Mr. Speaker, I am glad to join this debate since this is actually the last time we will be able to have this debate on Bill C-26 in this House.
I want to start with something I used in the last session, a Yiddish proverb. “With money in your pocket, you are wise, and you are handsome, and you sing well too.” I am sure the Minister of Finance has a great singing voice. However, this proverb speaks to how money is best left in the pockets of Canadians, of the people who actually earned it through hard work, having a job, either working for themselves or fulfilling someone else's need.
What the government has done today by shutting down debate after a mere eight days does a great disservice both to the discussions so far on this bill and the interventions other members have made. This debate on the Canada pension plan is important. It is with respect to a proposed law that will amend that which will impact Canadians for many generations. Therefore, having 20 days, 25 days, or 30 more days of debate is absolutely worth having on something that will have an impact on future generations 40 years down the line.
I also think it is shameful that the Minister of Finance called this debate a stalemate so far. It is a commentary by a minister of the Crown on the work that we do on behalf of our constituents here to loyally oppose the government's agenda, to bring new ideas, and to raise points for future consideration and possibly for amendments that the government could bring to its own bill, either at committee or second reading, wherever it chooses to do that. Therefore, debate in this House is not a stalemate; it is an enriching process of what I will call crowdsourcing of new ideas. We are the crowd sent here by our constituents to speak to ideas and to offer them up to the government. Therefore, it is not a stalemate, and I very much think the government should realize we are not here as an audience, we are not here to spectate while it passes legislation. Her Majesty the Queen has given us the constitutional authority to loyally oppose, and that is what we will continue to do. Therefore, I very much look forward to the Minister of Finance not using such terminology.
I also want to point out that it was an internal finance document from his own department that said that this bill, the expansion of the CPP, will be a drag on the economy until 2030, and that it will suppress employment growth until 2035. I come from a province where we have a jobs crisis. The Speaker knows this. I had asked for an emergency debate last week on this because 122,000 energy workers are out of work. However, there are very many people who are under-employed, people who have been furloughed. Normally, they have a job, but they are just not being paid, and they are not being captured by the unemployment figures. When people are not working and not earning an income they are not paying into CPP, so it really does not matter. None of this will help any of the people if they do not have a job in Alberta right now because we have a jobs crisis.
There is also an open question that remains unanswered on the administration costs of layering on this new CPP program on top of the old CPP. It is not clear how much that will cost in the long term, over the next 40 years, and how much its management and administration will eat up the savings of Canadians.
Jack Mintz is a very well-respected tax specialist, a former professor, and a former head of the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary. He wrote a piece entitled, “What the TFSA limit increase really means for future governments”. Although that was on TFSAs, he had a lot of great points on savings, and the behaviour and psychology behind saving as well. He brought up the fact that what many future governments will be looking at is a tax rate with a low-interest environment and 100% on inflation-adjusted returns. What we will find is that the tax rate will have a huge impact on the savings themselves, how we save, and what is deducted off our savings, so there is an open question there on people's incomes, how they save, and what they will see on their tax returns. They will get nothing from the CPP on it there.
He went on to say that a one-size-fits-all rule is of little help and that for a lot of Canadians, the need for a comfortable retirement depends entirely on individual circumstances and preferences. That is an important consideration too. Not everyone retires in the same way or with the same model. Not everyone chooses to simply stop working entirely. There are a great many people who choose at 65, 70, 75, or even earlier if they take early retirement, to work part time, and to maybe volunteer in their community or at their faith-based institution, at a church or at a temple. They may also choose to change career paths later and choose the concept of retirement around 65 years of age to choose a new career they would like to pursue. Therefore, not everyone chooses to simply stop working.
A point I have brought up in previous debate here, and a question I asked one of the members of the Liberal government caucus, is this concept of savings substitution. There is a study by the Fraser Institute that shows that forcing Canadians to save more, using the government's concept of “more”, would lead to a decrease in private voluntary savings with little or no increase in overall savings.
Savings substitution is a real danger to both the government's plan, but in general also to our economy and to people's independence from government.
People should be allowed to choose how they retire. They should also be allowed to choose how they save and what type of investment vehicle they want to use. A lot of people have chosen to save in real estate, and real estate has provided the best returns over the last two generations to those who have chosen to go down that path.
One of the very first things my wife and I did was to purchase a condo, because we knew that would get us onto the property ladder. It allows people to save. They put aside money because they are trying to pay off mortgage interest and trying to put money away toward the principal. It is a mechanism that allows them to choose saving, but to choose it in the way they want to do it.
When the previous Conservative government introduced TFSAs, then doubled the maximum amount people could put away, it was a way of showing Canadians they could choose another model to save on their own, one that is tax free. We should stop taxing the savings of Canadians and forcing them to put more toward this layered CPP on top of another CPP. The administration fees for this are another form of taxation. We send money to Ottawa, to the government departments for some work to be done. That is a form of taxation. That is what our taxes go toward.
Building equity in housing has consistently been the best thing for saving, for youth especially. By buying a property they are getting onto that saving ladder.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the rate of return. The annual rate of return, reported by the CPP Investment Board, is actually quite low, and the younger one is, the worse off one is. For those who nominally put money into the CPP because they were forced to do so back in the 1960s and 1970s, they will get the best rate of return. I look at the pages in this chamber. They will have the worst rate of return. My generation and their generation will be worse off because the rate of return is so low, sometimes falling below 2%. That is because of record low interest rates, which are really driving this low rate of return. Also, administration fees cannot help but be higher.
No one cries for a job that is never created. No one cries for an investment return that never happens. What we always talk about here is the give and take, this job here or that job there, the taxation of incomes on one side and how government chooses to spend it, versus the individual who chooses to spend it in a certain way.
What the government is doing with the CPP increase is substituting for the person's choice on how they will save. That substitution will have worse results at the end of the day, especially for the next generation, because the rate of return will be so low. If someone chooses to invest in a property or in investments where they could earn a higher rate of return than the government is able to achieve, why can a Canadian not make that choice? Sure, the government will say it is one size fits all, that we are guaranteed a return. The higher the risk the higher the return. Canadians can choose to take a higher risk. With risk, of course, can come disappointment. They could lose their investment. Their retirement may not be as certain as they thought it would be, and they may have to adjust their goals and plans. That is why everyone should be doing financial planning for themselves. We should be encouraging people to not be dependent on the government.
The Fraser Institute noted this as one of the five myths of the Canada pension plan. Myth number 4 was “The CPP produces excellent returns for individual contributors”. They are thin margins.
There are a great many seniors who are better off today than they were pre-2006. They are better off thanks to the previous Conservative government's work to try to ensure they had a solid retirement. Lots of reports have shown this. Statistics Canada has said that the share of Canadian seniors living on low income has dropped from 29% in the 1970s to 3.7% today, which is among the lowest in the world.
The Human Resources Institute of Alberta is responsible for HR professionals in the province. It has said that consistently, across the board, only about half of all organizations offer employment pension plans and group RSPs with employer-matching plans. That means half of all employees in the province of Alberta may lose the opportunity to continue investing in their employee pension plan or group RSP, because they do not have the money to invest in it and see that matching funding by their employer. They simply will not take advantage of it.
I oppose the bill, and I encourage all members to oppose it as well.