits becomes increasingly high.

The Canada pension plan is a different story. This program does not involve any tax dollars. It is entirely funded through the contributions of employers, employees and the self-employed. These contributions are invested over the life of a worker and grow to cover the cost of their retirement benefits.

The chief actuary recently examined the CPP and said that it was sound for the next 75 years. Therefore, it is clear that we need to make changes to the OAS to ensure our retirement security system stays strong and that it is available to for our children and our grandchildren.

I can assure Canadians that we will provide the time required for younger generations to plan for their retirement. Let me reiterate that people currently receiving OAS will not lose a cent.

The NDP is attempting to confuse seniors. The changes we are proposing will happen long after the budget is balanced. This has nothing to do with deficit reduction. Whether it be through lower taxes, increased funding to fight poverty or simply to make our economy stronger, Canada's seniors are the winners.

Because the motion does not reflect the intent of the government and because it is hopelessly misguided, we simply cannot support it. That is why our government will vote against the motion. I encourage all members of the House to do the same.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Lysane Blanchette-Lamothe NDP Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, after listening to the hon. member's speech, I wonder who is trying to scare whom here. The government talks about the situation being critical, but the report by the Government of Canada's chief actuary says that our old age security system is viable and that the challenge of the aging population is a one-time challenge. We are not the ones who are trying to scare anyone. What is more, we are not trying to scare seniors. If gradual cuts to our programs and services are being announced then it is our young people who should be scared. People retiring in five, 10 or 30 years should be scared. They are the ones who probably should be worried about this government's cuts.

Does the minister promise to open discussions before her party makes changes to programs and services for seniors? Does she promise to consult people and work with the other parties to come up with a comprehensive solution to a global challenge?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, to be very clear, there will be no changes to benefits seniors currently receive. We will ensure any changes are done with substantial notice and an adjustment period in a way that does not affect current retirees or those close to retirement. It gives others plenty of time to adjust and plan for their retirement.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, expert evidence is that OAS will not cause the federal budget to crash. Instead of pushing through something during this session of Parliament, the government should publish a white paper that lays out the problem that needs to be solved, along with a range of possible solutions that Canadians can consider.

My constituents in Etobicoke North want real options for improving their pension outlook for the next several decades. It appears the government is considering raising the age of eligibility from 65 to 67. Only people who depend on OAS to stay out of poverty will have to put off retiring. Higher income earners, those whose OAS is already clawed back through their taxes, will not be affected.

Does the hon. member think this is a fair and equitable solution?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will not put the financial security and well-being of seniors at risk. We will take balanced, responsible and prudent action to ensure the OAS remains sustainable for future generations of Canadians.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, we hear there will be reasonable time. I find the message from the government confusing. We are told on one hand that we are panicking needlessly about things the Prime Minister said in Davos. On the other hand, seniors are very concerned and so are people approaching retirement age.

When the minister says that there will be reasonable time for a phase-in of, for instance, moving the point of earliest receipt of benefits to age 67, how much time does the minister think is reasonable?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are currently working on that and when the budget comes down, the details will be there.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the tremendous work she does on behalf of our seniors.

The government is acting responsibly. We are ensuring that Canada's seniors have a secure future as well as for generations to come. The NDP and Liberals are misleading and scaring seniors because the facts are clear. If we do nothing, OAS will become unsustainable.

Which initiative implemented by the government does the minister hear about the most that is helping Canadian seniors?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Alice Wong Conservative Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, what we have done for seniors with the new horizon program to keep them active and healthy, also the increase in the GIS, the continual care of our seniors with housing and all the other things I mentioned in my speech are very much welcome. They thank me and ask me to bring their positive response back to the government.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to respond this misguided and misinformed opposition motion.

It is unfortunate that the opposition would attempt to confuse Canadians and misrepresent the intentions of our government with its own narrow political gains. This demonstrates how reckless the opposition is with the facts. I am pleased to have this opportunity to set the record straight.

The changes our government is considering have nothing to do with deficit reduction. In fact, the budget will balanced years before any potential changes to OAS come into effect. I will repeat what the Prime Minister, the minister and the minister of state have already said. No current recipient of OAS will lose any of their benefits because of potential changes, not a penny.

It is unfortunate that the opposition is attempting to use these tactics. It demonstrates how out of touch it is with the reality of the demographic challenges that are facing our country.

Let me focus for a moment on the intentions of our government.

Our government wants a strong and sustainable future for Canadians. We believe Canada's seniors are valuable members of our society. They are more than a demographic or a statistic; they are the individuals who built our country. People like Alex Currie or Elsie Cruikshank from my riding in Simcoe—Grey built our country. That is why our government has made seniors a priority in every budget we have implemented.

Since forming government, we have provided $2.3 billion annually in additional tax relief to seniors and pensioners. This has been achieved through pension income splitting and increasing the age credit. We brought in a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to help Canada's most vulnerable seniors, the biggest increase in the GIS in 25 years, and the opposition voted against it.

This is in addition to the 7% increase in the GIS above regular indications between 2006 and 2008. We invested $400 million over the two years for the construction of homes for low-income seniors. In budget 2008 we increased the GIS earnings exemption from $500 to $3,500, and the opposition voted against that as well.

In budget 2011 we provided $10 million over two years to increase the funding to the new horizons for seniors fund. The funding supports seniors to use their leadership, energy and skills to benefit their local communities. We are supporting positive and active aging through collaborative initiatives, age-friendly community initiatives, physical activity tips for older seniors and fall prevention initiatives, all initiatives that my constituents in Simcoe—Grey utilize.

We appointed Canada's first ever Minister of State for Seniors and created the National Seniors Council in 2007 to provide advice to the federal government on matters that related to well-being and quality of life of seniors. We proudly established October 1 as National Seniors Day in Canada.

These actions demonstrate how much we value our seniors, and we are proud of our record.

We will not endanger our seniors' well-being. We want to protect the old age security program and ensure its viability for future generations. That is why we are considering changes.

We are committed to ensuring seniors have the highest quality of life, not just for today but also in a way that will be sustainable for citizens in the future. These are not mutually exclusive goals, these are things done properly and we need to meet both of these goals.

We understand the importance of a secure and dignified retirement for people who have spent their lives building Canada through their hard work, people like John Nell of Collingwood or Tom Walsh in Adjala. The evidence of all the good work our government has done to improve the lives or seniors is evident by improved quality of life of seniors from coast to coast to coast.

The low income rate for seniors has declined dramatically, from 29.4% in 1978 to 5.2% in 2009 under this government, according to Statistics Canada, post-tax low-income cut-offs. The low income rate among seniors in Canada is now one of the lowest among members of the OECD.

However, there is a looming demographic challenge that we can see on the horizon, and that speaks for itself. The World Health Organization says that the average life expectancy in Canada is increasing and is one of the highest in the world, something of which we as Canadians should be proud. It is almost 81 years.

In 2010-11, $35.7 billion in OAS benefits were provided to Canadians. This includes $7.9 billion in the guaranteed income supplement payments for 1.6 million low income seniors. In 2030, the cost to the Canadian taxpayers will escalate to $108 billion a year. A similar trend is observed in the number of recipients.

In 2010, 4.7 million people collected basic old age security. By 2030, the number of people collecting OAS will have nearly doubled to 9.3 million.

This is not a local trend. Canada is not alone in its demographic shift, as population aging is a worldwide phenomenon.

According to the United Nations, in 2005, 10% of the world's population was 65 or older.

By 2025, that proportion is expected to reach about 15%, or slightly more than one in six.

This phenomenon is even more marked in developed countries like Canada. Today, one in seven Canadians is over 65. By 2030, less than 20 years from now, one in four Canadians will be over 65. This new reality will have major repercussions for the labour market.

A smaller number of working taxpayers will be supporting a larger number of OAS recipients. We owe it to future generations to leave both a solid OAS program and an affordable tax burden.

Looking at these facts, the coming challenges are clear. What is not clear is the reason that opposition members are attempting to mislead Canadians about the health of the Canada pension plan. The CPP is directly funded from contributions made by employees, employers and the self-employed. According to Canada's chief actuary, it is sustainable for the next 75 years. The reason the CPP is so robust is that the contributions of individuals are invested over their careers, thereby growing the fund to cover the benefits in their retirement. This is a fundamentally different model than the OAS program. The OAS is funded from general tax revenues on a pay-as-you-go basis. This means that all the benefits are paid for by the taxes collected that year. There is no reserve fund. This is why the worker-to-retiree ratio is so important.

This is not just a problem for Canada. According to the latest OECD report, “Pensions at a Glance 2011”, two-thirds of OECD countries are already increasing statutory pension ages, and will do so in the coming decades to respond to this issue.

We must get things right now to ensure that our retirement security system stays strong and sustainable for generations to come. Thankfully, because of the strong economic leadership of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance, we can begin from a position of relative strength and can afford to make changes over time. Younger generations will have the time to plan and adjust. Older generations, who have planned accordingly, will play by the rules of today and will not be affected. We will address this issue in a manner allowing Canadians to continue to enjoy the quality of life we all cherish. To be clear, any changes that our government implements will provide a lengthy period of notice and adjustment.

In summary, our government is reviewing measures to protect Canadians' pensions in the long term. We will implement any changes fairly, allowing significant notice and time for adjustment. We will not follow the opposition and stick our heads in the sand and pretend that we are oblivious to the obvious problems of an aging society in Canada. For these reasons, our government will be voting against this motion, and I urge all members of the House to do exactly the same.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the member from the government and her other colleagues, and with all the numbers they have been mentioning, I just cannot believe they really want to lift seniors out of poverty.

In my riding, a rural riding, I have been receiving phone calls and letters from seniors on the verge of committing suicide. Suicide rates among seniors have increased for the past 10 years to a number we cannot believe.

The number of senior citizens with OAS and CPP will double in the next 15 years. Everyone has seen that coming for the past 20 years. Why can I not believe what the government is saying about lifting seniors out of poverty? I would like to hear of some action, real action, because this is a serious matter. Despite all the bills and economic action plans they have been talking about doing, I cannot see this in my riding. Why can I not believe them?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me be very clear. The number of seniors who are in the low income bracket has declined substantially since 1979, from 29.4% then to 5.2% under this government.

This government has initiated a number of measures that have allowed low income seniors to come out of poverty, whether an increase in the guaranteed income supplement or in the base rate from $500 to $3,500.

Our government is acting. Why does the opposition not support us?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member needs to have a bit of a reality check.

Imagine the reaction of the thousands of workers 60 or 61 years old who have been working for 25 plus years in the manufacturing industry, whether in Manitoba, Ontario or the province of Quebec, when they heard the Prime Minister announce outside of Canada that the government would increase the age for OAS from 65 to 67. Then the government said that seniors would not be penalized. Imagine the reaction of those thousands of workers who have been looking forward to potentially retiring at age 65 after being told that the Prime Minister has decided that 65 is too young to receive OAS and that the age will be put to 67.

When the Liberals on this side of the House challenged the government to make a clearer statement on whether it was going to increase the age to 67, not one Conservative MP has stood up for his or her constituents who have been calling the members' offices and telling them to leave it at 65.

Will that member stand up for those workers who are 60 or 61 years of age and looking forward to retiring at 65? Will she guarantee that the Conservative government will not increase the age to 67 from 65?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before, the current benefits provided to seniors will be maintained. My father is a senior and his benefits will be maintained.

We have done things to aid those seniors whom the member is talking about, whether by increasing the GIS or providing them with the opportunity for pension income splitting. Those members voted against those things. We encourage them to step up, take action, and support the government in what we are doing for seniors.

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

London North Centre Ontario

Conservative

Susan Truppe ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I support my colleague from Simcoe—Grey.

Events around the world make it clear that our government needs to make responsible decisions to ensure that social programs remain sustainable. That is what our government is doing.

We will make the changes necessary to ensure sustainability for the next generation, while not affecting current recipients. These changes will not affect today's retirees or Canadians who are close to retirement. The facts are undeniable: If changes are not made to the old age security program, it will become unsustainable.

I would like to ask my colleague what will happen to the program if our government does not do anything? Why is it important that we continue to look after our future seniors?

Opposition Motion—Old Age SecurityBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, we need to make sure that this program is sustainable for future Canadians. That is why our government is acting responsibly and moving forward.

As has been mentioned, current seniors' benefits will be maintained. We will continue to take action to support seniors across this country.