Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about an important issue affecting seniors. I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Richmond Centre for putting forth Motion No. 203, a motion to address fraudulent scams that target Canadians for their money, including seniors.
Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with automated phone calls posing as the Canada Revenue Agency, in which the recipient is threatened with arrest for unpaid taxes. At least 60,000 Canadians have complained about being targeted by this phone scam. I have received these calls as well.
It is certainly not the only scam out there. Every year Canadians lose millions of dollars to the activities of scammers who bombard us with online, mail, door-to-door and telephone scams. I have had many conversations with seniors in my riding of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne who have been affected by these scams. In fact, I had this conversation with seniors in my riding this past weekend. Everyone put a hand up when asked if they had received one of those calls.
Scammers target people of all backgrounds, ages and income levels, including seniors. The Government of Canada is taking action to help Canadians protect themselves against scammers. The Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA, raises awareness by providing information on its fraud prevention web page, sharing information with news networks, posting tips on social media, distributing pamphlets by mail and working with its partners to conduct community outreach activities.
The CRA regularly provides interviews and issues tax tips to the public and to stakeholders to help individuals recognize and avoid common scams. In fact, the CRA's regional offices are very active through proactive media outreach and participation in local events with community associations, especially local police forces and seniors' associations.
To support these efforts, the CRA regularly updates the “protect yourself against fraud” web page with the newest examples of fraudulent communications, tips to recognize an actual call from the CRA and printable posters that can be displayed in gift card sections or at bitcoin machines, which are common methods of payment fraudsters use to collect money from their victims.
In addition, a comprehensive MP kit was distributed in October of last year with the view that MPs can use the CRA's communication material, in collaboration with their local community associations, to help raise awareness and protect citizens from falling victim to tax scams.
The CRA recently ran a $25,000 Facebook campaign, from mid-August to mid-September 2018. The campaign targeted seniors and new Canadians to raise awareness about email, phone and text scams. As a result, more than two million individuals visited the CRA's anti-fraud web page to learn more.
That is not all the government is doing to protect potential victims. One of the goals of the new horizons for seniors program is to tackle elder abuse and elder fraud.
The government has rolled out a number of fraud prevention initiatives. For example, there is the Fraud Prevention Forum, which is chaired by the Competition Bureau. This group of about 100 public- and private-sector organizations fights fraud aimed at consumers, including seniors.
In addition, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada is leading a strategy called “Strengthening Seniors’ Financial Literacy”. One of the goals of the strategy is to increase tools to combat financial abuse and fraud targeting seniors. The Financial Consumer Agency of Canada also keeps Canadians informed and issues consumer alerts about fraud, scams and sales practices.
Lastly, we recently made legislative changes to Bill C-86, which would amend the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada Act and the Bank Act to strengthen the rights and interests of bank customers, including seniors, and ensure that all Canadians benefit from rigorous consumer protection standards in the banking sector.
I would like to make one thing very clear: Our government cares about seniors. We care about their health, their well-being and their financial security. The Prime Minister's decision to appoint a Minister of Seniors certainly attests to that. As Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors, I know first-hand how critical it is to ensure financial security for our aging population and Canada's most vulnerable.
Our government has taken several important steps to make sure our seniors are protected financially. For example, through our government's commitment to income security, the poverty rate for seniors fell from 4.9% to 3.9% between 2016 and 2017. We have increased the amount of the guaranteed income supplement by up to $947 per year for the lowest-income single seniors. While some people might think that $947 more per year does not sound like much, for seniors living in poverty, that $947 makes a big difference in covering the cost of basic necessities. It can bring peace of mind.
Increasing the guaranteed income supplement improved the financial situation of almost 900,000 low-income seniors. We also lowered the age of eligibility for the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement from 67 to 65. This measure will prevent some 100,000 vulnerable 65- and 66-year-olds from slipping into poverty in the future.
We worked with the provinces to enhance the Canada Pension Plan and the Régime de rentes du Québec to help ensure that tomorrow's seniors can also enjoy a secure and dignified retirement.
To add to that, we are making it easier for seniors to receive their benefits by transforming the way we deliver programs and services. In short, we are creating an opportunity to complete more transactions online using the device of their choice.
For example, using a new integrated application will allow clients to apply for both the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement at the same time. For citizens in my riding of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne who may not have access to a home computer, my office helps them to apply for these benefits.
Here is another improvement we have made to the delivery of benefits: Seniors who receive their CPP benefits by direct deposit will receive their combined OAS and CPP or RRQ benefits in the same account.
We are simplifying and streamlining our services to make sure Canadian seniors get the benefits they are entitled to receive. We know that financial security is top of mind for older Canadians, and that is why we continue to put more money into their pockets.
As well, through the various outreach and awareness campaigns I mentioned, we are taking action to warn seniors about the scammers who are trying to take away their hard-earned money.
Budget 2018 included a $116-million investment to strengthen Canada's ability to fight cybercrime by creating the National Cybercrime Coordination Unit. As we can see, there is a lot of work being led and funded by our government to support seniors, and I am very proud of that, but there is more to be done. Support for Canada's most vulnerable requires a collaborative approach with our provincial, territorial and community partners.
I look forward to working with all members of the House to make sure our aging population can live safely, enjoy good health and receive the care and financial supports that they need.
I have had the great pleasure to speak with seniors in my riding of Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne and they have been incredibly helpful in sharing their concerns, their ideas and their advice. I want to thank them for their wise counsel.
Our seniors have paved the way for us, and together, we will be there for them.