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House of Commons Hansard #129 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was workers.

Topics

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal in that question. It reminds me that an estimated 1.3 million seniors in this country live below the poverty line. They do not have an adequate amount to sustain themselves, whether it be for prescriptions, housing or food on the table. That is not acceptable. This is an incredibly wealthy country. We have resources that are the envy of the world. We should most definitely be looking after our seniors.

I think a very valid point was made. Seniors tend to spend all of their earnings in their community and local neighbourhood. They are looking after themselves and occasionally perhaps doing a little shopping for their grandchildren. If they had adequate incomes, and they deserve adequate incomes, they would be generating jobs and stimulating their local economy.

It is interesting and tragic that government members have spoken about seniors as being a drag on the economy. They keep talking about the deficit in terms of the seniors of the future. Seniors are contributors. They are not a drag on our economy or on our community. They are important members and they deserve to be treated in that respectful way.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her speech.

In an earlier question for a government member, I said that this bill is the government's admission of weakness with respect to the pension plan problem. I would like her to comment on that.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am reminded of the hysteria that loomed about 30 or 35 years ago. I was just a child, but I do recall the hysteria that the CPP would not be there for my generation and that it was going to evaporate. We all had to run out to buy RRSPs if we did not want to live in penury.

Well, the reality is that the CPP is absolutely solid and it will remain solid for the foreseeable future. Estimates have it remaining solid for the next 75 years at least. We need to make sure that it has the proper investment so that it can continue well beyond that time.

The same is true regarding old age security. We have heard from the former actuary of OAS who has said that OAS is absolutely rock solid for the next 30 to 35 years. We do not have to worry about future generations. We have heard from the Parliamentary Budget Officer who has said that the cost of OAS is about 2.3% of GDP now, it would climb to about 3.3% in the next 20 years and then decline rapidly, but we can still afford it. We have also heard from the OECD. It said that Canada is blessed in terms of retirement security. We simply have to make sure that we do what is necessary now to secure it. This pooled registered pension plan scheme is not that.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have a chance to speak to Bill C-25, its inadequacies and the concerns that many of us continue to have here on this side of the House.

I have often referred to Bill C-25 as being nothing more than bread crumbs to a starving person because in reality that is all it is. I doubt very much that it would help very many Canadians. From everything I am hearing from the provinces and from other people who have looked into the issue, there would be big management fees and little help for people when it comes to serious pension reform. It would simply be a mechanism for those who have money to save for their own retirement. The government tries to call that its answer to pension reform. I am sure we will hear its solution to pension reform was PRPPs for the next five years or so, until it realizes that as Australia's plan failed, so would this one. While I have no difficulties with creating savings vehicles for Canadians, we must also work to help those without the means to save. That is what pension reform is really all about. Bill C-25 is not pension reform. Anyone who makes that claim is misleading the public.

Two years ago, I asked the government what it planned to do to protect and preserve pensions for all Canadians. The minister responded in this House by saying that pensions were provincial and should be left to provincial legislatures to deal with. He said pensions were not a federal problem. However, Canadians rightly found that notion to be wrong, short-sighted and clearly unacceptable. The Conservatives produced Bill C-25 which is a copy of an Australian proposal that, after 12 years, has been declared a failure. The government was sent into a scramble. It had to find something to satisfy the accusations that it was not doing anything so it came up with this idea.

I will cast my vote, as will my party, with very deep concern and caution because it is nothing more than bread crumbs to a starving person. However, it is that small tool in a toolbox. It is not the answer but we will support it because it is one small step in the advancement of talking and recognizing the need for pension reform in Canada.

In 1998, when the current Prime Minister was campaigning, he announced that he wanted to privatize the Canada pension plan. That is right, the Conservatives proposed the elimination of the public Canada pension plan. Just imagine where we would be today. Not only is the government talking about moving from age 65 to 67 in this current budget bill, and is clearly moving in that direction, imagine where Canadians would find themselves if we did not have the Canada pension plan or it had been privatized. All of a sudden their retirement plans would severely change.

Who knows if that is not the next shoe to drop in the big plans that the government has? Will the Conservatives decide they are going to privatize the CPP? I am not fear mongering, but who knows what is going to be next on the agenda of the government?

At the time, the government suggested that the CPP should be replaced with a super savings account that would allow Canadians to put all of their extra money into investments for their retirement. The government did not talk about the fact that most Canadians are not up to speed on how to invest in the stock market, that they can make poor choices and that their alternative would be to pay high management fees to people who have that expertise. This would be another way of discouraging Canadians from what they are trying to do. Canadians would have to become market experts. Their employer would be playing no administrative role in PRPPs. Canadians would have to bear 100% of that investment risk. A single market stumble could spell the end of any retirement hopes. We all know what happened with the investments a few years ago when the stock market crashed, and what happened to thousands of Canadians whose retirement income was lost.

The Conservatives talk about people working later. They are going to have to work later because they lost a tremendous amount of their retirement income. They do not have the expertise needed. They would need the expertise with PRPPs, to be able to manage a certain degree of their investments. Employers would be forced to create administrative systems to enrol members. If the provinces made them mandatory, and that is highly unlikely, Ontario, the province I represent, has already indicated it is not going to have anything to do with PRPPs. It does not believe this is the answer to the pension issue.

The proposal for an enhancement of the Canada pension plan, which is what we have been proposing, along with the supplementary Canada pension plan, which I will talk about a little further, are much more reasonable methods for most Canadians out there.

This PRPP will be of no help to homemakers unless they are contributing to employment income. One of the challenges facing many women today is that, when they are at home caring for children or elderly relatives, parents and so on, they are out of the workforce. When they are out of the workforce, they have a much more difficult time thinking about their pension and what will be in it for them. That is why unless they are in the workforce for 35 or 40 years, most women at 65, or 67 as the government is going to, end up with minimal income. They are living on $11,000 or $12,000. That is not the Canada I want to live in, and I do not think it is the Canada most people want to live in. Changing that age to 67 years old will certainly hurt a tremendous amount of people.

I had a meeting in Kemptville last night. There were about 60 or 70 people. When I asked the people there, who were a non-partisan group, to raise their hand if they supported moving the age of retirement from 65 to 67, everyone in that room opposed the change, and there were many Conservatives in that room. They did not feel it was necessary, but that it was part of an ideology of the government or because the Conservatives are starving the government for revenue sources by removing the GST and lowering taxes. The government only has so much money. That is probably the real reason: they are starving the beast we call the government. They will not have the money to give people pensions at age 65, so they want to move it up and take $30,000 out of the pocket of every Canadian over that two-year period of time.

As I indicated, the management fees are a big problem on PRPPs. We know that Canada has an F rating, according to the OECD. It says Canadians already pay some of the highest management fees in the world on their mutual funds. That is exactly where we are going with PRPPs, creating more vehicles for people to be able to do this.

However, the government knows all of this. We raised all these issues at committee. Our Liberal finance critic moved a couple of amendments that would have strengthened and improved the PRPP, which went nowhere. The Conservative members put their heads in the sand and voted down the amendments rather than possibly thinking that maybe together, because we were prepared to work with the government on this, we could strengthen it and make it better, recognizing that we need some pension reform. However, the government members do not care what everybody else offers. If it is not their idea, it is not good enough.

It is the same if we talk about some of the things in the budget. Look at the changes to EI and what impact they will have on Canadians all across the land. Never mind talking about where they are putting money into pensions. Many of these people will be forced to move away from their families to go out west, which is clearly where the jobs will be, starving other parts of Canada. Again, that is not the way we are supposed to be going. Canada needs to be a land where everybody is treated fairly and with a bit of respect and understanding.

What happens to the seasonal workers who are being brought into the country? Many of those seasonal workers are the reason we have a thriving industry when it comes to fruits, vegetables and so on. Canadian employers need those temporary foreign workers to come over and be able to do those jobs. We should not kid ourselves. There are lots of Canadians who physically do not want to do those jobs. I think they are quite happy to see these temporary foreign workers come over and work for six months in the agriculture industry or other industries and then go back to their home countries with some very much needed money, because many of these people are coming from countries that are very poor. Will we deny them that opportunity, again with short-sightedness and some of those issues that are in the budget, in Bill C-38, that we will continue to deal with over these next few days that will hurt many Canadians and employers? It will hurt Canadians if that is the only work they have. It is not as if they do not want to work 12 months or 10 months of the year. They are seasonal workers. Who will be working the fisheries?

I remember the amount of people who told me they would love to work longer but the season is only so long, when I visited the east coast last year with one of my colleagues. Where are they supposed to go at the end of that particular point? They have to collect EI because they have no other options.

Some of the changes at second reading, which the Liberal caucus said it would have liked to put forward, were raised by many witnesses as additional ideas. However, when it comes to voting at the committee level, government members vote down anything anybody else suggests, no matter how good it is. The Liberal finance critic put a very good amendment forward on the issue of controlling high management fees, because that is a major concern for Liberals, one that would cap the management fees. There was a bit of discussion with government members, but it did not matter. They voted it down as they do everything else because it was not their idea.

Reducing government spending is a laudable goal, as we hear from the government. However, financial players offering PRPPs will need to offer annuities so that members may convert their accumulated balances into a stream of pension payments. Once that occurs, insurers are required by law to price in a profit margin and keep regulatory capital aside to underwrite those contracts. In simple language, this means that investors, the average Canadians the government is talking about, are legally required to pay fees that would guarantee a profit for the banks and insurance companies. This is a very inefficient way of delivering pensions, and once Canadians find out about all the small print, fewer and fewer of them and businesses will be interested in getting involved in all of this.

Those requirements are the cornerstones of the PRPP we are talking about. With this in mind, I am left to wonder how the PRPPs could possibly yield any results for Canadian pensioners. The simple answer is that they are not going to help the average Canadian prepare for retirement, just as millions of Canadians have not been able to max out their RRSPs either. It is just a locked-in RRSP. That is what the PRPP is. Forcing seniors 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 untendered stealth fighter jet deals is not a plan for pensions. However, the government is certainly spending a lot of money and clearly it is looking to pay for all of these on the backs of Canada's seniors.

PRPPs will not work for those who need them the most. Instead of copying the failed work of others, why did the Prime Minister not seek to lift seniors out of poverty? The 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.

The supplementary Canada pension plan is a simple and cost-effective solution to the pension question. It is a defined benefit pension for everyone who has a social insurance number, 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.

The supplementary Canada pension plan is a plan for real pension reform, and I offer it to the government at any time because it would benefit Canadians all across the board, no matter what their occupation. Even if they are home and not able to work, they could still contribute to the Canada pension plan. I could contribute to the supplementary plan. However, by steadfastly following their PRPP plan, by ignoring Liberal calls to improve the CPP, moving to slash the old age pension, slashing EI, cutting people off, making it difficult for farmers to be able to employ temporary foreign workers and all that goes with it, the Conservatives are really showing their true colours. Balancing the budget on the backs of seniors is nothing short of waging a war on the poor. It is unacceptable, and the government should be ashamed of that direction.

The Prime Minister, who is the sixth highest paid political leader in the world, earning an annual salary of $296,000 U.S., is telling Canadians to put their extra money into the bank for their retirement, but he seems to forget that not everybody has extra money. What about the seniors who pay their taxes, raise their families and work hard but still do not have extra money to invest?

Let me tell members about a woman named Mary, who I met last night. She is a single woman who talked to me about income splitting. Yes, the income splitting idea is a good idea for all those who have money and who have a partner, but for single men or women who do not have anyone to share their pension income with, what help is it to them? Mary has to take the hit for the taxes that others get to save. She asked me why the government would do that when it is clearly unfair. I said she would just have to look around and judge for herself. Government is all about choices.

As a government, one makes choices every day and decides what is important and what is not. Clearly, this government's choices are far more interested in helping the rich and much less interested in helping the low-income or middle class Canadians, or in helping to build the Canada, Mr. Speaker, that you and I believe in.

The Prime Minister is the same man who said that the Canada pension plan should be scrapped in 1998, which I referred to earlier, and that government involvement in the financial security of Canadians runs counter to the Conservative ideology of fending for oneself. If one cannot fend for oneself, there is no room in the Conservatives' Canada.

That is very different from the Canada I want to live in. I believe we have an opportunity for a hand up, not a hand out. We can create an atmosphere where Canadians can thrive and do well. Canadians are a very independent, tough bunch of people. We are used to standing on our own feet, and we take great pride in that. I do not believe there are a whole lot of Canadians who are interested in living off the purse of the government.

Given the fact that the Prime Minister has made the kind of comments he has made, I have to wonder if these changes are not the first bricks in the long-desired firewall that the Prime Minister indicated he wanted to create.

I am very glad to have had the opportunity to speak for a bit today. The changes that are coming forward, both in Bill C-25, the PRPP legislation, and in Bill C-38, and all the things the government is moving are going in this direction, which is not an area to which I think we should be going.

We need to be making some changes as well to the Bankruptcy Act. We all know about Nortel and what happened to the thousands of people who were working for Nortel and in other companies that go bankrupt where individuals lose their pension funds.

There is no change. With all of the multitude of things in the omnibus Bill C-38, there is nothing in there about how to protect people's pensions when it comes to bankruptcy, how to better protect Canadians. It is all about creating crisis management and making people think that the country is in a major crisis situation when it is not, whether or not we are talking about immigration issues and creating a crisis, in order to justify the means at the end.

It is unacceptable for us and it is unacceptable for Canadians.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend for her speech on the pension issue. She has been very involved in the question of pensions for a long time.

I stand with the members of the opposition parties in general in believing that the CPP is our best and most reliable pension system and that it must be expanded. I am concerned about this new approach, because it is discretionary. It appears to create the greatest benefit for those people who buy and sell investment services.

I would like to ask my hon. friend what can be done and whether we can put forward perhaps a private member's bill from this side of the House to ensure that we protect the pensions that are held in firms that go into bankruptcy. For such plans as that of Nortel or Catalyst Paper and others, can we make those secured creditors in bankruptcy?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we had many discussions and actually asked many questions of the government on this side of the House in that whole debacle with Nortel, calling on the government to make the kind of changes to the Bankruptcy Act that would eliminate the contribution holiday. The government did take some action on that part of the file, requiring a larger amount of surplus before they could take a contribution holiday, but there is much more to be done when we come to this whole issue of protecting individuals' pensions.

We all believe that, when we put money into a pension fund, it is sacrosanct. Certainly, we Liberals believe it has to be protected 100%. We have to realize people are counting on that money to be there, and if a company goes bankrupt and leaves them as Nortel did, many have nowhere to go.

We have examined many different options. The Province of Ontario has a fund, as does the U.S., which backs up to $1,000 per month some of the pensions of companies that go bankrupt, but that is under huge pressure and it is not necessarily the best answer either.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Conservative Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the hon. member a question regarding how she feels seniors are being treated now after six years of successive increases in the personal exemption, which helps seniors; an increase in the age exemption, which helps seniors; the enrichment of GIS greater than it has been in the past 25 years, which directly helps seniors and low income seniors as well; the tax-free savings account, which will help future seniors and has been heralded by many economists and accountants as being the biggest step since the RRSP; and pension splitting for seniors as well.

These are successive innovations toward helping seniors have a better quality of life after they have retired. Now we are adding the pooled pension plan. This will be one more tool for them to have the best years of their life after they retire. Would the hon. member not agree with that?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has clearly made some moves. TFSAs were a recommendation in the red book under Paul Martin when he was the minister of finance. TFSAs were recommended as a good savings vehicle. I did not say there was anything wrong with that.

I referred earlier to income splitting. The government has done a lot of things to help people who have a lot of money. What happens to those people who are living on $11,000? There was a bit of an increase to the GIS but was it enough?

Why was the decision made to increase the age to 67? That clearly takes $15,000 a year out of the pockets of every Canadian. The government could have done lots of things rather than change the age to 67. It could have used the clawback amount. If someone is earning $60,000, does that person still need $540 a month in OAS, or would it be better to look at the whole system?

There is a bigger issue. The government should have consulted with Canadians on the future plans of our social security safety net to find out what we could all do to better improve the lives of Canadians rather than deny Canadians and make them wait an extra two years.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have listened with great interest to the debate and more particularly the recent exchange between the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale and that member. I find it interesting that they are congratulating each other or wanting to take credit for the tax-free savings account, which to me misses the boat entirely for the vast majority of seniors.

If a person could only put $5,000 into a TFSA that makes 2% interest right now, that person would get $100 a year in interest. Because it is tax-free that individual would save $30. That would be $1 a month for seniors, which would buy them exactly nothing.

What we really need is a serious debate about doubling the CPP, about ensuring that we do not lose our defined benefit pension plans to defined contribution plans. Above all, we need to lift seniors out of poverty by increasing the GIS.

Could the member comment on which of those three things she would make the number one priority in the next Liberal red book, or pink book, or whatever iteration we will see next?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, as soon as we have the book ready, I will ensure she gets the first copy.

The government is expected to talk about a variety of different issues and how it can better help Canadians. That is what Canadians expect us to do. They do not expect us to be partisan all of the time. We are supposed to do what is in the best interests of Canadians throughout the country. I do not want to see seniors continuing to live in poverty. We know that at least 300,000 seniors live in poverty.

Let me remind everyone that it was Mackenzie King, Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau who brought in everything from OAS to GIS to the spouses allowance. None of those programs were ever brought in by the Conservatives. All of them were brought in by Liberal governments because we saw how many people were living in poverty. The Conservative government is clearly going in the opposite direction.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate my colleague's passion and caring attitude when it comes to dealing with seniors in Canada. I appreciate her comments with respect to why the House should deal with the issue of pensions, whether it is the GIS, OAS or CPP. These are good solid programs that are the cornerstone of our pensions going forward.

With regard to the budget, the member knows that the government has increased the age of retirement from 65 to 67. She has spoken a great deal on this issue. Maybe she could provide comment on what responses she has received. Many of our colleagues in the House, particularly those on the opposition benches, have stood up on virtually a daily basis to bring forward petitions on this issue. Canadians are quite upset with this element of pensions. This bill is all about that.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat an issue. I was at a meeting in rural Ontario last night. Of the 50 to 60 people who were in that room, probably 40% of them were in their sixties or maybe in their seventies and the rest were much younger.

When I asked them whether they supported or rejected the idea of moving the age for old age security from 65 to 67, every person in that room was opposed to that issue. I think they all recognized that if the average age of retirement today was 62, we would be moving backward to increase it to age 67. At one time, we did have it at age 67. That is when a previous Liberal prime minister, recognizing there was a severe amount of poverty among seniors, moved the eligibility from 67 years of age to 65 years of age and started to introduce other programs in addition to the OAS.

The current government is going in the exact opposite direction, back to where we were years ago, with seniors having to suffer in poverty, alone.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Calgary Southeast Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney ConservativeMinister of Citizenship

Mr. Speaker, the member does herself a great discredit and undermines her own arguments and credibility with some of the demagogic and over-the-top rhetoric she uses to characterize the motives of the government, saying that it does not care about low-income people, that it only wants to help those who are wealthy and so forth.

Would the member not agree with the objective, incontrovertible fact, that the Government of Canada is currently spending more on transfers to seniors than it ever has in the history of the Dominion? We are spending more on transfers on CPP, more in transfers on OAS, more in transfers for GIS, more per capita for seniors than ever in our history.

If it is her view that this is inadequate, then what does that say about the government of which she was a member? If this government is too parsimonious with respect to transfers to seniors, then what was her government doing when it was spending less on these programs?

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have an aging population. Every year we have an increased amount of seniors collecting OAS and GIS. Next year there will be even more money spent on OAS, GIS and so on, because of that aging seniors population. All we have to do is look at the numbers five years ago and look at the numbers today. It is not a difficult thing.

To suggest that some of us are exaggerating things, we are actually taking lessons from those folks across the hall.

POOLED REGISTERED PENSION PLANS ACTGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak to some of the key measures in Bill C-25, An Act relating to pooled registered pension plans and making related amendments to other Acts.

I will splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.

First, I would like to thank the Minister of State for Finance, the member of Parliament from the great riding of Macleod, for bringing forth this great legislation.

Our government understands that working Canadians and seniors want an effective and sustainable retirement income system that will help them achieve their retirement goals. Canadians who have worked hard, saved diligently and are relying on their pension and savings to support them once they retire should have full confidence that the system will serve them well when they need it.

Canadians can rest assured that our government stands with hard-working Canadians who are counting on their pension plan for a stable retirement. As part of this commitment, we continue to take the steps necessary to ensure that Canada's pension framework remains strong. In doing so, we are building on all that has been accomplished so far.

Let me offer a few examples of what we have achieved.

In particular, since 2006, our government has increased the age credit amount by $1,000 in 2006 and by another $1,000 in 2009. We have doubled the maximum amount of income eligible for the pension income credit to $2,000.

We have introduced pension income splitting. This single item was lobbied for very diligently for years by organizations like CARP and other organizations that represented seniors. It was well received when this came in.

We have increased the age limit for maturing pensions and registered retirement savings plans to 71 from 69 years of age.

Despite these advancements, there is always more to be done. That is why in December 2009, our government held a meeting with the provincial and territorial finance ministers in Whitehorse to discuss the retirement income system and, in going forward, how this system could be further improved.

In June 2010, federal, provincial and territorial governments reviewed options to improve Canada's retirement income system after extensive consultations with Canadians. Many of the members of the opposition will be interested to know that among these proposals was a modest expansion to the CPP, the Canada pension plan.

However, many employers, especially small and medium-sized businesses, something my riding has hundreds of, raised serious concerns about increasing the mandatory deductions that would come with an expanded CPP. Simply put, during these times of economic uncertainty and with Canada's economic recovery still fragile, it would have been reckless to impose a job-killing tax on job-creators.

While there were strong objections to expanding the CPP, there was unanimous agreement to moving forward with pooled registered pension plans. This led to priority being given to the PRPP framework, the announcement of the initiative at the subsequent finance ministers' meeting in December 2010 and the legislation that is before us today.

PRPPs mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income agenda by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. They will make well-regulated, low-cost private sector pension plans accessible to millions of Canadians who have up to now not had access to such plans. In fact, many employees of small and medium-sized businesses and self-employed workers will also now have access to a private pension plan for the very first time. This is groundbreaking. This will be a key improvement to Canada's retirement income system.

PRPPs will also complement and support our government's overarching objective of creating and sustaining jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. Quite simply, the PRPP framework is the most effective and targeted way to help these modest and middle-income individuals save for their retirement. These individuals consist of the 60% of Canadians who do not have access to employer-sponsored pension plans.

PRPPs address this gap in the retirement system by first providing a new, accessible, straightforward and administratively low-cost retirement option for employers to offer their employees. It would allow individuals who currently may not participate in a pension plan, such as the self-employed and employees of companies that do not offer a pension plan, to make use of this new option. It would enable more people to benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from membership in a large pooled pension plan. It would allow for the portability of benefits and facilitate an easy transfer between plans, and it would ensure that funds are invested in the best interests of plan members.

These are all important areas where the retirement income system can be improved. However, members need not take my word for it. Let us hear what others have to say.

According to the Canadian Bankers Association:

PRPPs will provide a new, accessible, large-scale and low-cost pension option to employers, employees and the self-employed. PRPPs will give all working Canadians the benefit of professionally-managed pension plans, and will be particularly beneficial to the self-employed and employees of small businesses.

I can speak to that as someone who was a self-employed farmer before I came to this House. My only pension at that time was my land, or whatever I could accumulate over the years. It was the same with my parents. There are hundreds of thousands of Canadians in the same boat, and they are going to get a chance to benefit from this great initiative.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business says:

PRPPs can give many businesses, individuals and the self-employed additional retirement options, and many millions of Canadians who currently lack adequate retirement savings will benefit.

That is why our government, in coordination with the provincial and territorial governments, is working to implement PRPPs as soon as possible. These plans would help Canadians, including the self-employed, meet their retirement objectives by providing access to a new low-cost accessible pension option.

I am sure that all the provinces will take the advice of the CFIB, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the CBA when they jointly said that the longer governments take to establish a system of PRPPs, the less time those employees will have to use this vehicle to save for their retirement. Simply put, we need to act now.

Bringing the federal PRPP framework into force means Canadians can be confident about the long-term viability of their retirement system. We are listening, and we will continue to listen to their views on how we can strengthen the security of pension plan benefits and ensure that the framework is balanced and appropriate for the long term.

Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the world by such experts as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, as a model that succeeds in reducing poverty among Canadian seniors. With Bill C-25, we are making it better by working toward a permanent long-term solution to encourage greater pension coverage among Canadians.

I know that members on this side of the House will support Bill C-25 and vote to establish a pension plan that would help millions of Canadians save for their retirement. I encourage all the members of the opposition to support this very important bill and to vote to help the seniors of tomorrow provide for their retirement today.

I remind all members that a lot of legislation, whether government legislation or private members' bills, comes before this House. Not all of us in this place like every aspect of every bill, but the potential of Bill C-25 to help people plan their retirement is something that is certainly needed and has been wanted for a long time. I think that all members in this House should look at the quality parts of the bill. It is an improvement to what we have today, and I think it will be very well received out there among seniors.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments respecting the degree of opposition to the enhancement of the Canada pension plan. I have three questions for him in connection with his characterization of the apparent opposition to the enhancement of the CPP.

One, is the most vociferous opponent to the enhancement of the plan the Government of Canada? Two, is that a reversal of its earlier position? Three, who are the others?

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to adding any new restrictions or taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, which are predominant in my riding and I think in most ridings across this country, these are entities that feed families and create jobs and economic activity in this country. This government is the only party in this House that supports them by not adding on those taxes.

The member across the way belongs to a party that has never seen a tax it did not like. This government is philosophically opposed to that idea. We have reduced over 140 taxes in our six years here, and we are not done yet.

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Ève Péclet NDP La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, a number of spokespeople came to talk about the Canadian system and about the fact that there are already a number of private savings plans on the market right now. Yet, it is no secret that the government is in the process of creating a new private savings plan when such plans already exist and are underused. Most Canadians do not contribute to such plans.

Why create a new plan instead of investing in providing information to Canadians about the existing systems? Why not improve the existing systems instead of creating another one when we do not even know what effects it will have on Canada's private savings plan market?

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague across the way is basically asking why we would act on something that hundreds of thousands of seniors across this country have been asking for.

This government cares about the seniors of this country, and that is why we are doing this. The territories and provinces realize the importance of it. We sat down with those provinces and territories to come up with a solution; this was a consensus, and here today we have that culminated in Bill C-25.

We listened to them, and I suggest that the member should listen to her seniors as well.

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May 29th, 2012 / 1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Brad Butt Conservative Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. He very articulately explained the benefits.

What I like best about the new pooled registered pension plan, and I would like the member to comment on it, is the flexibility it would have for workers and employers to participate. We know what is happening with the workforce. We know there is fluidity. We know that people are not staying at one job for 30 years any longer, but are moving around. This is one of those pension scheme systems that would allow employees to have a pension that would be portable to wherever they choose to work.

Would the member comment on that and share some anecdotes about how it would specifically help businesses and residents in Owen Sound?

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Conservative Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Mississauga—Streetsville. The constituents of that riding are very fortunate to have him as their representative here in Ottawa.

In regard to some of the examples that he has about how it would help Owen Sound, it would help the same types of businesses and individuals in his riding of Mississauga—Streetsville. I talked about the self-employed, for example. I was in agriculture, but there are all kinds of small business owners across this country who do not have a pension plan they can contribute to; in the same way that the employees of those small businesses could contribute, those small business owners would also get a chance.

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1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me just take a moment to thank the hon. member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound for sharing his time with me. The good people of Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound are fortunate to have such a passionate and hard-working member of Parliament speaking here in the House on their behalf.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to highlight some of the key measures in Bill C-25, an act that implements the federal framework for pooled registered pension plans, or PRPPs, as I will refer to them.

Our Conservative government understands that hard-working Canadians want an effective and sustainable retirement income system in place to help them achieve their retirement goals. On this side of the House, we believe that Canadian seniors, after working hard, contributing to society and saving diligently, deserve nothing less. Members can rest assured that our Conservative government stands with these hard-working Canadians and that it will continue to take action to ensure that Canada's retirement income system remains among the strongest in the world. This is where pooled registered pension plans fit in.

The PRPP will mark a significant step forward in advancing our retirement income system by improving the range of retirement savings options available to Canadians. It will make low-cost, broad-based private sector pension plans accessible to the millions of Canadians who up to now have not had access to such plans. In fact, it is important to note that currently 60% of Canadians do not have access to a workplace pension plan. Self-employed individuals do not have access to workplace pension plans at all. Introducing pooled registered pension plans means that many employees of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as self-employed workers, will finally have access to a workplace pension plan for the very first time in their lives.

Let us take a look and see what features of the PRPPs might be found attractive by employees of small and medium-sized businesses and by the self-employed.

A key feature of PRPPs is auto-enrolment. This means that if an employer offers a PRPP, employees will be automatically enrolled in a pension plan. This feature is expected to increase participation in PRPPs by promoting retirement savings specifically targeting those disengaged savers.

Once plan members begin contributing to their PRPP, it is important that they use this money for what it was intended: their retirement. After all, the goal of the pooled registered pension plan is to help Canadians save for their own retirement. Unlike the funds in RRSPs, which can be accessed at any time, the funds in a PRPP would be locked in. This provision will help to ensure that plan members will in fact have savings when they retire.

Another key feature is portability. Many employees will appreciate the ability to transfer funds between administrators when they change jobs. Not only will portability benefit employees of the plan; it will also increase competition among PRPP administrators, thereby encouraging lower costs.

This leads me to my next point, and it is a very important one. One of the key benefits of PRPPs is that they will be low cost. By achieving lower costs, pooled registered pension plans will leave more money in the pockets of Canadians when they retire.

Members might ask how this will work. Pooling pension savings means that the costs of administering the pension funds will be spread over a larger group of people. This will enable plan members to benefit from the lower investment management costs that are typically associated with an average mutual fund.

Stakeholders across our nation are excited about the pooled registered pension plans and the prospect that millions of Canadians will now have access to a workplace pension for the very first time.

However, let us not just take my word for it. Let us hear what others have to say.

Dan Kelly, Vice-President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, stated, “A new voluntary, low-cost and administratively simple retirement savings mechanism will allow more employers, employees, and the self-employed to participate in a pension plan”.

If we are not satisfied with that, let us hear what the Ontario Medical Association had to say. It stated, “The creation of pooled registered pension plans...levels the playing field by providing the self-employed, including physicians, with better access to additional savings opportunities that have up until now been unavailable”.

The pool registered pension plan is not some patchwork scheme. It is an important program that would benefit millions of Canadians. Whether people work for or own small businesses, the pooled registered pension plan would be available to them.

What are the next steps? The bill before us today, Bill C-25, the pooled registered pension plans act, represents the federal portion of the PRPP framework, which is a major step forward in making these available to Canadians. Our government has been collaborating closely with the provinces to implement pooled registered pension plans across our country. Once the provinces put in place their PRPP legislation, the legislative and regulatory framework for PRPPs would be up and running, allowing pooled registered pension plan administrators to develop and offer plans to Canadians and their employers.

Canadians want their governments to act on their priorities and deliver results on a timely basis. The PRPP should be no exception. For this reason, I urge all of the provinces to follow the wise advice of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, and the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association when they collectively said that the longer governments take to establish a system of pooled registered pension plans, the less time those employees will have to use this vehicle to save for their retirements.

Our government is confident that the provincial side of the framework will soon be in place so that millions of Canadians can reach their retirement objectives. We urge our provincial counterparts to take action and follow the lead of our Conservative government. By bringing the PRPP framework into force, Canadians can be confident about the long-term viability of their retirement system. We are listening and we will continue to listen to their views on how we can strengthen the security of pension plan benefits and ensure the framework is balanced and appropriate for the long term.

Canada's retirement income system is recognized around the world by such experts as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development as a model that succeeds in reducing poverty among Canadian seniors. Our system is the envy of the world. With Bill C-25, we would be making it even better by working toward a permanent, long-term solution to encourage greater pension coverage among Canadians.

Let me summarize this new defined pension plan. It would be available to employers, employees and the self-employed. The PRPP would improve the range of retirement savings options to Canadians in a number of ways. It would provide access to a straightforward retirement savings option for employees at administratively low cost and it would provide people who currently do not participate in a pension plan a retirement savings option. More people would benefit from the lower investment management costs that result from the economies of scale of membership in large pooled pension plans, employees would be able to move their accumulated benefits from job to job and the PRPP would ascertain that funds are invested in the best interests of the plan members.

I urge all members of the House to support this very important bill. At this time, I move:

That this question be now put.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, before this debate comes to an end—too quickly in my opinion—I would like to speak a little bit about the fact that, in my riding, retirees from Fraser Papers lost 40% of their pension fund when the parent company declared bankruptcy.

How do the Conservatives think that this will help the Fraser Papers employees who lost 40% of their pension fund after working their entire lives? They had a good retirement fund that belonged to them. Then, all of a sudden, the company declares bankruptcy and all the money vanishes. I spoke to many employees who were about 60 years old and close to retirement.

The NDP is proposing good options that would help to improve Canada's retirement system. For example, the NDP proposed that changes be made to the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, a federal law. However, the Conservatives do not understand what is happening on the ground. They are so out of touch that they think their measure will really solve the problem.

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Conservative Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a new initiative that would respond to what hundreds of thousands of Canadians across this country have asked. It would assist them along the way.

I would suggest to the hon. member from the New Democratic Party that if she feels as passionately as she spoke about seniors, perhaps she could urge some members in her party to finally vote for something that would benefit seniors rather than vote against every single positive measure that our government has put forward that would benefit seniors in this country from coast to coast to coast.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like my colleague to comment on the bigger picture of pensions.

We recognize that this would assist very few Canadians. No doubt, it would be of great assistance to those few. However, there is a great deal of concern for the pensions of all Canadians; in particular, the government's decision to increase the age of retirement, through OAS payments, from 65 to 67.

The member commented on the importance of pension issues. Surely to goodness he would recognize many of his constituents, some would argue most of his constituents, would still say we should provide the opportunity for people to retire at age 65 instead of at age 67. Would he agree with me that changing that retirement age from 65 to 67 would be the wrong direction?