Mr. Speaker, it is a real honour to speak to this bill. Bill C-301 is a very important bill. As we have heard already, it is very important for Canadian seniors.
Bill C-301 proposes to amend the Income Tax Act to remove the requirement to withdraw minimum amounts from the RRIFs. It would allow Canadian seniors to adjust their withdrawals according to their individual financial situation, lowering the tax burden on them and providing more sustainable retirement income. That is it in summary. It is the right direction to go.
I would like to give a little history. I did some studying of it. It was actually back in 1978 under then prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau that the RRIF rules came in. It is kind of ironic. Here we are many years later, under the son of that former prime minister, who is the Prime Minister of the present government, being asked to fix the problem and to provide dignity and respect for seniors.
The RRIF rules came into place in 1978. Under those regulations, Canadians must withdraw from RRIFs at age 71 and their savings are subject to mandatory minimum withdrawals. These mandatory minimum withdrawals are designed to virtually empty their RRIFs by the age of 92. Given today's likely increase in life expectancy, many of the RRIF holders face running out of money, and that is not providing our Canadian seniors with the dignity they deserve.
I listened intently to the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. He is the NDP critic for seniors, and I want to thank him for the work he does. His recommendation was to send this to committee, as it is the right approach. Procedurally, this can be killed and ended in a very short period of time before the House rises. The bill would die because the Liberal majority in the House can kill the bill. The message that would send is that the Liberals do not want to hear from seniors and from seniors' stakeholders like CARP.
CARP, probably the largest seniors stakeholder in Canada, has been calling on the federal government to completely eliminate mandated minimum RRIF withdrawals. The previous government took a major step in that direction. The fact is the previous government reduced the amount that had to be withdrawn from 7.38% to 5.28%, a dramatic reduction. It was a step in the right direction taken just over a year ago. It showed that the previous government was listening to seniors and to the seniors' stakeholders.
I have been given the honour to be the official opposition critic for seniors. I have met with many of these stakeholders over the last year. It has been wonderful to hear from them. What I have heard is that they want to be listened to. They want a minister for seniors. Previous governments had a minister for seniors. The current government has a Minister of Status of Women and a minister for youth, the Prime Minister himself. There is a minister for everything except for seniors. Why is that? There are special advisers to the Prime Minister for special interest groups, but a minister for seniors is absolutely ignored. That is the number-one request I have heard across this country, to please appoint a minister for seniors. Second is to create a national seniors strategy so there is a plan.
Right now in Canada, one in six Canadians is a senior. There are more Canadian seniors than youth. They want a voice. They want the government to listen to them. They want to hear from the government that they are being listened to.
In six years one in five Canadians will be seniors, and in 13 years one in four will be. They will face unique challenges. They want a plan. They want the government to come up with a minister and a plan to prepare for this aging population. Part of that plan should be to make sure that we do not have a cookie-cutter approach that the Liberal government had in 1978 when life expectancy was much shorter and the government put in mandatory withdrawal requirements. Seniors want that to be reviewed.
I really thank the member for Edmonton West who came up with this idea. Let us consider it, let us debate it, and let us hear from seniors. Let us have the government listening to Canadian seniors and letting them have a voice. That was the suggestion of the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford. He said that we should allow this to go to committee. How would that happen? When this is voted on after the second hour of debate, the government could support the bill's going to committee so that seniors could be listened to. They would have their voice. It would go to committee and the committee would call witnesses.
I am disappointed that the government has not yet appointed a minister for seniors. The Liberals do not have a plan and they need one, but are not listening to seniors. They do not have to continue down this path, but can start listening to seniors. They can realize that dignity and respect need to be shown to seniors. It begins with some evidence that seniors are being listened to. We have heard announcements from the government that it is not going to do this, that it will kill the bill at the first opportunity. That is sad.
Groups like the Canadian Association of Retired Persons have asked for this. The C.D. Howe Institute has asked for this. It has said:
Governments impatient for revenue should not force these Canadians to run their tax-deferred assets down prematurely. Reforming the withdrawal rules for RRIFs and similar accounts would help retirees enjoy the post-retirement security they are striving to achieve.
If we allow seniors to take the money out if it is needed to repair a roof, for example, to allow them to age in place in their homes, it will save millions of dollars in health care dollars by allowing them to age there and not prematurely have to move out. That shows dignity. Seniors may need to have railings put in their houses. They may need to have a ramp built and need to withdraw the funds they have saved by being good financial managers during their lifetime. We should reward them for that. We should trust them and show them respect and allow them to withdraw the money as needed.
However, the archaic regulations established in 1978 by the then Liberal government say that “you must follow our cookie-cutter approach because we know best”. We do not know best. The government does not know best. We need to listen to seniors. The only way that can happen is if the government shows respect for seniors by allowing this to go to committee. Without that, it will be a sad day for seniors. They will not have a minister for seniors, they will not have a plan, and some time in the sweet by and by we do not know what will happen to seniors. They are not being listened to.
I hope the government rethinks its position and shows that it is willing to listen to and respect seniors by allowing the bill to go to committee. That will only happen if at the first opportunity to vote, the Liberals support its going to committee. It does not mean they are bound to support it through the whole process, but at least they will indicate that they respect seniors and are willing to listen to them.