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.