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House of Commons Hansard #111 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with regret and a lot of bitterness that I rise today to denounce the Conservatives' plan to increase the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67 years of age, even though the plan is financially viable.

I said that I am rising with regret because, just like us, the majority of Canadians believe that the Conservatives should never have started this debate. On March 29, when the 2012 budget was tabled, the government sparked shockwaves among the elderly and Canadian workers; yes, shockwaves, nothing less.

The Conservatives are using a temporary rise in the cost of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs as an excuse to make cutbacks in this remarkably effective, affordable, and essential social program.

The Conservatives’ plan is to gradually increase the eligibility age from 65 to 67 from 2023. The measure will be fully implemented by January 2029. Thus, on March 29, as they watched this government deliver an irresponsible budget, Canadians aged 54 and under learned that, after having worked for several decades for the benefit of our country, they will have to wait two long years more before being able to think about a well deserved retirement.

The NDP has been standing up for these public pension plans for a long time. Early last century the CCF, the NDP's predecessor, put ongoing pressure on all governments of the day and got them to introduce the very first public old age pension plan in Canada in 1927. Since that time, we have fought tirelessly to make this plan more effective, and we played a key role in getting the guaranteed income supplement and the Canada pension plan adopted.

Currently, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are major sources of income for the elderly, especially women. Approximately 5 million seniors receive old age security benefits and 1.7 million seniors receive the guaranteed income supplement. For approximately 510,000 seniors, that is 12% of Canada’s elderly, the old age security and guaranteed income supplement benefits account for over 75% of their total income. Imagine if you were suddenly deprived of 75% of your income; I do not know how you would get by.

Women account for 80% of the people who derive over 75% of their total income from the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs.

If they did not have access to old age security benefits and the guaranteed income supplement, approximately 100,000 newly-retired Canadian seniors would slip below the poverty line. The poverty rate for seniors would more than quadruple, increasing from 6% to 25%.

Is that really what the Conservatives want for our seniors? Is that how they reward the people who built our nation? I would really like to know. That is not what Canadians want and it is not what we are all about. The men and women of this country want their seniors to have decent living conditions.

That is not a priority for the Conservatives. They prefer to increase the eligibility age for old age security and the guaranteed income supplement by two years and erode the living conditions of our seniors.

Therefore, we must ask the following questions: how will 65-year-olds survive in 2029? Why are the Conservatives increasing the age of eligibility? According to their arguments, the increase will make the old age security program sustainable. However, that is false.

Old age security and the guaranteed income supplement are very viable. In fact, it is expected that the cost of these programs will diminish in the long term relative to the size of the economy.

Professor Thomas Klassen of York University is an expert in pension plans and retirement. He is one of the many experts who do not agree with the change in the eligibility age. He said, “I haven’t heard any academic argue that there’s a crisis with OAS, which is why I was surprised a few days ago when the Prime Minister seemed to say there was a crisis...there’s got to be a lot more evidence that there’s a problem, and I don’t see that evidence.”

Let us talk about the evidence. The government's most recent actuarial report indicates that old age security and the guaranteed income supplement represented 2.7% of GDP in 2011. By 2030 it will be 3.16%, but then it will fall to 2.3% of GDP in 2060, which is below the current percentage.

The gradual increase in the costs of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs until 2030 is due to the baby boomers retiring. We all know this; it is no surprise to anyone. All of the actuarial reports on old age security and the guaranteed income supplement have been saying it since 1988. I was three years old; that is a long time ago. Some of my colleagues here were not even born yet.

The Conservatives therefore cannot claim not to have been aware of these rising costs during the 2011 election campaign. That was one year ago.

The Conservatives, moreover, never addressed that subject during the election campaign. No Conservative candidate ever said anything about wanting to make seniors work two more years in order to survive. Yes, that is what I said: to survive.

The loss of income resulting from the Conservatives’ plan to raise the eligibility age will be a deciding factor in how Canadian seniors are to live. It will result in losses of about $30,000 a year for the poorest seniors over those two years, and about $13,000 over two years for Canadians who receive only old age security.

The Conservatives do not think this is a problem, because they think Canadians just have to work longer.

Some workers are physically unable to continue working after a certain age.

Twenty-five percent of retired people say they retired for health reasons. For Canadians with an annual income under $20,000, that proportion rises to 38%.

That means that about 25% of seniors retire involuntarily. Those Canadians are quite simply not able to work two more years.

What the government is telling us with this insane plan is that the poorest and most vulnerable Canadians will have to work longer than the others, in spite of their health problems or their physical condition.

A few days before the budget that sealed the fate of workers under the age of 54 was tabled, I held a public forum in my riding on the old age security and guaranteed income supplement programs with my colleagues, the members for Pierrefonds—Dollard and Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who at that time were the critics for seniors and pensions. I met with more than 70 worried people, very worried people. They included young and not-so-young people, all of them upset about what the Conservatives intend to do. At that point, however, there was still hope.

In my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, there are a lot of jobs in agriculture and industry. Those jobs are physically very demanding. We cannot ask workers who are 65 years old, who have worked at physically demanding jobs all their lives, to keep working two years longer before they are eligible for a program they are entitled to and have contributed to all their lives.

One person especially touched me when he told me how sometimes it was not the will to work that was missing, it was the body that had limitations. That man and all the people who were there said they believed that other solutions could have been considered, so as not to keep creating a gulf between rich and poor, as the Conservatives are so fond of doing.

Those people, like the financial experts, are asking the Conservatives to rethink their position on raising the age of eligibility.

But the Conservatives do not listen to advice they do not like, and they do not listen to Canadians.

That is why the NDP will continue to stand up so that Canadians of all ages—and yes, I am saying all ages—can live with dignity.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first thank the member for her very impassioned speech. I will give her a second to wipe her crocodile tears.

Our government proposed in the budget to increase the GIS for Canada's most vulnerable seniors by 25%; her party that voted against that 25% increase, the single largest increase in Canadian history.

I would like to ask her to stand in her place right now and apologize to Canada's seniors for depriving them of a 25% increase last year, forcing them to wait a full year to receive it.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, that makes no sense, and I do not see why I should apologize.

Every time I ask a question in the House, they say that the NDP voted against it, blah, blah, blah.

Of course we will vote against measures that are stupid and discriminatory and that do not lift Canadians out of poverty. I will not apologize.

Opposition Motion—PensionsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The time for government orders has expired. When we return, there will be four minutes remaining in questions and comments.

Statements by members, the hon. member for Kenora.

Recognition of ServiceStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Conservative Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate a hard-working constituent for her decades of outstanding service as a nurse in Sioux Lookout.

Debbie Whalen, a native of Sioux Lookout, received her nursing degree at Lakehead University in 1973 and returned to her hometown to start her career. She worked in many areas of nursing, as well as serving in various executive positions for the Ontario Nurses' Association Local 81, including several terms as president.

In 2010 Debbie made the move to the new Meno Ya Win Health Centre in Sioux Lookout, which offers the most extensive health services of any hospital in the town's history. On May 11, after 39 years as a nurse in Sioux Lookout, Debbie is retiring.

As a former nurse in Sioux Lookout zone, I know first-hand the scope of her responsibilities in serving one of the largest areas with remote populations in this country.

We are proud of Debbie's service and appreciate her. We hope she enjoys her well-earned retirement.

Debbie's nursing career is just another example of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

Chernobyl Nuclear DisasterStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I stand today in the House to mark the occasion of the 26th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. This nuclear explosion impacted the lives of millions in Ukraine as well as in Belarus and the Russian Federation.

The devastating environmental consequences of radioactive contamination, the health impacts—particularly childhood thyroid cancer—and the socio-economic costs are all tragic results of a tragic and preventable accident.

Canada and the global community must be guided by the memory of the tragic Chernobyl disaster to take all necessary action to ensure such a catastrophe never occurs again.

As a director of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group, I stand together with my constituents, my colleagues in the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group and my New Democrat colleagues in commemoration of this disaster, in remembrance of the victims and in solidarity to take all necessary action to prevent any such disaster from occurring in the future.

Intermountain Sport Fish Enhancement GroupStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Marquette, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to present Canada's National Recreational Fisheries Award to the Intermountain Sport Fish Enhancement Group at their annual banquet in Dauphin, Manitoba.

Created in 1989 by DFO, these awards recognize Canadians for their achievements in protecting and enhancing recreational fisheries.

The Intermountain group has established a Camp Fish youth mentoring program, with a stocked trout pond for youth fishing and education. They have created fish passage projects that facilitate access by fish to vast new areas of spawning habitat, thus ensuring healthy fish populations.

The recreational fishery in my riding is truly world class because of the fisheries conservation work done by these dedicated volunteers.

Groups such as the Intermountain Sport Fish Enhancement Group are Canada's real environmentalists, because they roll up their sleeves, get down to work and make a better environment for us all.

Our government is proud to recognize the efforts of those who make such an important contribution to conservation and recreational fishing in Canada.

Daffodil MonthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Justin Trudeau Liberal Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, every April, the Canadian Cancer Society undertakes a campaign to fund its fight against cancer. People across the country are wearing daffodil pins.

This year, I am pleased to be working with other extraordinary ambassadors, including Natasha St-Pier, Marie Turgeon, AngeLo Cadet, Steven Guilbeault and my colleague from Bourassa on Quebec's Daffodil Month campaign. Together, we have raised thousands of dollars and counting.

Money raised during Daffodil Month really changes things. It helps the Canadian Cancer Society fund life-saving research, make reliable and up-to-date information about cancer available, provide community support services, implement prevention programs and lobby the government for laws and public policies that protect the health of Quebeckers.

I salute the work of the volunteers and organizers. Above all, I salute the courage and determination of the 93,000 Canadians diagnosed with cancer in 2011.

Yom Ha'atzmautStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, 64 years ago Israel achieved its long-promised independence as millions of Jews, many of them Shoah survivors, returned to their aboriginal homeland to build a democracy in the desert.

In those six and a half decades, they have built one of the most technologically, democratically, culturally and educationally advanced nations on earth.

It is the only place in the Middle East where it is safe to be a woman, gay, Christian or Baha'i.

I have prayed at the Western Wall, celebrated Shabbat in Judea and Samaria, and witnessed the sun set over Jerusalem.

With these fond memories in mind, I proudly wish my Israeli friends happy Yom Ha'atzmaut.

CancerStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Canadian Cancer Society's Daffodil Day.

Every three minutes cancer claims another Canadian, and April is the month to fight back. While treatment and therapies have never been better, we must all continue to do our part to prevent, empower and inform Canadians about this disease.

Every one of us knows someone who has been affected by cancer. My partner of 24 years was one such person and his memory is very much a part of the work I do. I know I am joined by my colleagues and all Canadians in remembering our friend and our great leader, Jack Layton.

For more than 50 years, Canadians have worn the bright daffodil to honour and show support to those living with cancer and to remember those who have died. This Friday, April 27, let us all commit to strive for a healthier world to reduce the risk of cancer.

Terry Fox Mile 0 SiteStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was April 12, 1980 when Terry Fox dipped his artificial foot in the Atlantic Ocean off St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, to begin his journey across Canada to aid cancer research.

His Marathon of Hope, a 5,400 kilometre run on one leg, meant running a marathon every day for 143 days, perhaps the most outstanding feat of athleticism displayed by anyone ever.

Two weeks ago on the 32nd anniversary of the Marathon of Hope, I was in St. John's with the Minister of the Environment, responsible for Parks Canada, and Terry's family. Together we officially opened the Terry Fox Mile 0 site, featuring a bronze statue of Terry with a stunning view of St. John's harbour.

Terry Fox is a personal hero of mine and an inspiration to millions of people all around the world. He was an ordinary young man who showed extraordinary courage and determination. The Terry Fox Mile 0 site is a fitting tribute and a place where one can come to reflect and be inspired by this great Canadian.

I invite all Canadians to go to St. John's to see this magnificent tribute and read the inscription on the nearby cairn which states, “This is the place where a young man's dream began and a nation's hope lives on”.

Wheelchair AthleteStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House today to recognize Josh Cassidy, who hails from Burgoyne in my riding of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound.

Josh is on the Hill today for the Rolling Rampage event. He recently raced in the men's wheelchair division of the 116th Boston Marathon, winning and also setting a new world record.

Shortly after he was born, Josh was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer of the spine and abdomen, which resulted in the amputation of both of his legs.

Josh has been committed to working hard and has overcome many obstacles. Because of this, he beat the world record in the wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon by two seconds. He finished an astounding 3.14 minutes ahead of the second place contestant. Josh has firmly established himself as the frontrunner for the London Summer Olympic Games.

Josh is a shining example of what hard work can do if one puts one's mind to it. I congratulate him and wish him all the best in his future races. Constituents in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound and indeed all Canadians are proud of Josh's accomplishments.

Workplace SafetyStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, if people were to travel to our community of Hamilton, Ontario and go to the corner of Main and Bay Streets, they would see a very stark monument.

It was made from a sheet of steel and has on it a visibly injured worker clinging by his fingers. This is a monument to workers injured or killed on the job or those suffering from occupational disease. It was erected on April 28, 1990.

The purpose of the monument's casting was not only to commemorate the loss of workers' lives but to remind us all of the risks taken by workers each and every day when they go to work.

Every day workers go to work expecting to return home to their families, but all too often they do not. In this modern age rush for productivity, mistakes are made and workers trying to meet the new realities of the modern workplace often pay the ultimate price.

April 28 is not just a day for workers to stop and remember those who are dead, but also for all of us to recommit to fight for safer workplaces for all Canadians.

IsraelStatements By Members

April 26th, 2012 / 2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler Conservative York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we celebrate the 64th anniversary of the State of Israel.

Yom Ha'atzmaut, as it is called in Hebrew, marks the day in 1948 when modern day Israel was born out of the ashes of the Holocaust. Israel remains to this day the first and only pluralistic democratic nation in the Middle East.

Israel is one of Canada's greatest friends. We have a free trade agreement, knowledge exchange, and collaboration in science, technology and innovation. More importantly, we share the values of freedom, human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

While other nations deny Israel's very existence and the right of the Jewish people to a homeland, our Prime Minister has said:

Israel can rest assured that we will uphold its right to exist as an independent Jewish state as we continue in our efforts to promote peace and security in the region.

I would ask all members to stand with me in recognition and celebration of Israel's 64th independence day.

Chag Ha'atzmaut Sameach.

National Day of MourningStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Nycole Turmel NDP Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, on April 28, Canadians will mark our National Day of Mourning to honour all workers killed or injured at work.

This initiative was led by the Canadian Labour Congress and was officially recognized by our institutions with the passing of the Workers Mourning Day Act, which had been introduced by the former NDP member for Churchill, Rod Murphy.

This is an opportunity for us New Democrats, and for all members of this House, to show solidarity with victims, as well as their families, friends and colleagues. Every day, three working Canadians lose their lives on the job. This reminds us of the importance of creating safe and healthy workplaces.

More importantly, this reminds us of something that is crucial: we must never compromise when it comes to the health and safety of our workers—never.

Jan KarskiStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wladyslaw Lizon Conservative Mississauga East—Cooksville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a true hero, Jan Karski.

In 1939, Karski joined the Polish Home Army as a liaison officer. During the war and at great risk to his own life, Karski was smuggled, in disguise, into a Nazi German concentration camp in eastern Poland where he saw with his own eyes mass extermination taking place.

Scarred by what he had seen, Karski delivered an impassioned plea on behalf of Poland's Jews to the top allied officials in November 1942 and to President Roosevelt himself in July 1943. Unfortunately, his pleas went unanswered.

At a time when so many were silent, Karski, a righteous among the nations, spoke out. And so it is fitting that this year he will posthumously be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the United States.

Lakeland Mills SawmillStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, on April 28 we mark the National Day of Mourning, the day we remember those killed or injured while in the workplace.

Our thoughts and prayers will continue to be with those affected by Monday night's explosion and fire at the Lakeland Mills sawmill in Prince George in northeastern B.C.

We were all deeply saddened by the news of the workers who passed away due to their injuries, Alan Little and Glenn Francis Roche, and also those who continue to fight for their lives. These are people who went to work to provide for their families and to make our province and country a better place in which to live.

We are known in northern B.C. for our strength and resiliency, and after this devastating event, we will need to rely on these traits now more than ever. During this difficult time, I have seen our community come together and draw upon this strength, determined to support one another as we grieve this terrible loss.

I ask all members to join me in offering our condolences to the workers and their families who have been sadly affected by this tragedy.

Workplace SafetyStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, every day men and women in Canada risk their lives for their livelihood. In supporting themselves and their families, at least three people are killed on a daily basis with thousands more injured in the workplace annually. More often than not, these tragedies could have been prevented.

We must be vigilant in ensuring Canadians and foreign workers in Canada have access to the training and equipment they need to be safe on the job. Our workplaces above all else must be environments that foster safety for their workers, no matter the industry.

On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I extend my deepest sympathies to the friends, families and colleagues who honour the loss of a loved one on this day, and I wish a quick recovery to all those who have been injured on the job.

Workplace SafetyStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the National Day of Mourning is a day to commemorate those injured and killed in the workplace.

Canadians know that far too many accidents on job sites are not accidents at all, but are entirely preventable.

Just in the past year, B.C. has witnessed tragedy at two separate sawmills. There was one in January in Burns Lake, which killed two and injured 19. Just this past week in Prince George in disturbingly similar circumstances, two more workers were killed and 22 were injured.

Don Dahr, my father-in-law, lost his father in the workplace when he was very young. He has dedicated much of his life to protecting workers in the workplace. He has often said that the rules and regulations that protect Canadians at work are written in blood.

When workers leave their homes and families to go to work, we must commit to them that we will do everything in our power to make sure that they return home safe at the end of the day.

National Day of MourningStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, the National Day of Mourning is marked every year on April 28. The Government of Canada officially recognized this in 1991 to commemorate those workers whose lives have been lost or who have been injured in the workplace. The National Day of Mourning has since spread to about 80 countries around the world.

This Saturday we will remember those who have lost their lives or have been injured in the workplace. These people are hard-working Canadians who went to work, provided for their families, and worked to make Canada a better place in which to live.

Even one workplace death or injury is too many for the family that is affected, which includes families of members of the House who have been personally affected by a workplace death.

The annual observance of the day hopefully will serve to strengthen the resolve of all of us to continue to establish safe conditions in the workplace.

My colleagues and I remember those who have lost their lives. We reaffirm our collective commitment to ensure that all Canadians can return home safe and sound at the end of the day.

National Day of MourningStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Following discussions among representatives of all parties in the House, I understand that there is agreement to observe a moment of silence to commemorate the National Day of Mourning and to honour the memory of workers killed or injured at work.

I invite hon. members to rise.

[A moment of silence observed]

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister left the door wide open to extending Canada's military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014. He spouted rhetoric and stated that the government had not received this specific request, despite the fact that reliable military sources have told the media that a request was in fact received from the United States.

Is the Prime Minister saying that the United States has not made any contact whatsoever with Canada regarding the possible extension of the mission in Afghanistan?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, I said that I have had no such contact.

I also said that our priorities remain the same, namely, to ensure that Afghanistan is safe so that it does not become a threat to our security and to ensure that Afghans themselves assume greater responsibility for their own security.

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Outremont Québec

NDP

Thomas Mulcair NDPLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Prime Minister stated, “all of the military missions committed to under this government have come before the House”. However, that is not the case, and he knows it.

The last extension in Afghanistan was authorized by the Prime Minister acting alone. In November 2010, he said to Jack Layton:

The government has never submitted missions that do not involve combat to the House of Commons. This is a training and technical assistance mission and that is why we are acting on executive authority.

Is the Prime Minister going to act unilaterally once again to keep our troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014?

AfghanistanOral Questions

2:20 p.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Conservative

Stephen Harper ConservativePrime Minister

Mr. Speaker, once again, as I said, the government has every intention of bringing military missions to the House of Commons. In this case, this is a training mission. It is important that we ensure that Afghanistan is safe and is not a threat to global security. It is important also that the Afghans are responsible for their own security. That is why we are there, to prepare them to assume the full responsibility for their own security.