Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to participate in this debate as the representative of Timmins—James Bay. This discussion on improving the retirement system is very important for our country. Canada is obviously facing a crisis with regard to financial insecurity in retirement because many Canadians have not saved enough to maintain their lifestyle in retirement.
The NDP is prepared to work with the government to enhance the plan, but I am troubled by the government's decision to limit debate because there are clearly a number of problems with this bill. I am particularly concerned about the fact that young women and people with disabilities will be excluded from the enhancements in this bill. This could have a major impact, particularly for women who depend on the drop-out provision to be able to raise their children and who currently receive much lower CPP benefits on average.
I remember that in 1977, prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau promised that young women would be included in the CPP reform of the day. However, the new Prime Minister forgot that promise. This is not how a feminist government should behave. The NDP will work to change this situation and stand up for the interests of young workers, particularly young female workers.
My grandfather, Charlie Angus, never had a pension. He died on the shop floor of the Hollinger mine. He was 68 years old. In those days, people worked until they died. My grandmother lived upstairs in our little house. There were three generations of us living in that small house. I remember her saying, when she received her Canada pension cheque every month, “The NDP fought for me to get this”.
At that time, of course, the Canada pension was limited. Seniors tended to live with their families. At that time we had a growing, robust private pension plan that was starting to really change the quality of life for Canadians. My father was 42 years old when he finally joined the middle class. He saved all of his money so that when he died my mother, who was a secretary, would be able to live a good quality of life. She is able to live a good quality of life because of their savings and their pensions.
Our younger generation does not have that same stability. Younger workers tell me about the triumvirate of insecurity that is facing them now. They are coming out of school $60,000 and $70,000 in debt without the possibility of paying it off even at today's interest rate. They talk to me about housing, especially in urban areas, and the incredibly high prices they have to pay while trying to pay off their student debt. Then of course, there is the rising precarious nature of work, with more and more people working on contract.
My Conservative colleagues are always talking about letting people choose how they want to save their money. They talk about RRSPs and everything else. That is great if people have money. Conservatives look after their friends, so they tend not to understand what it is like. If contract workers put a bit of money aside and then find themselves in between jobs, they have to eat into those savings. A good friend of mine says people in Toronto are one bike accident away from poverty because they are living in the perpetual cycle of contract work.
As a nation we have to find a way to start changing this situation. I am certainly pleased to see that the government is willing to address the fact that CPP has not kept up and that the vast majority of people are not even getting the maximum contributions. Even if they did get the maximum contributions, it is not enough to live on.
I am concerned about the exclusion of the dropout provisions in this legislation, which would leave out, in particular, young women and people with disabilities. In 1977, then prime minister Trudeau, the elder, when his government was reforming CPP, talked about the importance of making sure to protect the interests of women who stepped outside the workforce to raise children. Young women are already enormously at disadvantage in work. Men tend to get promoted, because it is known that women will take time out in childbearing years.
It affects her overall income. We need to protect their pension contributions, especially as more and more women, at that age, are living alone. They need that support. We are seeing that 30% of women are now living in poverty. It is increasing year by year. Yet, only 4.5% of women are able even to get the maximum CPP payment, and only 18% of men get it.
This is a system that should work, but is clearly not working. What does that mean? I see people in my riding affected by this. I recently spoke to a man who is 68 years old and is going back to work underground in a hard rock mine because he does not have enough for him and his wife to live on.
We need to look at dealing with this. I am concerned that the government has chosen to ignore the issue of the dropout provisions. This is something we can fix in the House. I am very disturbed that the government has shut down debate on this.
To hear the finance minister tell us he is somehow at a stalemate in the House is shocking. It shows a dismissive arrogance. I suppose that maybe at a certain point, members of Parliament are going to have to pay $1,500 and go to the CEO of Shaw or Rogers or some other company to meet with the finance minister one on one to share our concerns.
It is during debate in the House that ordinary people get to talk to the finance minister. For him to say there is a stalemate on this issue is absurd. New Democrats, particularly my wonderful colleague, the member for Hamilton Mountain, have brought forward ideas on how we can fix this. Leaving young women behind is not a feminist action by a Prime Minister who claims to be a feminist.
We see a government that believes it can run on slogans, selfies, and Hallmark card political aphorisms, but within the House we have to be able to find ways to work together to address problems. This is not about a weakness in the government. For any government that brings forward legislation, there will be problems. The role of the House of Commons is to suggest how we can fix these.
Fixing these dropout provisions for people with disabilities and young mothers is a way of making this a more progressive response. Is it enough? No, it is certainly not enough. The pension crisis and the pension insecurity in this country is a very serious issue. We have to start dealing with issues at the ground level of student debt. We have to deal with issues of social housing. We have to deal with issues of the clawbacks to the guaranteed income supplement for senior citizens. We have to talk about the number of people who cannot pay for their dental work.
However, that is an ongoing conversation we can have. What we need to talk about right now is the CPP, which is clearly insufficient to meet the needs of 2016 and the next generation of workers. We also need to say that, yes, this does something right, but it is also doing something very wrong.
It is penalizing young women who will be stepping out of the workforce to have children. When the government does that, it will be putting in place a systemic injustice for young mothers who, when they grow to retirement age in coming years, will have suffered more in terms of their earnings. If we look at it now, we can see the trajectory with 30% of women retiring in poverty today. We should be trying to diminish that level of poverty, not augmenting it when it is a clear problem that can be fixed.
I am worried about my colleagues on the other side getting very dismissive about debate, getting a little arrogant—