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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was conservatives.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Scarborough Southwest (Ontario)

Lost his last election, in 2015, with 24% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Ethics April 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives play in a scandal like it is a team sport. Let us look at their 2012 season alone.

The President of the Treasury Board got off to an early start with more Muskoka money mix-ups, with the pinch runner, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, picking up the slack. Then the Minister of National Defence landed in left field in a chopper, no less. The Minister of Industry just keeps striking out.

Why has the Prime Minister not benched any of these minor league ministers?

New Democratic Party of Canada April 27th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Prime Minister accused the NDP of not doing enough to stop Hitler. I am sure the NDP's founding members would have found this pretty strange when they first gathered in 1961.

Last night, tens of thousands of Canadians responded with an outpouring of social media comedy. In the spirit of co-operation, I would like to offer the Prime Minister some great suggestions for next week's attacks on the NDP.

Comedian Dan Speerin led things off last night by tweeting, “Damn you NDP for not standing up to Genghis Khan.” Another person wrote, “It was really the NDP that helped organize the stampede that killed Mufasa in The Lion King.” Another person wrote, “The NDP refused to come to the aid of men when Mordor invaded Gondor. Shame.” Another person wrote, “The NDP got Fox to cancel Firefly.” Another person wrote, “The NDP cancelled Arrested Development because they oppose free enterprise banana stands.”

I hope the Conservatives take this humour in stride and do not respond with more of their humourless anger.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the member to the debate and accept, on behalf of the member for London—Fanshawe, her thanks.

It is going to have a tremendous negative impact. The crux of this motion is to call on the government to roll the age back to 65 years. There has been no empirical evidence or studies from economists to show that our system is in crisis, but of course, that has never stopped the government from putting something forward in the past.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, as a surprise, I will disagree with my colleague because it will impact people, but it will impact them negatively. It will certainly not improve the poverty situation. It is not going to mean that there will be fewer seniors who need to access food banks in order to fill their bellies. It is not going to make any improvements in terms of the affordability of prescription medication or deal with inflation over time. It will have a significant negative impact on seniors down the road.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the language used as to what this means, I started off my speech by saying “hosed”. The member is saying “grand theft”. We could use all kinds of colourful language to describe it, but the fact is that in two years, going from age 65 to 67, Canadians are going to lose $30,000 if they rely on OAS and GIS, because the gateway to GIS is through OAS. If the age for OAS is raised from 65 to 67 years, as a consequence, Canadians will not be able to access GIS until they are 67 years old.

Yes, it certainly impacts Canadians under the age of 54. I have to say that just because people are under the age of 54 now does not mean that when they are about to retire at 65 years, after having worked at a tough labour-intensive job they are going to be any better off or somehow better able to cope with that and work for two years longer.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, my apologies. The Prime Minister will ask Canadians to work for two more years without OAS to pay for his skewed Conservative choices, including failed F-35 fighter jets, his costly prisons agenda and more corporate tax giveaways.

The budget was about choices, and the government made choices that will punish hard-working Canadians for the government's own fiscal mismanagement. An alarming report shows that the Prime Minister's Conservatives have turned their backs on Canada's most vulnerable citizens.

The report also found that the number of seniors using food banks is on the rise. Tens of thousands of the people who built our country cannot afford enough groceries, and that is simply unacceptable. In a country as wealthy as Canada, there is no excuse for letting our most vulnerable citizens go hungry. It is an issue that should have every Canadian concerned and every politician promising action and then delivering, as our proposals in the last election to actually raise OAS and GIS in order to lift every senior out of poverty would have done.

However, the government failed the grade there. It is leaving struggling families and seniors out in the cold. It refuses to raise the guaranteed income supplement enough to lift every senior out of poverty, while at the same time it is giving tax breaks to rich CEOs instead of helping families. Now it will make seniors wait an extra two years for OAS.

I have heard the talking points from the government on this issue. It is saying that it cannot sustain OAS in the long term as it is. The stated rationale is that the change puts the OAS program on a sustainable path. The Conservatives are using a temporary increase in the OAS and GIS costs as an excuse for permanently cutting back a remarkably effective and affordable program when in reality the program is actuarially sound and totally financially sustainable.

The government wants to keep telling Canadians this change will be insignificant, but we know that the lost income to Canadian seniors from this change will be very significant. It will mean a loss of roughly $30,000 to the poorest seniors over two years, and roughly $13,000 over these two years for Canadians who receive only OAS.

Unlike the CPP or private savings pillars, the OAS is a universal pension that does not depend on retirees' previous labour market participation or their participation in a registered pension or savings plan.

In the words of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives,

The basic building blocks of the public universal system are Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, which make up the “anti-poverty” part of the system.

and that is what the government is cutting.

We know how important programs like the OAS and GIS are to the thousands of Canadians who depend on them on a daily basis. The guaranteed income supplement is frequently cited as a major factor in reducing the level of poverty among seniors in the recent decades.

In October 2011, there were nearly five million seniors collecting OAS and 1.7 million seniors collecting GIS. One in three Canadian seniors receives the GIS because many senior women were not part of the paid labour force earlier in their lives. The OAS and GIS are particularly important retirement instruments for them. Senior women are less likely than senior men to draw income from the CPP, private pension plans, RRSPs or employment earnings. This makes universal programs like OAS and GIS particularly important to female seniors. The median income for senior women is about two-thirds the median income for senior men.

OAS and GIS are paid from general government revenues. This is in contrast, of course, to the CPP, which is funded through equal contributions from employees and employers. Last year the government spent $27.2 billion on OAS and $7.9 billion on GIS; combined, these two programs comprise 13% of overall government expenses.

I do not think I need to delve more into how important these programs are to Canada, so I will explain to the House how it is that they are sustainable, since this is the big issue and question for the government.

Essentially, the government wants to restructure the entire Canadian retirement system because of an affordable short-run demographic change, that being the gradual retirement of the baby boomers, who began to retire in 2011. It has cited that the cost of OAS will increase from $36 billion in 2010 to $108 billion in 2030. This is true, but simply citing the base cost does not account for the growth of the Canadian economy, the rate of inflation and population growth. When examined alongside these factors, this is a modest and affordable increase in cost.

The government's latest actuarial report on indicated that OAS accounted for 2.37% of GDP last year and will rise to 3.16% in 2030. Then it will begin to fall. It will be 2.35% in 2060, below today's levels. The previous actuarial report, released in 2008, showed that this cost would actually drop below 2% by 2075, when children born now start to retire. This figure was curiously not included in the most recent actuarial report. At some point I would like to ask the Minister of Finance why that is.

The most recent report clearly indicates that the growth in cost is driven largely by the retirement of the baby boomer generation and does not describe any long-term issues of sustainability. Therefore, in the long run the current system is clearly affordable and will be a smaller share of the budget than it is today.

I would like to now go into a few of the studies that have been done in regard to this issue. A major 2009 study conducted for the Department of Finance, entitled Canada's Retirement Income Provision: An International Perspective and written by the head of the OECD pension team, Edward Whitehouse, found that Canada's pension system faced no sustainability problem. He wrote:

The analysis suggests that Canada does not face major challenges of financial sustainability with its public pension schemes.... Long-term projections show that public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable. Population ageing will naturally increase public pension spending, but the rate of growth is lower and the starting point better than many OECD countries.

In 2010, the finance committee studied Canada's retirement income system. None of the reported recommendations, not even the Conservative recommendations, even hinted that OAS or GIS were unsustainable or recommended raising the age of eligibility.

I would like to ask any member of the government why it is wilfully ignoring, to quote the member for Mississauga—Streetsville, their own ministry of finance's reports.

When compared to other countries, we actually spend very little on our public pension system. According to the OECD, total public social expenditures on old age benefits as a percentage of GDP are estimated at 4.2% in Canada. The equivalent average in OECD countries is 7%. Crisis countries, such as Italy, spend 14.1%. Canada spends one-third of what Italy does of GDP on public retirement. Austria, France and Greece spend roughly 12%. Germany, Poland and Portugal spend roughly 11%. Comparisions to the troubled eurozone are therefore not appropriate and are only being used to create fear that our time-tested Canadian programs are unsustainable. Even the United States spends more than we do on old age benefits, at 6% of GDP.

It should be noted that Canadian public pensions are not overly generous and in fact are very sustainable.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, ample notice about getting hosed does not change the fact that we are getting hosed.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share my time with hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.

I am very happy to rise today to speak in support of this motion.

In this year's budget, the Conservative government laid out plans to raise the age at which Canadians can receive old age security from 65 to 67, claiming, and claiming yet again today, that it is not sustainable because of our aging population. However, economists flatly reject this claim. At the peak of the baby boom retirement wave, the share of GDP spent on OAS will increase by less than 1% over today's level, and then decline again.

There is a clear battle of priorities. Stephen Harper will ask Canadians to work two more years--

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the member said that it will affect many generations to come, that the government's goal is to prevent hardship, that there will be no reductions to pensions, among many other things.

I would like the member to explain, perhaps, how making people who work tough manual labour jobs work for two more years is preventing hardship. I would say that is inflicting hardship on them.

No reductions to the pension while making them work for two years longer means they will get two years less pension. How is that not a reduction or a cut? That will be a cut of $12,000 per year with close to $30,000 in actual cuts.

For many generations to come, yes, but if we look at the actuarial tables, they do reach a height at 2013, but then they actually goes down. We will have less seniors retiring after that and the cost will go down. Maybe the member could explain why the government does not take that into account.

Business of Supply April 26th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her speech and the answers she provided. On this side of the House, we believe, as all the experts do, that the system is sustainable.

Could the hon. member perhaps elaborate on the fact that experts have said that our system is sustainable?

Citizen's Arrest and Self-defence Act April 25th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question.

It certainly shows the kind of results we can achieve when the parties work together. If we work together, we will have better laws. When the members opposite accuse us of all kinds of rather silly things, when the Minister of Justice, or the Minister of Public Safety, say things like “you are either with us or with the criminals”, it does not help us do our job. Furthermore, such comments have no place here in the House.