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House of Commons Hansard #115 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was conservatives.

Topics

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I am sure you feel greatly comforted by that speech, Madam Speaker.

It is an ironic argument for the government to say that it is all right to lie as long as it does not spend any money. That is the core argument, that it has not actually spent any money. Ironically, before the member came to the House, the government opposite would say that it had a contract, that it was stuck with it and it was our fault, the bad old Liberals. Now the government is changing its tune because it does not actually have a contract and never has had a contract. The ever-shifting sands of excuses and failure to take responsibility get a little tiresome.

I would draw to the hon. member's attention, so that we are all on the same page, and it is difficult to get everyone on the same page, the Costing Handbook, second edition, April 2006, shortly after the Conservatives became the government, which sets out how it is supposed to be done. Six years later and we are still trying to get the Conservatives to do it.

5:50 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, once again, the acquisition has not taken place. Funds are frozen pending all of the seven steps that have been identified being passed through and pending the scrutiny of this House of full life-cycle costs. We do not see what more the hon. member could be asking for.

Before harsh language is used about misleading this House, which is really what the hon. member said, could he once again do us all the courtesy of distinguishing apples from oranges.

He said that there was no obligation on the part of Canada when this government took over in 2006, but there was. There was an MOU that a Liberal government had entered into for the development of the F-35. That is a different program. It has generated contracts for Canadians. The Auditor General mentioned it. It has changed the environment in which the replacement of the CF-18s is taking place. The two programs have a relationship. The member would do well to recognize that the relationship between the two began under his government.

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today as a follow-up to a question I posed in February about the government's decision to raise the age of eligibility for old age security from age 65 to 67.

At the time, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development replied that this was not a problem since the government would be making the change gradually. Since I was unable to immediately inform the government that there was indeed a problem, I requested this adjournment debate.

Many Canadians will remember that today is the one year anniversary of the last federal election. It was one year ago today that Jack Layton's hard work bore so much fruit. New Democrats found their message struck a chord with Canadians who had grown weary of being told what could not be done. More than four and a half million voters rewarded us with their confidence so that we could come to this place and work on what can be done.

The New Democrats campaigned on a platform of working together to find solutions to our problems. One of the main objectives of that platform was, and still is, to eradicate poverty among seniors. New Democrats see improved public pensions as the cornerstone of a Canada that would provide a better life. That is still possible, despite this government's chronic lack of imagination.

I think it goes without saying that the Conservatives did not run a campaign that showcased most of the divisive actions they have undertaken in the first year of this Parliament. They most certainly did not run on a platform that sought to change the eligibility criteria for old age security. Nor did they run on limiting debate on legislation that crucially impacts our environment, health care system, justice system, finances or even OAS as we saw the government leader do just a few minutes ago. He gave notice on limiting debate on the crucial bill that will see the implementation of the budget.

The Conservatives toss around claims that public pensions are suddenly unsustainable despite evidence that shows this is not the case. We know that the Parliamentary Budget Officer, other economists and pension experts have already stated that OAS is sustainable. Even the OECD agrees that this is the case. It is the Conservatives who stand alone claiming otherwise.

They tell us that Canadians are living longer, yet ignore statistics showing that this is not universal among our population. They ignore the fact that Canadians with the shortest life expectancy are the same people who will likely require OAS payments to augment any pension they may have earned. These are Canadians who endured long-term unemployment, have a lower proportion of high school and university educations, and come from smaller immigrant populations and larger aboriginal populations. They include Canadians living in rural and remote locations.

I am sure for people who have never worked in manual labour or spent a day in a bush camp or a mine, two extra years may not sound like much, but it is. These changes are not about making professionals retire at age 65. They are about forcing workers to plug away for two more long years before qualifying for the program they rely on to be able to retire.

When will the government show some compassion and reverse the changes to the old age security program that will affect the least fortunate Canadians?

5:55 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing for her question.

She mentioned the anniversary that we are all marking today and also the question of imagination. If she does look back over this government's record over the past year, she will see a lot of imagination in the breadth and the depth of the measures we have taken to ensure that growth, employment, jobs and long-term prosperity remain central to this Parliament's work and central to our government's program. She also seemed to be uncertain as to whether our old age security program was sustainable or unsustainable and she cited the OECD.

The essential point here is that most jurisdictions within the OECD have already acted on this. We in Canada, by taking the measures we are taking, are only recognizing what has been known to responsible stewards of the public trust and of our budgetary future to be necessary for some time.

I will share with the member opposite some of the facts relating to the changes we will be making to OAS.

No current beneficiaries will be affected. People currently receiving old age security will not lose a cent. The changes we are making will begin in 2023, as she knows, and will gradually, over a period of six years, raise eligibility by two years. As announced in Canada's economic action plan, which we are debating in this House this week, we will be discussing the impact of this change on the Canada pension plan, disability and survivor benefits with the provinces and territories as part of the next triennial review. I can also assure the member that the government will make the necessary changes to federal income support programs that provide benefits until age 65, including those offered by Veterans Affairs and Aboriginal Affairs, to ensure they are aligned with changes to OAS. We will also compensate the provinces for the net additional costs they face resulting from the increase in the age of eligibility for OAS.

Canadians need to know that because of our aging population, because our birthrate is lower than it has been in the past and because life expectancy has gone up, these measures are prudent and necessary. In fact, by 2030, for the first time ever we will have more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 20. The number of seniors will double over the next two decades. This is not unique in the world. The United Nations reports that in 2005 10% of the world's population was 60 years of age or older. By 2050, this number will reach 22%.

If we have fewer workers, we risk being less productive, which could have a negative impact on our economic growth.

With fewer workers paying taxes, we may face a shortfall in revenue and that is why changes to OAS are needed now. I want to be clear that these changes will not affect CPP. It is funded through premiums paid by employers, employees and the self-employed. It is a contributions-based, earnings-related social insurance program and it is a secure plan. It is regarded internationally as a model, actuarially sound and recently confirmed to be such by the Chief Actuary to be sustainable for the next 75 years.

I will now highlight some of the measures our government has introduced to demonstrate our commitment to supporting people with disabilities. We have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We have created the registered disabilities savings plan to help those with disabilities and their families save for the future. We have also created an enabling accessibility fund that has helped people with disabilities participate more fully in their communities by improving access to facilities, activities and services.

Our government supports the full inclusion of all Canadians in our workplace and our society. We are anxious to see Canadians who are leading longer lives benefiting from these strong social programs, by any international standard, well into the future in the decades and the generations to come.

6 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Madam Speaker, the government is missing the point by claiming that people will have time to adapt. The Conservatives do not see that, for the many people who rely on OAS, there is no option to adapt.

If they want to force people to take control of their own future, the Conservatives should do something about the country's employment situation, particularly in northern Canada and in rural areas, so that people at least have the option of helping themselves.

The fact is that a high dollar policy that favours the export of raw bitumen from Canada has a strong and negative effect on more traditional employers in Canada. It has savaged what little remains of our manufacturing sectors and other resource sectors, like forestry, have been hit hard by a high dollar.

Certainly if we say something enough times we will start to believe it. That is the basis of cognitive therapy but it does not excuse the wrong-headed premises that lie at the heart of changing the age of eligibility for OAS.

Will the government reconsider this decision and give hard-working Canadians some hope for their future entitlement?

6 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Conservative Ajax—Pickering, ON

Madam Speaker, I think all of us on this side fail to see how our promotion of the oil sands as one of the keys to Canada's economic future could have anything other than benefit for the ability of this country to support programs like OAS and to support a strong workforce that will continue to support CPP in the decades and generations to come. This is one of the strengths of this country. Anyone in the House who thinks that responsible development of natural resources has not been a feature of this country's growth, progress and advancement over centuries is misreading the history of this country.

I will make one point clear. We will ensure that Canadians have enough time to adjust their retirement plans so they can adapt to any changes to OAS. We will also work to ensure that federal income support programs aligned to age 65 are changed so that Canadians are not adversely affected. Our government is being responsible by taking into account the reality of an aging population. Ignoring this problem would be a dangerous course of action, putting the retirement benefits of future Canadians at risk. Our government will make the changes necessary to ensure sustainability for the next generation while not affecting current recipients or those close to retirement, and we will do so in a fair manner.

6:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:05 p.m.)