Madam Speaker, I am sure the member will have an opportunity to ask some further questions since he seemed dismayed that his colleague's time was up.
When I last spoke to Bill C-25 on this issue, I expressed my concern that this was little more than breadcrumbs to a starving person. I supported it going to committee, as did our party, with the hope that some significant changes would be made to improve some part of what the government had called pension reform.
Bill C-25 is still nothing more than a mechanism for those who have money to save for their retirement and the government trying to pass it off as its answer to pension reform.
While I have no difficulties with creating savings vehicles, in fact we need to do more of that, we must also work to help those who have little means to save. Pension reform should be all about that. Bill C-25 is not pension reform and any claim that it is false, misleading and deceptive.
For the sake of clarity, it is still my intention to vote for Bill C-25 because it is a breadcrumb to a starving person. It is as simple as that and nothing more than that. It will not satisfy the demand, but perhaps it will offer a small portion of temporary relief to some. Therefore, I will cast my vote with deep concern for what this legislation fails to do.
PRPPs are nothing but locked-in RRSPs and Canadians will face a number of problems if they choose to join these plans. Members will bear 100% of the investment risk. A single market stumble could spell the end to any retirement hopes. There is also no ability to make up for the bad years by making additional tax deductible contributions. They will have to become administrators of their own plans and there is no ability to move out of an underperforming PRPP into a performing one or one that will offer better services.
Employers will be forced to create administrative systems to enrol their members. If provinces make them mandatory, then since both employers and members can opt out, they may incur a significant amount of costs for absolutely no reason.
It is still unclear whether any homemakers would be able to contribute or would it have to be from employment income only? Yet again, the so-called Conservative plan excludes those who contribute to society outside of the traditional workforce.
Why not learn from some of the others who have tried plans like the PRPPs that are being proposed today. Australia tried it well over a decade ago, in 1997. It was published in the Rotman International Journal of Pension Management. It found that the only ones who benefited from the plan were those in the financial sector. The study concluded that the Australian superannuation system was founded on the assumption that market competition would deliver economic efficiency in a largely private, defined contribution system. That did not work.
Management fees are a significant problem. PRPPs will be managed by the very same people who manage Canada's mutual funds, and Canadians already pay some of the highest management fees in the world on their mutual funds.
Morningstar released a report grading 22 countries on the management expense ratios levied on their mutual funds. Canada was the only country to receive an F. Why should we be striving for an F? I, like most, think we should be striving for an A. It would make far more sense.
The government already knows all of this. It was specifically raised in January when Bill C-25 was last before the House. The standing committee knew this too, which is why I am shocked it reported back to the House without any suggestions for improvement and without any insights of any kind, in spite of having a variety of individuals go before the finance committee and suggest some amendments and some ways to improve Bill C-25, clearly because Canada needs serious pension reform.
The standing committee was silent, despite witness testimony that said, “in its current form, Bill C-25 is an example of good intentions, creating a legislative response that will have numerous unintended adverse consequences”. Witnesses also stated that as an effective pension plan, pooled plans were unlikely to achieve that goal.
Expert witnesses at committee begged the government to make even minor changes, again because we need to move forward as a country on pension reform. They said:
There is a considerable body of academic work that shows that putting untrained and uninterested individuals in charge of investment selection is foolish.... If investing money was a simple matter, we'd all be rich. The reality is that investing is challenging, even for professionals, and that it remains to be a full-time job.
The world is becoming increasingly complex, financial innovation continually challenges practitioners and to expect Canadians to suddenly have the time required and the skill needed to manage money carefully is unfair and, to be blunt, ill-advised.
Despite all these warnings, the government had ordered its MPs on the finance committee to ignore all of that good advice and to vote down any amendments from the opposition.
We had suggested several amendments. At second reading the Liberal caucus said, and I led that discussion, that we wanted to work with the government to make Bill C-25 more effective. At the committee we introduced an amendment to address some of the problems raised by the witnesses. All of our amendments were defeated along party lines.
Specifically, the Liberal finance critic presented an amendment that would have addressed the issue of high management fees. Why would the government defeat it? The government decided that Canadians should be cast to the markets without any form of protection, despite the warnings coming from experts on the subject. In simple language, this means that investors, average Canadians interested in the PRPPs, would be legally required to pay fees that would guarantee a profit for the bank. That sounds to me like an inefficient way of delivering pensions.
These requirements are the cornerstone of the PRPP plan. With this in mind, I am left to wonder how PRPPs could possibly yield results for Canadians and pensioners. The simple answer is that PRPPs would not help the average Canadian prepare for retirement, just as millions of Canadians have not been able to max out their RRSPs.
Forcing Canadians to work longer and harder to save for retirement on top of asking them to pay for $6 billion in giveaways to the largest corporations, $13 billion for new megaprisons and $40 billion for an untendered stealth fighter jet deal is not a plan for pensions. PRPPs will not work for those who need them the most.
Why are we not learning from some of the mistakes of other countries? Australia adopted its version of PRPPs over a decade ago, in 1997. The recent study that I alluded to earlier, done by the Rotman International Journal of Pension Management, found that the only benefit from that plan went to the financial services industry.
Why not look at other options? Let me tell the House a bit about the Liberal option. A supplemental Canada pension plan, already proposed by the Liberals, would provide the best of both worlds. It would create a new retirement savings vehicle for Canadians who need it, while delivering the low overhead cost structure of the Canada pension plan.
A supplementary Canada pension would be a simple cost-effective solution to the pension question facing our country. It would be a defined benefit pension for everyone, even those who have left the workforce during their lives for child rearing, illness, seasonal employment and educational advancement. It would use proven and existing resources to give every Canadian man, woman and child a reliable and stable investment vehicle for the future. A supplementary Canada pension would be a plan for real pension reform.
The Conservatives could not care less. By ignoring the amendments that we had put forward, by ignoring our good intention of trying to work with the government on making changes to Bill C-25, the government is clearly showing that it has no interest in the idea that Canadians should have anybody help them to save money.
The government's fend-for-yourself attitude that we see every day in the House continues. Bill C-25 is just another example of good intentions but failed legislation.