Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca.
Earlier, some members mentioned the fact that people may be watching us on television. I hope they have something else to do, because today's debate in the House is really going nowhere.
This is yet another bill with a rather confusing title. This bill, I believe, deals with pooled registered pension plans. But it really deals with savings, not pension plans. That makes me think that the people who work for the government legislators and think up the titles must also work for the paint companies like Sico, where long, evocative names are given to very simple things. If one day they brought us a bill proposing to cut down all the trees, they would call it “Prioritizing new species of vegetation.”
This bill does contain good intentions for small employers and small businesses. In itself, that could be praiseworthy, but the reality is different. I was listening to the member opposite talk about his favourite business, saying that it has the best tartufo or tiramisu or cheesecake around; he talked about the muffler repair shop near his house, and all these small businesses. It was wonderful: what a great story. But I have a tendency to think he was talking about some other local businesses, for example, the local branch of the Royal Bank of Canada, which made a profit of $5.7 billion in the last quarter, the Toronto Dominion Bank, which made a profit of $4.5 billion, or Scotiabank, where the profit was $4.3 billion. I could list a few of those.
We could believe that our colleagues across the aisle are acting in good faith. We could believe that they are listening to the little guys. Unfortunately, experience proves that they have a natural tendency to listen to the big guys, the big corporations, and neglect the little guys quite often. “Unfortunately”—that is a long word that reminds me of a five-letter word: Aveos. We cannot say that the government looks out for the little guy when we see how it behaved in that labour dispute.
When I say little guy, I mean the vast majority of the population. I am talking about people whose jobs do not provide them with very good protection plans.
Usually in society we come up with plans and programs to promote the common good, programs such as the Canada pension plan or the Quebec pension plan. What strikes me is that when it comes to the common good for the little guy, the government just throws something together. Again, it prioritized a solution by throwing something together with its buddies: it says it will do one thing, a good thing, but then it turns around and does another. I keep saying this has to stop.
People are judged on their intentions. The intention of the Conservative government, generally speaking, is always to favour the big corporations. It wants Canada to be a good place to do business, big business. As we speak, it is the little guy who is paying for it and that is sad.
In the past six years, the Conservatives have done absolutely nothing to boost retirement security for Canadians. In every one of their interventions—unfortunately, they often intervene in labour disputes—the thing that ends up on the chopping block is retirement security, the security of the working class. Bill C-25 is just another half measure and that is what they are developing.
Canadians deserve better than that. We will not settle for this. It is not necessarily a problem, but it is not enough. Throwing out a few crumbs in order to move on to something else is not good enough for us.
I think it is also very important to bear in mind that, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, most Canadian workers do not have RRSPs. Why? Because they cannot afford them. Last year, only 31% of eligible Canadians contributed to an RRSP, and unused contribution room exceeds $500 billion. When I was preparing my last tax return, the amount that I could have contributed to an RRSP was huge. I do not think I could contribute that much, even if I wanted to. This example simply illustrates how serious the contribution problem is, even though we have a public program that works very well and guarantees some financial security for everyone. However, this government does not seem to care about everyone equally.
Someone mentioned the fact that the Australians tested the same thing 10 years ago. In the end, that initiative did not work. It did not meet expectations. What does the government want, apart from asking its friends on Bay Street if they feel like investing a few billion dollars in this, just for the fun of it? It is unfortunate, but the Conservatives seem to just do whatever they like. They do not consult anyone. They have no interest in consultation. They go ahead with their own ideas. One might think that they have great ideas, but no, they do not have any strokes of genius. They have not heard the voice of God. They simply came along with their biased opinion that their friends are going to like this.
That is what is happening. They are working for the upper class. This is unfair, because this government was elected by the public, by ordinary people. We are not talking about giving even more crazy tax breaks to the big oil companies or banks; we are talking about protecting ordinary people.
A five-letter word is flashing in my mind: Aveos. I hope that one day, the Conservatives will lie awake at night thinking of that word: Aveos. The people at that company lost everything, but the Conservatives do not care at all. That is unacceptable. How can they even introduce a bill that talks about protecting retirees, when these people were run over by a tractor and were told that it was no big deal, that the bosses were right. That is shameful; but that is a whole other story.
In passing, I would like to mention what a number of journalists think, because we are not the only ones who believe that a public plan would certainly be a better option. For example, the Conference Board of Canada has a disturbing statistic: 1.6 million seniors live in poverty and 12 million Canadians do not have a pension plan. According to the OECD, the Canada Pension Plan and the Régie des rentes du Québec are relatively inadequate and other countries have guarantees and much more generous public pension plans.
In the United States—they like it when we talk about the United States—maximum social security benefits are about $30,000 a year. Here, they are about $12,000 a year. Is that not a nice parallel? Do they not care? It is too bad, but they have erred so much in the past that I simply do not trust them. It is unfortunate, but that is also what the vast majority of Canadians think.
I must stop there, but I encourage my colleagues opposite to preach by example, to show some interest in the common good, an interest in consultation. Then, we would be happy to work with them.