House of Commons Hansard #195 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Is the House ready for the question?

Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6 p.m.

Some hon. members


Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The question is on the motion. If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6:05 p.m.


Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Pursuant to order made on Thursday, June 23, 2022, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, May 15, at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

The hon. parliamentary secretary to the government House leader.

Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6:05 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Mark Gerretsen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons (Senate)

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent to see the clock at 6:20.

Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

Is it agreed?

Opposition Motion—Immigration LevelsBusiness of SupplyRoyal Assent

6:05 p.m.

Some hon. members


Bill C-319—Speaker's RulingPoints of OrderRoyal Assent

6:05 p.m.


The Deputy Speaker Conservative Chris d'Entremont

The Chair is now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the deputy House leader of the government on April 19, 2023, regarding Bill C-319, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act (amount of full pension), standing in the name of the member for Shefford.

In a statement concerning Private Members’ Business on March 30, 2023, the Chair invited members to make arguments regarding the need for this bill to be accompanied by a royal recommendation.

In her statement, the deputy House leader of the government noted that Bill C-319 would increase the amount of the full pension for Canadians aged 65 to 74 by 10%. This increase is not provided for by the Old Age Security Act. She argued that, as a result, this charge against the consolidated revenue fund is not authorized by the act or any other.

The increase in the amount of the full pension that Bill C-319 would provide to all pensioners aged 65 or older would raise public spending for purposes not currently authorized by the Act. Consequently, the Chair is of the opinion that the bill infringes on the financial prerogative of the Crown and needs a new royal recommendation if it is to receive a final vote in the House at third reading.

The House will soon take up the second reading motion for the bill, which can be put to a vote at the conclusion of debate on that motion.

I thank all members for their attention.

The House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business, as listed on today's Order Paper.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

moved that Bill C-319, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act (amount of full pension), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to introduce my first bill today, Bill C-319. The summary reads as follows:

This enactment amends the Old Age Security Act to increase the amount of the full pension to which all pensioners aged 65 or older are entitled by 10% and to raise the exemption for a person’s employment income or self-employed earnings that is taken into account in determining the amount of the guaranteed income supplement from $5,000 to $6,500.

For years, the Bloc Québécois has made the condition of seniors one of its top priorities. Seniors were the people hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. They were among those who suffered the most and they continue to suffer the negative consequences of the pandemic, such as isolation, anxiety and financial hardship.

That said, I do not want to paint an overly gloomy picture today. Instead, I want to present seniors as a grey force consisting of people who want to continue contributing to our society. They built Quebec, and we owe them respect.

Bill C-319 is designed to improve the financial situation of seniors and is structured around two parts. In my speech today, I will first address the part of my bill that deals with increasing old age security, or OAS, and then I will address the part that deals with increasing the qualifying threshold for the guaranteed income supplement, or GIS. I will end my speech by explaining a bit more about the impact inflation has on the financial health of seniors.

To begin, the first part aims to eliminate the current age discrimination. In the 2021 budget, the Liberal government increased old age security benefits for seniors over the age of 75. This delayed and ill-conceived measure has created a new problem—a divide between seniors aged 65 to 74 and those aged 75 and over. Seniors are not taking it lying down.

The Bloc Québécois opposed this discrimination that would create two classes of seniors. Naturally, today's insecurity, economic context, loss of purchasing power and exponential increase in food and housing prices do not affect only the oldest recipients of OAS; it affects all of them. This measure misses the mark by helping a minority of seniors.

In 2021, there were 2.8 million people 75 and over compared to 3.7 million between the ages of 65 and 74. This opinion is shared by FADOQ and its president, Gisèle Tassé-Goodman, who had this to say about the measure: “In principle, there is a good intention to provide financial assistance to seniors, but, in reality, people under 75 who are eligible for old age security get absolutely nothing.”

To date, nothing has been done to address this injustice, and this bill seeks to end this discriminatory measure. It is not true that the one-time vote-seeking cheque of $500 for people 75 and over in August 2021 will be of any help. Seniors even feel that they have been used.

With Bill C‑319, the Bloc Québécois is proposing a 10% increase to old age security starting at age 65 for every month after June 2023. For example, at present, this increase would raise the benefits paid to single, widowed, divorced or separated persons from $1,032 to $1,135.31 every month. As for the amount paid when both spouses are retired, it would increase from $621.25 to $683.35 per month. You do not live in the lap of luxury with that amount. You certainly do not go down south, and you do not stash your money away in tax havens.

Second, with inflation rising sharply and quickly and with the shortage of labour and experienced workers, the Bloc Québécois remains focused on defending the interests and desire of some seniors to remain active on the labour market and contribute fully to the vitality of their community. This is why the Bloc Québécois has long been calling for an increase in the earnings exemption for seniors.

Back in 2021, during the last federal election, the Bloc Québécois platform proposed to raise the exemption from $5,000 to $6,000 in order to allow those who are willing and able to continue working to do so without a significant reduction in their GIS benefit, which is derived from old age security.

Given the exceptional transformation in Canada's demographics in recent decades, there are now more people aged 65 and over, and they now outnumber children under 15. It is vital that we adjust our public policies so that older Quebeckers can maintain a dignified quality of life in the manner of their choosing.

In fact, Employment and Social Development Canada released a document entitled “Promoting the labour force participation of older Canadians — Promising Initiatives” in May 2018, following an extensive pan-Canadian scan. The document identifies the harmful consequences of ageism in the workplace and the challenges faced by seniors. These include a lack of education or training, health issues, and work-life balance issues due to a lack of workplace accommodations. The study then proposes a number of measures to facilitate the integration of experienced workers and encourage their participation in the workforce.

Socializing in the workplace is beneficial for breaking out of isolation. Life expectancy is steadily increasing, and more jobs are less demanding than in the past.

I find it hard to understand the choices the Liberal government has made since it came to power. At best, the Liberals have taken half-hearted or ad hoc measures, as we saw during the pandemic. Currently, old age security payments are not enough to weather the affordability crisis and the dramatic price increases for housing or intermediate housing resources.

Six years ago, in June 2017, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance published a report on the financial impact and local considerations of an aging population. Everyone agrees that the economic situation of households has deteriorated significantly with the pandemic, and that sudden inflation is hurting Quebeckers and Canadians. The committee's findings and proposed solutions at that time could not be clearer. It recommended:

That the Government of Canada, in collaboration with its provincial, territorial and Indigenous partners, put measures in place to increase labour force participation of underrepresented groups and to better match labour demand with labour supply in order to mitigate the negative impact of population aging on the economy and on the labour market.

As previously mentioned, modest sums have been granted to date and one-time assistance was offered during the pandemic in June 2020. We appreciate these efforts, but we are clear about the indirect effects of this hastily put together aid. Nevertheless, small and medium enterprises are increasingly stressed out as they desperately look for workers, and about the closure of many shops and the decline in some areas.

We believe that the tax contributions, the tax incentives and the income exemption rates on the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement do not entice older people to return to work because they will be denied hundreds of dollars a month.

Let us not forget the sad irony of Liberal measures such as the Canada emergency response benefit and the Canada recovery benefit, which were considered income during the health crisis. In the end, they took away significant sums of money from the most fragile and least fortunate in the population. This aberration was finally corrected by the government in February 2022 after several months of representations by the Bloc Québécois to the Minister of Seniors when Bill C‑12 was tabled.

At the time, Bloc Québécois researchers found that GIS recipients who received CERB lost 50 cents of the supplement for every dollar they received, so a tax rate of 50%, almost double that of the richest people in society. However, at the time, no one informed affected taxpayers of this dramatic impact on disposable household income. During the study for this legislation, the Bloc Québécois pointed out that this major injustice is both harmful and absurd. The FADOQ network called the situation a tragedy.

Let me get back to what we are suggesting. The exemption on earnings and miscellaneous income would increase from $5,000 to $6,500 per year. That would leave an additional $1,500 in the pockets of all claimants aged 65 and older. Compared to the 2021 proposal, then, the current bill suggests an additional $500, for a total of $6,500, to offset the deteriorating economic situation. The goal of these two measures combined is to increase both the monthly base amounts and the annual working income. We believe that this will help seniors deal with inflation and the current hardships. It is the least we can do, to allow millions of people who built our communities to live with dignity.

Third, I want to talk about the impact of inflation. Do not forget that old age security is taxable. The OAS and GIS amounts are revised in January, April, July and October, ostensibly to reflect the cost of living. These benefits were indexed annually until 1973. At that time, inflation was very high, particularly for fuel and food, and officials felt that quarterly indexing would better protect against unexpectedly large price increases during the year. By the summer of 2020, however, even FADOQ had decried the fact that these increases will not even buy a coffee at Tim Horton's.

The consumption habits of seniors differ from those of the rest of the population. As a result, they experience different inflation. Statistics Canada studied this difference in 2005. It found that seniors spend proportionately less on transportation, gasoline or a new car, but much more on housing and food. For every $100, they spend $56, compared to $45 for all other households. Surely we all agree that housing and groceries are not luxuries.

What is the impact of that inflation? From 1992 to 2004, the average annual inflation rate was 1.95% for senior-only households, compared to 1.84% for other households. Again, seniors are harder hit.

I will refresh the Liberals' memory. On March 19, 2022, the Liberal member for Etobicoke North moved motion No. 45. If the Liberal Party and the Green Party are consistent with their support—14 members from these two parties jointly supported this motion—then Bill C‑319 should be adopted.

I will read the text of the motion, because it is worth it:


(a) the House recognize that (i) seniors deserve a dignified retirement free from financial worry, (ii) many seniors are worried about their retirement savings running out, (iii) many seniors are concerned about being able to live independently in their own homes; and

(b) in the opinion of the House, the government should undertake a study examining population aging, longevity, interest rates, and registered retirement income funds, and report its findings and recommendations to the House within 12 months of the adoption of this motion.

On June 15, 2022, 301 members finally voted in favour this motion, while 25 voted against. Out of the 326 members present, only 25 members from the New Democratic Party voted against this motion.

Seniors living on fixed incomes are having a hard time making ends meet because their daily expenses are increasing faster than their pension payments. Old age security, or OAS, is adjusted to inflation every three months, while the Canada pension plan, or CPP, is adjusted every January. However, OAS and the CPP are not enough for some people to make ends meet.

People are feeling the shock of the 10.3% year-over-year increase in the cost of food, as reported by Statistics Canada in the year leading up to September. Food prices rose faster than the generalized cost of living index, which rose 6.9% year over year in September, also according to Statistics Canada.

I met with some representatives from the Salvation Army this morning who told me that they too have noticed, like many other support organizations, that demand for food has doubled, and that a large portion of the demand is from seniors. It is inconceivable that this permanent increase in the OAS, which is the first since 1973, so the first in 50 years, is not indexed to inflation. We hope that this will help seniors who, as we have seen, are turning more and more to food banks.

Let us remember that, in the summer of 2021, one month before the election, the federal government handed out $500 cheques to seniors who were eligible for the old age security pension to supposedly help them with affordability issues related to the pandemic. However, it is going to take a lot more than an ad hoc approach. We really need to focus on the long term.

Other than the increase to index it to inflation, the full OAS for seniors aged 65 to 74 remains unchanged. It is $666.83 a month. With that low monthly income, it is not surprising that Canada has the generation of retirees facing the greatest inequities and injustices.

Since the 2019 election, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for the government to increase the old age security pension for seniors as of age 65 and has been calling the government out on its discrimination and ageism against seniors aged 65 to 74, so this bill is a logical extension of our position.

In closing, I would like to thank Gisèle Tassé‑Goodman from the FADOQ, Pierre‑Claude Poulin from the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées and Diane Dupéré from the Association québécoise des retraités et des retraitées des secteurs public et parapublic for their support of this bill. Like me, they are just the mouthpiece for seniors whose stories they hear every day. I would be remiss if I failed to mention all of the seniors groups from all over Quebec who also sent me messages of support. They think that Bill C-319 is the least we can do to give seniors a little help and bit of fresh air.

One last thing: I wish the House would realize the importance of this bill, which is not a luxury, but a necessity. It is just common sense to help seniors age with dignity. Based on the feedback I have received so far, even from seniors outside Quebec, all I have to say is let us work together. Similar motions have been passed many times, including the Bloc Québécois motion calling for an increase in OAS as part of our opposition day. Only the Liberals voted against it. They were the only holdouts. This time, I am reaching out to them. I am asking them to eliminate the injustice they created and vote with us in favour of Bill C‑319.

Once again, this is a matter of dignity for seniors.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Nova Scotia


Darren Fisher LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors

Mr. Speaker, I first met the member when I was moving a bill through the House of Commons, Bill S-211, on sickle cell awareness. I know she cares. She is a good MP, and she cares about people.

She talks about supporting seniors, yet Bloc members have voted against seniors in the House for years. They voted against taking the age of eligibility for retirement benefits from 67 to 65 years of age. They voted against that.

I would ask the member why she felt that seniors should have to work two more years to access the benefits they deserve and which they contributed to for decades. It surprises me that someone who cares so much about seniors would vote against seniors on a regular basis.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, in case my colleagues want to tease me again, I must say that I was obviously talking about luxury. Our bill is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

That being said, I wonder if my colleague is misleading the House, because the Bloc Québécois has never been against rolling back the retirement age from 67 to 65. What does he mean? Really, we are not in the least questioning the idea of setting the age at 65. We have never questioned that idea. I do not know if my colleague is misleading the House or confusing us with the Conservatives, who had raised the retirement age from 65 to 67, which caused an outcry and led people to ask that it be brought back down to 65.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Gabriel Ste-Marie Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank my esteemed colleague and friend, the hon. member for Shefford, for all the work she has done in defending the rights of seniors in the House of Commons during this Parliament. No other member in the House defends seniors' rights as much as my honourable and esteemed colleague from Shefford, especially not the parliamentary secretary, even though it is his job to defend them.

I would like to ask my colleague what she has done since she was elected to the House for the first time. Can she remind us of all the work she has done with various groups, leading up to this bill she introduced to defend seniors' dignity in the House?

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, do I have 15 minutes? I see that I do not.

All joking aside, I am not the only one. I could name all my colleagues in this place who advocated for seniors along with the Bloc Québécois. I was given the first questions when the Bloc Québécois arrived in the House in December 2019. At the time, the Bloc Québécois was already challenging a government idea that we considered ridiculous, but above all unfair. It wanted to increase old age security, but only for those 75 and over. That was the start.

After that, every time I would look to my colleague from Joliette sitting behind me. In January 2020, we met with groups of seniors as part of the pre-budget consultations before the pandemic hit. We came back to the House in April, because the government announced that it would help everyone. The Bloc was the only party to tell the government that it had forgotten about seniors. Finally, they got a cheque. They received a small one-time cheque because the Bloc came to the House to hammer home the message for more than two months until an announcement was made.

Every time a budget was presented, the Bloc Québécois asked in its pre-budget submissions for this injustice to be corrected. That is not to mention the countless questions that I asked the successive ministers for seniors from 2019 to 2021 and since my re-election in 2021. We keep asking the same questions, and we have often raised this subject in the House. The reason we have come back today with this bill is that we want to exert additional pressure on the government. I hope that this time will be the right time. I hope that the government will support this bill and remedy the situation. We are reaching out and giving the government an opportunity to correct this injustice.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Mario Beaulieu Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have often raised that point, which our colleague does a great job of defending. The government often responds that pensions are like that all over the world. However, I have some information here about the net pension replacement rate. According to estimates of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, the average net pension replacement rate was 50.7% of pre-retirement income in Canada in 2018, while the average for OECD member countries was 57.6%. The EU average was 63%. That means that seniors in Canada are worse off relative to the average for other OECD countries. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about that.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, I completely agree. In the OECD, we could be doing a lot more to support seniors. Things are not going to improve, because the indexing method and model mean wages are going up faster than the OAS.

By the way, I think that the Conservatives are being rather quiet. I want to remind the House that there is a cost to leaving seniors in poverty. If we do not increase OAS, seniors are forced to make tough choices at the end of the month. Take for example a woman who came to see me at my office two weeks ago. Because she wanted to eat, she was unable to buy a prosthetic device for her foot. These are the types of choices people have to make. At the end of the day, it is their overall health that will deteriorate and will cost the public purse and our health care system.

To help seniors, there also needs to be an increase in health transfers. The Liberals should have thought of that, if they really wanted to take care of issues affecting seniors.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Dartmouth—Cole Harbour Nova Scotia


Darren Fisher LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Seniors

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-319. I would like to thank the member for Shefford for sponsoring this bill.

Private members' bills play an important role in focusing parliamentary attention on issues of concern to Canadians. Last spring, for instance, we had bills on mandatory immunization, employment insurance for adoptive parents, school food programs and, just recently, a bill to amend the Criminal Code for vulnerable adults.

Seniors are the backbone of Canadian society. They are our parents, our grandmothers and our grandfathers. They are our mentors and loved ones. They are our former teachers, our bosses and our leaders. Seniors built our amazing country and they deserve to live out their retirement without worrying about their financial security. I want to speak today to all the measures our government has delivered that support Canadian seniors.

Increasing old age security by 10% for seniors over the age of 75 was the right thing to do, because it was delivering targeted support to those who need it the most. We know that the older seniors get, the more likely they are to experience higher costs due to the onset of illness or disability and increased health-related expenses. The facts and data support the government's decision, because here, on this side of the House, we, unlike some of the other parties in this place, make decisions based upon data and facts.

Let us turn to the numbers to get an idea of how our government's plan has been effective in ensuring that taxpayer dollars are hard at work supporting those who need it most. In 2020, 39% of seniors aged 75 and over received the guaranteed income supplement, compared to 29% of those aged 65 to 74. There are also more women in the over-75 age group than men, and there are more Canadians with a disability in that age group as well. According to the Canadian Survey on Disability, in 2017, 47% of seniors over the age of 75 had a disability, compared to 32% under the age of 75. This evidence tells us that seniors over the age of 75 are more likely to be in vulnerable circumstances. This means that they are more likely to need additional support, so that is exactly what the government delivered.

Conscious of the facts, our government made the responsible decision to make a historic increase to the old age security pension for seniors aged 75 and older. Let us be clear: This was a huge win for seniors. This change represented the first increase to OAS in 50 years. This policy has helped approximately 3.3 million seniors. They received more than $800 extra over the first year of the increase, and the benefit, of course, is indexed to rise with the cost of living, so it will continue to go up.

However, we did not stop there. Since 2015, we have implemented a range of targeted actions that have not only contributed to the lowest poverty rates among seniors in Canadian history, but also positioned Canada as a country with one of the lowest poverty rates in the world for seniors. In fact, one of the very first things the government did after we were elected was reverse the reckless Conservative plan to increase the age of retirement. We immediately lowered the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS, from 67 back to 65, allowing Canadians to retire sooner. This put hundreds of thousands of dollars back in the pockets of Canadian seniors. Bill C-29 was the budget implementation act in 2016. When we look at the voting record, the Conservatives voted against it and the Bloc voted against it. That is where the vote was for the return from 67 to 65 in 2016.

We also raised the guaranteed income supplement by almost $1,000 a year, which helped nearly one million vulnerable single seniors. We know that many seniors want to continue to work past retirement. That is why we extended eligibility for the GIS earnings exemption to include self-employment income and increased the exemption by over 40%, to enable seniors who wished to continue working to do so. On top of all this, we are ensuring that those benefits keep up with the cost of living. In fact, over the past year, OAS and GIS have actually increased by 7.1%, while CPP and QPP have increased by 6.5%. We are proud of our record, which shows that, year after year, we have strengthened seniors' financial security, while lifting hundreds of thousands of seniors out of poverty.

Of course, there is much more work to do. That is why we are bringing the largest expansion of health care in 60 years by providing uninsured seniors access to high-quality dental care. I sincerely hope that the member across the way who is moving the bill will vote for our budget so that she can support seniors with dental care.

We are always better when we work together. I encourage members across the way, including the Bloc, to work with us to support seniors in Quebec and across Canada. However, time and time again, Bloc members are choosing politics over supporting seniors. We can just look at the voting record, and I'll give a few more examples. I just mentioned dental care for seniors, but they have also already voted against the early stage of the budget, and I assume they are going to vote against the budget when it is ready to be voted on. There was also lowering the age of retirement, with Bill C-29, the Budget Implementation Act, in 2016; strengthening the GIS; and our OAS increase that supports the most vulnerable seniors. These are things that they voted against.

However, people should not worry. While opposition parties are playing political games, we are going to stay focused on delivering real results for seniors from coast to coast to coast.

Canada's population is aging. Seniors are the fastest-growing demographic, and we need to be thoughtful in our approach to supporting them. We will continue to be proud of the record that we have in supporting seniors.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:35 p.m.


Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege to rise on behalf of the residents of Kelowna—Lake Country. Today, I’m speaking on Bill C-319, an act to amend the Old Age Security Act.

First, let me start by saying that our seniors deserve our respect and gratitude. They have worked hard to build our country, serve our country standing up for democracy and freedoms, raise families, start businesses, contribute through their careers over decades, volunteer, and serve and contribute to our communities in so many ways before and during retirement. We all owe them a debt of gratitude for all that they have done over their lifetime. We also need to fully recognize the cost of living challenges facing our seniors now, including the affordability of retirement.

As they age, seniors can face many challenges, including financial insecurity, health issues and social isolation. I hear increasingly from seniors who are deeply concerned about their ability to maintain the quality of life they expected when they were younger. That is why Conservatives are committed to ensuring seniors are top of mind when considering policies that will affect what was supposed to be their golden years.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2019, over 1.6 million Canadian seniors were living in low-income households. That's more than 15% of the senior population. That was even before 40-year record-high inflation and the unprecedented increasing of interest rates, eight times in one year, by the Bank of Canada. Not all seniors have paid off their mortgages, and this is creating a crisis for many. Many seniors are struggling to make ends meet, and many are forced to choose between paying for necessities such as food, fuel, shelter and medication. I hear this all the time in my community.

One senior I know who lived on the edge of town had to sell his home because he simply could not afford to heat his home and the gas to drive his vehicle. It was heartbreaking for him. I just talked to him the other day, and he said he was depressed. Of course I encouraged him to reach out to seek help as I was genuinely concerned about him. Another reached out to me to say he cannot afford to visit family and his quality of life has diminished. Another said he cannot afford to replace his vehicle.

One key part of this legislation proposes to increase the guaranteed income supplement earnings exemption. To be clear, this will not help everyone. However, this increase would help seniors, who are able to and want to, continue to work while keeping more in their pockets than they would have been able to because their earnings would have been clawed away. By increasing the GIS earnings exemption, we can help to alleviate some of these challenges for some people and ensure that more of our seniors are able to sustain, and for some, perhaps enjoy a more comfortable and secure retirement.

Conservatives believe that seniors who have worked hard and contributed to our society throughout their lives deserve to retire with dignity and financial security. However, many seniors are struggling to make ends meet and are facing the cost of living crisis.

Made-in-Canada inflation by the high-tax, high-debt, high-spend Liberals has hit some seniors the hardest. There are many people in our society, but some seniors, especially those on fixed incomes, are among those hurting the most. They are forced to choose between a warm home and a full fridge. Food banks usage across the country, including in my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country, is up over 30%. I heard from a senior recently from my community who said he usually donates to the food bank and now he cannot believe that he is a client.

Liberal financial policies have led to higher inflation. This has been stated by the former governor of the Bank of Canada and by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. Seniors' retirement income is simply not keeping up to the pace of this cost of living crisis, which is cutting into the savings of seniors. High inflation rates, interest rate hikes and the tripling of the carbon tax, which affects the price of groceries, gas and home heating, are the real record of the Liberal government on seniors. It is the responsibility of the government to reward work, especially the work done by seniors.

Conservatives oppose severe clawbacks of seniors' GIS benefits for those who are able to, want to and choose to work. Increasing the earnings exemption is only fair at a time when so many seniors need cost of living relief and a sense of connection with their community.

Many seniors feel increasingly isolated in their own towns and cities, and some have struggled with financial insecurity because of the record inflation. According to a survey by the National Institute on Aging, 72% of Canadians aged 70 years and older became more concerned about their financial well-being in the last several years.

Labour force participation of seniors can bring value to organizations through experience and mentorship, help with succession planning and, maybe for some, mitigate social isolation, if seniors want to, are able to and choose to work. The Liberals' choice to disincentivize work also comes during a countrywide labour shortage. A recent Auditor General’s report on pandemic programs clearly laid out how, as restrictions were lifted, the programs continued disproportionally and disincentivized work. “Help wanted” signs have become all too frequent a sight, as small businesses and not-for-profits become desperate for the manpower needed to provide their goods and services.

Now, more than ever, is not the time to punish work. Working should be rewarded, and this is common sense. Why tax away a senior’s income if they are able to and want to work? Seniors are integral in sharing their knowledge and expertise with younger workers through mentoring programs, internships or other training opportunities. This can help develop the skills of the next generation of workers.

On this side of the House, we are committed to standing with seniors, and we believe that this increase to the GIS earnings exemption is a step in not taking their ability to earn an income if they are able to, choose to and want to, and without it being taxed away.

In closing, I want to reiterate our commitment to our seniors and to ensuring that they have the financial security and support they need to enjoy their retirement years. We believe increasing the guaranteed income supplement, the GIS, earnings exemption is one step in reaching this goal. This would help seniors who are able to, choose to and want to work, such as having a part-time job, which can keep more of their money in their pockets without affecting other benefits. This increase would help ensure that low-income seniors have additional income to meet their basic living expenses, again, if they want to, are able to and choose to work. It would reduce the impact of clawbacks. Why are we punishing seniors?

As Canada continues to face a labour shortage, the government cannot continue to be a gatekeeper of economic recovery. We must make sure that work is rewarded and encouraged, not punished, if people want to work and choose to work. I also recognize the value of intergenerational connections and the importance of seniors remaining active and engaged in their communities. That is why Conservatives support policies that encourage seniors to share their knowledge and skills with younger generations through work mentoring, as well as through volunteering and community programs.

In conclusion, we are committed to honouring and supporting seniors in Canada. We will continue to work towards policies that promote financial security, that do not penalize seniors and that promote meaningful connections for our valued seniors.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:45 p.m.


Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, as always, I am honoured to rise for the people of Timmins—James Bay to talk about a very important issue. That is the situation facing senior citizens in this country and the systemic failure to ensure that those who built this nation are able to retire and live in the dignity they deserve.

I was just speaking today with the head of the Cochrane food bank. We are attempting to get supplies of food up into Fort Albany First Nation, which has been under evacuation because of flooding. They tell us the shelves are empty. If we go into the grocery stores in northern Ontario, the bins where people used to fill up with food are nearly empty. The cost of living crisis is hitting seniors more than anyone. They have nothing to show for it, other than these incremental increases that might buy them a Tim Hortons coffee but are not going to put food on the table at this time.

We have to look at the larger picture in terms of the absolute failure we see when seniors need us. They are the people who raised us, built our society, brought us up from being children to adults; however, when need us, we are not there. I look at what happened with COVID in the privatized long-term care facilities and the absolute squalor that elders were left in and died in. It was so bad that the army was sent into Quebec in order to try to keep people alive. We send the army into disaster zones; we should not be sending them into facilities that are run by provinces to protect and to look after senior citizens.

We saw this in Ontario, where the death rates in the privatized care homes were staggeringly high. Afterwards, Doug Ford built this iron ring of protection around all those investors so that they would not be held accountable for failing to keep seniors alive during the pandemic.

I was talking to a widow today who needs to get her teeth fixed. She has a right to have dignity. She should not have to get plates put in. She wants to have her teeth fixed, but it is an $8,000 bill. We have the Conservatives filibustering and trying to stop seniors from getting dental care. The Bloc Québécois members are supporting the attack on senior citizens in this country getting dental care. I cannot think of anything more shameful than that.

I do not know if the Bloc members or the Conservatives ever knocked on a door, but when I knocked on door after door, I talked to seniors, who said to me that they cannot afford to have their teeth fixed. Some people might think this is not that important, but it is so important for their dignity and their sense of health. This is why New Democrats pushed for a national dental care plan that, this year, includes senior citizens. The Bloc members and the Conservatives can fight this all they want, but we will make sure that by the end of this year, we can phone those widows back. We can tell them the $8,000 bill they are facing that they cannot afford to pay will be paid. They deserve it, and they deserve better.

We are very interested in Bill C-319 and this issue of fixing the shortfalls in the pension, but obviously, it would not go far enough. I remember just a few years ago when Stephen Harper flew to the World Economic Forum in Davos, where he announced that Canadian seniors had it a little too good. He was going to increase the age of eligibility for the old-age pension. He did not bother to tell Canadians that. He went to tell the world's elites at the World Economic Forum. He went to tell Klaus Schwab, to whisper in his ear, that Canadian senior citizens were getting too good a deal, and he was going to raise the age.

The Liberals ran on it, saying that they were going to fight that. They said, “We are going to make sure that we restore the age.” Then what did the Liberals do in their budget? They created two classes of senior citizens. They told all our senior citizens aged 74 and under, “Tough luck, get by, it is not too bad.” They told them they had their health, and they said they were going to give a small incremental increase to those aged 75 and older.

Just before inflation hit, I was underground in a gold mine in Timmins. That is tough work, and I met a 70-year-old man working the jackleg drill. People have to be in the best health to run a jackleg drill, because it does massive destruction to the body. He told me that at 70 years old, he had to go back underground to work the drills because he could not afford to look after his sick wife.

That is the situation in Canada. To say that, because he is under 75, he does not need a top-up to his pension is an insult. It is also an insult to say that if we just top up those at 65 to where they are at 75, it will get them through in a time of high inflation, because it is not going to get them through. Any senior citizen will tell us that. What we need are much broader systemic changes to deal with an aging population and the way that we have failed. Certainly, the issue of access to dental care is an important first step.

We also need a housing strategy that works. It is not a housing strategy when the member for Stornoway, who lives off the taxpayer's dime with his personal chef, goes on about how all the gatekeepers have stopped any building. He is attacking the municipalities for being gatekeepers. That is not going to get us housing. What we need is seniors housing. We need a national plan to build seniors housing that is co-operative, reasonable housing. The Liberals promised that. We have never seen so many promises about housing, but where are they? We have not seen it. That is a systemic failure.

With respect to the inability of people to feed themselves at a time of high inflation, and the pitiful amount of money they get in old age security, is a broader, more systemic issue that has to be addressed. We have to rethink the CPP. We have to look at the ability of people, while they are working, to add to their own old age security funds so that, if they are working and saving, that fund will go with them wherever they retire. That is contrary to the member for Stornoway, who by the way has a 19-room mansion. He calls it a tax. Investing in pensions is not a tax. The Conservatives keep saying that because they do not want to put the basic funds in place to have a proper pension.

We need to look at a properly funded pension system, so I look at Bill C-319, and we will certainly support it going forward. It is an incremental step, a baby step, along a long path, but it does not get us there. What gets us there is saying that we cannot live as a society with values when seniors are out on the streets begging, which I see on Elgin Street now. There are senior citizens and widowed grandmothers begging on the streets because they cannot pay their outrageous rents or the cost at the grocery stores, as there is not enough in their pensions. I think we need a broader discussion, one that is across party lines, on how we reform CPP so people can make investments into a public pension, not a privatized RRSP. I know a lot of people who have tried to put money into RRSPs and have told me they will never be able to retire because it will never be sufficient, so we have to address those shortfalls.

We have to send an important message now to senior citizens to admit that Canada has failed them, and is failing them, but that it is not going to continue to fail them. At a time of high inflation, high costs, high rents, high medical costs and the need for access to either pharmacare or dental care, Canada needs to do for them what they did for us. They held us in their arms, raised us and took on immense sacrifices so we could be the society that we are today.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.


Luc Thériault Bloc Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, since there is no question and comment period at this time under the rules of debate in the House, some of my colleagues push the envelope and sometimes say outrageous things.

Having said that, I would first like to recall the purpose of the bill:

This enactment amends the Old Age Security Act to increase the amount of the full pension to which all pensioners aged 65 or older are entitled by 10% and to raise the exemption for a person's employment income or self-employed earnings that is taken into account in determining the amount of the guaranteed income supplement from $5,000 to $6,500.

The goal is to prevent this from having an impact on the guaranteed income supplement. Since its arrival in the House in the 1990s, the Bloc Québécois has fought hard for the guaranteed income supplement. We wanted to ensure that more and more Quebec seniors were entitled to it. We realized that people did not know they were entitled to it. We toured Quebec to raise awareness and encourage them to apply.

When we first came to the House, even though we were not a recognized party, we did a review of what was happening with the guaranteed income supplement. Once again, we found that many seniors who were entitled to it were not receiving it.

When we presented our budget expectations in 2016, my colleague from Joliette and the member for Repentigny met with the Minister of Finance at the time, Mr. Morneau. They told him that anyone entitled to the guaranteed income supplement should be automatically registered to receive it. That was the Bloc Québécois's doing. He told us that we were right and that he would implement this system in 2018.

Again, just last year, in my constituency office, I met with seniors who were entitled to it but were not receiving it. There are still people who fall through the cracks.

That said, as recently as April 6, 2023, Michel Girard, a long-time financial columnist who everyone knows, stated that 409,860 people aged 65 and over live on less than a livable income. That is incredible. That is 53% of people living alone who do not have a livable income. Over the years, seniors have become impoverished. We must fix this, especially in light of the post-pandemic inflationary context.

The underlying objective of this bill is the social autonomy of seniors. I have often had the opportunity to speak about the autonomy of seniors, but I want to remind members that seniors' autonomy is not limited to their physical autonomy. Naturally, some people lose their autonomy with the loss of mobility. That does not take away their autonomy.

Autonomy is also not limited to seniors' social autonomy. However, it is society that often impacts the social autonomy of seniors. What is social autonomy? It is the income and the place they are given so they can continue to work in society. Ageism does exist.

People approaching retirement have made an absolutely remarkable and phenomenal contribution to society, and yet the closer they get to retirement, the more they are progressively excluded from decision-making places. In fact, if it were not for advocacy groups like the FADOQ network and the Association québécoise de défense des droits des personnes retraitées et préretraitées, seniors would be in bad shape. I commend them for their work, and I also commend my colleague from Shefford, who has shown remarkable leadership on this issue. She was able to bring all the networks together to finally get the government to listen to reason. At least I hope so.

Senior's autonomy is not limited to their mental autonomy, in other words their cognitive ability. Many prejudices exist about that. It is believed that 20% of seniors may have cognitive impairments. Some studies in the literature say that among these 20%, 10% of the disorders are reversible, if the people are well cared for and if we do not reduce their capacity to act. Isolation necessarily creates long-term cognitive impairments.

Seniors who live at or below the poverty line are the most precious members of our society. The older one gets, the more one acquires that which society cannot do without, which is moral autonomy. Moral autonomy refers to a human being's capacity to make a just and fair decision while making sure that their decision-making capacity, their practical judgment, is accurate. That does not happen at 20 or 30 years of age. It is acquired over a lifetime. Society therefore needs to make room for seniors because they are the ones who can show us the way forward, if we listen to them and we do not push them aside as if they were unnecessary, and if we do not undermine their income and their livelihood.

Everyone knows that seniors living in precarious situations eventually become sick. People living with financial worries eventually become sick. From a purely economic standpoint, if we take care of our seniors, if we let them have more of what they need to live, we will inevitably have a healthier, less sickly society. In the end, that will cost much less. What is more, those people will enjoy living. There is nothing more important than to give life meaning. After all, we are all looking for happiness.

I am appealing to every member's sense of honour, justice and equity to make sure my colleague's bill, on behalf of all seniors across the country, including Quebec's seniors, can give them at least the bare necessities. Seniors are wise. That is something all the seniors' rights groups agree upon. What we are asking for is a decent bare minimum so as to give them a little breathing room.

Old Age Security ActPrivate Members' Business

7 p.m.

Windsor—Tecumseh Ontario


Irek Kusmierczyk LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment

Mr. Speaker, it is always an honour to rise in the House to represent the good people of Windsor—Tecumseh, especially on an important issue like the one we are debating here today, so I am absolutely pleased to participate in the second reading debate on Bill C-319.

I would like to begin by thanking the member for Shefford for sponsoring this bill. I think the bill that she has put before us today is an excellent example of focusing parliamentary attention in the right way on an issue that matters to Canadians. Understandably, Canadians care about seniors; they built this country and now deserve to live out their retirement years in financial security. However, it is more than that; these discussions are about improvements that better support everyone who is aging in Canada, which means all of us. The future of aging in Canada is, after all, everyone's future.

My colleague has already explained why Bill C-319 does not flow from the demographic evidence that we have, and has shown that it would work against us in a few ways. I would like to use my time to talk more generally about all the ways the Government of Canada has supported seniors financially over the past eight years, as demonstration of our ongoing commitment to ensuring seniors live a secure and dignified retirement. We have been working hard to support Canada's fastest-growing age group with the right set of programs and services. With a quarter of Canadians expected to be 65 or older by 2051, we have been working hard on many fronts to plan for the future so government can respond to their diverse needs.

Since 2015, we have restored the age of eligibility for the old age security pension and the guaranteed income supplement to 65, down from 67. It is worth pausing here for a moment to point out that, in 2012, the Conservatives introduced an awfully misguided policy that increased the age of eligibility for OAS and GIS from 65 to 67. Not only would that have forced seniors in my riding and across Canada to work longer, but it would have robbed them of literally thousands of dollars of absolutely essential supports, and it would have plunged thousands of them into poverty.

We have a different approach, an approach that is rooted deeply in respect for our seniors. We provided a one-time, tax-free payment to help seniors with extra costs during the pandemic. We worked with provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan, increasing pensions for future retirees. We increased the OAS pension by 10% for seniors aged 75 and over. We increased the GIS by up to $947 per year for the lowest-income seniors, benefiting close to 900,000 vulnerable seniors across Canada, and we committed to increasing the GIS further by $500 for singles and $750 for couples, which will help the lowest-income seniors make ends meet.

The government also included a series of new, targeted measures in the 2022 fall economic statement, focused on Canadians most affected by rising prices. One of those measures is doubling the GST tax credit for six months, putting an average of $225 extra back in the pockets of our seniors. We are delivering on a $500 payment to nearly two million low-income renters, many of whom are seniors struggling with the cost of housing. The grocery rebate introduced in this budget will again, no doubt, make a difference in the lives of so many seniors, and I cannot overlook that budget 2023 introduced dental coverage to seniors who need it most.

I am proud of the measures we have taken to improve the overall health and quality of life of older Canadians and our seniors.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

May 11th, 2023 / 7:05 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today on the traditional territory of the Algonquin Nation Anishinabe people, and I do so with humility and gratitude. Meegwetch.

I am rising tonight during Adjournment Proceedings to pursue a question that I originally asked in question period on March 10 of this year. It is in relation to the tailings ponds maintained by Imperial Oil, and the Kearl mine is the one in question.

Imperial is owned by Exxon in the United States, and this mining project has been in place for some decades. The question of the suitability of that terrain and the suitability of their plans for holding vast amounts, millions of litres, of toxic effluent in those ponds was a subject of some concern in the initial environmental assessment hearings, which I attended at the time as an intervener on behalf of Sierra Club Canada. There were many promises made in those hearings, and I remember them well. Everything was going to be world-class technology, and Imperial was going to be very careful to make sure that the toxic materials were maintained within containment.

Of course, what I raised on March 10 in question period was that, at that point, we knew for nine months that the Kearl mine had been leaking toxic effluent on the lands and waters of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation. At the time, Imperial had been lobbying for more subsidies from Canada while failing to inform just about anyone that this was occurring. It was discovered in May 2022, and the first nation discovered that this had been going on for some time in January and February of this year, 2023. However, what is really incredible is what we have learned since then.

The Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development has heard from Chief Allan Adam of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, from the Mikisew Cree, from Métis and also from the Alberta regulator. We also know now that we are not talking about something in the past tense. Initially, media coverage said that this had been going on for some time, and it is still going on as far as know. The containment in the tailings ponds is not working.

In fact, parenthetically, the CEO of Imperial, Brad Corson, is now the highest paid CEO in the energy sector. His salary actually doubled last year and is now more than $17 million. However, it was officials from the Alberta regulator who said that the correct word to use was more “seep” than “leak”, as it is seeping out through the sides. The approach that Imperial Oil is taking to this seeping of toxic effluent is to try to capture it through piping and return it to the place where it is leaking.

When I asked when the Government of Canada was going to get tough on these corporate criminals, the response from the hon. parliament secretary, the hon. member for Winnipeg South, was that the thoughts of the government are with the families and the well-being of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and other affected communities and the Minister of Environment was looking at reaching out to the Alberta government and these first nations. In effect, he said that they want to better understand the situation. Well, we better understand it all right now.

The late Dr. David Schindler testified on May 12, 2009, to the parliamentary committee that there was enough evidence to charge Imperial with violations of the Fisheries Act then. What are we waiting for?

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:10 p.m.

Toronto—Danforth Ontario


Julie Dabrusin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change

Mr. Speaker, I take pollution incidents and threats to the environment very seriously, and I am deeply disappointed by this situation, as the Minister of Environment and Climate Change has also said. Our priority remains the health and the well-being of the people of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, the Mikisew Cree First Nation and the Fort Chipewyan Métis Nation, as well as other communities.

Let us talk a bit about the action since the time of that question and answer in question period. Environment and Climate Change Canada enforcement officers have a mandate to enforce federal environmental legislation aimed at pollution prevention and protecting Canada's wildlife and biodiversity. The enforcement has opened an investigation into a suspected contravention of the Fisheries Act at Imperial Oil's Kearl oil sands site. The Fisheries Act prohibits the deposit of deleterious substances into the water frequented by fish or in any place under conditions where the deleterious substance may enter any such water.

Environment and Climate Change Canada continues to make progress in creating a new notification and monitoring working group, which would include the federal and provincial governments, indigenous nations from Fort Chipewyan and the Government of Northwest Territories. From the federal perspective, an enhanced communication protocol must be developed to improve notifications at all steps in the notification process in cases of future environmental emergencies, and officials are working with indigenous communities to collectively establish the mandate and scope of this working group. Their inputs and insights will be critical to ensuring that this group convenes with a direction and purpose that will meet the community's needs.

In general, and I want to underline this point, tailings ponds are regulated at the provincial level, and in Alberta's case, through the Alberta Energy Regulator. We will be exploring further options with Alberta, including how the Government of Canada can support assessing the risks of tailings ponds and broader landscape and tailings management issues of concern.

Indigenous AffairsAdjournment Proceedings

7:15 p.m.


Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that my anger at the situation is less directed at the federal government than it is at the province, Imperial Oil and Exxon themselves. When Brad Corson, CEO of Imperial, testified at committee, he was terribly apologetic, but he described the problem as a communications failure. It is a pollution failure, and it is a poisoning failure. Moreover, it is going on right now. It has not stopped.

Even in the business of communication, there were three meetings with the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation committee working with Imperial over the course of the summer, and Imperial never told the committee that it was looking into this constant pollution that was happening. It is time to charge them. We get their attention when they realize that they are criminals, that their social licence has been used up and that they must stop polluting the lands and the waters of this country, that province and the territory of the Athabasca Chipewyan and the Mikisew Cree.