Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in this House today to speak about Bill C-26. Obviously, there are philosophical differences that the government has with the official opposition. As always, I try to add something to the debate; hopefully, something that stimulates a better understanding of both sides. This place is Parliament. We are here to discuss various points of view and, at the end, there will be a logical conclusion; one that obviously serves the country. Democracy is a great thing, but it is important that people are heard.
I would like to suggest, before I get to the actual business at hand, that the government has quite a big job ahead of it, particularly as many of its policies are going to require economic growth.
As Canadians, we know we are getting older. We are living longer. Obviously, things like pension reform are always important. It is something the previous government tried to do, albeit by different means—and I will be looping back to that in just a moment.
First, I would like to again go back to the point that, if there were a stronger economy, many of the concerns we have heard from small business owners with respect to adding more payroll taxes might have been alleviated.
As we all know, it is tougher and tougher to run a business when the economy is not producing well. Of course, all of us here would like to see more jobs in our ridings. We want to see people being able to provide for their families. However, that is not always the case, particularly if the economy is stagnating.
We have seen Mr. Poloz, the governor of the Bank of Canada, downgrade his expectations for Canada's growth, on behalf of the Bank of Canada.
I think it is important that we just acknowledge that as being a fact because, as the PBO has said, the job reports are not coming in as strong as we would like, and neither is the economy.
If we are going to ask people to pay more, whether it is into a system 40 years from now or into the coffers of the government today, we always have to remember that there is only one taxpayer. If people are struggling to pay their mortgages, if people are struggling to get into the market, and if people are struggling to pay their bills and suddenly they have less money at the end of the day, they will not give to charities. They will not put money aside for savings for their children as easily because there just is not the money there.
Whether we are talking about carbon taxes, whether we are talking about CPP increases, whether we are talking about perhaps—and I have heard in the pre-budget consultations at the finance committee that some members are thinking of a sugary drinks tax or perhaps some other taxes that we have not yet thought of—at the end of the day, there is only one taxpayer, and we always have to keep in mind the ability to pay for it.
We heard from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute during the study of Bill C-26 at committee, from an economist named Mr. Philip Cross. Mr. Cross simply pointed out what we know to be true: that while there are some concerns that certain segments of our society are not saving enough—and that is usually higher earners who are just choosing not to save, and then there is also a number of, usually, single female seniors who, because they did not participate in the labour market and have lived long enough to get to a point where now they do not have things like Canada pension plan because they did not contribute as much—those measures are not there for them.
As we have seen in the previous budget the government put forward, there was some allocation to that. In fact, in the previous election, many of us on the Conservative side ran on a pledge that we should introduce a tax credit specifically for single or widowed seniors. That was all, again, to make that targeted toward those people who are greatest in need.
Mr. Cross said that these things can be addressed through targeted programs and they can be addressed through other voluntary means. There is not a savings crisis now or predicted in the future in Canada, which is something we should be proud of.
We have a multi-pillar system. Conservatives believe, unlike the NDP and the Liberals, that there should be greater choice.
Again, we have heard time and time again from the Liberal side that the Conservatives do not care about pensions or pensioners, which is not true. We just believe that people should be able to voluntarily put their money into an account that would be there to support them, and it should be of their choosing. It should not be by a forced government program.
Again, I would go back to those many seniors who visited me. They and their spouses contributed the maximum amount to the CPP but their spouses died early, so now they, the surviving spouse, are not able to access the money they expected would be available to them, that they had socked away through the CPP system, because they are already receiving the maximum CPP allowed for an individual. These individuals get no survivor or spousal benefit. If, instead of putting that money in a government-mandated system, that same couple had put it in a tax-free savings account or an RRSP that eventually became a RRIF, and one partner were to die, the other one would have immediate access to that capital. We would all expect that.
The Macdonald-Laurier Institute said we should really be calling the argument what it is. There is an ideological agenda by the government. Just remember, “ideological” is not a dirty word but it is something that we need to acknowledge. We need to acknowledge it when we see the world presented in a certain way to come up with a certain solution. The Ontario Liberals ran on a pledge to create their own Ontario retirement pension plan that would be enormously costly and not in fact complement the federal CPP but would increase costs, with fewer benefits for people. The Ontario Liberals and the federal Liberals said they would fix it by going to the other provinces and basically eschewing any other efforts.
Mr. Speaker, I know you do not hail from Ontario, but I would remind you that it is important to notice the following. When we talked about pooled registered pension plans as a means for having voluntary portable pensions that anyone could take anywhere and employers could voluntarily put money towards if they wanted to participate, Ontario, unlike British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, did not go ahead with those. I would encourage the Province of Ontario that, despite this piece of legislation going through, there is still more to be done and that pooled registered pension plans were something that all finance ministers across this great country agreed to. That does not happen often.
I just want to take a minute to step back and talk about young people. We had witnesses at committee who said they understood that most seniors would not benefit from this bill. We are thinking about future generations, and that is an important consideration. But we see that young people are now going on to higher education with higher bills and graduating with higher bills. They are being asked to pay those student loans back while trying to get a job. This is a very difficult time. Now they are being told they should get used to precarious work. The reason work is precarious is that employers do not have confidence.
The Liberals have to understand that when they tell people they will be adding a carbon tax and payroll taxes, those taxes make it less attractive for people who want to hire, especially if they hear that the government and the Bank of Canada say they are downgrading the Government of Canada's economic outlook. This again makes it more difficult for businesses to hire young people. Then the Liberals are telling young people that even if they can pay their student loans, even if they can squirrel some money aside, they are going to have less take-home money that could help them buy a home. Of course, the new rules by the department of finance for mortgage qualification make owning a home very difficult.
To sum up everything I have said, the government is in a real pickle on this one, simply because it wants to have an agenda in which it is doing a lot of things that are probably well-intentioned, but in an environment that does not sustain them. At the end of the day, we are asking more of that one taxpayer, and remember there is only one taxpayer, to put up more than he or she is able to bear. If we do that, we risk what I have mentioned. It is the reason I oppose this measure at this time.