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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was regard.

Last in Parliament October 2015, as NDP MP for Windsor—Tecumseh (Ontario)

Won his last election, in 2011, with 50% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Employment February 3rd, 2012

Madam Speaker, the 600,000 figure the Conservatives keep using is not net new jobs. Net new jobs are in a negative position.

We voted against the budget, and we will continue to vote against budgets that simply give tax breaks to the Conservatives' billionaire and millionaire friends.

The unemployment rate in this country is up. The Conservatives' strategy is not working. After taking millions in corporate tax giveaways directly from the Prime Minister, Caterpillar just closed down in London. Five hundred well-paying manufacturing jobs have gone south to the United States.

The NDP has been saying this for months, but the government refuses to listen. Does the government realize what is happening in the economy in Canada?

Employment February 3rd, 2012

Madam Speaker, the Conservatives keep repeating those statistics that are clearly not in keeping with what is the net job loss in the country. For example, there are 45,000 fewer workers in the professional, scientific and technical service industries. Manufacturing is down 44,000 jobs just in the last 12 months. More and more Canadians are looking for jobs that simply do not exist.

As employment is going down, what are the Conservatives planning to do? They are planning to cut the OAS and force people to wait until they are 67 to get the help they need. With no job creation and a cut in pension benefits, what are people supposed to do?

Employment February 3rd, 2012

Madam Speaker, Canadians are paying the price for the government's inaction when it comes to the economy. The unemployment rate went up again in January, and behind the statistics are thousands of families who are suffering.

Are the Conservatives ever going to wake up? Probably not. Their economic inaction plan is not working. When will we have a real job creation plan?

Business of the House February 2nd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, today is February 2. It is fitting that it is Groundhog Day, as I rise again to ask when the government will once again bring in measures to shut down debate in the House.

Just this past Monday we witnessed the deplorable spectacle of the Conservative government for the 13th time using the guillotine to shut down democratic debate in the House. It is like a nightmare: it happens again and again and again. That is right; this week, after less than one single day of debate on a brand new bill the government had just introduced, the government House leader moved tyranny of their majority on Canada's elected representatives by moving to shut down debate.

It has become routine for this government, which apparently knows no limits, to shut down debate. This is a blatant attack on House of Commons tradition and an attempt to gag Canada's elected representatives, and it is unacceptable. I am not just talking about opposition members. Conservative backbenchers, too, should insist that their political boss give them the right to speak on behalf of the citizens they represent.

On the schedule for this place going forward, I note that the government seems to be wrapping up what I would call attacking seniors and their retirement security week after passing second reading of Bill C-25, a bill that will clearly undermine the public pension regime on which all Canadians rely in order to retire with dignity.

Next week I wonder, will it be failing artists and users in favour of corporate rights holders week with Bill C-11, the wrong-headed copyright bill, or will the government perhaps be tabling the 2012 version of its undermining Canadians to further enrich banks and oil companies executive budget plan? Which one will it be? I ask the government House leader to let us know.

Pensions February 2nd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, if viability is the issue, the Conservatives' own study and report, coming from the government, concludes on the pension, “Long-term projections show that public retirement-income provision is financially sustainable”. That is a direct quote from that report. It adds that the “OAS and GIS ensure universal coverage and form a very effective safety-net for the old-age incomes”.

The Prime Minister has yet to answer the question. I am giving him the opportunity again today. Will he rise in his seat and say to the country that the age of eligibility for OAS will not be raised to age 67, yes or no?

Pensions February 2nd, 2012

Mr. Speaker, rumours of cuts to old age security benefits are causing widespread concern. That is to be expected, because the Prime Minister is beating around the bush. His government experts say that the system is viable.

Does the Prime Minister agree? Or will he make people wait until they turn 67 before they can receive their benefits if these cuts are not made?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 31st, 2012

Madam Speaker, it is ironic to listen to the House leader on the government side stand in the chamber and accuse one of my colleagues of not understanding procedure. This debate is about time allocation and closure. It is not about Bill C-25. He should understand that.

With regard to that, he also stands in the House and repeatedly says that this is what Canadians voted for. The Conservatives promised repeatedly, in every single election since they have been both a minority government and in the run up to this majority government, that they would clean up the democratic process in the House. What have we seen? Fourteen times now they have invoked either closure or time allocation. What about those promises? Are they going to honour those or are they going to break those promises to the Canadian people to clean up the democracy in the House?

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, most of our pension system came out of the CCF and the NDP proposals over the last approximately 80 years when we first started and were eventually picked up by other political parties and implemented.

With regard to the basic question, what he is asking is if people should plan for retirement and contribute to it. From any side of the House, we are all going to say, yes, we all should be doing that.

For those who are more vulnerable, those with disabilities, limited incomes, maybe a series of times when they were unemployed, there has to be a plan in place for government to be play a role there to assist them so they can retire in dignity because they have contributed to this society throughout that period of time. It is always a question of the details and to what degree, such as how much should government be doing, how much should the private sector be doing, how much should the individual be doing.

Bill C-25 does not address that in any realistically plausible way of being successful.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, the question of the member for Kildonan—St. Paul gives me the opportunity to raise the issue of the sustainability of the OAS.

Nothing has changed with regard to the sustainability of the OAS from where it first started to where it is now. This has always been carried by current funds. We have never had a reserve fund for the OAS in the history of it. What has changed with regard to the revenues that are coming in is the government has consistently said that it will give preference in the economy to certain groups and it will give large corporations major tax breaks. There have been over $100 billion so far and it will almost double before those tax breaks are finished.

If we take that out of the accounting column, on one side the expenses are continuing, the OAS expenses are continuing, and we are lowering the revenues on the other side. That is where the sustainability problems come. It has nothing to do with OAS; it has everything to do with policy decisions by the government with regard to tax breaks for the big corporations.

Pooled Registered Pension Plans Act January 30th, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the indulgence of the House to split my time with the member for Hamilton Mountain.

Mr. Speaker, it is important when addressing Bill C-25 that we set it in the context of what is being attempted here by the government and what is needed with regard to pension reform in this country. It is not only important to do that in terms of the historical context but also in the context of relativity to other jurisdictions and other nations.

In that regard, it is important to understand historically where we have come over the last 50 or 60 years with respect to government pensions or pensions partially contributed to by government. We have established a regime in that regard. We could study some of the reports and minutes of meetings issued during that period of time when the CPP was being established. It was quite clear at that time that an understanding was entered into that the CPP and the QPP which came after, would provide roughly 25% to 30% of what was needed to retire in dignity, and the rest would be provided by the private sector. At age 65, old age security would kick in and that would help to offset the balance. That is where it came from.

If we study that historically right up to the present time, another mechanism that was there, other than private pension plans, is the RSP. It has been a substantial failure in providing that level of security because of its lack of ability to attract enough funds and the inability of most Canadians to contribute significantly enough to an RSP in order to retire in dignity, that combined with the CPP and old age security.

That left the pension plans. As we have heard repeatedly this afternoon, and I am sure as this debate goes on we will hear it a number of times, there are too many Canadians who do not have access to private pension plans. We are at a stage in our history where the system is in need of major reform.

I will compare our status in this area with that of other countries. Across the border in the United States, its social security provides roughly $30,000 a year in Canadian dollars. The full amount of our CPP including the full OAS provides maybe $18,000 or $19,000. That is the context in which we are functioning.

Again, the vast majority of Canadians who are not covered by private pension plans have no ability to make that up and have to rely on RSPs.

What does the government do? Rather than looking at other alternatives, which I will come back to in a moment, it wants to continue with this mostly failed plan of RSPs but turn it into a pooled RSP. This is not just us talking. Even conservative think-tanks like the Fraser Institute have basically said this will not work. There is a list of reasons why it will not work. Let us start with the contributions.

There has been a committee functioning in my riding for what will be three years in May. It is looking at the need for pension reforms. Some members are from unions and others are from the private sector. They have been doing an analysis of what is needed in the way of reform. They have looked at this and have said that it will not move any significant additional dollars or people into the category of being able to retire with dignity in terms of their economic status and economic ability to pay their basic costs of living.

The reason for that is if people have the ability to contribute now, they are contributing to an RSP. Thirty-one per cent contribute and depending on the economic conditions in the country at the time, somewhere between 3% and 7% of that 31% contribute the full amount. The doctor or lawyer doing well financially will contribute the full amount. Even most people within the professions do not.

This begs the question, if they are not able to do that with their own RSPs which they control, why would they put it into this pooled plan where they are going to have to pay very substantial fees? This bill does absolutely nothing to control the amount the people accepting this money, anywhere in the financial sector, can charge in fees.

It is important at this point to juxtapose the reality of what we have seen in a number of these types of investments, the stock market, bonds, whatever, where there is a financial adviser controlling those funds. We have seen that the ratios of the fees are five to six times the fees and administrative costs for the Canada pension plan. That is the reality in Canada today.

Quite frankly, this one is so unattractive that the cost will probably be even higher, because it is so unattractive for a major financial agency, a bank or insurance company, to get into this market. The administrative costs are going to be extremely high because of the low participation. We are going to see huge fees, and this bill does nothing to address that issue.

Another point to look at is when it is that small investor who has some ability to put money aside in an RSP, it begs the question why the investor would do that after what we just saw happen in 2008. We can go back to the high-tech bubble of the late 1990s and any number of times I have watched this happen.

Why would people trust their money going into this pool where there are very few regulations when we have seen what has happened in the U.S. with the housing bubble burst and all of what we have found out as to how funds were handled in that regard? Why would people even consider, if they have these funds, putting them into a pooled registered pension plan as opposed to maintaining control and deciding how best their money could work for them?

For those reasons, it is simply not going to be of any use whatsoever. Bill C-25 is a smokescreen. The government wants to try to convince Canadians that the reform which is so badly needed in our pension system, whatever source there is, is being handled by this one plan, and it is not. It is not at all. It is not going to work.

Let us look at the alternatives for a minute. The expansion of the CPP is clearly one of the routes to go. I heard the last speaker for the Conservatives talk about the stability of the CPP and its ability to deliver and that it is not available for the small merchant. That is one of the reforms that is necessary. We could do that. There are very clear proposals that have come from a number of groups over the last two to three years about how to reform the CPP to attract those people, to give them access to the CPP. It is an expansion of it. The administrators of it say it is possible to be done.

That is only one example of what could be done. I see my time is just about up. There are other reforms that need to be made with regard to the CPP. For instance, priority under the bankruptcy legislation needs to be given to pension funds. The OAS needs to be increased as opposed to what we are hearing, that the government is going to take away benefits by increasing the age. The GIS that needs to be addressed as well.

There are plans out there that are obviously better than this bill which is a smokescreen and should be defeated.