Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to talk about the amendments the government is planning to make to the CPP. I call upon all my colleagues to consider all the debates we have heard on this issue over the last many days.
One of the things that strikes me the most in this debate is that we are failing to recognize the achievement of reaching an agreement with all nine provinces that have opted into the CPP. It is rare in Canada that we have provincial-federal agreement on an issue as broad and comprehensive as this in a way that has brought everyone together. This is one example of co-operative federalism that works.
Even my own province of Quebec has agreed to look at these changes and to incorporate them as best it can into the QPP. For me, this agreement, by itself, the nature of the Government of Canada talking to the provinces, is a success story.
What I have heard an awful lot of is that it is either this or that. I have heard people talk about this taking away people's obligations and their opportunities to save for themselves. I have heard from the other side the importance of government acting on behalf of people and protecting them.
In my view, we need to have a balance. People need to take responsibility for themselves. I agree that people should be contributing to RRSPs, and people should be contributing to TFSAs. I have been lucky enough to do that, but I also know that there are other people in the country who have not been lucky enough to be able to do that. Whether because of family obligations or the fact that their salary gives them just enough to survive on week to week, they have not been able to save for retirement. Does that mean they have no such responsibility? No, I do not agree with that. Everyone has a responsibility.
However, at the same time, all parties in the House have agreed that the Canada pension plan deserves to exist. If we agree that it deserves to exist, because we need to have a balance to protect people to a certain extent in retirement, we obviously then agree that at certain times in history, the Canada pension plan needs to be updated. I think the real debate I am hearing is whether this is one of those times that the Canada pension plan needs to be updated.
Some of the statistics I have looked at show that, on balance, among all the G20 countries, Canadian households seem to have the highest debt. The Canada pension plan covers a smaller percentage of retirement income than similar pension plans in other countries, including our neighbours, the United States.
The wage ceiling of the pension plan, at $54,900, is well below what the wage ceiling is in comparable pension plans. When I was the mayor of Cote St. Luc, for example, we noticed that the wage ceiling for our pension plan was one of the lowest on the island. We were at exactly the $54,000 level. We increased that to $82,000, because we recognized that since we had not adjusted the wage ceiling for decades, we were no longer allowing people to provide for themselves in retirement.
The increase from approximately one-quarter of one's earnings to one-third is a valuable improvement. I believe that there are facts in hand to justify the increase to the CPP at this time.
I want to tackle one issue I have heard as well in this debate. One of the things I have heard that is very interesting has been the argument that this is a payroll tax on employers and that it will inordinately impact small businesses. I do not see this as a payroll tax, because in the end, the amount employers are asked to give is going to the employees for their pensions. In a sense, it is saying that the employers are compelled to give the employees a salary increase, to some extent, because they are contributing more to the employees to protect them in old age, but I do not believe that it is actually a tax.
For the many years I was involved in private business, which was my entire career until I was elected to the House, my company never once looked at our obligations under the CPP to determine whether we would hire employees in Canada versus other countries. What we looked at was how easy it was to terminate an employee and the average cost of engaging an employee in this jurisdiction versus others, all things taken into consideration.
Canada was usually, if not always, a good choice based on the fact that we had relatively flexible regimes in place. I do not think this is going to change the idea of whether a Canadian employer is going to engage an employee.
I do think this will help a certain group of people in retirement. I agree with all that has been said. This is not a measure that will help current poor seniors. The increase to the GIS certainly will do that as will other measures the government has put in place. However, this regime change is for a long-term benefit. This will help those people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s today, not people who are today in their 70s, 80s, already retired, or on the verge of retirement.
A government needs to take into account comprehensive solutions to problems. This is simply one of them. However, if we do not act, and I will not invoke biblical references like my colleague from Winnipeg, when we can, we will face the same problem with the Canada pension plan years from now, when an increasing number of people will be entering retirement and falling into poverty because they have not adequately been able to save for their retirement.
As such, this change to the Canada pension plan is a good change.
I agree with my colleagues in the NDP that certain proposed amendments would be very important to look at going forward. I do not think the intent was to harm people who were outside of the workplace. I appreciate that my colleagues on the finance committee are working to encourage the minister. I know he has already announced his intention to work with the provinces to further change the CPP.
When we have an agreement on 90% of the points, I do not think a deal should fall because we then have disagreement on 10%. Let us get the 90% done, and then let us come back to the 10% afterward.
I support these measures. They are good changes to the CPP. I encourage all my colleagues to consider this philosophically. If we support the CPP and we agree that at certain times amendments should be made to the CPP, why not support the long-term benefits we are giving to the future generations by changing the CPP?