Mr. Speaker, I stand today to speak to Motion No. 106, the Liberal motion on seniors. I emphasize the word “Liberal” because this motion is just another example of the Liberals putting forward empty, feel-good and, frankly, do-nothing motions. I am sure the member had good intentions behind the motion. He has given it a very grandiose title, “establishing a national seniors' strategy”. Someone reading it might actually think it had teeth or represented actually helping seniors.
Here is the problem, though. Motion No. 106 does nothing but highlight the lack of seriousness that the Liberal government has when it comes to addressing the needs of seniors.
The superficial nature of the motion is disrespectful at its core, because it makes light of a serious issue by failing to provide any concrete language or measurable outcomes. Hard-working Canadian seniors deserve a concrete commitment and timeline from the government regarding the development of a national seniors' framework.
I want to highlight a couple of items in the motion.
Number one is to “recognize that seniors...make up a demographic that requires ongoing attention”. It seems a bit obvious.
Number two is that the government should “point out that it is working hard to [improve] the lives of seniors”. Here we have a motion from the Liberal government saying we should point out the great job we are doing for seniors.
Motion No. 106 is frustrating for its lack of tangible outcomes. It is even more frustrating that it comes after several attempts to help seniors from members on this side of the House that were rejected outright by the Liberal majority, pretty much for the reason that it was not their idea.
We have asked for a return of the ministry for seniors and a real, concrete national seniors' strategy over and over again. My colleagues, the member for Langley—Aldergrove and the member for Richmond Centre, and I have personally submitted numerous petitions asking for reinstatement of the ministry for seniors, which existed before being cynically cut by the current government.
My own private member's bill, Bill C-301, the RRIF financial security act, focused on tax relief for Canadian seniors.
The bill was supported by the NDP, by financial experts who provided clear evidence that the bill would help seniors without hurting government revenues, by the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, and most important, by Canadians across the country. With broad support from Canadians, one would expect that this would be reflected in this House. However, the Liberals, including the member for Nickel Belt, voted against seniors and against that bill.
On February 14, Liberal members of the HUMA standing committee voted down a neutral motion calling for the committee to study seniors' issues. They just recently voted down a motion asking for a study of seniors' issues; yet, here we are, days later, discussing a Liberal motion on seniors. It makes me wonder why the government has so suddenly changed its mind. Is it because the government is so politically motivated it cannot see the benefit of voting in favour of an opposition motion?
The Conservatives have a long record of supporting our seniors. There are accomplishments that we are proud of, and accomplishments that are being eroded thanks to the reckless tax-and-spend approach of the current Liberal government.
Our seniors have worked all their lives, paid taxes, paid into pensions, and paid into the CPP. They are trying to live out their golden years with a living wage and savings to prepare them for unanticipated expenses.
Conservative policies focused on empowering seniors to choose how they want to live their retirement years and providing help for those who need it. We expanded the GIS and the compassionate care program, and provided tax breaks to caregivers. We invested $1.4 billion in 2011 to reduce the number of Canadians in a housing need through a federal-provincial framework assisting almost 184,000 homes. We invested $1.25 billion in the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation's affordable housing centre, creating over 25,000 new affordable housing units.
We introduced tax-free savings accounts and expanded the annual maximum to $10,000 to help working Canadians save more for their retirement. Millions of Canadians use TFSAs, with the vast majority earning low and middle incomes. Yet the Liberals could not wait to reduce the TFSA limit and punish those who dared think that hard-earned and saved money should be enjoyed by those who earned and saved it.
The previous government introduced income splitting for seniors and lowered the mandatory withdrawal rate for registered retirement income funds.
It is a long record indeed. These are evidence-based policies that benefit every senior, with remarkable returns leading to the lowest poverty rate among our seniors in decades. It is a record to be proud of. However, more can always be done. The previous government dedicated an entire ministry to helping seniors. Unfortunately, the Liberals scrapped the ministry and currently have no cabinet representation for seniors.
We have a minister of youth, who I will note sits and refuses to answer questions posed to the minister of youth, but nothing for our seniors who have spent decades working and paying taxes. That was another in a long line of inexplicable Liberal decisions.
Both my party and my colleagues in the other opposition parties bring forward initiatives to help seniors, to lower taxes, and to provide relief for the vulnerable in Canada. I do not always agree with my NDP colleagues, but I happily support any sensible ideas they put forward to help Canadians. However, in response, the government consistently votes against them and blocks them from coming into force for what I can only assume are crass political motivations.
The problem is that although the Liberals might score a political win, vulnerable Canadians who need our help lose. These Canadians lose because the government would rather play politics than support something they did not come up with first.
It is no surprise to anyone that our population mix is changing drastically. One in six Canadians was a senior last year. In 12 years, one in four Canadians will be a senior. There are now more Canadians 65 years of age or older than those under the age of 15. The ratio of workers to seniors is going to fall from 4:1 to 2:1 in 2030.
This drastic demographic shift has created an important need to prepare for the care of aging Canadians, changing program priorities, and government delivery. This is not just a concern for old age security but for the future of our health care system, and how the provinces are to cope with the massive growth in seniors who will be accessing the already overloaded health care system. An assessment of government readiness to care for an aging population needs to begin now.
I want to go back to Bill C-301, about which I briefly spoke. It was an immediate solution to help seniors today and in the future, and was broadly supported. It was not just empty rhetoric and talking points. I received hundreds of responses from Edmontonians who were counting on the current Liberal government to remove the mandatory withdrawal structure from the RRIFs. I have correspondence from seniors in Toronto, Ottawa, all over British Columbia, and Calgary, all supporting removing mandatory minimums. I have an endorsement from the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, representing over 60,000 seniors, in support of removing mandatory withdrawals. However, I suppose this was not a Liberal initiative and therefore was not worthy of this Parliament.
I can go on and on about the conduct of the members on the other side of the House, pretending to stand up for middle-class Canadians. Middle-class Canadians do not want taxes, or corporate bailouts, or long-winded talking points. They want jobs and they want to see the money that they put into the government coming back to them. In the case of seniors, they want assurances that the system they have been paying into is there to help them when they need it.
It is getting more difficult by the day to believe anything the government says in the House. It constantly boasts about wanting to be collaborative, looking toward the future, and changing the way things work in this place. Then it does the exact opposite of what it preaches.
I support evidence-based policies that meaningfully help our most vulnerable. However, I do not support Liberal moves of cynical, self-congratulation to cover up the fact they have voted down every proposal we or my opposition colleagues have brought forward simply because of where we sit in the House. I also do not support empty, do-nothing motions that will not help seniors today or in the future.