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NDP MP for Vancouver Kingsway (B.C.)
Won his last election, in 2015, with 46% of the vote.
Statements in the House
Petitions October 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from a number of people who are concerned about the ban on men who have sex with men from donating blood if they have not had sexual contact for at least one year.
The petitioners point out that every blood donation has several blood samples taken to test for infectious disease. They point out that studies have recognized that the human immunodeficiency virus and STDs are transmittable across all genders and sexualities.
They therefore would like to adopt a science-based screening process for blood donors that does not discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual preference, and have Canada immediately defer this policy and change it so all people can donate blood, regardless of their sexual orientation.
Petitions October 26th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to introduce today.
The first petition is from a number of constituents who are deeply concerned about the extent of animal use in both private and publicly-funded scientific research in Canada.
The petitioners point out that these animals are made to endure severe pain that is near or above the pain tolerance threshold of unanesthetized conscious animals, and that the studies may be of long duration, after which the animals may be killed or recycled.
They request that the government implement an immediate ban on any scientific research on animals that fall under the Canadian Council on Animal Care's categories of invasiveness D and E. They would like Canada to be a North American leader in the use of humane approaches that are proving more effective, cost efficient, and humane.
Canada Pension Plan October 25th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I think those are valid comments.
The New Democrats did campaign on the promise that, were we elected government, we would also not proceed with the Conservatives' plan to increase the retirement age from 65 to 67 for old age security qualification. I congratulate the government for implementing that policy as well.
I will give the government less credit, however, for its plan on increases to the guaranteed income supplement. As was famously said of Mackenzie King, Liberals don't do in halves what they can do in quarters.
I think that is very true in the case of the GIS, because the amount of the increase to the GIS, although welcomed by seniors, is clearly insufficient to actually lift enough seniors out of poverty. The NDP is going to continue to press the government to increase those GIS payments so that there is not a single pensioner in this country, not a single senior who has given a lifetime of work to this country, living in poverty in this country. The GIS improvements do not do it yet.
This Canada pension plan gives a little bit of money but over a long period of time. We are going to continue to press the government to make even further enhancements to the CPP in the future.
Canada Pension Plan October 25th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I do not know that I accept the premise of that question. The proposition that there is not a retirement income crisis or a problem in this country does not jibe with the figures I have seen. I have seen figures that show that 30% of single elderly women in this country live in poverty, and that number has tripled in the last 20 years.
As I stated in my speech, it is quite uniformly accepted that six out of 10 workers in this country, particularly young workers, do not have any workplace pension whatsoever. I am not sure what cohort the member is talking to, but for the people who live in my riding, most are finding it very difficult to actually just meet their monthly expenses, never mind put away sufficient income to fund an adequate retirement.
It is easy for us in this House to stand up and pretend it is not a problem. We vest in our pension after six years in the House, with a pension of $35,000 a year after serving for six years. However, if members get out in the communities and talk to real people, most people are very concerned about their retirement, and many Canadians, I would daresay more than half, will not have enough retirement income to live the kind of secure retirement they want.
Canada Pension Plan October 25th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in the House to speak on behalf of the New Democrats and express our support at second reading for this important piece of legislation. Bill C-26 amends the Canada Pension Plan act, among other acts, to incorporate the recent agreements reached with the provinces to enhance the Canada pension plan benefits for all Canadians.
While we believe that better was possible and will continue to urge the government to make a more improved plan available for workers in this country, and despite the fact the full effect of these changes will not be felt for 49 years, this CPP enhancement is in theory an important first step in improving retirement security for young Canadians. We congratulate everyone, particularly labour, which worked so hard to lay the groundwork for this agreement.
New Democrats have fought for decades for increases in the Canada pension plan, old age security, and the guaranteed income supplement benefits for all seniors. In fact, the idea of having universal retirement security programs for all Canadians has been a core New Democrat policy going back to the formation of our party. We have urged every government for decades to make meaningful improvements for Canadians, so that every Canadian can retire in security and in dignity.
Our support for the bill is qualified. That is because while the enhanced expanded CPP proposed by the bill is a plan that will benefit a new generation of workers entering the workforce, it does almost nothing to alleviate the retirement income crisis of those approaching retirement now and, quite frankly, in the decade or two ahead. We must now see immediate action by the government to help those seniors and Canadians who are on the cusp of retirement and who will not benefit from these changes. Government must build on the momentum of this agreement and take the next steps to improve long-term retirement security for today's workers, including addressing the valid concerns raised by Quebec about the impacts on low-income workers.
In the New Democrats' view, much more needs to be done to help our seniors live with the dignity they deserve. The high cost of housing and prescription medication, the clawback of the GIS, and the indexing of pensions are just a few immediate issues that we think require more work by the government. We also think that the government needs to keep its promise to introduce a new seniors price index to make sure that old age security and the guaranteed income supplement keep up with rising costs.
Retirement insecurity in this country is reaching a crisis level, as many Canadians do not have adequate savings to maintain their lifestyle upon retirement. A large part of this problem is fuelled by the erosion of workplace pension plans to the point that six in 10, or 60% of, working Canadians have no workplace pension.
In the New Democrats' view we need a clear breakdown from the government as to who will benefit the most from this plan and who will benefit the least, and how these changes will interact with other programs, and how we can strengthen the workplace pension regime in this country, as well as the public component that the bill addresses.
By way of background, it is helpful to review what is being proposed by the bill. Currently the CPP covers earnings up to a cap of $54,900. For earnings up to the cap, the CPP is designed to replace about 25% of the income. The maximum pension that a worker who fulfills all the criteria, working for 40 years and contributing the maximum amount, can look forward to is about $1,092 per month or $13,100 per year.
Contributions are 4.95% for the employer and the employee, up to the same cap. The expanded CPP proposed by the bill is a separate new tier. The new tier is added on top of the existing one. The new CPP tier does two things phased in over the next nine years to 2025. First, it takes the replacement rate up to 33 1/3% from the current 25% of earnings, and, second, it expands the upper earnings cap from today's $54,900 up to $82,700.
The net result is that when this plan is fully phased in by 2065, a worker who earns $54,900 annually in 2016 dollars would receive a maximum annual pension of about $18,117 in 2016 dollars by the time he or she retires. For a worker at the $82,700 maximum tier amount income level, CPP benefits would rise to a maximum of $20,352 a year in today's dollars.
The reason I am using today's dollars is that it is important to understand the very limited expansion that the current government has brought forward. If people can imagine that in 2065 they would be at the maximum CPP pension if they contributed for 40 years at the maximum earnings level, with a resulting pension of $20,352 a year, just about every Canadian planning for retirement would see that that is absolutely insufficient to retire with.
We all, though, acknowledge that the Canada pension plan was never designed to be a full retirement plan—although there is a credible argument to be made that a government pension plan could in fact achieve that if it were wanted—but was intended to be supplemented by private savings and workplace pensions. This is why I raised earlier the very alarming statistic that more than half of Canadians have no workplace pension. This is very different from the 1960s and 1970s when a much higher percentage of Canadians had a plan at work.
Canadians who are working today cannot expect to have very much pension income from their employment. Of course, given the rising costs of living in this country, particularly in Vancouver where I come from, it is very difficult for them save the amount of money they will need to supplement their Canada pension plan. So what the New Democrats would like to see and what we have advocated for a long time is a Canada pension plan designed in a way that the worker and the employer would contribute sufficient money to replace 50% of the money a person would need upon retirement. In concert with that, we also propose strengthening the programs, policies, and laws in this country to encourage employers to create pension plans in the workplace to help those workers supplement their pensions. We also believe, for instance, that laws that protect pension funds upon bankruptcy also need to be strengthened so that workers, as we saw in the case of Stelco, would not see their deferred salaries—the money they have saved over the years—distributed among creditors upon bankruptcy. That is a long-standing problem in this country that neither Conservative nor Liberal governments have ever had the political courage to touch, but it is a matter of fundamental justice.
The Canada pension plan is the best pension plan in this country for a number of reasons. It is portable. It does not matter if people quit or leave a job in New Brunswick and move to British Columbia and start working again, because their Canada pension plan will still be activated. It is the cheapest pension plan in the country. There is a associated cost for employers, who normally have to provide a pension plan, as they have to hire pension lawyers and actuaries and custodians of the money, whereas in this case, all of the costs of the plan are borne by the government. Being the largest plan in the country, it is also the safest repository of Canadians' income. In sum, it is the cheapest, most portable, safest pension plan in this country.
I think Canadians from coast to coast would love to see the current government increase Canada pension plan contributions to such a degree that we could phase these in slowly and affordably over time so that the plan would actually do what it is intended to do, which is to make sure it replaces 50% of workers' income upon retirement so that more Canadians can retire in dignity.
I just want to conclude by saying that I often hear the Conservatives use language calling this a payroll tax. Retirement investment is not a tax. It is an investment. There is no secret to pensions. People put away a bit of money for a long period of time. That is savings, and that is how they fund their retirement. When workers and employers both contribute to that pension plan, that is how we get a dignified retirement for Canadians in this country, and it is about time that the Conservatives recognized this and joined the 21st century so that Canadians can retire in dignity and with some level of security.
Canada Pension Plan October 25th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my hon. colleague. She talked about the very real need that Canadians have across this country.
The previous Conservative government's response to the pension and retirement crises facing Canadians from coast to coast was to do nothing to increase the Canada pension plan but instead to raise the age of eligibility for old age security from 65 to 67 years of age. Therefore, the Conservative answer was to make Canadians work longer, from 65 to 67, which would cost the average Canadian $12,000 a year.
After the results of the last election, does my hon. colleague still think it is a wise policy to make Canadians work until they are 67 years of age before they collect old age security in this country?
1956 Hungarian Revolution October 24th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of Canada's New Democrats, I rise to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Hungarian revolution.
After World War II, the great nation of Hungary was occupied by the Soviet Union, but in October 1956, Hungarian patriots rose in rebellion for freedom. They were successful, installed democracy, and restored civil liberties. However, just weeks later Russian tanks rolled into Budapest. Fighting valiantly, over 4,000 Hungarians were killed, thousands arrested, and 200,000 fled to freedom in the west, including Canada.
As a proud member of Hungarian heritage, I have been touched by these events. My Hungarian grandparents helped settle many of the refugees, and my godmother married one of those patriots, Andras Pinces.
Today, we pay tribute to all Hungarians who fought for freedom and to a strong, independent Hungary. Today, we honour their words.
[Member spoke in Hungarian as follows:]
Esküszünk, Esküszünk, hogy rabok tovább. Nem leszünk! Isten, áldd meg a magyart.
Standing Orders and Procedure October 6th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, I have had the privilege of representing the good people of Vancouver Kingsway in this chamber for the last eight years.
I have seen examples of excellent behaviour and poor behaviour on all sides of this House by all parties at different times. It is my distinct impression, from many conversations with constituents of mine and across this country, that Canadians do want everyone in this chamber to act with more decorum, to treat each other with more respect, and to engage in mature debate on the issues of the day that are important to people.
I would encourage and urge all of my colleagues here to clean our own side of the street, to make sure that our own behaviour is elevated to the level of conduct that I think we all know our constituents want.
Does my hon. colleague have any one particular issue or idea that he thinks would help achieve that expectation of Canadians?
Health October 6th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, to paraphrase the Prime Minister, a cut is a cut is a cut.
If the Prime Minister proceeds to cut the health care transfer, this will cause a loss of $1 billion next year alone and $36 billion over the next seven years. This will mean one thing: devastating cuts to patient care across our country.
The provinces have made a simple request: keep the 6% escalator for one year in order to show good faith and protect Canadians.
Will the Liberals reconsider their approach and accept the provinces' reasonable request?
Health October 6th, 2016
Mr. Speaker, based on the Liberals' actions last week, the premiers have every right to worry.
The government promised a renewed health accord that respects the provinces, and thePrime Minister directly said he would not touch health care funding without negotiations, but all we have seen is its plan to adopt Stephen Harper's cuts to the transfers, no matter what the provinces say.
Many Canadians are starting to ask themselves this: How is a Liberal cut to health care any different from a cut by Stephen Harper?