Mr. Speaker, like the other hon. members, I am going to give a speech on the pooled registered pension plans act. I am going to share my time with the member for Churchill.
First, I would like extend my thanks to the member for London—Fanshawe, the NDP critic on this bill. Second, I would like to thank all the hon. members for their various comments on the government bill that we are debating today at third reading. This is a very important topic, one that Canadians are really concerned about.
As we heard earlier, according to the Conference Board of Canada, 1.6 million seniors live in poverty in Canada, and, according to the Canadian Labour Congress, 12 million Canadians lack a workplace pension plan. This is food for thought.
It is amazing to see how two events can be interrelated. Today we are going to debate a special bill tabled in this House by the Minister of Labour less than 24 hours ago. According to the representatives from Teamsters Canada, this special legislation infringes on the freedom to negotiate working conditions. You may wonder how this legislation is related to pooled registered pension plans. Well, the Canadian Pacific conflict basically has to do with pensions and management's wish to revise the system in order to keep up with its competitors.
The vice-president of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said the company “wants to take the money from our pension plan and give it to the shareholders”. In a democratic country like Canada, the right to retire in dignity after working your whole life is absolutely non-negotiable. So, yes, that is what we are talking about today.
Since 2006, the Conservative government has been introducing measures to amend Canadians' retirement security; these measures have been highly criticized. Just look at the retirement age, which will go from 65 to 67 in 13 years, when people who are 54 now will be 67. Why introduce this measure when in 13 years there will be less demand? Fewer people will be taking their retirement in 13 years than now. The baby boomers will have already retired by then.
Another measure they implemented was the tax-free savings account. The TFSA may be a good option for those who have the money to contribute to it. There is some debate as to whether the contribution limits should be increased from $5,000 to $10,000. Nonetheless, what is the purpose of this vehicle? According to a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, an ING Direct survey found that only 41% of Canadians have a TFSA. Nearly half of them earn $100,000 or more a year and only 24% of those surveyed said that they were using their TFSA to save for their retirement.
I have a TFSA. I was contributing to it bit by bit and it currently has $1,700. In fact, it is money I was saving for a rainy day: in case my washing machine or refrigerator broke down or something. I never considered using the TFSA for my retirement. I was earning a modest income and I never thought that $1,700 would go very far in providing me with a comfortable retirement.
We cannot rely on such savings to provide a decent retirement. I often wondered why the government developed such a measure. The government collects less tax, which leaves less money for investing in repairing bridges, ports and airports, in research and development or even in transfers to the provinces in their areas of jurisdiction. After I thought about it, I remembered that, previously, taxing the savings of the rich and the not so rich resulted in the flight of capital and the use of tax havens. That is quite likely why TFSAs exist: to keep our currency in our banks.
It is time for this government to take some real action to improve retirement security for the 12 million Canadians who do not currently have pension plans through their employers. Bill C-25 will not accomplish that goal. Canadians do not need another voluntary private savings plan. They need real measures that will ensure that they can retire with enough savings to live through their old age with the money they need to be able to dress, house and feed themselves. These are basic needs.
Canadians are wary, and rightly so. Pooled registered pension plans are risky. With this kind of plan, employees set aside funds throughout their entire working lives, and those funds are invested in stocks, bonds, mutual funds and so on. Investment income depends entirely on market fluctuations. Thus, employees are the ones who absorb all of the financial risk associated with stock market ups and downs.
In addition, clause 30 of the bill states:
30. An employer is not liable for the acts and omissions of the administrator.
So, can someone tell me who is liable?
On the one hand, workers are obliged to contribute, while employers, on the other hand, are not, and the funds are subject to stock market fluctuations.
Can someone tell me who assumes the risk, if not the worker?
Quebeckers remember all too well certain recent predators, the kind we call white collar criminals. Some institutions get bad press because they are making huge profits, which they give out as bonuses at the end of the fiscal year.
The NDP wants to increase CPP contributions. We support a pension fund for all Canadians. It is time to get to work on that. However, we do not want a pension fund that fluctuates with the stock market and where workers' savings will diminish when it is time for them to retire.
We are asking that the government secure Canadians' pension funds.
Why does the government not want to study this solution even though seven provinces have agreed to expand the Canada pension plan?
The NDP is being proactive and working on job creation so that Canadians can save. The more workers earn, the more they can save.
The PRPP bill does not provide a fixed benefit, could run out of money if we live longer than expected and is not indexed. Employers and employees can withdraw from the plan, but companies are not required to contribute.