This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was refugees.

Topics

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, based on the NDP's position that the pooled registered pension plan would not be good enough because it is not a defined pension plan, does that mean the party is opposed to RRSPs? That is a voluntary program that has been around for many decades. Is that party advocating we get rid of RRSPs as a tool available to Canadians for saving for retirement?

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, as everyone knows, RRSPs have been around for a long time and they are quite significantly entrenched in our system. People need to know that unfortunately there are problems with RRSPs that the government simply does not talk about.

First and foremost, it is about $17 billion in terms of cost to provincial and federal governments in order to sponsor these RRSPs, $5 billion for the provinces, $12 billion out of federal government revenue every year. Imagine what we could do with $17 billion in federal and provincial government revenues in terms of making sure there is pension security for Canadians.

The government also does not tell people that the management fees I referred to take up as much as 40% of the investment an individual makes in an RRSP over a 40 or 45 year period. That means these folks think they are going to have enough and they are actually making headway, but the reality is they are not. They are being taken advantage of in many ways.

We cannot get rid of our RRSPs because they have been entrenched for too long. But we need to be cognizant of their downside.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree with my colleague from London—Fanshawe. I am glad to have my RRSPs. I have been trying to put money away in RRSPs. However, when one looks at their efficacy, one finds that overall they cost the system a tremendous amount and really provide little pension availability, and they provide less as we look down the income scale. The people who most need pension benefits are less likely to find them through RRSPs.

I am attracted to the idea of more municipal bonds. I know we are thinking outside the Bill C-25 box, but what does the member for London—Fanshawe think of Canadians being able to put their retirement savings in municipal bonds in their own communities?

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, that is something we should be investigating.

In December 2010, the federal government said it was going to sit down with the provinces and talk practically in a progressive way about the retirement crisis we face. Perhaps future talks with a different government would find something solid and workable. I hope there is a different government in 2015. In fact I know there will be a different government.

Perhaps we can sit down with municipalities and find something solid and workable that would invest our pension funds in a way that provides a significant return, safety and security, defined benefits and the kind of pension deserved by Canadians who have spent their entire lives building this country, putting in place the social safety net. It would be far better than allowing that bunch to destroy our social safety net, because, quite frankly, that is what they are up to.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from London—Fanshawe for articulating what really is wrong with pooled registered pension plans.

When clearly there is unlimited room in an RRSP for most folks, why does the government want to duplicate it? It is just the same plan all over again only with a different fee structure; it looks fancy and has a nice name. It would let workers think that somehow magic will happen.

The reality is that if people do not have money for an RRSP, they will not have money for a pooled registered pension plan. The government would argue that it can come off at source and therefore the tax is lower, but people can do the same thing with an RRSP.

Does my colleague from London—Fanshawe think the government is headed in the wrong direction and is really handing out a fairy tale to workers across this country that somehow this plan would help them in their retirement years?

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a fairy tale. I would call it a myth. I would call it an attempt to create an illusion. The Conservatives are very good at illusions. They have a whole box of tricks. The point is that pooled registered pension plans are not what they are cracked up to be. They depend on the stock market. It is not safe out there.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, in this timeframe we often make speeches about the legislation, but it is a debate and I am going to debate what I just heard from the member opposite.

It is unbelievable. First of all, the NDP members need to know that the CPP, which they like to claim is the panacea for all retirement savings, is invested in the stock market. We have a board that looks after the billions of dollars invested in the CPP, and it is invested in the stock market.

I am a bit frustrated and angry. I do not know why the members criticize the investments in the stock market as if it is something evil, something that is not going to return anything to anybody. Our CPP, the savings of every working Canadian, is invested in the stock market, and there is an investment board that looks after that investment. We cannot ignore the fact that all investments, whether CPP, RRSP or individual stocks, are invested in the stock market. We should get off the concept that there is something evil about or wrong with investing in businesses that will create jobs and growth in our country. That is what the stock market does for us. It provides retirement savings for every pension plan, OMERS for example, all the pension plans, public and private. The stock market is a key component to every savings tool that is out there. We should drop the concept that because it is invested in the stock market it is something risky or evil in which we cannot participate.

The other comment that was just made was in regard to RRSPs. Based on the NDP philosophy that I just heard, the members would remove the concept of people saving for themselves for their retirement, because it is taking tax money from the Government of Canada, and they think they can spend it better than we who are saving for our retirement.

I disagree 100% with that. It has been a very good tool for Canadians to save for their retirement. Is everyone taking it up? Even I have room in my RRSP. I have not taken it all up, and many Canadians do not, but that does not mean we remove the tool. We do things to improve the tool, and the pooled registered pension plan is an opportunity.

Our friends across the way talk about talking to Canadians at their kitchen table. A large number of organizations have come to committee and have told Canadians and the government that this would be a tool in the toolbox of retirement, that the pooled registered pension plan would be an opportunity that does not exist now that would be another piece of the puzzle for which to be able to save.

Why would members turn that down? The opposition may like something else, but does that mean that everything else is wrong just because they want something else? I disagree. If they were true to themselves, they would talk to the individuals in their ridings and say it is not the panacea that is going to solve everyone's retirement plan, but it is an opportunity.

For people who work for a small business that does not have a retirement plan, there would be a program that offers a pooled system, the key being that it would be pooled. Companies with small numbers and even those who are self-employed could belong to a plan that takes the risk and spreads it over a larger number of contributors. It would take the risk from the employer away because the administration would be done by a third party. It would take that liability away and it would pool the opportunity that is not available now.

Vitally important to me is the portability. This pension plan would be portable. People would take it with them. When people leave company A and go to company B, if company B does not have a pooled plan they could still keep their money in the pooled plan they are in. If company B has a pooled plan, they could move their money over to make that happen. They could keep their money in there.

There is nothing wrong with locked in. Part of the problem with Canadians, including myself, is that we are not great savers for retirement. We have all these other things. I have two daughters in university, for example, who cost me a lot of money. I did not do a good job of saving for that.

Lots of Canadians have issues with savings. Deductions at source help with savings. The pooled registered pension plan would have deductions at source. Those deductions would go into a pooled pension plan for individuals. If they moved or things changed, the funds would be locked in. Some could always be taken out if something happened, they become disabled or had other issues and needed to access the capital. That would be their capital and they would be able to get it, but really, it would be a retirement savings program.

Members opposite talk about the CPP as a panacea. It is a deduction at source and it is locked in. We cannot take it out until we retire. This is the exact same process. We are doing it so that Canadians have an opportunity to prepare themselves and their families for their retirement.

Members opposite say it is voluntary, it is an opt-out program. If individuals join a company that has a pooled plan, they are automatically enrolled. They have to make a decision within perhaps the first six weeks or six months. There is a timeframe within which they can opt out. They may not interested in saving for their retirement in a pooled plan, and they may opt out. It is a program that attempts to ensure that Canadians put a little bit aside for their retirement, which I think is what we are all after. There is not one member in the House who does not want a decent retirement for those who have worked all their lives and for their families.

However, we have to have tools to do that. The RRSP is an individual tool. I agree with the previous speaker, the cost of those programs is high. It is exactly why we want to go with the pooled system. It is portable, it is locked in and it has a lower cost.

Let us look at an example. We can all buy paper individually for our offices. It is all basically the same thing, paper. If we purchase in a pool, everyone gets paper. It is cheaper, more efficient and more effective. That is what pooled registered pension plans are for. That is why it is important that we move forward with this.

Members opposite cannot support this because they want the CPP changed. They know and Canadians know that it takes two-thirds of the provinces with two-thirds of the population to make a change to CPP. We cannot unilaterally do it. It is not legal for us to do it, we are not capable of doing it and we do not have support from all provinces at present.

Not speaking for the government, but for myself, reviewing what is happening with CPP and making changes is a policy initiative that I fully support. However, if we cannot get the provinces to agree, we have to find other solutions. It might not be the final solution, but we have to find some other opportunities. Why are opposition members ignoring opportunities that exist for which we have general support?

Before I wrap up, I want to say that this is an opportunity that will pass this House and will be for federal employees. I would like each and every province, including my own province of Ontario, to take advantage of this opportunity. It would not cost a dime.

I understand from the Ontario budget that Ontario will not proceed with legislation required to enable this to happen in Ontario for other employment groups. I have no idea why the Ontario government would not do that. Why is it denying Ontarians the opportunity to save for their retirement? It does not make sense to me. It does not cost anything. We should be moving ahead. We should be looking for tools that solve the problem.

RRSPs do not solve the problem, but would we get rid of them? Absolutely not. We have to look for opportunities, we have to look for tools. The pooled registered pension plan is a tool that does not exist now that would help many working Ontarians and other Canadians. I would appreciate the support of everyone in the House.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for commenting on this plan that we consider particularly toxic, in that people will be well aware of what they are investing but will have no guarantee of what they will get back. This is not savings; it is not really a pension plan. It is quite simply a financial instrument to enable financial institutions to make even more money.

The banks will be the first to benefit from this money. They are the ones that get paid first. Perhaps the hon. member can provide confirmation: it is the financial institutions that collect the administrative fees, that set rates to make a profit. Then, if there is a return, it goes to the participants' savings, and if there is a deficit, if the return is negative, the financial institutions are in no way prevented from collecting administrative fees and setting a profitable rate, which worsens the shortfall.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, what was just expressed by my colleague from the other side is a complete fallacy.

Of course the pooled pension plan would have fees. Administrators would charge a fee for administrating, but the law would set the level of those administrative fees, which could be much cheaper in a pooled system than individuals see through the RRSP system that we have now. Therefore, we would have some say.

I have no problem with organizations providing a tool for retirement. They are providing the service of administration, and taking that administrative burden off employers. Employers do not have pension plans, defined or otherwise, or DC plans, because of the costs and liabilities that go with them. This is an opportunity to remove that liability, to provide an opportunity for employees to have a savings program at a lower cost because it is pooled across a larger number. If the organization, whether it is a bank or a life insurance company, charged an administrative fee, it would be allowed to do so. Those administration fees would be reviewed and controlled by this legislation.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Madam Speaker, speaking of tools, I want to talk about RRSPs. The member is right, they are a tool. When we consider the whole package of retirement funds, I agree that this pooled pension plan is one of the tools in the shed that is certainly of good benefit for many, but not really a lot.

If we are talking about doing a lot of heavy lifting with a shovel, what the member is armed with here today is a very large spoon. There is no doubt that it does its work. The problem is, when he talks about pooling the purchasing of paper to bring costs down, not everybody is buying paper. Therefore, I would suggest to him that, in addition to this, maybe he should look at using that CPP investment board that he spoke of as a voluntary option to supplement the current mandatory CPP payments. This would be a vehicle, another tool in the shed.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, the hon. member across likes to ask me questions, and I like to answer them.

I am not sure if the Liberal Party will have this in its platform the next time, but in the past it put forward making CPP voluntary. People could take that deduction, voluntarily add more money on their own and the CPP board could manage it for them. That is what the Liberals' proposal has been. If they do not know that, or they do not understand it, they should read their own platform.

The pooled pension plan would allow small, medium and large companies that do not have a pension program to pool together and have required deductions at source for those under the plan, whether they are in the same industry or not.

The voluntary piece is what is at issue. Canadians are not great savers unless we take it off their paycheques, which has been the case, including for myself. If they are part of a pooled plan, it is an automatic deduction that is locked in, which is much better than the voluntary system the Liberals are advocating.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

May 17th, 2012 / 10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I am able to add a few words today on what is a very interesting bill. It clearly demonstrates first-hand the differences among the Conservative-Reform Party, the New Democratic Party and the Liberal Party.

I will pick up on the member's reference to the Liberal Party's position, saying it wanted to make CPP optional. Of course, that is not true. Let me start by saying that the whole issue of pension has been a very interesting subject to Liberals for generations. In fact, the area of retirement and making sure our seniors are taken care of is nothing new for the Liberal Party. The Canada pension plan, old age security and the guaranteed income supplement were all programs initiated by Liberal prime ministers, going back to some of the ideas that were at the forefront in making a difference and enhancing seniors' pensions today. The Liberal seniors critic today was talking about how we could have incorporated some form of additional contributions to benefit CPP.

What I like about this particular bill is it shows that there are differences among political parties. Let me reference the NDP's position. It is saying it does not support this bill. It does not recognize pooled registered plans as a viable alternative for consumers, individual companies and self-employed individuals. I do not understand why. Many individuals would see this as a positive step forward. It is not going to be the major pension supplement into the future for our seniors but many seniors would be able to benefit from this program.

It is not just the Liberal Party that recognizes that. Some provincial administrations across the country have also seen the value of it. Thousands of small businesses throughout the country have seen the value of pooled registered pension plans. There seems to be fairly tangible support for the concept of having pooled registered pension plans. This is where Liberals differ from New Democrats on this bill.

Then there are the Conservatives, or the Reform-Conservatives as they are better known as nowadays, saying they want to create the fund with management fees. Australia has developed a similar program and the management fees are a killer. They are taking away a great deal of profit, which would, in essence, go back to the seniors who are hoping to be able to use this money to supplement their CPP and OAS.

It was not that long ago that the leader of the Liberal Party spoke on this bill at second reading and talked about the overhead cost structure for CPP. Why are we not going out of our way to incorporate or allow for some sort of similar situation, perhaps one in which the pooled pension plan would have the same structure? What are the options we have? The government tends to turn a deaf ear. We have to ask why it is not looking for a mechanism that would allow for this tool to be maximized for our seniors?

I challenge the government to seriously look at that and to look at bringing in the potential for amendments. I recognize we are already into the third reading stage, but maybe we could get the Senate to rectify this issue. Obviously the government has not been sensitive to that.

It makes sense. If we can allow our seniors to generate more income on their savings and allow the employers that put money to the side to generate more revenue for retiring seniors, why would we not do that?

If we look at what happens in other jurisdictions, we can see these types of funds have huge administrative costs and management fees. There is a good number of people who make huge profits and those profits are in essence taken away from seniors in their ability to maximize their pension benefits.

We are not necessarily against profits. We recognize where the Canada pension plan contributes and relies on profits. A structure is in place where there have been great savings, compared to other types of pooled registered pension plans.

That is why we suggest the government open its eyes and look at how CPP is administered and structured to see how we might be able to maximum the benefits of a pooled registered pension plan and maybe allow some of those agents that manage the CPP an opportunity to deal with this pooled registered pension plan, at the end of the day believing that seniors will benefit.

The issues of pensions is very important nowadays. It is on the minds of a lot of Canadians because the government seems to be fixated on creating a crisis with respect to our OAS. The government has suggested Canadians not retire at age 65 but wait until age 67. That has sent significant shock waves through our communities.

From the perspective of the area that I represent, Winnipeg North, when the Prime Minister was overseas, musing about what he wanted to do with pension plans and the pensions of seniors, it was somewhat insensitive to the day-to-day decisions seniors had to make. Some of those decisions deal with things such as whether they should pass on lunch to buy medicine, or whether they have enough money to take their grandchildren out to a special event.

Seniors face some serious financial issues today in a very real and tangible way. They are looking for leadership from the Government of Canada. What they want to hear from the government is that it truly cares. They want it to provide hope for individuals as they get closer to retirement.

When I look at Bill C-25, I will give the government some credit. It proposes to expand the toolbox of what some seniors might be able to look at, including working with good employers that recognize the value of pensions. However, the bottom line is we need to think about pensions a lot more than we are, and we need to look at a wide variety—

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

Order, please. The hon. member for Yukon.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, it was not perfectly clear to me if the member intends to support the legislation. I ask that with all sincerity. Is it the position of the Liberals that because it is not enough, they will not support the bill, or can he recognize, as he did toward the end of his comments, that it is a step and a tool that is moving forward? If the Liberals look at it from that perspective, would they support it and then continue to work with parliamentarians to find additional solutions to improve the chances of Canadians for long-term prosperity?

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it may be perfectly clear, as I believe I would have been in second reading, that what I like about the bill is it shows that there is a difference between all three political parties. We in the Liberal Party see this as a valuable tool and therefore will vote in favour of the legislation.

However, we also want Canadians to recognize that the government has dropped the ball in regard to the type of management fees that will be out there. A lot more dollars will go toward management fees than there need to be. Had the government looked at the structure for CPP and allowed CPP a larger role to play on the legislation, more money would have gone into the pockets of retiring seniors in the future. We would have liked to have seen incorporated into the bill.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very disappointed to hear that the Liberals will support this very flawed notion of a pooled private system. I wonder if any of them, including that member, attended last spring when the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences hosted pension expert Keith Ambachtsheer for a big-thinking lecture series on the Hill. He is an internationally acknowledged expert on pensions. He made it very clear that we already had a superb system that operated at a tiny fraction of 1% in terms of administration fees, with guaranteed defined benefits at the end of the day, backed by government. He said it was a system that people could count on and that it was more effective and more efficient than a private system where the fees would be 2.5% to 4% or even more.

I ask the Liberals and that member to rethink this, go with the advice from the real experts in the field and not let any of our ideologies drive this. I ask them to look at the facts and the science behind it.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, having represented an area in the province of Manitoba for many years, one of the things I notice was the difference between the NDP in government versus the NDP in opposition. When NDP members are in government, they tend to think differently. NDP members in government tend to be closer to wanting to be Liberals and are more open-minded to allowing seniors the opportunity to have a multitude of ways in which they can invest in pensions.

I hope my friends in the NDP have many years of future success in opposition. I hope they retain the position in terms of withholding opportunities for seniors to really enjoy their retirement years by denying them what could potentially be a tool. However, not for every senior will benefit from this. That is why we have to ensure we stay on top of OAS, CPP and the GIS. This is to ensure that all seniors benefit.

However, let us not throw out good ideas or ideas that could be improved upon. Do not get me wrong, this bill can and should be improved upon. It does have a serious flaw, but keep in mind that there are thousands of small businesses across the country that like this legislation and many provincial jurisdictions accept it as a positive thing.

Therefore, we need to approach it with an open mind, but we need to keep in mind that the government dropped the ball in not allowing CPP to play a larger role. Canadians, as a whole, have a lot more confidence in CPP and OAS than any other pension program.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Calgary East Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise again to speak to Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act.

First, I would like to respond to the last Liberal speaker. When I listened to him, I wondered if there were warning bells that there would be a merger between the NDP and Liberals. Maybe he was talking about that. I wish them the best of luck.

Coming back to the business of the pension plan, I will speak to the NDP position later on. Right now I will speak about the Liberal position, which is typical. The Liberals are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. They like this, but they want to do that. What do they want to do?

Let me tell them this. They should not mislead Canadians when they speak about the CPP.

We should look at the CPP legislation. CPP can only be amended by the consensus of two-thirds of the provinces, representing two-thirds of the population. That is how one can change CPP, and not by what the Liberal Party has said. The Liberals can talk about anything they want, but it will not change the fact that CPP can only be changed when two-thirds of the provinces agree to change it. We should be honest about it.

The provincial finance ministers, at their 2010 meeting, had strong objections to changes to the CPP. Maybe the Liberals should take that fact into consideration. The provinces have a strong objection to changing CPP in the way in which the member keeps speaking about as a good way to change it. For that reason, they will support it but they want CPP.

Yet, as was pointed out, the NDP government in Manitoba is different from the federal NDP opposition. However, all provincial finance ministers agreed that this was the right way to go. I am sorry to say that the objections made by the Liberals against this bill hold no water. It is typical Liberal rhetoric. They are sitting on both sides of the fence.

I will talk about the NDP's opposition to the bill. The NDP is now a party with its head in the sand. I look at what the NDP leader has said. He has been talking about the Dutch disease, creating division between resource rich provinces and so-called manufacturing provinces, not understanding that resources and manufacturing are intertwined.

The provincial economies in Canada are intertwined. Yet the Leader of the Opposition is going around the country and talking about the Dutch disease, saying that the resource sector is destroying the economy of the province of Quebec where he was born. He said that it was destroying manufacturing jobs in Quebec. What narrow thinking. The NDP is aspiring to be the Government of Canada? That is the most dangerous scenario one can think about happening in our country.

If the Liberal members would like to join the NDP, I would ask them to think about this. Do they want to join a party that is sowing division in our country? We have one of the best mobility systems in the world, considering Canada's economic situation compared with other countries. We can move from eastern Canada to western Canada within days and have everything transferred.

We have an economic system that benefits the whole country. Yet, what did the NDP leader say? He is blasting the resource rich provinces. Now he has also changed and is hitting northern Ontario. He does not like the forestry sector there.

I can tell the House that he will quickly change his tune when it applies to his province of Quebec. What kind of leadership is being displayed by the so-called Leader of the Opposition, whom some have termed the “prime minister in waiting?”

As long as I am on this side, we will fight tooth and nail to make sure Canadians understand how divisive that party is. That is why it comes as no surprise that the NDP opposes this legislation. When the NDP opposes something, we know we are on the right track.

Let me get back to talking about the pooled registered retirement. Those who have a business background know the value of having this pooled registered pension plan.

My wife ran a business for 15 years. I worked for the city and helped her with her business. I had a government pension plan then and I have a government pension plan even now, and so do many Canadians. Canadians who work for big corporations have a pension plan. After putting 15 years of hard labour into her business, my wife has no pension because there was no vehicle available to her. All she can do is put money into RRSPs to help her out with her pension planning because that is her only vehicle. When I talked to her about this pooled plan, she wanted to know why nobody had brought this idea forward before. Why did it take so long?

All provinces unanimously support this. Not all Canadians will benefit from this plan, but it will reach those people who have been left out, who do not have any other tools like we have. This plan would fill the crack in their retirement planning.

This plan is a strong tool. It would allow a portion of Canadians, those who are self-employed and those who cannot enter into this, the opportunity to have another vehicle for their long-term retirement plan. What is wrong with that picture? I do not understand what those members find wrong with that.

I hear members talking about the fee, saying they think it would be high. Let me get this straight. Those members are going to oppose a very good plan that would benefit thousands of Canadians because they think the fee would be high. Let me be clear. They do not have any proof that it would be high.

This plan would be based on experience, based on pooled resources and based on this being under an act of legislation. Those would ensure we get the best money for this pension plan. In the long term it would help thousands of Canadians in their retirement, which is key.

The opposition will fearmonger again about our government raising the retirement age from 65 to 67 to qualify for OAS. That does not apply to those who are currently getting it or will be getting it in the near future. We have to look at the long term.

On June 2, I will have been in the House for 15 years. When I was on the other side, we debated the Canada pension plan when the issue was raised by the government of the day. At that time, the Liberals sat on this side of the House. We changed to reflect the increase. We recognized that the Canada pension plan needed to be changed because otherwise it would not be there in the long term for Canadians.

Today, instead of raising the premiums, which would impact the fragile economic recovery, all we are saying is that the age be deferred from 65 to 67. This would apply to the younger population. This would provide them with enough time and tools to continue to build a retirement savings plan, which would be there for them when they retire. The plan will not be bankrupt.

To the Liberal who keeps talking about seniors, I am telling him to use the word correctly, when he is talking about 65 to 70. This is for the younger generation coming up. The current seniors and the seniors we will be getting in the next short period of time are not impacted. However, that is not what he is going to talk about because it does not fit into his agenda.

However, I am happy to note, irrespective of whatever they say, at least they will vote with us, so that by itself is a positive factor.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, it is always with great humour that we welcome the comments of the hon. member opposite. What we want to do is defend the middle class, the people who are in need.

This bill contains no real incentive for self-employed workers, for non-standard workers who have been increasing in numbers over the past 15 years because this government, like the previous one, has been incapable of creating stable jobs. What he and his colleague said is rather infuriating, namely, that it could help everyone and that it would be voluntary. Sure, but this bill takes so much responsibility away from the employer, there is no incentive. I stress the word “incentive”.

How will part-time and contract workers be encouraged to contribute to it? And, furthermore, all it is going to do is that, in 2020 or whatever year, they will have to retire at age 67 instead of age 65. How can people find real incentive in that and how will the employer be involved and accountable for the amounts that will be invested in the pooled fund?

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, he talked about humour. Let me talk about the humour he is talking about when he says they are there to defend the middle class. Amazingly, how is the NDP going to defend the middle class when it is fighting the natural resources, talking about a Dutch disease? He is talking about damaging the economy, putting divisive policies in the country, which will have a very negative impact on the whole economy of the country.

He should first get the facts right before he starts getting up and saying the NDP is going to defend the middle class. The way the NDP is going, there will be nothing left to defend anyway.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the comments from the member. Just to pick up on one of them in regard to the whole divisiveness, is the Leader of the Opposition very divisive, not very considerate to westerners? I am a westerner. I too was quite offended by his attack on premiers out west.

Having said that, when we talk about CPP, the member said that requires all provinces to come to the table and come up with an agreement to improve CPP, two-thirds, as has been pointed out. That is why I said it is important in my comments.

Seniors today are looking to Ottawa to see national leadership, a prime minister who is prepared to sit at a table and work with premiers. I am not suggesting he behave in the same fashion as the leader of the official opposition, but I am suggesting he sit down and demonstrate leadership in working on what is an important issue to all seniors in Canada, and that is to enhance programs like CPP. If he is not prepared to sit down with them and work with them in good faith, then agreement will never be achieved.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, in answer to his question, yes, in the 2010 meeting with the finance ministers, the government, through the Minister of State for Finance, my good colleague from Okotoks, met with the finance ministers of our country, all of them. They raised a strong objection. Once they raised the strong objection, it was very clear to us that we needed to find another method for going forward.

Therefore, to answer his question whether we met with the provinces, yes, we did.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I rise to debate this particular legislation. I noticed my colleague in his speech pretty well stuck with the topic of the economy rather than actually speaking to this rather insignificant and poorly designed bill that the government put forward. I do not blame him for doing that, because that is the case.

The Conservatives will say that, by bringing forward the bill, they have created something seniors. That is a very minor element and much of what is proposed in the bill can already be accomplished.

When I was mayor of a little town, Fort Smith, we did not have a pension plan for our employees, but we did have a plan by which they could have a certain amount deducted from their paycheque to go into RRSPs for their use once they had finished their working careers.

These types of arrangement can be made by companies. They were made by the community government I represented as mayor, and they carried forward. Were they successful? They were reasonably successful in some ways, but in other ways, because they were not mandatory but voluntary, they did not include a lot of issues. The municipality itself took the time to even enhance the value of these RRSPs, but still we found that many of the employees simply did not have the facility. They needed the money for their everyday life and did not participate in the program to the extent that we would have thought would have been appropriate.

When we have these voluntary programs for employees who, in this day of Conservative economics, are getting less and less in their pay pocket at the end of the day, a voluntary program to encourage them to save for retirement seems rather difficult for them in many cases because they simply need the money to survive in this world.

What we have is a program that may work for some people, but it is not a nation-building program that deserves the recognition of Parliament, that deserves the time and effort the government has put on Parliament to create. If this is the best it can do, it is certainly not adequate for Canadians, and that is what we see.

We compare this pooled program to other programs around the world that do the same thing. Is there mandatory participation by employers? In Canada, there is not; in New Zealand, yes; in the United Kingdom, yes; in Australia, yes.

Is there auto enrolment by employees? In the case of Canada, provided the employer chooses to offer a plan to that class of employees, there is an auto enrolment, but the employee has an opting out opportunity within 60 days for notifications for new PRPPs.

Is there mandatory employer contribution? There is not; but in all three other programs we are looking at, yes, yes, yes. Is there a minimum employer contribution? In Canada there is none; in New Zealand, 2%; in the United Kingdom, 3%; in Australia, 9%. Is there a minimum employee contribution? In Canada there is none; in New Zealand, 2%; in the United Kingdom, 4%; in Australia, none.

The government contribution is tax relief. In other cases, in Australia they top up by $1,000; there is an annual tax credit in New Zealand of $1,000. Are there provisions to allow employees to suspend contributions? Yes, and that is similar within the programs. Are employees restricted to a single lifetime savings plan? This is important, because in Canada the answer is no, in New Zealand, yes, and in the other two countries, no. However, we found with Australia's not having a single program and not having the ability to transfer programs that this causes a mushrooming number of savings accounts, and it emerged as a significant problem in Australia's superannuation program.

By June 2010, there were 32.9 million super pension accounts in Australia, an average of three accounts per employee and almost double the number 15 years before. Many of them are inactive or are lost member accounts. It is a program that really does not work all that well when there are seasonal employees or employees moving from one business to another.

We have seen voluntary pension pairing plans and pooled registered pension plans around the world and the one that is proposed by the Conservative government seems very weak. It seems to be mostly window dressing on things that could be accomplished and carried forward in a good fashion with the existing legislation and pension opportunities.

We want to see something that is more universal and expands opportunities for the universal Canada pension plan, that raises contribution levels and creates greater defined benefits so people will know they have surety in their retirement and that they can work to the age of 65 and retire with dignity. Now the Conservatives are changing that as well by raising the age of retirement, not for those who are seniors now but for young people who will be entering the system. By young, I mean people under 50 years old, not really young, but they will see that change come about.

What is the reaction within the population? We are seeing that seniors are moving to the NDP in greater and greater numbers across the country because seniors understand what it means when the age of retirement is changed from 65 to 67. They do not want to burden their children and grandchildren with that additional cost when the additional cost to the government turns out to be not that bad. It turns out that the Conservatives are overinflating the costs and creating panic in the system when the panic in the system does not need to happen. The Conservatives are once again living to their name: cons. They are working the Canadian public like we are rubes but seniors are not buying it. They are moving away from the Conservatives in droves right now because they understand the reality of what the government is doing.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Bob Zimmer Conservative Prince George—Peace River, BC

Not the seniors in my riding.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

One only has to look at the polling numbers to see that seniors are moving away from the Conservatives.

Why are they doing that after the Conservatives introduced this notion of changing the retirement age from 65 to 67? It is because the seniors in this country understand what that means. People who are at the age of retirement understand what the Conservatives will be doing to their children and grandchildren and they do not like it. I do not blame them. Fair is fair in this country. We have a system that says that the retirement age is 65, so let us keep it there. We need to make the adjustments on what it costs to maintain that program, not this tricky little measure of trying to promote it by saying that it is not really happening right now so people do not have to worry about it. What is that all about?

We are here to make measured and careful decisions for the future of this country. The government is definitely doing that in a bad fashion. It should be held to account and will be by this side of the House going forward over the next three years until we can get rid of it.