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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

A message from His Excellency the Governor General transmitting supplementary estimates (A) for the financial year ending March 31, 2013, was presented by the President of the Treasury Board and read by the Speaker to the House.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Veterans AffairsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Kerr Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fifth report of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in relation to its review of the delivery of front line health and well-being services for Canadian veterans.

Rights of the UnbornPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am presenting a petition on behalf of close to 200 residents of the city of Mississauga who are expressing their views on section 223 of the Criminal Code with respect to when human life begins.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present five sets of petitions today signed by hundreds of people from my hometown of Hamilton who are urging the government to keep the age of eligibility for the OAS at 65.

The petitioners rightly point out that only 31% of Canadians have been able to contribute to RRSPs and, even then, many saw their savings evaporate in the recent market downturn. The petitioners also note that only 40% of Canadians have workplace pensions and the future of many of those pension plans is increasingly tenuous.

Since over a quarter of a million seniors are now living in poverty and public pensions provide at most $15,000 to the typical retiree, the petitioners are calling on the government to drop its ill-considered change to the OAS, maintain the current age of eligibility and make the requisite investments in the guaranteed income supplement to lift every senior out of poverty.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Foote Liberal Random—Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I, too, stand to present a petition taking exception to the government's decision to increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67.

This two-year delay will cost our lowest income seniors over $30,000 in benefits. Single women will be disproportionately affected by this change as they tend to rely more heavily on OAS and GIS payments, and low-income Canadians rely far more heavily on OAS and GIS.

The petitioners are asking the government to reconsider this decision because of the impact it will have ,particularly on Canadians of low income and women.

HousingPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Madam Speaker, today I am very pleased to table a petition in the House from the Front d'action populaire en réaménagement urbain, better known as FRAPRU, a national coalition fighting for the right to housing.

The few pages that I have in my hands are just a small sample of this petition. I have a full box before me, and that is only part of the petition that was signed by over 27,000 people, including 24,000 from Quebec. You may wonder what has driven so many people to sign a petition like that. It is very simple.

They want the federal government to provide the necessary funding to renovate, improve and modernize all social housing, low-income housing, housing co-ops and non-profit housing. Most of those buildings are more than 20 years old. Understandably, renovation is a necessity, not a luxury.

They are also asking the federal government to maintain subsidies that allow low-income tenants to pay rent based on their income. Otherwise, thousands of low-income tenants will either have to pay two or three times as much rent or they will have to move to apartments that are likely to be significantly less hygienic.

The government has a choice. It can either insist on investing in the Cadillac of fighter jets and in mega-prisons, or it can create true wealth by combatting poverty and making sure that Canadians have access to decent and affordable housing.

PensionsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Madam Speaker, as members will have noted, there is profound concern across the country with regard to pensions and the security of pensions, and I have a petition in that regard.

The petitioners are petitioning the House of Commons because the Old Age Security Act does not bring into account how expensive the basic needs of Canadian seniors are today and will be in the future. Changes are needed to allow for Canadian seniors to be pulled out of poverty and we can do that.

The undersigned citizens of Canada call upon the Parliament of Canada to enact Bill C-287, introduced by New Democrats to create a consumer price index for consumers over the age of 60, which would then be used to amend old age security and, therefore, ensure that seniors receive the payments they need in order to survive.

Human RightsPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions.

The first petition is signed by residents of the Kitchener—Waterloo area who are very concerned about the human rights situation, in particular the persecution of Falun Dafa and Falun Gong within China.

The petitioners ask that Parliament, the Prime Minister and other representative of the Privy Council make it very clear in dealings with China that Canadians stand up for human rights.

41st General ElectionPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the second petition deals with what has been called for short, “the robocall scandal”. It comes from residents in Kingston, Ajax and Belleville.

The petitioners are demanding, as have many petitioners before them, a full public independent inquiry to determine what went on with the deliberate attempts to mislead voters in the 2011 elections.

Health of Animals ActPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to present the following petition.

The petitioners draw the attention of the House to the fact that horses are ordinarily kept and treated as sports and companion animals, that horses are not raised primarily as food-producing animals, that horses are commonly administered drugs that are strictly prohibited from being used at any time in all other food-producing animals destined for the human food supply and that Canadian horse meat products that are currently being sold for human consumption in domestic and international markets are likely to contain prohibited substances.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament to bring forward and adopt into legislation Bill C-322, an act to amend the health of animals act and the meat inspection act, thus prohibiting the importation or exportation of horses for slaughter for human consumption as well as horse meat products for human consumption.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 577.

Question No. 577Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

With regard to government employment levels, for each of the federal electoral districts of Parry Sound—Muskoka, Macleod, Haldimand—Norfolk, Halton, Edmonton Centre, Central Nova, Mégantic—L'Érable and Eglinton—Lawrence: (a) what is the current total number of federal employees in the riding; and (b) what is the total number of anticipated job reductions in the riding for the fiscal year (i) 2012-2013, (ii) 2013-2014, (iii) 2014-2015?

Question No. 577Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement ConservativePresident of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, the Treasury Board Secretariat cannot produce these statistics by riding.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, if Question No. 576 could be made an order for return, this return would be tabled immediately

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 576Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Liberal Guelph, ON

With respect to tax returns filed with the Canada Revenue Agency, for each tax year between 2006 and 2011: (a) what is the total number of tax returns filed, broken down by tax year, by (i) individuals, (ii) corporations; (b) for the answer to part (a)(i) and (a)(ii), what is the total number of tax returns filed by (i) individuals who have been reassessed, broken down by tax year, (ii) corporations that have been reassessed, broken down by tax year; (c) for the answer to part (b)(i), of the total number of tax returns filed by individuals who have been reassessed, (i) what is the total number of individuals who received a refund, broken down by tax year, (ii) what is the total number of individuals who had a change to their tax payable and were required to repay an amount or had a balance due, broken down by tax year; (d) for the answer to part (b)(ii), of the total number of tax returns filed by corporations that were reassessed, (i) what is the total number of corporations that received a refund, broken down by tax year, (ii) what is the total number of corporations that had a change to their tax payable and were required to repay an amount or had a balance due, broken down by tax year; (e) for the answer to part (c)(i), broken down by tax year, (i) what is the total monetary amount refunded to individuals, (ii) was interest applied on the amounts refunded, (iii) what was the total monetary amount of interest refunded, (iv) what was the interest rate applied to the refunds; (f) for the answer to part (d)(i), broken down by tax year, (i) what is the total monetary amount refunded to corporations, (ii) was interest applied on the amounts refunded, (iii) what was the total monetary amount of interest refunded, (iv) what was the interest rate applied to the refunds; (g) for the answer to part (c)(ii), broken down by tax year, (i) what is the total monetary amount of tax payable repaid by individuals due to a reassessment, (ii) was interest applied to the balance due, (iii) what was the total monetary amount of interest collected from the repayments, (iv) what was the interest rate applied to the balance due; (h) for the answer to part (d)(ii), broken down by tax year, (i) what is the total monetary amount of tax payable repaid by corporations due to a reassessment, (ii) was interest applied to the balance due, (iii) what was the total monetary amount of interest collected from the repayments, (iv) what was the interest rate applied to the balance due; (i) for the answer to part (c)(i) and (d)(i), when was the notice of the reassessment of tax returns, which resulted in a new amount refunded, sent to (i) individuals, broken down by tax year and by month, (ii) corporations, broken down by tax year and by month; (j) for the answer to part (c)(ii) and (d)(ii), when was the notice of the reassessment of tax returns, which resulted in a new amount due of taxes payable, sent to (i) individuals, broken down by tax year and by month, (ii) corporations, broken down by tax year and by month?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Conservative Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Madam Speaker, I ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for ReturnsRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Speaker's RulingPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

There is one motion in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-25. Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now put Motion No. 1 to the House.

Motions in AmendmentPooled Registered Pension Plans ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-25 be amended by deleting Clause 1.

Madam Speaker, it is important that we look very carefully at the pooled registered pension plan because it simply does not serve Canadians. In addition to not serving Canadians, it does nothing to solve Canada's pension crisis.

The pension crisis has been the subject of debate for the past several years. The issue is that more than 11 million Canadian workers do not have a workplace pension plan. Old age security and the Canada pension plan, which everyone has, do not provide enough money for people to live on in their retirement. To make matters worse, most Canadians are not making up for their lack of pension plan by saving for retirement on their own. Less than one-third of people entitled to contribute to RRSPs actually do so. There are now more than $600 billion in unused RRSP contribution room being carried forward, and only about one-third of Canadian households are currently saving at levels that will generate sufficient income to cover their non-discretionary expenses in retirement.

It also needs to be noted that the market is not a reliable place in which to gamble retirement security. Turmoil on financial markets has had and will continue to have a devastating impact on workplace pension. People who were saving for retirement through RRSPs have found all too often that the value of their investments has dropped so much that they are now faced with having to postpone their retirement or struggle to replace retirement savings by attempting to find some kind of work. The reality is, however, that finding employment at age 68 or 70 is profoundly difficult. The workplace has changed and the skills that retirees once brought to the job are no longer marketable.

For several years there has been a clear consensus among experts that real pension reform was and continues to be critical. However, rather than intelligently and positively engaging in reform that is practical, the government has instead introduced pooled registered pension plans, PRPPs, which, according to the federal finance minister, will make low cost, private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who have up to now not had access to such plans. It is magic.

The legislation introduced in mid-November would allow employers to offer PRPPs to their employees. The scheme would be run by insurance companies and other financial institutions that would pool the savings of workers whose employers sign up for the program. The financial institutions would run the program on behalf of employers and, of course, will charge fees for doing so. Employers would not have to contribute to the plan. Workers' savings would be locked in unless employees provide notice in writing that they want to opt out, which, apparently, would be allowed.

No pension would be guaranteed by this program. In effect, it is yet another voluntary savings scheme that would do nothing to address the pension crisis we face. Since very few people take advantage of existing voluntary retirement savings schemes, it is not clear why officials are claiming that proposed PRPPs will prove more attractive than existing programs. So far, the only advantage being promoted by PRPPs is that management fees will be lower than for individual RRSPs since contributions will be pooled. However, there is no guarantee of lower fees nor is there any certainty that this will be a big selling point for the plans. It is also worth noting that there is no evidence people are not saving through RRSPs because of the high management fees. It is far more likely that, because individuals are raising families, paying bills, trying to manage the cost of housing and educating kids, there is no money left at the end of the month for an RRSP.

The PRPP is not a defined benefit plans. It does not provide a secure retirement income with a set replacement rate of pre-retirement income. It is not fully transferrable. It is not indexed to inflation and will not increase with the increasing cost of living. Employers, not employees, will decide contribution levels and it will not be mandatory for employers to contribute or match workers' contributions. Without employers contributing, it is not really a pension plan. In fact, employers who do not help their employees save for retirement could end up with a competitive advantage over those who do.

Canada does not need yet another voluntary tax-assisted retirement savings program. It needs public pensions that provide all Canadians with a basic guarantee of adequate income that will protect their standard of living in retirement. Expanding the Canada pension plan would meet this objective.

In fact, federal and provincial finance ministers seemed set to take this route when they assembled for their meeting in Alberta in December 2010. However, because Alberta opted out, the federal government decided to abandon talks and introduce the PRPP scheme instead.

Improving the replacement rate of CPP retirement benefits would provide much better retirement pensions to virtually all Canadians. A relatively modest increase in contribution rates would be required, but that could be phased in over a period of time, as the Canadian Labour Congress and others have proposed.

The CPP covers all workers, including those who are self-employed, and its benefits would be guaranteed in relation to earnings and years of service. They would be indexed for inflation and fully portable from one job to another. This option would address the two key issues in the pension system that are causing concern, the lack of coverage of workplace pension plans and the fact that individuals are not saving for their retirement on their own. As well, of course, an expanded CPP could reduce federal expenditures on GIS, because more people would have adequate retirement incomes.

While the government says CPP contribution rates cannot be increased when there is a fragile economy, it is worth noting that when the financing of CPP was changed at the end of the 1990s, combined employer-employee CPP contribution rates nearly doubled from 5.6% of covered earnings to 9.9% over a five-year period, during which the unemployment rate fell from 9.6% to 7.6%. It should also be noted that the PRPP scheme will do nothing to help the baby boomer generation now coming up to retirement.

It seems this is a lost generation as far as pension reform is concerned. It has been estimated that roughly one-third of Canadians now in the age group 45 to 64 are likely to end up with incomes that fall far short of adequate minimum incomes and/or incomes that would allow them to maintain their standard of living when they retire.

The adequacy of CPP benefits has been an issue for more than 30 years. It is time now for federal and provincial governments to set aside ideology and work together to solve the problem.

The study by pension expert and Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives research associate Monica Townson provides a thorough analysis of the PRPP program and argues that expanding the Canada pension plan would provide better retirement pensions to virtually all Canadians. Ms. Townson found that the expansion of the CPP would provide a mandatory defined benefit pension to virtually all Canadians, giving them a basic retirement income that for modest and middle income earners would preserve their standard of living.

The government's PRPP proposal does not do that. It does not guarantee a pension. Benefits would depend on selection of investments and stock market performance. Participation would depend on an employer's deciding to take part in the program. It is basically just a defined contribution pension.

In a defined contribution plan, there are no guarantees of how much money would be left when an individual retires. The risks are borne entirely by the individual employee. In these types of plans, the amount of money available at retirement depends on the outcomes of the investments, which cannot be relied upon. Defined contribution plans lack the security of defined benefit pension plans like the CPP-QPP, which pay a guaranteed set amount upon retirement.

It is important to remember that Bill C-25 places no caps on administration fees or costs, and merely assumes lower costs will emerge through competition in the marketplace. Financial institutions like banks, insurance companies and trust companies stand to profit substantially from these fees. However, expanding the CPP-QPP would not cost the government any more than its proposed PRPP.

More important, expanding the CPP-QPP would not entail transferring huge management fees to private financial institutions.

How can I get through to the government? Seniors have worked hard all their lives. They deserve decent retirement. Bill C-25 would not provide that.