Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak to Bill C-25.
I would think that all members of the House would see this as a benefit to all Canadians, particularly, as previously stated, the self-employed, small and medium-sized businesses and organizations that are probably too small to have their own plan but would like to offer another form of investment in the people they employ and an opportunity for people to grow within that company and stay with it based on the fact that they would have a plan at the end of the day that provides for their retirement.
As many are aware, our government understands the importance of a secure and dignified retirement for people who spent their entire lives building a better and more prosperous Canada and for their families themselves. This legislation would take Canada's retirement income system one step further by helping more Canadians realize their retirement goals.
A lot of work was put into developing this proposal. Canada's retirement system is strong but that does not mean it cannot be improved, that we cannot offer enhancements to pick up those individuals outside of the circle and offer them something better and an opportunity to invest for their retirement. This legislation addresses exactly that.
We all have memories of the crisis of 2008 and how it brought out concerns with regard to retirement. We all asked ourselves if our pension would be adequate, if we would be able to retire in the style we choose. I suspect upon reflection many people found they would not be able to. Things changed dramatically after 2008. If people were in the stock market or in RRSPs or in any type of investment, they took a hit. There is no question about it. The proposal we are putting forward would address that.
We did not do this blindly. We did it through co-operation and discussion with provinces and finance ministers across Canada, with people in our communities and, as the previous speaker mentioned, small business people. I was a small business person too. We always looked for opportunities to provide our employees with better security and better programs. Quite often we had to make the decision that we could not afford it.
This would address many of those issues. As I said, we did not do this blindly. We did it with a lot of consultation. We are trying to provide Canadians with an adequate standard of living upon retirement, and that is what everyone wants.
During the consultation period we found out that modest and middle income Canadians risked facing retirement with insufficient savings. Of particular concern was the declining participation in employer-sponsored RPPs. The proportion of working Canadians with such plans declined from 41% in 1991. Canadians are not taking full advantage of other retirement saving tools, like the RRSP.
I have been told that there is $600 billion in unused RRSP room. That is a clear indication that Canadians have priorities, and their families are their priorities. Sometimes we make those decisions and forget about the future. We need to always be aware of that and have that in our view.
With these findings, our government went to work on behalf of Canadians. We consulted, we met with provincial and territorial counterparts and held discussions with many businesses and we came to today's legislation.
In short, PRPPs are a new, innovative, privately administered, low cost and accessible pension option to help Canadians meet their retirement goals.
PRPPs are particularly important and significant for small and medium-sized businesses. It is quite often unaffordable for business owners to provide these types of benefits. The bill would give them that opportunity, because it would enable owners and employees alike to have access to a large-scale, low-cost private pension plan for the first time. We basically would piggyback on larger corporations. We would get a better buy-in and we would get a better return because of the pooled funds.
Professional administrators would be subject to a fiduciary standard of care to ensure that funds were invested in the best interests of the plan. That is obviously a given, but I think it needs to be said.
By pooling pension savings, PRPPs would offer Canadians greater purchasing power. Basically, we would be buying in bulk. We would be getting a bigger, better deal for less money. By achieving lower prices than would otherwise be available to Canadians, it would mean more money left in the pockets of those same Canadians when they retire.
The design of the plan would also be straightforward to allow for simple enrolment and management. People in small and medium-sized businesses, the self-employed, I suspect, and the employees themselves will like the simplified form.
Finally, they are intended to be largely harmonized from province to province, which further lowers administrative costs and makes the transferability a lot easier to deal with.
Overall, these design features would remove any of the traditional barriers that might have kept some employers from offering pension plans to their employees.
It is my belief that this would lead to a greater willingness for small and medium-sized businesses to offer PRPPs. That is crucial. It is crucial because, incredibly, more than 60% of Canadians do not have a workplace pension plan. That is a huge number. When the members opposite look at it and talk to their friends, they will see it would include a lot of the people who support them and work with them in their day-to-day lives, and it is important that we try to include them in the discussion.
With PRPPs, participation would be encouraged by automatic enrolment of employees into a PRPP where an employer offered one. The automatic enrolment would encourage regular savings by making participation the default choice of employees who do not actively make a decision to opt out.
I remember the best advice I ever received as a young person entering the workforce in a family business was from a financial advisor who told me to just take a little bit off my cheque every month as I would never miss it. Then, as I grew older and my needs changed and my income earnings changed, I could increase it. It is the best advice I have ever received and the best advice I have ever given my children or their friends.
Canada's finance ministers decided to proceed with the PRPP framework precisely because it was considered an effective and appropriate way to target the modest and middle-income individuals who may not be saving enough for retirement, particularly those who currently do not have access to an employer-sponsored pension plan. These PRPPs would strike the right balance.
I know that if the NDP members had their way they would double CPP benefits and increase payroll taxes on small and medium-sized businesses, but that is not the way this government operates. At a time when Canada's economic recovery is still fragile, imposing a job-killing tax on the creators of those very jobs would be simply irresponsible.
PRPPs would be an efficiently managed privately administered pension plan that would provide greater choice to employers and individuals and promote pension coverage and retirement saving.
Once the provinces put in place their PRPP legislation, the legislative and regulatory framework would be operational. This would allow administrators to develop and offer plans to Canadians and their employers. Working together with the provinces, I know and I am confident that we can get these important new retirement vehicles up and running for Canadians in a timely manner.
It is important to remember that PRPPs would not just stand by themselves. They would be part of a bigger picture, part of Canada's retirement income system. We must always remember that. This bill is designed to help the many who do not qualify or are unable to have a pension plan within the confines of where they work. I know the Minister of State for Finance has gone to great lengths to listen to Canadians and to hear what they asked for and what they need. I believe this bill responds to their needs in a very positive way.
I encourage all Canadians and all members of Parliament to support this legislation.