House of Commons Hansard #126 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was ceta.


The House resumed from November 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-301, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and to make a related amendment to another Act (registered retirement income fund), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Edmonton West for bringing this private member's bill forward. Many times the member and I do not see eye to eye, but I certainly have a lot of respect for him, and I enjoy listening to him.

It is my pleasure to rise today to speak to the private member's bill, Bill C-301, an act to amend the Income Tax Act and to make a related amendment to another act, which will affect registered retirement income funds, otherwise known as RRIFs.

The NDP is supporting the bill at second reading because we feel it deserves to be sent to committee for further study. The issue of mandatory minimum withdrawal requirements is an important issue for retirees trying to maintain an adequate income in their retirement.

It is our view that a detailed examination of the rules regarding RRIFs is necessary to help ensure that seniors are not outliving their savings. Retirement insecurity is reaching a crisis level in Canada, as many Canadians do not have adequate savings to maintain their lifestyle upon retirement. Any measures that will make it easier for seniors to maintain an adequate income must be looked at.

Much more needs to be done to help our seniors live with the dignity they deserve. The high cost of housing and drugs, the clawback of the GIS, and the indexing of pensions are just a few immediate issues. The government also needs to keep its promise to introduce a new seniors price index to make sure that old age security and the guaranteed income supplement keep up with rising costs.

Of more immediate concern is that the government must immediately fix the flaw in its new plan for enhanced CPP benefits. I am sure that members have heard the discussion about the mistake that the government made in Bill C-26 and how the exclusion of dropout provisions in the bill would have a negative impact on those who take time to raise children, especially women, and on those living with a disability. The government will have its chance next week at the finance ministers meeting to fix its mistake. We will all be watching.

This private member's bill will remove the mandatory minimum withdrawal requirements from registered retirement income funds and will change the retirement income fund definition. Registered retirement income funds, known as RRIFs, can be thought of as an extension of a person's registered retirements savings plan, or RRSP. An RRSP is used to help people save for retirement, while a RRIF is used to withdraw income during retirement. RRIFs are similar to RRSPs in several respects. Each allows for tax-deferred growth, offers several investment options, and is government regulated.

A major difference between an RRSP and a RRIF is that with an RRSP, a person can make annual contributions as long as they have earned income and have contribution room available. Withdrawals are optional and will be taxed. With a RRIF, contributions are not allowed, and a person must make minimum minimum mandatory withdrawals each year. RRIF rules and withdrawal rates were introduced in 1978, and then increased in 1992.

In 2015, the Conservative finance minister lowered the mandatory registered retirement income fund withdrawal amount to 5.27% from the previous 7.38%. Also, previous to 2007, the age limit for converting an RRSP was 69. The 2007 budget changed the age to 71, in order to strengthen incentives for older Canadians to work and save. When RRIF rules came into effect, lifespans and time spent in retirement were much shorter than they are today. RRIF holders now face the considerable likelihood of running out of money in late stages of retirement.

The NDP has long been in support of lowering these rates. In 2015, the NDP pension critic John Rafferty introduced Motion No. 595. It read:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should review the Registered Retirement Income Fund mandatory minimum withdrawal thresholds and amend them to ensure they do not unduly force seniors to exhaust their savings too quickly.

The problem with the RRIF withdrawal schedule is that people are living longer, and if the schedule is followed then it is very likely that an account holder will run out of savings by age 92. At that point, the person who had saved diligently throughout their life will see their quality of life decline at a delicate time, through no fault of their own.

There are also concerns that RRIF rules can cause clawbacks on people's benefits from OAS and/or GIS. We know that people are living longer, and this fact will have an impact on seniors and on their ability to have enough money to see them through their retirement. In this context, it is interesting to look at some facts about today's seniors.

The probability today of a 71-year-old female reaching age 94 has almost doubled compared to 1992, from 13% to 24%. The probability of a 71-year-old male reaching that age has more than tripled, from 4% to 14%. There are 265,000 Canadians who are 90-plus years of age today. With the baby boom generation reaching these ages, the number of people living beyond 90 is expected to rise dramatically. By 2021, there are projected to be 355,000 Canadians aged 90-plus, including 80,000 people over the age of 95.

Most Canadians do not have alternatives to private savings for retirements besides CPP, OAS, and GIS. When RRIF rules were first put into place in the 1970s, Canadian households saved about 15% of income. By 2011, the household savings rate plummeted by a factor of five, to just above 3% of income. Canadians between the ages of 65 and 69 today hold only an average of $40,000 in RRSPs, which is a very modest amount. In 2011, workers aged 55 years and over accounted for 18% of total employment, compared to 15% in the 2006 census. This was the result of an aging baby boomer generation and increased participation of older workers in the labour force. Mandatory minimum RRIF withdrawals are becoming irrelevant as women and men are living at least twice as long, and staying in the labour force longer.

As I said earlier, the NDP intends to support this bill at second reading, as we feel it should be sent to a committee where the issues of RRIF withdrawal and income security for seniors can be properly studied. I am disappointed to hear that our Liberal colleagues will not be supporting the bill and are not in favour of this issue getting further study. However, then again, maybe I should not be surprised. The Liberals have made some progress on the issue of retirement insecurity with their modest increases in the GIS and their modest increases in benefits in the enhanced CPP proposal. That being said, the government has also launched a tax on some Canadian pensioners. Its failure to include dropout provisions in the enhanced CPP is certainly an attack on women and those living with disabilities.

We also have Bill C-27, which is clearly an attack on every worker and retiree who has invested in a defined benefit pension plan. It is a policy on which the former Conservative government did consultations and eventually decided not to move forward with it. Now it looks like the Liberal government is going to finish the work that the Conservatives started. The current government's plans are inconsistent and confusing. The strategy for dealing with the retirement income crisis is uneven, inadequate, and at the end of the day will be ineffective. Canadian seniors will be hurt as a result.

I urge all members to support this bill, so we can refer it to a committee where we can study how to better help Canadian seniors live with the security and dignity they deserve.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:10 a.m.


Larry Maguire Conservative Brandon—Souris, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my great pleasure today to speak in favour of Bill C-301, which was introduced by my colleague and friend from Edmonton West. I would like to thank him for the work he has done on this bill and very important issue that affects millions of Canadian seniors.

At this time, I also want to thank my NDP colleagues who have indicated that they will support this legislation and send it to committee, so witnesses, financial experts, and, most of all, Canadian seniors, can weigh in on the merits of this legislation. As a good rule of thumb, any time that a bill introduced by a Conservative is adopted by an NDP and opposed by a Liberal, it must mean we are on the right track.

The issue of mandatory minimum withdrawals from registered retirement income funds has long been a thorn in the sides of Canadian seniors. Many seniors who have diligently saved for retirement and invested wisely are well within their right to ask that mandatory minimum withdrawals from their RRIFs be completely eliminated.

It was just a couple of weeks ago that I spoke in the House against the Liberal government's heavy-handed approach of forcing Canadians to put more of their own money into the government-controlled Canada pension plan. At that time, I spoke about how the Liberal government's approach, however well intentioned, was a direct blow to Canadians who prefer investing their own money into savings vehicles and want nothing to do with putting more of their disposable income into CPP.

It comes as no surprise that the Liberal government is opposing this legislation, and it was highly discouraging to read the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance's speech, in which he dismissed the legislation outright. While the parliamentary secretary patted himself on the back for the recent changes to the Canada pension plan and old age security, my hon. colleague from Edmonton West was completely right to call out the erroneous information in his speech. The changes that the Liberal government has introduced will not help seniors today. Its recent legislation will not affect the vast majority of seniors currently living in Canada.

I support the legislation, Bill C-301, for three very important reasons. They are, one, that Canadian seniors should have complete and utter control regarding their own financial investments; two, the life expectancy of Canadians has increased dramatically since mandatory minimum withdrawals were introduced way back in 1978; and, three, financial markets are volatile and unpredictable. Seniors should be able to cash in on their investments when it is most advantageous for them.

Bill C-301 will have an immediate benefit by finally removing the archaic and outdated legislation that forces seniors to make mandatory withdrawals regardless of their own financial situation or the current state of financial markets. Far too often, governments, of all stripes, forget that the money invested in RRSPs or RRIFs is not their money. The money belongs to the hard-working Canadians who have earned it.

I firmly believe and have long advocated that the government has no business in forcing Canadians to divest themselves of their RRIFs. Canadians should be given the benefit of the doubt that they know what is best for their families. Millions of Canadians have financial investments, which range from mutual funds, stocks, and various other assets. Many folks have the assistance of financial advisors while, in some cases, they make their investments solely on their own. Financial literacy in our country has grown in recent decades. However, there is still much more to do.

In my recent speech regarding the Liberals heavy-handed approach to the Canada pension plan, I mentioned specifically how improving financial literacy rates should be at the forefront of every conversation regarding retirement savings. By empowering Canadians through education and innovative savings vehicles, such as the tax-free savings account, we can provide the tools needed so folks can retire with a high standard of living. Removing mandatory withdrawals from RRIFs is the logical next step to provide that much-needed flexibility.

When Canadians are asked if they want the mandatory minimums to be eliminated, the resounding answer is yes, they do. According to the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, 66% are calling for this elimination explicitly, and 78% say that offering retiree's complete control over their RRIFs is a more important goal than government recouping deferred taxes through mandatory withdrawals. I, for one, will stand up for Canadian seniors rather than giving this spend-happy Liberal government any more money. A dollar in the pockets of Canadian seniors will be far better spent on their priorities and needs than the Liberal finance minister could ever do.

In respect to the issue of the life expectancy of Canadians, people are living longer, healthier lives. This is just one more reason why this legislation needs to be enacted. If we do not pass it and make the necessary changes, there is a very real possibility that seniors will have completely depleted their retirement savings by age 91, only 20 years after converting their RRSPs into RRIFs.

Many of us in the House know very active seniors, who, by the grace of God, continue to live healthy into their 90s. As of right now, there are over 265,000 seniors living in Canada who have reached the wonderful age of 90 years old, and that number will only continue to grow in the years ahead.

Now to the issue of providing more flexibility for RRIFs, in many circumstances seniors continue to work part-time jobs for either financial reasons or because they are not ready to completely retire. Many seniors, who choose to work still, and do not need income out of their RRIF at that moment, should be given the option of foregoing mandatory withdrawals. Seniors are living longer and, in many cases, in their own homes, so it only makes sense to allow their RRIFs to increase in value until need those funds. If for some reason a senior has serious health concerns and needs to move into assisted living or needs home care, it can be a tremendous strain on one's savings. Rather than ushering seniors into care facilities, due to the high costs of living independently and the costs associated with home care or health care aides, removing mandatory minimum withdrawals for RRIFs might allow a senior to continue saving so they could afford those higher costs later in life. The longer an investment can accrue interest, the more money seniors will have in their pockets.

For my Liberal friends who are concerned about the government's foregoing the capital gains taxes, the government will collect more in taxes if the investment continues to grow even larger. Now the issue of capital gains taxes is a much larger battle for another day, but in this circumstance, the Liberals' concern about the government's not collecting its fair share of taxes is moot. The government will still be able to tax the profit of a RRIF when it is cashed out. This issue should not be about the government's worrying about the loss of revenues, but about providing seniors with the freedom to control their own financial investments.

Further to my last point about why mandatory minimum withdrawals should be eliminated, the stock market has been extremely volatile since the great recession. When the market crashed in 2008 and 2009, our previous Conservative government introduced a one-time 25% reduction in withdrawal rates. It was my desire that this be dealt with at the time, but alas it was not, and now due to this legislation, it provides all of us in the House an opportunity to finally repeal this injustice.

While previous Parliaments have tinkered around the edges and slightly adjusted the minimum withdrawal rates, it is up to us in this chamber to enact the necessary changes. Giving seniors the freedom to divest their savings on their own accord will remove the pain of selling assets that have seen extreme swings in the financial markets.

Due to low interest rates and the sluggish economy, investments are not growing nearly as fast as they once were. For example, on long-term Government of Canada bonds, the interest rate has fallen from 8.5% to 3.1%, which is not that good a return when calculating inflation.

I also believe we can completely eliminate the needless headaches caused by cashing in RRIFs on a yearly basis when determining GIS or OAS rates. If people want to withdraw their savings of their own free will, they should be able to do so and at least have the peace of mind that the government's antiquated rules are not to blame for any clawbacks. If the Liberal government is serious about helping seniors, they will vote in favour of this legislation. If they want to do something meaningful to provide immediate assistance, then let us pass this bill.

While the Liberal government has already clawed back people's tax-free savings accounts, which has diminished seniors' ability to save without paying capital gains taxes, the least it can do is to give seniors greater financial flexibility in retirement. While the era of burdensome regulations continues to thrive, I believe this very minor change could send a powerful message, that Canadians do not need to be told what to with their own financial investments.

In closing, I urge my Liberal colleagues to break ranks with cabinet and vote in favour of this legislation. Stand up for seniors; stand up for individual freedoms; stand up against excessive and outdated regulations; and most of all, stand up for your constituents and do what is right.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

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.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:25 a.m.


Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise and speak in the House today on Bill C-301, an act to amend the Income Tax Act.

I frequently dealt with this issue as a former constituency assistant. So I find it interesting to hear the discussion today, because I think that we sometimes are in here making legislation without actually understanding what is happening on the ground to those people who are coming into our offices as constituents to see how we can assist them.

Many times seniors would visit the office because they were falling short and their RRIF was exhausted. Many of these seniors were quite youthful and had many years of financial worry left. In the office, we would always find a solution to assist them, such as payments through the guaranteed income supplement. However, I can honestly say that as constituency assistants, we thought, what could we be doing better for these people who are falling on desperate times? Many of those who would come in would only have their old age security and their Canada pension plan remaining for their retirement. I can say that some of them probably had 10 years or 15 years ahead of them, so there were many concerns.

I had not thought about how we could help them extend their RRIFs so they would not find themselves in these difficult situations. Therefore, it is wonderful to see the member for Edmonton West put forward such a great bill, with so much foresight, because these are truly the sort of changes the current government needs to make to help our seniors. It would give them the independence and ability to care for their own finances.

It is interesting because the member across just addressed my next issue. When I originally thought of this bill, my first reaction, too, was when would the government get its taxes, because a lot of times when we talk about RRSPs and RRIFs we recognize that it is a tax deferral, and to me that was going to be the challenging obstacle. Once I sat back and thought of the taxation trail of a RRIF, I realized that the solution proposed by the member for Edmonton West was an excellent option for all stakeholders.

Many Canadians save their money by investing in registered retirement savings plans, which are excellent vehicles for saving money for retirement, as taxation of the money invested in RRSPs is deferred until the money is withdrawn. Currently, these retirement savings are rolled into a registered retirement income fund at the age of 71, and regular withdrawals must then be made. However, for a few reasons, seniors are running out of retirement funds with many years left to live.

During and following the recession, the return on investment of retirement savings accounts dropped from 8.5% to 3.1% This has had a huge impact on the amounts in the savings vehicles. Although the previous government had responded to the decreasing yields by adjusting features of RRIFs, we must understand that Canadians are living longer. According to the Canadian Association of Retirement Persons, CARP, in 2014, there was 265,000 Canadians who were over the age of 90. CARP also noted in its document entitled, “A New Vision of Aging for Canada”, that an average 71-year-old can expect to live approximately 16 years more, for an expected lifespan of 85. That is three years longer than in 1992, when many of the rules for RRIFs were set. Because today's seniors are making withdrawals from RRIFs, we have to recognize that these rules from 1992 are definitely not what are needed in 2016.

These are two very important factors we need to consider. We need to recognize how the RRIF is taxed. A lot of times we hear of it being deferred, but we have to realize that when it is deferred it still will be taxed at some point in time. Let us say a spouse passes away and he or she leaves the other spouse as the beneficiary. There is an automatic transfer from the deceased's RRIF account to the surviving spouse's RRIF account and there are no tax implications. From that point on, the person can make those withdrawals and these are taxed at that point. Therefore, the Canadian government is getting its taxes then.

Another thing we have to take into consideration is if both spouses have passed on and the RRIFs are then given to the next generation. Then they are taxed fully at that time. Therefore, when we talk about the tax implications of this and losing tax revenues, we have to understand that regardless of whether we are taxing them yearly, because people are taking out amounts all the time, or at the time of the person's passing, the Canadian government will get its money back and its coffers will be filled.

Those are some of the things that are really important. Whether someone is taxed during the mandatory withdrawals until the fund runs out, or when they have passed on and the inheritance is disbursed among their beneficiaries, the RRIFs are taxed. I heard the member across speak about it as if we are treating people differently. However, at the same time, we have to recognize how taxation works.

I dealt with a file for an older lady who came into our office. Her husband, who had been in phenomenal health, unfortunately fell and passed away. Unfortunately, there were a lot of tax implications going on, because the organization holding the RRIF actually taxed her. There was something like $80,000 she was going to have to pay on the RRIF because it all came to her.

What we ended up doing was we went through all the wills, the beneficiary documents, showing that there should not have been a transition and that since she was the spousal beneficiary, there was no tax. We were able to fix that up, but there was $80,000 she was being taxed because she was the beneficiary.

We have to understand that in case one or in case two, whether it is going to the spouse or to the second generation of beneficiaries, it does get taxed. We are talking about a $80,000 lump sum tax payment. We always have to keep that in mind. The money that is transferred to the spouse after one's death is withdrawn and the tax at that time is also going to be mandated on that. Let us say something, unfortunately, happens to one of my parents, as the spouse, one of them would be paying the taxes when they start taking those withdrawals.

The C.D. Howe Institute has called for these exact changes, according to a 2015 report, as well as CARP. According to the C.D. Howe Institute, removing the mandatory minimum withdrawal helps seniors whose withdrawals trigger clawbacks of the old age security and guaranteed income supplement, who find tax planning and investing outside RRIFs daunting, who cannot easily continue working and maintain their savings, and helps those anticipating late-in-life expenses, such as long-term care.

We must provide better options for Canadians, and provide them a way of planning their spending. In some comments made regarding the bill, Canadians have said, “I know that in a few years my needs for long-term care will change, and this allows me to make my own financial decisions.” We must take into consideration that many Canadians have different retirement plans. Some will be entering long-term care facilities or assisted living residences, others may remain in their home depending on their health, and some may live with their families. Different situations cannot have a one-size-fits-all solution, and Bill C-301 provides greater flexibility.

RRIF rules and withdrawal rates were introduced in 1978, and in 1992, with a cash-strapped government, there was an increase to the mandatory withdrawals with the outcome being that the funds would be exhausted close to the age of death. According to 48% of the CARP membership, their own life expectancy has changed over the past 20 years and they state that they need to have more control over their own retirement funds to ensure that those funds will last longer.

I would like to go back to the point about constituents exhausting their retirement savings and how Bill C-301, introduced by the member for Edmonton West, does assist them with that.

The government talks a lot about the Canada pension plan, and we talk a lot about private pensions, but we have to recognize many people do not have public pension plans, or may not have had a private work plan.

I always like to refer to my parents. They were farmers, so there was not an option for anything other than RRSPs for them. They did not have a business that was matching their contributions. What they were doing was putting money aside in RRSPs, which have now been rolled into RRIFs. When I speak here, I think greatly about my parents. I think about what works best for them. They are excellent Canadians who continue to work and give back to the economy, and they should be allowed to have money that they can spend throughout a longer period of time.

If one were to see my 80-year-old father, one would know that we are probably stuck with him for another 15 to 20 years, because he is so vibrant. When he originally starting looking at this back in the 70s, did his plans for retirement mark the amazing shape he is in today? Probably not. His parents had passed away when they were 80 and 85, so for him, I am sure he thought 85 was going to be a great year, and that he would live until he was 85. I know that Dad will live for many years to come.

We have excellent medical research, and we have lots of things being done in our public systems to help our seniors. We have to recognize that life expectancy has increased dramatically, and the changes the bill is proposing take into consideration life expectancy. It is really important that as a government and as the official opposition, we must allow Canadians to choose for retirement. It is great to hear the NDP is supporting this as well. This is an excellent option, especially for those people who had to, and will always, be planning their own future.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

December 12th, 2016 / 11:35 a.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate in support of the private member's bill put forward by my colleague from Edmonton West. This legislation would amend for tax purposes how retirement savings plans and RRIFs are treated.

I should mention my colleague's great work as the former president of Vancouver Island's largest hospital foundation. This foundation is responsible for six hospitals. My colleague speaks from great experience with respect to what seniors need and their care and the type of retirement savings they should have.

RRSPs and the RRIF program presently mandate that a mandatory percentage be withdrawn when one reaches the age of 71. Over time that percentage will keep going up to something close to 20%. It is easy to see how people who have done the right thing for a good part of their lives, which is put money aside, are then put into a situation where they might be forced by government edict to take more out of their retirement savings than they would like to take out and wind up depending on the government for financing through OAS and GIS, or are fully dependent on the government to provide home care or seniors care' and they themselves have no means of providing for all of the extra expenses that arise in old age.

There is a Yiddish proverb that you can't have more in the bowl than you have in the pot. The pot is the savings that a person puts aside for their future. How one decides to fill that pot and what it is filled with is entirely up to the individual. Right now the government has a mandate to control that bowl and to control how individuals reach into that bowl and what those savings are used for. That is wrong. The government should not be able to force people to take more money out of their pot than they would like to take out. That is simply wrong and it should not be happening, especially now considering longevity and lifespan are far in excess of what was expected when RRSP programs were first introduced.

The mandatory withdrawals were developed in a different time, a time when people had shorter lifespan and a time when public finances were not as bad as they are today. We see that with the Liberal government's $30-billion deficit and almost $113 to $120 billion of spending over the next four or five years. The government has absolutely no plan to return to a balanced budget in the future. It is simply not in the government's DNA to do that. The government is going to keep these rules in place in order to tax away people's savings. People aged 80 or 90 will be expected to pay for the Liberal government's failure to control its budget.

Mandatory withdrawals add to a person's taxable income after things like GIS and OAS are taken into account. Everybody knows that when we go into a bank or talk to a financial adviser, OAS and GIS are taken into account when plans are being made for our future. These are decisions people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s are making for 30 to 50 years down the line. All government programs are taken into account.

Seniors are concerned about the prospect of draining their financial resources before their death. Most people do not enjoy thinking about that prospect. People want to have the financial resources they need in order to have a comfortable life in the future, especially if they are saving for themselves. People choose to save for themselves and their spouse and kids. Many want to have enough financial resources to be able to pass some on to the next generation, a lifetime's worth of work, a lifetime's worth of accomplishments. This intergenerational transfer of wealth is very much family related. Families plan for themselves and for their future. I am planning for the future for all three of my kids, Maximillian, Jolie, and Enoch. I plan for their future by planning for myself, so I will not end up being a burden on them.

Today it is far better for Canadians to manage their own finances and savings in retirement in order to be able to reach into that pot of savings and decide how much they want to withdraw from it.

The current rules would empty out a RRIF by the time an individual reaches the age of 92. This would place many Canadians in a precarious position in their golden years.

CARP supports this legislation. It is calling for an end to all mandatory minimum RRIF withdrawals, and that is the right thing to do. With longer lifespan we should be enabling and empowering people to be able to withdraw from their RRSPs and their RRIFs in a way that is best suited for their financial situation. We should not be mandating through government edict when they can and how much they can withdraw from their accounts.

Most people aged 70, 80, and 90 have a much better sense of how they want to plan for their lifespan. People's health starts to really go down in their golden years and that is when things like home care and assisted living facilities need to be thought about.

Some people are fortunate enough to be able to assist their kids or their grandkids with some minor expenses.

However, that is also when they are thinking about potentially selling off real estate, about downsizing, about moving into different areas, perhaps taking that one final vacation with their spouse while their health is still solid enough to be able to travel. What we have with mandatory RRIF withdrawals is the uncertainty it builds into a person's planning for those last 20 to 30 years of life.

Because of low interest rates and increased longevity, RRIF mandatory withdrawals have an immense impact as shown by a CARP analysis that showed the vast gap between those who were saving in 1992 and withdrawing and those who were saving in 2014 and withdrawing.

We know that financial security is key in this proposal in Bill C-301 and that is what the member for Edmonton West is trying to achieve. It is to empower seniors in their golden years to have financial security and control over their own finances so they can plan better for their future.

In 2015, the previous Conservative government reduced the mandatory withdrawal rates for seniors holding a RRIF and while this was a step in the right direction, organizations like CARP and the C.D. Howe Institute have recommended removing the requirement entirely.

I would like to mention one thing from the CARP report on this called “A New Vision of Aging for Canada”, where it said, “The vast majority of CARP members (78%) say that offering retirees complete control over their RRIFs is a more important goal than government recouping deferred taxes through mandatory withdrawals.”

The government backbenchers say we should think of the public treasury and the taxes we will be losing. Well, think about the seniors. The seniors should be placed first. They do not live in order for government to make a living. Members of Parliament live to ensure that Canadians have a living and that they are placed first before the government. We have it the wrong way. The government has to think about the public treasury and the taxes deferred are potentially never recouped, but I am thinking about seniors first. We are here for them and not the other way around.

Some might say that this deferred income so taxes should apply. Taxes in fact do apply. If people have money left over in a RRIF upon death, it will be taxed in their estate. It does get recouped. The money does get clawed back, so to speak, by the government at some point.

The real impact is on low-income seniors who could have saved a little in an RRSP that converts into a RRIF. Those are the people who could really use this extra funding for long-term care, home care, and other unforeseen expenses in their golden years.

We heard the member for Laurentides—Labelle talk about how seniors could pass on their RRSPs and RRIFs tax-free to the next generation and the government would not be able to recoup its finances, but the government is already taxing the estate upon their death. The government is there all the time recouping its money at some point.

The point is that we should not be placing the public treasury first, we should be placing seniors first. In the end, who saves for whom? Why do we not allow Canadians to have every single tool available to save for themselves? Given that consistency, given that certainty that in their golden years past 65 or whenever they choose to retire, they will be able to save and withdraw from that Yiddish pot with their bowl as much as they think is necessary to plan for their retirement.

Canadians should be the ones placed first to manage their retirement and how they save and where they spend. It is absolutely essential to start saving as soon as possible. That is where we should be starting. People should be thinking about the future, but if they know that government is going to tax it away, then they will not take advantage of RRIFs as much as they should.

We heard that 87% of CARP members are RRIF holders and 61% hold half or more of their retirement savings in a RRIF account. Some 54% are worried about having enough retirement savings, 25% do not expect their savings to last their whole lifetime, and 17% say they have enough savings to last a lifetime. That is an infinitesimally small number.

The right thing to do is to approve the bill, send it to committee, to the next stage and ensure that Canadian seniors have that certainty so they can save and plan for their future the way they want to. They should be able to withdraw from that Yiddish pot at the rate that they want to. They should be in control of the bowl, not the government.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Resuming debate. Seeing none, we will allow the member for Edmonton West five minutes for his right to reply.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.


Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues who support the bill and who have spoken so well to the merits of it.

This legislation would help all seniors today by removing a punishing withdrawal structure that would harm the retirement savings of Canadians. Before I reiterate the specific benefits of the bill, I want to thank the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford, who spoke in favour of the bill during the first hour of debate. He said that he strongly encouraged support of the bill at second reading so we could at least bring it to committee, further study it, and hear from expert witnesses.

I also want to address comments made by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, who both spoke in opposition to the bill in the first hour. Neither of them pointed out specific potential harms of this bill, but rather launched into lengthy platitudes about how great the government was for forcing the CPP expansion. Their argument is meaningless because supporting Bill C-26 and supporting Bill C-301 are not not mutually exclusive. The government members can support both bills without one impacting the other. I look at the member for Cowichan—Malahat—Langford for this example. He doing both, and he has not exactly burst into flames because of it.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance elaborated on the benefits of the previous Conservative government's sensible lowering of the RRIF withdrawal rates in 2015. I congratulate him on this non-partisan behaviour and encourage him to continue to do this by supporting Bill C-301, which is the logical extension of the 2015 reduction.

In supporting the 2015 reduction, the member acknowledges that RRIF rates are out of touch with the changing realities of life expectancy and savings investments. Because government will never react enough to minimize the harms to seniors caught in the middle, the logical next step is to eliminate these rules entirely and stop punishing seniors for daring to have savings. I hope the member realizes his inconsistent logic in supporting the 2015 reduction but opposing this extension, and reconsiders his position.

He next made misleading arguments on tax deferral by implying that this legislation would allow Canadians to avoid taxes entirely. This is false and he is wrong. The government would get what it is owed. The only difference is that with Bill C-301, seniors would decide when it was best to withdraw their savings and be taxed. Government is not going anywhere and neither, by extension, is the tax man. Government can wait, especially if it means our seniors are better off.

The member then doubled down on his flawed tax-exemption argument, but it was also an irrelevant point. He said that the bill could motivate seniors to press for tax exemptions, which would be contrary to the basic principles of our fiscal policy. I am not certain what the member was trying to get at. I wonder if he is seriously basing his opposition around the idea that just maybe in the future some people might push for better tax treatment. I wonder what is next? Maybe the government needs to take money from seniors because some might spend it on beer and popcorn.

His last argument is just as nonsensical. He said that this bill would create major intergenerational disparity, and we heard that earlier today as well, because older seniors had been forced to withdraw their savings already. I am very much unclear on what the member is thinking. I think he may misunderstand the parliamentary system entirely. I just want to clarify for him that every law that we change affects Canadians unevenly.

The Liberals' own prized CPP tax hike would not benefit anyone for about 40 years, yet would raise taxes on several generations that would see zero benefit. Adding over $100 billion in debt for later generations to pay would do the same. His government is going to create the largest intergenerational disparity in Canadian history, but the Liberals argue against Bill C-301. I wish I could peek into the member's mind for a brief moment so I could witness the logic backflips he does to reconcile the support for the CPP tax hike and off-loading debt for future generations, but then opposes this sensible legislation because of intergenerational concerns.

Last, the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader said that he could not recall anyone from his constituency contacting him regarding RRIF withdrawals, that it was not a substantive point. It is probably because the member never asked. However, I asked, and CARP asked. We heard overwhelmingly that the bill was needed and wanted.

The bill would address real harms. Canadians are living longer, their investments are earning less, and the RRIF withdrawal structure is depleting the savings of our seniors at an unsustainable rate. These forced withdrawals negatively affect seniors in many ways, and disproportionately hurt low-income seniors. Forced withdrawals count as income, which needlessly triggers clawbacks of OAS, GIS, and needed provincial benefits. This matters for low-income seniors who rely on OAS and GIS for their daily expenses, but need to continue saving their RRIF for expected later-in-life expenses such as long-term care or care for their disabled children.

This bill is broadly supported. The Canadian Association of Retired Persons supports the bill because it would return financial control over savings back to seniors. It would not cost taxpayers a dime. According to the C.D. Howe Institute, it would probably benefit the treasury, not cost the half a billion dollars as made up by the other side.

This bill is badly needed. There is only one solution, and that is to eliminate the mandatory withdrawal and stop punishing seniors for saving. Let us allow Canadians to manage their retirement as they see fit. Enact this broadly supported and sound legislation. Let us send it to committee so Canadians can have their say.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members



Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

All those opposed will please say nay.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to an order made on Thursday, December 1 the recorded division stands deferred until Tuesday, December 13, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of SittingIncome Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Seeing the clock, we seem to have gone through everything fairly quickly this morning. We will suspend sitting.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:55 a.m.)

(The House resumed at 12 p.m.)

The House resumed from December 9 consideration of the motion that Bill C-30, An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Comprehensive Economic and Trade AgreementGovernment Orders



The Assistant Deputy Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

We are in questions and comments. The hon. member for London—Fanshawe.

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Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question for the hon. member has to do with public consultation. I know he spoke at length about it, but I would like him to underscore why it is important. Is it integral to the success of the trade deal?

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Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her very good work in the chamber and in her riding.

I would ask members to cast their minds back to last week. My speech in the House was with regard to the government's general approach to public participation in the public policy-making process. In 2016, the government undertook many different kinds of public participation, including around this trade deal, to some extent. However, the question I raised during my speech concerned the disingenuousness of some of the consultation processes.

During my speech, I alluded to the fact that while genuine public participation was certainly welcome and, indeed, necessary for successful public policy, there were two courses of consultation that the government seemed to be undertaking. The first is what Sherry Arnstein would call manipulation. That is where the government has a policy path in mind, decides it needs to make it look like it is consulting with the public, so it twists its consultation processes to be manipulative, to trick the public into thinking it has input when it does not.

The other process that is disingenuous is something called therapy, where people have very strong views about issues or policies and the government uses the public consultation process to cure them of their ills. This is what is happening with the CETA deal. The public is very wary of these trade deals when they look at, for example, how NAFTA has hollowed out the manufacturing sector in Canada and how other trade deals have had negative effects, mainly because the government does not follow the NDP prescription of being fair trade deals. That is why we have supported some trade deals in the past and do not support other trade deals, like this one, for example.

I would call on the government to be genuine in its process in the future to ensure it does not try to manipulate or subject Canadians to therapy.

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12:05 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his remarks. Unfortunately, I missed the speech he gave on Friday, but the question I am going to ask him will help me find out whether he talked about investor-state provisions and a legal system that operates parallel to the Canadian and European systems. I am talking about a parallel system that allows investors to sue the governments because of democratically implemented measures. Is he concerned about this? Like the Europeans, would he like to see changes made in this regard before supporting an economic and trade agreement?

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12:05 p.m.


Kennedy Stewart NDP Burnaby South, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his good work in the chamber and in his riding, which is of note for sure.

Canadians have a lot of concern about trade deals. The biggest concern is when sovereignty is taken out of the hands of Canadians. The problem with many trade deals is that Canadians like to control their own destinies. When bad trade deals are signed, they lose some of the sovereignty. I think that is what is happening. We have heard that from multiple actors across Canada, in terms of municipalities or producers of particular goods. That is part of the problem with this trade deal and why we object to it. It takes too much control out of the hands of Canadians and puts it in the hands of multinational corporations or other national governments.

We were hoping we would find a fair and equitable trade deal with Europe that we could support, but the Liberals did not deliver, mainly because they took the deal off of the table that the Conservatives had negotiated under the Harper government.

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12:05 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP has long been calling for improved trade with Europe to diversify Canada's markets. However, there are many serious concerns that have not been addressed and many unanswered questions regarding the proposed agreement.

I would like to say that I will not be supporting Bill C-30, an act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures.

The Prime Minister signed the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA for short, on October 30, at the Canada-European Union leaders' summit. However, the Liberal government put Bill C-30, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement implementation act, on the Notice Paper just two days prior to that, and it introduced the bill on October 31.

I would like to remind the House that this rushed process violated the government's own policy on the tabling of treaties in Parliament. This policy requires the government to table a copy of the treaty along with an explanatory memorandum setting out the key elements of the treaty at least 21 sitting days before the bill is introduced, not just two.

Trade with Europe is too important to be taken lightly. The government has to make an effort to fix the unresolved problems in the agreement instead of settling for a flawed document. There is no shortage of flaws, including in agriculture, health, the environment, and the list goes on.

Nevertheless, the Liberals are blindly forging ahead. We need to think of the people, the jobs, and the local economies in our regions. The cost of pharmaceuticals will go up. The Liberals' promised compensation has evaporated. Some 23,000 jobs will be lost. That is the number of jobs Canada will lose because of CETA.

A study published by Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute in September showed that we will still be experiencing the job loss fallout from signing this agreement in 2023.

According to Maude Barlow, chairperson of the Council of Canadians, this agreement “suggests that there aren't economic gains—only job losses, inequality, and the erosion of the public sector”.

I refuse to sit here and do nothing. It is our duty to protect the interests of our constituents. While the Conservatives had promised a $4.3-billion compensation package to supply-managed farmers who will be affected by the Canada-Europe agreement and the trans-Pacific partnership, the Liberal government ultimately decided to create a subsidy program worth just $350 million for dairy farmers and processors.

I hope the Liberals realize that that amount is not nearly enough to compensate the dairy industry for the job losses it is going to suffer under that agreement.

I would like to explain what this will mean for a region like my riding, Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

The agrifood sector is really the motor for economic development in the riding I represent. I often say that I am extremely proud to represent Canada's agrifood technocity. We have a high concentration of producers in various activity sectors, including educational institutions like the Cégep de Saint-Hyacinthe, the Institut de technologie agroalimentaire, and our faculty of veterinary medicine, the only French-language school of veterinary medicine in North America. My riding is also home to laboratories, research centres, and many agrifood processing plants. My region's entire economy depends on the agrifood sector.

A retail clothing store owner recently told me that he realized that half his clients are farmers, or people who work in the agri-food industry. He realized, as a store owner, how much he relies on the agri-food industry even though he sells clothing for a living.

This is a fragile industry. Let us not forget that. I live on a concession road, on my husband's family farm. My husband is the son of a dairy farmer. When he was young, there were three dairy farmers along our road. Now there are none. I represent two RCMs, Maskoutains and Acton. There are very few dairy farms left in the Maskoutains RCM. It is almost all crop farming now.

In Acton, I have the good fortune of representing dairy farmers. If we look at the village of Upton, for example, we see that on some concession roads there is a dairy farmer at every corner, at every farm. We have to realize that every time we sign an international agreement where we chip away a little more at supply management, there are direct and immediate repercussions on these dairy farmers.

The “Strong and United” campaign was rolled out during the summer of 2015. What I found really encouraging about this campaign was that my constituents, and all Canadians, were made aware of the fact that supply management is not just the business of the farmers concerned. In fact, it is everyone's business because supply management of milk, eggs, and poultry ensures that consumers have an adequate supply. As its name indicates, the supply management system is a system based on supply and demand. It ensures that we have enough good quality products at prices that do not fluctuate.

My constituents have told me that they sometimes go the United States where a litre of milk is less expensive. I tell them to go back in three weeks to see what that litre of milk costs. Without supply management prices can fluctuate throughout the year. There can even be a shortage. In fact, two years ago, there was an egg shortage in the United States, which was followed by price hikes.

We can always count on having enough high-quality products. That is important. Under the Canada-Europe free trade agreement, 17,000 tonnes of European cheese will be imported to Canada. That is definitely going to affect dairy production. We will definitely not need to produce as much milk because we are going to be importing 17,000 tonnes of cheese. Small cheese makers are already talking about it.

In addition to the problems this will cause for dairy producers, there is also the matter of land use. I was saying earlier that I represent villages where there is a farm around every corner. When I visit the villages in my riding, I am told that the agrifood industry is the lifeblood of our villages and schools.

Earlier, I was talking about a clothing retailer, but this will also impact the village grocery and hardware stores. All of the jobs in my community are directly affected by the agrifood industry. It is therefore very important that, any time we sign an international agreement, we consider the specific impact that the agreement will have on the agrifood industry.

A few years ago, we decided to exclude culture from our international agreements because this is a sensitive field that needs to be handled in a specific way. The same is true of agriculture. It is a matter of land use and food security. Food self-sufficiency is important. When we sign an international agreement, we need to ask those questions about the agrifood sector.

In conclusion, the NDP cannot support an agreement that is harmful to our regions, our jobs, and all Canadians.

This could have been a good agreement. Unfortunately, the Liberals do not appear capable of acting in the public’s interest.

We hope that the government will take the time to consult Canadians and rework the agreement, which hurts our regions and the public. This is the only way we will be able to build healthy and sustainable trade relationships between Canada and the European Union.

I am very proud to have been able to present this message on behalf of the farmers and the constituents of Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot.

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12:15 p.m.


Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech. I am somewhat familiar with her region, but not as much as my wife Joanie, who works there. She is quite familiar with farming and how the economy relies on this sector. There are in fact many indirect jobs. It is important that we defend the agrifood sector and everything that goes with it.

I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the fact that, when the government announced that it would ratify the agreement negotiated by the Conservatives, it announced a different compensation amount than what the Conservatives proposed. At that time, the Conservatives were in government and they were the ones who negotiated the agreement. Today, the amount is $350 million instead of the $4.3 billion announced by the Conservatives.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on this. The amount of compensation announced is smaller. It is basically a completely different compensation package.

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12:15 p.m.


Brigitte Sansoucy NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Sherbrooke for his question.

Actually I am refusing to call the $350 million amount compensation, because it is not.

When compensation was set at $4.3 billion, it was calculated that this was how much the sector was losing. We see it in the diafiltered milk coming across the border. I have met with young dairy farmers who said that the losses, for some as much as $50,000 per year, were as big as their profit margins.

The $350 million spread over five years is being called compensation. That is a misnomer. It is a subsidy, a new subsidy. During the announcement, the Liberals said that it was a modernization subsidy. The dairy farmers in my riding have already modernized. I have visited their farms and have already seen their milking machines.

The subsidy will not even pay for the electricity needed to run the milking machines. The subsidy is basically telling farmers that they have to keep going deeper in debt and keep investing. However, they have already invested a lot. They are going to see their incomes drop, since production is expected to decrease because of the agreement and its 17,000 tonnes of cheese.

Currently, what they are being told is that they will be given a subsidy if they invest more, despite their losses. This is unacceptable.