Mr. Speaker, Bill C-301 is incompatible with the government's strategy to revitalize the economy, breathe life into the middle class, and help all Canadians save for retirement.
I am sympathetic to the intention of the bill, which my NDP colleague just explained. However, I would like to take a little time to go over some tax rules and the reality here.
Canadians who have a registered retirement savings plan, an RRSP, have to convert it into a registered retirement income fund, a RRIF, by the end of the year they turn 71. Beginning the following year, they must withdraw a minimum amount from their RRIF every year. By requiring individuals to withdraw increasing percentages of the funds in their RRIFs, the government ensures that tax deferral on amounts accumulated in RRSPs and RRIFs is in line with the purpose of these accounts, which is to supply retirement income, and prevents the undue hoarding of retirement savings for their estate.
Retirees are not forced to spend the money, but the idea is to defer tax, not eliminate it entirely. If this bill were to pass, there would be no mandatory minimum withdrawal. That would benefit mainly the wealthy, who would be able to save the money for their children without paying tax.
Bill C-301 is not consistent with the basic objectives of RRSPs and RRIFs since it allows seniors to postpone paying tax on the full amount of those savings until they are much older, well beyond retirement and well beyond age 71. An investor could even postpone it until death. The implementation of this legislation would also result in considerable fiscal costs.
It is estimated that eliminating the RRIF minimum withdrawal requirements would reduce federal tax revenue by at least $500 million a year in the short term. The bill would also reduce provincial tax revenues.
Furthermore, the bill will create significant inequities between different segments of the population when it comes to tax deferral opportunities. Indeed, it will increase tax deferral opportunities for those who have savings in RRSPs compared to those who contribute to RPPs. It would also create a major intergenerational disparity because younger seniors would not be obligated to withdraw a portion of the savings in their RRIFs every year while older seniors were forced to begin doing so at age 71.
I would add that this bill would favour seniors who do not need the savings accumulated in their RRIFs, in other words high-income seniors, instead of supporting those who could use a bit of help.
We know that there are better ways to enhance retirement income security for Canadians. Let us look at young people. At times they feel like they are worse off than their parents. Far fewer of them will have workplace pension plans than the previous generation did. It is worrisome. They wonder whether they will have saved enough for a decent retirement.
Those are legitimate questions and concerns since one in four families approaching retirement age, or 1.1 million families, will likely not save enough for retirement. Together with the provinces and territories, we have come up with concrete solutions for all those families.
The answer is to enhance the Canada pension plan, the CPP, which will benefit Canadians in a variety of ways. For example, the maximum benefit will be increased by almost half once the enhanced CPP is fully operational. Also, CPP provides secure and predictable benefits. In other words, Canadians will know how much money they will get and will not have to worry about their savings dwindling or being affected by the markets. CPP benefits will be fully indexed to prices, so inflation will not reduce the purchase power of their retirement savings.
An enhanced CPP is the perfect response to a changing labour market. It fills in part the void left by the steady reduction in employer pension plans. It also follows workers from province to province, which facilitates professional mobility. The CPP has several million contributors. That is vitally important because it allows the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board to benefit from economies of scale and returns on significant investments.
I would like to summarize the main concerns about the bill introduced by my opposition colleague. The implementation of this bill would reduce the federal and provincial governments' tax revenues. It would not be consistent with the basic objective of tax-deferred retirement income provided by RRSPs or RRIFs.
Contributors to RRSPs and RPPs, and also older and younger seniors would be treated differently under the bill.
On the one hand, we have all the disadvantages of Bill C-301, which we just listed. On the other, we have all the advantages of the enhanced Canada Pension Plan, especially higher benefits.
We could also discuss the government's middle class tax cut. However, I think we have identified enough flaws to realize that we must vote against this bill.