Mr. Speaker, today I rise to speak to Motion No. 106, a motion encouraging the government to develop a national seniors strategy, brought forward by my colleague from Nickel Belt. I want to thank him very much for his dedicated work on this issue.
The motion encourages the government to take specific actions to address seniors issues. As chair of the seniors Liberal caucus, I am delighted that this motion is coming forward and I want to give my full support.
Wherever we live, whatever our political inclination, we all grow old. At least we aspire to grow old with dignity and physical well-being. With aging an inevitable part of our common humanity, there surely can be few areas of government activity more able to positively impact Canadians.
Given the potential impact, we need to proceed with sound, strategic planning and with a whole of government approach. The motion asks the government to do four key things: to recognize that seniors make up a demographic that requires ongoing attention from the government; to confirm that the government is working to improve the lives of seniors; to ask the Standing Committee of Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, also known as HUMA, to study and report back to the House on the development of a National Seniors Strategy; and to broaden the mandate of the National Seniors Council.
Today I would like to express why the government is in support of the motion.
The Government of Canada recognizes that, like many countries around the world, Canada's population is aging. We know that the proportion of the senior population, age 65 and older, has been increasing steadily over the past 40 years. From 1971 to 2011, the proportion of seniors in Canada's population grew from 8% to 14%. I know members have heard all this before.
According to demographic projections, seniors could represent between 23% and 25% of the total population in 2036. In 2015, the number of seniors exceeded the number of children age 14 and younger for the first time ever. This shift is in part due to increasing an lifespan for Canadians, which is something that should be celebrated.
At the same time, we must be thoughtful in how we respond to the opportunities and policy challenges before us.
I want to assure members that our government values the contributions that older Canadians have made, and continue to make, to our communities, our workplaces, and our families.
Supporting Motion No. 106 is an opportunity to look at the challenges and opportunities faced by older Canadians and to recognize the rich diversity of seniors, for example, indigenous seniors, LGBTQ2 seniors, older immigrants and refugees, and seniors with disabilities. We are committed to the full social and economic inclusion of all Canadians. Our government looks forward to continuing to work together with other key stakeholders to support Canada's seniors of today and tomorrow.
Our government believes that older Canadians are and will continue to be among the drivers of our economy. The seniors of today are living longer, healthier lives than those of previous generations. Just think about the Canadian workforce.
Today many baby boomers choose to stay in the workforce even after the traditional retirement age of 65. Some stay for financial reasons, others because they want to remain active and engaged. According to a Statistics Canada survey of older workers, over half of the respondents who are currently working have indicated a plan to continue working on a part-time basis when they retire.
Not only is there room for seniors in the labour market, we require their skills, knowledge, and their contributions to ensure continued prosperity of our workforce and of our economy. Older workers can enable the successful transfer of an organization's knowledge, skills, and experience to future leaders and to areas that require specialized expertise. They also tend to remain with employers for longer periods. That means fewer costs for hiring and training new staff.
I am talking about older workers here to give an example of just one of the many contributions that older Canadians make to our society. After a working lifetime of contributing to Canada, Canada needs to ensure the needs of older Canadians are met with dignity and respect, and as an integral part of a social contract between all Canadians. Some will say developing an effective strategy to assist the elderly is about fairness. That is true, but the impetus for developing a national seniors strategy is more far-reaching. Canadians of all ages benefit when we respond to the needs of the elderly in a coherent, comprehensive, and effective manner.
Youth are likely to receive the guidance and insight of their grandparents for longer periods. Middle-aged adults may face less of a squeeze when juggling work, raising children, and helping their elderly parents. Those approaching retirement age can make sound decisions, knowing that assistance is available for their essential needs should they need it in the coming decades.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly, this is who we are as a nation. We value all Canadians equally, whatever their situation, whatever their age, and we do so because it is fair and just. It seems that the essential needs of seniors are not fundamentally different from the rest of the population: accessible and supportive health services, affordable and suitable housing, financial security, and being treated with dignity and respect.
Of course, the situation seniors face, the intensity of their demands for some of these needs, and especially how seniors can best meet these needs differs from young people. At their core, however, they are essentially the same. However, as we experience population aging, the support our government provides and how we deliver it needs to evolve.
With an aging population, we know that there are challenges. The issues are complex in nature. They require collaboration across all of government and with non-governmental and private sector partners, researchers, practitioners, organizations representing seniors, and of course, seniors themselves. We must base our decisions on evidence and the lived experience of our seniors. We know that, and we understand that.
Our government is already responding to an aging population and demonstrating its commitment to seniors. We are making investments to enable seniors to live healthy, active, and independent lives. We increased the guaranteed income supplement top-up for single seniors. We are lifting Canadians out of poverty. We are helping seniors face challenges in accessing affordable housing. We restored the age of eligibility for the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement to age 65 from age 67. On top of that, we have enhanced the Canada pension plan for future seniors.
We are also providing additional targeted funding to support improved home care and mental health, which we know will improve outcomes and is the most cost-effective way to deliver much-needed services for seniors. We have also been working to provide more generous and flexible leave for caregivers, and we look forward to implementing further measures to ensure well-being and a good quality of life for seniors.
As we consider the opportunities and challenges associated with an aging population, our government looks forward to receiving advice and recommendations from the National Seniors Council and from the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. Motion No. 106 will help us move forward with our work, and for that reason, we must support it.
In conclusion, I want to recognize the hard work of many of the members in the House on this important file. I will not call them out, but there are many people working and bringing forward recommendations across the spectrum that impact seniors' lives, and I really appreciate all of that hard work on both sides of the House.
Speaking of playing politics, which we heard in a previous declaration here today, this is a sad thing to be saying as we are talking about this motion. However, what I have been seeing is that repeatedly, we have had the official opposition bring forward motions that intend to usurp private members' motions that have already been tabled. To address the one that was mentioned in the speech, it was tabled, in this case, on December 6, 2016.
It is really not respectful behaviour, or efficient for the House, to be doing this kind of activity. If we know that there is a motion coming forward from one side, it really is not appropriate for the other side to try to jump in ahead with an opposition day motion. That is why this side of the House is trying to be respectful and considerate of the hard work individual members are doing through their private member's motions.