Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mount Royal.
I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to two aspects of budget implementation act, 2016, No. 2. This bill makes significant amendments to the Canada Disability Savings Act and the old age security program.
At first glance, these two programs seem to be different. However, they have the same goal, namely to ensure that the most vulnerable Canadians enjoy a good quality of life and live with the dignity they deserve.
First of all, I would like to remind the House that the Canada Disability Savings Act governs how the grants and bonds provided by the government are paid into registered disability savings plans, or RDSPs.
RDSPs were created in 2008 in order to help people with disabilities and their families save in order to provide long-term financial security. Canadian residents who are entitled to the disability tax credit can open a RDSP until the end of the year in which the recipient turns 59. Parents or guardians can open an RDSP on behalf of a minor. There is no annual contribution limit, but the lifetime limit is $200,000.
The gains accumulated are tax free until withdrawn from the RDSP. The government contributes to the RDSPs of eligible recipients by providing grants or bonds, or both, up to a maximum amount.
The bill being debated today would amend the Canada Disability Savings Act. These changes are required because the act refers to the Canada child tax benefit. As all members know, that benefit was replaced by the new Canada child benefit last June. Every year, the amount of the grant or bond that the recipient is entitled to is calculated on the basis of adjusted family income.
With regard to RDSP benefits for youth under the age of 18, this adjusted income, the amount used to determine the government's contribution in the form of a grant or bond, was also used by the government to calculate the amount of the Canada child tax benefit. Since that benefit no longer exists, we need to amend the provisions of the Canada Disability Savings Act that mention that benefit. We also need to amend the provisions that mention “phase-out income”.
As members know, the amount of the bonds decrease for those with higher incomes. The threshold at which the bonds start to decrease is called the “phase-out income”. It is important to understand this concept because the formula used to calculate the phase-out income includes the Canada child tax benefit.
As a result, the following three consequential amendments will be made to the Canada Disability Savings Act. First, the references to the Canada child tax benefit in five provisions of the Canada Disability Savings Act will be replaced by references to the new Canada child benefit. Second, the definition of “phase-out income” will be changed to include the Canada child benefit income threshold in the formula. Third, the definition of “child tax benefit” in the definitions section of the Canada Disability Savings Act will be removed since it will no longer be necessary.
Thanks to these amendments, the income thresholds for eligibility for the Canada child benefit and the Canada disability savings bond will be harmonized. The increase in the income threshold will produce a slight increase in total payments made for the bond in the RDSP of persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities are not the only group that needs additional government assistance. The income security of our country’s seniors is another government priority.
That is why we will be formulating provisions to help Canada’s seniors enjoy a good quality of life. Seniors are important members of our society, who contribute actively to the well-being of their families and of our community, as well as to the growth of our economy. We have one of the lowest rates of senior poverty in the world.
In 2013-14, the most recent year for which data were collected, the Government of Canada paid Canadians over $79 billion under the Canada pension plan and old age security. These programs have contributed greatly to reducing the low-income rate for seniors over the last 30 years. However there still remains a great deal of work to do.
In 2014, the most recent year for which data were collected, 3.9% of the country’s seniors were living below the low-income cut-off established by Statistics Canada, representing some 200,000 people. Nearly 80% of these low-income seniors, or the vast majority, are single, and most of them are women.
That is why we have also increased by $947 per year the amount paid as the guaranteed income supplement to low-income single seniors. This measure will support the most vulnerable seniors who depend almost exclusively on their old age security pension and guaranteed income supplement, and who are thus at risk of experiencing financial difficulties.
Similarly, this measure will improve the financial security of some 900,000 seniors all across Canada, and we estimate that it will help lift nearly 13,000 of the most vulnerable seniors in Canada out of poverty.
We already support senior couples, in cases where the two members of the couple are receiving the guaranteed income supplement, have high living expenses, and are at high risk of poverty due to the necessity of living apart, for example, when one of the spouses is forced to live in a nursing home.
In some senior couples, one partner receives the guaranteed income supplement and the other the spousal allowance, but they have to live apart for reasons beyond their control, such as one of them needing long-term care. We are in the process of amending the Old Age Security Act to ensure that such couples receive higher benefits based on each individual's income.
I would like to point out that the allowance is paid to people 60 to 64 years of age with low income whose spouse or common-law partner receives the guaranteed income supplement.
Our government also reversed the decision to increase the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67, which should come into effect in 2023. That change will give low-income seniors up to $17,000 per year. With these key measures, we will provide essential support to the most vulnerable Canadians.
The Government of Canada cares about seniors. Canadians work tirelessly their whole lives. We should all have a chance to live into old age without worrying about making ends meet. That is why our minister was given a mandate to improve income security for low-income seniors. These measures are how we are keeping that promise.
We promised to help more Canadians escape poverty. To me it is unimaginable that in a country like Canada there are still people who are unable to meet their basic needs. This is unacceptable and we doing something tangible to correct this situation.
I believe we all agree that no one should grow old in poverty or isolation. I cannot emphasize enough how important this issue is to our government.
I would also like to take a moment to discuss the Canada pension plan, another important pillar in our retirement income system. Retirement income security has to start with solid and stable public retirement plans such as the Canada pension plan.
We are also working with the provinces and territories to strengthen the plan. Earlier in October, we introduced a bill to amend the plan in order to help middle-class Canadians achieve their goal of living a dignified life in retirement with guaranteed income security.
We are making a considerable investment in the well-being of seniors. Canadians who work hard contribute to our society throughout their lives and our government believes that every Canadian deserves to grow old with respect and dignity.
Laurentides-Labelle has more of an aging population than most other ridings. The 2011 census found that the average age in the riding was 49.5. I look forward to the results of the 2016 census, but I would be surprised if the average age had not risen considerably.
Seniors' issues are crucial; we must improve their quality of life without delay. We can always do more, but I think we are on the right track with this bill and with this budget. Canada has always been a leader when it comes to delivering services to seniors. Our retirement income system is considered one of the best in the world.
I strongly urge my colleagues to help make sure it stays that way by supporting this bill.