Mr. Speaker, I am proud to stand here, along with members of my party, to express our opposition to Bill C-25 and speak to how this is a hasty attempt by the government to cobble together what the Conservatives say is an effort toward establishing retirement security.
However, we see it as just that, a hasty attempt and one that deviates from the real issue here and the kind of lack of retirement security that Canadians are facing and the way in which the government is weakening the foundations of our retirement system in Canada. I will say a few words specifically on this bill today and get more into that later.
The legislation would not guarantee an actual pension. We would like to refer to it more as a savings scheme. Among other things, the bill would create a type of savings scheme that would pool the funds in members' accounts to achieve lower costs in relation to investment management and plan administration. As we know, these savings schemes are being called pooled registered pension plans.
The bill is designed to appeal to the self-employed and workers at small and mid-sized firms and also companies that often lack the means by which to administer a private sector plan. All of the things that have been said as being key goals of the government, we find the bill misses the mark.
Our position is that Bill C-25 fails to protect retirement security because it encourages families to gamble even more of their retirement savings on failing stock markets. People who have watched their RRSPs plummet over the past year know how risky savings tied to the stock market can be. Telling families to double down on the same system that is already failing them shows how out of touch the government is.
We know the Conservatives are not fond of learning from history, facts, science, et cetera, but we can simply look at the most recent history. We know that this attempt to establish retirement security would make Canadians and their savings more vulnerable. In today's global markets, that is an unacceptable proposition. We would like to see the government say no to encouraging greater vulnerability and yes to more stability when it comes to retirement savings.
For the past three years, our party has championed a suite of retirement income security proposals. We have proposed doubling guaranteed Canada and Quebec pension plan benefits to a maximum of $1,920 each month. Growing the CPP and QPP is simply the best and lowest cost pension reform option available. Research has indicated that and advocacy groups that speak on behalf of seniors have indicated that. We have suggested that working with the provinces to build in the flexibility for individuals and their employers to make voluntary contributions to individual public pension accounts is also critical. The provinces have explicitly stated that they want to come to the table and work with the federal government in order to establish greater retirement security for Canadians.
We have proposed amending the federal bankruptcy legislation to move pensioners and long-term disability recipients to the front of the line of creditors when their employers enter court protection or declare bankruptcy. Numerous times a year, we are seeing large employers just pick up and leave. It is all the workers, particularly the more vulnerable workers, who are ultimately paying the price by losing the investments they made into their pension system and facing a very challenging future.
We have proposed increasing the annual guaranteed income supplement to a sufficient level to lift every senior in Canada out of poverty immediately.
All of those measures have received incredible accolades from various organizations, from stakeholders, from seniors and from people who are looking ahead at their retirement prospects. They have said that they want to see these kinds of proposals put into action by the government.
I will read some of what has been said. Ms. Susan Eng, the vice president for advocacy at CARP, an organization that is outspoken when it comes to retirees in Canada, said:
CARP remains committed to improving retirement benefits for the current crop of seniors, including increasing CPP, OAS and GIS payments, getting a moratorium on RRIF withdrawals, making access to Tax-Free Savings Accounts retroactive and lobbying to remove the HST on seniors’ energy bills.
These are a number of very progressive measures. We have not seen the government take leadership when it comes to a variety of these measures.
If we turn to what we are looking at more broadly, it is the way in which the government is weakening the foundations of our pension system. We do not have to look much further than the budget the government tabled some short weeks ago. In fact, the changes to OAS will have a direct impact on seniors, many of whom are already struggling.
As the status of women critic, I know particularly the devastating impact that the changes to OAS will have on many women, for whom OAS is an income they are dependent on at a time when many of them face a situation of poverty. We are looking at that and the way in which the government is standing by and allowing corporations to pull out of Canada, pulling away from agreements they have made with Canadians.
I think of Vale in my hometown of Thompson. It committed to the federal government to increase employment. However, instead of creating jobs, it is pulling out the value-added jobs in our community, and the government has done nothing to stop it.
I think of Hamilton where the workers at Stelco, now U.S. Steel, were dealt the blow when their jobs were shipped away from Canada. The government went as far as to take U.S. Steel to court and then withdrew the case even though it had grounds to keep going.
That is the way the government treats Canadians who are simply contributing to our economy, raising families and building communities. Many of them are investing in a pension system that the government is seeking to take away.
On a host of measures, the government has stood by while jobs have been shipped out. It has taken direct action to attack our pension systems. It has gone so far as to say, actually a misnomer, that somehow our pension system, whether it is CPP or OAS, suffers from instability. This is something that researcher after researcher has indicated is simply not the case. In fact, the Parliamentary Budget Officer stated the very same thing on numerous occasions. Yet the government fails to accept the research, fails to accept the proof and instead further exposes Canadians to greater vulnerability, to a future where poverty and impoverishment at a senior age is a reality.
Perhaps the saddest of impacts will be on my generation, a generation that is just a few years into the workplace, if people have been able to find a decent job, many of whom are unable to invest in a proper pension system and simply do not have the supports to do so.
Instead of having a government that will stand by and seek to strengthen our public pension system, a universal pension system that supports all Canadians, it is standing by and making life more difficult for future generations, for seniors of today, for people who are looking at their retirement and hoping to see a government that is going to stand up for them. Unfortunately, that is not what we have in the Conservative government.
I am proud to be part of a party, the NDP, that has always been at the forefront of fighting for true retirement security and dignity for all Canadians.