Mr. Chair, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak here this evening, and highlight our government's record of supporting Canada's seniors and pensioners. It is a record that all Canadians can be very proud of. Our government understands that Canada's seniors helped to build this country, to make our country great. That is why we are proud to be putting money directly back into the pockets of our seniors and pensioners, in a number of ways but certainly by lowering taxes.
At the same time, we have strengthened Canada's retirement income system so that it is there to serve the needs of Canadians for today and for tomorrow. The result of our leadership is clear. Canada's retirement income system is acknowledged to be among the world's best by groups such as the OECD in terms of preventing poverty among seniors and ensuring appropriate income in retirement.
Under our low-tax plan, 83% of Canadians are on track for a comfortable retirement, according to McKinsey & Company. What is more, the 2014 Global AgeWatch Index ranked Canada as the fourth-best country in the world in which to grow old.
Let me also remind members that according to the latest Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index, Canada has the best retirement income system in the G7, one of the leading retirement income systems in the world. Scott Clausen, a member at Mercer, said:
Canada’s retirement system continues to be one of the strongest retirement systems in the world by providing a combination of universal pensions, income-tested...employer pensions, individual RRSPs and individual TFSAs....
Even Canadian editorialists recognize that Canada's retirement income system is strong. Andrew Coyne at the National Post said:
By most measures, Canada's retirement income support system is an outstanding success. The poverty rate for Canadian seniors...is among the lowest in the world.
Our targeted relief effort is building on this success. Under our government, 380,000 low-income seniors have been completely removed from the tax rolls. We also introduced the largest GIS increase in over 25 years, helping more than 680,000 seniors right here across Canada. This GIS increase provided eligible low-income seniors with additional annual benefits of up to $600 for single seniors and $840 for couples.
Another way that we are helping Canadians prepare for retirement is by providing new options, voluntary vehicles to help them save. We developed and implemented the framework for pooled registered pension plans, which will provide a low-cost and large-scale retirement savings option to the roughly 60% of Canadians who do not have a workplace pension plan. Pooled registered pension plans, or PRPPs, are of particular help to employees of small- and medium-sized businesses who until now have not had access to low-cost private pension options. PRPPs help them by establishing large-scale, broad-based voluntary pension arrangements available to employees with or without a participating employer as well as even the self-employed. PRPPs are very advantageous for those people who are self-employed. This innovative new option would place a high emphasis on consent, and be available to the federally regulated private sector and crown corporations.
It would add to the other options we have created, such as the landmark tax-free savings account. Eleven million Canadians have signed up for the tax-free savings account. They have opened an account. The majority of accounts belong to low- and middle-income earners. Half of the account holders earn under $42,000 a year. The tax-free savings account has been particularly beneficial to seniors as neither income earned in a TFSA nor the withdrawals from a TFSA affect account holders' federal income-tested benefits and credits, such as GIS.
Due to popular demand, we increased the annual tax-free savings account contribution from $5,000 to $5,500, and then to $10,000 in economic action plan 2015.
This is also particularly beneficial to seniors. Some 600,000 seniors aged 65 and over with an income below $60,000 are currently maximizing their tax-free savings account and would benefit from the measure that we have brought forward. This move was praised by CARP, which said:
CARP members welcome government action in Budget 2015...to almost double the TFSA from $5,500 to $10,000...
Another staple of our low-tax plan is the introduction of pension income splitting for seniors. Pension income splitting is helping over two million seniors and pensioners every year. I hear from them at tax time. I hear from them after they have visited their accountant, and year after year, they thank us for that measure.
We know that both opposition parties are fundamentally opposed to income splitting. Just like they would take away income splitting for nearly two million families, if given the chance, we believe that they would take away pension income splitting for those two million seniors. We will not let that happen.
There are additional ways that the Liberal Party, in particular, would pick the pockets of seniors. As I have said, under our government, 600,000 seniors are currently maximizing their tax-free savings account and would benefit from the increase to the tax-free savings limit. However, again, given the chance, the Liberal leader would shut those accounts down. The Liberals' billion-dollar blunder in the last plan that they put forward was exposed when they had to airbrush their website. Now, they are proposing to fill the holes in their discredited plan by cutting TFSAs and using the revenue.
It is clear that only our government can be trusted to keep taxes low for Canadians and, certainly, for Canadian seniors.
What we will not suggest is raising taxes on workers while claiming that it is for their own good. Under our government, there will be no mandatory job-killing and economy-destablizing pension tax hike for employees or, certainly, for employers. Let me quote Dan Kelly, of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, who cautioned against forcing Canadians and small businesses to pay higher payroll taxes. He said:
CFIB’s Forced Savings report shows that increasing Canada Pension Plan (CPP) and Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) benefits would result in higher premiums for businesses and employees, significant job losses and lower wages for Canadians.
What is more, finance department estimates indicate that the NDP would kill thousands of jobs by hiking mandatory CPP contributions. Meanwhile, Ontarians should be aware that the Liberals' new mandatory pension tax hike could cost a two-worker family up to $3,200 every year. That is $1,600 for each worker in the household. According to the Meridian Credit Union, the majority of Ontario small business owners believe that this “could be their greatest challenge ever faced”.
Our government does not believe in forcing Canadians into a single, compulsory, one-size-fits-all approach, nor do we believe in reaching into the pockets of hard-working, middle-class Canadians and reducing their take-home pay. On the contrary, we will continue to put money into the pockets of seniors and all Canadians. With our low-tax plan in place, we have established a rock solid foundation upon which Canadians can achieve their retirement goals with confidence.
I would be pleased today to respond to any questions about our record achievements. They are records. They are achievements. We are very proud of them.