Yes, Madam Speaker, a whole month.
I am also interested in this because of my mother. My mother did not lead a very easy life. She grew up in great poverty. She also had some mental illness. We grew of up in poverty with her. However, she never had a company pension plan. She never really worked in some of those jobs that one needs, and she was seemingly always poor. When she died at 58 years old, she was looking forward to being 65 years old, the day she would get her Canada pension plan. She would get the guaranteed income supplement and old age security, and she would break out of the poverty barrier in this country. However, she never managed to get there, which is unfortunate. I always have her in mind when I think about the future, because I know there are many other Canadians who face similar issues.
I have enjoyed the process of studying this bill and the process of “making sausage” for the House, but the CPP is simply not a tax. I have heard my colleagues on the opposite side categorize this as a tax, but it is not. It is a form of savings for the future.
In committee, I had the opportunity to ask the opposition what our nation would be like if we did not have the Canada pension plan. What would our country be like if Canadians could not look forward to a day when they could have a form of savings to rely on when they were retired? Well, we would have 44% of all seniors in this country living in poverty, because that is what we had in 1950 before the Canada pension plan came into effect. I have heard the arguments made by witnesses and by the opposition on why we should not do this, but those are the same arguments that were made in the 1950s on why we should not have the Canada pension plan. I have had the opportunity to read Hansard from that period.
Today, we have some of the lowest rates ever of seniors poverty in our country, and for that I am very grateful, but we can always do better. How does Canada compare to other nations in the world? How do we compare to OECD countries?
I looked at pension contribution rates around the world and at a report that was put out by the OECD in 2013. In fact, Canada has some of the lowest contribution rates in the world. Our contribution rates for our Canada pension plan is 9.9% currently and it is going up to 11.9%.
If we look at Austria, in 2012 it was 22.8%. In Estonia it is 22.8%. In France it is 16.7%. Even the United States had a contribution rate in 2012 of 10.4%. Therefore, I do not believe we are losing our competitive advantage by investing in our future. In fact, we are still very competitive with the United States.
The only country we have a really large trading partnership with that does not have a pension plan is, in fact, Mexico. It had no contribution rate in this 2013 report. I asked the opposition in committee if we actually want to be like Mexico. Do we want the same form of protection for our workers and fellow citizens that they have in Mexico? I think we all know the answer to that. We are very happy to be living in Canada. We are very blessed.
I believe that it is important for us to be saving for the future. It is one principle that I think people, whether young or old, can get behind. There is actually an old proverb: look to the future but believe in the present. Have foresight and look to the future. It is also in the Bible, where Joseph and the Pharaoh saved during the good years for the seven lean years. It is something that is taught to all of us, and I hope we always remember it.
In committee, I heard testimony from lobbyists, representing some very important companies, who presented flawed data. For instance, one survey they presented to the committee said that Canadians prefer using the tax-free savings account and registered retirement savings plans over having a larger Canada pension plan. The options offered in the survey were the tax-free savings account, the registered retirement savings plan, personal savings, other investments, CPP, and voluntary retirement savings plans, but there was no option of a defined company retirement pension plan, an RPP, a benefit pension plan provided by an employer. It is unfortunate that it is not offered to employees in this country. I am sure we already know what the response would be. Most employees would like to have a company pension plan, but unfortunately, they have been declining.
A Statistics Canada survey shows that from 1977 to 2013, total RPP coverage went from 35% to 24%. It is declining. Fewer and fewer people have access to company pension plans, and that is unfortunate. If private companies are unwilling to take up that slack, it falls to us to make sure we provide for the most vulnerable in the future.
In committee, the third opposition party has been talking about the issue of women. The Liberals have raised this issue as well in committee. In fact, my esteemed colleague from Pickering put forward a motion calling on the finance minister to speak to the other ministers of finance across Canada to raise the issue of equity in pensions for women. This is a long-term process. This pension plan will be in effect in eight years, so we have time to prepare for the future. We have time to make sure we get this right.
We also need to take the time to work with the provinces, our provincial partners, because they are our partners. We cannot unilaterally say that we are going to change this by ourselves or that it is only for us to decide. That is not how our government works. We work in consultation and through discussion. Though it may take a little longer, at the end of the day, there is more buy-in and it is more positive for more people.
I think of the young pages in the House. I think of young people. This pension plan will not benefit me, because in 40 years, I am going to be well into my eighties, but it will benefit the pages. They will see the full benefit of this Canada pension plan. That is truly thinking for the future, thinking for seven generations, thinking long term. That is what we need most in the House, not short-term political gain but a long-term vision for our nation.