House of Commons Hansard #33 of the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was plan.


Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member that in 2012, the most recent review of the CPP confirmed that it is sustainable at the current contribution rate of 9.9% and it is sustainable for at least 75 years.

The member opposite is well aware that the global economic environment remains fragile. She also knows that global growth has been weaker than expected, with growth in advanced economies stabilizing at a relatively slow pace, while growth in emerging markets has slowed. In light of so many factors, it is not surprising that the International Monetary Fund recently revised downward its outlook for real GDP growth in both advanced and emerging economies.

Coming back to my consultations with my constituents, this is what Daljit Randhawa, from Best Buy Furniture, had to say:

Currently, we have 16 employees, so an increase of $1,130 per employee would mean an additional $17,600 in payroll costs for our business.

I will share this also. In my own law firm, the first thing my partner does is ask my wife, Neetu Shory, to look into how much it would actually cost to hire another employee in our law firm. That is the basis for new employees.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to participate in the debate today. I will be sharing my time with the member for Gatineau.

I would like to thank my NDP colleague from Victoria for submitting this motion and his tremendous work on the issue of pensions, which affect so many Canadians. For the benefit of those participating in the debate and for Canadians watching the debate, I will read the motion so that it is clear what we are discussing.

The motion reads as follows:

That the House call on the government to commit to supporting an immediate phase-in of increases to basic public pension benefits under the Canada and Quebec Pension Plans at the upcoming meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers.

The meeting is to take place this month at Meech Lake.

The motion does not specify exactly what form these increases would take or the rate of increase, but it does say that the ministers should take the opportunity to address this issue without delay at the meeting at Meech Lake.

That is because, as many are now recognizing, Canada is facing a retirement security crisis. Nearly a third of Canadians face a drop of more than 20% in their standard of living by the time they face retirement. I see this frequently in my riding of Parkdale—High Park. Constituents come to my office and say they had no idea how financially strapped they would be when they retired.

They kind of expected there would be enough through the Canada and Quebec pension plans to support them in their retirement years, and let us be very clear that the Canada and Quebec funds are absolutely rock-solid and that this program is the most solid pension base that Canadians could ever want. It is indexed to inflation and it is portable no matter where a person worked. No matter where one goes in the country, people have access to the same benefits. It is a rock-solid investment that Canadians can be confident in for many decades to come. The major problem is that the benefits that it currently pays out are not sufficient to guarantee retirement security for Canadians.

The reason so many Canadians are facing a steep decline in their retirement income is that the vast majority of Canadians do not have a private pension plan, a company pension plan, an employer pension plan, or RRSPs. Canadians who had RRSPs and who became unemployed would often have to take the money out of their RRSPs, and they did not have other investments. The reality is that most Canadians rely on the Canada and Quebec pension plans, but the problem is that it does not replace enough of people's pre-retirement income. That is why so many agree that there is a retirement security crisis looming in this country.

Last year the finance minister agreed with this assessment, and he agreed to move forward to increase CPP and QPP benefits. However, now he does not seem to even want to meet with the provincial finance ministers. He has been ducking and diving on this issue, so New Democrats want to encourage him to address it.

We know that our colleagues in the Liberal Party have proposed a voluntary plan; we believe that what Canadians need is a mandatory plan that will guarantee their retirement income, and that is what we are proposing.

What we are proposing is completely affordable. Let me share with my colleagues some costing that my colleague from Victoria has done.

There are a variety of ways to increase the CPP. One is the plan proposed by the Canadian Labour Congress, which would lead to a doubling of benefits. That would cost about $4 a week, the cost of a couple of cups of coffee a week. That would be the cost to double the retirement benefits for Canadians.

However, there are other proposals that are out there. P.E.I. has a proposal that would cost less than $2 a week. What would that mean for Canadians? It would provide additional pension benefits for Canadians of $3,000 each year. That sounds like a pretty darn good deal. I do not think there is any investment that Canadians could find that would give them that kind of return with the security and surety of the Canada pension plan.

It is not just New Democrats who are saying this makes sense. As we have heard, there was an editorial today in The Globe and Mail, not exactly a radical leftist newspaper, I am told. Let me quote from it. With regard to expanding CPP, it says:

It should be done, and it should be done soon. Conservatives of the large and small-c variety have long been uncomfortable with a bigger national pension plan. It sounds like a tax increase. It's not. It's a savings plan. And it's the best one we've got.

I wholeheartedly agree.

Let us look at some others. We have an expert on payroll taxes, Rhys Kesselman, the Canada Research Chair on Public Finance at the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University. Here is what he has to say:

Since the proposed CPP premium hikes would provide workers correspondingly higher benefits in retirement, they are not like an ordinary payroll tax increase. Rather, they are like an individual's payment for improved insurance coverage.

That is what it is, retirement insurance.

He went on to say:

This premium-benefit linkage means that CPP premiums lack the disincentive effects of most taxes.

In other words, it is not a negative but a positive.

He also said:

Concern over the effects of CPP premium hikes is unwarranted and should not be allowed to block this important policy reform any longer.

We wholeheartedly agree.

Let us hear what the OECD pension team has to say about Canada's pension plan. Edward Whitehouse, leader of the OECD pension team, said:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes. ... Long-term projections show that a public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable.

That is what we said earlier: our public pension plan is sound.

He went on to say:

Population ageing will naturally increase public pension spending, but the rate of growth is lower and the starting point better than many OECD countries. Moreover, the earnings-related public schemes (CPP/QPP) have built up substantial reserves to meet these future liabilities.

He is convinced that we have the capacity with our current plan.

Another Globe and Mail article also said:

On the other hand, Canada is different because, unlike most other countries, our public pension commitments are not a substantial threat to our public finances. The Canada Pension Plan is in long-run balance. Old Age Security takes only 2.41 per cent of GDP. Very few OECD countries have lower levels of public pension spending as a share of GDP than Canada.

To take the extreme example, Italy spends more than 14% of GDP on public pensions, up 10% from only a few years ago; we are at 2.41% of GDP.

We have the support for this initiative. As I said, The Globe and Mail, tax experts, and the Canadian Association of Retired Persons just want us to get on with this. Even the CIBC economics report said that the CPP is a good plan, saying, “The CPP has the scale to make big investments and get better returns with relatively low cost.”

Canadians rely on the Canada and Quebec pension plans. We have to make them better and stronger so that they cover more of people's post-retirement income. We can do it.

Let us get together in the House and address this crisis now. Let us make it happen.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario


John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I represent a constituency, Ottawa West—Nepean, which has one of the fifth or sixth highest percentages of seniors. There is a good number of elderly women, many of whom do not have a defined benefit pension and rely on the public system. This is an issue that I follow very closely.

We could say that there is a certain attractiveness to expanding the Canada pension plan, but I say to the member opposite that it always comes down to how we are going to pay for it. Can Canadian employers afford to take on a not insignificant increase in payroll taxes? We know from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business that payroll taxes are the toughest on employers and on creating new jobs for small businesses and medium-sized enterprises in particular.

What do we say to the average Canadian worker, someone who is middle class and maybe making $35,000 or $40,000 a year, struggling to make ends meet? Their hydro bills are going up, particularly in Ontario. They are facing a tough go. Not all Canadians or Ontarians have the money to pay these increased payroll taxes, which they would be required to pay. It is not an issue of whether it is a payroll tax or a contribution, they do not have any cash in their pockets to put out. This is the case for many of the people that I represent.

While the idea has certain attractive elements to it, does the member not concede that there are far too many Canadians who simply do not have the money to be able to make increased contributions because they are having a tough time making ends meet today?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague opposite for his thoughtful question, but I ask him to consider the proposition of paying the cost of a cup of coffee and getting an extra $3,000 a year in pension benefit increases. That sounds like a pretty darn good deal for just the cost of a cup of coffee, for $2. The solution to someone who is cash-strapped today is not to have them fall into even greater poverty tomorrow.

For my friends in small businesses, I come from a riding that is full of remarkable small businesses. I know how tough it is for those small businesses, which are getting gouged by credit card fees in their stores. They operate close to the wire, but I say to them that the best thing for small businesses is retirees with cash in their pockets.

Is that not what small businesses want? They want customers with money.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to clarify one point. I think the hon. member referred to us as, in some sense, substituting the voluntary CPP for the real one. I would remind her that it was the Liberal government, under Lester Pearson, that brought in the CPP in the first place. It was Paul Martin who fixed it and made it sustainable. We are more committed than, or at least as committed as, any other party to the long-run sustainability of the existing Canada pension plan and we are open to moderate increases in the size of it over time.

Regarding the supplemental Canada pension plan, we want to consider that as an addition, not as an alternative. I made reference to the British experience, where because they have auto-enrolment, even though it is voluntary, over 90% of employees decide to stay in it. It is voluntary, but 90% of the people elect to stay in it.

I would ask if the hon. member understands the long-term commitment of the Liberal Party, our definitive commitment to the existing CPP, and the point that our supplemental CPP, while voluntary, is set up in such a way that many people will choose to participate.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Peggy Nash NDP Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome my colleague's support for our motion, if that is what I take his comments to be. That is wonderful news, because they had been advancing a voluntary proposal.

It can muddy the debate when people say that they like a little bit of this and a little bit of that. We have an opportunity now to improve the Canada and Quebec pension plans once and for all. Let us get this on track so that Canadians can have security when they go into retirement, so that we do not have a financial crisis for about a third of Canadians. We do not want to see that.

If the hon. member is saying that he supports the NDP proposal, we are quite happy to accept that support. I then reach across the aisle and ask my colleagues on the government side for their support. I think that would give added confidence and encouragement to the Minister of Finance when he meets the provincial and territorial ministers in Meech Lake later this month.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to rise in this House to take part in the debate on the motion moved by the hon. member for Victoria. The motion invites the House to call on the government to commit to supporting an immediate phase-in of increases to basic public pension benefits under the Canada and Quebec pension plans at the upcoming meeting of federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers.

In my opinion, this is probably one of the most important federal-provincial-territorial conferences. It will be held not far from my home, at Meech Lake, a name that may not sit very well with some people. However, for once, if something positive comes from this meeting, the lake could be known as the home of a major vision.

Go ahead and tell me that I believe in Santa Claus. I hope that members of this House, of all parties, will support this motion. No particular numbers are attached to it, though some of our Conservative colleagues do not like that. They have tried to tie us in financial knots. However, that is not what the motion is asking for. It is about an intent. It is about sitting down with our provincial and territorial counterparts in an attempt to solve a major problem.

I have been here all day for all the debates. I have heard comments to the effect that we in the NDP are out of touch, that we cannot count, that the sky is falling and that the country will go bankrupt.

I would like to get back to the real issue to point out clearly what we are asking for and whom it could help. In other situations, I often say something that applies to this one even more. We are talking about the Canada pension plan and the Québec pension plan, not about private schemes. We are talking about basic schemes that, let us admit it, provide peanuts. It is true that it is expensive to add any amount at all, because a lot of people are involved. However, a lot of people depend on these schemes for their livelihood. I challenge anyone in this House to live on that kind of income for many years.

We must sit down and deal with the crux of the issue: why we are here and why the government exists. A government certainly exists to encourage national prosperity, but it also exists to make sure that everyone can benefit from that and that no one is left behind in any respect.

The time is right to ask ourselves those questions. I am sure I am not alone in going to my riding and being constantly asked, not only to attend activities to meet my constituents, but also to take part in collections of non-perishable food items.

Last Monday, I was at the Buffet des continents. I had actually invited all my colleagues in the House to go. Tony Priftakis and Mélanie Gauthier welcomed people to their restaurant for free in exchange for three cans of food to help the most disadvantaged. We collected a record amount of food to help Moisson Outaouais, a food bank that supplies all the food banks in my region. It is located across the river, close to this great city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada, where we still find some pockets of extreme poverty, which include many of our seniors.

Letting these people live in poverty is a reflection of our society as a whole. I do not mean to sound socialist. I come from a business background. I had a business as a lawyer, working with other lawyers. I love life, but I do not like to see children not eating three times a day or seniors who are too embarrassed and humiliated to go to food banks and ask for food.

Last Monday evening, entire families came, because they were able to find three small cans to exchange for a sumptuous free meal.

For them, that was their Christmas dinner. That was Monday. On Thursday morning, everyone here may have been stopped on a few street corners, because it was the media fundraising drive. On this occasion, all the media in the region get together and raise money for food banks and soup kitchens so that seniors can survive and have a decent holiday season.

I was on a street corner with Sister Denise Blouin. She told me that people needed this help all year long, not just during the holidays. The needs are growing. On Thursday, I will see this first-hand. I will be serving meals with the people at the Saint-François soup kitchen. Every year I do this, it breaks my heart.

As a society, we are failing miserably. We are being questioned over $2.25 or $3.25 by the members on the government benches. They are being driven around in limousines, but they are afraid to bring our seniors who need that amount up to a decent standard of living. I find that appalling. Sometimes, I think we forget why we are here.

The Notre-Dame Market had its Christmas party on Saturday. Once again, there were many seniors there. There was a food drive, and a meal was provided. Everyone was gathered together in one place with the simple hope of having a meal. That is absolutely incredible. When one-third of the population cannot survive on the Canada pension plan, we know that something serious is happening.

People go to the Centre de pédiatrie sociale de Gatineau because they cannot go to a hospital. There is so much suffering. They mayor's breakfast took place on Sunday in Gatineau, and Mayor Maxime Pedneaud-Jobin honoured a 23-year tradition. A reporter asked me if I thought it was important to be there. I said yes, but that I hoped that someday we would not need that kind of event anymore.

I find it appalling that we are celebrating the 23rd year of an event that is designed to collect Christmas hampers for people who do not have enough to eat. Meanwhile, we are talking about economics, which is very important, I agree. However, the motion moved by my colleague calls on us to work with our provincial and territorial counterparts to address a pressing issue. No one is asking that it be fixed by tomorrow morning. The government needs to stop fearmongering and making people think that we will bankrupt the country. That is not the issue.

There needs to be a firm commitment from federal, provincial and territorial partners to make this a viable system so that people no longer live below the poverty line, as is becoming increasingly common.

I would like to bring to the members' attention the fact that poverty among seniors affects mostly women. Many single women who are 65 or older live on a meagre income. Once again, we need to go and speak to these people.

On November 15, we met with representatives of the Federal Superannuates National Association. They talked about their concern that the government is doing all kinds of things to scare them because it is unilaterally making changes to legislation and agreements without consulting them.

Peoples' pensions are not protected when companies that have received all kinds of major subsidies from the government go bankrupt. Who pays the price? The people who worked their entire lives and contributed to those pension plans.

I was very proud when my colleague introduced Bill C-331 to protect them. These kinds of measures will allow people to have a decent life and to keep the economy going, as my colleague for Parkdale—High Park said.

Thus, the Conservatives should not pass really inappropriate measures, although it might not be such a bad thing. Perhaps there would be someone else like Solange Denis, who said in 1986, if I am not mistaken, “Goodbye Charlie Brown.”

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her words. I cannot say kind words.

I did not drive here in my limousine. I did not drive here disrespecting the poor and the needy in this country.

I have spent my life as a small business owner. I have spent my life being involved in the community in which I live, in many community projects, like the ones she talked about, whether they are food banks or Christmas care, and many of them anonymously. They are not done for pride or pleasure. They are done because one is a member of the community and ones does it.

Many small business owners like me for years have contributed to the Canada pension plan, but not as applicants and not as people who will collect a Canada pension. It is because we are business owners and we have to match what the employees put in. I am sorry, I cannot do the calculations right now. I am sure it is hundreds of thousands of dollars I have contributed to the Canada pension plan, without qualifying for it myself until I took this job, until the people of my neighbourhood, because I was a compassionate business person, elected me to the House of Commons.

What the members are asking is that small business people take money out of their pockets and do it again. It has been said that we could do it with a cup of coffee. Just the other day, the Ontario government said that the price of a cup of coffee a day is how much they are going to raise hydro. The day before that, there was somebody else.

From the guy who sells people the cup of coffee, I cannot afford to go without the cup being sold. If it is not sold by us, I cannot afford the extra cost of the Canada pension plan contributions. That will be the cost in our communities. It will be the small business owner who is no longer able to be involved in these projects, as the member stated.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my colleague's long question. I hope I will have just as much time to answer.

It goes without saying that every time members opposite respond, they try to highlight the most dramatic aspect of the situation. What we are saying here today, and what I am hearing from both sides, is that the need exists. I do not believe that the member wanted to say that the need is not there. He talked about small businesses. I was a small business owner as well, and I completely understand what he was saying. No matter the size of the business, they all contribute.

When we sit down with people and talk to them, it is obvious that they are aware of all this. The future of these people is at stake. People could spend 10, 15 or 20 years below the poverty line, with all that entails. What I have never understood about the Conservatives is that they do not see the consequences of living in poverty. It causes health problems as well as various other kinds of problems, all of which represent significant costs for our society. We should perhaps show a little more compassion about this. For example, during the election campaign, I heard the Conservative candidate answer a question about poverty by saying that they would find jobs for everyone.

This ignores the fact that some people, unfortunately, are not able to work. There are Canadians of a certain age, people aged 58, 60 or 62, who come to see me at my MP office and tell me that they cannot find a job. These people are depending on us and the work we do in the House.

Being only fair does not require bankrupting the country.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:30 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member focused many of her comments on seniors living in poverty.

Winnipeg North is no different from any other constituency in which there are difficult decisions that many of our seniors have to make. One of the saddest stories is when people have to ask whether they need their meds or food on the kitchen table. There are many grandparents who do not even have the money to buy something nice for a grandchild.

The pension issue is a serious issue. I have had the opportunity to bring forward numerous petitions about guaranteeing and enhancing the CPP, OAS, and GIS.

The Liberal Party supports the motion. The Liberal Party has talked about having a CPP supplement that would be open for individuals who would not normally be able to contribute to CPP, such as a spouse who is out of the workforce for many years. To what degree does she see value in a supplementary program?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.


Françoise Boivin NDP Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to emphasize that no one should ever have to choose between medication and housing or between feeding themselves and feeding their children. People should not have to sacrifice to allow their children to eat and go to school. This is absolutely indecent and unacceptable in our society and in a country as rich in natural resources as Canada.

Whatever decisions must be made, we have to stop quibbling about the smallest of details. We have to stop trying to find out who deserves the credit for introducing what. If it is someone else's initiative, it is not good, but if it is ours, it is great. Let us stop trying to find out whether it was us who brought in this and that in 1962 or whether some other party introduced it in 1965. These are extremely sterile debates. Let us fix this problem once and for all.

In 1989, Ed Broadbent moved a motion to eliminate child poverty that was unanimously adopted. It is now 2013, and no progress has been made on this unanimous motion. For once, let us do the right thing and stop trying to scare people and make them believe that the money is not available. The money can be available—it is a matter of priorities and values.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:35 p.m.

Willowdale Ontario


Chungsen Leung ConservativeParliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism

Mr. Speaker, as I have listened to my hon. colleagues across the way, it has become clear to me that the opposition party has no understanding when it comes to the economy. New Democrats simply fail to understand the negative economic impact their proposal would have on families and communities from coast to coast to coast.

May I suggest to my NDP colleagues some background on the current state of the global economy and the risks that still exist that could derail Canada's recovery.

When the global recession hit in 2008, our government helped steer Canada through immensely challenging economic times. Indeed, Canada performed better than most countries during the recession and throughout the recovery. However, despite this relatively strong economic performance, global economic challenges remain, especially in Europe and the United States, our largest trading partners.

The NDP might be interested to know that global growth has been much weaker than expected. Growth in advanced economies, such as Canada, has stabilized at a relatively slow pace, while growth in emerging markets has slowed. The Euro area continues to grapple with a sovereign debt crisis that weighs on consumer and business confidence.

That is not all. Just south of the border, slower than expected growth, as well as uncertainty about the stability of the United States' finances, pose the greatest risk to the Canadian economy. It is not surprising that for this reason, the International Monetary Fund recently revised downward its outlook for real GDP growth in both advanced and emerging economies. Indeed, the IMF projects that growth in advanced economies will average just under 1.2% in 2013.

We all know that Canada is a trading country. We depend on a strong global economy for exports, especially to the United States and Europe. While economic growth in Canada has remained resilient, Canada is not immune to weaker economic performances beyond its borders. For this reason, it is not surprising that global economic weakness has weighed on demand for our exports, which has put downward pressure on Canada's real GDP growth. Furthermore, this weak global economy has depressed the prices of our exports. This, combined with low inflation at home, has resulted in weaker nominal GDP growth.

Let me clarify what this means. It means that despite Canada's relatively strong economic performance, there are a number of economic challenges that remain in the global economy. While the NDP might prefer that Canada become a protectionist country, the reality is that economic conditions beyond our borders have impacted Canada and will continue to. Simply put, we are not out of the woods yet. Canada's economy, while improving, remains fragile.

On this point, I can speak from my own personal business experience in private practice as a business owner for over two decades. The last thing employers and workers want during uncertain economic times is higher taxes. Higher taxes on employers will reduce their ability to grow their businesses by investing in more equipment and by hiring more workers. In the case of workers, higher taxes take more of their hard-earned money out of their pockets and can cause hardship for families trying to make ends meet during turbulent economic times.

While the members of the NDP may not realize this, CPP contributions are a payroll tax on employers. To increase payroll taxes on employers, when the economy is still recovering, would not only harm Canada's economy but would kill jobs, putting many Canadians out of work.

The NDP does not seem to understand that we cannot tax our way to prosperity. Not only do New Democrats not seem to understand this in the context of the Canada pension plan, they also do not seem to understand it in the context of business tax rates.

Just a couple of weeks ago, when I asked point blank if he would increase taxes on Canadian businesses, the leader of the NDP again confirmed that he would. Why, when other countries around the world are lowering their tax burden on job creation, would the leader of the NDP commit to increasing taxes?

I am not sure that the leader of the NDP, or anyone among the NDP ranks, understands how crippling a tax hike can be to businesses, especially when they are still trying to cope with a fragile economic recovery. It is clear that the NDP members do not, because if they did understand, they might grasp the economic consequences of their own proposal.

Indeed, the NDP wants to expand the CPP. This would effectively hike payroll taxes for employers and take money out of the pockets of hard-working Canadians. In fact, this radical plan would severely stunt economic growth. The NDP plan would force contribution rates to increase by an average of $1,600 per year per person. This means that a family with two workers at home could be forced to pay as much as $2,600 in additional taxes every year.

Not only would the NDP proposal cost Canadians their hard-earned money, but it would also cost them their jobs. The NDP plan could kill up to 70,000 in Canada. I would like to ask the members of the NDP how they feel about killing 70,000 Canadians jobs.

Not only that, I would like to know how the NDP members feel about doing something to which small business owners are strongly opposed.

I am going to share with the NDP what business owners think of its proposal. It might be interested to learn that a recent survey by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business revealed: 65% of businesses said that they would freeze or cut salaries if the Canada pension plan contribution was increased; 48% said they would reduce investment in their business; and 42% said they would decrease the number of employees.

Do not just take my word for this. I wish to quote from an economist of the Canadian Business magazine, Larry MacDonald, regarding how expanding the CPP would adversely affect businesses:

There doesn't seem to be a real need for it....A jump in CPP premiums makes it more expensive for businesses to maintain a workforce and could lead to job losses.

Not only would this put Canadians out of work, but it would also make things worse for those who stayed employed.

At the end of the day, the money to pay workers needs to come from somewhere. If more is being taken in the form of payroll taxes, then how are employers going to pay their employees?

According to Laura Jones, the executive vice-president of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, “small businesses report that a mandatory CPP increase would force many to lower wages and even reduce their workforce”. Why, at the time when the economy is starting to rebound, would the NDP want to slap down workers by cutting their wages?

How would this help Canadian families? The only thing this would do is make it more difficult for Canadians to meet their mortgage payments, enrol their children in after school activities or, even worse, afford the grocery bills.

The NDP needs to consider the ramifications of its proposal, because it seems pretty clear that it has not given this much thought as to how this would impact employers and employees.

Not only does this proposal make no economic sense, but it overlooks the fact that Canada currently has a retirement income system that is the envy of the world.

Since 2006, our government has introduced a number of measures that have enhanced the well-being of all seniors by providing them with the services and financial support they need.

It seems clear the NDP has not taken note of this, so I will take some time to explain Canada's retirement income system to it and, perhaps, it will see why it is the envy of the world.

Through the Canada pension plan, we are providing a secure, indexed, lifelong retirement benefit. To ensure the CPP remains on solid footing, it is regularly reviewed by the federal and provincial governments, which are the joint stewards of the plan.

The NDP may be interested to know that the last financial review of the CPP, completed in 2012 by federal, provincial and territorial ministers of finance, confirmed that the plan was sustainable for at least the next 75 years. This is at the current contribution rate of 9.9% of pensionable earnings. In other words, there is no need to increase the contribution rate at this time.

Canada's retirement income system also provides tax assisted private savings opportunities to help encourage Canadians to accumulate additional savings for their retirement.

I am also talking about retirement savings plans, like the registered pension plan and the registered retirement savings plan, both of which are very efficient vehicles in helping retirees.

The RPPs are sponsored by employers on a voluntary basis and can be either a defined contribution or a defined benefit with employers and, in many cases, employees responsible for making these contributions.

The RRSPs are voluntary, individual, defined contribution savings plans. Employers may provided a group RRSP for employees and may remit a share of contributions on behalf of their employees.

Contributions to RPPs and RRSPs are deductible from income for tax purposes and investment income earned in these plans is not subject to income tax until withdrawn.

The cost of the tax assistance provided on RPP and RRSP savings is currently estimated at approximately $24 billion per year in forgone revenue for the federal government.

However, that is not all.

In addition, the tax-free savings accounts, a flexible, tax assisted savings account that was introduced by our government in budget 2008, is a valuable tool to help Canadians of all ages meet their savings goal. The tax-free savings account helps all adult Canadians, including seniors, to meet their ongoing savings needs on a tax deferred basis. This includes those who are over the age of 71 who are required to begin withdrawing from registered savings plans like the RRSP.

However, that is not the only way our government is helping Canadians ensure they have more money available when they retire. Since 2006, our government has introduced a number of measures to assist seniors and pensioners. Together, these measures are providing about $2.7 billion in additional annual targeted tax relief to those Canadians.

Let me review some of these tax saving measures.

We introduced the pension income splitting with a spouse. We increased the age credit amount by $2,000. There was a doubling of the pension income credit by $2,000. We increased the amount of the guaranteed income supplement that GIS recipients could earn through employment without any reduction in GIS benefits. We increased the age limit for RRSP to RRIF mandatory withdrawal conversion to age 71 from 69. We introduced the largest GIS increase in over 25 years which gave eligible low-income seniors get additional benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples, helping more than 680,000 seniors across Canada.

Overall, this action has helped remove more than 380,000 seniors from the tax role. In fact, in 2013 a single senior can earn at least $19,800 and a senior couple at least $39,700 before paying federal income tax.

There is still more. Seniors also benefit substantially from the many tax reduction measures our government has introduced. For example, we have reduced the goods and services tax to 5% from 7%. We have reduced the lowest personal income tax rate to 15% from 16%. We have increased the basic personal amount that all Canadians can earn without paying federal income tax. We have increased the upper limit of the two lowest personal income tax brackets, ensuring that a greater proportion of income is taxed at a lower rate.

Clearly, our Conservative government has a strong record of supporting Canada's seniors.

However, not only is our government helping the seniors of today, but we are also introducing measures to help seniors of tomorrow. I refer to the pooled registered pension plan. While the New Democrats are advancing a proposal that we kill jobs and hurt Canada's economy, our government is working with the provinces to introduce this new pension option. The pooled registered pension plan, the PRPP, is a large scale, broad-based pension arrangement. By pooling pension savings, the costs of administering these pension plans will be spread over a large group of people which will allow plan members to benefit from lower investment management costs.

PRPPs will be available to employees with or without the participating employer as well as to the self-employed. This is significant as 60% of Canadians do not have access to a workplace pension. However, with the PRPP, these Canadians will now have access to a low cost workplace pension for the very first time. That means more money in the pockets of Canadians when they reach retirement age.

Not only do PRPPs benefit employees, they also mark a significant advance for small and medium-sized businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses have, until now, experienced significant barriers to being able to offer a pension plan to their employees. However, under a PRPP, most of the administrative and legal burdens associated with a pension plan will be borne by a qualified, licensed third party administrator. Indeed, just this past September Manulife Financial became the first to be issued a licence to administer a federal PRPP.

Here is what Sue Reibel, senior vice-president, had to say about this:

PRPPs have been designed to make it simple and easy for Canadian small businesses to provide a cost effective retirement savings plan to their employees....Today’s approval marks an important first step in enabling many more businesses to help their employees put money away for their retirement...

The PRPP is an effective pension option for millions of Canadians who currently do not have access to a workplace pension plan. That is why we are urging the provinces that have not yet brought forward legislation to implement the PRPP to do so in a timely manner.

If the New Democrats really care about retirement security, they will not be advocating a proposal to kill Canadian jobs. Rather they should be supporting our government's effort to have every province in Canada implement legislation, making PRPPs available all across Canada.

Unfortunately, the NDP does not appear to think that the retirement security of Canadians is important. Believe it or not, the NDP actually voted against our government's legislation that introduced the federal PRPP framework. Indeed, the New Democrats opposed this legislation every step of the way, representing the interests of union bosses rather than the interests of Canadians. They voted against a measure that would help millions of Canadians prepare for their retirement. They pretend to be concerned about retirement security by supporting a proposal that would put Canadians out of work or, at the very least, decrease their wages. This is shameful.

Thankfully, our government is committed to ensuring the ongoing strength of Canada's retirement income system. Not only are we working to introduce measures that would actually help Canadians save for their retirement, like the PRPP, but we understand that during a fragile economic recovery is not the time to increase payroll taxes on employees. Now is simply not the appropriate time to increase the premium for the Canada pension plan.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the midst of the presentation by the Parliamentary Secretary for Multiculturalism, he made the statement, “there does not seem to be a need for it”, apparently referring to the need for an increase in the CPP. Right now, only 38.8% of Canadians have access to a workplace pension plan, less than a third have access to a defined benefit plan and only 17.4% of employees in the private sector have such a plan. It seems as well that 5.8 million Canadians are in a position where they are going to experience, according to the CIBC, a 20% decrease in their standard of living upon retirement. Is that not indicative of a need to do something?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my business experience, I have run corporations that had a few professionals up to 400. In looking at Canada's overall retirement system, it is a very balanced system and there are many options for employees to choose from. For example, first and foremost, there are capital gains on the principal house someone lives in, but it is not taxed on disposition as one retires. Second, there is CPP and for those who fall under the threshold, they are supplemented by GIS and so on. There is also the pooled registered pension plan and the registered retirement savings plan. These are elements for retirement benefits.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:50 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member can appreciate that on the whole issue of pension, there is an issue of trust or lack thereof. The government has not really seen the merit of having provincial conferences. The Prime Minister, for example, has yet to meet with the premiers and he has been Prime Minister for a number of years. He chooses to meet with them on an individual basis. The CPP is a wonderful program that provides comfort for hundreds of thousands of people.

Would the member want to provide some sort of assurance that the meeting coming up later this month, even though the Prime Minister and premiers will not be there, will be given a high priority in trying to come up with ways to enhance the CPP program so that in the years ahead, more seniors will be prevented from being put into poverty-type situations?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, on the question of trust, we all work better when we all trust each other, but with the Prime Minister on a very high level basis, we cannot address the issues at the ministerial level. On a regular basis, the federal Minister of Finance, the federal Minister of Health and the federal Minister of Transport individually consult with the provinces in order to arrive at the best decision and we certainly have the trust of many of the provinces that I have had occasion to visit.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

December 9th, 2013 / 5:55 p.m.


Gary Schellenberger Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pose one question. I have listened intently today to members on the other side talk about how we should gradually double Canada pension. Does everybody here realize that people have to have jobs in order to pay into Canada pension?

I had a call from a gentleman who said that it was great and asked why I was not in support of doubling the pension. He said that he really needed it. I asked him if he was on pension now and he said yes. I asked if his wife was on it and he said she was, too. I asked him if they both drew the same amount and he said no. That was because he paid more in than she did.

Another gentleman came to see me. He said that he fell off of his bicycle and was thinking about going on disability. He said that he thought he could live on $840 a month. When I helped him apply for it, we found out he had never paid in, so he was not eligible.

A lot of the things we are talking about today do not even come under Canada pension. I would ask my hon. colleague to comment on that, please.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his wisely put question.

There is the issue that one has to have the money first before one can spend it. I do not think the members opposite understand this simple principle. One cannot spend money one does not have.

Therefore, our government's attempt at lowering taxes, stimulating inflation, making sure that we can export our products around the world, stimulating the economy and creating jobs is a precondition to having these strong, viable pension plans. If we do not have that basic economic infrastructure, how can we have the money to spend on these nice retirement plans that they talk about?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech by my colleague from Willowdale.

Since he was boasting about the tax measures his government has adopted, I would like to let him know that my mother, who is an average Canadian retiree, was not able to take advantage of the public transit tax credit. This is not because she is particularly poor, but simply because her retirement income is average. She is among the large number of retirees who cannot take advantage of these measures.

That said, I would like to get back to PRPPs. What I find most intriguing is that the government is bragging about creating this kind of program by claiming that it will benefit everyone. However, when we talk about improving the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan, we are talking about economies of scale. The The Globe and Mail editorial said that it was a savings plan and that it did not constitute a tax increase.

Could my colleague tell us where to find the studies that would detail the individual management costs of these PRPPs compared to the overall envelope that helps reduce the cost of the Canada pension plan?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I speak from my experience as a former business owner. When one has only a handful of employees, it is very hard to approach an insurance company and ask it to provide a pension plan. If I remember correctly, with a contribution of $20,000 to $40,000, one cannot make a pension plan out of that. One needs to have an annual contribution of almost a quarter of a million dollars or upwards in order to do that.

What the government is implementing is a pooled registered pension plan. It would be a regulated plan whereby the criteria for investment and so on would be regulated much like a bank or an insurance company. It would be portable so that as one moves in and out of jobs, or for a small business owner or the self-employed, the savings would be there and managed on a path to growth.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Pierre Lemieux ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture

Mr. Speaker, I have been in the House all day listening to the opposition promoting an increase in CPP, but I do not think they realize the cost, which is my concern.

Right now, Canadians pay, at a maximum, about $2,300 per year for CPP. The opposition members are talking about increasing this in a meaningful way. I wonder how they are going to sell this to Canadians. Are they suggesting that Canadians should pay many hundreds of dollars more or $1,000 more a year? What would happen to the take-home pay of Canadians who have commitments such as mortgages, loans and family expenses?

I believe that the NDP members are proposing to simply reduce the amount of money that Canadians can take home today to fund their scheme. I would like to ask my colleague for his comments on that.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Chungsen Leung Conservative Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, if we take this money out of circulation in the economy, it hurts jobs. From an employer's standpoint, it is an additional cost of doing business. It would basically defer all of this to a future point. Therefore, if we put it in the hands of a pooled registered pension plan, it can in turn invest in the economy and make the economy grow and prosper.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to speak on this, particularly after some of the comments of the last speaker and some of the people asking questions.

Back in June 2009, the House unanimously passed a motion. I hope that the Conservatives are paying attention to this, because part of the motion that they on the government side voted unanimously for included expanding and increasing CPP, OAS and GIS, establishing a self-financing pension insurance plan, ensuring workers' pensions go to the front of the line in the case of bankruptcy proceedings, and in the interest of appropriate management, stopping the bonuses that went on with the CPP. That passed unanimously in the House. It served as a road map for the next three years.

In fact, I was the critic who put that motion before the House. I went to over 50 town hall meetings across the country from B.C. to the east coast. The reason we did all of that was the 12 million working people in Canada who have no pensions and no savings.

Now, we hear all of this talk about the PRPP. The fact of the matter is that the PRPP is nothing more than a fancified RRSP. The real flaw with the PRPP is that it is not mandatory. One of the points that was made was about the disposable income of Canadians, and we are very concerned about the disposable income of Canadians.

One of the things that members might want to know that would be helpful is that a person with a $30,000 annual income would pay an annual increase of $117.86. That is $0.06 an hour, or 0.43% of their income. If they made $47,000 a year, that would equate to $185.43 a year. Yes, it would be matched by the employer. We are not trying to hide anything from Canadians.

We talked about a phase-in period. The purpose of the phase-in is a sensibility to the tenuous nature of the economy at this point in time, so we would take some time to develop this.

We know that 93% of working Canadians today are in the Canada pension plan. We are saying to them that the OECD looked at the Canada pension plan in 2008 and said it was funded for 75 years. We agree with that. We think that it is in good shape and that it has been well managed over the years. It is a vehicle that is very important to Canadians. If we modestly increase that over seven years to phase in the payments, it is not going to double anyone's pension plan today. This is putting money away for the future.

One of the things that it does, which is very important, is it allows Canadians the vehicle to put some of their money in. These 12 million people are putting no money aside at this point in time. They are not able to, for whatever reason, or choosing not to in most cases. They are not able to participate. In 30 years' time, if we do not have a vehicle that gives them the kind of protection that the major increase to the Canada pension plan would, what is going to happen? They are going to hit a wall. They are going to hit 65 and they are going to have very little. Even if they participate in a PRPP, what good is the $100,000 or the $60,000 that they manage to save there, relative to the outcome that could arise from a well-invested Canada pension plan that would provide security for them and their families?

This is critically important. We are talking about future generations. We are talking about our own grandchildren here. We are not talking about today's workers to that degree. This is down the road, but it is so vitally important to people.

When I crossed the country and talked to people in towns, from Thunder Bay to the east coast. I think Barrington was the name of one community that I was in on the east coast. I was in the member for Victoria's riding for two meetings as well. Today, he has the file on behalf of the NDP and has put today's motion forward.

What is sad is that we had to reach the point of putting today's motion forward to once again push a party forward that had already agreed with us. It agreed with us in 2009, even after we had the major downturn in the economy where people understood that going forward would be somewhat difficult.

How difficult would it be for families if we do not do something?

We saw circumstances in the past where we, the NDP as a party, proposed non-profit daycare for families. The response from the other side was $100 a month. Do members know what the cost of daycare is? It is in the hundreds of dollars per week. That would not even touch it.

Now we have another band-aid solution from the government in the PRPP, which does not even remotely come close to what would be needed.

I want to take members back to something I said a few minutes ago. There are 12 million working Canadians who are not prepared for the future. It is the current government's responsibility to help them prepare through the vehicle they already have.

The Canada pension plan is portable right across the country. It is a completely open vehicle. What is crucial about the Canada pension plan is that it is mandatory. How many times have members here, when they were 25, 35 or 45 years old, said that they were going to save x amount of money to prepare for this contingency, and once they got there, had only saved half or a quarter of it? That is where the mandatory part comes in.

The employer community has a responsibility as well. That is something that some people call into question. We have to make sure it is open so that they can also take part in the Canada pension plan. We have to ensure there are vehicles within the Canada pension plan to allow everyone who works, including employers, in. We have to look at the possibilities. There is a great number of business people out there who are relying totally on the resale of their business to supply their retirement. How many businesses have we seen where, because of changes after 40 years, may not be viable or have the cash value they anticipated? Therefore, they are in a tenuous position relative to the future as well.

This is a model that could be put in place for all Canadians, for the benefit of all Canadians, to ensure dignity in retirement.

I know it is not part of today's motion, but back in June of 2009, we talked about an increase to the guaranteed income supplement. I am saying that because I want to talk again about the desperate situation some people find themselves in. There are many senior citizens who live on about $1,400 a month. In the 50 town hall meetings, I had four occasions where I had people take me aside after the meeting and tell me that they ate cat food to get protein. That is no way for any of our seniors to have to live in this country. I am not saying that to embarrass anyone. That is a cold, hard fact of what people face who are not prepared for their retirement. Many of these people are not sophisticated in their approach to retirement.

Just before I finish, I want to stress once more that the cost of increasing the Canada pension plan benefit to the point of dignity for someone whose salary is $30,000 would be $117 per year or 6¢ an hour.

In closing, I would ask members one last time to take the time to look back to the June 2009 motion and to what the government unanimously supported at that time. It is the very issue we are talking about today.

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Durham Ontario


Erin O'Toole ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague opposite's remarks, in particular, with respect to his evident passion for seniors, which I certainly share. I remind him that it was our government that brought in income splitting for seniors, which I recognize does not apply to all seniors. However, it is an important step in our government's tool box to help Canadian families and seniors through these challenging years, including the tax-free savings account.

Throughout this debate I have not heard much from my colleagues in terms of the positive ways that we have been helping Canadians. My question to the hon. member is this. How does he think those programs are working to help Canadians? Does he not think it best to work on job creation and work with employers in the short term to get through this challenging global recession, and then look at CPP reform in the longer term?

Opposition Motion—Canada and Quebec Pension PlansBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.


Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the parliamentary secretary for his question because, yes, some of the things that the government has done have been reasonable. However, I was trying to remind the government of a promise it made in 2009. Conservatives said, in response to a unanimous motion, that they supported it. The reality is that going forward, it is going to take time for this to evolve. It will be seven years to put it into place, and before it will be of definite value to people, we are talking about 30 years.

This is not going to be a remedy for people today at this point in time. We are talking about the 12 million souls who do not have any savings and do not have any opportunity.

We are not meaning to minimize any other programs the government may have. That is not the point of the exercise today. The point today is to bring us back to understanding that we have a chance to protect future generations and allow them to live in dignity.