Mr. Speaker, this past December, I asked the Minister of State for Seniors a question about seniors' poverty in Canada. She said:
Seniors' poverty is something all Canadians should be concerned about.
Well, I agree. Yet a month later, her leader, the Prime Minister made an announcement in Davos, suggesting that changes to the OAS will involve either cuts or a change in age eligibility, or both, and that these cuts were coming down the pipe pretty soon. Along with the GIS, the OAS is our pension program to prevent seniors' poverty in Canada. Any cuts to it are cuts to benefits for the very poor. I am really unsure why the government wants to ask the poorest Canadians to take on the brunt of the planned budget cuts.
This money, OAS and GIS, is immediately reinvested into the economy. Seniors do not sit on their money. They spend it, every penny of it. Their spending helps create jobs and boosts our economy.
Clearly, the money to invest in OAS is readily available. The Parliamentary Budget Officer and the OECD have told us this very clearly. We have the money to lift seniors out of poverty in the present, and the money to address additional expenses the government will face in the future as our population continues to age.
Instead of investing in Canada, the Conservatives have chosen to saddle the treasury and Canadians with corporate tax giveaways that will not guarantee a single job.
The government's talking points suggest that income and pension splitting will help alleviate poverty for seniors. It is not true. Pension splitting benefits only those lucky enough to have adequate pension, not unattached Canadians nor the seniors who rely on the OAS and GIS to make ends meet. The government also trumpets the recent increase to the GIS, but the sad fact remains: it was less than half the amount needed to truly raise every senior out of poverty.
The billions of dollars trumpeted by the government in investment in affordable housing is actually $1.4 billion in total for the entire country. That is not enough. That number is a combination of federal, provincial and territorial money, not the total spending of the federal program. Furthermore, there is no guarantee that this money will even be spent. Provinces have to match the federal dollars. If they do not initiate the project, the housing will not be built.
The government's arguments do not make sense. This frightens me because it leads in exactly the wrong direction.
Seniors represent one of the fastest growing populations in Canada today. The number of seniors in Canada is projected to increase from 4.2 million in 2005 to 9.8 million by 2036. With so many seniors retiring in the coming years, we need a social safety net in place that will prevent dramatic increases in poverty. We need investment in seniors, investment in affordable and appropriate housing, long-term care, home care and pharmacare. This will boost our economy and save money in the long term while it protects our seniors.
I want to repeat my question from December, and I hope that the member is able to give a better answer than before.
There is an elderly couple in Toronto. She has asthma and bronchitis. He has Parkinson's. They can barely make ends meet. In fact, they just won a contest because of the depth of their needs. However, there are no winners here. Three hundred thousand seniors live in poverty. The government offers no help. Seniors should not have to turn to a contest just to keep their heads above water.
When will the government stop ignoring seniors and actually start helping them?