Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a bit of a different perspective in dealing with the legislation before us today. Just over a year ago, Canadians went to the polls and voted for real change. The reason I say that because what we are debating today is not only symbolic, but it demonstrates, in a very real way, the difference between the current government and the previous government.
For many years, when I sat in opposition, I would look to the government and the prime minister of the time, Stephen Harper, for strong leadership on the retirement file, on the issue of CPP. It was not because it was coming from nowhere. The issue was coming from many different regions of our country. Many provinces wanted Ottawa to do something with the CPP. For years, the Conservatives sat in government and chose to do nothing. They have their own mindset about how retirement should work into the future.
I have always believed that the Conservatives were not really big fans of the CPP program. Through this debate, my belief has been reinforced.
Why the real change? Since taking office, seniors have been addressed in a very real and tangible way. Today, we are talking about the CPP. The Minister of Finance reached out to the provinces, listened to what Canadians wanted, and understood the demands of what the provinces also wanted to see. For the first time, we have seen a national government demonstrate leadership by going to the table and working out an agreement among the different provinces and territories on how we can deliver on ensuring a better retirement for today's workers. I believe Canadians as a whole want to see that.
We got the job done. The government introduced the legislation, after getting a historic agreement signed off with the provinces and territories. Now we are debating it today. Future workers will benefit when the time comes for them to retire. This is about having a vision, something the previous government did not have.
I then look at my New Democratic colleagues. They seem to want to continue to give the impression that only they care about seniors. They look at ways to criticize, not acknowledging that in fact what we are doing today is a positive thing. They look for ways in which they can be critical, even though a New Democratic premier is supportive of this.
I would suggest for my New Democrat elected friends across the way that even the vast majority of New Democrat members would in fact support and say positive things about this legislation.
Is it absolutely perfect? As we know, there is always room to be better. The Minister of Finance has made a commitment to bring those issues raised on the floor of the House to the attention of premiers to see if they can improve upon the agreement. However, at the very least, the New Democrats should acknowledge that this has been in the making virtually since day one with our government. Canadians have been waiting for this for more than 10 years.
The member who just spoke said that we had to be sensitive about our seniors and their needs and made reference to food. We have to take a holistic approach in what the government is doing on the senior file. The most vulnerable seniors today are getting a substantial increase in the guaranteed annual income. Tens of thousands of seniors will be lifted out of poverty as a direct result of our government's action to increase the guaranteed income supplement. This is good news.
Again, for my New Democratic friends, they do not have to stand and applaud when the government does good things, but at the very least try to reflect reality and express the truth of the matter at hand. The matter is that our government is committed to servicing and trying to improve the quality of life, not only for future retirement needs but also for those most vulnerable seniors who find it so difficult to make financial ends meet.
I know how serious it is. While canvassing in Winnipeg North, I spoke to seniors who said that they were having a tough time deciding on whether to buy food, or purchase the medications they required or other necessities. Far too many seniors go to food banks as a direct result of this. Our government clearly understands that and has delivered on making a difference by increasing the guaranteed income supplement. However, that is not all. We still have three foundation stones dealing with public pensions. I made reference to two of them. The other one is our old age supplement.
One of the first things this government did within a couple of months of taking office was reverse the decision former prime minister Stephen Harper took when he increased the age of retirement from 65 to 67. I remember it well. I sat on the other side and the prime minister was overseas when he made the announcement that we were in a financial crisis in Canada and that the government would have to increase the age of retirement from 65 to 67. There was nothing to substantiate it. It was a personal opinion of a prime minister who had no faith in other pensionable social programs in Canada. Within a couple of months, we reversed that decision. Now individuals know that when they hit age 65, they will be able to retire and receive old age supplements.
Today should be a happy day. This bill has received support from many different sectors of our society, in particular, our provincial governments that have signed off on enhancing CPP. The Conservatives, on the other hand, talk about why they oppose the legislation. They brought forward a series of amendments. Their argument seems to be that we should not allow for the increase in the CPP because it is a tax. Therefore, they will not support the bill.
It contradicts the actions of the Conservatives on Bill C-2. They voted against Bill C-2, which was hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for over nine million Canadians. Their arguments are not consistent with their actions. When I think of the Conservative Party's real agenda on the CPP, I believe it would be quite content if the CPP were not there. The arguments the Conservatives are using today could be used ultimately in getting rid of the CPP.
I would challenge the Conservatives to change their position and vote with the rest of the members, the Bloc, the NDP, and the Liberals, support the legislation, and oppose the amendments that are being debated.